open thread – June 8-9, 2018

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

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

{ 1,784 comments… read them below }

  1. Peaches*

    I know this is long, but please bear with me. I would appreciate any and all advice!

    Basically, a little over a year ago, I got a promotion from an admin-type position, to a sales support position. Ever since, I’ve regretted taking the job. There are numerous reasons I’m not fond of the position – working daily with an outdated, heavily bugged website (with no signs of our IT team fixing things), lack of consistency (sometimes I’m totally over my head, but most times I sit around for weeks with nothing to do, feeling underutilized), the position being different than it was described to me, and my personality just not being well suited for this job (I like organization, structure, and thrive on detail oriented work, none of which describes my current position). With that being said, my boss is my biggest fan. He’s constantly telling me that I’m the hardest worker he has ever met, expresses what an asset he thinks I am to the company, calls me a model employee, and has given me near-perfect reviews on every annual review I’ve had with him.

    So, I’ve recently decided to talk to my boss about why I think my position isn’t a great fit, and how I could be better utilized in other areas (I’ve noted specific roles that I think would be good for me, that would also benefit the company more than in the role I’m in now.) I truly love my company, and want to continue working here – just not in my current role. With that being said, there aren’t technically any open positions in my office (we are a national company, but our office is small – 25 employees). However, I’ve typed up a (rather lengthy) document about some areas that I see a need in, that I think I could serve in. I’m hoping that in doing this, my boss will work with me to create a new role for me in the company, because I *think* he’d rather have me in a different role, than not have me at all. I’d even be willing to cut my hours if he doesn’t think there is enough work for me to do elsewhere (perhaps 6 hour days instead of 8 hour days). Thankfully, my husband has a wonderful job that gives me the flexibility to do this. I’m also willing to stay in my current position for a few months while they hire someone for my current role, and also train said person. I know it would be a lot of money for the company to hire another person for my role, while still keeping me, but my company is extremely well off (I work in a field where there will always be a need, regardless of the economy).

    My question is – does anyone think this is a bad idea? I’ve given this so much thought, and am well prepared to meet with my boss with the document I’ve compiled (although I have not yet talked to him to set up a meeting). I don’t *think* he’ll jump straight to “well, if you don’t like your current role, there’s no job for you here.” But, if he did, I could survive being unemployed for a bit with my husband’s job being what it is. I also have my substitute teacher certification, and think I could find work in that area fairly fast. However, I really, really want to stay here though. My office is 5 miles from home, and I have wonderful coworkers. I’m super nervous just thinking about meeting with him, but think this is a risk I need to take.

    What does everyone else think?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think if you focus on the benefits to the boss/company, it’s a great idea.

    2. Rat Racer*

      Hi Peaches,

      I’ve been (and am in) a somewhat similar position myself: you see an acute need within the company, you know how to fix it, your job isn’t positioned to help you solve it.

      Here’s my recommendation to you: rather than telling your boss that you want a different job, I’d frame this as “I see all these gaps that need to be filled within the company, and I have some great ideas on how I could help!” I’d then show him a 1-page executive summary of your findings – like your elevator pitch – but don’t get into solutioning how your role would need to change in order to make this happen. Let him make that leap.

      Often, managers get overwhelmed and intimidated by shaking up the status quo and going through the administrative hurdles of HR. You don’t want your ideas to get shot down from the get go – and who knows – maybe your boss will arrive at the conclusion that he needs to create a new position for you on his own. Then, he’ll be motivated to work it through on your behalf.

      That’s my .02… good luck!

      1. Ali G*

        I would add – don’t frame it as an ultimatum. Make it more as a “development plan” for your role and if you can, let him know you are willing to work towards the new position over time. So if he agrees in theory, but balks at the idea of a new hire right now, you can lay out how your current position can evolve, say over 6 months, into the new position and during that time the plan for your back fill can be implemented.
        Believe me, once you know you are on your way to what you want, that 6 months or whatever will be so much easier.
        Good luck!

    3. The Other Dawn*

      It seems like a situation for “know your boss and your company.” I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all, but be prepared for him to say he can’t do anything for you (and it sounds like you are). I think if the choice is being miserable everyday at a company you love with no chance of anything changing vs. being unemployed for a bit, I’d take a chance and see what happens. I’ve been in a job in which I was completely miserable the whole time I was there, and it’s rough. Good luck.

    4. AliceW*

      If you really don’t like the position you have now make sure you are willing to walk away. Have you already offered to take on other projects, even ones unrelated to you current role? Some people think of their job as limited to the duties in the job description, but you can always volunteer to do much more (in most places). I do think it makes sense to sit down with your boss and tell him you are unhappy in your current position and the high level reasons why (without complaining of course). You can indicate that you love working for the company and would love to transition into another role if one becomes available or if there is an option to create a new role for you, you would be interested in such an opportunity. I personally, would not hand him a document given that it sounds like you are fairly junior and it could be presumptuous to suggest other options when you might not be aware of the department’s finances, needs, goals etc. If he seems open to the idea of a new role, you can then indicate you have some ideas. Don’t offer to work less hours.

      1. Peaches*

        I often ask for extra work, but my boss splits time between here and a branch two hours away, so he often forgets, or has limited time to give me extra work (and when he does, I finish it rather quickly and then have another several days before he’s in the office again.)

        I don’t know if I’d consider myself junior…I’ve been at my company for almost 5 years (nearly 4 in my previous role, a little over 1 in my current role.) The document is more for my personal use in the meeting that includes points that I plan on hitting on, not an actual document I’m going to hand to him that says, “here’s what I should be doing here.” It’s definitely not presumptuous!

        1. AliceW*

          I always tell my employees who I think have potential to move up, never ask for more work, instead suggest things/projects you think need to get done and volunteer to do them. For junior employees (and I mean not in years, but in responsibilities), if you don’t know what else needs to get done, ask around, do some research on competitor firms, etc. You seem to already have ideas. Maybe you don’t need to leave your current role right now, maybe you just need to expand it and grow it into something else and eventually leave behind the tasks you don’t like to do. But if you don’t like anything about the work you do currently, then it is time to move one, within your own company or elsewhere. Life is too short. Good luck.

    5. June*

      You are giving too much power to your boss to make life decisions for you. You are willing to shorten your hours to meet his/company’s needs but does that meet your needs? You are willing to stay in a job that you don’t like for a few months but does that meet your needs to be happy at your job? You are willing to save the company money but does that meet your need to move to better-fitting job?
      I would suggest the following:
      1. In case your boss wants a copy of your talking paper, I would shorten it (the long version might overwhelm him).
      2. Keep the longer version for your notes.
      3. You could offer the longer version to your boss, if he wants the details.
      4. Give him a deadline to move you into another position. If you don’t, there is no reason for him to move you. You are doing great at your current job so it’s no risk/trouble for your boss if leaves you there.
      5. Don’t go back to your previous position! At that point, your boss will be happy with your work and see no need to move you.
      6. Update your resume and start applying for other jobs in the local area. Seeing that others would be thrilled to hire you will put less pressure for this career move to happen. Right now, you only talk about one path for your career. Don’t limit yourself.
      I hope you see that you are worthy of so much more and your boss should doing whatever he can do to make you happy, not you doing whatever you can to make him and the company happy.

      1. Magee*

        I wouldn’t recommend leveraging other job offers to get your boss to create a new role for you. There have been plenty examples on this site of how this has not worked out well. I recommend having the conversation with your boss first. If it doesn’t go how you like, then you may need to consider moving on to another company. But you won’t know until you ask.

      2. Jady*

        On the first discussion of the topic I do not think demanding a deadline is appropriate. OP could ask for a time frame, but the boss is likely to need to discuss and arrange the movement (if he agrees to it) and would have no idea on a realistic time frame. It may involve paperwork, HR, upper management approval, if they are creating a brand new position even more paperwork and processes to go through.

        Assuming he agrees, keep an eye on the timeframe. If they start dragging it out or make no forward movement, that’s the point where you would start forcing dates.

    6. Jadelyn*

      I actually did something similar to this to get my current position. I was hired as an HR Assistant to do admin work. Over time, I would ask people if there was anything I could help with, and pick up new duties that way. And I’m very very good with Excel, including a lot of the fancy stuff most people don’t know how to do, so I started getting a reputation for being good with data and analysis, and people started bringing projects to me that needed that kind of expertise.

      Then our team began to transition to a new HRIS vendor, and it…was not going well. It was, to put it mildly, a clusterf*** of epic proportions. And because I’m a techie-type person, I offered to help out and began teaching myself the ins and outs of the new system.

      At that point, I was able to start proposing projects that I knew I could do that would be helpful to the organization and the leadership team – new reports, dashboards, custom fields in the HRIS that we could use. I talked with my manager and our VP, and we drafted a new job description for me that would move my focus to the systems and data work that I’m best at, and make the admin support secondary. It took a long time to get approved, priced out by our comp guy, and for me to finally get the change made official, but we did it.

      All this is to say – is there any way you can start integrating the improvements you can see needing made into your current role, when you’re in those lull periods you mentioned? Either purely on your own initiative, or by just saying to your boss, “Hey, I think having a comprehensive llama grooming training program would be really helpful for our staff, especially new hires. I’ve got some free time right now while we’re between projects, if I put that together and brought it to you, is that something you think might be valuable and would you mind if I do that?” Focus on the task, not the job description. Then when you go to talk to him about actually changing your job, it can be less “this is stuff I could do for the organization if you let me” and more “this is stuff I’ve already done that’s outside my regular purview; just imagine what more I could do if my role changed to let me focus on this stuff exclusively instead!” Give him a taste of it, then ask him to move you into a role where you can give him the rest of it too.

      1. Adlib*

        This is really great advice! I’m in a role that I actually used to support so when the previous lady left, I took over and still do my previous tasks. More and more I’m finding I have less time to do those previous tasks since I’m more involved with high level stuff now, and I think in 6 months to a year, I’ll be doing this with my job/boss. I’ll need a 2nd team member again. (The company is already saving money at this point.)

    7. Jenny*

      If you are often sitting around for weeks with nothing to do, then you’re potentially in a good position to be developing a new role from where you are. So I think the conversation with the boss could be along the lines of “I love the company, I’ve discovered that my current role isn’t what I want to be doing, I have a few ideas of directions I could go that might be a win-win for me and the company, what do you think of these and are you willing/able to work with me to add these responsibilities to my job now, and to transition that into a new position for me over a period of time that might work for both of us.” Good luck.

      1. Magee*

        I like this advice the best. It’s clear and concise and doesn’t sound demanding. I also second the advice of others to create a shorter list of the needs you see around your office that you can hand your boss.

      2. Peaches*

        This is pretty much to a T what the document I’ve typed up says (to be clear, I’m not handing the document to my boss, I’m using it to make sure I hit on everything I want to say).

        “I love the company, I’ve discovered that my current role isn’t what I want to be doing, I have a few ideas of directions I could go that might be a win-win for me and the company, what do you think of these and are you willing/able to work with me to add these responsibilities to my job now, and to transition that into a new position for me over a period of time that might work for both of us.” –this script is perfect; thanks!

    8. Jocelyn*

      You need to employ some behavior modification techniques to change coworker’s behavior. Set up a small mirror (like a camping mirror), so you can see your touchy/feely coworker as he creeps up behind you. That way you can say, “Don’t touch me” and make a sudden movement like standing up/spinning around in your chair before he gets a chance to touch you. Also, bring in some heavy, hard to move items to make a high and wide barrier between you and hoarding coworker- maybe 3” notebooks filled with printouts, floppy, soft cover manuals/books. Keep in an empty copy paper box or use metal bookends. Find a reason to call a manager further up the food chain while coworker is playing loud video, then try to give a project update and apologize for the background noise as you explain coworker is watching videos…on company time.

    9. HermioneMe*

      Document everything!! In detail!! Don’t leave that documentation at work – send it to yourself at home. Go to them again and (professionally) state that these things have to change. Have a lawyer send them that letter. Then if they terminate you after that, go back to the lawyer – I think you have grounds to sue them for many issues. I think that’s the ONLY way to get their attention. (It may not stop anything, but you may be able to get enough of a settlement to tide you through a job search!

      If they terminate you, you can use that documentation with the unemployment office as proof of why they fired you (for bringing work related issues to them). Or quit – by having your documentation – you can tell unemployment that you had no choice but to quit. This would be called constructive discharge. (From Google:) ” If your work situation was so untenable that you were really forced to quit, most states will allow you to collect unemployment.” If these managers try to deny you getting unemployment – appeal it and make them come to the unemployment hearing.

      I am normally not one to sue. I am an HR Director and I am so appalled at your manager’s and HR’s non-action that I think it may be totally appropriate to sue in this situation.

    10. Gotham Bus Company*

      By any chance, is there a current employee who is unhappy in a job that interests you and who might prefer your current position? Maybe you and that person could ask permission to swap jobs.

    11. Windward*

      What happens if you think about it as ways to have your role evolve, instead of starting with a request for a new role? Every role I’ve had has evolved through adding responsibilities over time.

      How would you talk with your boss about things you see that would benefit the company & that you’d like to do/learn? Hey, boss, I’ve noticed x & y. How about I do a & b about them, & run the results by you to see if it’s as useful as I anticipate/if you’d like to tweak how I’m working/if this opens the door to something I haven’t thought about? You know I’ve been asking for more work, so I have plenty of time to try this.

      That way you’re not asking for him to rethink roles & budget etc, ask to have a role created, etc. Instead you’re asking permission to use down time to do something for the company. It would get you closer to what you’d like, & opens the door to having your role & your work rethought. And gives you experience in things you’d like to do for your next move, when you decide it’s time.

  2. anon for this to be safe*

    My office moved to an open office plan about 6 months ago. I’m completely miserable for several reasons. I sit in a four person cube area of the open office plan. All three of my cube mates are men. I’m a woman.

    1. The first person who sits next to me is a hoarder. He has so much junk that it creeps into my area and makes me feel claustrophobic. He gets angry if you tell him to throw anything away. I’ve been relegated to a tiny area with enough room for my computer and phone, but all his stuff has basically pushed my stuff out of the area. Most of his hoarding is junk – used food containers he won’t throw out, multiple computers he never uses, endless coffee cups and piles of papers. The food has attracted roaches at times.

    2. The second person in my open cube area is partially deaf and plays everything on his computer so loud that I can hear it even if I’m using headphones. He’s also autistic and doesn’t respect boundaries. I’ve told him not to touch me before, especially when he tries to touch my shoulder or arm from behind me because it scares me, but he still does it. He also knows I keep candy in my file cabinet that I use to replenish one of the department candy dishes, and people told me he goes through it when I’m away from my desk. I keep some personal items in my file cabinet, including my purse. I’ve started locking the drawer and he’s made such a fuss over not having access to my candy even though there are open candy dishes in multiple areas.

    3. The third person in my cube is SO LOUD. He takes personal calls, watches TV, movies, and concerts all day long and also tries to interrupt every conversation nearby because he wants to be part of it, even when he has nothing to add. He has a temper and gets very angry if you tell him to be quiet. Angry enough that he’ll start yelling and punching a desk or slamming things down or angrily smashing his keyboard.

    We’re only allowed to work from home one day a week and my manager won’t let me work from home even though he acknowledges that the three coworkers in my area are causing a problem. Management has talked to all three coworkers but nothing has changed.

    Part of the problem is that they’re inconsiderate, but the larger problem is that two of the men get incredibly angry when I ask them nicely to stop their antics and the other man touches me when I don’t want to be touched and goes through my private things, and management and HR says he’s protected from repercussions because he’s autistic and partially deaf.

    I’m so miserable. I’ve cried in the mornings because I can’t bring myself to come into work. I hate being in the office surrounded by people who are making my job a living nightmare.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      That sounds miserable. My sympathies. Can you transfer departments or are you considering another job?

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        My manager has sabotaged people who tried to transfer and HR won’t let people transfer without the OK from their existing manager or department, so that’s not an option. I’m looking for an out for this and plenty of other none cube related reasons.

        1. Gotham Bus Company*

          Ah, yes, the old “let’s make it easier for employees to leave for a competitor than to transfer internally” theory of management. Fails every time.

    2. Johnny*

      Like almost every “my coworkers are terrible” issue, the issue here seems to really be “my management is terrible.” Write things down, go to management, explain that the situation has not improved, and you are not enjoying coming to work because of it. If they still don’t fix it, then you should rest assured that you are correct in leaving.

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        I’ve gone to management so many times, and even to HR, and they told me they can’t do anything. I’m looking for a new job.

        1. Tardigrade*

          They say they can’t do anything but it’s really that they won’t do anything. It might sound extreme, but I would ask around if anyone would like to trade seats. If you find someone willing, then take that to management/HR. If not (and I bet not), then that really speaks to the intolerable situation you have and you can also take that to management/HR.

          I also doubt that the loudness issue is only affecting you and you alone. Have you asked others nearby about it in a friendly way? “What did you think of the latest episode Fergus watched today?”

      2. anon for this to be safe*

        But also, my coworkers are terrible because anyone who doesn’t respect my personal space to NOT TOUCH ME when I ask them not to is also a problem. I don’t need a male coworker come up from behind to lay his hand on my arm or back or to root around in my personal things, or for another coworker to start slamming and throwing things because I ask him to turn down the volume on his TV watching.

        1. SoCalHR*

          On one hand I completely feel your frustration with the personal space thing, but you are dealing with a unique situation on that one.
          I am by no means an expert on special needs, but can you try a different approach with the second person? Maybe make a new routine for him to come in your cubical? Tell him that he needs permission to cross the line into your cubical (could you put tape on the ground) and that he needs to knock and get permission to enter, like boarding a boat (maybe even put up a red sign that says “knock here for Sally”). And I think locking the drawer is the best bet, but if he gets the idea he has to knock and get permission to enter before crossing the line into your cube, then that maybe would help with the entering your cubical when you’re gone.
          (Any special needs experts want to chime in if this is totally off base?)

          1. neverjaunty*

            “Don’t touch me” is very clear and not something an autistic person is incapable of understanding. Dude touching her anyway has zero to do with special needs and everything to do with being an asshole. People can be both.

            Same for being politely asked to turn down sound or to keep to one’s cube.

            1. Thlayli*

              Yes yes yes. Reasonable accommodations for autism absolutely do NOT include being allowed to touch your coworkers when they don’t want to be touched.

              1. Thlayli*

                Nor do reasonable accommodations for being partially deaf include being allowed to play everything on your computer so loud that other people can hear it with headphones in. He can get a hearing aid, he can wear headphones himself. Those are “reasonable” accommodations. Forcing your colleagues to listen to your pc on loudspeaker all day is not “reasonable”.

          2. anon for this to be safe*

            When I say cube, I don’t know if I’m explaining it correctly. It’s an open office space, so “cube” is the term used to refer to my chair, computer, and desk. There are no walls and it’s all open so all he has to do is roll over or approach me (he sits diagonally from me to my back). To knock on anything he’d have to get right up in my space and that already happens as it is.

            I asked facilities about tape for the desk to stop the hoarder, but they won’t OK using tape to mark off space, so I don’t think that’s an option.

            1. Ali G*

              So facilities will micromanage your use of tape but they won’t do anything about ROACHES????
              This is ridic. What would happen if you waited until Hoarder left one day, threw out anything that was obviously garbage, moved all his other sh*t to his side of the desk and got your own damn tape and made a line that designated the space, and then filled up your space with your stuff right up to the line so there is no more room for his crap to encroach? Because honestly, that is where I am with this one. He’s disgusting and you shouldn’t have to be subject to that.
              The other angry dude? I would just ignore him – if he get’s pissed he can’t be in every conversation that’s his issue. Just keep repeating – Fergus I am having a private conversation, please don’t interrupt. Then let him throw his tantrum.
              I would also be taking pics and videos at this point and sending them to HR on a regular basis.

              1. JustaTech*

                Oh for goodness sake, no tape? I guess I would ask what the consequences would be if you brought in your own painter’s tape (the kind that doesn’t damage surfaces) and just put it down early one morning or late one night. But that would depend on how upset facilities would get and what the consequences for you would be.
                If tape really isn’t an option, could you get something like a hard plastic or metal file holder to use as a wall?

                Mr Touchy is awful. Could you start flailing your arms really big (not trying to hit him, but very obvious) every time he touches you, and repeating loudly “I’ve told you not to touch me!”

                Mr Angry sounds like a nightmare. I would get nothing done around him, between the being loud and the being angry.

                The only other thing I could possibly think of is to document how much these guys’ specific behavior impacts your productivity. (How the heck does he get away with watching movies at work with no headphones? Or watching movies at all?)

                anon for this to be safe, I am so sorry for you. You’ve got a trifecta of terribleness *and* worthless management. Good luck job hunting.

              2. anon for this to be safe*

                Facilities has come to put stuff down and clear out trash when I put in a ticket about roaches, but I have to do it every time the problem comes up. The hoarder throws his own version of a tantrum when his stuff is thrown away.

                I’ve given up on HR. I brought up getting my lawyer to send a letter about the coworker who won’t stop touching me and they shrugged. Word from other coworkers is that HR has just settled any cases and isn’t phased by lawyers (we had a couple sexual harassment situations that were ignored for a long time because HR either “misplaced” written documentation or didn’t want to do anything). The company is corporate and I guess has enough money for these types of small lawsuits?

                1. Specialk9*

                  So you have complained, HR shrugged. You complained and soft-threatened a lawyer and they shrugged. You think they have deep pockets.

                  So… What do you have to lose by sending a legal letter? If they fire you, even bigger settlement!

                2. Thlayli*

                  Yeah this is the obvious thing to do. IANAL but I can’t believe it’s legal to be told that you have to allow another coworker to touch you repeatedly when there is no valid business reason to do so.

                3. Only here for the teapots*

                  Can you file a complaint with any state/federal agencies? Definitely document everything. If you have to quit you may still be able to get unemployment if you can show you’re dealing with egregious circumstances like unwanted touching and violent anger.
                  I had a boss that would loom over me and yell while flailing her arms, which the unemployment office considered fair grounds for quitting, combined with other horrifying working conditions.

                4. Woodswoman*

                  Besides being unbearable, what you are describing is illegal. I agree with others that at this point it’s time to escalate with legal action. Check out the federal EEOC at and whatever state agency is comparable where you live. Have your attorney take action. You deserve whatever payment you can get, and look at it as a ticket out of this hell workplace. And as others have said, document everything with notes, times, dates, and photos. I hope you can find another job soon.

                5. Observer*

                  Keep complaining to facilities and put earplugs in when they throw tantrums.

                  Keep complaining in email to HR. Then start going up the chain IN EMAIL.

                  At that point, either a lawyer’s letter or something like the EEOC. Your employer may have deep pockets, but so does the EEOC. And if you can bring them enough information to look like a pattern they will be very interested.

              3. Arjay*

                I think letting them all throw their tantrums is the key. It’s not your problem to handle their emotions. I share a cube space with one person; we even have to share a two drawer vertical filing cabinet (in addition to have a single individual drawer that I can lock where I keep my personal things). If her stuff encroached on my area, I’d talk to her about it. If it continued, I’d move stuff back to her side. And if there was dirty trash, I’d dump it in the trash. If your neighbors have a problem with that, let them get stonewalled by HR instead of you.

                1. SignalLost*

                  But they’re not going to HR. They’re throwing actual, desk-punching, yelling tantrums in the cubicle they share. This is really dangerous advice.

            2. Jules the Third*

              Is there any rearranging of that room that can help mitigate this? Like, put you on an end, farthest from the one who annoys you most? (for me, loud guy, I can throw hoarder stuff in the trash)

              On hoarder: Since tape’s not allowed, maybe something less permanent but still too heavy to move easily – some letter trays, a pencil holder, spare keyboard? I know that eats into your space still, but at least they are (probably) not roach hotels.

              On the autistic guy: If you have Used Your Words, then he has no excuse and you are allowed to Return Awkward to Sender (see: Captain Awkward). These guys use scenes to get their way; you have permission to use a scene to set your boundaries.
              1 – quiet conversation where you explain he should not touch you and give him an alternative method to get your attention (ie, say your name or knock on his chair).
              2 – Folo with an email to him, with, ‘just want to be clear about our conversation, [repeat convo]
              3 – When he touches you, turn and very loudly say, ‘Don’t touch me!’
              4 – Folo with reasonable tone, ‘That’s exactly what I meant when we had that conversation last week. Don’t do it.’

              The loud guy – get as far away as you can, ask him to point speakers towards himself. Not much else you can do.

              1. Thursday Next*

                This is a really good script to use with your coworker who touches. I’d add, maybe you could put a sign on the back of your chair with a reminder to use your preferred method of getting your attention. A visual cue could help remind him, and it also gives you one more documentable step of what you’ve done to address the situation.

                Also: your managers are asses. ADA protections don’t work that way—someone with a disability can still be held to standards of appropriate behavior! What’s their excuse for not dealing with loud guy, or hoarder guy? Can you bring someone from facilities to the hoarder’s desk to show them containers of uneaten food (ugh)?

              2. You don't know me*

                In my fantasy revenge situation, I would scream, loudly, every time he surprised touched me. No scream like yelling at him for touching me, but scream like I’ve been startled.

                1. You don't know me*

                  I might have to “scream like a girl” every time I saw a roach too. They want to treat you like a delicate, hysterical female, then lean into the stereotype.

                2. AsItIs*

                  But women (in many societies) are taught to be “nice girls” and not to react to the appalling behavior of men.

                  The usual inner dialogue goes something like: “I would love to scream but I don’t want to make a scene or upset the toucher.”

                  I say scream. Not a long one, but a damn loud one, followed up with a loud “STOP TOUCHING ME!” Not a startled scream, because that’s the “nice girl” you’re been trained to be.

                  Also have HR explain to you (in writing) why a disability concession includes a male colleague being allowed to commit the unwanted touching of a female colleague.

            3. Yorick*

              Talk to facilities about the bug issue. They should be able to get him to at least throw food out.

            4. Rusty Shackelford*

              Okay, but it should be obvious that half of a shared desk is yours, so can you push his stuff over to his side? Or set up a physical barrier, like a row of binders or paper trays?

            5. The_Logical_One*

              Bring in items to place on your desk as barriers to the hoarder, and get a mirror so you can see who is coming up from behind you.

            6. Willow*

              We used to call those partitions. I hate open office plans. You cannot even pretend you have any privacy.

          3. Observer*

            TOTALLY off base.

            Yes, lock the drawer. But it’s nonsense that she needs to coach him like a toddler. Autism does NOT mean “incapable of understanding clear instructions and clearly stated boundaries.”

          4. Megpie71*

            There’s being on the autism spectrum, and then there’s just being plain rude. If your co-worker has been told, bluntly, that you do not want him to touch you, and you do not want him to touch the drawer where you keep your things (yes, you may need to get that blunt: name the behaviour explicitly, say it upsets you, and tell him to knock it off. Also, given the deafness consideration, give him this blunt instruction in writing); if you’ve offered alternative options such as knocking on the frame of the cubicle to get your attention, and/or leaving a note asking for a candy re-supply; then he is being deliberately rude, and it isn’t a consequence of his autism spectrum disorder. Document what you’ve done, document the steps you’ve taken to make things clear to him what it is you’re objecting to and why, and how you’ve attempted to convey this information, and hand that to HR. Being on the spectrum is not an excuse for being deliberately bad-mannered to people (inadvertently, yes; deliberately, no).

            (Speaking as a person who is firstly, on the spectrum herself, and secondly, hard of hearing.)

      3. MissDisplaced*

        I think it’s both. But when it comes to these HORRIBLE open office formats, management is intent on foisting them on unwilling employees who hate them and won’t budge. It sucks OP and you have my sympathies.

      1. Willow*

        Leaving for another company is absolutely justified when there are roaches. That is not something anyone should ever have to put up with at work.

    3. MissGirl*

      You don’t have a coworker problem; you’ve got a management problem. And it’s not going away.

      The fact that these guys still have a job, especially the temper guy who watches TV all day, speaks louder than any of them about the mismanagement. I hope you’re actively job hunting as that’s your only way to fix this.

