my boss chastised me about my menstrual cramps, job-searching with four vacations already booked, and more

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

1. My boss chastised me for being in pain from menstrual cramps

I just had something happen at work that I’m fairly insulted by: I got my period this morning and my cramps are extra bad. I thought I threw my painkillers in my purse on the way out the door, but apparently I must have missed because they weren’t there when I got to work. So my cramps continued to get worse and you can definitely see it on my face, but I didn’t want to spend the ridiculous amount that convenience stores charge for a tiny bottle of painkillers. My manager saw that I was in pain and he said, “You need to take care of this because this is unprofessional. It’s unprofessional for you to be in pain on the floor. You need to go to the store and buy painkillers.” (I work in auto sales as a sales consultant. There were absolutely no customers in the dealership at the time and I was in the manager’s office telling him he had a call, so I was wincing while out of view of anyone.)

Needless to say, I feel rather insulted and fairly discriminated against. Was it okay for my manager to say that? Oh and of course, the cramps are bad enough that painkillers aren’t helping anyway, so it was a complete waste of time. Maybe now I’ll just get fired because of my own body that I can’t control.

It’s true that when you’re working with customers (which you weren’t), it’s not great to be visibly in pain. But then the appropriate response from your boss would have been to check in about how you were doing and whether needed anything and whether you should go home, because you are a fellow human who is suffering … not to call you unprofessional for having a body that sometimes experiences pain.

The only way what your manager said would be justified would be if you were, like, lying on the floor grimacing and clutching your sides and loudly cursing your uterus while calling out for the comfort of your mother, and otherwise turning your cramps into a public set piece. Assuming that’s not what was happening, your boss sounds like an ass.

2. My coworker is job-searching — should I tell our boss?

I was in a meeting with my coworker today (just the two of us) and she was screen-sharing with me. She accidentally showed her personal email account, which had several emails regarding interviews and her resume. I only saw it for a second but now I’m concerned that she could be a flight risk. I just stared this job a few weeks ago and rely on her for her expertise (we have the same job and same level, but she has been here for several years). Should I tell my boss about her potentially leaving? Or should I pretend I didn’t see anything on her computer screen, since it was after all on her private email and she didn’t mean for me to see it?

Ooooh no, do not say anything to your boss about this. This wasn’t information that you were supposed to see, and it is so very much Not Your Business, especially as a brand new employee. (It wouldn’t be your business as a not-new employee either, but it’s especially the case when you’re so new.)

Anyone could be a flight risk at any time, assuming you’re not working with indentured servants. That’s just part of the deal! I get that you’re relying on her to train you, but really, she could win the lottery tomorrow and never come back, and your employer would find a way to make do.

3. I’m job searching and have four upcoming vacations already booked

When is it appropriate to inform the potential employer of any upcoming vacations that have already been booked? I’m currently job searching and my husband and I have already booked four upcoming vacations before the end of this year. The first is a week long. The one after is over Labor Day weekend but includes the Thursday and Friday of that weekend. Then a friend’s bachelorette which is Thursday to Sunday. The last one is 10 days over Christmas, which my husband and I are calling our honeymoon since we didn’t get to go on one yet. Is this going to hurt my chances of getting hired?

In general with pre-booked vacations, you wait until you have an offer and then explain the dates you already have booked and ask if they can be accommodated. This stuff can often be negotiated as part of an offer, but you must bring it up then and not spring it on your boss after you’re already hired.

That said, this is a lot of time to ask to have off in the first five months of a new job, especially the 10 days over Christmas, which is a time that a lot of other people might already have dibs on (and which could be a problem if you’re in a job that requires coverage — some do and some don’t). The 10 days at Christmas might be fine if they were all you were asking for, but combined with another week, plus two days, plus two more days … it’s a lot, especially if you’re not coming in at a senior level (where you might have more leverage).

If you can, I’d pick one of the long ones, but not both. And then present this not as a settled thing that will be happening, but rather as a question about whether or not it could be accommodated, making it clear you’d be willing to cancel some of them if needed (assuming it’s not a deal-breaker for you).

4. My former coworkers won’t stop contacting me with gossip

A little over a month ago my one-year temporary position ended, but since then I haven’t been able to get my old coworkers to stop contacting me. On the job I had many “work friends” and left on great terms (company-sponsored happy hour, flowers, gift card, etc.) but I’m someone who likes to draw the line between work life and personal, and never intended to keep up with those same “work friends” after my job was over.

In the weeks since I left, I’ve had several former coworkers attempt to contact me on every social media site that you can find someone from just having their cell number, including Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and text messages. This is especially strange because even when I was employed there, I never accepted any of their friend requests and politely declined attempts to hang out at non-work events. I wouldn’t go as far to say that my former workplace was a toxic environment, but it was definitely rife with gossip (a culture that admittedly I engaged in but thought once I left it would stop). The correspondence they send is mostly an attempt to find out where I’m currently working and share office place gossip/drama that I no longer care about. So far I have just ignored the messages and friend requests, but I feel like I’m being rude by doing that. How can I make it stop? Can you provide some reasons as to why people would keep contacting an old coworker that hasn’t shown interest in keeping up a friendship?

To provide some additional context, the people who contacted me were lower on the corporate ladder than I was, but since we are all in our 20s I think they feel more comfortable in trying to reach out to me than they would an older person. I’m still in negotiations with my new employer but I don’t feel the need to give constant updates to my former coworkers when I know the information will just be fodder for gossip.

I think you’re fine ignoring the friend requests, but there’s some value in not ignoring the messages entirely, since these are people you might run into again in the future. That doesn’t mean that you have to become pen pals or provide fodder for gossip, but you could send a a one-time “Hey! I’m swamped with the new job but hope everything is going well for you!” reply. It’s reasonably friendly, but it’s vague and it sets up a reason for why they might not get more replies. From there, you don’t need to keep replying.

As to why it’s happening: It sounds like it’s an effect of the gossipy culture you mentioned. They see you as a partner in that still and assume you’re still interested. Plus, because they’re young (20s), they probably haven’t had a ton of experience with leaving jobs and the way that makes most people want to disconnect from this kind of thing. And I’m just guessing, but if they’re not in challenging jobs, the work itself isn’t keeping them occupied and they’re filling the space with this, without realizing that it’s weird to be sending the tentacles of this workplace’s drama out after people who have left it.

5. Is it really okay to use my company’s e-learning portals?

My office has spent a lot of money on providing excellent e-learning portals we can use, including a virtual learning platform where you can watch webinars or complete workbooks as diverse as “psychotherapy for dummies” and “being influential at work.” I feel uncomfortable using these learning platforms at work, even though they are part of our office tools and have some useful stuff in them. I am currently in a summer lull period at work, so I am tempted to use them. Is there any etiquette for using these platforms and others like it?

They’re supplying them so that you can use them! It’s true that you shouldn’t be spending your entire day every day on them, and you shouldn’t use them if people are waiting on you for things, but if you’re on top of your work, you absolutely can take take advantage of these! In fact, your company will probably be pleased that you’re doing it, since they invested resources in providing this. (That said, before spending any significant time on one that’s totally unconnected to your work, it’s not a bad idea to touch base with your manager about it. You could say, “I’m really interested in the company’s e-learning portal on X and would love to use some of our summer lull to check it out. But obviously it’s not directly related to my work so I wanted to run that by you first.” She may tell you there’s no need to check with her, or she may direct you toward something she’d rather you spend the time on.)

{ 899 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite

    OP #3, I can tell you that at my workplace four vacations would be enough to have the job offer withdrawn, especially given that two are at popular times.

    1. On Fire

      OP1 might be best off by either delaying the job search until closer to the end of the year, with a new job start date after the first of the year, or taking temp placements through the end of the year.

      My job has ridiculously generous PTO, but this would be excessive for the first few months – in fact, for the first year – even for us.

      1. On Fire

        And that was obviously supposed to be OP3.

        OP1, on the other hand, has a jerk boss, but I recommend keeping a bottle of painkillers in your desk at work for similar situations.

        1. PersonalJeebus

          For a sales floor job they might not have desks (maybe lockers?) but I would let my painkillers live in my purse if I had to deal with this kind of insensitive boss. Or keep a few spares in there in an Altoids tin or travel container. Unfortunately, OP3, you’re playing defense because there’s not a lot you can do about your boss being a jerk–although you could possibly have said something in the moment about your pain being due to cramps, in which case he might have backed off for fear of looking sexist. Then again, he could have become more sexist! “Ugh, I’m actually twelve years old, don’t tell me about your yucky wimmenz problems!” We’ve seen that on this site.

        2. TardyTardis

          I have an idea about how the boss could learn the value of having painkillers on hand, but it’s probably illegal.

      2. Forrest

        Yea, if I’m counting right that’s almost three weeks altogether – way more than my job offers or any job I’ve worked at.

        And honestly, it would kind of be a turn-off for me. Not that taking vacations is a bad thing but it’s August and these are all during your first four months and that’s a huge chunk of time to be taking off when you first start.

        The Christmas one is the biggest hurdle. I would consider putting it off if you can. Or accept that your vacation requests maybe result in losing out on good job opportunities.

        1. karou

          Even if a company has generous PTO, if it’s prorated for the year based on start date OP3 might not even get the number of days off needed for the vacations. I agree with the advice to hold off job searching until they can start in the new year or take a short term contract or temp work between vacations.

        2. Antilles

          It’s actually closer to four weeks: 5 days for the first vacation, 2 days for Labor Day weekend, 2 days for the bachelorette party, 10 days for Christmas.
          That’s a whopping 19 (!) days of vacation. At most companies in the US, 20 days of vacation is typically more than the standard for new employees unless you’re starting pretty high in the organization.

        3. michelenyc

          I agree I would put off your job search. That is a lot of time off. I am in the midst of a job search and the last 3 interviews I have been on all of them have asked how soon I would be able to start and if I had any vacations planned or extended time off that I would need in the next few months.

        4. PersonalJeebus

          10 days at Christmas could be very industry- and/or culture-specific. In my industry most offices shut down from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, and it’s not unusual for people to take off an extra day or two at the beginning or end of that.

          When it comes to negotiating vacation dates into a job offer, it’s always going to be very specific to that particular workplace or industry, because every place has their busy and off seasons. In my job I’d get little pushback if I wanted to be off from, say, December 21st to January 4th, but it wouldn’t be a good look to ask for the first week of October off.

          1. Anonymeece

            At least where I work at a college, we get 2 weeks off for Christmas.

            If that’s the case, it might not be so bad. But yeah, for private industry? Not so much.

      3. Clare

        Especially since many companies don’t allow you to use your PTO for the first 3 or 4 months, so even if they okayed all these days off the OP should be aware that it might need to be taken unpaid.

        1. A little compromise

          Yep – at my company, PTO doesn’t kick in for 90 days, and since we have coverage needs, anyone with this many demands would be an automatic “no.” (Plus, getting Christmas off is based on seniority/rotation, so OP3 wouldn’t get it anyway, being the newest person)

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Potentially helpful: the week-long vacation before Labor Day is probably a moot point by now. She can just arrange to start after it’s over… but then would probably need to skip the Labor Day one entirely, since she’d be in her third week at most by then.

      1. Logan

        I’m of similar mind, except that starting after labor day is probably reasonable for some jobs (it wouldn’t be abnormal for a hiring process to take a month to complete), and some places do require everyone to take holidays the end of December, so for some people this could work out so that it’s only really asking for the Thursday/Friday of the bachelorette.

        I know in some cases it’s hard to take extended vacation while working, and these may be long-delayed trips which are only possible because OP3 is between jobs. I think the key would be to be flexible with a new employer, and to ask if any of them are possible. Provided OP3 does not start with “I have these booked, work around me” as an attitude, but rather “I would love to take these, is there any possible way?” then I think it’s possible to at least mention it to a new employer.

        I did that when I started work after school – I was hoping for a day or two to travel to a friend’s wedding, but I didn’t book the ticket until I spoke to my new boss. They were great, as not only did they approve it but they spoke to HR to get my max possible days (4) and then arranged for a day of remote work, so that I was able to take a full week!

    3. Safetykats

      At my workplace that request would also probably get your offer retracted. It’s reasonable to have one big (week to 10 days) vacation planned, as long as you recognize that you will likely be taking the time unpaid, as you won’t have accrued that much paidtime off. In return for that you’re probably expected to take no other time off (excepting emergencies) in the first few months. It sounds like you’re proposing as much vacation as you might accrue in the first year – or even more – in your first few months. Since most companies have strict policies about the circumstances under which you can go negative on your paid time off, as well as restrictions on unpaid time off (assuming you’re salaried) this may not be something that’s approvable.

      At any rate, if your current job gives you enough time off to do all this, you’re better off sticking with it until after the holidays. The optics of telling the new job that you can’t start until after the first of the year, depending on when you get your offer, may be much better than asking for all this time off.

    4. Bride-to-be

      Regarding OP3, would it change the calculus if the upcoming bookings were for a wedding? (Sometimes people are more mentally lenient with weddings? Maybe?) Asking for a friend. Kidding, asking for myself!!!

      I just got laid off and I’m job searching now. Horrible timing, as it always is! I’m getting married in October and taking a week off around the wedding (Thursday to Wednesday), but it’s Columbus Day weekend, so one of those days is generally a holiday. I’m also taking a two-week honeymoon to the southern hemisphere in November (essentially Veterans Day to Thanksgiving). It was no problem at my old job and they encouraged me to do so, but then they started not doing well, hence the layoffs. So now that I’m job searching, is that a huge, huge deal? Am I just out of luck and should I just try to temp?

      1. Jenni

        I think you could very reasonably get time off for your wedding, but I suggest postponing your honeymoon until you’ve been on the job for 6 months or so. I got married 3 weeks after starting my first job out of grad school, and my company was fine with taking a few days off for the wedding (I didn’t take a week, I think I was off Thurs-Monday). We got married in August and honeymooned the following May (original plan was December but that was thwarted for other reasons).

        I think a lot of it comes down to the field you’re in and what your financial situation is. If you can afford to just temp for a few months, great. If not, be up front and maybe be flexible about how many days you want to take off for the wedding. The good news is that right now unemployment is very low and employers are scrambling to find good people, so they will probably be more flexible. Good luck!

  2. Intern Manager

    OP 3, it’s already the end of July; you’re unlikely to find, get interviewed for, get hired at, and start a new job between now and Labor Day, unless you left something out of your letter.

    (And of course I don’t know how long ago you wrote to Alison!)

    That leaves two, one long weekend and one 10-day trip. The long weekend likely won’t be a problem, but Christmas might.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Right, if the week-long one is before Labor Day (I’m not 100% sure it is, although the wording does imply that), you’d just set your start date for after it.

    2. Lisa Babs

      I was thinking the same thing. It might sound worse then it is and most of it being moot. I agree that with the way it’s worded the first one is a week and THE NEXT is over labor day weekend. So depending on how long the job hunt takes, the OP can easily just start after labor day. And she doesn’t even have to tell them she had those vacations (since mentioning all of them can lead the vacation requests the OP is making seem frivolous). This puts the focus on the other two. And makes negotiations much easier. the OP still might need to sacrifice the bachelorette trip to get 10 days for the honeymoon. Might not. Really depends on the office. And as long as the OP keeps Alison’s tone of a question and not a demand it should go fine.

  3. JR

    For OP #3, it looks like the first two vacations, including the week-long trip, are in the five weeks between now and Labor Day. Unless OP has an offer coming in very soon, or unless the letter was written some time ago, it’s likely that she won’t have to worry about asking for those times – that the vacations will be done before she gets an offer or in the natural couple-of-weeks window between a job offer and start date.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler

      Definitely this. Job searching can take a LOOOOONG time, so it may be a nonissue for some (or even all) of these trips depending on how picky you’re being with your search and how long the hiring process takes. Good luck finding a new job!

      1. EddieSherbert

        OP, I think it’s REALLY likely that you wouldn’t be starting a new job before Labor Day unless you’re already pretty far into the interview process somewhere you’d definitely accept.

        That being said (depending on your field), the closer your start date is to Christmas, the harder it’ll be to get those days off. Again, totally depends on your field and role. My whole department could be gone for a week and things would *probably* be fine. But one of the departments I work closely with only allows one team member to take vacation at a time (they CAN swing two in a pinch but the remaining staff literally have to do longer shifts/overtime to make it happen).

        1. Laurelma__01!

          Many employers let the more senior or long term employees have first choice at vacation over the holidays. Unless you’re working in education you may not even be able to get vacation over the holidays until you’ve been working there for at least 2 -3 years.

          1. Specialk9

            My company lets everyone take the holidays, at least on the corporate side, so long as they don’t have urgent job duties. So it’s not a zero sum thing.

          2. PersonalJeebus

            Yeah, time off at the holidays isn’t actually as uncommon as that, even in the US. Office closures over the holidays are a thing, depending on your industry. Not just in education.

            Just an FYI for people for whom the holidays are super important! If you choose your industry wisely, you’ll be fine. (Book publishing for me.)

    2. Smithy

      I think this is crucial – also if the job offer were to come in the next two weeks, it might just be easiest to negotiate a start date after those first two vacations.

      And then for the other two – I think this would be a case of really knowing your industry but also knowing that it may very well be an imposition. My field isn’t all that busy around the holidays but definitely is busy enough that coverage is important. I think that it’s fine to try and negotiate that – but may also could come back as being impossible. That being said, should your job hunt be closer to the holidays (ie a start date in mid-November), then having Christmas time plans could be seen as a more normal negotiation.

      1. Arjay

        I think too that the OP may not want to frame this as a delayed honeymoon. That makes it sound like the OP expects the employer to give that additional wright, when it’s just as likely they would be wondering why an already delayed honeymoon couldn’t be delayed again.

  4. Anonymouse

    I didn’t realise people in America needed to ask for time off at Christmas. Where I am, business shuts down between Christmas and 2 January so you have no choice but to take at least a week off. The only people who don’t take around 10 days off here are people who work in emergency services and the service industries that do peak business over Christmas.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m going to ask that we not derail on this since it’s pretty off-topic from the question in the letter. Thank you. I’ll remove additional comments that come in on this thread.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m going to ask that we not derail on this since it’s pretty off-topic from the question in the letter. Thank you. I’ll remove additional comments that come in on this thread.

      1. MagicToilet

        C’mon it’s our favorite horse to beat!

        But I get it, we already had one of these threads very recently, so I can imagine you don’t want us rehashing thing thing over and over in every thread.

    3. Mad Baggins

      That’s pretty aggressive. People are sharing norms from around the world (not everyone is European btw), maybe it will help someone understand the LW better if they know different cultural norms.

    4. Mystery Bookworm

      Yes. I think people also underestimate how many industries are ‘service’ industries and must keep open during Christmas and New Year’s. It’s not just retail and emergency services. Lots of infastructure relies on having people working, even around the holidays.

      1. Nita

        This! The doctors (not emergency) don’t automatically get the time off, or the people that keep the electrical grid running, or transit system staff, or building maintenance crews…

    5. Les G

      So much this. Reading about a four day bachelorette party…well, let’s just say it makes me happy I married my wife. When we were planning our gettin’-hitched-party she was like “Les, I love you but I want as few people as possible to know I’m marrying you” and I was like “OMGSAME LET’S GO TO THE COURTHOUSE NOW KTHXBYE.” We don’t need to make our friends take five days off work to prove our love.

      1. Tina

        This is unkind and overly judgmental. Some people just want to go on vacation and celebrate with their friends, it isn’t to “prove love.”

        1. Forrest

          It also doesn’t make sense since she’s not taking those days off to spend with her fiancé.

          If anything, a four day bachelorette party proves how much her friends care about her.

          1. Clare

            Personally I’d rather my friends “prove” they care about me by helping me move or watching my dog while I’m away. If we want to plan a vacation together, great, but it should be optional and for fun, not a mandatory trip that all your friends get guilted into going on for fear of being accused that they don’t care about you enough if they opt out.

            1. Forrest

              I think a bachelorette party is just that – a party. I don’t think it’s evidence of anything. And since the bacholorette party is usually planned by the bridesmaids, I don’t see anything wrong with it. People take vacations with their friends all the time.

              Also, I’m not getting why everyone assumes people are guilted into the trip or it’s mandatory. It’s actually possible – and I know this may sound crazy – for people to actually want to do this trip or don’t go because of XYZ and people understand that.

              I’m just pointing out that a bacholette party has nothing to do with proving anything to the groom.

      2. neverjaunty

        Downthread you’re sacrastically scolding people because an LW wrote in for advice. Here you’re insulting an LW’s choice of vacation which she wasn’t even asking about and which isn’t relevant to her question.

        Genuine question: wtf?

        1. Les G

          I wasn’t being sarcastic at all. I’m glad OP wrote in because she’s clearly green and it’s BS that folks are giving her a hard time for asking a genuine question.

      3. Kyrielle

        Huh. I assumed it was four days *for* a party. Depending on where it is, two of those days could purely be travel to get there and get back. It might only be one night of a party, if the OP simply doesn’t want to fly the day after the party.

    6. Mary

      It is absolutely one of the best things about working for universities! Was horrified the two years I was working in the private sector and they expected me to work on the 27-31 December.

    7. Marion Ravenwood

      Same here. I’m in the UK, and up until I joined my current organisation I always had to take leave if I wanted the period between Christmas and New Year off. I work for a non-profit though and my previous jobs were either retail/service or public sector, so it does vary depending on industry, but it’s definitely not standard.

      1. pleaset

        Logically it would be better to have an extra 4 or 5 days of vacation you can use when you want then the organization closing down between Christmas and New Years, assuming the same total pay.

        The former gives employees more choice.

        The best global organizations are tending in this direction – more PTO and less mandated holidays.

        1. Antilles

          True, but from the organization’s standpoint, that’s often less practical.
          I’ve worked in companies where there’s not a mandatory shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s…and I can assure you that it’s pretty unproductive to be open – most of the staff will take time off anyways, so it’s hard to get things done; your clients will all be gone themselves; many government agencies/regulators/etc you need to reach are closed; outsiders usually have zero expectations of being able to reach you; etc. So it’s not really a one-for-one trade – in terms of impact to the company, John taking off December 26th-31st is MUCH less of an impact than him taking off July 26th-31st.
          I’m not disagreeing that it’s a better thing for the employees…but unfortunately, that’s absolutely not the culture in the US…though in fairness, a lot of US companies stay open between Christmas and New Years and ALSO only give the standard 10/15 days of PTO, so it’s really the worst of both worlds.

    8. Constanze

      I also don’t get what’s so surprising about us not taking Christmas off – we also don’t automatically get paid maternal/paternal leave nor is every company required to provide health insurance to every employee. Not getting a week off for Christmas is way down our priority list of things that need to change.
      That is sad.

      1. Les G

        You think it’s sad that workers are more concerned about their abilities to literally stay alive than about needing to request time off to celebrate Christian holidays? What is the world coming to, my goodness!

        1. Constanze

          I think it is sad that the list of things to improve is so long and that the first things on it are still basic rights.

          1. pleaset

            Fair point.

            But frankly, if I didn’t like skiing I’d rather than 5 more days off that I can choose when, than that last week of December off. As it is, my office is open that week and I typically come in most of it, because I get a lot of work done. The office is pretty quiet and so I can do a lot of detailling projects.

            I want more time off. I do not want my workplace to close that week.

            1. Constanze

              Yes, I have worked before during the winter holidays, and my current workplace closes so I get at least 10 days. I am fine either way, but to be honest, I would be really pissed off if I couldn’t have at least a couple of days or a long weekend.

              First of all, I love Christmas and the winter season (it is 90% about the food and the friends coming over to eat the aforementioned food, 10% about the presents), and I also find that I genereally need a little break to recharge at this time of year.

          2. Forrest

            I don’t think taking a week off for Christmas is on the list of things to improve at all. I’m not seeing how it’s a vital goal for workers’ rights.

            If it makes you feel better, federal law is slowly changing the first two.

            1. Constanze

              Not Christmas specifically, no. But paid holidays have always been a fairly important aspect in the battle for worker’s rights.

    9. CanuckCat

      I’m Canadian and I work for a major charity, and have already been told that September 1-December 31 is our peak fundraising season (more or less forewarning me to not ask for any major vacations during that time period). Like you, I don’t see this as some appalling thing, just that I have to adjust when I want time off to compensate for how busy we’ll be.

      (Plus my work offers a system where in exchange for working a small amount of OT, staff get four day weekends twice a month from May until August – in recognition of the fact that people have to give up extended vacations during the fall and early winter months.)

    10. Annie Moose

      Even in the US, some manufacturing does shut down for Christmas. I used to work for a chemical manufacturing company and the plants had a Christmas shutdown (although, sadly, if you didn’t work at one of those sites, you didn’t get the shutdown).

      While I’m sure this varies by country, it also varies by industry; some industries (like manufacturing) just seem a great deal more likely to have a shutdown for Christmas compared with others (like service industries).

    11. feminazgul

      I’m sorry, but America absolutely IS an industrial hellhole that doesn’t care about its workers, in any way, shape or form. That’s just a fact.

      1. The Tin Man

        Unless you get a job at a place that does care about its workers. More workers’ rights should absolutely be made into employment law (and I have a collection of soapboxes on many of those) but that doesn’t mean there are zero workplaces that care about workers. There are just pitifully few.

        As a side note, A+++++ to your name.

    12. Christmas Carol

      Rule #1: The last couple of days of the month are the busiest days of the month, billing, shipping, pushing to make quota, closing the contracts before EOM, etc.
      Rule B: The last few days of the quarter are the busiest days of the quarter, billing, shipping, pushing to make quarterly quota, etc, ect.
      Rule III: The last week of the year, right before we close the sales books for the year, are the busiest days, etc. etc, etc.

    13. DivineMissL

      Well, without knowing the details of the bachelorette party – I live on the East Coast, so if the trip was planned to say, Las Vegas, I could see taking a day to travel there (4-5 hour flight with a layover would take most of the day), two days in Vegas, and then a travel day to get home and adjust to the time change. 4 days would be reasonable.

    14. Kyrielle

      This! A former employer added a Christmas leave a couple of years running for us – it was mandatory, except for people who were covering critical functions, but it used our leave. The first year they rolled it out, it used 7 vacation days…and new hires only had 10 vacation days all year. People were *not* happy, and there was a mad scramble to get assigned to one of the critical phones for that week if you were qualified. (On the plus side, people who were going to take the leave had no problem finding someone to cover the phone if they were assigned!)

      There *was* an option to take it unpaid if you didn’t have enough vacation accrued, but that was it.

      Now, I try to get time near Christmas off anyway, because kids. But without that incentive, I’d rather *not* take time off at a peak travel period when everything travel-related is more expensive.

    15. Ask a Manager Post author

      Removed a thread of 57 off-topic replies to this that came in after I’d asked people to move on from an off-topic discussion, as well as the few from before that (since apparently people couldn’t resist replying).

      commenting rules

    16. IL Jim P

      Yeah a lot of businesses stay open during that week but they also aren’t as heavy. You’d have to request it off and use PTO for it if you wanted it off.

      1. Emily K

        My department doesn’t close down, but it’s so slow that everyone who isn’t officially out on PTO vacation is essentially “engaged to be waiting” during that week. With our department head’s blessing, we all work from home but the only work we’re expected to do is time-sensitive stuff. So I spend about 30 minutes in the morning checking email and putting together some daily status reports for my boss to review, then I keep an eye on my email and might run errands or go for a long walk, but I don’t stray too far from home so that I can be back at my desk within an hour if something pops up that needs my attention. In return for being available in case I’m needed, I get what is damn near close to a week off work without having to spend any PTO. I already get a generous 5 weeks of PTO, plus 10 federal holidays, so getting a bonus week of just being on call has gone a long way towards retaining me these last 6 years.

    17. Safetykats

      Interestingly I’ve only worked for one company in the US that shut down from Xmas to New Years, and people were mostly unhappy about that. You had the choice to use PTO or take it unpaid, but either choice is problematic depending on your situation. If it was more common I think it would have been taken better, but there was a lot of angst about it every year – particularly from newer employees.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammo

    Oh, OP#2, please don’t say anything. It’s definitely beyond the scope of your job to relay suspicions about whether your coworkers are flight risks (as Alison notes, we are all flight risks). Telling your manager puts your coworker’s job at risk, and for what? Because she’s considering using her end of the “at will employment” stick? Particularly because you’re new, you don’t want to borrow trouble. This is a “not your monkeys” situation.

    1. Engineer Girl

      This. Unless there is an employment contract the coworker is free to search for another job. That’s how these things work.

      1. Just Employed Here

        Even if there were an employment contract, the OP would probably have no idea about the content and details of the colleague’s contract.

        Most contracts don’t require you to absolutely stay to the end anyway (or keep the employee to the end), they just outline specific (often generous towards the other party) consequences for the party wanting to end the agreement.

      2. Thlayli

        Employment contracts don’t stop you from searching for another job! What a bizarre notion!

        1. Scarlet

          Yeah. A work contract is not synonymous with indentured servitude. Work contracts are the norm in most European countries but people still search for other jobs…

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

            In the European system of contracts, it depends on the type of the contract. It can be without end date or fixed-term. In fixed-term contracts it can be agreed that after the trial period you can’t quit before the end of the contract, but I think it’s more common to allow people to quit if they want to, which of course makes sense but it’s not mandatory. Of course different countries can have different laws and customs, Europe isn’t a monolith.

            1. Thlayli

              I’ve never heard of a contract with a flat out “you can’t quit” term. Even if there was you would still be able to quit but you might have to eg pay a financial penalty or something.

          2. Lara

            Yeah… it usually just means you have to give a 1- 3 months notice either way (depending on seniority). They aren’t binding.

            1. Niki

              Yeah, in the UK at least fixed term contracts have a stipulated notice period, same as a perm contract would. If you a self employed contractor signed up for a particular project that you pulled out of early you might be penalised financially, but any that would be a supplier contract, not a contract of employment.

      3. Specialk9

        Not to mention, this will get around and damage OP’s reputation (deservedly). It’s basically tattling to the manager in order to force the employee to stay for OP’s benefit. But it’s likely to backfire anyway, because it’s likely the manager will then fire or layoff that very employee anyway.

        Either way, major a-hole move, so good job checking in before acting. Don’t be that person.

      4. PersonalJeebus

        This is the way to frame it. The OP seems to be thinking that the coworker is doing something ethically wrong by job-searching, and the OP is now faced with a choice of whether to reveal wrongdoing to their boss. She’s not doing anything bad. It’s totally normal. Even if your boss tries to make you feel like you owe them your unending loyalty, it’s still normal; they’re the ones making it weird.

        Also, even if the coworker were doing something sketchy, it wouldn’t automatically be the OP’s job to report it. That’s another question for another day.

    2. ..Kat..

      I would suggest that OP2 work hard to learn as much as possible as soon as possible from her coworker. Also, ask her coworker for the location/access to documents that can help the OP at her job and when the OP has questions. Also, recommend that the OP ask this coworker, “where do you go to get answers to work questions?” In other words, I recommend that OP2 do as much as possible to become self sufficient in case her coworker leaves soon. If coworker gives notice, just blatantly ask her, “what do you recommend I do to get answers to work questions after you leave? Let’s concentrate on how to give me the most training on the most important job functions before you leave.” Then, wish her coworker well and keep in touch to network for future jobs for OP.

      1. DJ Roomba

        This was exactly my thought! It’s good that you know so you can make sure you learn everything you need to before she leaves!

        My counterpart was laid off abruptly in January and I was still relatively new in the role and working in a different state than her…so there was no turn over of knowledge or materials. Which has been quite a headache for me as I’m constantly being asked to reconcile my figures to hers without understanding how she came up with them in the first place!

      2. Shoes on My Cat

        THIS!! Just use that accidental ‘heads up’ as motivation to learn, WRITE IT DOWN (because you will forget if it’s not a daily detail), and IF coworker actually leaves, OP gets to wow management with how fast she picked up the ball and stepped up to make it happen. Co worker wins, OP wins & ultimately company wins. (Right now, I still refer to my many how to videos or notes for things my old colleague showed me that we do once every quarter-or less. My boss loves that I did/do that and we’ve saved so much time not reinventing that wheel! Old colleague was crazy efficient so I’d shadow her on my breaks & ask questions. She didn’t mind ’cause I took video or audio (with her knowledge) or put it in my Notes App and NEVER REPEATED SAME QUESTION TWICE) There’s stuff I do now that my boss hasn’t done in so long the how to knowledge is gone. Keeps coming up on my reviews that it’s one of my Rock Star qualities.)

    3. neverjaunty

      Also… “flight risk”? Maybe the OP was trying to be flip, but that has some rather unpleasant undertones about how LW sees the co-worker’s obligations to her and their company.

      1. EPLawyer

        That struck me too. Like the person “owes” something to the company and has to stay. Looking for a job is then perceived as “disloyal.”

      2. mcr-red

        Yeah, I thought the same thing about the wording. Your co-worker is not out on bond, which is generally the situation in which you hear that phrasing. You both are working at a job, and you can leave anytime. It’s not Hotel California!

      3. Legal Rugby

        That weirded me out too! There was a strong sense of something owed to the letter writer and employer overall that struck me as off.

      4. Observer

        That was m first thought, too. I was going to comment on it, but I figured I’d check the comments first.

      5. Anonforthis

        Right? A ‘flight risk’ is someone who gets denied bail because they might dip out of the country. Not someone looking for a new job which is 100% okay the last time I checked.

        LW, if you tell your boss and your coworker ends up not leaving, I really don’t see how you could earn his/her trust back, and deservedly so.

        Even people who aren’t actively looking for jobs sometimes search to see what’s out there. I have an alert for job posts set up that I still get because I just haven’t turned it off.

        You might want to try to recalibrate what you consider your business and not your business and your obligation to share with the boss. Employee embezzling? Share with the boss. Employee maybe or maybe not looking for another job? Not your business.

          1. Former Employee

            Seconding your comment. It goes a long way to explaining some of the attitude I’ve seen from HR personnel.

        1. JB (not in Houston)

          I’m not going to nitpick the OP’s wording, but I think HR should stop using it. It’s not a great look.

        2. PersonalJeebus

          Whoa, really?! Weird. I had no idea it was commonly used anywhere except the criminal justice system (which of course gives it heavy connotations of “badness” and criminality) so I for one would have had no clue this was nitpicking.

        3. aNon

          I work in HR and I can’t say I’ve ever used that term. I’m sure it’s used but #notallHR. I’d much rather people leave than stay and be miserable and make everyone around them miserable.

      1. EddieSherbert

        Not to mention, EVERYONE in your office is still getting a feel for who you are and how you work. Quite frankly, knowing you “tattled” that someone else *might* be job searching (and for all you know, one recruiter reached out a couple times and she asked a few questions but is not actively looking or planning to leave) and created drama would definitely color my opinion of you – even if I was your manager! (Most) managers are aware that their staff can and will leave at some point.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          That’s what I came here to say. OP, you are new. You do not want everyone’s first impression of you at the new job to be “oh, that’s the coworker who saw a glimpse of Anna’s personal email and then used that to warn Anna’s boss that Anna is a flight risk”. This is the kind of information that would travel like wildfire at any job I’ve worked.

    4. JB (not in Houston)

      Side note, I’m not crazy about the term “flight risk” in this context. Is this common in hiring now? Maybe it’s from working in the legal field, but I hear that term and think about setting bail for someone who has been arrested and charged with a crime. Usually used by someone with the authority to keep that person locked up in jail. That’s a helluva way to look at your employees.

      But more on topic, I’m with Alison and PCBH on this one. DO NOT say anything to your boss. It’s not your business. Anyone could leave at any time anyway, and this is a courtesy you may want someone to extend to you one day.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I’ve heard it in work contexts only once (referring to needing to retain an academic superstar who just made tenure), and I’m not crazy about it, either, for the reasons you and others have provided.

      2. Jadelyn

        …clearly I should have kept reading before pausing to air my issues with the term “flight risk” for this, lol. Seems I’m far from the first person to have had that thought.

      3. Emily K

        Funny, I never thought about it that way before but I totally see how it could have that connotation.

        I think maybe part of the reason I never saw it that way is I only typically hear it used to describe talented/high-achieving people. It’s not usually “I saw so-and-so’s resume so they’re a flight risk” like in this letter – it’s usually more like, “We need to stop overloading Beloved Supertalented Coworker with too much work or he’ll become a flight risk.” Somehow only hearing it in a context where it’s a proxy for the person being really good at their job rather than implying something about their commitment to their work made it fly under my radar.

    5. Nita

      Another possibility – OP has been hired, and is being trained by this coworker, precisely because the coworker is planning to leave. The manager may already know. Not that it would be OP’s place to run to the manager and tell them if they didn’t… unless the coworker is the only person who knows how to run a nuclear reactor, life will go on just fine if/when they hand in their notice.

    6. Jadelyn

      Can I just chime in that I hate the term “flight risk” for that? It seems to carry this undertone, at least to me, of “you are obligated to stay here” – perhaps because the primary definition of the term relates to someone accused of a crime and whether the court thinks they’re likely to skip town to avoid prosecution. If you’re looking at your coworker like someone who would be “absconding” their obligations if they were to leave…that just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

    7. TootsNYC

      If I were your boss, I’d have serious doubts about you if you came to me with this.

      I know that the people who work for me might look for another job. That’s fine!
      It’s OK w/ me if they leave. They’ll give notice, and I’ll hire someone new. And maybe I will take over your training.

      But the gossipy-ness and the betrayal of confidence would bother me. A lot.

      So don’t say anything.

      1. Specialk9

        Me too. I’d never trust anyone, at any level, who I found out did this.

        Especially since it was an accidental glimpse of a private non work account. That makes it even more problematic.

  6. The Pie Maker

    OP2 – like AAM said, I would recommend doing your new coworker a solid and just pretending you didn’t seen it. Maybe your coworker is just testing the waters, seeing what options are out there, or seeing what value they have out there in the job market.

    1. Utoh!

      Agreed, and I don’t see what the OP is trying to gain here either…that their boss would stop this from happening, fire the coworker…? You don’t want to be “that” person who warns their boss about your coworkers. It’s none of your business, so truly stay out of it. Where the cards may fall is of no concern to you, you need to keep your head down and learn as much as you can while coworker is still there, and not burn any bridges with them.

      1. Anon Accountant

        Exactly and if the coworker would suddenly be on medical leave the business would continue. Same as if she leaves or was just frustrated, started looking and her job search doesn’t go anywhere.

        Nothing good can come of telling the boss.

    2. Emily K

      Yeah, we don’t know how long coworker has been there. I love my current job and it’s not out the realm of possibility that I could work here another 30 years. But once I crossed the 3 year mark I started getting wooed by recruiters and I set up a couple of job alerts just to keep tabs on the market and make sure I’m not cheating myself out of a good opportunity by being too content where I am. I’ve applied very selectively to 1-5 jobs a year since then that seem like they might be too good an opportunity to not at least throw my hat in the ring – since I’m being so aspirational/choosy about where I apply most of them never even led to an interview, and only one of the interviews led to an offer which I ultimately turned down.

      I’ve seen the figures that show for the typical worker, switching jobs every several years tends to advance your career (and pay) faster than working for one company. I have a tremendous amount of flexibility in my current role and we get annual COLA/merit raises, which together means I’m not likely to leave for something that wouldn’t pay at least two annual raises more than I currently make. But since so few job ads list salary, I have to apply for jobs if I want to find out what they pay. So far none of them have paid enough to be worth giving up the intangible benefits of this job.

    3. Free Meerkats

      Also, you’ve only been there a short time and you don’t know how your office handles people who are looking for another job. While intelligent managers won’t hold it against someone, we’ve seen plenty of stories here where the hint that you are looking will get you frog-marched out of the office.

      To quote Ann Landers, “Make somebody happy today, and mind your own business”

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s actually not a clear case of discrimination and it’s not likely to be something the OP could successfully bring any legal action over. You’d have to show that the manager didn’t tell male employees who were grimacing in pain to take painkillers, and even then it’s not likely to rise to the level of severity laid out by the law unless it were part of a broader pattern of sexism in this workplace. That doesn’t make him not an ass though.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed. Boss was insensitive and unkind in his approach, but absent more information, this does not rise to the level of a viable workplace discrimination claim.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          Did Boss even know OP was having cramps? He knew she was in pain but I don’t see where OP told him the problem.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I don’t know if Boss knew that OP had cramps, but I think his response was kind of insensitive/unkind to anyone experiencing involuntary reactions to pain. All that said, I’d be skeptical if OP had any kind of actionable EEOC claim based on this exchange.

          2. Milla

            I was also seriously wondering how the boss knew they were menstrual cramps. Either she made it very obvious, which would be unprofessional, or he noticed she was in pain, asked about it like everyone says he should have, and she told him, which also feels pretty unprofessional since you don’t talk about bodily functions at work.

            I think I’d have been more creeped out if my boss took the understanding and concerned tone everyone is saying he should have taken. His expressing concern would have felt icky since I’m not his wife or girlfriend, so period cramps are none of his business and his being ‘understanding’ about them would seem weirdly personal and vaguely proprietary in a sexual way. If he’d offered to send me home sick it would have been insulting, like he thought I couldn’t do my job because of Lady Business Things or that I was weak.
            I’d personally prefer his brusque “It’s interfering with work; fix it” approach over a sensitive, kind one.

            1. Flower

              I find this interesting. I was never taught to keep my period secret (nor was I taught to yell it from the rooftops of course, but there’s a lot of space in between) and I’d find it bizarre if someone treated period pain/issues differently than they treated other pain/medical issues. I happen to have a chronic pain disorder and a lot of menstrual issues (nicely solved/rendered almost irrelevant by a homronal bc option), and while I don’t volunteer them at work, I don’t actively hide them or lie about them either. If someone asked what was wrong and responded very differently to “oh, cramps/menstrual migraine starting/nausea” diffently than they did to “oh, my back/knees/hands/hip is just flaring”, I’d look at them a bit askance.

              1. Flower

                Plus the idea that anything regarding periods is sexual is truly weird to me; but that might just be a me thing.

            2. Specialk9

              I get where you’re going with this, I don’t talk about my period except with a few intimate people, but you basically have set up a situation in which she’s unprofessional for being female, and can’t ever win.

              I had a friend whose horrific menstrual cramps left her actually curled in the fetal position on the floor at work, and she had to be driven home from work by a coworker. Several times the cramps came on while she was driving, and she had to pull over and call for someone to get her.

              You know what her almost-all-male IT workplace did to punish her for this extreme expression of female pain on work time? They made sure someone TOOK CARE of her, and tried to make sure it was a woman so she wasn’t too embarrassed. They were average level of decency, in other words.

              This boss is the sputum that gets caught in the crevices of the tonsils and turns rancid.

            3. PersonalJeebus

              Hmm, interesting perspective, and mine is totally different! I’d find the kid-glove treatment *more* bothersome from a significant other, since I don’t work for them and have room to communicate with them uninhibitedly. If I need support from my SO, I’ll tell them, and fast. From a boss who would otherwise expect me to perform to a certain level, and who has authority and power over me, I’d want them to be extra considerate of my pain. I would appreciate a personal day or an extra break being offered since I would be hesitant to come right out and ask for it.

              I think this all boils down to whether you think of period pain as pretty much the same (at least at work) as any other kind of pain or distress. Would you feel that same ickiness if your boss noticed you were looking a bit green or massaging your temples and asked if you needed a break?

            4. Lunita

              So basically you blame the OP for being unprofessional because she either she made too big a deal out of it or admitted to-gasp-cramps? The boss sounded like a complete jerk, regardless of the source of her pain. Strange that you would seem to side with the boss.

      2. Susana

        Alison, agree he’s an ass, but – is it clear he knows thy are menstrual cramps and not, say, bad fish the night before? It just makes the difference between whether he’s a sexist ass or just an ass. Also, Greta – excruciating cramps are not necessarily the sign of something serious. Some of us just have/had really bad cramps. Has to do with prostaglandin levels and such.