    4. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      Could this be a case where being the “squeaky wheel” is completely necessary and valid? I would document, document, document and take everything to my manager on a very regular basis. Make it so you can’t be ignored. All of the issues you listed are absolutely valid, so you should feel comfortable raising this with your manager again and again. In the meantime, I’m so sorry. This sounds terrible!!

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        Honestly, I’ve raised it so many times, but nothing happens. He just thinks I’m being hysterical and exaggerating, so I’ve almost given up.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          He just thinks I’m being hysterical and exaggerating

          This makes me so mad. I’ve seen such a small number of managers in my career who have taken any complaint from any woman seriously. If this were a guy coming to your manager with the same complaints, I have a feeling all issues would have been taken care of a long time ago.

          How can he accuse you of being hysterical and exaggerating, when anyone can see your coworker’s garbage covering your work area, and the roaches? Or you being habitually touched by the other coworker? Or hear the third coworker playing videos and music at full volume? You are not being hysterical, you are stating a fact.

            1. SoCalHR*

              I was in an office once where ginormous termites (I think) were falling on us sporadically during the day, the main manager clearly gave us the impression that we were being silly for not wanting to work with a drizzle of insects. So we picked a bunch up using tape and taped them on a sheet and brought them into her. I think it maybe at least made her make a call to the landlords, but I don’t recall getting sent home or moved for the rest of the day :-(

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I say this supporting you and empathizing with you 100%. Stop being nice, stop raising the issue, you are going to have to fix this.

          Shove mr. dirty’s stuff on the floor and laugh at his tantrums.
          The next time mr. touchy touches you, respond with a sharp jab with your elbow and a loud ‘You startled me. Why are you touching me. I’ve told you not to touch me. What is wrong with you”
          Mr. Candy guy (not sure if he is also mr. touchy) when he whines or if you see him rooting around in your stuff.. “Dude, what is wrong with you get out of my desk and buy your own candy”

          Obviously your boss and HR don’t actually address problems, so you are safe from anything there.

          1. Thlayli*

            This is a very good point. You can do literally anything and you won’t get fired. If these guys are not being fired for their behaviour you are not going to be fired for responding in kind. If he puts crap on your desk, dump it back on his desk/chair/keyboard. When your coworker shouts, shout at him to shut up. When your coworker touches you, shout stop touching me. Etc

            1. Chameleon*

              “If these guys are not being fired for their behaviour you are not going to be fired for responding in kind.”

              Oh, how I wish, I wish, we lived in a world where this was true.

              1. SignalLost*

                Not only do I not believe this is true, I also believe the fact that OP works with three grown men who all have trouble (ha! so mild!) with physical boundaries means that she might get punched on her way to the meeting where she’s fired. I don’t think any recommendations of retaliation are a great idea here.

        3. Observer*

          Keep bringing it up – IN EMAIL. And PICTURES where valid. Including the roaches. Also, talk to the facilities people who come to clean up and get their names and put that in a log that you start keeping TODAY. Keep a log of every single time you get touched, either coworker throws a temper tantrum and calls you names, screams, slams things etc. Also, keep a log of each time you see roaches, and each time facilities needs to clean things up and what they say. On this log also note every time you have a problem with a conversation with an outsider or staff person either because of the interruptions or the noise.

      2. mark132*

        I’m not sure how much documentation will help. These are so very obvious, that they are basically self documenting. It should be sufficient to point out them out to get them rectified, or at least start the process.

        1. Leela*

          I would document them so you can contact a lawyer, honestly. They’re not intervening with someone putting their hands on your body? Going through your desk?

          1. Church Lady*

            This, this, this. All day. Everyday. Check your state’s laws on audio recording, one or two party consent, record. Check with your lawyer, omg, I hope you get so rich on the way out of your job.

    5. Cousin Itt*

      Could you argue for moving desks away from these people rather than working from home if that’s what your manager has a problem with?

      Also, how are these people getting away with loudly watching TV etc in an open plan office? Surely that would be disturbing others as well?

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        We just downsized to a smaller space so there’s absolutely no extra space available. The only other place is a conference room, but people get in trouble if they use one all day. The only other area that has open spaces is an area I don’t have badge access to.

        The TV watching happens with headphones, so it’s only loud enough that people in the direct area can hear and not everyone on the floor. But even if the volume wasn’t a problem, the visuals of the TV would be a problem. And, you know, it’s just rude to watch TV while everyone else is stressing out about deadlines.

        1. mark132*

          Seriously watching coworkers f*** off day after day all day long is a morale killer.

          1. anon for this to be safe*

            Yeah. We have several who do this. Another coworker is dealing with a similar issue. She and I get all the work the two dudes watching TV or disappearing for hours on end aren’t doing because they say they’re “overloaded”. Right.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Any chance you can switch seats to work next to her … my coworker achieved the impossible (switching seats, which HR rules with an iron thumb I assume because they have few opportunities otherwise to really torture people in their daily lives) by making the case that for Work Reasons, she and a coworker needed to sit next to each other to collaborate on Important Project. Even though in real life she was just trying to get away from our office Eeyore.

            2. only acting normal*

              You have a mahoosive management problem with a generous side helping of blatant sexism. You need a new job yesterday.
              None of this is normal. *Repeat as required*

      2. Samiratou*

        Is there any chance you can switch with someone? Particularly a man? I hate to say it, but if your boss (and others) thinks you’re being hysterical, someone should be willing to “humor” you. You’ll be out of there and I bet the issues with the others get resolved when your sexist jerk of a boss hears about it from another dude.

        These people all suck. I hope you find something soon.

    6. Dame Judi Brunch*

      That sounds horrible! I’m sorry you have to deal with all that.
      Is management aware of the roaches? If yes, and they’re still not doing anything, that speaks volumes.
      I have no advice, I’m sorry. Just wanted to say I feel for you.

    7. DaniCalifornia*

      Ugh this sucks and it sounds like management is the root problem. Sounds like it’s time to start looking for another job if possible. I’d document things. I also wouldn’t hesitate to throw away the food containers. It’s one thing to be crowded by junk but roaches?!? No effing way. I don’t know how angry that guy gets but I’d be fine throwing them away as they pile up and telling him or your boss “I *refuse* to work in an area with moldy food containers that attract bugs.” It seems rude but to me it’s not. Let anything the angry guy says roll off your back. I got really good at ignoring unreasonable people yelling at me at a young age.

      Also, if you don’t keep candy in your drawer you can show the other cube mate there is no candy. I would still keep the drawer locked though. That or if you really didn’t want him going through it and are willing to be the bigger person you could ask him what his favorite candies are and maybe buy him his own personal dish. I’m sorry he keeps touching you. I know it isn’t fun.

      1. lulu*

        Agreed. Roaches? that’s where I draw the line. If you can just go to management and tell them this needs to be fixed now, it’s a matter of urgency. You cannot work under those conditions, and you need to make it clear to your manager. So far they’ve been able to dismiss your concerns by saying that they tried, but you need to be clear that it’s no longer enough.

      2. You don't know me*

        And if providing and storing candy is just a nice thing you do and not part of your actual job then I would stop that ASAP. It a small thing but it some thing you can actually control.

    8. Julia*

      I’m so sorry. That really, really sucks, and all your feelings are completely valid. (I would maybe refrain from saying your co-worker isn’t respecting your boundaries because he has autism. He has autism and is also a jerk.) Why are the loud guys not wearing headphones? Why can’t the one guy bring his own freaking candy?

      While he may in a protected class, so should victims of sexual harassment be – what does your HR say about that? Can they transfer your desk if you can’t change departments? Would the approach “my lawyer said his touching me is not protected” help?

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        I only brought up the autism because HR said that’s why he can’t be reprimanded for continuing to touch me and trying to go through my personal things. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

        1. Alternative Person*

          I think HR is off base on this one. IANAL or a Special Needs expert by any means, but going through your stuff and inappropriate touching are things that need to be stopped.

        2. Tardigrade*

          This isn’t appropriate for someone without autism to do, and it’s not appropriate for him to do either. I can appreciate that he might not be able to stop himself, but that doesn’t minimize the effect it has on you. So i would tell, not ask, HR what they are going to do about it. “I need a solution for Greg continuing to go through my things and touching me.” Same with the hoarder guy.

          1. Jules the Third*

            Yeah, ‘Help me find a solution for these problems’ is a pretty good script, with either HR or your manager.

            Touchy Guy’s autism is not an excuse for touching. Autistic people are totally able to understand boundaries, you just have to be very explicit, ie, ‘When you come to my desk, do not touch me. Please do [some other thing] to get my attention.’ In general, people with autism don’t get non-verbal cues or hints, but explicit instructions are universal with well-meaning people.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Yeah no, your HR is full of shit. You can’t discriminate against someone for being autistic, and like…you wouldn’t want to reprimand him for stimming, for example, if it’s not physically impacting those around him. But you absolutely can expect that he will meet the minimum standards of basic conduct in the office, such as STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE.

          Being autistic doesn’t make him incapable of following clearly stated directions and boundaries. He might not be able to sense where the boundaries are without help, the way most neurotypical people can, but once you tell him clearly and directly “Do not do this to me and my personal property” that absolutely can and should be understood and respected, regardless of his neurodivergence.

          Side note, I might just stop bringing candy for the open candy dishes entirely. Let that be someone else’s problem since supplying for it is causing you this problem.

          1. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

            Agreed. Being autistic isn’t the issue here – the fact that he’s not respecting your boundaries is the issue, as well as HR’s bad response to this problem. Autistic people can understand and respect boundaries. Autistic people can a strong sense of their own and other people’s boundaries. To blame/excuse his neurology for his lack of respect is 1) letting him off the hook when he should be held accountable, and 2) perpetuates an idea that is harmful to autistic people in general.

        4. WellRed*

          If someone kept touching me, I think I would eventually stand up and yell, “STOP TOUCHING ME!STOP TOUCHING ME!STOP TOUCHING ME!”

          OF course, you may have already done this. At any rate, don’t let this drop. He DOES NOT HAVE the right to touch you because of his autism. Email HR and your boss (is boss’s boss an option??) with “formal complaint of physical harassment” in the subject line and ask for a meeting.
          Also, does facilities management know about the roaches? And, I would have no qualms about throwing his stuff out, though you shouldn’t have to.

          1. anon for this to be safe*

            HR won’t do anything. I’ve told him to stop and they said because of his autism and it’s not “sexual”, it shouldn’t be a complaint. Even though putting a hand on my lower back sure feels sexual and overly personal for the workplace.

            I’ve met a lawyer who said the first step is to tell HR that my lawyer will send a letter about harassment, but HR shrugged it off. There’s been quite a few harassment complaints that have gone ignored (the last woman to complain about sexual harassment was “laid off”).

            1. Thursday Next*

              They do not get to decide what constitutes inappropriate touching.

              Now I’m wondering, fellow commenters, is there anywhere OP can go to get clarification on sexual harassment/hostile workplace definitions that could apply to her situation?

              1. Thursday Next*

                Sorry—didn’t mean to nest here, but you answered my question! Glad you’ve consulted a lawyer.

              2. Mephyle*

                I’m not clear – did HR shrug off the idea that you might send a lawyer’s letter, or did they shrug off a lawyer’s letter that you had sent to them?
                Either way, if you sent a letter and they shrugged it off, the lawyer ought to be able to help you take the proper steps to make them take it more seriously, if that is a good path to take.

            2. Lizzy*

              Sounds like the next step is to have your lawyer send a letter about harassment. And find a new job.

              1. Specialk9*

                I had a rental company who put clearly illegal stuff in the lease. When it became a problem, I pushed back politely, pointed out the law they were breaking, and tried to find a solution. They didn’t care. I told them my next step would be to file against them. They didn’t care. I did the state’s legally required pre-notification of intent to file in small claims court… Suddenly DING DING DING! They cared!

                I realized that every single person they have a problem with threaten a lawsuit, but almost nobody actually does. So my threat, and knowledge of the law, was all smoke in their eyes. When I actually took action, THEN they had to take action, and they folded like a wet paper towel.

                So OP, your threat (that you didn’t follow up on) is smoke. The actual letter, or an actual claim, may cause a different effect.

                Just make sure you have everything documented, offsite, so you have proof. Forward everything to your personal email. Keep a log. Keep track of everything, preferably in duplicate.

                1. mark132*

                  This is a very good point. I would bet that the ratio of threats to file a lawsuit vs actual lawsuits filed is over 1000 to 1.

                  I haven’t actually made a threat like this in a long time because I know I’m not willing to file. My wife and I hired a lawyer once, and she basically told us, there was no point suing the charter school, so we switched schools.

            3. KellyK*

              If they’re shrugging it off because they’re fine with being sued and settling, can you follow through the process and actually sue them? And only settle for enough money to give you a good cushion while you job hunt? I’m not a lawyer and this is obviously not legal advice, but if their attitude is “Whatever, we can afford to settle,” then maybe that’s something you can pursue?

              At least backing up your comments with your lawyer friend sending the letter might be a good indication to them that you’re serious.

              1. essEss*

                According to the EEOC website, you have to file a claim through them before you can sue on your own.

            4. Jules the Third*

              ohhhh – ok, that’s IMPORTANT for us to know.

              Your management sucks, isn’t going to change, and will *retaliate* against you for complaining.

              Document EVERYTHING, including every discussion with manager and HR.
              – Pictures of the hoard
              – Times / dates of touching, being asked not to touch, talking to mgmt, everything, in a document that you store outside the company. Just because Touchy Guy has not *verbalized* sexual interest does not mean it’s not gender-based harassment. Does Touchy Guy touch the men in the dept to get their attention?
              – Bump up the job hunt, maybe even take a few vacation days to focus on it.
              – Try the ‘make a fuss with the offenders’ route I outlined above (ie, CLEAR, WRITTEN instructions to Touchy Guy on how to approach you, folo’d by yelling at him when he touches you)
              – Big trashbag, stay late / come in early one day to throw out Hoarder’s food stuff, and put a big ol’ trashcan on his side of the desk between you.
              – When they fuss, ask mgr for accommodation – wfh 2 – 3 days a week, or swap offices with mgr 1 day / week.

              I’d suggest taking it up the mgmt chain, but the last female complainer got ‘laid off’. This is not a company you want to work for.

            5. WellRed*

              Will any of them support you in this? If they have a pattern, it gets harder to ignore. Meanwhile, you’ve already taken the first step.

            6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I would continue working with the lawyer, and also start looking for another job. This company is not long for this world.

              (the last woman to complain about sexual harassment was “laid off”).

              This business practice of theirs will end so badly for them someday soon.

            7. essEss*

              It is not HR’s decision whether or not it is sexual harassment. That is defined by EEOC and you can direct your complaints straight to them since HR has made it clear that they will not stop the harassment! EEOC will be very interested to learn that the company knew about the problem and told you that you had to let men touch you.

              1. Lehigh*

                Oh, and make sure the lawyer knows that the toucher is sexually harrassing not only you but other women at your workplace. IANAL but if this does go to court maybe they would like to be part of it.

            8. Observer*

              That’s classic retaliation. You could go back to your lawyer, but I’d start with the EEOC first – It’s free and they REALLY don’t like retaliation case. They will go after that even when the original complaint didn’t pan out or THEY didn’t do anything with it.

            9. only acting normal*

              Oh dear dog. RUN don’t walk from this job.

              Yes, yes it is sexual, because I will bet my salary he has never ever touched a man on their lower back.
              There are so many autistic fallacies your HR is indulging in it is causing this here autistic woman actual distress! Autistic people are sexual, they do understand boundaries, they can treated like adults.

              Between Mr Violently Angry, Mr Touchy-feely, and Mr Roachfarmer I fear for your health and safety.

        5. Scubacat*

          I work with people who have special needs. Both with clients and staff who have autism.

          Not being touched at work is very much a right that you have. It is reasonable for someone with autism not to touch you. Where I work, management/HR would totally put a support plan in place to address this. The HR department that you have is staffed with loons.

          Can you talk to Boundaries Bob about how touching you is unnaceptable? Some scripts that I’ve used at work have been….

          “It is not okay to touch my shoulder. Don’t do that.”

          “I need you to respect my personal space and not touch me.”

          “I did not give you permission to touch me. “

        6. nonymous*

          I sometimes work in an open cubicle like this, and a couple of us have mirrors to “watch our 6”. No inappropriate touching here, just some startle responses. Also, we have book cases and file cabinets to help define each person’s corner, so two people will share one side of the big cube and between them are actually two bookcases back-to-back with one side touching the desk. So the person on the left side has a bunch of shelves and so does the person on the right side, but the line of sight from one end to the other is blocked.

        7. Observer*

          Take this up the chain in HR. Either you’ll encounter someone with the competence to recognize that this is absolutely false and that you KNOW it’s false. Or you’ll develop the kind of documentation the the EEOC (and their state analogs) love.

      2. blue canary*

        Regarding the sexual harassment angle: would HR take note if you started discussing a hostile work environment, and were clear that you were documenting everything, including HR’s inaction? The violent responses to simple requests and the continued touching seem like they’d fall into that category.

        1. Jules the Third*

          See OP’s note above, the last woman who complained about harassment was ‘laid off’. OP should document for the lawsuit, but HR and mgmt are not going to help here.

    9. Wednesday*

      I’m so sorry your dealing with this. I don’t have any solid advice for you, since you seem to have taken every step you can with HR and your manager…the next step would be to look for new jobs. Really though, since you’ve done everything you can here – I wouldn’t be afraid to bite back when they bark at you. Here’s what I would do:

      For #1: Clearly define your space. Bring in some nice potted plants, fake or real and place them on the very edge of your area and his. Create a beautiful wall so you don’t have to look at his mess. If he pushes back, be firm but kind, and I’d act a little confused too: “(Horder), this is my area too. I’m just trying to make the best use of the space that (manager) gave us. Why are you mad that I’m using my own allotted space?”

      For #2: I’ve dealt with something similar with my friend. I love that guy, but sometimes he’s a real pain in the you know where. Since his main motivator is candy, maybe use that to help teach him what’s okay and what’s not. Keep candy in your area and let him know he’s okay to use it. Every time he touches you, take it away and lock it in your drawer. If he’s mad, say that’s how you feel when he touches you. Maybe it will help him understand just how much his casual touch offends.

      For #3: Do not be afraid of this bully. He’s a coward and acting like a child. So treat him like one. Remain impassive, and unmoved, and unafraid when he has an outburst. Roll your eyes, shake your head as if you can’t believe it. Keep telling him to be quiet. Keep letting him explode. Let this man dig is his own grave by reacting inappropriately to a polite request.

      Stay strong!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I really like the “clearly define your space” suggestion.

        And when he touches you, loudly say:
        1st time – please don’t touch me
        2nd time – I’ve already ask you not to touch me
        3rd time – why are you touching me?

      2. Alternative Person*

        I think for #2 that’s a lot of free emotional labour on the part of the OP to keep locking/unlocking the candy and trying to train a co-worker who is treating her badly.

        1. Yorick*

          And I don’t know that much about autism but I think he may not get the link between touching and candy being locked away

          1. Wednesday*

            Maybe not. Maybe he’s just an asshole. I admit that its an extra step for the OP, and could even be interpreted as a punishment you’d give a child (which is not really appropriate in the workplace), but from my viewpoint they’ve already crossed so far beyond the line of what’s appropriate that OP either has to get out, or get creative. The candy dish is something the OP can control, its not something anyone can make her do. I’d get him to stop by using the one thing he responds to.

          2. Alternative Person*

            It really, really depends ( and not just on the form of autism, but how well people in the person’s life, particularly when they are young, help them to interact with the world around them as well as establishing and maintaining rules and boundaries).

            I had an autistic spectrum student a few years back whose thing was a Children’s Card Game. He had cards, he’d watched the series. The whole thing. He hated English class, wouldn’t cooperate, would complain, do as little as possible. Until, one day, I made him a deal. If he did his English class work, I would let him watch an episode of the cartoon (in English, he’d watched it in his native language), when we were done (and after the episode, he would have to answer questions about it). He never complained about English class again. He would do all his work, no problem and in fact did it really well when he applied himself because he knew if he got it done, he could watch something he liked (he also thought the voices in the English version were hysterical).

            (I’m not a trained Special Ed teacher by any means this is just my experience)

            1. only acting normal*

              This guy is not a little kid though. He’s an adult with an office job.
              I’m autistic and I work with *loads* of other autistic people (in a NT majority workplace); no-one behaves like this guy.
              Accommodations for an adult might involve: complex instructions being written down, sitting in a quieter seat, a one person at a time interview rather than a panel. Emphatically not “you get to ignore basic requests to not touch coworkers’ persons and belongings” (which frankly he does understand and is choosing to ignore, because he’s primarily a dick and the autism is his excuse).

              1. Willow*

                I had a co-worker for 3 years who I strongly suspect had Aspergers. He would occasionally touch me too, and when I told him I didn’t want to be touched, polite but bluntly, he would use the excuse that he “forgot.”

                This was the co-worker who also made countless errors, who I had to clean up after for 3 years because I don’t think he understood basic data entry. There was also the time when he was new and he would stand up over the partition wall and look down at me for minutes at a time without saying anything, even when I would ask him if he needed something. I had to go to the boss on that one because just asking him to please not do that because it made me uncomfortable angered him. Coworker would also repeatedly send me strange, random IMs that came out of the blue, some of which sounded like he was trying to control me and were huge red flags to me when I added them all up. I had to go to the boss on that too. They never did anything. I found out a few months ago that he had finally, after several years, gotten a job at another company.

                You should not have to put up with being touched against your will. That is harassment. You have told him repeatedly to stop. What he is doing and management repeatedly ignoring your requests for it to stop are illegal.

      3. CustServGirl*

        I’m sorry, but why is everyone acting like the autistic guy is a young child or puppy? OP shouldn’t have to use training mechanisms or multiple step plans to get her coworkers to behave like normal adults instead of a**holes.

        Op, I am so full of rage for you. Document everything you can, including the violent outbursts (audio or video, if it doesn’t break your state or local laws) and keep applying for new jobs. When an opportunity comes to get the heck out of there, very clearly state everything you’ve been put through. I would be tempted to sue, honestly. Your HR and management don’t care, so get justice. Eff politeness.

        1. Artemesia*

          What she should have to do and what might work are different things. She should not have to deal with this; management should manage. This isn’t happening (what with her just being a hysterical woman and all) so the question is what can SHE do. I don’t know if training this guy would work but it is something SHE can do. I don’t know if a legal action and complaint to EEOC would work, but it is something SHE can try. What should be is not happening here, just what is.

    10. oldbiddy*

      I am so sorry that management is doing nothing. I was once in a 4 person office where one person made me uncomfortable (loud, on phone all day for personal business, was a creeper who stared at me all the time, smelled bad). That’s just a tiny fraction of what you’re going through, and it was bad enough. I was able to move offices, fortunately.
      Could you double down on your request to move (i.e. if nothing is available, get a written commitment that they will move you to the next available cube if someone leaves) or trade with someone (preferably male) who doesn’t care about noise or mess?

    11. AnotherJill*

      For the hoarder, I would get a couple of big boxes, take photos of the area, and then put anything of his encroaching on your space into the boxes and leave them where ever is feasible. You can’t fight rudeness with niceness.

      I’d also just stop bringing in candy.

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        Yeah, I figured I’d stop with the candy. I didn’t replace the bag I finished today. Someone else can fill one of the candy dishes if they want. I was doing it for morale (it’s so bad), but I can’t anymore.

        1. Yorick*

          If you want to do it here and there, bring in a small amount and put it straight in the candy dish (so don’t keep any at your desk)

      2. Bagpuss*

        Put the boxes in HR!

        Seriously though, your management suck and are not going to change, so look for a new job, and in the meantime, document eveything.

        For Hoarder,
        Move everything back into his space. Send him an email (keep a copy!) saying something like “I need you to keep your stuff on your own desk. Moving forward, I will be returning your things to your work space if you leave them on my desk or work space.
        As there have been repeated issues with your food containers attracting roaches, and smelling, which creates and unhygienic and unacceptable work environment, please make sure that you remove or throw out any food related items or packaging every day. I will throw away any food-related waste, such as uneaten take out, left in the office for more than one day. Please make sure that you take home any food you want to keep”

        Then do it. put his stuff on his desk, or chair, or in the corner of the room. Bin anything mouldy/obviously rubbish.

        Same with inappropriate toucher. Send him an e-mail, cc’d to HR. Say that he is not to touch you at all, under any circumstances. Say that you will not tolerate physical or sexual harassment, such as non-consensual touching, and that for the avoidance of doubt, you consider any non-consensual touching to be sexual harassment and will report it both to HR and to the police as such if it continues.
        I would tell him verbally, once, that it is not OK to touch you, even if he doesn’t intend it to be sexual, and that there are no exceptions (or that the only exception is if you explicitly tell him it is OK) If his autism means he has trouble with understanding boundaries, then a clear, rigid rule should make life easier. If he is autistic but also a jerk, then it makes it harder for him to claim he did not know or understand.

        Same with the loud gut. Tell him his speakers are too loud and ask that he uses headphones / subtitles. Each time he has something on very loud, go over, ask him to turn it down or use headphones.

        MEanwhile, get legal advice about what you need to do, and follow through.

    12. Kc89*

      This thread kind of flummoxes me

      I feel like people are brushing off the awful co workers and just blaming management

      1. Jadelyn*

        It’s not that anyone’s brushing them off, so much as acknowledging that the buck stops with management. The coworkers are responsible for being awful in their various ways – especially Mr Tantrums, good lord – but in the end, in the workplace it’s management’s responsibility to step in and put feet down, on people’s faces if necessary, and define what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and then impose consequences for those who refuse to abide by it.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        The coworkers are terrible. The OP has tried to talk the coworkers directly, to no avail. The OP doesn’t have the authority to *make* them stop. So it’s management’s responsibility to intercede.

        1. Anonymosity*

          And management and HR are asses and won’t do anything, so leaving seems to be the only option here.

          1. Jules the Third*

            mgmt & HR are asses who have retaliated against another complainer by laying her off.

            Leaving is the only realistic option.

            BUT: You can Make A Scene to make the situation a little easier in the meantime.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Sincere question: What do you think OP should do then?

        For example, how do you get a coworker to stop screaming and being violent when the boss won’t do anything about it?

    13. LCL*

      Well, since management is going to do anything, you might have to push back yourself a little.
      For hoarder guy, IF the space boundaries are clear, pick up all of his stuff that is in your space and put it back in his. Under the desk, on the desk, on the chair, make it his problem. If you know who is responsible for the facilities and custodial work at your office, tell them that cubicle X is filled with food trash and you’ve seen vermin.

      2. Keep locking your desk. Let him fuss. You can’t do much about the volume of his electronics. You can tell management that you want touchy guy to stop, and you have told him, and you are going to start calling the law if he continues to touch you after you have told him to stop.

      3. Tell management what yeller does. When you do something that sets off yeller, so what? Let him yell. If he crosses the line into threatening you, yeah, call the law. What he is doing is a kind of intimidation, you are supposed to soothe his feelings. Don’t. Let him display his immaturity.

    14. Zennish*

      Yep, your management isn’t doing their job. Once coworkers have been told by the manager to knock it off, and don’t, then it’s an insubordination issue, and squarely in management’s court to deal with. I’d also be really tempted to ask my HR department if they weren’t going to deal with inappropriate touching and intimidation (which is exactly what angry coworker’s behavior is, imo), what on earth would they be willing to deal with?

    15. It happens*

      I agree with the comments above. While you are looking for a new job to get away from bad management, can you make _clickbait here_ one small change to improve your office? Can you switch places with tv guy? You’ll still hear him but you won’t be dealing with hoarder guy and touchy guy won’t be able to sneak up behind you. Not a solution, but perhaps an aid to sticking it out until you can leave.
      Ps – having autism is not a license to invade personal space AFTER being told not to. Your HR is wrong. If he understood consequences he could stop.