        1. Specialk9

          My terrible cramps were due to one of the options she mentioned. I seriously thought about just dealing with it, cuz everyone knows they can hurt! Fortunately a friend did exactly what Greta did, mentioned the possibility of a medical cause, and I was able to get it fixed.

    2. Engineer Girl

      I am going to come down on the side of the manager. And I’m saying this as someone that used to get pretty bad cramps.

      OP, you forgot your pills. That happens. But then you really do need to go to the convenience store and buy the more expensive pills so you can do your job.
      It’s kind of normal to keep a survival paiick at work – pain meds, antacids, and extra pair of stockings, toothbrush, Shout wipes, a small mending kit. You are expected to handle the little things yourself.

      I realize that the meds would only have limited effectiveness. That said, you chose to be cheap and not even try.

      This isn’t about gender, although the root cause was menses. This was really about handling the little things and not letting your problem become the bosses problem. And if it was really severe you need to go home sick.

      1. Sparkly Lady

        But she was working. How was she making it the boss’s problem?

        (and I have never known nor heard of anyone keeping Shout wipes or a small mending kit at work. I don’t think these things are as widespread as you believe. Heck, in open office or hot desk environments, there’s not even a way to keep things like that at work.)

        1. Engineer Girl

          She made it the bosses problem when she started grimacing.

          A small kit easily fits into a computer bag. In my industry (aerospace) most of my coworkers had some form of mini kit. When you have meetings with other stakeholders you want to look put together.

          1. Lora

            Yeah, and youse all had first aid kits too – why couldn’t OP or the boss go get something out of the first aid kit? Ours is just the generic OSHA-required whatever from Grainger, and it comes chock full of ibuprofen and aspirin and acetaminophen and stuff. Everyone has to have one; the only place we don’t have one is in the manufacturing suites where we have only band aids and gauze in the kit, but there’s plenty of stuff in the office area kits. That’s what they are for, jeez.

            1. JustaTech

              Unless you work at my company where they took all the medication out of the first aid kits. Several “reasons” were offered: you may poison yourself by taking too much, you may poison a coworker by feeding them something they’re allergic to, and you’re using too much and it’s too expensive (which was probably the real reason).

              It would have been nice to have a heads-up about them taking it away, especially since they had already taken away the single-dose packs of the three main painkillers. (And they wouldn’t listen to my arguments for at least keeping aspirin in case of heart attack.)

              1. AKchic

                My last company was required by licensing to remove all medications from the first aid kits because we worked with addicts.

                I kept them in my lock-box at my desk (I was required to have a lock-box because of my prescribed medications that I had to have an emergency supply on hand “just in case”). I ended up converting a drawer in my desk for office “emergency” stuff for everyone. Sewing/mending supplies, spare socks/nylons, shoe stuff, menses emergency supplies, spare leggings, shout pens/wipes, OTC stomach ailment remedies, breath mints, etc.
                Other staffers started contributing their own supplies to it because there was finally a drawer.
                I brought in a 3-drawer cart to the ladies room for storage for feminine hygiene products and started storing all of the emergency ladies products there and that became a very popular cart.
                One drawer was labeled “In Case You Need It” and everyone donated something to it.

                I generally keep emergency supplies with me because I never know what’s going to happen.

                1. Chinookwind

                  “I brought in a 3-drawer cart to the ladies room for storage for feminine hygiene products and started storing all of the emergency ladies products there and that became a very popular cart.
                  One drawer was labeled “In Case You Need It” and everyone donated something to it.”

                  This is a brilliant idea and I don’t know why I have never seen it before. I would implement one here if I wasn’t the only woman.

                2. Not Rebee

                  My office has a very tiny three drawer box on the countertop that we keep stocked with tampons and panty liners. Also on the counter in that bathroom is a jar of hair ties, one of bobby pins, one of q-tips, and a can of hairspray. It’s… so nice, really. We are the only company with access to that particular restroom.

                3. many bells down

                  I’ve been nagging my boss at the museum to float the topic of why the all-gender employee-only bathrooms don’t have free tampons and pads in them. Apparently, the off-site admin office DOES, but the actual museum does not!

              2. Lora

                The ANSI standard doesn’t require analgesics because of where I work (in pharma): if you’re manufacturing something that could be contaminated by anything in the first aid kit, then you can’t have it required to be in a first aid kit.

                That said, ANSI Z308-1.2009 does strongly recommend it where possible. If it’s too expensive, I’d start wondering if my paychecks will bounce…

              3. Lurker

                Or maybe taking something from First Aid requires an incident report be filled out in case there needs to be a Workers Comp claim. Since this “injury” wasn’t work related maybe it wouldn’t qualify as legitimate need of First Aid supplies…

                1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup

                  I have also been in a (volunteer) situation where, because we worked with teenagers, we were not allowed to carry so much as Band-Aids [tm] on our person, as part of the “zero tolerance” drug policy (adhesive bandage strips apparently counted as “drugs,” as did sunscreen, tampons, and certain brands of lip balm– which may give you a clue as to when this happened). That was decades ago, though, and given what I’d heard of the program a couple of years after I left, my confirmation bias tells me that “zero tolerance” policies tend to have a boomerang effect… (I do understand that if the teenager took something from us and had an allergic reaction, we would be putting the school at risk of lawsuit, and that, if we were in a hospital or other place where the kids were reliably on medications at risk of drug interactions, this might have been justified. But since we weren’t given places to put our stuff and very few of us had cars, I think this was a tad extreme, and it certainly drove volunteers away.)

          2. Delphine

            That’s a horrible thing to say. Many people have pain that can’t be controlled with medication. OTC medications rarely work for my cramps, I can’t take stronger prescription strength painkillers for health reasons, and so there are days when I am forced to sit through it. If my face happens to show some discomfort, I am not “making it” someone else’s problem. I’m human.

            1. Engineer Girl

              The issue is that the OP deliberately chose not to mitigate it and then wanted the boss to accommodate it.

              I’m all for accommodation. But you need to do your part too.

              1. Ladida

                I know you’re going to get push back but I have to agree -her reasoning wasn’t that OTC drugs don’t work on her cramps but that she didn’t want to overpay which was her choice but if that choice affects her boss’ appraisal of her work then that was a possible outcome. He didn’t know she wasn’t grimacing on the sales floor. The suggestion to go get some meds (that it’s already established do help her pain) or stop writhing in pain in front of people seems reasonable to me.

              2. Specialk9

                This just strikes me as so COLD. Oh, gods forbid someone GRIMACE in PAIN at work. What a bad person. They definitely deserve a reprimand.

                FFS. Seriously. You’re on the side of the asshole boss?!

                1. Specialk9

                  Not to mention, she winced in private, with no customers around.

                  “I work in auto sales as a sales consultant. There were absolutely no customers in the dealership at the time and I was in the manager’s office telling him he had a call, so I was wincing while out of view of anyone.”

                2. Engineer Girl

                  They were in pain because they chose not to take meds when they could have.

                  This is the crux of the issue. Adults are expected to TRY to manage their medical conditions. She made a decision not to, and then complained about the consequences!

                  Adulting 101 – own your decisions.

                3. Quoth the Raven

                  And, on top of that, painkillers don’t work immediately (I know ibuprofen can take over an hour to work for me depending on how bad my cramps are) so that’s time she would have been grimacing either way.

              3. Lunita

                Actually, the OP states in the letter that while she forgot her pain pills and didn’t want to buy more, that they may not have worked anyway. Really, how much “accommodation” did OP ask for? Not much and the manager was jerk. I would never respond like that to an employee.


            2. many bells down

              I’m with you, my doctor gave me vicodin for mine. Which is great, it totally works, but uh … I’m also totally zoned out all day so I can’t exactly work while I’m on it.

        2. Engineer Girl

          I should add that for many aerospace locations it’s hard to get off campus. Even a short run can take 30 minutes. Hence the mini survival kit.

          Handling small emergencies is the professional thing to do.

          1. KRM

            Yes. I have a small “medical” kit in my bag, with painkillers, migraine meds, and my preferred type of band-aid (fabric, they seem to stick to me better). I’m lucky that we have first-aid kits all around the building with basic supplies, but I’m prepared should we run out of anything. When you’re in pain is not the time to be cheap.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale

          I have never known an office where someone (or multiple people) didn’t have a Tide pen (I have one in my desk drawer and another in my bag), Band-Aids, extra pads, a bottle of ibuprofen, a nail file, etc. somewhere nearby, often at the bottom of a work bag or computer bag. It’s up to us to keep an emergency stock somewhere or go out and get it if we need it. I used to spend way too much money at a convenience store near work because I kept forgetting things, then I had the lightbulb and learned to keep things in my work bag or my wallet.

          I do think the manager was a jerk about this situation, though.

          1. Lora

            As the office packrat who always has half a pharmacy in her purse (including Benadryl! never forget the Benadryl!), a sewing kit, extra shoes, an extra blazer in case I spill coffee on the jacket du jour, travel blanket, two umbrellas (one for bag, one for car), tissues, socks, extra underpants, first aid kit including vetwrap, gauze, disinfectant, travel size contact solution, notebook, pens, waterproof mascara, wipes, packed lunch etc…most people forget or miss at least one thing per week. It happens.

            That said, as a flipping human being with functional empathy neurons, you’re supposed to try to HELP people in pain, not yell at them. Jesus H. Christ.

            OP, consider that you have just learned that your boss is a jackhole, and decide what you want to do with that information.

            1. What's with today, today?

              Oh yes! I keep Benadryl everywhere. Purse, car, desk, every bathroom in our house and kitchen. Damn pine pollen.

              1. Specialk9

                The term is commonly understood to include rebukes, chastisement, and reprimands at a variety of volumes.

            2. Allison

              Yes, exactly. Being prepared is awesome, I keep a fair number of those things at my desk but not all of them, and people are human! People forget things, people run out of things, stuff happens.

              1. Lora

                See my comment above – all US companies are required to have a first aid kit, which typically includes various OTC painkillers.

            3. Michaela Westen

              I had to stop taking Benadryl when the geniuses started adding calcium to it.
              Because it’s well documented that people with allergies tend to have acid stomach, and calcium stimulates acid production… ouch!
              Even more annoying, their response to my irate email was to ask me to teach them… they can’t read the Annals of Allergy for themselves…
              Sorry a little OT, but it’s important to spread the word about such things…

          2. MCMonkeyBean

            Yeah, the boss handled it very poorly but I don’t think is underlying point was necessarily outrageous–assuming he would feel the same way about a man with a headache or something which seems likely.

            1. Nita

              Agreed. I feel for OP, but if she knew the pain was going to be bad and there were no painkillers in the office (say, in a first aid kit) she really should have bought that convenience store bottle just that once. And maybe left it at the office, or in her purse.

              The boss was an ass, and he should have been more sensitive to the possibility that OP already took painkillers and they didn’t work, or maybe cannot take painkillers. However, OP should have considered that this is, hopefully, a preventable problem, and weighed the fact that she’s going to be in pain for a while AND in a client-facing job against the cost of that bottle of pills.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              Yeah, manager could have been nicer, but if anyone else was going around the office wincing in agony–from cramps, a migraine, or a torn knee–I think it’s reasonable for the manager to view that as not conducive to convincing customers to relax and get in a major purchase mood. More like “Oh dear you’re in pain I should come back next week.”

              It also seems possible he was up to date on all of it from a previous interaction–she winced in pain, he asked what was up, she told him it’s fine, cramps and that ibuprofin would help but the corner store charges a lot for it so she was just going to power through… and an hour later she comes into his office cringing in pain.

              1. Chinookwind

                ” but if anyone else was going around the office wincing in agony–from cramps, a migraine, or a torn knee–I think it’s reasonable for the manager to view that as not conducive to convincing customers to relax”

                I have to agree. I ended up with an injured ankle while a receptionist and was asked to get it treated and/or stay home until I could manage the pain (they even found me stuff to work from home on). it was distracting to others because everybody started focusing on whether or not I was ok.

                The OP either needed to go out and buy some pain meds or be allowed to go home on paid sick leave. Now, if there is no paid sick leave, then the boss should be aware that the consequence to that lack of a benefit is that sometimes your employees will not look healthy 100% of the time.

              2. Specialk9

                There were no customers even in the building, AND she was in a private office.

                “I work in auto sales as a sales consultant. There were absolutely no customers in the dealership at the time and I was in the manager’s office telling him he had a call, so I was wincing while out of view of anyone.”

          3. Susan Sto Helit

            I have a caddy with painkillers, hayfever pills, cold/flu pills, hypoallergenic plasters, hand cream, lip balm, hand sanitiser, compact mirror etc – the painkillers are regularly restocked. Mine lives on my desk because it’s a relaxed office, but it could go into a drawer just as easily, and having it all here means my bag isn’t too weighed down.

            That said, the shocking thing to me about this story is that no coworkers were able to offer pain meds! Surely that’s just something you do for your colleagues?

            1. TootsNYC

              I have this–and guess what? I give it to coworkers!

              I wonder if our OP could have asked around to see if someone had some painkillers.

          4. Not Rebee

            OP said dealership, so I would assume she works at a car dealership in which case there might not be many women around. I don’t think most men carry around “in case you need it” items the same way women do, nor do they have an easy way of carrying it all around with them (they may have pockets, but you can’t keep half a pharmacy in there like my purse can). Personally, I usually have a few spare tampons, some advil, and some allergy pills. I bought one of the travel Advil things a while ago and just have been refilling the bottle with more Advil or allergy meds whenever I run out. It holds about 20 pills, which is more than enough for like 10 advil and five Allegras or whatever.

            1. Free Meerkats

              I do. From my chair I can reach my migraine drug, ibuprofen, glass cleaner for my glasses, eyeglass repair kit, antacid, a sewing kit, allergy pills, and an inhaler. If I go to my locker I have at least three full changes of clothes, extra work boots, rubber boots, two pair of running shoes, a couple of winter coats. And then there’s the bugout bag in the trunk of my car next to the emergency bag. Between the two I can easily survive 48 hours, and at least a week so long as I can find purifiable water.

            2. Staja

              We have about 15 women in my dealership and go through Advil like candy. If we don’t have any in our supply closet, I know that people bring their own, so all anyone would have to do is ask.

        4. Laurelma__01!

          The boss was an ass. I have both shout stick & wipes, sewing kit, alka selzer, pain pills, extra pair of underwear, toothpaste, brush, deodorant, lipstick, mirror, lint roller ,etc. in my drawer. I’m in this building 9 hours a day, and I stress sweat and I have cats. You do what you can to freshen up at work.

      2. Gerry

        I agree. It’s unfortunate to have to pay extra for overpriced painkillers but it’s going to be a one-off and avoid all this drama.

      3. Lilian

        I’m a woman and I have a condition that results in pretty severe flair ups, and I completely agree. This is not about gender, this is about not managing something that you could have at least tried to manage. The wording might not have been nice, but the message is not wrong.

        1. Lara

          Do you think he would have snapped at someone who was wincing with a knee problem? I think people, including doctors, rarely take menstrual problems seriously, and that it’s pretty common for managers to think cramps are NBD.

          1. snowglobe

            I think if the person with the knee problem was not taking pain medicine and there was a chance that they’d be working with clients that afternoon, they probably would be told to go get something for the pain. However, the way the message was delivered was pretty rude.

          2. Julia

            I absolutely agree with you (I suffer from endometriosis and it not only took years to get diagnosed, I also had a boss who thought young people had to be nothing but healthy), but: did OP’s boss even know why exactly OP was in pain? If so, boss needs to understand that painkillers don’t always help much – with other pain issues as well, actually, from what I’ve heard – but I don’t think her boss necessarily considers cramps NBD.

            1. Lara

              Yeah, whether it’s gendered at all relies solely on whether he knew why she was in pain.

              1. Mookie

                I disagree. The culture at large “tolerates” and passes / withholds judgment on the expression of physical pain differently for men and women. The former are expected to be stoic, so either they’re viewed as wimps or the pain is taken to be excruciating, whereas women are frequently seen as trying to garner attention when they grimace or shudder or wince (and are reminded how irritatingly unpleasing to the eye we look while doing so). Pain, like medicine itself, is racialized and gendered.

                That said, this is mitigating context at best. I certainly don’t advise the LW to address this issue with her boss as a matter of sexist doublestandards (or at all).

                1. Lara

                  I wasn’t thinking in terms of mitigation. More in terms of whether he would be more sympathetic to a migraine than cramps.

                2. RUKiddingMe

                  “…whereas women are frequently seen as trying to garner attention when they grimace or shudder or wince (and are reminded how irritatingly unpleasing to the eye we look while doing so). Pain, like medicine itself, is racialized and gendered.”


              2. Rusty Shackelford

                Yeah, whether it’s gendered at all relies solely on whether he knew why she was in pain.

                I don’t think it’s that black-and-white. If I have absolutely no patience for anyone who displays pain on their face, knowing it’s menstrual pain wouldn’t make a difference.

                1. Lara

                  I have plenty of patience for people in pain. Sometimes pain cannot be controlled. I envy that you haven’t been in this situation.

                2. Rusty Shackelford

                  @Lara I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Believe me, I have been in that situation, and have the surgical scars to prove it, thanks. What I’m saying is, someone who thinks no one should ever show they’re in pain doesn’t necessarily care where the pain comes from.

            2. PB

              Yeah, it isn’t clear to me that he new OP was experiencing *menstrual* pain. He’s still an ass. He may be a misogynist ass, but that’s less clear.

              1. AM1

                I think we should be careful about labeling people an “ass” and the like. We should always be aware that we aren’t getting the full story in these letters. In addition, everyone, even good managers, occasionally do or say something insensitive. We’re human.

                Having Alison label the boss an “ass” is counterproductive. It could empower the OP to continue operating under that assumption rather than helping the OP deal with it constructively. I actually thought that last line should have been “your boss was definitely insensitive in how he handled this”. Labels aren’t helpful.

                1. En vivo

                  Exactly, labeling isn’t wise or helpful. Even though we are to take LWs at their word, we never have the full story.

                2. Wage Slave

                  What, do you think this actual boss who acted like an ass is going to read Alison’s comment and have his feelings hurt? Your comment re “labeling” is nonsensical.

                3. fieldpoppy

                  I agree with this — the OP was clearly upset when she wrote, and the boss was pretty harsh about it, but I do think she should step back and think about how to handle things better. I agree that a person grimacing etc. is not exactly polished and chill the way auto salespeople are expected to be. I don’t think it’s helpful to call the boss an ass per se.

                4. Dragoning

                  By this logic, we might as well not comment on anything in the letter–for all we know a customer complained to the manager about OP’s grimacing and looking unfriendly.

                  We’re meant to take the OP at their word.

                5. Jadelyn

                  Regardless of the reason your employee is in pain, to have responded to it by calling them “unprofessional” for being in pain is a jerk move, so I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to “label” him as an ass. Behave like an ass, get labeled an ass. Don’t like the label? Don’t be an ass, then.

                6. Specialk9

                  I feel REALLY comfortable calling a human an ass for chastising someone for being IN PAIN. I would go further and wish, with great concentration, for karma to blast that person for their lack of empathy.

            3. EPLawyer

              I agree, I don’t think he knew the cause of the pain. But to claim it was “unprofessional” to be in pain is ridiculous. Human beings get pains. Its part of being alive.

              Alison’s advice was SPOT ON. You don’t call someone unprofessional. You try to help them. A GOOD manager would have noticed the person was in pain and asked if they needed anything. I would have understood about not wanting to pay convenience store prices for the bottle of aspirin. I would have offered mine. Or helped the person figure out something.

              There was a right way and a wrong way to handle this BY THE BOSS who should model the behavior he wants to see, i.e. act freaking professional and MANAGE. The Boss handled it the wrong way.

              But it’s auto sales. High turn over. Big focus on selling. Not so much the human element.

              1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

                I think the unprofessional bit comes not from being in pain but from showing it.

                None of us were there, but a couple of things stand out.

                *The OP had a way to mitigate the problem, but didn’t want to (run to the store and buy the expensive painkillers (although… seriously? I used to laugh at the walgreens around every corner, but I pass no less than 4 of them on my 8 mile trip to work and there are another 4 within 2 miles of my office, yes I know this might not be the norm, but I’m pretty confident a car dealership is located somewhere reasonably close to other retail establishments) Did she ask any of her coworkers if they had any ibuprofen?

                *The OP described herself as grimacing. So I can imagine everything from a slight wince to a full on drama swoon complete with “Eeesh” sounds and groaning. We’ll never know.

                *Did the OP give details, we don’t know, but if she did then that falls under the wayyyy TMI category. Unless your malady is visible or affects a visible part of your body… discussing it unprofessional

                It’s not the boss’ job to manage the health of their employees. That is up to the employee.

                1. Jadelyn

                  You know, I read a comment like this and all I can think is…have you ever been in severe pain? Sometimes it’s not a *choice* to show it. We are human. Humans have faces. Those faces show expressions that correspond to our physical and emotional states. We can control that to a degree, but please, show me someone who’s never ever flinched at something, or jumped, or winced. The idea that it’s “unprofessional” just to have a pained expression on your face for a moment or two, is just so bizarre to me – being on the clock doesn’t mean you’re not human, with all the attendant physical foibles that come with it, and in a bad moment you can’t always control your expression perfectly.

                  Not to mention, painkillers don’t always help all issues. I get relatively minimal benefits from most OTC pain meds. Taking them might help some, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’ll no longer be in pain, or even that my pain will go from severe to mild – it may just go from severe to slightly less severe. Menstrual cramps were always one of the worst, for me – I got awful cramps sometimes, and when I did, no amount of painkillers would help.

                  And before anyone starts with the “then you shouldn’t be at work,” kindly remember that that’s not always a choice people have available to them. Not all workplaces offer paid sick time. Not all managers are good about letting their staff actually use their paid sick time if they have it. Not everyone can afford to lose a day of pay if they don’t get paid sick time.
                  If your pain isn’t related to an FMLA-covered medical condition, you have no protection against your manager firing you for attendance reasons if you go home sick. It’s not as simple as “completely and perfectly hide the fact that you are hurting, or go home.” That’s not a reasonable set of choices to offer someone.