    16. Jennifer*

      I have no advice, just sympathy. I’ve asked to get moved 4 times by now and nope, nope, nope, nope.

    17. June*

      You are working in a very scary, possible life threatening situation (yelling over turning the volume down ?? slamming things?? punching desk??). I would talk to HR and your supervisor one last time and use the words “you are fearful for your life”. Because seriously this guy is out of control and you should be afraid. I am afraid for you.
      (I don’t know what your state’s laws say about video taping his violent outbursts but you might want to take that to HR/mgt as well).
      Can your doctor give you medical leave because of the depression or trauma caused by this horrible work situation? Maybe if HR/mgt sees that other professionals are involved and you are no longer carrying the workload, they will change the situation?
      If you have a laptop, move to a conference room or another location. When mgt asks why, tell you could not work with the bugs and noise.
      Honestly, if it was me, I would stop all of my work, focus on job hunting, and get the heck out of there.

        1. PizzaDog*

          Based on everything else in the comment? Yeah, I’d bet on major escalations from any of these three if she pushes back.

        2. Morning Glory*

          Yeah, that’s a great way for the LW to get labeled as dramatic or emotional, especially since this sounds like a male-dominated workplace(?).

          LW, the situation as you present it is untenable enough to stand on its own, and I think you’d have the best luck sticking to the problems currently happening when you go to someone, rather than speculating on what may happen.

        3. Yorick*

          I agree, it’s a stretch that this is life threatening. I mean, it might escalate to dangerous, because a coworker who punches the desk might punch a person.

          As dangerous as it could potentially be, I think the company would label OP as way out there if she said this were life threatening. I’d focus on impacts to your work or to general health and safety (I’m talking about complaining about bugs to the facility managers).

        4. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Dude, from my personal, real-life experience, it is a bad idea to keep one’s back to someone losing their $h!t. Maybe fewer than 5% of the tantrum throwers will actually do something dangerous, but, I don’t know in advance which one(s) it will be.

          If I had to work in this situation, I’d be so stressed, and I work in noise — drilling machines, pile drivers, generators, air compressors — but, people who lose their temper and start banging on things are not considered good colleagues.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep, yep, yep.

            I am not sure if I would consider it life threatening because I do not see/know all that OP knows, but I would definitely consider it as realistic that I could get injured in this type of situation. Not saying to be paranoid OP, but use good judgement at all times.

            I thought we had moved away from the days where people were accused of being drama llamas for reporting anger issues and/or violent behavior, but apparently we have not.

            It’s not acceptable for cohorts to go into screaming rages at us and it is not acceptable for cohorts to pound desks/walls/whatever, nor is it acceptable to throw things. OP the fact that your management and HR do not understand these basic facts is quite disturbing.

            OP, I quit a job. I went to unemployment and told them about the working conditions. I saw people threaten each other, I saw fights, I saw people attempt to run other people down with their cars. I told unemployment this and I got my unemployment. It does happen. I did not fear for my life but it was reasonable to assume that I could become injured, maybe even seriously injured. Something to think about.

        5. Cedarthea*

          My sister ended up being checked out in an ER because of the stress of an aggressive and random supervisor. Her blood pressure was so high that she ended up with a “workplace injury” from trying to cope with a female boss who had serious outbursts and touched & grabbed her (arms mostly) when she was asked not to.

          Just because its not the violence you think of doesn’t mean you are so fearful it can impact your health.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Randomly videotaping coworkers is, in most companies, a one-way ticket to the door.

        This is not a life threatening situation. This is just an awful work environment situation.

        1. Jules the Third*

          It’s *probably* not a life threatening situation, but people who become workplace killers are usually well-known as problems because of behaviors like the ones OP is describing. The chance is low, but not zero.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            Really? Someone blaring the TV is going to become a workplace killer? Or someone that keeps such a messy desk that they’re flooding into their neighbors’ area, and then gets grumpy that someone asks them to cut it out? Or someone that’s autistic?

            By that logic I should record every interaction with any coworker when I ask them why something is overdue. That’s ridiculous.

          2. Anonymous Poster*

            No, autistic or rude people do not become workplace killers. That’s not a valid argument.

            If I’m supposed to record conversations I have with coworkers because of a non-zero chance they’ll perpetrate some workplace violence, then I’d record everything. But we don’t do that.

            1. Anonymous Poster*

              blegh sometimes my comments get eaten and I retry. Sorry about that, looks like it was just in moderation or something. Didn’t mean to sound spun up.

      2. anon for this to be safe*

        I wouldn’t classify it as life-threatening. The loud, tantrum coworker has anger issues, but he’s never taken them out on a person beyond yelling so I don’t think it would escalate to anything physical. The hoarder looms and gets passive-aggressive, but I don’t think it’d be physical.

        It’s illegal in my area to tape without consent in such situations, and our company policy has a rule against recording/etc., so I’d be fired immediately.

        I’m also not going to bring it up as life-threatening because a few years back we DID have a situation that was life-threatening for a coworker, and not only does my situation pale in comparison, but I feel like it would label me as hysterical just like my boss claims. (In the other situation, a male coworker would hang around a female coworker’s desk area and follow/linger whenever she got up to go somewhere. He was following her home from work and after months of him doing it and HR saying it wasn’t an issue because it didn’t happen on work property, he forced his way into her apartment. Nothing happened beyond that, thankfully, but that’s what it took for HR to fire him, even after several complaints. I didn’t know about this until recently, though)

        1. anon for this to be safe*

          Basically, I work in a really awful place with a lot of men and the people in HR are very friendly with most of the department managers and don’t want to process stuff because it will ruin their relationships.

          1. PNWflowers*

            So what exactly are you looking for then? Everyone’s advice to you has been met with “no, that won’t work”. Are you just venting? If there are no possible fixes, which seems to be what you’re suggesting- then you need to learn to like it or quit. Those are your options. You can’t change your coworkers, you can’t make HR/management take this seriously, you can’t switch seats- so find a new job or learn to like your current job. I also think some therapy may be helpful for you.

            1. soupmonger*

              Yeah, that was my conclusion as well. You need to find another job. People here have been as helpful as they can be, but you’re countering all suggestions as ‘not do-able’. Time to leave.

            2. Church Lady*

              What? Just because OP is responding with “won’t work” as an acknowledgement of people’s responses, you want to tell her to STFU and job hunt? Way to revictimize the victim here.

    18. NewBoss2016*

      I would be so tempted to
      A) Throw everything away immediately that encroaches onto your deskspace. Bob’s tupperware? Trashcan. Bob’s TPS report? Trash. And play dumb about it.
      B) Shriek loudly in surprise anytime sneaky co-worker grabs you.
      C) Ask questions about everything the other loud co-worker is doing. Watching TV? Ask him about the plot and character progression or give him spoilers. Taking personal calls? Make sure to ask him to tell Aunt Ethel hi.

      No, don’t do any of these. I feel you though.

      1. Jules the Third*

        TBH, I would do A & B (especially B). C is too disruptive to OP’s work, I’d just stay as far away from the sound as possible.

    19. Jenny*

      It sounds like the solution here is to leave. Unfortunate but true — you are dealing with boundary violations that are being supported by those in power, and your attempts to protect your boundaries have been unsuccessful, and sucking it up is not working for you, so next step is to exit the system. Transform your anger and frustration into job-hunting energy. Good luck.

      1. GarlicMicrowaver*

        Regarding the autistic person, shame on your employer for failing to accommodate him reasonably and for putting everyone included in a terrible position. I would go to HR, leave the autism part out of it, and simply say you cannot have someone constantly touching you against your will and need to be moved.

        That aside, I had this setup at my previous job. They called it “dogbone style.” Imagine all desks interconnected in a cluster- one person sits at one end of the dogbone, and another at the other end. It’s horrible and I would take a cold and sterile cubicle any day. I can’t get ANYTHING done with people within 6 inches of me.

        1. Julia*

          I’m genuinely curious: What kind of reasonable accommodation would there be for this guy? He gets to touch a puppet? Someone from HR?

          1. Lehigh*

            I don’t know a lot about autism, but I’m pretty sure uncontrollably touching your coworkers is not a symptom. Sure, if she had hinted that she disliked it he could be expected to miss it. But he speaks English. He can understand and comply with, “Do not touch me.”

            1. Julia*

              That’s why I’m curious. The comment above mine says HR should accommodate him so this won’t happen, but I don’t see how his autism or any accommodations play a part here-

    20. PizzaDog*

      I hope you’re looking for something else – I’m sorry to be blunt, but the only person this is going to end badly for is you. Full speed to a burnout or worse.

      For the hoarder, let him be upset by this: push all of his crap back onto his desk. If you get there before him, take all of his garbage that made its way to your desk and pile it onto his desk. Did your parents ever do this? Mine did; when I made a mess that I didn’t clean, all of it ended up on my bed. Want to sleep? Either sleep on a pile of garbage or clean it. He can either work on his own pile of garbage or GTFO.

      From your other comments, HR isn’t taking your complaints about being touched!!! without permission. Get out get out get out.

    21. Anonymous Poster*

      What does them being male and you being female have to do with any of this?

      Focus on the behaviors that bother you. If management won’t manage you may need to find another job.

      1. Julia*

        I guess being a – presumably smaller – woman in a room with three hostile guys has something to do with it.

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          It’s irrelevant to the work environment problems and will cause a lot of sideways looks while complaining. It’s simply not worth pointing out.

          It is worth pointing out that you don’t really have a desk, you can’t concentrate because of the noise, and someone’s blaring the TV all day. But tossing in a, “Oh they’re also all male and I’m female” at the end would make management wonder if you’re going to try and file a sexual harassment complaint on top of it for good measure and get them on the defensive, instead of collaborating on a solution. So the question I suppose becomes, do you want them to fix these problems? Or do you want them to get defensive right off the bat?

          1. Frankie*

            It’s not at all irrelevant. The autistic guy touches her and other women without asking but not the other men.

            It’s also a bit obtuse (intentional?) to suggest that power doesn’t come into play when three men are being complete jerks to the lone woman in their little table quadrant from hell, being invasive, taking up her space and violating her boundaries, when that is absolutely a gendered thing that happens in work and larger society.

            1. OhBehave*

              OP – You have hit the trifecta of holy shit. I am sorry this is happening to you.
              Temper-tantrums by these “men”. Let’s remember that her manager accused her of being hysterical or something (I can’t find that comment to support). If OP was a man would the manager accuse him of being hysterical?

              OP – I would definitely continue to email HR and Facilities about everything as it happens. And BCC your personal email (don’t print them, then they can’t accuse you of theft). The only reason to document these instances is so you have a leg to stand on. I would even go back into your old email and find responses and send them to yourself as well. You know you can bring roaches home with you in your belongings, right? EWWW!

              I love the idea of adding something to the edge of your space to mark your territory. Something like an upright file holder, etc. This can give you some height in order to block the hoarder’s stash from sight. You absolutely deserve a workspace that’s all yours. You should not have to squish your workspace in order to accommodate a jerk like this. Start tossing his crap. Start with something small. You would be surprised how empowered you will feel! Keep a little garden trowel in your drawer to push his stuff back onto his space. Consider it a weapon against junk.

              It’s easy for us office-chair quarterbacks to advise to not take it but…. Do not allow yourself to be pushed around. Continue to ask lazy-bones, movie-watcher to lower his volume. Let him lose his temper and rail like an infant. Just shake your head and mutter.

              Continue to call out these oafs on their behavior. Autism is not an excuse. If he’s high-functioning enough to hold a full time job, he can understand he should not be touching you. I know many hf autistic people who can definitely follow simple instructions. He’s being a jerk.

              Look for a new job NOW. Take a good look at what you tell yourself (I deserve this treatment; I was just being hysterical. After all, it was just a bug. etc.). This is a trap being in a toxic work environment does to a person. It skews their views of normal behavior and sometimes, self-worth.
              Get out when you can. Work from home when you can. Work in the conference room for a few hours at least. This could go a long way to calming yourself while you work to leave. Keep your chin up and continue to comment here. There is hope!

        2. Jules the Third*

          Also, I’ll bet you $100 that Touchy Guy is not touching the other two coworkers.

          1. anon for this to be safe*

            He doesn’t. He touches my two other female coworkers. One is as upset as I am, but is too scared to complain. The other says it doesn’t bother her.

            He never touches the many men who also work in the department.

            1. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

              Yeah that’s not autism. That’s entitlement. Wish your HR understood that. Sorry this is happening to you.

        3. Delphine*

          Also the response to her complaints (that she’s over-dramatic/hysterical) is gendered.

          1. Julia*

            Thank you for pointing that out, in all the awful things happening in that post, it slipped through the cracks, but you’re so right. Argh, sometimes I hate this society.

      2. Jenny Next*

        I don’t think any of them would be engaging in these behaviors if the OP were also male. A lot of this is dominance games — and the autistic guy almost certainly would not be touching. (Side question: Does he touch the men to get their attention?)

        OP: Yes, have your attorney send the letter. Make sure it contains the phrase “hostile working environment,” since a valid argument can be made that you’re on the receiving end of gender-based harassment, even if it isn’t specifically sexual harassment.

        Keep reporting the roaches, as often as you see them — make it the company’s problem.

        If you can talk to other women in the organization, it would be good to know if their complaints are being similarly ignored. It might help to have a group complaint filed.

        Document, document, document! This includes date, time, aggressor, and specific behavior.

        I don’t think you are at all responsible for training the autistic guy to not engage in jerky behaviors, and you’re not required to be nice to him. In fact, you need to drop the idea of being nice and/or appeasing altogether. These men are collectively trying to force you out of their space, and perhaps out of the company. Making yourself smaller and nicer is only going to encourage them.

        Who is above your boss and HR? Can you talk to that person?

        And yes, I do think you have to get out. And that sucks, because it means that they got away with it again.

      3. Specialk9*

        You’re joking, right? It doesn’t really need to be explained how hugely relevant it is that 3 men are bullying and terrorising and touching a woman, and the male manager and HR are calling her hysterical.

        Yeah gender is totally irrelevant. /S

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          Let’s say the poster was a man, and the coworkers stayed as 3 men also. Would gender be important in those interactions? What about if the poster was a man, and it were 3 women that were doing these things?

          The point is, you need to present these behaviors to management and say, “this needs to change.” You need desk space, you need the noise to stop so you can concentrate, you need people to stop touching and yelling at you, and you need the person blaring the TV to cut it out. If you throw in at the end during your complaint to management, “Oh they’re all men and I’m a woman”, you change the tone of the conversation away from a collaborative let’s-fix-this to a defensive sexual-harassment-lawsuit-incoming one. If that is what you want, then okay, but realize that’s how this will come off.

          1. Yorick*

            You’re right, if it were a different situation then a different issue might be at play.

          2. Julia*

            I kind of agree, but a) the reverse situation almost never happens and b) a lot of people don’t take female-on-male or female-on-female sexual harassment seriously, so saying “this guy is touching me” might be the best bet in normal situations. But apparently not here.

          3. Anon for this one*

            But the poster is not a man, so shut up with your strawman argument crap!!!

            1. Julia*

              I don’t think we tell posters on here to “shut up” usually, even if we disagree.

          4. Zennish*

            I always love the “but if the situation was different, it would be different” argument.

          5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            He touches the poster AND two other women. He does not touch any of the men. She complained to the management and was called hysterical. Last woman that complained about sexual harassment was let go. But the poster’s gender is irrelevant. Are you for real?

          6. Lehigh*

            The poster has specified that women’s complaints are routinely dismissed in this company, that touchy guy doesn’t touch other guys, and that it is a male-dominated company that is willing to pay out on gender discrimination rather than change anything about their toxic, sexist culture.

            So yeah, it’s relevant.

      4. WellRed*

        Well, the boss also accused her of being hysterical, which is fairly gendered language. If she’s just “hysterical” he doesn’t need to act. Plus, based on what has happened with other women in the company, it sounds like the company simply allows poor behavior, especially toward women.

      5. Mamaganoush*

        Really? A guy touching a woman when she’s repeatedly told him to stop, and touching her low on the back? The fact that he’s male is extremely pertinent.
        Guy screaming at a woman who asks him to please turn down the volume on his computer and he punches the desk? The fact that he’s male is extremely pertinent.
        Hoarder guy — this is the only one where his being male is not pertinent, legally speaking. However, the fact that all three of these turds are male and are not made to stop their outrageous behavior is probably no accident and speaks to the office and or corporate culture.
        I suggest you read The Gift of Fear, OP. (And I recommend it to everyone here who says that angry guy punching desks and screaming is not a risk.)
        Follow up with the lawyer. Send the letter. Document (and do NOT leave your documentation at work) everything. Dates, times, places, people, behaviors, what you saidand did, what they said and did (make sure you have a backup of all of it in a safe place. So if copy one is at home or on your home computer, make sure there’s say a paper copy st your mom’s house, or in a safe deposit box — you get the picture). The suggestion about email w cc to HR is a good one. Share everything with the lawyer. File an EEO complaint when the lawyer advises you have sufficient documentation. Sue these mf’rs.

    22. It's Friday!*

      You’re afraid at work due to the actions of coworkers, isn’t this the definition of a hostile work environment?

      Use that phrasing when talking to HR.. document everything.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        No, that is not the legal definition of hostile work environment. Hostile work environment is about a protected legal status and discrimination based on that.

    23. You don't know me*

      1) Push it back. You are entitled to the same amount of space as everyone else.
      2) Inappropriate touching is one the hardest things we had to tackle with my girlfriend’s autistic son. If was talking to you, he had to be touching you. If this person is in the workforce, this is something that should have been corrected long ago by his parents, teachers, therapists, etc. I’m sorry you are left to deal with it.
      3) I’d call him a donkey hole but I don’t think cursing is allowed here.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with this. It sounds like a nightmare. Especially considering two of these people could easily make small changes on their part so the environment could be better for all. Good luck on your job search. I hope you find something suitable soon!

    24. SpaceNovice*

      Wow, that’s horrible. You’ve literally got the trifecta of horrible cubemates! I agree with the assessment that HR won’t do anything instead of can’t do anything.
      1. Dude is gross and a health hazard. Ew.
      2a. No. Being autistic doesn’t make you a jerk. Being a jerk makes you a jerk. I have friends on the spectrum and they understand personal space boundaries as well as or better than neurotypical people. The fact that HR is using the same excuse parents who don’t enforce good behavior on kids with [insert disability here] because they have [insert disability here] is gross. That’s infantilizing him.
      2b. Also what does being deaf have to do with being a jerk.
      2c. Also gross is that HR told you about him being autistic. That’s confidential information. WTF.
      2d. There are things such as Bluetooth hearing aids that could solve the noise problem, but that might run into sensory issues (having something in/around your ear). And hearing aid usage is a private choice. But that’s still frustrating to deal with even if that might be considered a reasonable accommodation.
      3. This dude has a dangerous anger management problem; who cares about the rest of it. In a good office, he would have been let go the very first time he freaked out.

      I’m so glad you’re looking. Your HR department is horrible. So is your management. They’re both uninformed and lazy as heck.

    25. Jady*

      A few ideas, but these depend on how hard you’re willing to push or risk your job:

      Do you work on a laptop with nothing else? Bring in a small portable folding chair and table.
      Take it and go sit on the floor somewhere. Or outside your bosses office? Or hell, go in the conference room anyway. If someone gets mad about it, explain that your assigned space is unusable until [boss] resolves it, and you’ll not interrupt their meetings by just sitting there.

      Ask your boss for him to share his office with you when the space is unusable. You can use your new portable desk.

      Do you have a reception-like area? What about a break room? Put your portable desk in there.

      When someone is screaming or being dangerous, video (or audio at least) record them and send it to HR and your boss. If you’re willing, say you’re also sending it to your lawyer and asking about a hostile work environment. (Seriously isn’t this a hostile work environment?)

      If any of these guys have friends at work, go bug those guys and ask about trading spaces. (Seriously, do this.) Ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

      Anytime things get outrageous, barge into your boss’s office. Say something like “Due to [Bob’s screaming/The roaches crawling across my desk from John’s trash] I am unable to do my job. Would you prefer to set me up somewhere else, or for me to work remotely for the rest of today?” Make sure you phrase this as “obviously we have to do A or have to do B as the status quo is currently absurd.”

      Take pictures of the garbage desk and notify the owners of the building/custodians. They aren’t going to like roach infestations. If you can get pictures of the roaches that would definitely be a bonus.

      1. MsAlex*

        Or leave Mr. “You’re Hysterical” a few of those roaches when he opens his desk drawer. NOW who is hysterical??
        (Okay, you probably shouldn’t do this, but it would be funny.)

    26. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      You’re in a really awful situation and management/HR has made it clear that they are not going to do their jobs. The only thing actionable you can do at this point is search for a new job. I sincerely wish you the best in that!

      In the meantime – the only thing I can offer is – give yourself permission to not care about your awful co-worker’s reactions to your completely reasonable behavior. Obviously I would never do something (optional) that I know what upset someone (purposfully), but these co-workers are not being reasonable participants in all of society’s unwritten rules. Come in early and move all the hoarders stuff, then ignore him. If he asks you if you touched it, lie to his face and say no and then completely ignore his ranting (well give the appearance of ignoring him – just stare at your screen and mess with your email). If the candy fiend starts questioning you incessantly just flat out ignore him. In normal circumstances that would be rude, but these circumstances and the behavior of these co-workers is so far outside the realm of reason that they don’t deserve the same level of courtesy/reactions that everyone else does. Do be polite/responsive to anything work related, but use a different standard when it comes to interacting with them about anything non-specifically work related.

      Don’t be malicious or cruel. In general, try to hold your head high and be the bigger person. But do give yourself permission to be “ruder” (in a passive way) to them than you would be to just about anyone else.

    27. JessicaTate*

      I’m so sorry. I would be a mess in your shoes. Looking for your path out is super-smart. Take care of you. In the meantime, the only ideas I have adding to what others suggested:

      1) Do you have a laptop (or could you request one as an accommodation for this horrid work environment)? I’d be reserving conference room space, or making a desk for myself in reception, or in the lunchroom, whatever I had to do to be “in the office” but not at my desk. Leave a note on your chair that says, “If you’re looking for Jane, she’s working in Conference Room A until 2:00. Come on by.”

      2) I’m a very high-strung person, and when I’m startled (like someone touching me when I wouldn’t expect it!!!) I often involuntarily scream. You say it scares you when he touches you. Let the stress coursing through your body do something positive for once – let loose the short, high-pitched, fear shriek every time he does it. Make the rest of the open office become party to the horror of this space. If questioned, “It’s an involuntary reaction to being startled. I’ve asked him to stop, but he doesn’t. And I can’t stop that this is how my reflexes respond to being touched when I shouldn’t be.”

      3) Find a lawyer. I am NOT a lawyer, but I cannot see how on earth all of this is legal (especially the touching!). In my experience, just having a lawyer verify that what’s being done is super-illegal, and then letting the employer know that you “have a lawyer” even if you haven’t retained the services officially suddenly greases some wheels. What I did was ask a buddy of mine who was a lawyer (but not an employment lawyer) if he had any colleagues / law school friends who were in employment law. He gave me a few names, I reached out to them as a “a friend of Bob’s”, and had a 20-minute call with one. He verified that what was being done was illegal, what the steps would be to pursue it legally, what the risks and benefits were to pursuing. Before retaining his services officially, I sent one more letter to the employer laying out what I had learned from “my lawyer” and that I was preparing to pursue X and Y steps if the illegal behavior wasn’t resolved. We came to an arrangement within a day or two. I sent a thank you note to the lawyer for his advice and that it had been resolved. It was a scary leap to make, but it was AMAZING how quickly they responded.

      Good luck.

      1. JessicaTate*

        Just saw your comment above that your company already shrugs off lawyers. I missed it on first read. I guess that advice doesn’t apply. (Sorry.) Have you thought about trying to get a settlement out of them and at least get some cash to buy time to find something else?

        I hope you find a way out soon. That is horrid.

    28. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      Wow, that is one inept HR department… Okay, honestly, I think you’re best solution is a great resume and looking for a new job. Honestly, if the company is this bad at handling a problem that could go pear shaped, you’re going to be better off with a different company. That being said, I can only think of a few solutions for the time that you remain stuck with Larry, Mo, and Curly.

      Currently, your boss and HR have essentially passed the buck by saying that the accommodations and other solutions are to let the little woman suck it up. That doesn’t work for you. Your boss and HR are also counting on the fact that you’ll quietly handle this because you don’t want to disrupt the workplace. Don’t. Continue to remove the trash from your desk. Continue to ask if the he can turn down the volume. If they get angry or try to intimidate you, pick up your phone and call both your boss and HR. Then fire up that computer and document everything. Yes, this is scary as H-E-double hockey sticks but it serves a purpose. It makes these two their problem. They have to face the problem children. As for your coworker with autism, return to HR and look whoever told you that they can’t do anything dead in the eyes. Tell him the ADA requires a workplace to make reasonable accommodations and allowing him to continue groping you is not reasonable. So, he can get his shiny little butt in gear and find a solution. If he tries to weasel out of it, tell the little ferret that people with disabilities aren’t the only population who the federal government has seen fit to offer protections to in the workplace.

    29. Roja*

      That sounds 100% miserable and I’m so sorry. I don’t have any good advice to give, but just this overwhelming thought–HOW do any of the men get work done? How are they all still employed? Watching concerts is hardly conducive to focusing on work!

    30. Salamander*

      This is a tough situation. I’ve been in a similar one before, and it does suck.

      -As others have said, start looking for another job. It’s hard to do when so much of your energy is wrapped up in your current workplace, but searching can give a sense of power. Contact a recruiter if you need to, but really focus on getting the hell out.
      -Consult with your attorney to see if there’s anything that can be done. You may be on the way out, but you may as well get paid for the aggravation.
      -I think someone upthread mentioned bringing in plants. This is a good way to take control of your environment. Bring in a heavy planter and put it on your side where the messy guy’s stuff is leaking over. Every time anything gets on your side, push it back. Whenever you see a roach, call facilities management. Keep calling them. If you have a friend in the same area, if they see roaches, they should call too. Eventually, a squeaky wheel from the facilities department may be able to cause some minor change. You might also consider bringing in a roach trap and throwing it under your desk for your own peace of mind.
      -As for the smell, I would have no issue with bringing in a properly-diluted essential oil or something that you like and dab it on your upper lip as needed. These people are giving you no consideration, and I don’t think you need to be too worried about offending them with something to mask the smell of rotten mayo.
      -Again, with taking control of your environment. Get yourself some very nice noise cancelling headphones and listen to music you like during the day. Put a poster up on your cubicle wall of something beautiful and restful. Bring in a lamp with soft lighting if that’s relaxing to you.
      -Take your lunch away from your desk. Get outside or away from people if you can. Walk around, take a deep breath, and read a book…whatever gives you a lift.
      -Stop bringing the candy in. Keep your file drawers locked. You are under no obligation to let that guy rummage through your things. If he complains about no candy, look at him and suggest that he bring some in.
      -For the touching, it’s an insidious thing, because you’re probably sitting there with your shoulders hunched around your ears in anticipation of the next invasion. When he does it, say loudly, sharply, and firmly “No!” Swing turn around in your chair and stare at him. You can be hostile. You don’t need to take this. Nobody’s going to make him stop, but it doesn’t sound like anybody’s going to penalize you for pushing back, either.
      -Practice good self care. Don’t work any voluntary overtime. Set up things to look forward to when you get home, hobbies and activities you enjoy. Set up a ritual that allows you to mentally shed work when you get in the door. For me, it was taking off my work clothes and getting a bath or shower. Otherwise, I’d be ruminating about work all night long. Get a massage. Take walks in the evenings. Get some books from the library that you’ve been meaning to read. Buy some comfy shoes. Treat yourself.

      OP, I don’t think there’s a way that you’ll win here in such a dysfunctional culture, and I strongly suggest moving on asap. But hopefully there are some small ideas here that will help things be a little more bearable until you get something better.

      1. Aardvark*

        +1000000 THIS.

        I love the suggestions for taking control of the things that you *can* control rather than responding to constant boundary transgressions. It’s not fair to ask you to try to change them by responding to them…either by accommodation or by aggression. They are clearly unreasonable people and you’ve tried more than is reasonable to fix the situation *with them*. It’s time to fix the situation *for you*.

      2. Thursday Next*

        This covers so much ground. What a thoughtful response, hopefully one that OP can really work with.

    31. Nacho*

      It sounds like you need to be more assertive with all three of them.
      Problem one: Make a clear distinction between your desk and his, tell him his stiff isn’t allowed past that, and then push it back onto his desk. If he doesn’t stop, escalate to throwing it away. If he gets angry, that’s his business.
      Problem two: Already solved. Lock your file cabinet and keep it locked. If he makes a fuss, that’s his business. If he touches you, brush him away. If he keeps touching you, brush him away more aggressively and tell him to stop. Don’t ask, don’t say please, just “stop touching me.” in a raised voice.
      Problem three: Keep telling him to be quiet. Management won’t step in if all he’s doing is being mildly annoying to one coworker, but if he’s smashing company property, they’ll take notice.

      1. anon for this to be safe*

        I have told #2 SO MANY times “stop touching me” / “don’t touch me” in a loud voice while jerking away. I don’t know how much more assertive I can be.

        1. Saucy Minx*

          Get an air horn.

          If your manager shows up, tell him it’s your emergency signal.

          (If only this would work …)

        2. mark132*

          I’m sure you’ve thought about this, touching you without permission is assault, have you considered filing a police report for assault? It is a nuclear option but that may be all that is left.

        3. MsAlex*

          Others may have better advice on how far you can go but I think you’re okay with some return physical contact – pushing him away, forcibly removing his hand from you, that kind of thing. This might not be a good suggestion, but I would probably end up slapping his hand away.

          For Mr. Angry, let him rant. Nothing drives people like that crazier than when they’re trying to scare you by screaming at you and you just don’t react – no expression, calm voice, etc. (I worked with a guy like that. Eventually he got fired but before that I actually earned a measure of respect from him, weirdly.)

    32. Mimmy*

      Wow. This type of environment would be untenable for me. I’m twitching just thinking about it, especially the angry guy. That behavior alone probably rises to “hostile work environment”.

      Your HR department does not understand the ADA. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t give workers with disabilities a pass on inappropriate behavior. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a common practice used by HR departments out of fear of being sued if they were to reprimand or even fire an employee with autism or similar disability for inappropriate behavior.

      Good luck and please keep us posted.

      1. Someone else*

        What’s odd is they seem to have a fear of being sued by the autistic gentleman, since they claim they won’t tell him to stop touching her because he’s autistic, but they do not have a fear of being sued by OP. It’s curious, and a really bad sign, that they seem not to give a shit about sexual harassment lawsuits, but for some reason fear ADA lawsuits (in a case where one wouldn’t even be valid).

        1. Lehigh*

          I’m going to guess it’s because they believe that women should always be willing to suffer to accommodate men, and x10 if the man has any kind of special need.

          I normally wouldn’t jump to that, but given they way they apparently have always treated other women at this company…


    33. UtOh!*

      Hi OP, I think it’s time that you push back. Completely throw out all the garbage, scream at the guy touching you, and wear earplugs the rest of the time. You have got to get more of a backbone if you want to stay sane in the environment you have described. You do have choices, you just need to make them.

      The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. The results from going to HR and Management have not changed, so try something else.

    34. UtOh!*

      Okay OP, we want to hear back next Friday what you’ve done to change even one thing about your situation, you’ve been given GREAT advice here…use it!

      1. Julia*

        I don’t think it’s fair to put this kind of pressure on OP. We’re not in her situation, she needs this job (I assume), and “use this great advice, spineless woman” (I’m referring to your comment above this as well, where you say she needs to grow a backbone) is just unnecessarily harda** when she’s already suffering.

        She KNOWS this situation doesn’t work for her. She HAS told the guy to stop touching her. But she’s in a room with three guys you yell at her and who get violent at things, and I’d be pretty scared. Sure, I’m also pretty feisty when I have to be, and probably would have yelled at one of those guys in isolation, but there’s three of them. THREE. And one has already shown that he doesn’t understand the word “no”.

        OP, I’m so sorry. I think Salamander has some great suggestions for immediate reactions and self-care. I know it’s hard because you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, but please try to find a way out before you get too hurt to even try to make a change. Best of luck to you.

        1. UtOh!*

          I just hope, perhaps through reading these responses, she can realize that she’s not powerless to make a change, there are options. Even if it’s to take vacation to clear her head and start making an exit strategy. I too am sorry she’s experiencing this situation, it’s demoralizing and depressing. Even if it’s changing just one thing about how she is handling the situation, that may lead to other changes and a direction out of the situation.

    35. Frankie*

      I don’t want to dismissively say “time for another job” but based on this and all your follow-up comments, it seems to me that there’s limited things you’ll be able to do to improve your work situation. I would focus your energy on taking care of yourself outside work to protect your sanity, and searching for other jobs. You deserve to work in a better place than this one and they’ve shown that they won’t take action on these very serious things (roaches…unwanted touching…”you’re hysterical”…shudder).

    36. Observer*

      I haven’t read all of the replies but one thing jumps out at me. Ignore the fact that #2 is autistic. It’s totally not relevant to the situation. This is important because you need to go to HR and make a formal complaint IN WRITING about sexual harassment. Use those words. Then explain that #2 is touching you even though you have explicitly asked him to stop doing this. If your HR is at all competent they will know that he is NOT protected from repercussions from sexual harassment. Keep escalating up the chain. The front line hr person may just be trying to avoid dealing with unpleasantness, but at the top someone should realize that this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Oh, and get everything in writing / email.

      (Keep in mind that people who are autistic are perfectly capable of respecting boundaries and of NOT touching people once they have been clearly told not to do so.)

      Oh, and stop asking Hoarder to throw stuff out. Just keep on moving his stuff back to his side of the desk. If it winds up on the floor, too bad.

    37. only acting normal*

      My comments seem to have been eaten, so in summary:
      – your management suck
      – your management are sexist
      – autism is 100% *not* a reason or excuse for that
      – you need to leave this workplace it is toxic as f#€*

    38. Fact & Fiction*

      I am really late to the party but I just had to chime in because WOW. I was having almost this exact conversation with a friend yesterday explaining why I had to leave a particular gaming community in part because of their continued enabling of an autistic man’s repeated, unwanted, gender-based harassment of female gamers. ONLY the female gamers. Did I mention repeated?

      Several of us told him multiple times exactly what he did that made us uncomfortable. He would agree to stop. Literally 5 minutes later he would be doing it again. Of course other guys tried to stick up for him and blame it on the autism but DUDE.
      Plenty of autistic people learn and respect other people’s boundaries. One can be BOTH autistic and an asshole or sexual harasser.

      We finally complained to community leaders, who acted sympathetic but would lightly slap him on the wrist. He’d prove he COULD respect the boundaries when all eyes were on him and then BAM. He’d be stalking us again in voice chat and game. We’d block him and mute him, only to have him viewing our games by joining on the guys he knew we’d be playing with. The community hosted large group gaming sessions and then say they couldn’t exclude him so we would just have to keep him muted and deal with it. Muting one out of a handful of people on your team is a big handicap and YES – they would make us randomly be on his team sometimes if we wanted to participate because they randomized team to try to be more fair and they would switch every couple games.

      Then factor in all the peer pressure from every person – almost all males who didn’t have to put up with the BS – to just “be nice” and let him play with us.

      Eff that crap. That was doing him no favors if he truly WERE clueless (which I do NOT believe) and enabling a predatory harasser if he weren’t so innocent. Plus putting the onus of “bring nice” and not “rocking the boat” on the victims. All women, of course.

      One of the reasons I left that community. And as I was explaining it in more detail to my friend yesterday (he works with special needs students), he was appalled. So I felt validated, which can help you realize you weren’t the inappropriate one. I hope you find a better work environment soon. I just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone.

  3. Mathilde*

    Hello Alison,

    Since reading this blog, I have been introduced to the notion of “capital” to spend in a workplace. I find it both really helpful – well, illuminatory, actually – and confusing.
    Although I understand the theory of it (having to build it in order to spend it, having to “choose your battles” in order to spend it only when it is worth it, etc…), I have some trouble applying it into practice.
    Some extreme examples are fine : if you have been an intern for a week, you don’t go ask the CEO to change workplaces pratices ; if you have been an respected employee for a decade, you probably have the capital to advocate for new chairs / massages at noon / telecommuting / not going to the Christmas party etc…
    But apart from these really obvious examples… I am stuck. When do you now you have enough capital ? When do you know you have spent it all ? How can you build it again ? Maybe I am pushing the metaphor too far… but I am wondering.

    Could someone elaborate on this notion ? And maybe the commenters also have some tangible examples when they used capital (wisely, too much…) and how they went about doing it ? That would be really helpful !

    1. Snubble*

      It’s the workplace equivalent of asking for favours. So it’s hard to quantify, but when you have a sense that someone is indebted to you, or you know they respect you enough to do you a favour, you’ve got workplace capital. You have more if people know that your work is solid and you don’t make unreasonable requests – the social equivalent is if people know that you always show up on time and pay for your share, they’re more likely to reschedule around your sister’s wedding.
      Of course just like with social favours, you can’t ever really be sure that you have enough workplace capital to get what you want until you try it. But that’s what it is, really. It’s the intangible social part of working with people, and how much they are inclined to help you out.

    2. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      I am really good at rolling with the punches and not making a fuss when normal annoyances occur at the office. Over the years I have built a reputation of working hard and going with the flow. So, if I speak up about something being a problem I am very likely to get the response I am looking for. I don’t complain about much, so when I do it is something serious. That’s how I think of my capital.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, it’s also a matter of choosing battles — not speaking up about everything, and going with the flow for most stuff, only going to bat on important things — as well as helping other people with their things.

    3. Seriously?*

      I think it comes down to people’s perception of you. Are you constantly asking for things to change to suit you better or are you adaptable and helpful. If you are seen as generally helpful and reasonable then it will carry more weight when you ask for something or say you can’t do something. Maybe think of it less as building up “capital” and more as building up good-will.

    4. Anna Canuck*

      It’s the sort of thing you already do apply to other elements of your life. Who would you ask for a favor like moving or babysitting? Who in your life asks you to do such things? It’s not a strict rule, it’s about feeling like the people you ask of things are people that you will help when asked. People that you’ve ALREADY helped are more likely to help you. I would say I build “capital” in the simple ways – I try to respond to coworkers quickly when I can, I listen to stories, I take on some “extra” social organizing of small events like lunch or post-work drinks that is beyond my official role. I try to demonstrate my competence and remain open to being corrected. In return, I can suggest technical things to my boss and up from there, ask questions, be a bit sarcastic (alas, it is my nature), etc.
      In my workplace, the things that build capital are simple: bring in a treat to share once in a while, answer your emails/phone calls fairly promptly, show up to some of the social events (they’re only monthly or so), be nice to the admins so they do things when you need them.

    5. Trout 'Waver*

      Capital is all about reputation and favors. You get capital by having a good reputation and by being willing to help people. You lose capital when you tell reasonable people “Not my job”.

      You know you have capital when you know you can call up people that don’t report to you and they pick up the phone, listen, and help you. You know you’ve spent it all when people are suddenly too busy to help you but will help other colleagues and coworkers.

      Also, I want to point out that if you only ever help others and never ask for help or favors, you’ll likely be seen as a doormat. A good rule of thumb is that it is OK to ask for things that you would do in turn if the roles were reversed.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To add to what others have said: Thinking of it as “favors” captures part of it but not all of it. There’s a big part of it that’s more about influence — where you have standing to lend your voice and opinions and be taken seriously/have influence.

      I talk about this a bit in my new book, so I’ll quote from there: “Everyone at work has a certain amount of social and professional capital to spend. How much you have is based on how long you’ve worked at your company, how senior your position is, how well you get along with people, how much your work is valued, how much your boss likes you personally, and how accommodating you’ve been to others. If you’re low on accumulated capital, you might not be well-positioned to speak up about something difficult or sensitive. (There are exceptions to this rule when it comes to things that are very serious. For example, you should always speak up about things like sexual harassment or unsafe working conditions.)”

    7. lulu*

      how much does your boss respect you, value your work, and takes what you say seriously? that’s capital.

    8. msmorlowe*

      It’s really difficult to quantify! It’s probably better to imagine it as a jenga tower rather than an exchange system like money. With a jenga tower, you know that as a newbie (either to the game or to the office), you’re better off picking blocks off the top (easy favours in this metaphor)–more experienced players can take blocks from near the base of the tower. If you are very respected, or have really supportive management, you can see that as sticks propping the tower up and keeping it standing, giving you a little more leeway.

    9. Emma*

      A colleague and I talked about this. We’ve both been in our positions long enough where we’re not trying to prove ourselves (think 5+ years). We’ve each had recent medical issues, and we remarked how nice it is to have built up a reputation (capital, if you will), so if we’re not in tip top shape at work right now, it’s not as noticed as it would be when we were just starting our jobs.
      Neither of us are trying to abuse it, but we’re just acknowledging that it’s easier for us to have these medical issues now than it would have been 4 years ago.

    10. AliceW*

      You build capital over time but it isn’t based on years worked, but rather on the your quality of work, your relationships with the boss/higher-ups and their level of respect for you and your work. You must know your worth in order to “spend your capital”. For instance, an employee who never complains, always gets the job done, works well independently and is highly valued or even indispensable to me can ask for and be granted many accommodations that other employees may not (e.g. they can work from home multiple days a week, they can get more flexible hours, drop a project they don’t like working on etc.). You don’t necessarily have to re-build capital once you have it, you just have to prioritize your requests and make sure they are reasonable and present them as both a benefit to you and your company.

    11. Justme, The OG*

      I used some capitol earlier this week when talking to my boss about ordering shirts with our logo on them. She wants a button-down dress shirt, and thinks we should all get the same. I brought this to coworkers who hate the idea of that style of shirt. Since I have worked for her the longest I brought up our concerns. She was very receptive, and since I have worked for her for multiple years I better knew how to phrase the request. So the rest of us can order something else.

    12. dear liza dear liza*

      Anyone else think of the Parks and Recreation episode in which Ben has to ask the chief of police to donate time to the Harvest Festival and fears doing so because they just asked him to do something really big? And the Chief of Police doesn’t blink before agreeing to help the Harvest Festival because it’s for Leslie, and she is “the kind of person who uses those favors to help people.”

      So yes, it goes beyond favors. It’s about building a reputation so that you can step outside your ‘written in your position description’ duties and get things done.

    13. oldbiddy*

      In general, being helpful, not taking advantage of people, and not sweating the small stuff goes a long way for expending political capital both ‘up’ and ‘down’. An unless you’re the CEO or the newest intern, you’ll be continually giving and receiving help from people at all levels.
      We have two wonderful facilities managers here. They’d do a great job regardless of how I acted, but I try to be helpful by giving them advance notice of anything coming down the pipeline, not going overboard with minor requests, etc. As a result, if I have something come up unexpectedly, or need something really out of the ordinary, I get a lot more leeway from them than I did when I first started working here.
      Likewise, my boss is very generous and sometimes will ask me out of the blue if I need a new computer/office chair/printer/etc or if I want him to pull some strings to let me get a better parking pass. If those things don’t matter to me that much, I’ll pass, but I know I can go to him with requests on the things that do matter more to me.

    14. periwinkle*

      To add a little to Alison’s wisdom about influence –

      There’s a critical role in my organization – the people who manage huge, complex projects. They’re accountable and responsible for the success of the project, but lack managerial authority over the people contributing to the project. I’ve been working with that function to revise their professional development approach, and one of the most critical competencies required to be successful is the ability to manage by influence.

      To manage people when you have no managerial authority over them, you need to quickly build and judiciously deploy your capital. You build it through building relationships – be honest and transparent, actively listen to people, acknowledge issues, celebrate successes, don’t point fingers over failures, don’t pretend to know more than you do (and especially not more than the subject matter experts), and otherwise behave collaboratively. Then, when you need to press for deliverables to mitigate a schedule slide or raise concerns about a team’s quality issues, you draw on that capital of established respect and credibility.

      Theoretically, you should never use up all your capital if you continue to behave in ways which sustain your capital. You should be a fountain, not a bucket.

    15. Little Bean*

      It is really hard to know exactly how much you have. I think of it as sort of a balance beam or scale, where the balance on one side is positive things that make people want to keep you in your job and the other side is things that might make you a tiny bit more difficult to work with. You obviously always want to keep the balance on the good side. But once the good side is really heavily built up, you can start using up little bits of it to ask for things you need. For example, I really wanted to start working from home one day a week. I knew I couldn’t ask for this my first week on the job, because I hadn’t built anything on the good side of my balance yet. I waited about six months, trying to do my job really well the whole time, so that I could build up enough “capital” to ask.

    16. Salamander*

      The way that I’ve built up capital in my work involves several things. I complete my work on my own, correctly, on time, and in such a way that it doesn’t cause problems for anyone else. If I can help someone out on their projects, I do so. I also don’t make it a habit of asking for things from others. If there is something that I can accomplish on my own, I always do so. There’s always that *one person* who is always asking for others to do things for his/her convenience…don’t be that person. If you’re not always asking, and you help others out when you can over time, then you have better standing to ask for something you want. I save up the capital for things that are important to me…and things that are realistically solvable in correct timing. Like an office door in an empty doorway, asked for at a time when facilities management was doing other work in the area.

      Also, the people who can accomplish things for you may not be the people you think. Building good relationships with exec assistants has done more to help me than face-time with their bosses. I got a parking spot, unasked-for, by maintaining a good relationship with my boss’s EA. She saw me walking to work in the rain.

    17. Not So NewReader*

      “When do you now you have enough capital ? When do you know you have spent it all ? How can you build it again?”

      It’s very practical to assume that you will never have enough capital. As a parallel think about writing a financial budget for your personal life. You don’t spend everything you make if you don’t have to, right? You put some money aside for emergencies or for doing something special. Likewise with work capital, the longer you stay at a place the more things change. You never know in the future when something might come up where you need might need help or special consideration for a very strong reason. You never spend all your capital, you always keep some.

      You know when you have spent it all because people’s attitudes toward you changes. This is because in their minds YOU have changed. They used to see you as a person who did give AND take, and now they see you as a person who just takes.
      There are many ways you can learn how to gauge this. Grapevine is a great help. Superstar Sue used to be the boss’ fav. Now that she has called in sick 27 times in the last two months rumor mill says the bosses are looking to fire her. Now you know, don’t call in sick excessively without talking things over with the boss. Your capital will NOT carry you.
      You can also gauge the status of your capital by looking at the workloads. If the workload is at killer levels, probably your capital has gone down some because the company is desperate to get the work done. Now is not a good time to ask for that 27 day vacation period you want. However, if work was slow and your job was not key at the moment, you might be able to use your capital to get that vacation. Don’t ask for another 27 consecutive days off for a looong time. You have spent that capital.

      It’s wise to keep building capital. Be helpful to others. If a problem comes up offer ideas. If something extra is needed and it is possible for you to do it, offer to do it. We never truly know all the ways we ourselves inconvenience others, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind. Assume someone has done something for you that you are not aware of yet and now it is your turn to do something for them. This does not have to be huge, but it does have to be thoughtful. For example, I am walking around with a large box of items. I approach a closed door. It’s unbelievable the number of people who see me with my arms full and see the closed door and then do nothing. Just that second of thought, “Hey I will get that door!” can be a few points in your favor. Some things cost you absolutely nothing but end up making you noticed by others. Some of the things I have been complimented on have left me baffled as to why the person valued my gesture so much. But they valued it.

      Capital is really not that strange a concept if you think about it. We value friends who give as well as receive. Family members who are helpful are also more valued than family members who drain people. Any healthy relationship involves both parties giving and taking. Thinking about the over all idea of a back and a forth in any relationship might be helpful for you.
      What we do as employees is find out what the boss places a high value on and what our other cohorts place a high value on. This shows us where they need the most support on an on-going basis.

    18. NW Mossy*

      To me, it’s basically asking “how strong are your relationships with people who are in a position to assist you?” We often think about this as being an upward thing (i.e., do you work well with your boss?), but it’s most often lateral with peers.

      Peer relationships are often undervalued as a source of political capital, but they are huge! First of all, everyone has peers, so you’re not shut out on the basis of your level. Second, there’s a strong network effect with peer relationships – once you’re part of a peer relationship with Jane, she can be a bridge for you to get to know Fergus, Lucinda, and Wakeen. Third, if your role or Jane’s changes, if you continue to keep up the relationship with her, you can support each other in new ways.

      Everyone else already gave good advice on how to build it, and I’ll add one thing – sometimes it’s good to spend a bit to reinforce a relationship. If you work with people who like helping others (many people do!), it can sometimes even be a building activity to ask for their assistance, especially if you’re obviously appreciative. Things like “I know you’ll give me good insight on Problem X” or “I heard about Issue Y that might impact you, do you want to weigh in?” can be really effective with those that like being valued for their particular expertise.

  4. Sunflower*

    So it finally happened. My company approved my move to NYC from Philly and i couldn’t be happier! I am attempting to negotiate my COL raise(i am definitely getting a significant bump) as well as relocation. My company is not going to pay a full relocation because I requested the move (even though it’s benefiting them). I’m not sure what is typically covered in relo but I’d really just like an extra thousand or two to move my clothes and personal items. Are there any other items i should attempt to negotiate in this? Or other items i should ask about that i might not be thinking of?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That’s awesome!!! Congrats.

      Instead of actual cash, could you possibly negotiate paid time off to move?

    2. Technical_Kitty*

      Car if you have one to ship, or gas if you are driving it. And paid time when moving if you can swing it. If you have to move house because of work you should have to take PTO to pack and move and find a place.

      Oh, and if they have some contacts for finding housing or are willing to supply housing for the first month or two? I know you requested the move but if they want you to be productive that would be a great thing to offer. I know mining companies do that sort of thing.

    3. Knotty Ferret*

      My company is really generous with relocation; here’s some of what they include for you to consider:
      – lump sum to be used as you wish
      – moving truck and packers and moving insurance
      – time, transport, hotel to look for a new place to live
      – donation and (large item) trash pickup
      – tour from local employee around the area

      And congrats! I hope everything goes well for you!

    4. It happens*

      They won’t give if you don’t ask. Moving is expensive- movers are expensive, broker fees (15% of one year’s rent is typical in NYC), cancellation fees for any contracts you have in Philly (like lease termination or cable company.)

    5. Drama Llama*

      Since it benefits them, can you ask for full relocation fees but sign to reimburse them if you resign within a certain time? My husband’s company offered a generous relocation package, but if he resigned within 1 year he had to reimburse his company for 100% of costs; then 50% if he resigned within 1-2 years of the move.

  5. GoAskAlice*

    I’m in my mid-20s and in my first post-college office job. Things are going great, but I have a situation I can’t quite figure out and I’m a little embarrassed to ask my coworkers (since I’m still pretty new). I find myself wanting to reply to clients with the phrase “no worries” or “don’t worry about it,” but it sounds so…casual, and a little off-putting. I’m not talking about how people are saying the phrases “your welcome” and “thank you” are underused:

    Person 1: Let me get the door for you.
    Person 2: No worries! (thank you)

    Person 1: Thanks for getting me a coffee yesterday.
    Person 2: No worries! (your welcome)

    I’m talking more like:

    Client: Sorry I took an extra week getting you the very important file you needed to do your job.
    Me: *scratches head while thinking “no worries” would be an awful thing to say, but I don’t know what else to say*

    Is there a more professional way to say “don’t worry about it”? Should the fact that something went awry even be acknowledged? I feel like saying “no worries” or “don’t worry about it” or even “it’s okay” is almost condescending, but not recognizing the apology is kind of rude. Help! (And thank you!)

      1. Specialk9*

        I would just say “no problem” and maybe soften further with some other verbiage if it feels abrupt.

        “Sorry I took awhile…”
        “No problem, I appreciate it.” Or “No problem. I should be able to turn around the deliverable by X date.”

        I’m in the US, Northeast Coast. These things can vary regionally.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        I use “that’s all right” for this. It acknowledges the issue, but moves past it.

    1. B*

      I really like “not at all” in this context. It’s a little more formal-sounding than no worries, but it’s also kind of just a “this is an acknowledgement phrase” and you can put it before a comma (written or spoken) and so you’ve done the work of acknowledging the thing but can move along.

      I may have overthought this.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I think replying with a “Thank you!” would be alright. They’ve acknowledged there was a mistake on their part, you’re just acknowledging that you received the file.

      If you want to include more information even a “Thanks! The pattern for the llama tutus is really coming together, now.”

      1. Canarian*

        I don’t know, I think in that case it might come across as thanking them for apologizing, which is more of a way to acknowledge a genuinely merited apology and not a “don’t worry about it” kind of situation.

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          I was just basing it off my own experience, where I work thanks is short for “thank you for the email I have received it and am acknowledging that you sent it, fellow person” whereas thank you. is literally “thank you”. Obviously this will vary by industry/company/relationship/etc.

    3. Morning Glory*

      I say “no worries” to coworkers who apologize for various things all the time, so I don’t think it’s offputting. Or sometimes I say something like “No, it was totally fine” or I just go with “thanks so much for getting it to me, now”

      These may all seem a bit casual though, since I work with colleagues more than clients.

      1. Specialk9*

        “No worries” sounds more informal than “no problem”. I remember when “no worries” was an Aussie/Kiwi thing only, but then it became ubiquitous in the US East Coast.

    4. DaniCalifornia*

      I think it depends on the rapport with your clients. I try to match my conversation over email or phone to what they have. I usually start out more formal (we’re in accounting) and if they make it more casual then I might say “It’s not a problem” (if it actually isn’t) I think it’s fine to respond with “Thanks for the file I’ll wrap up my part asap/by X date” or “Thank you so much, I’ll be in touch for ____ or by _____” I also throw in “I’m happy to assist” if needed when clients tell me sorry.

      I think just saying thank you and you’re welcome works best. It’s polite and can’t ever be taken poorly by the other person. I think culturally we have gotten away from you’re welcome and say no worries because most people truly don’t want to inconvenience others. No worries is a bit casual and I usually reserve that for coworkers if we know each other well or if there have already been a bunch of emails back and forth that say thanks.

    5. Seriously?*

      In the context you gave, I think “Don’t worry about it” is a fine response. Or “It’s not a problem”. It’s not condescending. You are acknowledging their apology.

    6. JokeyJules*

      at (huge famous hotel chain) we were trained to say “it’s my pleasure” so the guest didn’t feel like a burden at all.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        I would feel weird about saying or hearing this. Maybe in a hotel situation when asking for room service or a wake-up call it would make sense, but in your run-of-the-mill office?

        “I’m sorry for the delay in processing the Teapot insurance claims.”
        “My pleasure.”

      2. Your Weird Uncle*

        Yeah, at a former job in a spa we were trained to say this. I worked there for about six months about 13 years ago and I’m still in the habit of saying it.

      3. pugsnbourbon*

        Technically I am supposed to say this as well but it has never, ever felt natural.

        I tend toward the informal. I say “no worries” when someone apologizes for a minor thing (it’s the Midwest, we apologize all the time). When I’m thanked, I usually say something like “of course!” or “you got it!” or “happy to help!” I try to convey with my tone and enthusiasm that I truly did enjoy assisting them.

    7. Moonbeam Malone*

      “Sorry I took an extra week getting you the very important file you needed to do your job.”

      It’s fine to acknowledge, and then politely let the client know how it will affect outcome. “Thanks for getting that to me! Right now we’re still working toward our original goal date but this could push it back a day or two if x-y-z comes into play. I’ll let you know if anything changes!” or “Thanks for getting me that file! As of now we’re still on track to meet our deadline.” To some extent you probably can adjust your communication style according to the client’s. I’d err on the side of being a bit more formal than the client is, particularly at the start, but as you settle in to a rapport if they’re being quite casual “no worries,” is not necessarily out of line.