                2. aebhel

                  @Jadelyn, yeah, I smashed my elbow on a door frame yesterday, bruised myself pretty badly, and was wincing and rubbing it in my office. Apparently that’s unprofessional?

                  This line of thinking is just utterly bizarre to me. Unless the OP was acting outrageously, having a brief, pained expression is not unprofessional. We’re human beings, not automatons.

          3. Lilian

            From the letter, it seems like the OP never made it clear that it was period pain. And just because you’re in pain and you’re female doesn’t automatically make it clear that it’s period pain, so I don’t see why the boss would have deduced that it’s that. Even as a female when I see someone wincing in pain I wouldn’t automatically think periods. So yes, the reason for pain might not have been considered at all, just that it’s not being taken care of.

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Even as a female when I see someone wincing in pain I wouldn’t automatically think periods.

              In fact, as a woman, I’d kind of prefer people didn’t jump to that conclusion.

              1. Logan

                I don’t know why I suddenly thought of it here, but I am reminded of Donald Trump’s comment about Hillary Clinton prior to the election. He said that the US shouldn’t elect a woman because of the harm she might potentially do as a result of the pain from period cramps. Which resulted in a lot of “WTF? Does he know about menopause?”

                I don’t know how he would react to the fact that NZ’s leader had a baby.

          4. Observer

            It’s hard to tell for sure, of course, but there is no evidence that the boss knew that it was her cramps. While I think the Boss should have handled things differently, there is nothing to indicate that he had a problem because it was menstrual cramps.

            And, as someone who has had to deal with that kind of problem, I can tell you that waiting till you’re in that much pain before taking something is stupid, because it’s much much less useful.

          5. Falling Diphthong

            If the person had previously said that an ace bandage would fix it, but they weren’t willing to pay the corner store rates on an ace bandage, and then came into the office wincing in pain I think yes, he might react exactly the same way.

        2. soon 2be former fed

          Yeah, women (I am one) have to stop expecting moddycoddling in the workplace. This was NBD.

      4. Kelly

        I agree with you. I think cramps are awful; but to be sitting there wincing was unprofessional. I think the manager actually handled it fairly

        1. Constanze

          Actually, it doesn’t matter if you think or not that cramps are awful. Pain doesn’t manifest itself if we agree with it.
          The OP might not have had any choice in displaying her pain, so saying that it is unprofessional if dismissive, unhelpful and not at all in line with humans work.

          1. Roscoe

            I do think though that if you have the ability to mitigate this pain, and you choose not to because you are being frugal, then it kind of does become unprofessional. Like if I had a massive toothache and was grimacing on the sales floor, I can see my boss telling me to take something for the pain since its obovious

          2. Falling Diphthong

            The OP might not have had any choice in displaying her pain,

            Her letter is explicitly based on how she was showing the pain to him but not to customers. It’s reasonable for people witnessing your pain to conclude that either you are choosing to play act your suffering for them, or you are doing this visible-pain-mime in front of them and also other people because you can’t help it. The fine line of “pain so bad you cringe before your coworkers, but are placid and at ease with customers” isn’t very convincing.

            1. Delphine

              That’s not what her letter says at all. It says she was out of view of any other person when he witnessed her grimacing. But, if I happen to show pain in my office when I am more relaxed and am able to be more put together in front of customers, that’s not play acting suffering. Have some compassion.

            2. Jadelyn

              “visible-pain-mime”? My gods, what a cruel thing to say.

              Putting more effort into hiding one’s physical state in one moment than in another is such a basic situational calibration thing, I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion about “play acting one’s suffering” for people! Do you always display your emotions to the exact same degree in front of every single person you know, in every single situation? Or are you maybe more unguarded in front of a friend, or in a private office with one other person, than you would be in a meeting of coworkers or while giving a presentation? I’d bet the latter, simply because that’s generally how humans work.

              Regardless, to describe showing visible discomfort as “choosing to play act your suffering” and “doing this visible-pain-mime” is a reprehensibly cruel and heartless thing to say to someone.

            3. Jessie the First (or second)

              You are really looking for the worst possible light to look at the OP.

              It seems simple enough to me: sometimes, pain is terrible and awful but you CAN’T show it in front of a customer or you will be fired, so you hold it together just long enough, and then when you have a second where no customer can see you, you relax a little and the awfulness comes and you grimace a bit or wince in pain.

              That’s not “visible-pain-mime” play-acting. It’s trying your hardest to hold it together for as long as you can. For pete’s sake. How about a little less “gotcha!!” directed toward the OP here?

              1. soon 2be former fed

                Car purchases are lengthy transactions. If the OP got a customer who ended up buying, it is untenable that she would have been able to masquerade her severe pain during the entire thing. Even going on a test ride with a potential buyer would require quite a bit of acting to suppress reactions to severe pain, in close quarters no less. How did OP intend to handle these situations?

                There was no guarantee that there would be zero customers there all day. Manager may have been a bit harsh, but I don’t think his concerns were totally unwarranted, and demonizing him or her is over the top. I hope OP gets treatment for her severe pain, if it has a treatable cause. Keeping a stash of meds in her purse (I keep a few pain tablets in my wallet at all times), and prophylactic pain treatment (if her cycle is predictable) may be useful practices for her.

          1. soon 2be former fed

            I think this is an extreme reaction. I’m empathetic and would not have used the manager’s wording, but I also don’t think we can accuse him of being a monster. Come on.

      5. Lara

        I feel like you’re making a lot of assumptions here. Maybe she’s ‘being cheap’ because £4 versus 25p is a big deal to her. Maybe her periods are irregular and she doesn’t know when they’re going to happen. Maybe those painkillers don’t work at all, which is the case with a lot of severe menstrual problems.

        Seriously, this is a Catch-22. Ibouprofen barely touches it. Doctors won’t prescribe more effective medication. You can’t have a hot water bottle on you because that’s unprofessional. You can’t call in with cramps because people think you’re ‘making a fuss’ because ‘everyone gets cramps’.

        Also; last time I had a medical problem, my boss didn’t whinge that I was ‘making it his problem’ or ‘being unprofessional’, he gave me leave to go to the doctor. I think this manager was bizarre.

        1. Julia

          This. We don’t know if OP even had the option of staying at home, and I know from painful experience that painkillers are often not enough, especially if you don’t take them immediately or they’re the wrong kind. (Naproxen worked much better for me than ibuprofen, until it, too, stopped.)

          1. Lara

            Yeah, at one point I was taking ibouprofen at the suggestion of a twinge, but my doc pointed out that that can just cause a different kind of pain. (Ooops)

            1. Julia

              Mine was like, “sure, take pain killers as necessary”, but since my pain started like a week before the actual period, I never really know when to start until it was too late, and I didn’t feel comfortable with just taking pain killer for 10 days a month.

                1. Julia

                  I hope you have found a solution! I’ve been on a kind of pill with no breaks for two years now and it seems to be working for me, as I’m pain-free and don’t have any side effects, but I know this isn’t the perfect solution for everyone, plus I always worry a little about the lack of long-term studies and the fact that with some pills, we find out years later that they were actually extremely dangerous. For me, this is still the right treatment not just because it’s one of the only available treatments, but because I have my quality of life back, but things are never this easy for the entire population of sufferers.

                  Sorry, I just meant to say that I hope you’re doing better and to mention a possible treatment for whoever else might be reading this.

                2. Lara

                  No thank you, that was very kind, I take progesterone only birth control which means I only get a period once every few months. They’re still not great, but at least they’re short and sharp now.

                3. Julia

                  Mine is progesterone-only as well, maybe it’s even the same pill. I’m allowed – or even supposed – to take it without any breaks, which is great. I do not miss having periods at all, but I’m a tad paranoid about unnoticed pregnancies lol.

                1. Windchime

                  I damaged my kidneys by overusing ibuprofen, so that’s something to be careful about as well.

                2. Tiny Soprano

                  Unfortunately I’ve found that the only painkillers that work for me also disagree with my voice (not great for an opera singer), so I end up with a choice of: a) be able to sing but not stand, b) be able to stand but not sing, or c) call in sick (which isn’t always possible). Fortunately the last time this happened the conductor was not a jerk and was happy for me to make whatever ugly faces I needed to get through Sitzprobe!

          2. I Love Thrawn

            Oh yeah, they’ve got to be taken immediately when the cramps start the least twinging. Waiting until they are fully grown up to take meds will do nothing.

            1. Lara

              Unfortunately taking them too frequently can cause stomach issues, even if they help the uterus.

              1. Julia

                That’s the problem. Every time, you have to debate whether now is the time to take your pain killers or if it’s too early and you’d have to take too many if you started now. It’s really easy to miss that window.

          3. Ladida

            We DO know the OP said she had painkillers that worked at home and she said nothing to indicate that the available painkillers at the store wouldn’t be effective, just that they were overpriced. I know many people have very severe cramps but mine are usually not that bad and OTC painkillers do help. The boss could have been kinder but the suggestion to pop out and buy some medication so she isn’t visibly in pain actually sounds like a kind suggestion. I don’t know if she explained she can look professional and not writhe in pain in front of customers to him but if she didn’t, then he had no way of knowing that she could keep it under control on the sales floor and was only grimacing in his office.

          4. atalanta0jess

            Thank you. Not everyone can afford to waste money, even if it’s just a few bucks.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          Maybe her periods are irregular and she doesn’t know when they’re going to happen. Maybe those painkillers don’t work at all, which is the case with a lot of severe menstrual problems.

          The LW said she forgot to put painkillers in her bag. She didn’t say anything about being surprised that she needed them, or that they didn’t work. I believe the context makes it clear that she would have been okay if she’d just remembered to pack them. (And maybe I’m wimpier than a lot of people, but I’ve always got painkillers on me. In my desk and in my purse.)

          1. Lara

            Eh? She specifically says:

            “the cramps are bad enough that painkillers aren’t helping anyway.”

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Ah, so she did. In that case, I wonder why she pointed out that she’d forgotten them, since it’s a moot point.

            2. Observer

              Yeah – that happens if you don’t take them right away. And it sounds like she knows this…

            3. soon 2be former fed

              That was after the pain settled in because she forgot the painkillers and couldn’t take them timely.

          2. BenAdminGeek

            Agree with this. This doesn’t seem like it was a surprise or a change from normal, just that she forgot her meds.

        3. ItsOnlyMe

          I had severe endometriosis and I sometimes took Mefenamic acid which really helped and I also used Deep Heat type period pain patches which were amazing relief, for me they were every bit as pain relieving as a hot water bottle. And I may have been lucky because this all happened to me years ago, I had a great Dr who worked with me to figure it out – I was charting ovulation & period date patterns and pain before there were even apps for that :) The key for my pain relief was catching it early which charting helped with. Boring but functional.

          Like many others, I have had to work when I was in pain, I also took some days off when I had pain but I never called in and said I had period pain, I called in and said I was too ill to work.

          I think the OPs Manager was unkind, absolutely.

        4. Observer

          The Op was pretty clear – she knew she was going to need them and forgot. If you get that kind of cramping, you keep whatever it is in your purse (or laptop bag or whatever it is you use to carry your stuff.)

          And Ibuprofen can be quite effective, if you take enough and in time. BTDT.

          The boss handled things really poorly, because being in pain is not “unprofessional”. And even if ti were, a little compassion wouldn’t hurt or make the boss look like a “wimp” or whatever he’s worried about. But the OP needs to get off her high horse. She could have handled things a lot better, too.

          1. Tara R.

            She said “the cramps are bad enough that painkillers aren’t helping anyway.”, so evidently it wouldn’t have been effective for her.

                1. Observer

                  Oh come on. The OP was explicit that she would normally have taken the painkiller and expect it to work. So, claiming that it was reasonable to NOT take it because it didn’t help later – when this is a well known and understood issue – takes a lot of stretching.

                  Look, I have a LOT of sympathy for people who have this issue. And even more for women for whom regular pain killers don’t work properly. But let’s understand the difference between something you REALLY can’t control, and self righteously refusing to take some steps to mitigate a situation. That’s what happened – She forgot her painkiller, and the “refused” to take pain killers because they are “overpriced” – those are her words.

        5. New Window

          II hope that somebody has brought up this next point somewhere down the thread. Periods should not cause excruciating and debilitating cramps, but sometimes – even often — they do. Do you know what also shouldn’t cause excruciating and debilitating pain? Digesting food, but it does for the many, many people with IBS or Crohn’s disease. We can absolutely say that people with these conditions need to be careful about what they eat and take their medication with them everywhere they go. Unfortunately, humans are humans, and we forget things, or we accidentally eat something we shouldn’t have, or a problem ingredient was in our good when we ate it and we didn’t realize at the time. So when a person is running back-and-forth to the bathroom during a theoretically preventable flareup, or grimacing in pain when they’re at the point where medication will do absolutely nothing for them, yes, a boss would be a complete asshole to say that’s your own damn fault you’re a bad person to have here.

          Frankly, I’m a little bit surprised after reading so much sympathy or understanding comments to letter writers who write in about other chronic conditions to hear — at least so far on this thread – essentially a lot of comments saying well that was your own damn fault.

          1. a

            Yeah I have to say I am a little shocked. The guy whose bird phobia caused a him to push another person into the path of a moving car seemed to get more sympathy than OP1 is getting for merely grimacing.

          2. President Porpoise

            Well yeah, but as an IBS sufferer, I will say that if I’m in so much pain or so occupied in the restroom, I’m going home – because it’s unprofessional to be at work when you’re too distracted to work. I think that’s what the OP should have done here – especially as she states that her cramps are bad enough that painkillers don’t help.

            I don’t know OP’s PTO situation, but that would be my suggestion going forward.

          3. Specialk9

            Look, people with IBS should stop making their pain impact others. We don’t want to look at the shadow of your pain on your faces! Stop being such drama llamas who are all about yourselves. Pain is so ugly to watch. It’s really inconvenient to witness. Just leave our sight, ok? Ugh.

            /S (very pointedly so)

            1. President Porpoise

              Umm, many of us do. Because it’s unprofessional. Also, because being in the bathroom every 20 minutes all afternoon is also unprofessional and uncomfortable, and we’d rather be doing that at home, thanks.

              1. Specialk9

                Oh sorry, was my withering sarcasm too subtle? I was worried I was going overboard.

                1. President Porpoise

                  Not at all. I disagreed with the point you were making.

                  Also, your rresponse is rather rude.

            2. Engineer Girl

              She winced in pain because she wasn’t adult enough to manage it when she could have.

              The issue isn’t intolerance for the pain of others. The issue is making others put up with the consequences of her bad choices.

              She CHOSE not to take painkillers, because she didn’t want to spend a few dollars.

              If she had taken her pain meds and they didn’t work? She would have had my full sympathy. This is adulting 101.

      6. Daisy

        Yeah I agree. Visibly ‘wincing’ *is* unprofessional at work. If they’re that bad you need to take something or go home.

        1. Jadelyn

          It must be nice to live in a world where everyone always has both of those options available to them!

      7. RainbowGrunge

        Yeah, that was pretty much my line of thinking as well. OP1 seemed so quick to be offended by boss’s words. Though maybe boss had more malicious tone than what I’m applying to his words.

        Grimacing in pain on the floor really isn’t professional. While that could have been said with more tact, I don’t think it’s discriminatory or sexist. Even if there were no customers around, he probably wanted to get things under control by the time they showed up.

        I used to get nosebleeds every day. Every single day. Several instances at work (I was a department manager in a hardware store at the time), I would get them. I used to just kleenex up, and still go around helping guests…well guess what, turns out holding bloody kleenex to my face while trying to tell someone how to install hardwood isn’t professional. I got written up when my boss caught wind and from then on had to clock out and leave the floor to go to the bathroom or back office until I stopped bleeding.

        (Turns out I had an incredibly deviated septum (which also explained my near constant headaches!). )

        1. Les G

          I think “on the floor” means “while working on the sales floor,” not that OP is lying on the floor.

          1. Specialk9

            And also she wasn’t on the sales floor, she was in a private office, and no customers were even in the building.

        2. Yvette

          And if you were taking aspirin for the headaches, a blood thinner, you would be making the nosebleeds worse!! I hope you were able to do something about it!!

      8. Wage Slave

        Seriously! If her cramps are anything like mine, I’d pay 500 bucks for painkillers if I had to, rather than suffer through a day at work in hellish pain. I can’t work up much sympathy for the OP in this case.

        1. Engineer Girl

          Personal attacks are for when you can’t offer a logical rebuttal.

          They are a major logical fallacy.

        2. Tiny Soprano

          But as she stated that painkillers often don’t work for her anyhow, I can see how buying an overpriced product that might well just end up being wasted money could be an unappealing option. Especially if the pain was borderline and she thought she might be able to hack it for one day.

      9. loslothluin

        I have a kit at work in my desk drawer – stayfree, pain meds (my GP told me I could do 2 Advil and 3 regular strength Tylenol for cramps, and it works wonderfully), tide pen, and I even keep a spare rescue inhaler in my desk drawer. I also keep a mini version in my purse at all times.

      10. Just Another Analyst

        As a lady who frequently gets bad menstrual cramps, I completely agree with you. If I showed up to work with a cold then I wouldn’t walk around with my nose constantly running while openly coughing and sneezing. I would carry tissues, Dayquil, and cough drops, and do my best to manage the symptoms so as not to be a distraction. It’s unfortunate that only women have to deal with menstrual cramps, but that doesn’t mean we should get special treatment. We should just try to handle it in the same way as any other ailment.

        1. tusky

          But would you think it reasonable to be scolded for coughing occasionally out of view of customers? Because that’s the equivalent here of wincing in pain when not on the sales floor.

      11. Falling Diphthong

        You forgot your pills. That happens. But then you really do need to go to the convenience store.

        I concur, as someone who used to have really, really awful periods. (Heavy bleeding, bad cramps.) It’s $3. This is like refusing to change out of painful shoes when you have another pair in your desk or car, because…. you’ve come up with a reason you can’t do that, and your manager or coworkers are refusing to cooperate with how impossible fixing this problem would be.

        It’s reasonable for your manager to conclude, if you’re visibly wincing in pain in front of them, that you’re visibly wincing in pain in front of customers. I know you can craft that as “felt safe to let my guard down” rather than “play acted for an audience” but it’s not how they took your visible pain. As a customer, my reaction there is going to be “Oh no, you seem ill. Should you lie down? Rest?” and not “Let’s get to some shopping.” Manager could certainly have approached it as maybe LW needed to go home–but it sounds like he was already up on “I have my period, I feel awful and in pain, but I won’t go get the medicine that would fix it because it would cost a couple of dollars… Oooow ow ow.”

      12. Mediamaven

        I agree with you. The part where he said she was on the floor. I mean, was she grimacing or actually on the floor? Because those are two very different things. If she’s on the floor then she should get painkillers or chose to go home. Maybe his delivery wasn’t right but you do have to bear some responsibility if you are incapacitated to remedy the situation.

        1. Myrin

          I think it’s “on the floor” as in “on the sales floor” as opposed to “out back working with the machinery”.

        2. Specialk9

          My friend used to be curled on the literal floor, unlike OP, and her managers were normal humans and took care of her. You know, like non sociopaths.

          1. Quoth the Raven

            Yeah, I used to have a classmate who would literally curl up on the floor between classes because her cramps were extremely bad.

            Even then, she was not allowed to go back home many times because you’re supposed to “tough it through” period cramps, so the OP might not have even have the ability to leave work if she’s in that much pain.

          2. soon 2be former fed

            You have a very personal stance on this. To accuse people of being sociopathic not-normal humans because they don’t react like you is ridiculous. Curling up on the floor means you shouldn’t be at work, perhaps you should be home with a family member taking care of you. I don’t even want my work mates taking care of me. Geesh.

    3. Lyman for President

      It’s unclear from the letter that the boss even knew the cause of the pain – for all they know, it could have been a back or knee issue.

      1. Bea

        Or a hangover is what came to my mind. Many managers are unsympathetic to the idea a staff member just rolled in with a hangover.

        1. Mad Baggins

          This is what I thought too. Before jumping to “your manager is intentionally sexist” I thought “the manager is not very sympathetic, and probably thinks you’re hungover”. How does your boss respond when other workers are sick?

          1. Constanze

            Really ? Who winces when they have a hangover ? I just look exhausted and sick. But a hangover doesn’t give sharp pains like bad cramps. You wince when you have bad pain.

            The manager was being an real ass and not at all compassionate.

            1. RainbowGrunge

              When I have a wine hangover I wince with stomach pain all the next day…when I am not puking….only wine though. Everything else just seems to give me headaches!

            2. Observer

              Lots of people have headaches, get light sensitive and / or sensitive to smells. All of these things could cause wincing. So, yeah, I could see why he might think that.

            3. sarah

              Hungover for me is usually bad headaches and sensitivity to light — definite wincing.

    4. anon for this

      The reason why she was in pain is immaterial, the fact remains that she says she was wincing with pain while at work. The boss was a jerk for playing the “this is unprofessional” card vs: inquiring about her welfare (that’s just common decency) but IMO it was poor judgment by the OP to skip pain relievers and show up at work visibly in pain. All for what, saving $10? Why do this to yourself?

      1. Bea

        Corner stores here sell 4 packs for about 1.99. I have had to purchase plenty in my life.

        1. Lara

          The corner store near me sells one kind of painkiller, which is paracetamol based and wouldn’t help, and it costs £4.50.

          1. Les G

            I sympathize, but this feels a lil bit like we’re getting into sandwiches territory. The OP doesn’t say that she couldn’t afford the stuff at the gas station or that it wouldn’t work for her, just that she didn’t want to pay for it.

              1. Falling Diphthong

                Eh, I’ve muttered darkly in airports when I discovered the bottle in my purse had migrated somewhere. But the options are deciding not to buy it and ignoring the pain (or whatever medical condition), or buying it and muttering about airport prices, then moving on. You don’t explain to your traveling companions that you’re in pain and there’s an easy fix but you just won’t spend $3 and then hobble around grimacing dramatically whenever they look at you, then weakly wave your hand and explain that it’s nothing, then cringe in pain.

                If there’s no solution and you’re just having to power through pain I’m sympathetic–I have some muscle problems that sometimes mean powering through. If there is a solution that costs under $10 and would work BUT on principle you will only buy the economy bottle at Target… then your pain had better be the sort you can shrug off and not mime.

            1. CoveredInBees

              At the end of the letter, OP wrote that the pills wouldn’t have helped, “Oh and of course, the cramps are bad enough that painkillers aren’t helping anyway, so it was a complete waste of time.” She didn’t feel like wasting money to placate her boss.

            2. Tara R.

              “The OP doesn’t say that she couldn’t afford the stuff at the gas station or that it wouldn’t work for her”

              She does actually say that it wouldn’t work for her.

            3. Specialk9

              Actually they DID say it wouldn’t work for her even if she had them. It’s right there in the letter.

              1. soon 2be former fed

                Because she waited too long to take them! It’s well known that pain mitigation is most effective before the pain is full-blown.

      2. Anonimous

        OP, you and I are on the same cycle. I get that it sucks to be in pain, and if men got their periods they’d get a paid week of menstrual leave and a market full of effective painkillers and accouterments, but the reality is as an adult woman you gotta do what you gotta do–shell out for painkillers, go to the doctor to get stronger ones/check out any issues, take a sick day, grin and bear it, whatever you choose to do. Your boss is a jerk but you made a choice too.

        1. Lara

          I don’t find doctors particularly helpful tbh; the last one I saw about this issue told me that having a baby would help.

            1. Lara

              Yes, besides, “Hey mommy why did you have me?” “Well, honey, I had terrible cramps…”

            2. CmdrShepard4ever

              I think it is just because you didn’t have enough kids. If you just keep having one after another and are constantly pregnant no more periods or cramps problem solved…..

                1. CmdrShepard4ever

                  Don’t you watch movies? What is 10 minutes of labor compared to 9 months of a blissful wonderful pregnancy without periods or cramps….

              1. Agent Diane

                That is also solved by ‘time’ as after a certain point they go away anyway. It’s about 30-35 years to wait, mind!

          1. This Daydreamer

            As a non-mother, I do find it reassuring that the effects of menstruation can be conveniently managed by pregnancy.

              1. London Calling

                £ 230k to raise a child, less than £ 1 for the pills. I’ll take the pills, thanks.

            1. CMFDF

              when I was pregnant, several of my (female) friends made comments about how lucky I was to not have a period and cramps for 9 months.

              I was like, “please let me assure you that this isn’t entirely painless and comfortable.” I also can confirm that labor, and the several weeks following birth, are more painful and bloody than the 10 or so periods I didn’t have because I was pregnant.

              1. Jadelyn

                From what I hear, after you give birth you basically get all 10 months of periods at once for like 3 weeks. I somehow don’t feel like that’s a better way necessarily.

                1. sarah

                  This is correct! Except for me it was more like 6 weeks for whatever reason. Monthly periods = way better. Now, the lack of periods due to breastfeeding — that is really nice.

                2. Specialk9

                  And they’re just as horrific smelling and utterly foul as you’d imagine. That is, if you imagined a jar left in the 100° heat, full of anything biological for almost a year.

          2. Doug Judy

            Yeah mine got much worse after my second child. Thankfully my doctor took me seriously and did a procedure (not a hysterectomy) that’s worked wonders. Unfortunately any permanent solutions end your reproductive options. I didn’t want more kids so it was a no brainer.

            1. Lara

              Yes, I should probably try a different doctor / opinion, this was about 8 years ago. He said I could get a hysterectomy, an ablation or have a baby. I was about 23, and declined all three options.

              1. CupcakeCounter

                Find a doctor that is a she – they tend to be a lot more sympathetic as they have actually had a period.

                1. MatKnifeNinja

                  This is definitely YMMV. The 3 least sympathetic OB/GYNs that delivered the bulk of the babies at my hospital are women.

                  Just because you have periods or had babies doesn’t give you instant empathy. If your periods are a minor aggravation, or you had kids sans intervention or medication, you may think women who complain are drama llamas.

                  There is a waiting list in that practice to see the male doctor because he doesn’t instantly shut down all conversations to watchful waiting.

                  You got a better change flying to Mars that expect a handicap tag for your car or a light duty note for a run of the mill pregnacy from those three.

                2. Observer

                  That’s actually not true. A lot of women doctors are every bit as bad – and some are worse because they have not dealt with the level of pain, so it CAN’T really be so bad you know.

                  Just find a doctor that takes you seriously and doesn’t jump to hysterectomy, but who does diagnostics first.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago

                This is getting way off topic, but I am shocked that a doctor actually offered you a hysterectomy at the age of 23. So many women ask for them and are denied because they “might change their mind” about having kids if they are still in child-bearing years.

                I will say that I have gotten some modicum of relief from Adagio’s Red Tent tea blend. It may be psychosomatic, but it definitely helps me and I will always recommend it to everyone.

                1. Lara

                  I don’t think he was being serious, which is why the whole thing vexed me so much. It was very clear he thought I was making a fuss. I was off work and doubled over and he was being ridiculous.

                  I’ll try it – even if it is psychosomatic, I’ll take it ;)

                2. Bunny Girl

                  Yeah that’s nuts. Where do y’all live? I had such horrific cramps that I passed out (and I have a very high pain tolerance) and I had to go to 12 different doctors to get a doctor who would offer to do a hysterectomy. I ended up getting it at age 20 but it was a major pain in my backside.

                3. Lara

                  Bunny girl – as I say I don’t think he was being serious, I think he was just mocking me. He wouldn’t do any tests for endo etc, he just said those were my choices. It was a bit like going in with leg pain and rather than offering an x-ray they suggest cutting it off, because obviously if the pain were that bad, you’d let them amputate. Whereas wanting nuanced medical care means you must be exaggerating.

              3. Specialk9

                Lara I’m so angry for your mistreatment. I’m just imagining his sly little pig eyes as he laughed at your pain. What a terrible human being.

          3. Teapotty

            My periods got heavier after my daughter was born – and I’m not referring to the immediate ppdt-birth ‘catch up/clean-out”‘ period!

          4. Julia

            Because that’s not painful at all!

            Plus, if it’s actually endometriosis that’s causing the pain, that often means fertility issues as well, so that comment from your kind of crosses the line twice. (Not that I haven’t heard it as well…)

          5. Project Manager

            That did work for me – mine are significantly lighter and shorter after having had two babies – but good grief. I’m envisioning him writing you a scrip for sperm.

          6. Persimmons

            Holy crow, I was told the same thing back in the 90s! I had hoped doctors had gotten less inclined to recommend MAKING A PERSON as a treatment plan. I’m very sorry to be wrong.

          7. Rusty Shackelford

            I don’t find doctors particularly helpful tbh; the last one I saw about this issue told me that having a baby would help.

            Well, for nine months, anyway…

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              Like I said above you just need to be constantly pregnant, keep having kids one after another, problem solved….

          8. Observer

            This kind of thing makes me crazy. It’s true that having a baby does help a huge percentage of women, but that not exactly actionable advice for most women (even ones who want kids….)

          9. Specialk9

            Weirdly, the friend I wrote about above who used to be curled in pain on the floor… It did actually get fixed by pregnancy. (Well, pregnancy, and being either pregnant or nursing for the last 15 years.)

            1. Specialk9

              But that’s only weird because it’s such terrible advice!!

              It’s like “well weirdly one time a guy with a septic wound actually DID get better by letting his dog lick it” but, like, antibiotics are still the better option.

              Ok maybe not *exactly* like that, but in that direction.

    5. Laura H.

      It’s also wise to proactively give your boss a heads up (using appropriate vagueish phrases or specificity as needed). I had the same sort of thing happen to me, but I let my boss know and that helped considerably in making me feel better about pushing through a shift. While the manager could have used a bit of tact, it’s not necessarily a majorly egregious assertion to make…

      And seconding the compilation of an emergency kit in whatever capacity that is (be it hygienic, extra clothes, small repair supplies, meds etc.) it’s your kit, you know you best and that has to be considered.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago

      I don’t see any indication that the OP told the manager why she was in pain.

    7. Justsayin

      I actually think OP #1 sounds like she was being a bit dramatic, especially based on the last sentence of her letter. And I am a woman with endometriosis who has at times had severe menstrual pain, working in a male-dominated industry. Sometimes wincing in pain is involuntary, but usually not, unless it’s such severe pain that you shouldn’t be at work (like if you can’t walk). If the pain isn’t severe enough to stay home or even run to the store for painkillers, then I have to side with the boss and say, it’s awkward and dramatic for you to walk around wincing and putting your pain on display. Was the boss a jerk about it? Probably. But it sounds like the drama could have been dialed back a bit.

      1. Julia

        I have endometriosis and every time I wanted to stay home because I could not face going into work and sitting up straight pretending I wasn’t in pain, I pictured my boss telling me that young people should be healthy. And this was with a generous sick leave policy. What if OP simply didn’t have any sick days left?

        1. Mona Lisa

          It sounds like the OP works in auto sales. A lot of dealership workers get little to no PTO or sick leave so any time they take off is a day they don’t earn money. It gives you a lot of impetus to go in to work if you have to take it unpaid otherwise.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            Yeah, but it sounds like the options were:
            a) Stop at corner store for $3 bottle of 6 ibuprofin. Mutter at cost.
            b) Stay home from work with no pay.
            c) Go to work and ignore discomfort, which isn’t visible to anyone else.
            d) Go to work and wince in pain, drawing alarmed concern from colleagues and customers.

            If you can’t carry off (c), you should definitely do (a). She says (a) was an option–in that case, not able to do (c) and not wanting to do (b), (a) is where you go. Don’t just default into (d) because the alternative is to spend $3.

            1. Lora

              e) Get the ibuprofen packet out of the first aid kit, which by OSHA regulations is supposed to be somewhere on the premises.

              If your employer hasn’t shown you where it is, along with where the fire exits are, they should do so today. Immediately.

          2. Lindsay J

            Or even if you do get paid time off, it’s time that you are not earning any sort of commission or anything like that, missing out on the opportunity to make bonuses, etc.

            So you might get whatever your low base-pay is for sick time, but nothing on top of that and still be losing money, plus lost opportunity cost for a new sale that would earn you even more.

        2. peachie

          I had this experience as well, and it was at a majority-women office. I had a fairly new copper IUD that was making my already-sometimes-intolerable cramps debilitating, and that, combined with a period of very bad luck health-wise, meant I was using all my sick days for some time. Not more than my accrued sick days–we got one a month and I was taking what evened out to one a month. My grandboss did not like that. Weirdly (probably because of the majority-women thing, in retrospect) she barely bothered me again after I explained the IUD thing.

          I have a high pain threshold and a high pain tolerance and err on the side of going to work, and still, there was at least one day a month I’d be in enough pain that going to work and getting through a workday was very difficult. And I don’t have endometriosis or any other condition that causes it, so this isn’t rare. I remember working days when I could not stand up all the way. I wasn’t customer-facing, so this was “fine,” but I would have resented being called dramatic–if anything, I used most of my energy pulling it together to look totally normal and not-in-pain around my coworkers. This is just to say that I really see where OP1 is coming from.

          1. Specialk9

            Oh my gosh, after a new IUD was when I had cramps so intense that my vision got dark around the edges. I was crouched down on the sidewalk in a major city, and I’m usually very private. It was BAD.

      2. Birch

        Sometimes wincing in pain is involuntary, but usually not, unless it’s such severe pain that you shouldn’t be at work (like if you can’t walk).

        As long as we’re sharing anecdata… for me, it comes and goes in waves that can have hours in between. It depends on what time of day it is and how much I’ve eaten and when I last had coffee. I can go to work fine and at 2pm be rocking back and forth sweating and shivering in the bathroom, force a coffee down, and 45 minutes later be fine for the rest of the day. I’ve never been unable to walk–the pain doesn’t work like that. But I have put my head in my hands at my desk once or twice so my officemates can avoid seeing my horrifyingly unprofessional wince face. As others have pointed out, wouldn’t it be much more “dramatic” to call off work for what amounts to being “under the weather” (which many people have said isn’t a good enough reason to go home)?

        You can’t evaluate other people’s pain. Period.

      3. EndoWarrior

        I think we need to be very careful of assuming that others are going to experience diseases in identical ways. For many women, including myself, endometriosis has been devastatingly life-altering. Not only can I not have children, but endo glued up and destroyed many organs. Eight surgeries later and endo caused me to lose all my reproductive organs, a section of my bowel, an appendix, a ureter and kidney.

        1 in 10 women have Endometriosis. Some much worse than others. It’s staged just like cancer— 1 through 4. But with so many women affected employers still have not figured out a way to respectfully accommodate women who battle gynecologic illness so that they can be productive members of the workforce. Outdated “suck it up” attitudes do not help. It’s 2018 and this needs to change.

        1. Specialk9

          Oh my gosh, I had no idea. That sounds so awful.

          I’m standing up and applauding your post mentally, too.

          “with so many women affected employers still have not figured out a way to respectfully accommodate women who battle gynecologic illness so that they can be productive members of the workforce. Outdated “suck it up” attitudes do not help. It’s 2018 and this needs to change.”

    8. Meredith Brooks

      Was the manager an insensitive jerk? Sure thing. But the LW was either acting like a petulant child or a martyr. Neither has a place at work. Either you tell your boss what you need to get through the work day — maybe ask if anyone at the office has ibuprofen or an office you can lay down in for a few minutes or go home.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Whoa. That’s a bit harsh. Involuntarily wincing in pain is being a petulant child or a martyr? Trying to get through the day–for reasons we don’t know, so how can we judge her motivations–is being a petulant child or a martry? Do you really have to go to those extremes just to disagree with how she handled it?

        1. Meredith Brooks

          Involuntarily wincing in pain is involuntarily wincing in pain. Her boss had an insensitive reaction to it. Being a petulant child or a martyr is refusing to take responsibility for yourself. LW has worked with this man for some time. She knows who he is and how he manages. We can’t change other people, we can only change how we react to them. I don’t believe calling him a misogynist and lamenting the cost of aspirin is owning your own stuff.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I think JB is more concerned with the loaded meaning in how you’ve described OP, primarily because it cuts against the commenting rules/culture, here. It’s very different to say what you did in your clarifying response (“OP, you are not owning your autonomy in this situation”) than to call them a petulant child or martyr. The former helps identify the problematic behavior, but the latter sounds like an attack on OP’s character.

            I think we all forget to own our ish, sometimes, but being called petulant rarely persuades the listener/reader to take in the rest of your solid and helpful advice. I suspect that’s the core of JB’s objection.

    9. MatKnifeNinja

      I worked in health care and it was all women in my department.

      I can’t tell you how many times the shift supervisor told someone like OP either 1) get some Tylenol from a coworker, 2) Go to the ER 3) go home. 4) and really? WTH…

      They weren’t very nice about it.

      We were lucky to have lockers to stock pile “supplies”, Tylenol, Midol…

      It stinks getting a dressing down from a male boss. It really stinks having a woman (where you might expect some sympathy), to more or less say “get your sh*t together”.

      The bosses who really rode their female employees about menstruating issues have all been women where I have worked.

      Let’s not dog pile because this boss is a man, and he “doesn’t get it”. There are plenty of women bosses who are absolutely worse. I’ve seen it in action.

      1. arjumand

        “There are plenty of women bosses who are absolutely worse. I’ve seen it in action.”

        I’m seeing it on this very website, in the comments.

          1. Specialk9

            Me too. It’s like the frat guys at my school who made pledges do push-ups on ground glass, because that’s what they had to do as pledges.

        1. LJay

          In fact, in my experience, women generally are worst.

          Most man bosses that I have had have been, if not sympathetic, scared of talking about menstrual stuff. So if a woman said, “I’m having really bad cramps,” they would do anything they could to get out of the conversation, rather than go home.

          Women have been more inclined to be like, “It’s not that bad, get back to work.” Honestly, that’s still my first inclination myself and something I’ve had to train myself out of and work to understand that even though my periods are not that bad, some people’s really are and they’re not being overdramatic or whimps or whatever they really are in that much pain.

        2. Delphine

          The fact that we have women who have endo, who know what severe pain feels like, and can still say, “Well, I manage it!!!” is a little disappointing. Great, the LW, in this case, may have been able to manage her pain with meds. But what if she hadn’t been able to? How does it make it more okay for the boss to deem pain unprofessional because the employee had the option of not being in pain? What this comes down to is a boss told the LW that an expression on her face was unprofessional.

        3. Canadian Natasha

          “I’m seeing it on this very website, in the comments.”
          Yeah, me too and it’s disappointing.

          As a gal who’s gotten snark from employers for taking too much sick leave (due to dysmenorrhea aka extreme cramps) I certainly can sympathise with the OP trying to work through it. Plus, if she’s like me then she would have had to take the meds right away for them to be any use. A 20 minute delay because I had to go find/buy more? By then my body is already in full pain mode and scorns the drugs.

      2. peachie

        I’ve definitely experienced a frustrating attitude of “I’m fine when I have/had my period, so you are just being dramatic” from people who menstruate. I’ll admit having similar thoughts when I was a teenager and hardly had cramps (perhaps the onslaught in my twenties is really just karma playing out).

    10. Was it?

      How did he know that her pain was caused by cramps? If I saw someone wincing I wouldn’t assume it – I don’t see from her letter where it said anything about telling him?

    11. Michaela Westen

      I used to get very bad cramps not always, maybe once or twice a year. All my exams of that area have been normal.
      I think my lifestyle and eating habits may have brought on the bad cramps, if I had been eating too much sugar or dairy or other junk, or had been in unhealthy environments, or stress.
      I usually called in sick when I had them.

    12. nopenope

      DISCRIMINATION? The LW was at work, making visible pain faces and audible pain noises and the boss said it’s unprofessional. Maybe the boss isn’t a gentle wordsmith who uses AAM scripts to handle mildly uncomfortable human interactions but where do you see any evidence of discrimination? By my read of this letter, LW didn’t even say WHY she was in pain, so the boss couldn’t have discriminated against her! The boss didn’t actually DO anything to her except tell her to be professional and handle her shit at work. If you’re in that much pain that you can’t walk around at work without wincing and moaning and making pain-face, it’s time for a sick day and a reality check about what “discrimination” actually is.

      1. Delphine

        Can you quote the part in the letter where the OP says she was moaning in pain? I’m not sure why you feel the need to exaggerate the story.

        1. aebhel

          Well, because if the OP was moaning and writhing on the floor in pain, then she’s obviously unreasonable and the boss is blameless. If she just got chewed out for wincing while there were no customers around to see her, then the boss is a bit of an ass.

          1. Specialk9

            She wasn’t writhing on the ground, she was not even “on the sales floor” (a term meaning the part of the building with customers), she was in an office. All we know is she grimaced in pain.

    13. Could be Anyone

      This boss sounds like a jerk, but this is not discrimination. It’s not clear that she even told her boss it was menstrual cramps. I don’t think it’s a wild assumption to think he wouldn’t want men grimacing in pain on the sales floor, either.

  7. Sam Foster

    Am I the only one royally sleeved out by the way OP2 phrased this “now I’m concerned that she could be a flight risk”?

    Strikes me as the thinking of someone who is more concerned about playing games than getting their work done?

    1. OOF

      I think the LW meant just what she said: the she now believes her coworker is at risk of leaving. It’s wouldn’t be right for her to share that info in these circumstances, but my guess is she’s newer to the workforce and still figuring stuff out. No need to divine ill intent where mere lack of judgment/knowledge/experience will suffice.

      1. topcat

        No, but the default “hall monitor” attitude is rather skeevy. Not someone I would want on my team.

      2. MassMatt

        But “flight risk” is a term used for people being evaluated for bail while in court accused of crime! Maybe the OP is new to the work force as well and should be given a pass for a poor choice of phrase, but WTH?

        This coworker is sharing her expertise with you, and you are considering telling the employer that she might be looking for a job? What possible good can come out of that?
        Would you like your coworkers informing your employers when they notice you update your resume, etc? Almost everyone changes jobs multiple times over their careers, it’s part of working.

        1. Nursey Nurse

          I believe expansion of the term “flight risk” beyond bail hearings is one of the many threats to civilization as we know it that can be blamed on Taylor Swift (see “Mine”). I also blame her for the fact that my toddler, when told to stop eating Kraft dinner with her hands, glowers and announces “I don’t like your perfect crime” (see “Look What You Made Me Do”).

          1. Specialk9

            Haha, today my toddler was jumping on the bed, demanded cuddles, then said “I’m so over it” and squirmed away. He’s two, and I can’t imagine where he heard that!

        2. Mad Baggins

          I’ve heard “flight risk” used more colloquially to mean “someone who might run away [from responsibilities]”. It didn’t stand out to me that much, about the same as “jump ship”.

          1. Thlayli

            Yeah I’ve heard it used in loads of situations. I’ve used it when talking about my youngest child who isn’t yet old enough to be in a car park with holding hands. It’s just bocoming part of the vernacular.

            1. neverjaunty

              Sure, but it’s part of the vernacular as a phrase meaning “somebody who is going to bolt and run from something they should be doing”. The LW is letting her reliance on her co-worker warp her thinking.

        3. snowglobe

          In my company, “flight risk” is a term used for staff that might be considering leaving the company over the next year. After our annual employee surveys, the roll up results actually state the percentage of employees who are a “flight risk”.

        4. MicroManagered

          I thought this phrase was odd too. Apparently some are saying “flight risk” is making its way into other usages, but it does lend a strange tone to this question for me.

          1. Quackeen

            Not really—OP is new and may be carrying that term from her old workplace to her new one. No evidence that it’s used at her current company, except by her.

        5. Merry

          Flight risk has been used here on AAM in 6 pervious letters/responses to mean someone who is at risk of leaving their current job. I was confused when reading the comments because I couldn’t figure out why anyone might think the phrase was offensive!

        6. Ask a Manager Post author

          “Flight risk” is a commonly used term in HR. The heavy focus on this is violating the site rules on nitpicking wording; please let it go.