    8. GoAskAlice*

      Thanks everyone! There are some really great tips in these replies! (I think I’m overthinking it a bit, but I’m so nervous about making a mistake/building my rep!)

    9. Courageous cat*

      These are all good – I also use “It’s no problem at all!” or “That’s perfectly fine!”

      1. Admin of Sys*

        Though it’s important to realize some folks will take you at your word – if they took an extra week, and you say ‘no worries’ or ‘that’s fine’ when they apologize, they might take that to mean you have soft deadlines and won’t mind them turning in other things late as well. If that’s the case, and there wasn’t a rush, then feel free to continue using the phrase! But if you /were/ impacted, I’d go with more of the ‘thanks for getting it to me. We should have step 2 done at x’ as Moonbeam said.

      1. kmb*

        I like this as a like generational cultural oddity. I have heard this explained somewhere (I can’t remember where, sorry, I found this: as many Millenials having a pattern of using “you’re welcome” sarcastically, when you thought someone should have said thank-you but didn’t. I vividly recall this being a thing when I was a preteen. So to people who were used to that, saying “you’re welcome” has a tinge of rudeness and mocking, so then you say “no problem” instead so that you aren’t sarcastic by association, but to people who don’t have the “you’re welcome”-is-sarcastic, “no problem” seems dismissive of their appreciation.

    10. smoke tree*

      To be honest, it sounds to me like you’re overthinking this! I use phrases like “don’t worry about it” and “no problem” with clients all the time. It sounds like you feel the need to be kind of deferential in your language towards clients. Maybe this is the case in your industry, but in most cases I think it’s fine to talk to clients basically the same way you would talk to coworkers.

    11. Amaryllis*

      I like to acknowledge their hardship with something like “Things happen, I understand.”

      Depending on the relationship and/or severity of their issue, I may substitute a George Carlin words for “things”.

    12. bookends*

      Caveat that I’m also in my twenties, I think “no problem” or “thanks, no problem!” is completely fine.

      I also tend to use “I understand” if they gave a specific reason – like “sorry for the delay, we had a breakdown on a teapot line this week and things have been hectic around here.” “I understand – it happens. Thanks for sending this!”

    13. Windchime*

      I try to stick with “thanks” and “you’re welcome”. “No worries” sounds kind of flip to me, in the way that “My bad” does. Not always and not under all circumstances, but I generally try to avoid those two (“My bad” really bugs me for some reason).

    14. Mamaganoush*

      I wouldn’t say no problem, because you don’t want late work (for example) to become a habit, and someday it WILL be a problem. I’d say something like, Thank you, I appreciate that. I was able to adjust for it.

  6. saffytaffy*

    I think you’ve thought this out thoroughly, your approach sounds like it will go over well, and it is a good idea.

  7. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

    I work in a world that involves a lot of happy hours with colleagues at both my level and much higher. I’m absolutely fine with this—I really enjoy spending time with colleagues (many of whom are friends outside of the office) and drinking with them doesn’t bother me. But, after a night out a few weeks ago I started thinking about people who don’t or can’t go out after work, and how they’re missing out on (what I consider to be) valuable face time. These happy hours are great for getting to know those above me and having casual conversations about work I’m doing and what I would like to do in the future. I guess I’m just curious about what others think. Do you also find value in spending social time with colleagues? Do you worry you’re missing out if you can’t attend for whatever reason? I have also given a lot of thought to how hard it must be for someone in my world who doesn’t drink. It’s just so engrained in my work culture.

    In case it is relevant, I’m fairly low on the totem pole, so I’m not making any decisions about anyone’s career.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I don’t spend much social time with coworkers. I’m an introvert, and by the end of the day, I just want to go home and decompress. Plus I sometimes have things I need to take care of or evening commitments.

      I think I probably have missed on some opportunities and chances to build my network because of it, although there isn’t a lot of outside socializing where I currently work. The thing is, that’s a price that, so far, I’ve been willing to pay. I only have so much time, and so much energy, and while I really do like my current job and my current company…I’m not really interested in making the sacrifices needed to climb the corporate ladder.

      1. Washi*

        I generally feel this way as well. Additionally, I do think socializing with coworkers can be valuable, but I think there is a point where anything above that doesn’t have a super high rate of return. Going to events every once in a while can be valuable to get to know people and build warm relationships, but I don’t think going every single week is markedly better for your career than going every 3 months.

      2. Specialk9*

        I love getting lunch with my coworkers, and have made some strong relationships. The only time I really liked going out for a drink after work, though, was after a big proposal – when everyone worked crazy hours and it was finally done, and everyone was a little giddy and silly. Otherwise, enh, not my thing. So I think those relationships can be built at work, to an extent.

        That doesn’t work everywhere, some places really want you to put in social time, drinking or golfing. But let’s be honest, as a woman I’m not going to break in to those cultures anyway, so I choose other orgs.

    2. pleaset*

      “Do you also find value in spending social time with colleagues? ”

      I don’t do it much because I don’t enjoy it and am pretty introverted. But I think there are surely value in it.

    3. AnotherJill*

      Honestly, so often happy hours are more like “clique time” than “valuable face time”. I know that after hours socializing is an established part of many jobs, but it is really not a great practice. Those who don’t or can’t participate for any reason often end of feeling alienated and out of the loop.

    4. Nervous accountant*

      I love socializing with my coworkers. Most of them are lovely people and a lot of them I would otherwise not have gotten to know (different ages social circles interests etc).

      However the socializing is limited to workdays/work events. only once in like 4 years I’ve met anyone on the weekend. Not that I refuse to, but it’s just never really come up. I personally feel this is a good balance.

    5. Anna Canuck*

      I value social time with colleagues, but I value doing the daycare pickup before they call social services more.

      I do go out post-work with coworkers occasionally, but it requires planning ahead and it has to be worth the complications. The easiest way to include non-drinkers and people with child/pet commitments post-work is to occasionally go out for lunch. It’s shorter and a bit more formal, but still good to chat with people and move beyond work-only interaction. My time to go out is limited, and given the choice between an evening with coworkers and an evening with my own social circle, I pick my friends for sure.

    6. Blank*

      I work in an environment where learning to join in on the mid-week happy hour was essential to feeling like I’m part of the team. Most of us are only on-site for a couple days every week, and might be spending a significant amount of time in meetings. Early on, it was the only time/place I could get to speak with higher-ups about getting my fixed-term contract extended.

      It’s very hard for people with caring responsibilities to join in, but people who can’t (or don’t) want to come along are definitely not part of the clique (about half of a 30-person department).

      So yeah – happily I enjoy spending this social time with colleagues, but also I find value in it too.

    7. Trout 'Waver*

      I love work socials and happy hours because I have awesome coworkers, but as a manager I can’t exactly suggest them. The other managers have small kids or don’t drink so that’s out too. It’s not a big deal to go without, but it is something I miss about previous positions.

    8. JDS*

      I think some work places are ‘who you know’ rather than what you do. If you’re not particularly social in the who you know places then you do miss out, unfortunately.
      I worked at a who you know place, and I’m not particularly sociable. I ended up leaving when it became obvious.
      Now I’m at a what you do that matters place, and I’m actually enjoying the occassional work social gathering.

    9. AliceBD*

      I almost always drink water, and I can’t think of the last time that I had alcohol when I was not home or at a relative’s house. Alcohol can disagree with my system (and not in a getting drunk way, but in a I feel unwell after a few sips of wine way) and it is exponentially more likely if I am in a social situation rather than being with family or very close friends at home. I also don’t drink soda/coffee/tea. I find happy hours annoying because there is often a big fuss about “finding something I can drink” and if there are no appetizers I can I feel bad for the venue of me taking a spot and not spending any money. I also can’t do them frequently because I am an introvert and also have plans after work.

      I think informal lunches during work are better (assuming this is the type of office job where there are not strict time frames for lunches etc) because everyone needs to eat lunch and there is less focus on what you are and are not having. As long as there are nearby restaurants that serve types of food that most people can eat I think lunch is a better option than happy hour. Or even potluck lunches depending on the Office culture.

      1. sunshyne84*

        Yea I’d rather have lunch with a coworker to build camaraderie or volunteer to plan a social event with others. I like happy hour, but I mostly like to keep work separate from home. If I mention something I’m doing outside of work and they say it sounds like fun then great maybe we can meet there.

    10. OtterB*

      We don’t do happy hours, but a year or two ago we started doing a one-day-a-week brownbag lunch in the conference room for anyone who was in the office that day and wanted to come. It’s a venue for everything from slide shows of someone’s recent cool vacation, to casual social conversation, to work-related questions like “How’s the x project going?” It works pretty well for us.

    11. designbot*

      There is definitely value in it, it’s an opportunity to test the waters for collaboration, give less filtered feedback, and identify allies. I’ve been sober for a year and a half so have cut back on this because I don’t always feel comfortable in the happy hour situations anymore and have definitely noticed a difference. I would encourage people to be open to this sort of bonding that doesn’t involve drinking or at least to not pressure coworkers who want to be present but are not partaking.

    12. Russian in Texas*

      In my current office, you are either part of the actual owner’s family, or you socialize with no one, and that’s OK with me – no lunches (or really rarely, never ever HH, no parties). It’s very “do your job and go home, and forger anyone you work with”.
      At my last job, most people had kids and commitments, and there was no socializing outside of lunches either, although people were a bit more social with each other than here. Met my former co-worker for lunch recently and she was actually complaining the company is now pushing happy hours and she has no desire nor time to go, and why won’t the leave them alone.
      Boyfriend works for a very large corporation. His department is mostly young (he is the oldest person there) and they like to go out, but he mostly skips, because he lives in suburbs (because we are old, lol), unlike the “youth”, and the HH happen in the hip part of town that’s far and expensive.
      So it really varies.

    13. BBBizAnalyst*

      I like my team a lot because we all have personal lives outside of work. We get along really well but have good boundaries in place. We do an occasional happy hour but nothing so frequently that it interrupts my actual life. No one’s penalized If they can’t attend because again personal life. I don’t think I could work on a team where work and personal blended so closely together. I love the separation. Personally, I have hobbies and friends outside of work I like to dedicate my time to. Being at work or anything work related more than I have to grinds my gears.

    14. SL #2*

      I had a job where the happy hours were in the office, starting at 3 pm on Fridays, and anyone who was in at the time (we had a lot of off-site work) could grab a handful of snacks or a drink (soda, sparkling water, beer for 21+ that was in a small, dedicated fridge) and hang around the communal table for a chat. I really, really liked that set-up. It didn’t put pressure on anyone to rearrange their plans, but it was dedicated time and space to relax.

      At my current job, my team eats lunch together most days–some of us buy from the cafeteria, some of us bring our own, but there’s several public areas in the building where it’s possible to sit together and eat and be goofy. Sometimes we talk about work, but most of the time we don’t. I don’t have a particular preference for either set-up, but I think having some time and space to connect with your coworkers and higher-ups is really important. Make it accessible and easy to join in, and the people will (probably) come.

    15. Ann Furthermore*

      With things like that, I’ll usually go and have a cocktail, followed by a soda, using the excuse that I have to drive home. I stay for an hour or so. Part of it is that I’m a bit of an introvert, so by the time the end of the work day comes, I’m ready to go home. And the other part — the built-in excuse — is that I have a child and I like to be home to do family stuff in the evening.

      Oftentimes I’d rather skip these functions, but I find that if I make myself go I almost always have a good time. My coworkers are all very nice people, and there is value in spending time together now and then outside of work. It helps everyone get to know each other a bit better.

    16. Frankie*

      I have a pretty collaborative job that can, at certain times, be jam-packed with meetings and conversations and no time for lunch…with that plus a commute, honestly most of the time it’s a real effort for me even to connect with my friends from outside work. I need my down time and reflection time. I do like to do lunches with my coworkers!

      I did the happy hour thing a bit more in jobs where my work was more solitary, and when I wasn’t in a relationship. It definitely can be valuable and fun.

    17. You don't know me*

      I absolutely hate workplace happy hours. Due to personal reason, I am unable to attend and I always feel left out. Especially after I have repeatedly asked if we can do something other than go to bar and I’m always blown off. They have become unofficial team events and I know I’m seen as not a team player because I don’t attend. And it sucks when everyone is talking about what a great time they had and everything they talked about and I’m clueless.

    18. Anonymosity*

      I’ve never wanted to hang out with most of my coworkers. I see them all day at work, and we can socialize at lunch if we like. I’ve always been hourly–when the clock hits five, my time is my own. There are other things I’d rather do after I leave the office. In most of my jobs, networking after hours has been neither expected nor necessary.

    19. Jules the Third*

      I spend 0 social time with coworkers outside of work hours. I’m a mid-level professional who’s not interested in going into mgmt / director / vp roles. I will sometimes do lunch or a short conversation, but it’s part of the working day for me.

      I keep work and social very separate – I never dated where I worked, for example. I’m also in a field where skill and ability matter a lot, and where I can name projects / numbers to demonstrate my experience.

      However – that’s my personal preference; I’m a geek, most of my coworkers are not, I prefer to hang with people with whom I share interests. If you share interests with coworkers (like golf or whatever), then do what works for you.

    20. Nacho*

      I went out drinking with my coworkers once. It was an awkward, shitty night with overpriced drinks that I never plan to repeat.

      1. London Calling*

        Ditto. I work in a very cliquey office with at least two people who don’t actually bother to acknowledge that I exist. They are not magically going to be all friendly and social after work, plus I have a long commute and I prize my time off. These people are colleagues, not friends. I’m as helpful, friendly and collaborative as I need to be for 40 hours, after that bye bye.

      2. Mamaganoush*

        Do you know the Housemartins’ song Happy Hour? (Refrain:what good place to be! don’t believe it…)

    21. Not So NewReader*

      I am not a drinker, personal choice. I avoid jobs where going out for drinks after work is “mandatory”. Like you say much information is conveyed during these off hour times and I just don’t want to work that way. If the socializing is optional but the information is necessary for my job to me that means the drinks after work are actually mandatory. It’s a necessity to go to these things to survive the job.
      I put a high value on hearth and home. To attend these informal but informative gatherings I need to get paid.

      And a part of my bias comes from having to deal with poor behavior from drunk cohorts, off the clock. It’s not fun. At all.

    22. Former Retail Manager*

      I definitely think there is value in spending time with both peers and management and, more importantly, I think it takes a good manager to realize that they should consider all candidates equally/not gloss over someone simply because that person has commitments or prefers not to go out with co-workers, but still does excellent work.

    23. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      As a mom of a toddler and someone who has never had a drink in her life, I can honestly say that office happy hour culture is something that I would rather see die. Quite frankly, there are issues with it that people who participate don’t always think about but that’s not what you’re asking.

      Way before I got married and decided to have a child, I still dreaded working in offices that had any form of happy hour/get together culture. I have a genetic condition that means I can not drink. While I can tolerate foods that have had the alcohol reduced by cooking, more than that can cause an attack of my disorder and that can have dire consequences. Yet, for some unknown and really annoying reason, there is always one blowhard that seems to think it’s going to ruin his night if I’m not drinking. Unfortunately, in office settings, this blowhard is usually above me in the chain of command. I should not have to have quiet understandings with coworkers and bribe bartenders to dress up a Coke to look like an alcoholic drink to ensure middle management doesn’t pester me all night. A non-drinker generally hates being dragged to a bar because we can count on being called upon to fulfill one of the following roles: babysitter, designated driver, mediator, or shoulder to cry on. Now, as a mother of a toddler, I truly despise office happy hour culture. It’s another part of how the “mommy track” gets perpetuated. I don’t have a choice about leaving right after work; my husband’s shift isn’t over until well after our childcare closes its doors. That means I can’t stick around to be pestered about not drinking. I am great at what I do and I put in just as much effort but the coworker who doesn’t do half as much can keep up when it comes to a shot contest and that’s what counts? F that.

      Back to my point about issues that people who participate don’t often see. There’s one benefit to not participating in office happy hours. You don’t get caught in the backlash when they blow up in people’s faces. This happens more than people would like to think. Quite frankly, it’s a bad idea to mix coworkers and alcohol. It leads to things like very awkward moments in the office, HR meetings, and occasional legal settlements. One company I worked for had to quietly pay for damages to the bar because the regional manager decided to have one too many tequilas and broke a table when he drunkenly stumbled into it. Another incident I heard of involved a case of someone talking to an intern’s chest all night. Said intern was less than thrilled about the conversation. Then there was the case of the coworker who decided to drive home after an office happy hour and was pulled over by the cops. We all got to face one-on-one meetings with HR asking if we were in the bar that night. Being a pregnant, cranky recluse was a blessing because it meant that my meeting was the shortest one. The rest of my group spent an average of twenty-five minutes being questioned about every little detail to see if they knew how much said idiot had to drink and if they could have stopped the man from getting behind the wheel.

      1. Lunita*

        My company is small and we have had some informal events that involve alcohol, but the industry itself has conferences, networking nights, etc, that I try attend. It’s harder now for me with a young child, but luckily I can make it work with my husband. These are always good events to get business done-all the people we work with are present.

    24. AcademiaNut*

      I personally enjoy events like this, within certain limits. A beer or two after work at the pub is fun, people getting plastered is not. And it does give an opportunity to mix with coworkers in a way that’s difficult when interacting in the office. One advantage is that I can talk to people I don’t normally interact with in my job, so I have a better sense of who does what, which can be very useful if I need their expertise later. I work in a highly collaborative research environment, so these sorts of things matter.

      I think there are two issues with this kind of thing. One is people who would like that opportunity, but aren’t able to participate (non-drinkers, people with outside work commitments, people who can’t afford happy-hour, even people who have to be sober to drive home). The second is people who don’t *want* the opportunity, and would rather visit a dentist without novocaine than interact with coworkers more than absolutely necessary.

      For the first, the key is to make sure that after-hours alcohol based events aren’t the only work-social activity (or even the majority). Have a weekly coffee hour (paid time!) in the office, with snacks. Or a once a summer weekend picnic (accessible by public transit, families welcome). Basically, make it enough of a variety that anyone who wants to can participate in something.

      For the second, make sure that the happy-hours (or other activities) are truly optional, and don’t affect performance reviews or raises.

  8. Frustrated*

    How can I stop feeling so envious that some of my friends don’t have to work? A few of them are either stay-at-home moms or unpublished writers with publishing aspirations. It is really hard when they talk about things like getting to wear pajamas all day or going to the beach in the middle of the day (I miss the days of having a summer break!). I have a job that can’t afford the flexibility of even working from home once in awhile. They are all married, so they have their health insurance covered and depend on an income through their spouses, but as a single person, I need to work because I am the sole supporter of myself.

    1. saffytaffy*

      Maybe it’s best to focus on what can make your own life more enjoyable. The job you’re working might not be the right fit, or you might need to make a change in another part of your life.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It may not be easy to get yourself into this head space, but try to remind yourself that people whose lives look great in superficial ways are often dealing with a lot themselves. Does it mean nobody’s life is harder than anyone else’s? Obviously not. But just because they talk about wearing pajamas all day or going to the beach in the middle of the day doesn’t mean that’s representative of what their lives are really like.

      1. Forking Great Username*

        This. When I was a stay at home mom I felt incredibly lonely and isolated, so focusing on the positives like being able to wear PJs all day was necessary for me to not just focus on how depressed I was. Not that that is the case for most stay at home moms, of course, just saying that rarely do you know the full picture of someone’s life.

        1. blue canary*

          Yuuup. When I was a SAHM, sometimes I was in my pajamas all day because I didn’t have time to get dressed. The “aspirational writer” thing does sound nice but I am VERY glad to be back in the working world where I can go to the bathroom without company and drink an entire cup of coffee before it gets cold and/or spilled.

        2. Washi*

          Right. I think OP is imagining all the great things they already have in their life plus getting to go to the beach in the middle of the day, when really it’s a whole different life and set of tradeoffs.

        3. Hamburke*

          Same here! I liked staying home with my kids – I thought it was the best option for raising them but it was lonely and isolating especially doing it in a location where few mom’s stayed home. I’m much happier now that 1- we’ve moved to an area where there are more sahm’s and 2- I work part-time so I can still be home with the kids several days a week.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        This. Everything is a tradeoff, in some sense. Choosing one thing means not choosing something else, most of the time. So maybe they get to wear pajamas today, but they have less overall income. Or sometimes they miss the social interaction that happens in the workplace, or would like the structure.

        A piece of advice from a blog (I think either Paging Dr. Nerdlove or Captain Awkward?) that has stuck with me is this: “Stop comparing your rough footage to everyone else’s highlights reel.” You live your day to day problems and frustrations, but you only see so much of that stuff with your friends.

        It always surprises me when I realize, in some way, that someone admires or envies something in my life. Partly, I don’t think about that stuff day to day, and I don’t think about how some stuff in my life might look to others. So, maybe just as a mental exercise, think about it a bit – what in your life might your friends think is cool? And focus a bit on doing something to make your life a little better or more enjoyable.

        1. Windchime*

          I love the comment about highlight reel vs rough footage. I used to have a friend who worked in the same job as me, only she was part-time. Her husband worked on and off, but wasn’t a high earner. They had a beautiful house on a corner lot, the kids had fancy clothes from the expensive stores, etc. And a boat! She gave her husband a BOAT for a gift! I couldn’t figure out why I was barely getting by, buying the kids clothes (on sale) at JC Penney.

          Years later, I learned that they were in debt constantly. They had no equity in the home because they kept taking the money out in home equity loans. And her husband had been FURIOUS about the boat; they used it for one summer then sold it.

          That was a huge learning experience for me. Also–I stayed home for three years with my kids when they were little. I loved my kids but I hated staying home with them. It’s way, way overrated.

          1. Manders*

            Yes, this! I felt like the miserly penny pincher in a particular friend group for years, and then found out some stuff about my friends’ expenses and debt loads that totally changed my perspective.

      3. Ali G*

        Totally. I kind of “don’t have to work” right now, but I want to. And it’s starting to eat at my self confidence that I can’t find a job to hire me.
        My husband makes enough money to support us both, but that’s not what he signed up for! So yeah, it “great” that I can work out in the middle of the day, go grocery shopping on Tuesday afternoon so we don’t have to do it on the weekends, or whatever else, but if I had my way I’d be working!
        I’m sure some of my friend might think my life is “awesome” right now but it doesn’t always feel that way.

        1. Loves Libraries*

          Me three. I did submit an application earlier today I’m hoping will lead to a new job.

      4. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

        Yep. When I was self-employed I absolutely loved not having to wear pants, being able to work whenever I felt like it during the day and taking breaks whenever I needed to as long as I hit my deadlines. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut I was also living with family because I couldn’t make enough money to support myself and couldn’t find a better job. So damn right I focused on the positives rather than on the living situation I was extremely unhappy with–I love my family, but they’re stressful, and we get along a lot better when we’re not living under the same roof.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a good point. Maybe these friends have absorbed that complaining to people about the day’s (or life’s) irritations is annoying, when they are after all in this situation many would envy because they set it up this way. So they focus on the good things about it when they talk about their day, rather than griping.

        2. !$!$*

          Sorry to derail but—there’s a hundred floors of terror, they’re not all gonna be winners

      5. Snark*

        And the people Frustrated is talking about are, frankly, probably not dramatically happier than she is, and are possibly dramatically less happy. Wearing pajamas all day bespeaks a level of lethargy that is rarely a particularly happy state. Even if I won Powerball and became a gentleman of leisure, I’d find that excruciating. A structureless, endlessly leisurely existence is not, in my observation, actually a happy one. Neither is being an unpublished writer, which adds a measure of ego-shredding rejection to the mix, repeatedly.

        As someone currently in a small gap between a layoff and when my new job starts, the only reason it’s not driving me bonkers is that it’s finite. I get a little, unexpected gem of a summer break, and then it’s over. I like that.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Yes to this! I have found that I really can’t handle the lack of structure that comes with not working. What starts as “Pajamas!” “I’ll get so much done!” “Time for new projects/hobbies!” turns into depression, shopping just to get out of the house, and lots of Netflix. I am much happier now and actually spend more time on projects and hobbies because I find that momentum is a huge factor for me – if I’m at rest I will stay at rest, so to be moving from work to something else is really freeing.

      6. MeM*

        It’s much better not to use others as a yardstick to measure your own happiness. You don’t want to be the type of person who finds joy in their own life because someone else is miserable. I doubt that you’d really feel better about your job/life if you found out that one of your happily married stay at home friends wasn’t really happy and had pain you didn’t know about.
        It’s natural to want what others have – but it would be better for you to determine what would make you happy and then work towards that as a goal.

      7. Lucky*

        Carolyn Hax (i.e., reigning queen of all advice columnists) says of this sort of envy:

        When I feel envy, I ask myself whether I’d trade lives with that person if I could — not the part I envy, but all of it. There’s always at least one part of their world (although typically dozens) that I wouldn’t want, enough to make me say, “No thanks, I’ll keep mine.”

        Don’t think I can link, so search “Carolyn Hax: Handling an Ugly Emotion Called Envy”. Me, I find satisfaction in my career and would not feel financially secure relying on my partner (when able-bodied, able to work), so trading those feelings for the occasional weekday trip to the beach is not a good trade for me.

        1. Thursday Next*

          SO MUCH THIS. I love Carolyn Hax. This is exactly what I was trying to convey elsewhere in this thread.

    3. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

      I know it’s cliched, but comparison truly is the thief of joy. In general, I’ve tried to let go of those sorts of comparisons that leave me feeling sad about my own life. Sure, I don’t (and never will) have a million dollars, thick hair, a brand new Aston Martin, the financial ability to visit Europe twice a year, a waistline that doesn’t expand when I merely think about cake, etc. But why waste time and energy resenting others who do have those things? I try to be happy for those who have things I don’t, try to resist throwing myself pity parties too often, and instead focus on building the best life for myself with the things I do have. I’m much happier since I let go of most of that. I hope you can find your way to having an equally happy life with perks that others might envy. I also agree with what saffytaffy said. Refocus those thoughts and that energy and you’ll find yourself much happier in your own life and in your friendships.

      1. Snark*

        And, to be frank, Frustrated is not only obsessing about these comparisons, she’s obsessing about herself in the process. I find that the more connected someone is to nature, beauty, and their surroundings, the happier, less angry, and less self-absorbed they’re likely to be.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      I was the last of all of my friends to get married at almost 40, and I understand how you feel. Those feeling of envy, especially when work wasn’t so great, can really get to you. I worked hard to focus on the things I was happy about and tried to make the most of being the master of my own life. Now that I have to make dinner for four people every night, I really look back on the nights of Diet Coke and popcorn for my evening meal with incredible fondness.

      I would also encourage you to examine how happy you are in your current job. When I had greater job satisfaction, I was much less bothered by what other people had going on.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, this is real as a part of the struggle. I’m single past the age where most of my friends are married, and it *is* tough sometimes (though there are very real advantages too). We live in a culture that does glorify the idea of families and marriages – even though the policies don’t line up with that particularly – and it can be hard not to feel like its unfair sometimes. I remind myself that working mothers have it really hard, and their joyous facebook posts aren’t the whole story. Then I get off facebook for a while.

    5. Manders*

      I struggle with this too!

      What are you feeling envious of more, the free time to relax or the free time to create art? I think the solutions to those things are different. If you’re craving more creative outlets in your life, there’s a way to make that work around a full-time schedule. If you’re frustrated about not having free time to relax that may be a bigger issue with your job or your commute.

      I’d also point out that going to the beach in the middle of the day sounds great, but wearing pajamas at home all day isn’t really the healthiest plan long-term. Most successful writers I know are pretty scrupulous about making sure they bathe and dress in real clothes and get out of the house regularly, and sliding away from that routine can be a sign of trouble.

    6. gecko*

      Maybe, figure out what it is that you’re really envious of? Beaches, of course :) But I mean–is it that you need some time to relax? You wish you were more in control of your time and your schedule? You want someone else to share the burden of paying the bills, so you can take your mind off it once? You just don’t want to work now, or you want to be doing something else? You’re unhappy and you feel isolated because your friends aren’t sharing your life experiences? No matter what it is–even if it feels kind of ugly and mean–it’s ok; but it’s worth figuring it out, because all of these things have different solutions or resolutions.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        This is great advice. I’ve realized that a lot of my envy comes from the fact that I feel trapped in my butts-in-seats 50 hours a week lifestyle. I feel like I’m missing out on the little pleasures of life. This feelings is real, and is inspiring me slowly to work towards being self-employed so I can set my own schedule and benefit from a little more flexibility. It really has nothing to do with my married and underemployed friends at all.

        1. Manders*

          I feel this too. I really like my job, but I find myself daydreaming about how much time and money I’d save if I could teleport instead of commuting. And the other day I found myself struggling to explain to my doctor that I eat 2 out of 3 meals a day at my desk, and my dinner at home is usually a random selection of items grabbed from the fridge, because cooking takes time and requires a lot of planning and decision-making I don’t feel like doing after a long day. It’s not work that’s the problem so much as it is everything else that goes into getting there and planning life around it.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah exactly, I feel like work has become this black hole of time and energy that sucks up all my best productivity, leaving me with scraps. It’s not even the actual work itself, it’s just getting there, sitting at my desk all day and wasting time, and getting home late, exhausted. I could do my job in 35 hours a week if there was any incentive to do that, but I’m not allowed to.

            1. gecko*

              Both Lil Fidget and Manders–those sound like brutal jobs. And best of luck getting out–that kind of thing can just drain you.

              On a weird flip side, when I feel envy for my friends’ working lives, it’s actually usually because they’re in jobs with more prestige & name-recognition–and figuring that out has actually helped me be a little more content with my current job, since I’ve pinpointed what it is that I feel is lacking.

              1. Manders*

                It’s honestly not that brutal a job for me! I really do like it and I feel like I’ve found my groove. It’s the combination of the Seattle commute + unfortunate personal circumstances that just wrecked me. Plus I’m overdue for some blood work, it’s possible there’s a treatable medical issue at play.

                1. Windchime*

                  I do the Seattle commute, too, and it’s brutal. I’m coming from up north and have started leaving the house at 5:15 AM. It sucks getting up so early but it makes a huge difference, commute-wise.

            2. Manders*

              In fairness, I do have some other energy-draining stuff going on outside work (dying family member, who requires a lot of trips across the country and unpleasant caretaking duties). Do you have anything else going on in your life that’s making you feel like you’re not living for yourself? What would you do if you had all those productive hours to create whatever you wanted?

              1. Fangy Yelly*

                Are you me? I also have the Seattle Commute, a job with no flexibility (which I wanted to leave ages ago), and far away dying family member . The jetlag from overseas caretaking is no joke!

                1. Manders*

                  Oof, I can’t imagine the stress of overseas jetlag on top of that. My mom’s only a couple of time zones away, and Alaska has a direct flight out to her city, thank goodness.

                  My job actually has a great amount of flexibility, which is why I can travel out to see her as often as I do, but the downside is that I really have to bring my A game at work to keep up when I’m in the office.

                  Much sympathy to you! I can’t wait for the new light rail stops, they’re going to change my whole commute situation.

      2. Frustrated*

        I think it is many of these aspects. I feel exhausted all of the time, but I do not have the ability to cut back to part-time hours or any flexibility about where I work (it is an office job), so maybe a desire to share the burden also comes into play. I also have creative interests that I never have enough energy for after work.

        1. gecko*

          My sympathies–it’s never just one thing, is it? You know, I suspect you might be interested a change in job, maybe one that allows more flex time or work from home capability.

          But that feeling of no energy, grinding dullness–all that is so familiar to me, and makes me wonder if you’ve struggled with depression. For me, I go through periods of minor depression that I don’t notice until I start coming out of it–and coming out of it sort of feels like what you describe. I still feel depressed…but I’m starting to want things…but I’m so tired…and it sometimes comes out in emotions I kinda wish I weren’t having, like envy.

          It’s a maybe/maybe not, but it might be worth mentioning to your doctor and seeing if you fit the bill. Just another part of figuring out what the root of the envy might be, and often a treatable problem.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If life feels like it’s all about work, that stands alone to trigger depression.
            If life is not where we want it to be that can make us feel depressed also.

            We get energy from eating good foods, getting proper rest and, oddly, we get energy from knowing that we are contributing to our world in a meaningful manner.

            I agree, OP, it sounds like new job time. Perhaps something with a shorter commute? Maybe if you had a job where you felt you were making a real contribution?

            Let your envy motivate you to start making small changes in your life. This can be any change you want and is doable for you. Yeah, pick stuff that you will actually do, for now skip the stuff that feels like too far a reach. We can let envy encourage us to beef up our own things that we have going on. Use the envy to work for you, rather than against you, OP.

      3. Mad Baggins*

        I recommend the podcast Meditation Minis because they’re great little meditations, but specifically for Frustrated I recommend one called something like “Finding Vacation in the Everyday”. It guides you through imagining a vacation, and then suggests you pinpoint what parts of that make you feel luxurious. Is it not having to rush through breakfast? Seeing new sights, sounds, foods? Not thinking about all the things you have to do so you can be in the moment? Then it asks you to think about how you could add one or some of these feelings into your everyday life. Maybe it feels like a little extra work to get up early so you can have a luxurious breakfast, but maybe that little slice of vacation once in a while gives you a some room to breathe. Maybe you take a different path to work or go for a walk at lunch and notice your surroundings like you’re in a new city. This was really helpful for me when I was feeling beat down by work and jealous of people who seemed free from the grind. Now I’m still working, but I’m free from the grind part.

    7. BadWolf*

      A few things I’d remember is that not having an outside job has it’s own cost/benefit. Things can change rapidly and getting back into the workforce can be tough once you are out. Plus the things people share with you is never the whole picture. Getting the kids the beach might have taken 2 hours and lots of tears. Wearing pajamas all day can be a fun choice or trying to put a good spin on feeling blue.

    8. Anna Canuck*

      If you envy a stay at home mom, borrow those kids for a day and you probably won’t envy her any more. Working is freaking amazing compared to staying home.

      took two non-consecutive years of mat leave and wouldn’t stay at home unless we were “get a nanny anyway” rich.

      1. nonegiven*

        My aunt was thinking about a second child. She borrowed my son for a week. He nearly ate her out of house and home. She was cured.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Separate this into two groups: The at-home moms are working, at at task that is often lonely and tiring. And rewarding in some ways–I did it, I liked it–but they are going to the beach while constantly alert (no drowning!) and intervening when their child tries to pour sand over another child’s head. Getting out of the house routinely is often good for parent and child, but it’s not like they are indulging themselves doing the things they enjoy at their own pace. It’s all worked around childish attention spans and tolerances.

      The unpublished writers have a spouse willing to let them pursue something that may or may not pay off. That’s a luxury, and it’s okay to be envious of people who, for whatever combination of life circumstances, can pursue an artistic or similar bent without it paying off or needing a day job. (Though I will pass on advice from a published writer about going and sitting at his typewriter at 9 in the morning. If inspiration was looking for him, he would be easy to find and in a position to write it down; this was not true if he was sitting in the bar, hoping inspiration looked him up and then took notes for him.)

      1. Frustrated*

        You are right that I probably should not have conflated the two groups, but the two SAHMs I am thinking of have older kids, not really young ones, so the kids are actually at school all day. I suppose what I envy is the extra time during the day to pursue hobbies and other interests because I never seem to have enough energy for my own outside of work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The quest for more energy worked into a huge journey for me. One big learning experience I had was reading some folks believe that if we give so much of ourselves to a job that we have nothing left when we get home that is an ETHICAL issue. They believe that it is unethical to give so much at work that there is nothing left for home.

          Do you say YES to everything they ask you for at work? Maybe it’s time to start saying NO. Strategically saying no, that is. You know the types of tasks the consume your energy. You know when you are doing other people’s work for them. Maybe you NO is under-used. Other times maybe you can ask for a helper instead of doing a huge task by yourself. Take a look at how you work, see if there is something there.

      1. Kate*

        THIS. My mom was a SAHM for most of my childhood, and it put her in a terrible position as my father controlled their money and was/is emotionally abusive. It has made it extremely difficult for her to leave. To someone on the outside, everything would have looked great. Watching that as a child, I swore that I would make sure that I was always in a position to be financially independent – and I am (although now married and my husband is a grad student so financially dependent on me at the moment). Don’t discount the peace of mind that comes with financial self-sufficiency.

      2. Female-type person*

        YES. I have two friends who have college-age children, and difficult relationships with substance abusing (in one case) and mentally ill (in the other case) spouses. Neither have worked in over 20 years. They are in very vulnerable positions emotionally as well as economically, and retirement is looming for us all, some sooner than later.

      3. UtOh!*

        I was just coming here to say the same. Though you never want to wish it on anyone, things can change in an instant and if you have no back up plan, you can be in a whole world of hurt. Both of my SILs are SAHMs and have been for 20 years. One I could understand because her daughter was a preemie, and had a kidney transplant when she was in elementary school, but she was also a helicopter mom (my niece is doing great, just got her Master’s). My other SIL told my brother she did not want to work, then had a couple of kids, and during that time went to school to be a RAD tech, but then bailed, got her teaching certificate but never did more than substitute teach, and now only works a few hours at a library. She no longer has to be at home for her kids, but she still won’t get a real job. This has put so much pressure on my brothers to be the sole breadwinners, and they have both been out of work (one of them is right now), so the struggle is real. I have never, ever thought of not working, even if I had kids (I’m CFBC), it would make me even more determined to have a career as well. I am not envious of my SILs *at* all.

      4. gecko*

        Yes, though I think that dealing with envy by saying “actually it’s not so good” is an incomplete and impractical solution. What do you do if their life is, in fact, that good, and stays so for a very long time? And if they have other safety nets so they’re not in more risk than you are? And if they are just happy?

        I think it’s totally ok in a dark moment to say, oh her life isn’t good in this way that my life is good. But that’s still continuing the direct comparison, and you can’t rely on that forever, and it’s not a good way to treat a friend.

        I mean, the end goal is to treat yourself and the friends you’re jealous of with empathy, and figure out a way to escape whatever dark place you’re in; and how to do that (if it’s possible) is really hard work. I just think that explicitly trying to imagine how others’ lives are crummy–not three-dimensional, just crummy–can be a way of dragging other people into that dark place with you instead of saying it’s possible to get out.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        This, this, this.

        OP, my husband called in sick to work one day and three months later he died. Life comes at us fast, OP. Very fn fast.
        There will always be people in our lives whose position looks enviable. That is temporary, OP. It will change. Hopefully not change in too terrible a way but there will come a point where you will be glad to have your own life and not your friends’ lives.

        As much as I don’t like how my story played out, I will keep it if it means I can avoid having other people’s life story. Life can get rough and sometimes it can get down right impossible.

    10. AnonResearchManager*

      I felt this way too when I was within my first few years of entering the workforce. That jealousy really stemmed from several things for me including… 1. not liking my job AT ALL, I was completely mis-cast and in the wrong field all together, 2. My own intrinsic need for flexibility in my work, as an entry-level employee I wasn’t granted much and it was something I found was of great importance to me, 3. my focus was on the WRONG things.

      It’s worth taking some time to examine why you’re feeling like this so you can identify ways to rectify it.
      One big thing that helped me was time. Now, 15+ years into my career I have racked up accomplishments and am at the point I’m very much in demand, I can be choosey about positions I take and I make tons of money. If I had leaned out to be a stay at home spouse or work on an unpublished pet project I wouldn’t have been able to set myself up the way I have now.

      I decided back then that if I was going to have to work, I’d be ALL IN and really push myself to be the BEST. As in the best I could be, the best in my area, the best in my field (after I’d changed fields and found one I loved). That decision has paid off in droves, I’m the most successful of all my friends, because I redefined my view of success. Success to me isn’t not working, and having some else to pay my bills while I go to the beach all day. I decided success to me would be mastering my field, racking up professional accomplishments and leveraging my position into those of greater and greater responsibility and influence. I’m definitely not envious of anyone anymore, in fact many of my stay at home friends now tell me they’re astounded by everything I accomplished.

    11. mark132*

      Just because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence doesn’t mean it truly is. My wife is a stay at home mom, and I think there are more than a few days she would love to trade places with me. Sometimes she can get very lonely/bored.

    12. NLMC*

      Sure it sounds great to be able to rely on someone else’s income but then again you are relying on some else’s income. What happens if they lose their job or get injured or worse? What happens if they decide they want out of the marriage?
      You are not just working for today (or for the weekend). You are building your retirement (hopefully), your resume, and your network among many other things.
      Sure it would be great to be “kept” but there are way too many downsides.

    13. Thursday Next*

      I think the key is to put “pajamas” and “weekday beach trip” into the context of the rest of their lives. Are they changing diapers every 2-4 hours? Then wearing easy to wash clothes makes sense! Do they have kids too young for school? Getting them out of the house to make their messes outside can be a relief!

      Obviously I don’t know your friends’ situations, but the stuff we hear about—or hear *and choose to remember*—are such a small piece of our friends’ lives.

      Now turn that around and look at yourself. You have to work to support yourself. That means you’re not answerable to anyone else for your financial decisions. You’re building up a work history, so you can keep supporting yourself. You have daily interactions with other adults (do not underestimate how isolating being a SAHP and/or aspiring writer can be). These are things your friends probably envy about you.

      1. Frustrated*

        I conflated the two groups because they have older children in middle school who are usually at school, so they are largely free to pursue whatever they want during the day. But I understand that I need to look inward about the positives of my situation!

    14. Zennish*

      You will never, ever reach a position where you can’t find someone or something to be envious of, if that’s what you’re looking for. I mean, Mark Zuckerberg could spend all of his time envying Bill Gates, but what would it accomplish? Build a life you’re satisfied with, and let everyone else do everyone else.

    15. Frankie*

      I wouldn’t be envious of the SAHM situation, honestly. Yeah, they get that time with their kids, but they’re isolated, often don’t get a ton of adult conversation in their lives, they question their value, people put them in the “mom” box and don’t approach them as individuals with identities. That on top of the grueling labor of childrearing and housekeeping…yeah, you’ve got some schedule flexibility, but childcare is neverending work. Everything is your job.

      All that to say, it’s all a trade-off, and people are going to talk about the positives and you might never hear about the negatives.

    16. Jules the Third*

      Focus on your goals and what ‘success’ looks like to you. Make a plan to get to those goals, and a realistic one, that depends on your actions, not on ‘marry a rich guy’. Cultivate the long view – you are building skills and experience that will reduce your risks.

      And indulge, once in while, in a vacation day where you just go to the beach.

    17. Anonymosity*

      I don’t know. I’m a writer who isn’t working right now and without a spouse or any insurance. I need a day job just to survive. It’s stressful as hell I’ve worn pajamas all day, but honestly, I think if I had the luxury of a spouse who supports me, I would either have to rent a coworking space or at least have an office I only go into when working.

      Staying home all day gives me cabin fever. I had the option to work from home whenever I wanted at Exjob, but I went into the office nearly every day because I’m sick of staring at the same walls 24/7. Maybe a few of your friends feel the same way and they’re rhapsodizing about it to make themselves feel better, and giving you the highlight reel.

    18. Super B*

      I never understood the appeal of wearing pajamas all day? That sounds like what a depressed unemployed person, or some exhausted new mom suffering from baby blues and breastfeeding on the clock, would do. No for me, thank you very much.

      1. Amaryllis*

        I wear pajamas on my telecommute days, because I am so gleeful about it that it keeps me mindful and grateful to have that perk. But living in them 24-7 would take the shine off, right quick.

    19. Argh!*

      After I went back to grad school, my married friends said “I wish I had the freedom to go back to school!” … and all my fellow grad students were married! They had health insurance, some had houses, or they split expenses with their grad-student spouse.

      The single life has many, many hidden costs, both financial and emotional. I have stopped trying to explain this to my married friends.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah I feel like this doesn’t get talked about enough, and I’m not trying to say it’s equal with the scale of the national atrocity that is maternity leave / childcare options, but it’s real for those of us who struggle with it.

      2. Manders*

        Yes, this is something I noticed about grad school too! I wasn’t going, but I was dating a grad student through a big chunk of my early 20s, and there was a lot of pressure on me coming directly from his department to be his support system. We did get married, but only after he left school, because I found the (usually unspoken, but sometimes told outright) expectation that my job was to do the dirty work of making money so he could live the life of the mind so uncomfortable.

        He still benefited from having the ability to split things like rent and grocery costs with me–I don’t know what he would have done if all he had was his stipend in our very expensive city. He did have some single friends in the program and they struggled with burnout and poverty. Grad schools often aren’t set up for single students to succeed.

      3. Washi*

        SO TRUE. And I’m surprised your married friends don’t get it, because while I’m not free to date whomever I want or leave town unannounced, I’m more free from so many other things that I’m married/partnered. I’m not as terrified to lose my job, travel is more affordable, grad school is more feasible, rent is cheaper, chores are shared, I have a go-to person for emotional labor…the DINK lifestyle is pretty great, not gonna lie!

    20. KatieHR*

      I totally get what you are saying. My largest issue of “jealousy” stems from friends and my husband who are teachers. It is really hard going into an office during the summer when the rest of my family is home and going to the pool with all my friends. I still struggle with this but I know deep down that I would never ever want to be a teacher…I just want my summers off. I have recently deleted my facebook account and since I can no longer see all the perfect fun summer pictures, I think my time will be easier this summer. I also recently went back on anti-anxiety meds and feel better about myself and my position. Good luck!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I have also had to just ask my friends who don’t work, to please not text me during the day about all the fun things they’re doing. It was totally not intended to be hurtful, but it was really, really killing my morale. Even little things like grocery shopping or the gym at 3PM on a wednesday, when I kill myself trying to get those things done at the exact same time as everybody else in this crowded, stinky city wants to do them – just don’t remind me about that when I’m stuck processing TPS reports. They all agreed to stop right away and I noticed a big improvement in my mood.

    21. Unacademic*

      There is a lot of good advice above, particularly about comparing every aspect of their situations, rather than just the highlights. It can be helpful to trace it back to decisions you and your friends have made, and where you have had control (because right now you’re focusing on something you don’t have control over). In my case, I have a few friends buying houses when I couldn’t dream of affording one. But to be in the place they’re in, buying a house, I would have had to study finance or go to law school, I would have to work their jobs, I would have to be tied to the cities they’re in, etc, and those are all things I have chosen NOT to do. Still, I know that’s only a part of the equation – sometimes we wish we could have had the choices our friends had, the luck of a good/supportive partner, etc.

      So here’s another way to approach it: try to refocus on measuring your successes on your own internal metrics. That doesn’t necessarily mean trying to come up with ways you are successful (though that is nice). It might mean realizing there are things that are important to you that you don’t have right now, and coming up with a (realistic) plan to work your way towards them, so you can measure your path against your own plan, not the life someone else is living. So for you that might mean a job with more flexibility – is that available in your field? What kind of work do you have to do to get there? Should you be applying to other jobs now, or getting more experience in a particular aspect of the field? Does it mean changing fields altogether, and if so, are there fields adjacent to yours that offer what you’re looking for? And so on and so forth. None of these things are immediate, but it will still feel better being in that no flexibility job if you can see it as moving you towards the more free time job in your future. Then instead of focusing on how much your friends have of the thing you want, you can focus instead on your own forward momentum towards that thing you want, and measure your own distance from it, and your own progress. You don’t have to want that thing less, but you can change your frame of reference towards it.

    22. Mamaganoush*

      You’re smart to be working! You are (I hope) saving for retirement/have a 401k with an employer match, you are building a career, you are gaining skills and knowledge that people will pay for. Being a SAHM rarely gives you your own individual retirement account. Some of those marriages are going to end in divorce and some of those women are going to need to work outside the home — and they can be at a real disadvantage. (I’m not dissing SAHMs — personally I think they should be paid from the family income for the substantial work they are doing at home.)

    23. Anna Held*

      You’re not dependent on anyone else. Spouses lose jobs, become ill and can’t work, leave their spouse, die unexpectedly. Investments fail and trust funds dry up. You are not dependent on anyone else’s salary, health insurance, or financial savvy. No, these things don’t end up being a problem for everyone, but you never know who will get zapped. You can take care of yourself, which is huge. It is HARD getting back to work once you’ve been out for a while.

    24. Phoenix Programmer*

      My husband is stay at home with our first child on the way and the one thing I’ll say is – it’s a lot of work! Cooking for two, laundry for two, dishes for two. Plus having to deal with a lot of stuff singles who typically rent don’t have to like main sewage line cleaning, basement despidering, etc.

      Plus a lot of SAHS never get a weekend off. In our family I do all the chores every 3rd weekend which helps keep me appreciative of the work volume.

      Finally you would be surprised how most people yreata SAHS. My husband gets dirty looks, acquantinances have literally turned to me and said – you put up with that? Like my gubby is somehow a leech.

      I don’t know about most SAHS but we are a one car family too so usually gets stuck home all day too.

      Worth it for our family – we argue and go out to eat a lot less when one person is home dealing with home stress. But definitely not a walk in the park.

    25. Double A*

      I want to acknowledge what you said about being single! I don’t know if any of this will apply to you, but this was something I struggled with. I got partnered and married in my 30s, which was something I knew I really wanted to do, but there were many times up until that point that I was struggling with being single. Here are some things that helped me (I’m a heterosexual woman, so change pronouns as needed if you want to apply it to yourself):

      1) Acknowledge that partnership, marriage, kids were goals I wanted. Stop feeling like I “should” be able to be a totally happy self-sufficient independent lady who lives an utterly fulfilled single life without a man, and would only deign to partner up with a man once I’m totally 100% happy and fulfilled on my own.

      2) Acknowledge that being single is FREAKING HARD a lot of the time and people don’t acknowledge that. Only relying on yourself can make you feel like you’re on a knife’s edge a lot of the time. This may sound stupid, but I read this self-help book called “It’s not You” about being single, and it just acknowledged some of the challenges you deal with as a single person and it helped a lot with perspective for me.

      3) Realize that being in a bad/the wrong relationship is worse than being single. Tim Urban has a couple of posts if you google “How to Pick Your Life Partner” that give some really useful perspective on this too.

      Anyway, not sure how much this issue is bugging you, but you did mention it, so I thought I’d share some things that were helpful to me.

  9. Serious Pillowfight*

    If a position’s salary range is $40-$45k, but they tell you during an interview that it’s not set in stone and you have 10+ years of experience in a closely related field, how much more can you ask for during negotiations without being ridiculous? Would $60k be too high?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily too high, but you’d have to be a really outstanding candidate—to the point where the position’s responsibilities themselves would change because of how high level you are—to warrant a 25% over top-of-the-budget offer. You say you have 10+ years’ experience. How many years’ experience are they looking for? And is having experience in your closely related field “as good as” (to them, on paper, not in terms of your actual day-to-day work, which they’ve never seen) having exeprience in that exact field?

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        The job is advertised as entry-level, but I get the sense they’re eyeing me for what I can bring to the company overall, not just in terms of being a body to fill the position (although of course that, too).

        I think that, yes, my experience in the closely related field matters heavily to them. Same type of work, but applied to tea instead of coffee.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          If you get the sense that they really want you and if $60K isn’t unreasonable for the other types of positions you might take, then you should go for it. If they’re serious about you, they won’t rescind. And if they want someone more experienced, they’ll have to up the range from an entry-level one to a higher-level one.

          1. Serious Pillowfight*

            True. I wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me whether they’d be glad/able to raise the pay for me based on my experience or whether they’d be put off by my request for more money. E.g. “You knew the position was entry-level, so why are you asking for so much more money?” versus “Yes, you’re great and would be a huge asset to the company overall.”

      2. Serious Pillowfight*

        At the same time, they could have budget constraints I’m not privy to, which could be why they say they’re specifically seeking entry-level.

    2. mreasy*

      I have negotiated a $15K increase in range before – if you are truly a stellar candidate who is coming in with tremendous experience and a fantastic track record, it is absolutely not unheard of. The worst they can say is no.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        $15K over $45K? I don’t think the raw number matters as much as the percentage.

        1. Serious Pillowfight*

          Good point. I’d be happy with $50k, which I doubt would be a problem, but I don’t want to leave money on the table.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I think you could ASK for $60K but expect them to talk you down, if you know you’d be happy with 50. I don’t think asking is going to get you kicked out once you’ve made it through the interview stage and are looking at an offer. If you know you wouldn’t take the job for less than $60 I’d say it might not be worth pursuing because it’s variable if a company is going to consider varying that much from their stated range; some will, some won’t.

    3. ANon..*

      When it comes to the point where you want to negotiate the salary, make them negotiate against themselves first. Ask them, “I know you mentioned that the salary range of $40-45k is not set in stone, so I’m wondering what room there is to increase it, especially given my experience and how I think I could help in X and Y ways.”

      See what number they give you. If it’s too low, say $50k, you could say, “Well, I was really hoping for something in the $55-60k range – I would be ecstatic to accept if we could make that work!”

      1. whistle*

        If I was the company and had published a salary range, I would not throw out another number until the candidate gave me a number, and I’d be pretty annoyed at the candidate’s attempt to get me to “negotiate against myself”. The company has published a range in good faith. Now it’s the candidates turn to provide a counter offer.
        Serious Pillowfight, I say go for it! All you can do is ask and the worst they can do is say no.

        1. Serious Pillowfight*

          Thanks, whistle. The range wasn’t published but told to me by a higher up during our interview. He also said it wasn’t set in stone.

          1. whistle*

            You’re welcome. In that case, I would double down on my advise to not attempt to get a new number out of them without you providing the number you are looking for.
            Another suggestion based on my experience on both sides of these negotiations: enter the negotiation with two numbers in mind – the number you are going to ask for and the lowest number you would accept. I think a lot of people enter negotiations with only the first number in mind, and this can lead to the person either accepting less than they want or declining an offer that they would be happy with.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      I think you can float that balloon if you have a semi-frank discussion with them about whether or not if you’re hired they’d only expect the entry level performance out of you, or whether the role would be expanded/modified to include the additional work/experience you bring to the table. If they’re shooting for the expanded role, I don’t think you needed to be shy about asking for an expanded salary range. It doesn’t sound like they’ve made an offer yet, so they may come back with a higher number anyway just based on your experience, but if they do offer $45k you can negotiate with some language to indicate both your interest in the role, and that you understand your counteroffer may not be possible.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Good point about clarifying whether they still want entry-level even with my 10+ years experience or if they’d expand the role.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          If they try to stick your experienced peg in an entry-level hole, I don’t think you’ll have as much room to negotiate, unfortunately, at least not 15k worth of room. Hopefully, talking to you has given them ides about how the role could be more than just entry level and sparked their interest. Good luck!

    5. Anonymous Poster*

      That’s a third higher than the highest budgeted amount they’re advertising.

      I really think that 60k for a position where they post a range of 45k is too high. Maybe 10% would be the highest above their range you might be able to ask for without coming off as way too experienced for the role.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Thanks. I figured 60k might be too pie-in-the-sky but wanted to check before I decided against asking for it. I’d be happy with 50k. If I get an offer below 50k I will probably ask for 55 with the hopes of at least getting 50.

        45k isn’t much more than I make now (38k) so in that case I’d likely feel I should hold out for something higher paying.

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          That makes sense.

          If your level of experience in your field should put you at 60k, though, maybe another place will pay you what you’re worth? I would try to avoid jumping at any raise, though I don’t know your full situation, so even this bump might be worth it.

          1. Serious Pillowfight*

            My field is very broad and applicable in almost all industries, but so far I’ve worked only in a low-paying industry. So salaries really run the gamut. It depends on what industry you’re in.

            1. Anonymous Poster*

              Hm, then if this job gets you on the path to that higher salary doing work you like, then you can also view it as a stepping stone on your upward income slope.