      3. Les G

        Right. And, like, aren’t we glad the OP asked us for advice, instead of doing the thing that we as seasoned professionals know is bad? Isn’t that what this site is for?

      4. Observer

        I don’t think “ill intent” is the issue here though. Maybe the OP doesn’t realize this, but the term has extremely heavy connotations of imprisonment or involuntary servitude (aka slavery). You know, like the discussion about whether to grant bail to someone who is a “flight risk.”

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed. I understand why people are surprised by the wording, but it’s a term that’s been creeping into more casual conversation where it does not have the same heavy connotations as it’s origin (bail/slavery).

        I’ve heard it in academia, nonprofits, and consulting firms to refer to the possibility of losing a high performing employer who the employer may need to prioritize for retention. That’s a little different from the idea that a person is bonded to their employer, and because OP sounds a bit new to the working world, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on how they’re using the term.

        Of course it’s helpful to point out internalized beliefs or problematic frames, but the answer to OP’s question remains the same, imo: don’t out your coworker, and prepare for what you may need to do to come up to speed if the coworker leaves.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          Sheer use of the term “flight risk” when referring to an employee is contemptuous. In my opinion.

          Your mileage may vary.

          1. Sacred Ground

            Exactly. It’s an awful way of conflating “employee” with “criminal defendant.” That this is apparently common usage among HR people doesn’t make it less so. It indicates an attitude of suspicion and contempt on the part of HR towards workers.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              So is the term “poaching” when referring to a company that has a “winking” agreement not to hire people from other companies.

              For the uninitiated, poaching refers to the criminal act of illegal hunting. It, too has contemptuous meaning in a business concept.

    2. Bea

      It strikes me more of incredibly self centered than anything else. However I’m extra sensitive about the amount of training some folks require and the hell I’ve been through dealing with them in my exits from places.

    3. sacados

      It is definitely odd wording, but overall to me, the letter seems more like someone very new to the work world (more naivete, less game-playing).
      If OP is both a) first or second office job and thus hasn’t really experienced transitions like that before; and b) dependent on this person for training and mentorship, I can definitely see how the prospect of the coworker leaving could inspire a panic jerk-reaction of “Crap she’s leaving, what do I do?!”
      If the same thing had happened to me in my first job, I know I would have felt the same.

    4. Traffic_Spiral

      Yeah, “flight risk” sounds like they’re in prison together and she’s noticed her cellmate’s been sawing on the bars a little.

    5. Lady Jay

      OP could be in higher ed, where professors without tenure are sometimes referred to as flight risks. The idea is that they may leave for a better fit or more secure position, especially if tenure work is not going as planned.

    6. Confused

      Like my username, I am just confused! OP2, clearly you’ve had to leave jobs before to start new ones. Do you want someone telling your boss who might fire you before you have an offer? I am honestly baffled as to how this is even someone’s thought pattern.

      1. Baby Fishmouth

        Well, if OP2 is fairly new to the workplace, they might not have had to before – For most of the jobs I have had in the past, I was leaving because I was going to University, or going to study abroad, or graduating university, or moving countries. Not once was I job searching before i left, because the situation didn’t call for it. My bosses always knew I was leaving months in advance, so she might not realize that it’s normal to job search while being employed!

  8. Sally Sparrow

    Not OP #3, but how different would the answer be if the start date were April or May with a 2-week summer (July but not over a holiday) vacation and a 10 day Christmas vacation planned? (Not at all high up the food chain, but my current job gives me 4 weeks of paid vacation a year.)

    There is a decent chance I may be job hunting next year, but obviously who knows how long that could take. I don’t really want to postpone a vacation on the off-chance I get a new job at just the right/wrong time. But at the same time I need to book 10-12 months in advance (well for the Christmas one) in order to get a good deal and not really have to pay for it.

    1. Kj

      Depending on your line of work and how much coverage you need, it might be presumptuous to assume you, as a new person, would get the time between Christmas and New Year’s off. Possible, sure, but depending on how your work manages time off and how much coverage they need, it might come across as entitled to declare you need those days off. But then, most of my jobs have been in healthcare and the coverage needs are usually intense. Still, I’d be careful- assuming you get those days might not be a good look at a new job.

      1. EddieSherbert

        I think you could ask but be VERY clear that you understand it might not be possible to get Christmas depending on their policies and need.

      2. Falling Diphthong

        My husband has a fairly normal job, and when we planned our trip for the eclipse it was with the understanding that maybe it would be me and the kids if work crises arose in July that meant he had to do a business trip at that point. (I freelance, so I actually can plan all that time off and say “this is my schedule, deal.” That doesn’t apply to most jobs.)

    2. Bea

      You should live life and plan your trips. The postponing on a “what if” will leave you sad and frustrated in the end.

      However 2 weeks right after starting is hard to accommodate for us but we wouldn’t rescind an offer over asking about it. We would say it’s not possible and ask if you’d accept with the knowledge you’d need to cancel or you’d move on to other options.

      1. Sally Sparrow

        That’s what I was thinking. Obviously the best-case scenario is the search will go late enough that the 2-week vacation can be wrapped up between jobs.

        Thanks for the opinions!

        1. CmdrShepard4ever

          I think in your case trying to book a refundable/changeable date vacation might be wise. You will probably end up paying more for it but if you do get a job it and can’t end up taking it you don’t end up losing money.

    3. AcademiaNut

      A lot of it will depend strongly on what sort of position you’re looking for. If you’re applying for jobs that have generous PTO packages and no need for coverage, you’re more likely to get the time. If you’re going for a job that requires coverage, or only offers 2 weeks vacation per year it’s a harder sell.

      I would say to plan your vacations, but have a backup plan if you can’t have the time off. So, for example, book hotel rooms that can be cancelled up to a certain date with no penalty, or buy refundable tickets (or ones that can be exchanged for a later flight). Or be willing to either turn down a job or eat the cost of the tickets if it comes down to that.

    4. Anon Anon

      That would probably be a no go where I work, unless you were clearly a rock star. The big issue would be two full weeks during a probationary period (ours is six month). We’ve provided a week before during that period for honeymoons and family reunions, but a two week vacation most likely wouldn’t be accommodated.

      1. Antilles

        Same here – basically all the companies I’ve worked at strongly discourage taking long vacations in the first 3-6 months of employment (a day or two is fine though). If it’s a pre-scheduled vacation, we’ll make exceptions, but usually that’s more along the lines of 3-5 days than two full weeks.

  9. Bea

    I feel for you #1. Most places I’ve worked have otc pain meds available, some steer clear because of overly cautious literature out there saying not to. I just have a stash in my drawer now and would have offered it to you if I saw you were in such noticeable pain :( I’m shocked with his crappy attitude towards your obvious pain, you weren’t sent home for the day.

    1. WS

      There’s a liability issue in having medications available without someone who has the specific training to hand them out. Random co-worker giving someone something of their own, not the company’s problem.

      1. Teapotty

        Yup, in the UK companies cannot give pain relief or allow staff to give it to colleagues either as most will not be analgesic trained. I worked in a health clinic and even a Band 7 Nurse (pretty high up) had to get permission from one of the GPs. Although that was partly due to it being a controlled drug in the meds cabinet.

      2. Bea

        Yes. That’s my point, some companies take the risk while others do not. Everything we do as employers of people is a liability.

      3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

        I’m curious about this… Is this a US thing? Every company I’ve worked for (in the US) has had a company provided first aid kit (that includes basic pain relievers etc.). It’s a pretty formal thing – an emt (or some sort of medical personnel – I know they’re in a uniform that looks similar to EMT/paramedic uniforms) comes in to restock these kits on a regular basis. I’m assuming this is some sort paid for service, and I’m having a hard time believing that this could be a legit/profitable service to run (providing/restocking private company first aid kits) if company’s actually have a liability risk in providing the supplies of these kits to employees. To be clear – the person just comes in to restock once a month or so. There are no medical personnel on staff.

        1. Niki

          In the UK it’s illegal for any company-provided first aid kits to contain painkillers – every workplace has to have one with bandages, gauze etc. but it’s strictly against the rules to include medication of any kind in case of allergies etc. It’s also technically not allowed to give meds to colleagues at work, so if someone in my team asked if anybody had ibuprofen it’d be against the rules to give them some (although this one is overlooked pretty much 100% of the time)

          1. Chinookwind

            Ditto in Canada. Our first aid kits are legally required to be kept up-to-date but do not have any type of medication. Even something like an epi-pen or nitroglycerin cannot be administered by a first-aider or coworker (though we can help someone administer it to themselves)

            Now, if you ask a coworker for something from their stash, it is a non-issue as you are the one controlling what is going in your body and the company is not involved. And, honestly, everyone has some type of stash of what they may need in emergency (I was the go-to for anti-static spray and Tide pen)

        2. Tris Prior

          We actually just got our communal painkillers removed from our first-aid cabinet. According to facilities it was because of liability issues. I’m in the US.

        3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

          Sorry to clarify, I’m in the US and I was thinking the liability thing might only apply outside the US… But clearly not. Maybe it varies by state?

  10. like, whatever

    #1 Your boss sounds like a bit of a wanker

    #2 No. If other people are looking for other work, that’s their business, and their’s alone. Anyone has the right to look for other work at any time. You need to ignore it and get on with your own work.

  11. Tau

    #1: Your boss is an ass. I’ve been visibly in pain at work before (thank you, headaches of doom that respond to no painkiller I’ve found) and the way my coworkers reacted was “oh no, are you OK? Is there anything we can do to help? Do you need to go home?” Customers being potentially involved shouldn’t take priority over basic human decency. :/

    1. ElspethGC

      Are your headaches of doom migraines? There’s a long and sordid history of them in my family, and while painkillers never work, Sumatriptan does. If you take it at the start of a headache, it never becomes a migraine. No idea how much it would cost if we weren’t getting it via the NHS, though.

      1. Lora

        US insurance will usually pay for it, grudgingly. The sumatriptan wasn’t the horribly expensive part, Zofran was the horribly expensive part – a few hundred bucks for not many pills. I’m old enough to remember when there was nothing for barfing uncontrollably at all, so the many antinausea choices available these days are a fking godsend and I’m happy to pay for it, but not everyone can afford to shell out.

        I mean, my other option was going to the ER for a toradol – benadryl – Zofran IV cocktail and praying for death in whatever dark room they could find for me for an hour. So insurance pays for the sumatriptan instead.

        1. Specialk9

          That sounds terrible, I’m so sorry.

          Oops, I mean, suck it up buttercup I had a headache once too, you’re just looking for sympathy.

          (No, but really, that sounds beyond horrific, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I’m glad you found a solution.)

  12. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    OP #3 – I actually had to do that once – ask for a particular week and a half off – because I had tickets to an event six months out (Olympics). They granted it for me, but -advised that I might not be able to take any other time off that summer. That was the deal. Mind you – the company recruited ME. So it was easy to negotiate.

    That being said – if you were asking for several absences – that might raise a red flag. Most importantly – if you planned all these out – why are you suddenly looking for a new job? That’s a question they’d ask.

    1. Legal Rugby

      I’ve done that, actually at both my last two jobs. Both of them had a “you get your year’s supply of vacation at 6 months” policy. In both cases, my wife’s family had a Disney vacation scheduled to coincide with a big family event. One of them asked me to take the week and a half off unpaid, and the other advanced me the week of vacation, on the understanding it was coming out of my first year’s two weeks.

      But… I also did what Allison said, and explained that I could always work around it, and just fly down over the weekends if they needed me there.

  13. topcat

    #4 “work friends” woman

    Your attitude is kind of weird and cold. These people were good “work friends” – they possibly considered it on a closer level than you did, but either way, they clearly like you and wish to stay in touch, and could be valuable future contacts.

    Networking is really important in today’s workplace in nearly every industry. I actually started my freelance career with work from a former junior colleague, who had since moved to another company and was in a position to commission work.

    Maybe you will never need these people, but I wouldn’t take that risk. Maybe meet with them for a group lunch or coffee. You’ll generally find that things fizzle over time without effort from both sides anyway (just like a relationship!) but you stand to gain far more than you lose by keeping in friendly contact.

    At the very least, add them all to your LinkedIn.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      If she found the office toxic and gossipy, it’s not weird or cold to want to make a clean break from that, especially if her sense is that they’re reaching out trying to gossip with her.

      1. topcat

        Yes that’s fair enough. Adding them to LinkedIn but not Facebook etc would be a good way to courteously maintain contact, while sending a clear signal that she views them as “work people” not “personal people”.

      2. Nom Nom

        Maybe it’s a local or cultural thing but it came across a bit cold to me as well. I agree add them to linkedin only though, your personal networks are you own choice. OP, I added a former colleague on linkedin that I so disliked I would have been struggling to piss on him if he was on fire (he had knifed me in the back professionally so hard he nearly severed my spinal cord). Four years later, he got in touch with me on linkedin to ask if I was looking for a job as mate of his was looking for someone with my expertise. From his message you would have thought he was catching up with an old friend. Nevertheless, I got a really good job out of it. So, you never know and better not to burn the bridges if you can gracefully do so.

        1. Harper the Other One

          I misread this comment on first pass and thought he LITERALLY knifed you and was thinking “And you still added him to LinkedIn??”

      3. neverjaunty

        While that’s true, 1) the LW participated in that culture and 2) her reason for breaking from them seems less “these people are awful” than “I don’t hang outside of work”. Which is certainly her prerogative, but she also seems to be cutting off ALL contact – which is bad for networking – rather than just declining to share on Snapchat.

    2. Mad Baggins

      Maybe OP could wait 6 months or whatever to have a good clean break from that office and its norms and headspace, then add people on Linked In. All the benefit of “keeping in touch” and networking but they’ll be less likely to pick up the relationship exactly where it left off.

      1. topcat

        Yes, that’s a very good idea. I think only adding them to LinkedIn sends a good signal (or it should) that work is the only sphere she views them in.

    3. Les G

      I read it that way too, but then I realized the OP is just doing the whole “I stopped [eating meat/drinking/smoking/ordering from Amazon] and OMG IT’S DISGUSTING HOW COULD I EVER HAVE DONE THAT AND HOW CAN YOU” thing, which is honestly just a normal part of life and being in one’s twenties. Let’s not harsh her mellow.

      1. Specialk9

        That’s an interesting take. I read it as a bit if self shame too. I have one job like that, it was so toxic and I complained along with everyone else. I am still mortified about the impression I left, and I am not connected to anyone from there.

    4. Former call centre worker

      Agreed. Sounds like these people believe her to be a friend and like her and she’s repaying them by ignoring them because she sees them as no longer necessary! Sorry that that sounds harsh but it sounds like OP is basically ghosting people who thought she liked them.

      It’s not weird to update someone you used to work with on what’s going on with other former colleagues (unless it’s particularly malicious), that’s probably just them looking for common ground for a conversation to keep in touch. Especially given that OP says they engaged in the gossip while they were there!

    5. MLB

      I don’t find it weird and cold at all. I’ve worked with people in the past when I was younger who I phased out of my life because I realized they were toxic and people I didn’t want in it. Granted it was easier then because social media wasn’t a thing, but I just ignored their calls and they eventually got the message and left me alone. If she never socialized with them outside of work events, it’s clear she doesn’t want them in her life as friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    6. LQ

      I didn’t think it was cold or weird at all. I agree about adding them on LinkedIn if you want to maintain them in your professional network and at a very reasonable arms length.

      I don’t think you need to maintain friendly contact with people from a toxic environment who want to drag you back in. And I definitely don’t think you need to meet for a group lunch or coffee to appease them.

    7. Roscoe

      Yeah, I got that vibe too definitely cold. Also, some people, like myself, definitely don’t add co-workers to social media, but will happily do it when they no longer work together. So I don’t think its that odd that now that you are gone, they are trying to add you to keep in touch. I think your completely ignoring you makes you look far worse than they do. You were fine with them at work, but now you just want no contact. It just seems mean spirited

  14. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    OP #2 – no, you should say nothing. Otherwise you’ll earn a nickname you might not like =


    In my long working life, I’ve learned that office snitches aren’t only NOT respected by their peers, management doesn’t respect them very much, either. Sure, they like the info a snitch will feed them. But once a snitch starts feeding bad info up the pipeline, he/she will be cast aside by the management.

    We used to render snitches ineffective by deliberately feeding them bad scuttlebutt. They’d go in and stool-pigeon it back to the bosses, and , well, after a few pieces of bad info, the boss had no further use for his snitch/spy.

    As AAM said, you saw something you weren’t supposed to see. In your working life – it will likely happen several times. The important thing is to keep it to yourself. There may be some instances where your learning of an upcoming decision may work to your advantage, but snitching? Uhhhh, ahhhh — NO.

      1. Specialk9

        Was your mouth hanging open at that too?

        Or was it satire, someone pretending they were in a 90s Mob movie?

    1. Thlayli

      Maybe ops coworker isn’t really job searching and was intentionally feeding her bad scuttlebutt. OP keep your head down and you could be a made man some day y’hear?

      1. voyager1

        I have fed BS information to someone who I suspected was the office snitch only to have it confirmed. So yes feeding BS to someone isn’t like running the mob or anything, it is about finding out how big a snake you suspect someone really is.

        1. Anon Accountant

          At a prior job we did the same thing just to see how big a snitch our coworker was. It was interesting.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              An office snitch can cause extreme morale problems , establish distrust, and generally harm the working environment. It also brings in an intimidation factor. Yes, some management teams might want that. but frankly, it scares people and puts them on edge.

              If a management team doesn’t want its people to trust and rely on each other (it might be a management style taught in some textbooks, I don’t know) then, the snitch / stool pigeon system may be what they want.

    2. Anon Accountant

      Every time I hear snitch I think of my 12-year-old cousin who says she’ll never snitch because “snitches get stitches”. (She heard it at school).

      /enough sharing of my family

  15. MassMatt

    OP3 I think you need to decide whether you want a new job or whether you want these trips and vacations. Unless you have a lot of leverage and/or work in an industry without a lot of demand around the holidays, this seems very excessive. If I offered a position to someone and they came back with all this I would immediately think this person doesn’t prioritize this job, they want to work it around what’s convenient to them, and if they are like this now what is it going to be like 6 months from now? I would seriously consider withdrawing the offer.

    1. Ladysplainer

      So I’m physically disabled and any position I take (my field is mostly contract) people need to understand that medical appointments and occasional pockets of time off for procedures are part of my deal. I cannot tell you how often I’ve been talked down to & accused of having poor life priorities or no work ethic as a result of this situation.
      Please, humanity, reconsider attitudes like this. Your employees don’t exist in vacuums.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        That’s a very different thing though, and most employers who wouldn’t be thrilled about accommodating four vacations in five months will feel differently about medical appointments.

      2. Les G

        Let’s say your coworker wanted to take four vacations and your boss said no. If your coworker said “but Ladysplainer took five vacations to go to the doctor!” how would you feel? See where I’m going with this?

          1. Lara

            I don’t want to invalidate you, but i’d feel a lot more comfortable accommodating an employee’s chronic health condition than accommodating a new employee’s vacation plan. One is ‘x has an unchosen, unavoidable problem which they are dealing with’ versus ‘x thinks holiday is more important than her new job’.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              This is the false equivalence to end all false equivalences.

              Not only are medical appointments/procedures vastly different from vacations, but the reasons behind the vacations would also matter. “I have tickets to fly home to attend my parents 50th wedding anniversary” is a once in a lifetime kind of thing whereas “I’m flying to Vegas to party with my girls for a weekend” is not.

          2. Traffic_Spiral

            Well, I’d have to say that medical reasons and contract work are very different from vacations and a standard 9-5. The former is a necessity for the person, in a job that is structured to accommodate absences, while the latter is not.

            1. Ladysplainer

              So there I think is the issue @Traffic Spiral. Contract work is (IME) NOT designed for absences or flexibility. You’re supposed to be a plug and play widget, 110% devoted to your project and the company. There’s no wiggle room built in.
              Being absent is not OK. It doesn’t matter why.

              1. EddieSherbert

                That sucks you’ve run into that with contract work (and I feel like that is definitely NOT okay to say “no, you can’t go” if you need to see a doctor!), but I don’t think it’s equivalent or related to what’s going on with this OP.

          3. Forrest

            No it’s not. People understand that others have medical conditions. They may not like it that a coworker needs so much time off because it may put a lot of pressure on them to make up the difference – and that’s fair and normal human behavior – but they get it.

            An employee causing that same situation because she’s off jet setting is a bit different. Constant long vacations in a short amount of time isn’t viewed as vital by most people.

        1. Specialk9

          I’d be totally cool with a coworker dealing with legally protected medical conditions.

          I’d actually be cool with a co-worker negotiating a schedule that worked for them too.

          I work with Europeans and Canadians, who think of vacation in term of weeks rather than days, and maternity leave in years rather than weeks… and I’m not about to be eaten up by jealousy, so, enh good on you.

      3. MLB

        That’s not really a fair comparison. If you’re coming into a job offer with 4 planned vacations in a 6 month time frame, I would question that person’s priorities as well. Taking time off for medical reasons is not the same thing.

      4. Forrest

        Those are not remotely similar. One of those things is optional and at the employer’s discretion.

        The other has a strong chance of being possibility illegal to deny or pull a job offer over.

    2. Thlayli

      I don’t think you should automatically assume that because someone organises holidays when they are between jobs that means they wouldn’t prioritise their work. If anything that’s the best time to go on holiday.

      1. Treats for Shelby

        Not if you plan for that job search to end. It looks irresponsible because it is.

        1. Thlayli

          Irresponsible? To go on holiday for a total of about 3 weeks? In many countries (including mine) 6 weeks PTO per year is the legal minimum. Your thinking is warped.

          1. MassMatt

            These 2 comments together don’t make sense. First you say a period of joblessness is the best time to take a vacation, as though there isn’t enough PTO otherwise, and then you say where you are 6 weeks vacation is the minimum. Which is it?

            Most people I know (myself included) rein in spending and cancel trip plans when their income is cut off, not plan more of them (and try to squeeze their future job among them). I suppose it really depends on your finances, hopefully the LW’s spouse has secure employment and income.