              Either way, best of luck!

              1. Serious Pillowfight*

                Thank you! The company does seem to offer lots of opportunities to grow, so I’m factoring that in for sure!

    6. Malloy*

      Well…first, the one thing you cannot do is ask for more than your would-be manager makes. So assuming your manager is several bands higher than entry level, you should OK. Just be sensitive to this aspect because it will send things south fast.

      I think if you ask for $60k, t should be because the market demands $60k for your skills. You should *not* ask for the $60k for the entry level role. I’d frame it as, “given your description of the role and my experience, would you consider making this a more senior role?” And start the discussion there. If you take an entry level role (jr asst. teapot designer) you will not get $60k if the band is 40-45. If they offer you a Sr Teapot Designer role, you should expect commensurate salary.

      I run product and marketing and have this happen a lot. We’ll open a product manager role and end up hiring it as a senior product manager because we find someone with really great skills/experience that warrant me finding more budget money to get them. But I can’t hire them in without a senior title or it messes with pay bands. Nor is it fair to them given their experience.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Great point. The company is “flat” so I think I’d have different project managers from the team but there’s not a formal hierarchy. As I think about it more I do think 60k is too high. The VP I interviewed with seemed to imply they’d consider my experience and what I’d bring to the company if they extend an offer rather than pigeonholing me into that tentative salary band.

        1. Serious Pillowfight*

          Posted too soon. Meant to add, So I’ll wait to see what they offer me if they decide to extend an offer. They may very well offer a bit more than their initial range.

    7. seller of teapots*

      FWIW, in my current role, they were looking for someone more junior. I have 8 years of experience and we really clicked and they ended up paying me $30k than the salary they’d planned on.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        How did you broach the topic? Or did they offer you more right off the bat?

  10. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

    What is the best way to ensure skill redundancy in a small company? I am in charge of all of the administrative aspects of the company and I have an assistant. It’s become clear that my boss expects her to be able to step into my role at any given time, which came up when I took a three-day vacation and he was concerned that she wasn’t able to do everything in my absence.

    Currently, I give her many of the day-to-day tasks to handle but there are some things I only do once a month or just once a year. Honestly, every time those things come up it’s a re-learning experience for me too but I have more experience with this company and the industry than she does, so I think it’s a little easier for me to pick it back up. Because it’s a small company, the work varies widely from one day to the next and there are still things cropping up for the first time that we haven’t covered. Plus some tasks are so crucial that I hesitate to give them to her since I know I’ll wind up scrutinizing and reviewing her work, which usually takes longer than doing the task myself. It doesn’t help that there’s an expectation of perfection from my boss and, ultimately, all responsibility falls on me. If something is wrong because my assistant messed up I get the blame. It makes me hesitant to give her any of the “big” tasks and I spend at least 50% of my time reviewing her work to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. She’s human so makes the occasional error, which I understand, but I also understand that it’s unacceptable to my boss so I have to stay on top of everything. Sometimes it’s easier just to do things myself, which I know isn’t helpful in terms of redundancy.

    She has been trained on almost everything I do, albeit 10 months ago, and I keep extensive notes on how to do tasks but I know it’s hard to jump back into doing something if you haven’t worked on it in months. I also have the niggling thought that if I give her more work to keep her current on everything then what am I supposed to do with my time? Aside from reviewing her work and the few tasks I’ve held onto, I don’t have much else to do other than staying on top of the organizational aspects of the job. (Perhaps a question for another day is how to mention to my boss that it seems like we don’t have enough work for three office staff members without talking myself out of a job, but I don’t want to delve into that now.) Any tips on the skill redundancy issue?

    1. gecko*

      More than anything I think you’ve gotta train your boss that your assistant isn’t going to be perfectly redundant & there’s always going to be some rev-up time, and come up with procedures for prepping for time away.

      1. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

        I’m leaning towards thinking what he wants is impossible, but I figured I’d ask here in case I’m missing something. I tried to prep her for what I knew would come in while I was away but it’s impossible to know what’s going to come up on any given day. To me it makes sense that there are things she won’t feel comfortable doing that can wait a few days until I return and maybe that’s something I’ll just have to tell him. I basically stepped into this role with minimal training and it was very much a sink or swim situation so I suppose if I were to drop dead tomorrow she’d just have to do the same thing. I’d like to minimize the surprises for her but it seems unreasonable that she’ll be familiar with everything.

        1. N Twello*

          I write a Disaster Recovery Plan for my job. This can be on a wiki or in a Word document, or whatever. I outline my main tasks and for each one I write a process of how to do it. That way if I get hit by a bus or quit, someone can handle my key tasks. I use lots of screenshots so that someone unfamiliar with my software can pick it up. I also include all passwords, schedules, emails and URLs they’ll need to know.

          This might seem like a lot of work but I do it a bit at a time. While writing out a process I think about ways to streamline it.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      I’m unsure if I can provide any help about skill redundancy but I am all for cross training and others knowing how to do different jobs. I think it’s absolutely necessary because I’ve been in several instances where one person was out, an emergency happened, and things either went smoothly because we were cross trained or they went horrible because no one knew what to do.

      “Sometimes it’s easier just to do things myself, which I know isn’t helpful in terms of redundancy.”
      My supervisor is this way. I completely understand why because she is very busy. I’ve begged to be taught new things during our slower months but she never has the time. And there is no one else to teach me. I try to act independently to help her out and I know she is appreciative when I do something that everyone else passes to her and she doesn’t feel like I added one more thing. I recently finally asked about completing a project I had done 90% of and she told me the owner didn’t want me working on that 10% part yet. It was completely frustrating to hear that. Because when my supervisor is out for the week her clients call and no one in the office can help them. Sometimes our owner asks me to do things and he seems surprised and frustrated that I can’t do them when I tell him I don’t know that part. Once or twice a client has had an emergency and I am left dealing with an angry client because they need something done now and my supervisor is on vacation. Or we have to bug her on vacation which shouldn’t even happen!

      I am so bored at work. I’ve learned nothing new in several years except what I decide to teach myself. I don’t know if your assistant is feeling the same but I would advocate that even the tasks you do monthly or once a year you could have her help in some way or go over it after you do it and with your notes. That way in the worse case and you are out unexpectedly she would have at least an inkling of what is going on trying to cover an absence. I know it takes some time to train people on new things but doesn’t it become a never ending cycle.

      1. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

        That’s a very good point! I actually feel much the same way, bored in my job and I’d like to have more to do. So I can only imagine how my assistant might be feeling! My boss is really bad about loosening the reins so I sit here bored with nothing to do most of the day. I wish he’d give me more responsibility and tasks so I could have more to share with my assistant, but if he did I’d have even more to keep her current on. I’ll definitely try your idea of showing her things once I’ve done them since many are things only one person could work on. Just a sort of a way to review my notes with her so she’s not blindsided if she has to take over.

        1. KellyK*

          You might also look at training your assistant as an additional thing you can do to relieve boredom for both of you. If it takes her longer to do a task than you, and you still have to check it over, that’s not a problem if you’re both underutilized, right?

          1. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

            True. I certainly don’t mind reviewing her work since it keeps me occupied. I guess I just thought I was done training her on things aside from the oddball tasks/issues that crop up. It’s more an issue of her not staying current with things she doesn’t regularly work on so she’s not comfortable doing them. Perhaps I should be regularly re-training her? Or is that condescending?

            1. Kathenus*

              Maybe reframe your thinking from regularly re-training her to delegating some of these tasks to her on a semi-regular basis so that she remains up to speed and confident in doing them. Could end up being a win-win – she gets some variation and more experience in different tasks, you get more comfortable with delegation, your boss is happy about better redundancy, and you can free up time for different projects (although I understand right now you are under-occupied so may not seem like a plus).

    3. OtterB*

      You said you have extensive notes, but that’s the only thing I can think of. Document, document, document. I’ve been working on an “administrator’s guide” to my main work task. Last year I was out for surgery during a key time period and someone else had to take the emails and help the end users. It took her more time than it would have taken me, but it got done.

      I agree that part of it is managing your boss’s expectations. Maybe you can define the “core tasks” that the backup person should absolutely be able to do, and the less-critical that she will have to look up?

      1. Anonymosity*

        Same. This is why I’m so gung ho on procedural documents. I make them for everything I do and I keep them where anybody covering for me can easily find them. I’ve gotten damn good at writing them.

      2. Jules the Third*

        Instead of extensive notes, especially for the rare things, try writing it as a procedure, step by step of what needs to happen. Every time you do it, do it by following the procedure, and if you find that a step is incomplete or changed, change it there. Have the assistant do some of these with you, so that she’s familiar with how you write procedures – it will help her read procedures when you’re not around.
        Supplies needed: Peanut butter (PB), bread, jelly, knife, spoon, plate
        Put 2 slices of bread on plate, next to each other
        Use knife to spread a tablespoon of PB on each piece of bread.
        – make sure you spread it all the way to the sides
        – you can use a little more or less PB according to your taste

        and so on. For office procedures, writing it down and letting someone else walk through the doc is pretty much the gold standard for training.

        1. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

          Oh yes, by “notes” I meant step-by-step procedures. The training I received when I took this role was so minimal and vaguely big picture that the first thing I did was start writing up instructions whenever I did a task. I followed the same steps you described, following my own instructions to see if they work, and now have procedures I’m confident will work for anyone. I wished my predecessor had left me procedures like this so I made it a priority to put together something for whoever comes after me. I think in this most recent instance when I went on vacation, my assistant (rightfully) identified things she wasn’t confident with doing that could easily wait a few days. Whereas my boss saw a stack of papers waiting for me on my desk and wondered why she couldn’t take care of everything in my absence. It’s something I plan to talk with her about, to see what areas she’s not so confident in. But beyond that I don’t know what else to do to prepare her for the unexpected.

    4. WellRed*

      Your boss is being a bit unreasonable. Some times things have to wait. Also, does he really find any mistakes “unacceptable?” If he does, see again, unreasonable and possibly shades of “your boss is an ass.”

      1. Mutton Lettuce Tomato*

        Believe me, this is not the first sign that he’s a bit unreasonable. There are several things nudging me in the direction of job searching, but the worst was when he confronted me as soon as I came in one morning to yell at me for not paying a particular invoice. An invoice that must have gotten lost in the mail because it never came across my desk. An invoice that I would have had no way of knowing existed. Yet somehow that was “unacceptable” and showed that he couldn’t trust me to do my job. He wound up apologizing for that but it definitely got me thinking about moving on.

  11. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m extraordinarily cranky today.

    Which is not helped by the two coworkers behind me who are ridiculously noisy and obnoxious. The one talks in a baby voice and narrates everything she does. The other whistles/hums/sings incessantly and shares his inner monologue with us. And since I am one of the ones who has to answer the main phone line, headphones are not an option for me.


    1. saffytaffy*

      That narration thing is pathological, don’t you think? I try my hardest to just feel sorry for people who do such anti-social things, because everybody must hate them.
      But I’m so sorry you’re cranky. I hope you do something nice for yourself today.

        1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

          Ugh, I have the allergy crankies myself so I feel for ya. Thank God I sit all by myself in the lobby, or I would be feeling the same way as you. Hope your day improves, it’s Friday!

        2. Julia*

          Misophonia is so hard, mostly because people with less sensitive ears think we’re drama queens. No, you’re all too loud! >.<
          I find that mine is the worst when I'm tired and stressed, so could you maybe work on that angle long-term? Easier said than done, I know…

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            I’m usually alright. I know what the worst sounds are for me (after carefully paying attention to what made me want to stick a fork in my eye). Unfortunately, there’s less other noise in the office today to drown them out so they ROARING through loud and clear.

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      Does the Narrator narrate in baby voice??? Because that’s frickin’ annoying. I mean my 3 year old daughter narrates everything she does in toddler voice, but she’s 3 so it’s cute most of the time (and her stories are wildly imaginative and entertaining, which I’m sure your coworker’s are not).

      This is a plea to all working-age people everywhere – BABY TALK DOES NOT BELONG IN THE WORKPLACE!!!!! (unless you work with actual babies or animals)

        1. WellRed*

          Have you ever just flat out asked her why she talks like a baby? I’d be really curious in the answer (if there even is one).

        2. AnitaJ*


          Baby talk is just. The worst. My old coworker would literally ask “Are you getting a sawad for lunch? Suh-suh-suh-saaaawad?”

          WHAT. THE. HELL.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I made plans to go alone because no one replied when I asked about it. BUT then last night, a friend did get in touch and ask about meeting me.

    3. Emily S.*

      Ooh, TGIF.
      Sending calm, chill, pleasant vibes your way.

      Have you ever tried controlled breathing exercises? They can be useful for anxiety, and mentally escaping (related to mindfulness meditation – I’m not super-familiar with it, but have practiced some of both, and have found it useful, especially under stress). When I meditate, I find it helpful to visualize either a calm ocean scene, or sometimes I use a calm forest scene. It can be quite relaxing, as long as you aren’t at risk of falling asleep (and as long as it’s ok to close your eyes briefly). Even 5 minutes can make a big difference in how I feel.

    4. miyeritari*

      I have to answer the phone, but I’ve set the cordless phone right under my monitor and in front of it so even if i have my music turned all the way up, I see the screen light up. Is that an option for you?

        1. tangerineRose*

          Seems like they’re more concerned about looks than sound. Why aren’t they cracking down on the noisy people?

    5. The Commoner*

      I’m quite sure I have misophonia and feel for you right now.

      Nothing is worse than those totally unnecessary behaviors of others that derail your focus.

    6. June*

      Could you ask them to lower their voices so you can hear the phone? I know you can hear the phone just fine but do they know that? wink, wink…

  12. Jacky*

    I biked to work for the first time ever today! My work environment is not super-formal – business casual maybe. There’s a one-person locking bathroom near my workspace, so I could change in there before the day really started. Does anyone who bikes to work have suggestions or best practices for transitioning to and from sweaty-biking-self/presentable-work-self?

    1. pleaset*

      A. Ride slower.
      B. Assuming you are changing clothes upon arrival, don’t change immediately. Give yourself few moments to cool down. Otherwise, you’ll still be sweating into your other clothes.

      A shower is great if possible – some people go to a gym near work to change/shower. This adds quite a bit of logistical complexity.

      1. SWOinRecovery*

        Along with “ride slower”–consider walking your bike up any steep inclines. Yes, you have to factor in extra time for your commute, but you won’t be as sweaty.
        If you aren’t already, use a bike rack to carry your bag. Biking with a backpack on always increases my back sweat and back pain.

    2. Construction Safety*

      Baby wipes.
      Try to factor in some cool down time before you change.
      Pack your bag the night before to help ensure you don’t forget anything.

    3. SWOinRecovery*

      If you can’t shower, baby powder and gold bond do wonders for freshening up.

      1. Yorick*

        There’s a gold bond spray that works well. I also like to freshen up with a spray deodorant.

    4. BuffaLove*

      I don’t bike, but I do run at lunch occasionally, so I feel like the general idea is the same. A one-person bathroom is great. I’d strip down and air out for a minute – make sure you’re totally dry before you put your work clothes on. Baby wipes are great if you just need a quick, targeted wipe-down. I always do an extra layer of deodorant, just in case. Dry shampoo is great, too, but you might have to experiment since some work well and some are kind of gross, IME.

      If there’s someone you’re close enough with, I would think about having them stand a couple feet away from you, just to make 100 percent sure there’s no lingering odor. Whenever people talk about bike or run commuting, there’s always one person who pipes up and says that their coworker does it and smells (or leaves sweaty clothes somewhere where others can smell them). Nobody wants to be that guy, so it’s better safe than sorry!

    5. Emily S.*

      Hi Jacky,

      I don’t currently commute by bike, but I’m going to share some links with tips for bike commuting in general. They may be helpful.

      Good luck, and be safe out there! Roads can be extremely dangerous for cyclists, even if you have all the right gear, so be careful.

      – Top 10 Tips for First-Time Bicycle Commuters

      – 14 Commuter Pros Share Their Secrets

      – Bike Commuting 101

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      Hopefully riding in the mornings when it’s cooler will help. But if not, bring a washcloth, wet it with cooler water, and then fold it up and place it on the back of your neck for a little while. My hairdresser did this for me last week. I walked to my hair appointment from the train, which took about 25 minutes. It was very hot outside, so I was a bit of a mess when I got there. I was amazed at how quickly that trick helped me cool down.

      1. Natalie*

        Putting a cool cloth or paper towel on the inside of your wrists is another good method. I’ve used it to cool down before summer job interviews.

    7. Tau*

      I will honestly admit I’ve never changed after cycling to work, don’t know anyone who changes after cycling to work, and am always puzzled that this seems to be such a thing when people talk about it online. (US-European summer temperature differences? Longer distances involved? I’ve got nothing.)

      So, uh. I’ve cycled everywhere since the age of twelve, but wear your regular work clothes and ride a bit slower so you don’t sweat that much is all I’ve got, sorry.

      1. Natalie*

        My guess is distances plus type of bicycle. The European-style city bike or hybrid bike isn’t as popular in the United States (because we’re so often going longer distances). A lot of people are biking to work on a racing-style road bike, which makes it harder to wear regular clothes and shoes.

        1. Tau*

          I did wonder about racing bikes, come to think of it. My dad cycles to work and doesn’t change, but sometimes he’ll head out on his racing bike on a weekend and will generally make a beeline for the shower as soon as he gets back. That might explain part of it.

          I do find there’s an interesting cultural difference between Germany and much of the UK, and I’m guessing even stronger between Germany and the US, where in one place the bicycle is primarily seen as a way to get from A to B and in the other it’s primarily seen as a way to get exercise. Obviously simplified, but this is the definite impression I’ve come away with, and the “to change or not to change?” discussion might play into that.

          1. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

            My hostmom in the US used to say “In Germany, you ride your bike to go places. In the US we go places to ride our bikes.” and it was so accurate for the way people in the suburbs in the South used their bikes, it’s stuck with me even more than 10 years later.

      2. Yorick*

        It’s also extremely hot in some parts of the US. I need to freshen up like this after just a short walk from the bus stop.

      3. Amaryllis*

        Also humidity. It’s currently 28 C with 65% humidity where I am. That’s like biking in soup.

      4. Raine*

        I’m guessing temperature differences, longer commutes, and humidity all play a factor. People up north I’ve noticed tend to wear work clothing, but down south you’re not biking anywhere from late May to September without a case of swamp everything. Heat means you sweat, humid means it doesn’t dry. I wouldn’t subject my nice clothing to that.

        1. Tau*

          That’s very fair. I guess the reason I didn’t jump immediately to the climate difference is that a) I don’t usually see the “you have to change!” stuff mentioning seasons (but I guess a lot of people don’t cycle in winter) and b) I’ve also seen it in the UK, which is on average cooler in the summer than Germany.

    8. yet another Kat*

      I don’t bike but have dealt with similar logistics. Dry shampoo is great, I suggest putting some in before your ride, it’ll soak up the sweat as it occurs. Also, Sephora makes exfoliating wipes that have a rough side and smooth side – they’re pretty great for fully cleansing face/neck/chest area of sweat!

    9. sleepwakehopeandthen*

      I bike slowly and early in the morning on days it is supposed to be super hot so I am mostly presentable when I come to work. Sometimes on the hottest days I change–but that is mostly so I can bike in shorts on those days when it is too hot to bike in pants. Bike bags over a backpack significantly improved my commute.

  13. JustaCPA*

    My boss’s mother passed away this week while he was out of town. He’s fairly private and I only know about it because of my position. Would it be inappropriate to send him a sympathy card to his home address? Im going to assume having anyone at work sign it would be a definate breach of privacy…

    1. Nervous accountant*

      I personally don’t think it would be inappropriate. I know I would have found it comforting if my coworkers did that for me, but I’m not a very private person. He doesn’t seem like he would appreciate too much attn t it, so a card and/or message from you alone would be nice I think.

    2. Technical_Kitty*

      I would just leave it on his desk unless its common to send things to him home.

    3. Laura*

      Or leave it on his desk. Does he know you know? If so, I think it’s better to acknowledge it than not. It’s an easy time for feeling to be hurt, and it’s better to error on the side of expressing sympathy than having him think you don’t care.

    4. AnotherJill*

      I don’t quite understand what you mean by “having anyone at work sign it would be a definate breach of privacy”. Are you saying that no one else knows? If someone is that private, I would just tell them in person that I was sad to hear the news of his mother. If I did a card, I would send it through company mail, not his home address.

    5. WellRed*

      When my dad died, I got several cards at home from coworkers (And, I really don’t think sympathy cards are something to be passed around for everyone to sign like a birthday card, but that’s probably just me). I also came back to one or two on my desk. Both options were fine.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I totally agree that sympathy cards are not to be passed around! But I think coworkers think it’s weird when I say I’m going to get one “from the team.”

      2. Anonymosity*

        In smaller offices, passing them around is most definitely a thing, but everyone usually knows everyone else so it’s less weird.

    6. Anonymous Poster*

      Leave it on his desk in a place he’ll find it, but where it isn’t immediately visible to anyone walking by. He’ll appreciate the gesture, but unless you have his home address for other reasons, that’s a bit odd.

    7. Emily S.*

      I’m joining others to say: do write a nice card, and either leave it in his in-box, or on his desk.

      I think sending it to his home isn’t the best way to go, since this is a work relationship, and you also mentioned he’s a private person.

    8. JustaCPA*

      I’m one of two people who know. Since my position includes HR, I also have his home address. I could leave it on his desk I guess but I was thinking that it might make him emotional at work whereas if he received it at home, he would be in private to react. (just to clarify, not saying the CARD would be emotional but I know grief can be wild and woolly and sucker punch you when you’re not expecting it)

      1. JessicaTate*

        I think you’re spot-on. If you know his home address, I’d mail it. I’m really private, and when I’ve had to come back to work after a death in the family, I didn’t want anyone to bring it up at work. I just wanted to be at work and be normal. At home, it had been nice to know my close colleague cared (and where I could be sad/cry in peace). But the greatest thing anyone could do at work was be normal to me. Don’t be extra-nice.

        1. Emily S.*

          Considering this, I think you’re probably right. At first I thought sending it to his home might seem odd, but Jessica, these are good points, and now I see where you’re coming from.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I wouldn’t. As HR you know, but you have that information for work purposes, not personal ones. If you think it may make him emotional then give it to him at the end of the day.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, mail it to his home. I have had upper bosses do that for me, it’s thoughtful without being over the top.
        Just get something simple that says “so very sorry” and sign your full name. (Because bereaved people do not always recognize the first name by itself.)

  14. Samvi*

    The responses to yesterday’s question about work-related meals has left me feeling rather discouraged, as I’ve been working towards a career change and have been targeting academia specifically. I have dietary requirements that mean that I cannot eat at almost all restaurants and need to provide my own food. (I’m not interested in discussing this any further—please just take me at my word.) I am really, really ok with this and am perfectly happy to take care of my own food needs.

    However, if this is really such an important thing in academia, for both faculty and staff, then realistically I might have to reconsider my plans. Contrary to what some of the comments asserted, this is very far from a universal requirement in professional environments. I’ve been working for more than two decades in different industries and have never had to do an interview meal. Although I don’t doubt that some people have thought it strange that I never join work-related meals, it has never to my knowledge been held against me either.

    So, my question is this: what are some industries where it would be either extremely uncommon for work-related meals to be an expectation or not a dealbreaker for someone like me who is simply not able to take part in any way? Also, since cultural fit is so important: I can’t do overnight travel either, so that would be helpful to know. I really wish these sorts of things were more common knowledge.

    1. Ali G*

      IDK about Academia, but in every job I have ever had, overnight travel is expected. So that would be something you need to consider.
      For the lunch thing – we also typically do lunch for interviews because the person interviewing is usually with us for an entire day so they can interview with the team, HR, etc., so it’s only fair that we feed them :)
      In that case though, I don’t see any reason why you can’t be upfront and say “I have some pretty severe food restrictions that make it almost impossible for me to eat out. I am more than happy to bring my own lunch, so we can eat together. Would it be possible to stay in the office for lunch and eat as group there in stead of going to a restaurant?”
      So you are not declining the social part, only the location. I think any normal person would agree to this (just know they will probably order food in for themselves, so if there are really bad issues, like you can’t even be in the same room with peanuts or something, make sure you let them know that too).

      1. Cloud 9 Sandra*

        I’ve had a number of jobs in a number of fields; I’ve only had overnight travel required once in the last 24 years. It hasn’t been a requirement in my current or last four jobs. I do admin work currently in financial services, previously in healthcare and non-profit worlds.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow*

          Travel requirements are going to vary wildly from employer to employer, pretty much regardless of industry. My previous job, no travel in 10+ years. Current job, I’m traveling 1-2 times per quarter (all domestic US, 4 days or less, but still travel).

          If your employer only has one location and doesn’t do things like conferences, trade shows, off site training, etc, then you probably won’t have to travel. I didn’t travel much at first in my current job either, as my scope of responsibilities was limited to my location; then they re-org’d and changed my scope to items of a certain type, some of which are produced only at other sites.

    2. Murphy*

      I’m university staff (in a non academic department) and work-related meals wouldn’t be an issue in my role. I’ve had many meetings/events where lunch is provided, but if I’d had to bring my own instead, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I think as long as you’re willing to sit at the table (and likely field some questions about diet because unfortunately people can be nosey) it wouldn’t be a big deal in a lot of fields.

      1. Jennifer*

        Seconded, I could probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve had meals in a restaurant in my whole time here.

      2. GRA*

        Thirded (?) – the only time I’ve had official meals out working at a college/university was during my interview process or if I’m serving on a search committee and it’s another person’s interview.

    3. A Beth*

      I work in higher ed and very rarely have meal-based events and the only overnight travel I’ve ever done was for an optional conference. I would think it depends more on the position than the industry.

      1. Blank*

        Yeah, most work meals I’ve had in university contexts are either buffets (super easy to eat your own food) or optional.

    4. anonanonanon*

      I can’t speak to academia, but I would definitely avoid the consulting world. I work in public policy research, but we work with outside agencies. Meals, grabbing drinks, and overnight travel is very much the norm.

    5. AnotherJill*

      I was in academia for several years. No one had any issues with someone who had food restrictions. Consider that a school or university caters to anywhere from hundreds to thousands of individuals, many of whom have specialized food needs. Overnight travel was primarily to conferences, and I never encountered anyone who was mistreated due to dietary restrictions.

      1. Thursday Next*

        I think in academia people would be more understanding of food restrictions than in other fields. Between, faculty, staff, and students, we’re talking about a large and diverse population with a variety of needs.

    6. Cousin Itt*

      Don’t discount a career you’re interested in just because it involves the occasional lunch! I think most people would be fine with you explaining that you have dietary restrictions that require you to eat food you’ve prepared and then do just that.

      Not sure if your restrictions prohibit you from even being near food you can’t eat, but if they don’t most restaurants won’t mind you bringing your own food so long as you’re there as part of a group and you’re not sat there eating takeaway from a competitor.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’ve found that a lot of restaurants *will* prohibit outside food other than baby food (even for food-restriction reasons), so in this case I would definitely check before hand, and be prepared to have a glass of water and eat later/earlier.

        I’m in academia, and it would generally not cause problems if someone said that they had complicated food restrictions and couldn’t eat out. The travel thing would be more problematic – in my field, a short-term travel restriction (health or family reasons, say), would be worked around, but in the long term, an inability to travel overnight would have significant professional repercussions, because you wouldn’t be presenting at conferences, attending project meetings or meeting collaborators, and in some cases it would restrict your ability to obtain data.

    7. A Nickname for AAM*

      My husband is a professor, and in his hiring process, he had to do a good bit of overnight travel. He had six interviews consisting of a 1-2 night stay in a hotel, plus flying. He also has to travel to conferences about twice a year, for 4 or so nights each. People senior to him probably have to travel 4-5 times a year, for a few nights each. It’s not a big deal in general, but if you don’t travel at all, it would probably be tough on you.