          2. bonkerballs

            Yikes. Let’s not say someone’s thinking is warped simply because their culturally different from you.

      2. JamieS

        Agreed when you’re not working is the best time if you can afford it. However if in that time, prior to all vacations being completed, you get a new job and immediately ask off for numerous vacations in the first 5 months it’s likely to not be a good look for you.

    3. Ange

      This is a huge cultural difference – in my field (public healthcare in the UK), they always honour any pre-booked leave you have when you start a new job. The only time it might be an issue is if you were having an unusually long time off (over 2 weeks).

      1. Ciara Amberlie

        Brit here and I agree!

        As a manager, I admire people who go on vacation and want to take their leave, because it shows that they have a healthy work-life balance. And I’ve often found that these people are better workers overall, because they’re less likely to burn out

        1. doreen

          I admire people who take all their leave, too and there’s certainly nothing wrong with planning vacations while you’re job searching. But OP #3 has four vacations planned in the next five months – two of them at popular times near holidays. And it’s nearly four weeks worth, not four long weekends that involve taking off a Monday or Friday.Plenty of employers will make arrangements for pre-planned vacations, but nearly all will have a limit , even if it’s not defined in advance. For example, most employers probably wouldn’t honor eight weeks of pre-booked vacation between now and next July, so that the new employee can get all the most desirable vacation time for the first year. I believe Ange when she says in her country/field pre-booked leave is always honored – but I suspect that means she’s never encountered someone whose requests exceed those limits.

          1. Ciara Amberlie

            I know I’m in the minority here, but four vacations in five months isn’t that excessive in my area and field, especially as one is a long weekend and another is over Christmas.

            It will very much depend on OP’s field as to whether is is reasonable, slightly unreasonable, or really beyond the limit.

          2. Thlayli

            It’s not “nearly 4 weeks” it’s only a total of 3 weeks plus 2 days max.

            10 days hols is a week plus 3 days – and that’s a worst case as if it included 2 weekends it might only mean one week plus one day off work. She’s also booked two long weekends including thurs and fri which is another 4 days off work, plus a week long holiday. Total of 17 days and as little as 15 days off work depending on how the weekends line up. I can’t believe people are acting as if this is a big deal. She’s not even asking for paid leave!

            1. Doreen

              I read the “10 days” as being 10 workdays – but I could be wrong. And it may not be a big deal at your job, but it would be at a lot of others. For example , giving a new employee time off at Christmas may mean that an existing employee gets their request denied due to staffing needs. That won’t go over well.

              1. Thlayli

                It’s a fair point that some jobs need coverage at all times. I haven’t worked in a job like that outside of part time / temp retail jobs when studying so I do forget that can be a thing, even in non-retail careers. If OP is in a role that requires coverage at all times, then you are correct that this would be a very big deal as she would be essentially asking for a longer serving person to have to work over Christmas.

      2. CupcakeCounter

        My company did that as well but it was 1 week about 4 months after I started not 3-4 weeks in total in a 5-month period starting almost immediately.

      3. LJay

        I’m in the US and that has been my experience as well.

        You might have to take it unpaid, or you will likely have to go into the negatives on your vacation balance and not take trips for awhile after that, but I’ve never heard of an offer being pulled or being told outright you can’t take the vacation.

        (Unless it is for something like retail where you are there to provide coverage and are generally pretty replaceable).

        The most might be indicating that it would be pointless to have you start for a week, take off for a week, and then go back to working, and pushing back your start date by two weeks or something.

        In fact, it tends to be easier to give time off when they are new because you’re not relying on them for anything yet. I have a hard time picturing someone starting the hiring process now, getting hired in by September 1st, and then being so competent by Christmas that they could be left in the office for a week by them self and expected to carry the department while more senior colleagues get off.

    4. Mary

      >> I would immediately think this person doesn’t prioritize this job, they want to work it around what’s convenient to them

      Who *doesn’t* want this? This should be normal, not a weird aberration!

      1. JamieS

        Everyone wants that but we all have to balance our wants with our employer’s needs and the impressions we give. Even though we’d all like to take numerous vacations in a short period of time we have to acknowledge many employers wouldn’t want to accommodate that especially when first hired.

          1. Decima Dewey

            Some of us have tons of leave time and constraints on using it. I’m the second in command at my branch. If the Branch Manager, Mr. Lastname, is out then I have to be at the branch, absent illness or emergency. Mr. Lastname and Fergus, the guard, cannot be out of the branch at the same time, even for lunch. Same is true of Fergus and me, if I’m the one in charge. If necessary, TPTB will find coverage, but that would mean redeploying a librarian from a different branch (which could leave that branch short), so it’s discouraged.

            So even though, on paper, I have enough time that I should be able not to work the rest of the calendar year, that’s not gonna happen.

        1. Rat in the Sugar

          Sure, but to mean that means that OP should ask about it and be clear that she’s willing to change/cancel her plans if need be. To me the reaction of assuming she won’t be dedicated to her job just because she asked if it would be possible is reading too much into it.

  16. Liz

    The only way what your manager said would be justified would be if you were, like, lying on the floor grimacing and clutching your sides and loudly cursing your uterus while calling out for the comfort of your mother, and otherwise turning your cramps into a public set piece.

    Back in my retail days, I worked with a really wonderful woman, who was sometimes prone to migraines — and they’d have her straight on the floor, moaning in pain. Not deliberately turning them into a public set piece, but there was definitely one afternoon where she wound up lying on the floor behind the registers, making a soft high pitched noise.

    (The day manager stopped, looked at her, shook her head sadly and helped her get to the back room while someone else called her partner to come take her home. The customers did not seem excessively scandalised by this shocking evidence that the staff were human.)

    OP1, your boss is a donkey for sure, but going forward, in your shoes I’d definitely make sure you have an emergency stash of painkillers at work.

    1. Paaaaain

      I’ve been the person lying on the floor and groaning in a public space before and I have to say it makes me really uncomfortable to hear that described as a “public set piece.” If I’m on the floor, it’s because I’ve passed out/am going to pass out if I keep standing and don’t want to hit my head; if I’m making noise, it’s because I can’t stop it. The couple of times it’s happened at a customer service job, my coworkers have always been really sympathetic and helped set me up with something I could do in the back while sitting down, not told me I was being unprofessional.

      1. Birch

        Same. Would the attitude be the same if this were food poisoning? MS? A chronic injury? An allergic reaction?

      2. Genny

        There are legitimate issues that might have you on the floor in pain, but I think “public set pieces” in this case refers more to those who create spectacle around pain (think soccer players writhing in pain on the ground and clutching their ankle only to jump up perfectly fine once they’ve drawn the penalty). If you’re at the point where you’re on the ground in pain, the answer isn’t to grin and bear it while you keep working, the answer is to get whatever medical assistance you need.

        1. Delphine

          That doesn’t seem to be how Liz is using the term…the woman in her example clearly had a reason to be in pain.

          1. Genny

            I was responding to how Allison was using the term. She wasn’t saying you should never be on the ground in pain, she was describing a very specific type of outlandish reaction that would’ve been inappropriate for this LW’s situation (not all situations).

  17. periwinkle

    OP #5: Part of my team’s responsibilities is to seek out learning technology and resources which would benefit our workforce. We’ve found some great stuff and spent the bucks to bring it in for everyone to use. Use it! Please!

    Study topics which are related to your current job. Study topics related to the next step you want to take. Get some background on the other functions with which your work intersects. If you’re in sales, take an e-course on corporate finance. If you’re in HR, take a course on operations. If you’re an individual contributor, watch videos on leadership and strategic thinking.

    1. FTW

      Agree! It would also be good to connect with your manger on courses you want to take in terms of your professional development. They might have some good suggestions for you on areas to study.

    2. Cheesesticks and Pretzels

      I totally agree on this! My current employer has an extensive learning portal and I used it to get to where I am today. I continue to utilize it, taking self paced classed to not only maintain my current certification but also looking at keeping my skills current and taking the next step in my career.

    3. OyVey

      Former employer (government) had an amazing eportal we were encouraged to use when work was slow. It included brand name foreign language software, just sitting there for us to use. That job was the birth of my interest in languages.

    4. Specialk9

      Yeah. Managers are impressed by people who grow skills instead of floofing around on the internet.


  18. Lumen

    2: I find the term “flight risk” in this context very unsettling. I assume it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but paired with the consideration of going to your boss with this information, it’s unsettling.

    Coworkers who look for other jobs are not criminals, and (hopefully) the workplace is not a prison. Even as a joke, I think this phrasing normalizes the very real stress, guilt, and over-investment we see in far too many workplace cultures.

    Also, yeah, please don’t do this, OP #2. If your boss is good, they’d see it as poor judgement on your part. And if they appreciate being told, that’s kind of a sign they aren’t a good boss and may be part of why your coworker wants to leave.

    1. Thlayli

      There’s a thread further up about this. Flight risk is becoming part of language about stuff unrelated to legal issues.

      I was only vaguely aware of its legal connotations before today’s post. I’ve usually heard it used in relation to young kids or kids with special needs when you’re out and about with them and are worried they might run into traffic.

      1. The Original K.

        Before I read that thread, I had the same thought. I’ve only ever heard the term in relation to a criminal who might jump bail. I’m not a lawyer but I watch a fair amount of television that features crime and it’s very commonly used there (you’ll hear it on basically every episode of the Law and Order franchise).

      2. Yorick

        Even so, I found it unsettling too. That sounds like someone who isn’t trustworthy and wants to run away from something, and I don’t think that’s a good way to look at someone who’s job searching. A person isn’t bound to their employer for life.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      Another term used often – I find it offensive = “Poaching”.

      This is the practice of one company recruiting an individual from another company. It’s not illegal. It’s not unethical, although some people in management think that it is.

      It’s a reflection of a healthy economy, a free labor market, and someone’s willingness to be recruited so as to improve his/her lot in the professional world, and in life overall.

      SURE – it stinks if you’re a manager, and one of your rock stars is recruited away from you. But would you view it the same way if another company wanted you to manage there, and they were going to give you golden opportunities AND a lot more money? Is that different? I think not.

  19. Ladysplainer

    OP2… you sound young and/or new to this office job thing. So here is what you too may look forward to one day: I get a handful of emails every day about my resume/jobs. It comes from my having a LinkedIn profile and having put my resume on Indeed or Monster over a year ago.
    And from my industry’s increasing reliance on offshoring (down to recruiting) and temp-only, I get a lot of emails about, say a 3-month temp job 2 time zones away that’s only tangentially a fit for what I can do. Some of these emails demand personal information like copies of my passport, medical info, etc.
    I’ve responded to a few of those emails with “take me off your mailing list please”, “thanks but no thanks” or on one occasion “OMG, let me sell my house and uproot my family to move to BumF, Montana for a 3 month temp job that pays 1/2 what I currently make!” Not necessarily proud of the latter but seriously, this is getting old.
    Would you really want to jeopardize a coworker’s liveliehood over something like the above?
    And do you realize that “I was looking at Jane’s personal email account when I saw…” will NOT make you look good?

    1. Mad Baggins

      Agreed. The messages could be unsolicited or old, or for a friend. Or perhaps the coworker is subscribed to lists/doing market research so that she can go ask for a raise.

      LW, picture yourself in the future, looking to move on to your next opportunity, and you accidentally show your personal email to a colleague. How would you like them to react?

    2. Lora

      Ha! Very true.

      There are a couple of recruiters who have literally NOTHING remotely appropriate for me, and I told them so. They still insist on checking in quarterly to see if I might be interested in a 4-month entry level quality control job in Middle of Nowhere, Misogynist Developing Country or a stint on an oil platform. Uh…no.

      Currently in my spam folder is a petroleum job (I’m a pharma engineer…very very different), an online public health graduate program insisting that my application is incomplete (probably because I never started it), a CME seminar about urology clinical practice, two entry level jobs (I have 20+ years of experience in my field), and a software developer job. I have no idea how these people found my email.

      If someone who does online marketing could explain this, I would be very interested in the answer.

      1. Yvette

        I have a friend who has “database administrator” on her resume, and constantly gets recruitment emails for “administrative assistant”.

      2. Database Developer Dude

        OMG Lora, I have the same problem!!!! I’m a database engineer, and because one of the outfits I used to work for has ‘Financial Management’ it its name, I constantly have to field inquiries about financial analyst positions. One recruiter even wanted to know if I was a CPA, even though that’s not what I do and it’s nowhere on my resume….

    3. irene adler

      Informing management about the “flight risk” will make the OP look like someone who cannot be trusted with sensitive information. They will keep that in mind down the road.

      Also, OP might consider, as a newbie, you don’t know all the ‘goings-on’ at this company. Maybe there’s good reason for co-worker to want to leave. Maybe you’ve been tipped off that things aren’t as rosy as you think at this company. So keep your eyes & ears open and mouth closed.
      (granted, co-worker has been there many years and most likely is ready to move on to bigger things)

    4. straws

      Yes, this. I get a handful of emails each day regarding my resume and job openings I might be interested in. I’m not. At all. But that doesn’t stop them from making my inbox look like I’m conducting an active job hunt.

  20. Teapotty

    OP 3, I don’t know how easy or not it is to take temporary work where you are, but if taking trips is important to you at the moment, it might be better to seek temporary ongoing / or very short contract work rather than permanent in order to fit the trips in. I say that as someone that managed to take three weeks in May two years ago and the whole of January six months later in a temporary job in order for extended holidays, in a country where the expected norm is no more than 10 working days max per holiday. However, I was prepared for the possibility of leaving the role over it – as it wasn’t a job that could sit in abeyance but neither was my trip going to be cancelled – and I’d negotiated this time off months in advance. You’ll also might have to tolerate remarks from new co-workers about your holiday privileges as a Newby compared to theirs. As a temp worker, it’s more understood that people do this.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      This is good advice.

      I don’t know why you’re job searching, OP3, but I would recommend waiting until closer to the holidays to actively do so. That way you can take your trips and start something in the new year.

  21. Maddie

    If men had menstral cramps one day a month there would be research and telethons and commercials and vigils about how bad they are and how to rid society of such pestilence.

    1. MLB

      I say this about mammograms every year…if 1 man had to have his sensitive body part flattened like a pancake once a year to check for tumors, they would invent a much less painful way to have it done :-)

      1. CupcakeCounter

        There is – ultrasounds are significantly better at finding (and eliminating) anomalies than a mammogram. But they take longer and therefore cost more so insurance won’t pay for them as a first step.

        1. Thursday Next

          Due to Reasons, I actually have to do both annually. So there are definitely things each one picks up that the other doesn’t.

    2. Brent

      I wonder how a similar comment but one posted by a man and aimed at women might go over on this site.

      My guess is not very well.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars

        I’m racking to try to think of a situation where you could flip the genders on this and am coming up empty.

        1. Brent

          I’m not talking about this letter, I’m talking about comments on this site in general. Everything seems to be banned except man-bashing. Be kind, stay on topic, and please feel free to say anything you want against men.

          Imagine a letter submitted by a man about his overly emotional female manager, and men leaving comments here about “If women could suddenly control their emotions there would finally be peace in the workplace.” They’d be blocked and deleted.

          1. Anonforthis

            Actually, women getting poorer health care because they’re women is a well-researched pattern, with resulting increases in death or permanent impairment to women who seek medical care:


            Women are less likely to get evaluated for heart attacks, more likely to have pain that’s an indication of something seriously wrong ignored, and in the U.S., are FAR more likely to die of complications from childbirth than in any other developed country. Women are also far more likely to be told that physical disorders have a psychological basis and on average spend more time trying to get an accurate diagnosis than men do.


            There are reams and reams of research and information about this, but something tells me you prefer your own narrative.

              1. Anonforthis

                The weird corollary to this is that overall, women tend to live longer than men, but there are so many possible explanations and it varies so much geographically that it’s harder to figure out why.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            That’s simply not true. I’ve removed male-bashing comments before. This isn’t one; it’s a commentary on the way women’s health issues aren’t given the same attention as men’s, which has been well documented.

            Move on, please.

          3. Les G


            They say if you have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all, so I’m just gonna congratulate you on picking a username that matches your comment so well, and then walk the hell away.

          4. Persimmons

            Yes, you’re correct. Alison usually does edit out strawmans and false equivalencies.

          5. Anonforthis

            If guys could control their emotions there would be fewer workplace shootings, which would be great.

          6. Drew

            I’m a man and I don’t agree with Brent’s perspective at all. This is one of the best commentariats around, in my experience, and any man who gets “bashed” in the comments probably had it coming.

          7. aebhel

            That’s not a coherent comparison. There are reams of evidence that medical issues primarily affecting women are less studied, and that women who report pain are less likely to be believed and treated with painkillers. That is reality. It’s a reality that sucks, sure, but men receive markedly better care, and medical issues that primarily affect men get a lot more attention than ones that primarily affect women.

            There are a lot of reasons for that, not all of which are blatant deliberate sexism, but it’s still true.

          8. anonmale

            @ Brent
            I have noticed the same thing too. Everytime I mention it, I either get a wall of sarcasm or a bunch of obfuscation about punching upwards or something like that. I love AAM and the comments for the most part but there is an enormous double standard about what flies in the comments. I wish people would just own it.

            1. Brent

              Thank you. People here are quick to ridicule anything they don’t agree with, or find fault in it, but the one thing I don’t see is anyone acknowledging, “Hmm… maybe there’s some truth to that.” That doesn’t seem to happen here. This site isn’t what it first appears to be. At least, not if you’re a male.

          9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

            Brent, I was the subject of a bashing in here once, regarding a layoff that I had happen – definitely the effect of affirmative action rules in place at the time. And had to defend myself. It was easy to defend myself, and I won’t go into details on it.

            I’ve learned to live with that – it’s only a bulletin board. Venting’s OK.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      If cis men got pregnant, abortion clinics would be on every corner like Starbucks.

      But there is no indication from the letter that the manager knew the cause of the pain was menstrual.

      1. Arielle

        True statement. I posted something on Twitter the other week that was to the effect of, if a man was in severe abdominal pain and bleeding through bandages once an hour, no one would expect him to be at work.

  22. CoffeeLover

    OP2 do you realize the potential (and very likely) repercussions of exposing someone else’s job search? A lot of people end up fired or phased out once their employer even suspects a job search. Your question basically boiled down to “should I risk destroying someone’s livelihood because it would somewhat inconvenience me if they leave.” I’m guessing you didn’t see it that way, but it was a very inconsiderate thought process.

    1. Ciara Amberlie

      Yes! I have no doubt that OP2 is really not intending to be cruel, her question shows more naivety than anything else. But to expose her coworker’s (possible) job search would be extraordinarily selfish.

      1. Marthooh

        It would be counterproductive, too. If management decides that the coworker is a “flight risk”, they’re not going to lock her up in jail and force her to finish your training. They’re probably going to get rid of her as soon as they can.

  23. ..Kat..

    OP1. This does not address your manager’s behavior. But, do you have a locker at work? If not, can you make a jump kit that you just always bring to work? A bag that has tampons, pantyliners, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and whatever else you might need (Zantac, allergy medication, spare set of clothes, emergency sewing kit, flashlight, cyalumes, emergency snacks, etc)?

    1. Julia

      You don’t even need a locker or big bag for that. My emergency kit is about the size of a small pencil case and has several medications, bandaids etc. plus my USB drive and other various crap.

        1. Julia

          I meant a flash drive or memory stick, one of those small thingies. Did I use a word weirdly? >.<
          Just because if I don't put it into the small bag with the other small stuff, it will get lost in my bag forever. And I need it because I sometimes have to print stuff on a computer that isn't mine, and because I worry about my stories etc. not being safe on my computer and dropbox alone in case both got damaged.

          1. MicroManagered

            LOL I guess I was thinking about this as your first aid kid/menstrual go-bag? So the USB drive threw me off! XD

              1. MicroManagered

                Yeah my brain went toward wondering what files you could possibly need for getting your period unexpectedly… ha!

    2. Annie Moose

      My new lifesaver: chemical heating pads. If bad cramps hit me in the morning, I usually take a sick day, but if they show up during the day, it’s more difficult to just leave and go home. And painkillers take time to kick in (or just don’t work). Heating pads make it possible for me to actually sit at my desk and focus without wanting to die!! And because they’re quite thin, they fit under your clothes and are totally unnoticeable.

      Wish I would’ve discovered these miracles years ago…

      1. peachie

        The ones that can go directly on your skin are the BEST. They also help soooo much with overly-chilly offices.

        1. mrs__peel

          I use the Thermacare ones, and they’re definitely lifesavers for me. They’re pretty much the only thing that allows me to function like a normal human and get any work done for several days a month. They have little adhesive tabs that you can stick to your clothes.

      2. Julia

        Those are great (I buy mine in Japan, they’re really cheap), but not really a good solution in summer, at least not for me.

    3. Bea

      Mine is in my desk drawer. I also have a snack cabinet for days I don’t want to pay 7-11 prices for pop tarts I’m craving suddenly.

      Also my trunk is a survival kit of it’s own. I’m always prepared to spend a week stranded in the woods despite being in the city. Thanks, dad.

  24. GermanGirl

    #1 It really is your responsibility to either be fit for work or call in sick – or go home sick if it hits you in the middle of the day.
    That said, your boss is being an ass. If he’s otherwise a decent guy, he probably thought you were having a hangover.

    Also, talk to your gynacologist about these cramps. Mine were a lot better while I was on birth control, and really bad again after I went off it. A couple of months ago my gynacologist recommended using agnus castus and the cramps are almost gone.

    #3 It also depends a lot on the amount of vacation days that is normal in your industry and/or advertised in the job offer. If that would easily cover it, and you know your position doesn’t really need coverage, then you might just get away with asking for a start date after labor day and if it would be possible to take your vacation days over Christmas and that bachelorette party.
    But since you probably don’t get that much vacation (12 days in less than 4 month would mean more than 36 days a year!), you might be better off searching for a job with a start date in the new year and temping or sticking to your old job until then.