    8. Cheesecake 2.0*

      I’m a project manager in academia and have at least 4 trips coming up this year, possibly more. It really depends what part of academia you are in. Financial people/student support staff/non-research folks rarely travel for work, I would say.

    9. Rosie M. Banks*

      I’m an academic and have twice been the chair of search committees. When I spoke to candidates about an on-campus visit, I usually asked something like, “As we schedule lunches and dinners, is there anything we should know about your dietary preferences?” That way, if someone is vegan or keeps kosher or something, we could try to accommodate them.
      An inability to do overnight travel might be a bigger problem. I don’t know what kind of job you are looking for in academia, but (from the position of a faculty member) not only would this make an on-campus interview difficult, since people routinely apply for jobs in different states, but it would suggest that you will never go to conferences, which would be a red flag for us in terms of worrying about your research output.
      All of this assumes that you are thinking about a faculty or administrative position. If you are thinking of a staff position, I don’t know enough about their hiring practices to advise you.

    10. BuffaLove*

      I think this must vary so much. I’m in state government, and we do extremely limited travel (because there’s no money for it). Personally, I do a lot of day trips, but I eat on my own since I can’t let my “clients” pay for my lunches. We do occasional team lunches at the office, but again, on a very limited basis, since the money is coming out of our own pockets.

    11. Dalia524*

      I work at a university, and there is food provided at almost every event. I have celiac disease, so I can’t really eat most of the”go-tos” for catering. I also have to be very careful with potlucks, etc. I’ve never had an issue with bringing my own food besides the occasional question why. Universities try to be very inclusive, so you’re unlikely to get any pushback. We occasionally take prospective PhD students out for lunch, but we would definitely nix that or be flexible if they said so. I’ve never had to even sit down at a group meal I didn’t want to participate in, even at overnight conferences.

      My only suggestion is if you get a position, and IF you feel comfortable sharing info with your coworkers, and IF you actually want to go out to lunch with them, you could scope around to see if there’s a restaurant a 10-15 minute drive away that caters to your dietary requirements. I have 2-3 restaurants close by that work for me, so I can pop in a couple easy suggestions if we’re trying to do a group lunch. Otherwise I just suggest the cafeteria where I can eat my bagged lunch.

    12. Logan*

      In my experience, people in these situations are often keen to go ‘out’ for lunches because it is a reason for them to have a free meal. I used to work with a contractor who would take a few of us out on occasion because then he could expense it to the company. So it’s a known perk, and is happily offered, but people would be quite understanding if someone said “For health reasons I have to provide my own meal. Can we meet at a lunch room or does the building have a cafeteria?” (many larger places have cafeterias where people can bring in their own lunches).

      I work with someone who has similar dietary restrictions, and when they travel they book suites with at minimum a fridge and microwave. It hasn’t been a problem.

    13. Anonymous Poster*

      I work in a technical field, and overnight travel/meals are part of the deal when interviewing. That said, they’d work with you if you cannot do these things, but there will be a push to accommodate your needs while still doing the travel or meal. Absolutely not being able to do overnight travel can be a problem because occasionally the job simply requires it, so regardless of anything else going on, it’s an essential duty of the job.

    14. Cowgirl in hiding*

      We had someone we were interviewing that when taken to lunch just had water. It was okay. We still offered him the job, even if he only had water at our lunch meeting.

    15. Zennish*

      I’ve been through a couple of academic job interviews, and “the lunch” was part of all of them. It’s very much where they size you up for cultural fit, temperament, and that sort of thing.

    16. Admin of Sys*

      Well, re: Academia – it does depend on /what/ you’re doing in the academic world. (note: this is mostly from the staff perspective, since I’m not an educator). The higher up you go, the more likely you are to need to network over meals, and certainly if you’re in HR or any funding or student affairs, you’re likely to need to work around shared meal times. But I was at a university for 10 years in IT and had required ‘go to lunch with someone’…maybe twice? We had a lot of ‘be at catered meetings’ but we had alternate menus for a lot of folks, and some people just would bring their own food or skip eating entirely. It’d be considered odd if folks left the room during the meal, but absolutely fine if people stayed and just didn’t have whatever was being offered. (I mean, folks may comment on it, but ‘medication’, ‘food restrictions’, ‘allergies’, or ‘diet’ were all easily accepted answers)
      Travel is a bit harder to wrangle – I’ve gone on very few trips, but they’ve been pretty mandatory. That said, I’ve had far less need to travel in academia than i did at corporate.

    17. Malloy*

      In academia, there’s often a lot of social eating. But framed correctly it can be done on campus- you could BYO meal to a campus location where others buy- as long as you don’t have contact allergies etc that prohibit being in a shared food space.

    18. anonymous IT PM*

      I used to be academic IT staff at a small liberal arts college. All of our interviews (including for desktop support techs) included lunch to see how candidates acted in a more casual conversation setting– e.g. can you converse with other humans without saying wildly inappropriate things, and can you deal with talking to our quirky and entitled faculty (a few of whom will be at lunch with you)? There are definitely other ways to do this and some bosses would have chosen to deploy them if a candidate mentioned these kinds of dietary restrictions. Others would not have, unfortunately.
      I think this kind of approach may be less common at larger or state schools that tend to have stricter rules about paying for food. New job is in a large university health system and there was no interview food.

    19. spock*

      Never worked in academia, but at my industry job, we take candidates out to lunch but if they have dietary restrictions it would absolutely not be a problem and we’d find a way to make it work for them, be that ordering from somewhere they approve of or making sure they have somewhere to store their own food ahead of time.

    20. NW Mossy*

      My brother-in-law is in a similar boat to you – a combination of severe, category-spanning food allergies and a sleep disorder mean that travel and dining out are big challenges for him. He’s a physician (hospital setting), and it was definitely something he’s had to work around, especially when interviewing because there’s a certain amount of candidate wining-and-dining that goes on in medicine.

      What’s helped him the most is to be very matter-of-fact about what works for him and what doesn’t. If someone wants to take him out for a meal, he’ll set the expectation that he can’t eat the food but is happy to participate without eating or offer a suggestion of something that would work (such as a catered lunch where bringing his own meal is no big deal). How organizations respond can vary, and it’s often useful signaling behavior as to whether or not the place is a fit – the one that says “oh, sure, just let us know what works best for you!” is a winner, and the one that says “surely you can just bring an Epi-Pen!” is not.

      I’ll also throw out back-office operations in financial services as a good situation for those who can’t dine out or travel. I’ve only had to travel for work twice in fifteen years, and an optional meal out happens maybe once a year at most.

      And finally, you may also consider that the part of the country where you are can influence things just as much as the industry. Here in the NW, basically any group of more than 3 people will probably have someone with dietary restrictions in it, so most people will be understanding of the fact that not everyone can eat the same way and that we need to be non-judgmental about what others do in that area.

    21. MissDisplaced*

      I work in communications, and have worked in several very different industries, including academia.
      I’ve never had a lunch interview!

      I have gone to plenty of work meals, either while traveling or with clients, managers, vendors, or even while in the office (working lunch meetings). If it’s with coworkers, I’d say you could excuse yourself just fine, but for a client meal you might still have to go to the restaurant and either take your own food, and/or just not eat until later (though that might mean disclosing something you might not want to disclose).
      Overnight travel is pretty much a given at SOME point for a lot of jobs, though may not be frequent (such as 1 or 2 trips per year). You wouldn’t think a marcomm person would travel much, but at my last couple of jobs, it’s been several times a year (client sites, meetings, training, seminars, management retreats, photo shoots, trade shows). Who knew?

      That said, stay away from heavy client facing positions that require travel+meals: Sales, business development, advertising, consulting, PR, operations, logistics, photography/video production, supply chain, training, recruiting, and even some marketing jobs. I also found that the higher people go (director level and above) in ANY field, the more they tend to travel.

      I’m not sure what jobs are safe bets with like NO TRAVEL EVER: In my experience these tended to be entry-level when I was just starting out. But even then it’s possible to be sent to training or other company locations. I think there are some science fields where the researchers rarely come out of their labs (LOL!) and coders/programmers can work anywhere so don’t often travel. Probably nursing and hospital/medical workers would be pretty stay-put, along with local non-profits and city/state governments. Admins don’t seem to travel much either, as it tends to be their job to ‘hold down the fort’ so to speak. Ditto for call-heavy support. Also, small companies = no travel (no budget!). I’m sure there are many others… I’m just thinking about what I’ve seen or experienced.

      Not sure about academia as I wasn’t in it long enough. But I did attend an overnight conference.

      Is “no travel” a dealbreaker? I think the meals are much easier to avoid than no travel ever.

    22. Jingle*

      Another academic here, also chiming in to say that not being able to go out to eat would be no problem at all in my area. I’ve never had a meal-based interview, and having dietary restrictions or needing to bring your own food to events is no big deal (almost common). Not wanting to travel would be a bigger issue in my area, as the nature of my research means I need to travel a lot, let alone present at conferences, but I do have a couple of more junior staff who don’t wish to travel (due to young kids) & I accomodate this as much as possible (although from recollection, both have done 1-2 overnight trips over the last 12 months; it’s hard for us to avoid it completely). It varies enormously by field and type of job though, and I wouldn’t rule out finding a niche that meets your needs without exploring further.

    23. Girl friday*

      I’ve worked in restaurants for years and also in academia :) and I really think if you wanted to still try it, it could work for you. I spent years just going to faculty meals and having wine and salad or wine, water and bread for both financial and dietary reasons. Overnight travel is common in universities though, and even working from home, which would have been my other suggestion, also requires it. I’m going to keep reading and see if you’ve addressed why overnight travel affects the cultural fit. Some things you don’t have to mention on application or interview, like the meal needs and some you do. Maybe asking for accommodations would work for you, such as being able to bring a companion?

  15. Anon for This*

    The question earlier this week about dating the boss’s daughter reminded me of my own related experience. I dated my mom’s boss’s daughter. If I recall correctly, our moms actually suggested it! It only lasted for two months because I returned to grad school, but she was my first kiss and I always think fondly of her and the experience.

    My mom later moved on to another job, but I’ve been assured it had nothing to do with my dating her boss’s daughter.

  16. Long time lurker*

    Tl;dr: I’m being pressured to socialize after hours when everyone knows I don’t want to.

    Everything that follows took place in a light-hearted, sort of joking conversation. Everyone was all smiles.

    My manager (Jon) mentioned to our team (Sansa, Arya, Bran, and myself) the idea of going out to do something fun as a team after hours. I don’t have any interest in hanging out with coworkers after hours, but I figured I could go with a casual “sorry I’m busy” once something was actually planned.

    Then Jon said I would plan it. Bran said to me, “then you have to show up”, to which my manager replied, “exactly.” Bran was oblivious of my disinclination to hang out when he made his joke. Jon’s attempt to get me to show up when he knew I wouldn’t want to was intentional.

    I didn’t really say anything, the conversation moved on, then it came back round. Jon told me to pick an activity and send prices and possible dates to the team. I replied, “Don’t hold your breath.” Jon then said that he would do it, since I refused. Sansa replied, “but she didn’t refuse” (an innocent comment on her end) and Jon went back to telling me to send out an email. I said, “thanks a lot Sansa”. Everyone laughed and when my manager started talking about the email again, I said, “I *do* refuse” in a light-hearted tone (at least I hope it was).

    Bran said, “but LTL, I thought you wanted to do X?” (X being an activity that was mentioned in this conversation- in a prior conversation with Bran, I had mentioned interest in passing). I tried to cover by saying that I might enjoy it but I’ve never done it before. I think he was a little sad at the idea that I wouldn’t want to spend time with the team outside of work.

    What do I do when this inevitably comes up again? I’m heavily leaning on the side of sticking to my guns, but I’d be lying if I said pushing back doesn’t make me feel awful. It doesn’t help that I have insecurities around being “too introverted” and my unwillingness to suck it up for an evening feels like some sort of moral failing.

    Are there better phrases for pushing back? Tips for limiting the emotional exhaustion of the situation? Or is just going really the only feasible option here?

    Note: I won’t get dinged in a review or fired for not going.

    If you read all of this through, bless your soul.

    1. Peaches*

      Ugh. I don’t have any advice, just sympathies. I really dislike after hour get together events (not because I don’t like my coworkers; I do!) BUT, I strongly prefer to separate work and personal life. I need my time after work to unplug. It feels like you have to be “on” when you’re out with coworkers, even if it is out of the office.

      1. irene adler*

        Same sentiments here.
        Can your event be attending a movie or a local play- something that doesn’t require much interaction with the co-workers during the event (hoping they know to dummy up during the movie/play)? Or attending a special exhibit at a museum?

    2. SpiderLadyCEO*

      Firstly: forcing you to plan the outing just so that you would join them is a sort of nasty thing for them to do. It’s just mean-spirited, IMO.

      But honestly, I think you are going to need to do something with them, in part to calm everyone down, and to satisfy their itch that you join them for an outing. It will also likely make work relations easier. If they’re still expecting you to plan the outing, then pick something relatively short and low-key, so you can go and be done. If they’re planning the outing, then just plan on going, sticking around for the duration of the event (or an hour or so, if it’s drinks and you can just…leave) and then going home.

      It sounds like this outing is a really important part of your office, and it will be better in the long run to just suffer through it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Slightly different take–they believe the reason that she didn’t show up at the other events is because she dislikes the specific activity chosen, not because she doesn’t want to do anything with them outside of work. So by having her choose the activity, they solved it!

        I tend to agree with SpiderLady, though, that you might want to grit your teeth and endure a couple of hours of bonding in the name of office amity. Is this weekly, monthly, quarterly?

    3. Seriously?*

      I think refusing to ever participate in after work events sounds like it will come across as antisocial at your work place. I think you do need to try to participate occasionally. It might work in your favor that they want you to take point because then you can pick whatever activity you find the most tolerable. It sounds like your boss views this as a teambuilding/bonding type of event.

      1. Gotham Bus Company*

        If afterwork activities become mandatory, then they should be paid (for employees who qualify for paid overtime).

    4. MissGirl*

      Sounds like this is starting to become a thing. I honestly think you should go to the least stressful activity, get some face time, and then leave quietly. I say this as someone who deals with a degree if social anxiety and introvertedness. I try to look at the occasional one as part of the job.

    5. Technical_Kitty*

      Get comfortable with your own introverted tendencies. Being an introvert is not a bad thing, I have to make sure my social time is calibrated for best impact. If this is something you want to do but is difficult, is there something that assists you in getting into the social mindset? I recently found that listening to a podcast (And That’s Why We Drink) really helps me be more social. It’s not the podcast topic (true crime/paranormal), it’s the listening to two friends and feeling a little included in the conversation but not required to interact. It’s odd but this helps me so much sometimes. I listen to it and feel more prepared to deal with people afterward. Is there anything that can help you mentally “gear up” to a possibly exhausting social outing?

      Else just tell them “After being at work I need some down time.” but maybe suggest a coffee thing during the week if they want a chat?

    6. DaniCalifornia*

      It sucks that they put you in that position. You say you won’t get dinged or fired and I’m sure that’s true. But it’s obvious the way they had the conversation that they *notice* you never want to do/or do anything with them. It probably came off way worse than intended but could you think about it as them saying ‘Hey we realize you don’t like doing stuff at work so we’re giving you an opportunity to plan something you do like’ Could you plan something that you actually do like or a restaurant you like and plan it for a month out? That way it gives you time to accept the fact that you are hanging out after work and with coworkers but you could be in a familiar spot? I do this with certain people that I have to see but not often. If I have enough time beforehand I can mentally prepare myself.

    7. rosie*

      I totally sympathize with you here. I am a big proponent of maintaining boundaries–my coworkers are great, but they don’t need to be my friends too, and I think some offices just have trouble understanding that. Part of it might be because I’m a native of City X and have been here all my life, but most of my coworkers are transplants. But I do also agree that constantly refusing to come can make you look antisocial and potentially come back to bite you. Could you try to push for something casual during the day? My favorite social/bonding events we’ve done in my office have been lunchtime things like eating together in the park, having a mid-afternoon snack break together, etc. Because it’s still happening during the workday, it’s easier to maintain boundaries.

    8. JustaCPA*

      Frankly, based on what you have posted, I think you need to suck it up and do SOMETHING. And if you get to pick and control what that thing is, so much the better.

    9. Editrixie*

      I went through this at one sociable office, and people eventually got the idea and accepted it. It was just gun-stickery that did it: lighthearted refusals, sometimes not-so-lighthearted refusals, etc. It can be done.

      But: Once everyone had accepted my eccentricity of not liking to hang out socially with co-workers, that was *it.* For instance, if I ran into a group from my department on a coffee run (Starbucks in the basement! Woohoo!), it was just “Hi, Editrixie! See you upstairs!” And at unavoidable social events, like an in-office party, I’d invariably end up standing off by myself and trying to look vaguely cheerful — I am not at all shy and wasn’t being deliberately snubbed (I hope!), but people naturally gravitated toward those they were used to spending social time with.

      I liked pretty much everyone there and got along with them all fine day to day, and it didn’t ultimately bother me much (some people might even think “That sounds great!”). So I’m not saying you should do anything differently than you are. I *am* saying that someone more sensitive or naturally gregarious than I am might have a harder time, if that’s how things were to go.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds to me like they assume the reason you don’t want to go out is because you only like certain activities, so their solution is to ask you to plan it, or, along the same lines, that they want you to come out so they want to make you comfortable. I don’t attribute any malice to them, just a different approach to after-work activities. And I think it would be worth it to go to this one, because it sounds like this is a cultural norm in your office and you have the rare opportunity to make this one slightly less painful. If it helps at all, going to this one event might build up enough capital for you to skip the next five without comment.

    11. Cousin Itt*

      There are only so many busy excuses you can use unless you truly are very busy with something like a time-consuming hobby (usually one like playing sports in a league where people rely on you rather than something solo like knitting) or part-time school or looking after family. After a while people will realise you’re trying to avoid them, which the fact they knew you wouldn’t show up if you didn’t plan it suggests has happened here.

      Pick something low-key that won’t take hours and suck it up for an evening. You don’t need to become besties with your co-workers, but it sounds like this is a sociable workplace where giving up one evening every several months will be a lot better for you than building a reputation as anti-social.

      Maybe go see a movie, so you won’t need to talk for a few hours but are still ‘hanging out’, then go for a drink or two where you can discuss the movie/chit chat for (half) an hour before heading home.

    12. BuffaLove*

      I think you’re expending more emotional energy fighting this than you would by just going to something now and then. Your coworkers are a little jerky for picking on you, but there’s a seed of truth to it – if everyone is putting a lot of energy into fostering those relationships outside of work, you have to be willing to put in at least a little effort. Just part of the whole social lubrication thing, IMO.

      I do understand, though – I quit a job partially because everyone there was REALLY into monthly happy hours and would tease me for not going. I was already having a hard time there, and all I wanted to do was go home at the end of the day.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Yeah, you’re spun up a lot over this particular item, and it’s not worth your energy. Set a goal of going once or twice a year, but past that – you have other obligations.

        I get it because I want to just go home most days too. It’s part of the deal of being a professional.

    13. AliceW*

      I have worked at my firm for twelve years and have said “no” many times to the same people when they’ve asked about social outings after work. Just say, “sorry I can’t make it.” I used to come up with excuses but I don’t bother anymore. It never hurt my career. If they ask why you can’t make it, I would just say that you’re not the kind of person who wants to hang out and socialize with coworkers after work when you have too much stuff to get done at home. Not socializing/networking hasn’t hurt my career. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      1. Windchime*

        I agree with Alice; it’s OK to just say no. My team is big on lunches; probably 6-8 times a year, we go out to lunch as a team. One person who is fairly new to the team used to suck it up and go, but he was clearly not having fun. Now he says no. Some people gave him some ribbing at first, but now his “no” is accepted and respected. Not a big deal; he’s still a respected and well-liked part of the team whether or not he goes to the team lunch.

    14. Lizzy*

      Honestly, from what you wrote, it doesn’t sound like you legitimately conveyed that you don’t want to do this. If I was one of the others and heard you say all that (especially with you using a lighthearted tone), I would assume you were bantering along with the rest of us and you weren’t really serious. If /when it comes up again, I’d say “You know, I realized after our conversation that you-all maybe thought I was bantering with you. I actually have no interest in doing X. I’m sorry for the confusion, and I hope you all have fun without me!”

    15. Lindsay Gee*

      If they’re so insistent, you could always suggest doing something during work hours, like a lunch or ‘team building’ event. Just explain that you have lots of commitments outside of work hours, which makes it difficult to fit in social gatherings in the evenings/weekends. I use this excuse all the time. I work a second part time job outside of my Mon-Fri 40 hr work week. So sometimes, I DO NEED that one night i have free to just do nothing. So you could make some excuse, that makes it clear your evenings/weekends outside of work are SACRED for XYZ reason. (other job, family responsibilities, book club etc.)

    16. You don't know me*

      If I got put in charge of planning an activity I liked, we would all be sitting quietly in a room reading a book, the only sounds being the hum of the air conditioner, the wisp of a page being turned, and the occasion sip of tea.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        In a similar vein: buy a big crossword puzzle book, a package of mechanical pencils, and have a crossword tournament. Separate the pages so each person gets a puzzle on the front and the back, hand out additional sheets as needed.

      2. Ann O.*

        That is my dream. Especially if there are tea sandwiches. But even with just tea, it would be the best workplace outing ever.

    17. Jules the Third*

      “I really need time away from all this to recharge and be at my best when I’m here.”

    18. Long time lurker*

      Thank you to all who have responded so far. The perspective is helpful.

      I should clarify a few things. First, Jon, at least, knows that I’m not interested in socializing regardless of the activity. He’s trying to get rid of any excuse I might have for not going. He brought it up again today and, again, we were both jovial about it.

      After hours social events are not a regular thing at my office. I think Jon is trying to bring it back because the team from 5 years ago used to do it since they were all friends. However, the nature of the office is such that we socialize during the work day all the time.

      Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I think I’ll try sticking to my guns, being light-hearted and more serious as needed, as Editrixie mentioned doing. It’s trickier because Jon is already aware that I don’t want to go, but at least they should eventually understand that they won’t be able to pressure me to attend things. As some have suggested, I might also throw out the idea of a team lunch where it makes sense.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Team lunch is a great idea. If you can once in a great while that’s a nice effort too. It shows and can help your professional relationships

      2. NW Mossy*

        That was going to be my suggestion – something that you could do in-office as an “I like y’all just fine” gesture to make it clear that you’re not snubbing them as people but just not down for after-hours events. It can be as simple as bringing in a box of donuts that includes flavors you know to be their favorites.

        It’s also totally fine to say to Jon that it’s making you feel weird that he’s continuing to pressure you to do this kind of thing when it doesn’t work for you. As a manager, he shouldn’t be trying to make friends with his directs anyway, and he needs to understand and respect that not all teams will bond in the same way. Also, he’s highly likely to manage (either now or later) employees with after-work commitments that preclude them from being involved. He may even become one of them someday, and he’d surely want that respected if it were him.

    19. Yorick*

      Maybe try going out with them at lunch instead. That might make them think of you as less antisocial and more wanting to get home in the evening.

    20. essEss*

      I was put in a position where I kept giving polite excuses for not attending an activity that people were planning. I kept telling them I had other plans and that they should go without me. I repeated all sorts of variations of “I won’t be there but I want you all to go and have a good time.” They finally backed me into a corner by stating that they’d pick whatever day I was available. I finally politely, but firmly said “I’ve been trying to give you polite reasons in order to avoid being rude. I really don’t want to do this, and I want you all to go ahead and do it without me so please stop pushing me.”

    21. Librarygal30*

      You might want to go occasionally. Your coworkers might be feeling like you can’t be bothered to get to know them better, and in a location that isn’t the office.
      I need alone time to re-charge after long days/weeks, but I know how to balance it if I have something I need to do.
      Go, and they might not bother you for a while!

    22. MissDisplaced*

      I think you may have to pick something and at least do this once or twice so as not to seem antisocial.
      That said, can you pick something that maybe helps the community? Hey, at least you can feel good about it even if you’re not social.

      I know there are things like Habitat for Humanity, beach/park/playground cleanups, Walk for X, food pantry, etc.

    23. Gotham Bus Company*

      By definition, “after work” activities occur AFTER work and thus ARE NOT part of work. The boss cannot “assign” you to plan the activity, and he definitely can’t require you to participate or punish you for not participating. You might need to get HR involved if he pushes any more than he already has.

      Not everybody wants to or can join their coworkers after hours. Some people have longer commutes than others. Some people have family or other commitments. Some people have health considerations. You are your own person with the legal right to spend NON-work hours as you see fit.

    24. Sam*

      If you decide you have to do something, a team breakfast is always an option. It sucks to get up earlier, BUT breakfast foods are nice, plus you have a defined finish time (as opposed to after-work events which can be way too open-ended for my liking).

  17. SpiderLadyCEO*

    Has anyone’s workplace formed a union? How did it go, what were some challenges you faced along the way? Do you like it/dislike it?

    My office is looking into it, and I am…nervous.

    1. irene adler*

      I know that minutes after someone talked about it, my boss had a very serious private discussion with me. It was along the lines of how unions actually make things tougher for employees- and employers too.
      He then told me about the time when they tried to form one at his prior company. It failed.
      The talk didn’t get far so his “concern” was for nothing.
      Just know that folks will come out of the woodwork to ‘talk’ to you about it.

      1. Blank*

        Yeah, it’s harder for employers because those pesky employees start asking for fair pay/conditions. How dare they! :)

      2. Anon for now*

        I worked somewhere where some of the workers tried to unionize. Unfortunately, the pro-union group was very pushy to the point that people felt harassed. It didn’t help that they very obviously had specific talking points and were unwilling to hear that people were generally happy or address concerns over what unionizing would mean for some unofficial perks with anything other than “trust us”.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Oh, the “unofficial perks”…that are inevitably distributed inequitably.

          Shame the organizers weren’t so good about listening. I would love to work in a unionized place and have more transparency and a legal route to fairness.

          Of course, one has to make sure that the union stays transparent and fair, too.

      3. essEss*

        That boss was skirting close to the law about union interference. states that employers may not do a LOT of things related to influencing workers about joining a union including “Convey the message that selecting a union would be futile.”

    2. ANon..*

      Employees at a company I used to work at tried unionizing after I left. The employees pushing for the union were bullied by management until many of them quit. When it came time to vote, it failed.

    3. Jennifer*

      I can’t speak for the forming, but my union is problematic. On the one hand, it’s literally the only way we can ever get raises. On the other hand, most of the union people are not great. (Note: it is a famous union.) They won’t permit me to get any kind of higher position. One of them super promised me support and then bailed. My most union happy friend has gotten fed up and quit, but the other one still in has helped me.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        This is what I am worried about, too. It’s not me starting the union – I’m just a signing member of the petition, because I don’t want to hinder those who want it. Our sister company has apparently successfully unionized.

        I’m not worried about management coming out of the woodwork to “talk us out of it” – I bet they will be mostly supportive – I just don’t know that I want it in the first place! Our work treats us really well, and their ideas of codifying that treatment just don’t seem necessary? I don’t want to pay fees to guarantee the company will continue treating me like it already does.

        The big thing that got everyone on this in the first place seems to be they think, ethically, an org that says it is pro-workforce should have a union, and that just seems like silliness to me.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          One really great thing that I have seen in unions is that most of the “benefits” become portable as long as you’re in a union. Pension plans, health plans, etc. I’d like it if we had a single-payer health care system, but, we don’t and tying the health insurance to a specific company is restrictive.

        2. Catwoman*

          If your workplace treats you really well and most people have goodwill towards the organization, then this is a great time to unionize. A lot of folks don’t think about doing it until there are problems and an antagonistic culture between management and the workers. If I were you, I would support it because if your company does start overstepping, then the union will likely be able to stamp things out early before it gets to the point of major conflict. See it as an ounce of prevention.

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            That is an excellent point. Starting from an adversarial place makes the process way harder.

          2. SpiderLadyCEO*