    1. This Daydreamer

      In the US, it’s unreasonable to expect someone in a customer service position to have the freedom to take a day off for medical needs. I worked behind a cash register for about a year with plantars fasciitis before I figured out what was causing the excruciating pain and what to do about it. My erratic schedule made it nearly impossible to have a GP so I used walk in clinics for anything emergent. And going to a specialist? Wasn’t going to happen. I was lucky to self diagnose and start doing the stretches on my own.

      And it’s possible that the OP has a condition like endometriosis that can’t be effectively treated with OTC pain meds. And if she doesn’t have insurance or sick leave, she really doesn’t have great options.

      1. Alton

        It’s also hard to say if the OP’s boss would have been understanding about her needing to leave early. That can vary a lot. There are workplaces where your boss will prefer it if you leave early to address a medical issue and there are workplaces where they’ll resent it, especially if you haven’t explicitly requested medical accommodations. A lot of sales and customer service jobs are the sort that may require coverage if someone is out, and if a position is hourly, someone may not have any paid sick leave.

        It’s possible that the OP’s boss would have been more understanding if she’d been more upfront and said that she needed to leave early, but it’s also possible that he would have been mad at her then, too.

      2. Chameleon

        Yeah, this reminds me of when I had a cold as a bank teller. I was lightly sniffling, with an occasional cough and nose blow (I had taken some Dayquil but it is limited efficacy for me, and I was disinfecting constantly).

        A customer looked at me with utter contempt and told me I should stay home if I was sick. What I thought:
        “Yeah, I don’t get sick days so I would be losing the ability to eat this week if I missed today, and if I stayed home until the cold was over I wouldn’t be making rent this month, so piss off.” What I said: “So sorry about that, sir.”

        1. CMart

          When I worked at a restaurant I hated and didn’t necessarily care about losing a customer I would speak the truth to people who complained about someone coming in sick. My tone would vary depending upon whether the complaint was “oh my gosh, you sound terrible why on earth are you here??” or “this is disgusting and you should know better”.

          Because yeah, I agreed. People definitely should not be in public-facing positions (or close-quartered open office plans, etc…) when they’re sick. It’s a health hazard, it’s disgusting, and it’s completely lacking in compassion for the sick person. But I don’t get sick pay, I need to make rent, and even if I was able to take the day’s financial hit of not working the fact remained that my manager yelled at me when I tried to call in sick and threatened to fire me if I didn’t come in or have someone cover my shift. And no one would cover my shift, so here I am.

    2. Anonymous 864

      Most offices only give, what, ten days of sick leave a year? Certainly not nearly enough to cover my two to three days a month, 24+ days a year of menstrual pain.

      And that’s even after the best treatment medical science has to offer.

      I work through the pain a lot, and manage as best I can.

      1. Nita

        Yeah. I used to get really bad cramps and often erred on the side of taking a day off, because when I came in I was likely to nearly pass out, or make a spectacle of myself in some other way. On average, that meant having to take seven days off a year. I was luckily able to telecommute, so I didn’t end up needing to use any sick time, but service staff do not have that luxury, and those who can take the day off but have no telecommuting option will basically end up using up all their sick time on this.

        Thankfully not all women get cramps that bad, but for those that do… it’s a real problem to figure out how to handle them at work. On top of that, it’s such an embarrassing problem that even when you know you need to plan ahead, it’s hard to bring it up with the boss and figure out a plan of action.

    3. SarahTheEntwife

      It’s possible to be in pain and yet still able to work competently, and many jobs don’t give sufficient time off to take off for something that isn’t debilitating.

      I’ve also had cramps, headaches, and other minor illnesses that were really unpleasant for 10 or 20 minutes but then I was fine. My job has wonderfully generous PTO and I could take a day off for a bad tension headache that I known will be gone in an hour, but that would be weird and make me look flaky.

  25. Cait

    OP 1 – your boss is an ass but you are an adult who’s dealt with this for how many decades at this point? There may have been no customers on the floor at that time but I would assume you’re expected to be “on” the second someone walks in since you’re in sales (as am I, I get the “put on the selling face” game we play).

    Leaving aside the reason for your pain, you have a responsibility to be fit for work, whether it’s period cramps, sore muscles, whatever. And all for wanting to save a few bucks?? C’mon. You know that’s not a reasonable excuse.

    And this is a bit off topic but we don’t get a pass for having “women’s issues”. There’s no reason to be less than ready to work because of our gender. For better, for worse, this is a monthly issue most of us have to deal with and expecting our male colleagues and bosses to make exceptions for us doesn’t help anyone.

    1. Lara

      Some people’s ‘women’s issues’ are worse than others Cait. If a person has endo, PCOS, fibroids, then what to someone else is 5 days of discomfort can be 14 days of agony. During which you’re expected to just crack on, and no-one cares because it’s ‘just women’s issues’, ‘just cramps’, ‘everyone gets them’.

      Please don’t be dismissive about this. For some people it’s a huge deal and they should have exceptions made, same as if they had any other chronic and debilitating condition. Not all periods are the same and acting as if they’re always no big deal, and never deserve accommodation, is sexist AF.

      1. Cait

        Then she should have that conversation with her boss. But based on her letter, she just didn’t want to get OTC meds that would have relieved her symptoms.

      2. Myrin

        I totally agree that society as a whole can be veryy unsympathetic to exclusively female issue, but in fairness, there’s nothing in the letter that indicates OP has endometriosis or another similarly severe issue, which I believe is what Cait is referring to.

        1. Julia

          Endometriosis is vastly underdiagnosed. Pain to the extent that pain killers don’t help is a very good indicator of a medical issue bigger than “just” cramps. And what is OP to do if she needs to see several doctors until she can get help? The average length of time it takes a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis is nine years. NINE. YEARS. Just because she doesn’t have a diagnosis yet doesn’t mean she can’t be in serious pain.

          1. EddieSherbert


            It might not be totally relevant to this letter or her boss’ problem/fault, but I think it’s worth letting the OP know that cramps to the level where pain killers don’t help aren’t necessarily normal, can be dealt with, and might be a sign of a bigger issue.

            I had surgery a couple years ago to remove a dermoid cyst (don’t google image it, they’re horrifying) that was the size of a tennis ball… And it was only discovered because the ER doctor though it was my appendix about to burst when I finally went in.

            And a friend of mine in college had about 5 pounds of endo removed – along with one of her ovaries that couldn’t be saved. She was only 20, not sexually active, had never had a pelvic exam before (they immediately caught it at her first one), and was told her cramps where “normal” when they definitely weren’t.

          2. Observer

            Yes and no. From what the OP writes, it seems that the painkillers would have helped had she taken them right away.

            There is no way to know from what the OP says if she has a problem or not. And it’s not really relevant here. The OP chose not to do something that she knew had a good chance of helping the situation she was in. That doesn’t change, regardless of whether she has a medical issue that needs to be taken care of.

            For example – I get migraines. If I catch one really early, I can often spike it. Once it reaches a certain point, it doesn’t much matter what I do. If I didn’t take something that would work because I didn’t want to pay for the “overpriced” medication, that would be on me. And totally not relevant to the fact that when you get such bad headaches, you need to see the doctor (because it’s not always migraines.)

      3. Lara

        Myrin – OP said that regular painkillers weren’t working for her, which is usually a sign of more severe issues.

        But I was actually responding to Cait’s second point where she said “we don’t get a pass for having “women’s issues”. I know we don’t. But sometimes we should.

        To me this is like saying that people with a chronic, debilitating condition shouldn’t ‘get a pass’ for being sick. Everyone deserves consideration and accommodation when sick, even if they are female.

        1. Julia

          Plus, this isn’t actually a period or women’s issue per se, it’s a medical issue.

        2. Birch

          +100 I do not understand how this situation merits such vitriol when in any other situation people here jump to the defense of nearly any behaviour with the suggestion that it’s due to a medical condition. Do people remember the letter about the guy with a bird phobia who shoved his coworker into traffic and people defended him! But how dare a woman be in pain one day at work.

          1. Les G

            OH I REMEMBER THE BIRD LETTER. But to be fair, most folks weren’t saying his behavior at work was a-ok.

        3. Myrin

          Ah, I might have misunderstood the “and of course, the cramps are bad enough that painkillers aren’t helping anyway” part, then – I read that as “in this instance we’re talking about here, not in general”; it did seem to me that painkillers are usually working for her (since OP says the cramps only got so bad because she didn’t have her meds with her, meaning they usually do help), but I might be misreading that!

          1. CupcakeCounter

            That is also how I read it as well – by the time she got the pain killers it was too late and they weren’t effective where as if she had taken them when she went looking in her purse the first time she probably would have been ok.
            Not all people who have really bad cramps have endo, PCOS, or any other medical condition (and I know that are under-diagnosed but that really is getting a lot better). My sister has always had bad cramps on day 1 or 2 of her periods. Nothing is wrong with her per se (lots of checking because of some other things) but her uterus is tilted or something which pushes against some nerves causing pain. Her OB has already told her that pregnancy is going to be very uncomfortable and to expect a lot of back pain and sciatica because of it. She know the right combo of meds to help it and always has them in her purse with backup in each car. That is her responsibility to monitor.

            Honestly, OP knew she was going to have cramp issues so it is her responsibility to do what is needed to ensure she can do her job properly. My answer would be the same if a male coworker spilled coffee on himself and had to buy a shirt for $50 or hurt himself playing golf/basketball/running on his lunch hour and needed a knee sleeve and anti-inflammatory meds to make it through the afternoon. I have plantar fasciitis and I have gone out on my lunch hour and bought a pair of $150 shoes, inserts, and the massage and stretch balls that I know will help the pain. I had PF long before I started this job and it is my issue to manage.

            1. Lara

              Oh come on. We’ve had people argue on here that it wasn’t the responsibility of an allergic person to use anti-histamines. It’s pretty telling that the difference in attitude is only prevalent when it comes to female specific pain.

              1. a1

                Oh come on. Needing to take anti-histamines all day every day at work due to whatever (someone’s perfume, dogs, etc) is not the same as taking pain relief pills occassionally as needed (as she apparently does each month). What a false equivalency there.

                Yes, I’m a woman. And I get the most horrendous cramps, too. It has nothing to do with sympathy, and boy do I sympathize, but more about practicality. This happens every month. She knows how to mitigate it. She did not do that. (Boss is still an idiot for how he approached it though).

              2. a1

                Oh come on. Taking anti-histamines all day every day at work because of whatever (someone’s perfume, dogs, etc) is different than taking pain relief pills as needed, just as she normally does. That’s quite the false equivalency there. (And yes, before you even go there. I’m a woman that also gets unbelievably bad cramps.)

                The boss was still insensitive in how he approached this, but that doesn’t mean the LW shouldn’t have tried to mitigate the pain sooner.

              3. Specialk9

                Yeah it’s shoooooooore interesting how much more unkind people are when it’s a uterus at play.


                It’s almost like a culturally ingrained sexism that has been revealed in every single reputable review of every conceivable medical situation.

                Gosh. So surprising.

          2. smoke tree

            My read was that she needs to take the painkillers at an earlier stage, or they’re not as effective–I think this is pretty common.

    2. Wendy Darling

      Having been a woman who worked at a car dealership, being a sales person means I only make commission when I’m there to sell a car. Taking a day off means I make no money. There isn’t PTO or sick days in most of these types of commission based jobs. I can understand not wanting to spend more money than necessary for ANYTHING when I’m living on commission. That being said, in a car dealership there usually is a first aid kit or someone in the office that has pain meds. I read someone’s comment about liability in issuing meds, etc. but in most cases here in the US, if it’s in the First Aid Kit, then it’s the user taking on the liability. The employer’s only responsibility there is to make sure the meds aren’t expired. Should she have been prepared, sure. But she forgot, she owned that part so I’d suggest letting go of harping on her about that bit. Additionally, she stated she DID get the meds and they DID NOT help her.

      The manager’s tone and comments to her were inappropriate and insensitive. They should absolutely have offered concern, how to address her pain so that she doesn’t have to leave the building and can be functional at work. On slow days, some times we’ve only had one or two sales people. If one person is sick, it can get busy quick and then other staff members are being pulled from their primary function to fill in. Being sent home isn’t always an option unless it’s a severe concern and that’s really for the employee to say whether or not she can function (or determine if she can afford to miss her shift entirely).

      Car dealership management is not know for it’s general compassion to their staff (sad to say). I’ve worked in several over the years (20 years). Not an excuse, it’s just how it’s been. Not all places function that way but it’s the nature of the beast as it’s been until it changes.

      Ultimately, I needed to learn how to advocate for myself as kindly as possible in the face of non-compassion, derision and general misogyny. If the OP is faced with the same issues I was, it’s a challenge to learn how to navigate being a woman in a male dominated work field. It can be done and she can be successful. I see that the OP needs to learn how to advocate for herself in the face of her own physical needs/pain and navigate her job/management .

  26. Lara


    A normal human would have asked how you were and possibly sent you home. “Your pain is unprofessional” sounds like something a Marvel villain would say shortly before mind whammying you. This is valuable information about your boss, and worth considering in terms of whether you want to keep working with him.

    For your own comfort, a stock of pills, discreet heat pads (the kind you can hide under clothes) and facial wipes (I know pain can cause cold sweats) to keep at work could help and I second going to the doctor, although IME they aren’t great. If your periods are this bad you might be able to get the form of birth control that stops them altogether. I get one every three months or so now, and while they are still hell on a stick, they are less frequent.

  27. Constanze


    I am really surprised by the number of comments here which basically say that the OP just has to deal with the pain and not make it other people’s problem.
    “You should have pain medication with you”
    “You should have paid for the really expensive pain killers”
    “Just be in good form or leave work and go to the doctor, no compromise”

    Baically a lot of comments not helping the poor OP who has to deal with really severe pain every bloody month. If she reads the comment, the only advice she will get is : “Yes, your boss is an ass, but really… find a way to deal and that’s your problem.” I realise we aren’t doctors so we don’t have a magic solution for her, but come on !

    God forbid she is human and show human pain. The fact that she gets it every month doesn’t necessarily make it easier for her to handle. I personally don’t get bad cramps but I have heard that you can get years before finding a treatment which works (if you find it at all), and it is really difficult to be taken seriously.

    Could we not be so dismissive of her pain ? I have never seen this kind of comments towards someone with chronic pain : we would not say “Just deal with it on your own and make it your priority to hide the fact that you are in pain, because some people might find it unprofessional / uncomfortable / unsettling”.

    I am pretty sure the OP has tried a lot of solutions. It is not her failure that she is still in pain. It should not be her priority to hide it and to manage other people feelings towards pain, or especially menstrual pain.

    Commiseration, OP. Good luck.

    1. Myrin

      I have never seen this kind of comments towards someone with chronic pain

      I’m surprised by that, because I definitely have, both online and in real life; pretty regularly, even.

        1. Constanze

          I did mean here, yes.
          I am sure a lot of people have this attitude towards chronic pain. Doesn’t make it okay.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m very sympathetic to her pain, and I think a lot of us are. In fact, I think those of us who are saying she should be prepared have been in her boat and figured out what we need to cope, and we’ve shared that so she doesn’t have to be in that much pain in the future. Remember that she does use painkillers regularly and they seem to help; this is not a situation where she has a history of suffering and has to breathe through it, which is a different conversation. I also think we’ve all had to learn that at the workplace (and in a bunch of other places), we are responsible for ourselves and have to put on a professional demeanor, even if we have to fake it sometimes.

      Look, I have been there. I have a history of horrendous headaches and very bad menstrual cramps. When I worked retail, it was a nightmare– and I was asked to go home a few times. I even had a customer or two comment on it. I look back on that and I’m mortified; my job was to sell things and to satisfy the customer, and looking miserable is not a way to do that. I don’t think we’re telling the OP to get over it, I think we’re reminding her that if she has remedies and she wants to stay at work, then she needs to use those remedies and find ways to avoid this situation in the future.

      1. Constanze

        When I worked retail, it was a nightmare– and I was asked to go home a few times. I even had a customer or two comment on it. I look back on that and I’m mortified; my job was to sell things and to satisfy the customer, and looking miserable is not a way to do that.
        Well, I am really sorry for you. That is really awful, and I don’t think you should feel mortified for being in pain. Being in pain is not failing.

        I don’t have chronic pain but I definitely have been sick / under the weather / in bad mental or physical health at work and I can assure you that my productivity was the least of my worry. We are not robots. Sickness happen.

        I am well aware that saying this might not be helpful if you have to pay the bills and also have an asshole boss. I am sure the OP knows that it is in her best interest to find ways to manage her pain, work or no work. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that showing pain, being overwhelmed by pain for one reason or another at work is a major failing. I am sure a lot of people think like that ; some of them might even be in charge. But I don’t think this is something that we should accept so readily in principle.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          I didn’t feel mortified because I was in pain, I was mortified because I made my pain someone else’s problem. This is the point.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

            I don’t think that’s making your pain someone else’s problem. We’re allowed to let people know something is wrong. You were trying your best and needed some accommodation. That’s all. It’s part of being human and living in a society. Making it other people’s problem would be asking them to fix it for you, and constantly complaining, and demanding excessive accommodation beyond what was needed.

            And in your examples, you were treated kindly. People showed you concern and told you to go home and rest. That’s the contrast with OP’s situation. We all make mistakes and forget things. We all feel pain and get sick. It’s not an invitation to be treated badly, which was OP’s reason for writing in.

          2. Lara

            Sometimes you can’t help doing that. That is the point of everyone else. Pain is not inherently bad, and being unable to manage your pain is not a failing.

          3. Constanze

            But is it a reason to be mortified, though ? I mean… it is your pain, your shame, so of course it is yours to decide, but when someone is in pain, I don’t think we should put the onus of them to make sure no one is inconvenienced by it.

          4. Delphine

            You’ve attached shame to something that many people can’t control. People in pain may exist in my vicinity–my recognition that they’re in pain doesn’t mean they’ve “made” it my problem.

          5. tusky

            Capitalism has really done on a number on us. It’s really unsettling the extent to which we take to heart the idea that good customer service means never showing emotion other than sheer enthusiasm. I mean, I get that it’s often necessary for job security, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept it as an indicator of personal worth.

    3. KRM

      If I get severe pain with my period and I need certain medication, and that medication costs crazy $$ at the corner store, then yes, I should be carrying that with me. It’s common sense. She didn’t throw the bottle in her bag like she thought. Happens to all of us–in that case, you gotta suck it up and pay the $$ for the corner store bottle. Most people making your first two points are reacting to her basically saying “yeah, I was in a lot of pain, but man, that bottle at the corner store costs SO MUCH and I didn’t want to pay it”. The only information she gives us is 1-in severe pain 2-unwilling to shell out for spendy bottle. So…yeah, I’m gonna have to come down hard on the “pay the damn money and then get a travel bottle to throw some of your home stash in” side.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        That has absolutely nothing to do with how her manager treated her. And I’m sure she would have bought that bottle if she could afford it. Please remember that one day you might be in pain and need other people’s compassion. Would you want to be lectured about money? Or would you want someone to help you?

        1. CupcakeCounter

          She did go and buy the bottle. She simply didn’t want to at first because it cost more than what she would normally pay.

        2. KRM

          I was not addressing how her manager treated her, thanks. I was addressing her actual statement that she didn’t want to pay the $$ for the painkillers. Full stop.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

            If you’re on a tight budget, an extra expense can cause a lot of problems down the line. You deal with temporary pain so that you’ve got money for food later on. My point was she was writing about her manager, not anything else. I see now she did buy the pills later on, I missed that the first time. But please remember that it’s not easy for a lot of people to shell out extra money. If someone says they don’t want to pay extra, it’s probably because they can’t.

      2. Julia

        That’s the one and only thing I think OP did wrong. I always, always carry my medication with me. I don’t know anyone with chronic pain issues who doesn’t, and the fact that OP is no flippant about her care her makes me wonder how serious her pain can be. But that’s pretty mean of me and probably just because I still remember having to arrange my life around my own pain issues.

        1. Constanze

          She is not flippant about her care. She thought she put the pills in her bag when she didn’t. Once.

          There is really no need to start questioning whether she reaaaaaally is in pain.

          1. KRM

            And if you forget your pills? YOU BUY MORE. It’s pretty flippant to say “oh, I don’t want to pay $7.95 for 10 pills to fix the pain I’m in”. Hey, paying that much sucks! But sometimes sh*t happens and you gotta do what you gotta do.

            1. tusky

              What is this apparently universal and objective rule that says this is the THE ONE TRUE WAY to manage pain?

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          It is very, very easy to forget things. You will swear you put that bottle in your bag, only check later and find you didn’t. There are also plenty of issues that cause memory problems.

          the fact that OP is no flippant about her care her makes me wonder how serious her pain can be.

          Please, please don’t say things like this. People always assume the worst about people with pain. There’s nothing to suggest OP is being flippant. And to dismiss her pain as not being that serious is straight-up cruel. Doctors already dismiss our pain and assume we’re lying because they can’t see it. Then we get it from the rest of society.

          And her question isn’t even about any of this! It’s about how badly her manager behaved, which people are conveniently ignoring. Gosh, I wonder why.

          1. Julia

            I know that doctors dismiss our pain; they dismissed mine as well. I think I just have a hard time imagining ever leaving the house without painkillers as a severe pain sufferer. But you’re right, it’s not a nice thing to say.

            1. Haligolightly

              I got to work yesterday without my prescription pain medication, and suffered for it. I have a generously-sized cosmetic case that’s full of the meds I do/may need daily and always always ALWAYS have it with me. Sunday night, I needed them in bed and my partner brought me the whole bag. Monday morning, I forgot to replace it in my work bag.

              I’m lucky that I didn’t need the meds until I was on my way home, so instead of suffering the entire day it was only for five hours or so (because I didn’t catch it early enough). But as long as I’ve been dealing with this, I make mistakes. I forget things. I take Pill A because it worked last time except that this time it doesn’t and I now can’t take Pill B because it interacts with Pill C that I’ll need to take in an hour.

            2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

              I can completely understand that. I’ve heard similar things from other people and really do get it. When something is that important, it is hard to imagine forgetting it.

              The problem is that a lot of people do. Not through any fault of their own. They’re just human and we forget things. Not to mention that a disruption in routine can throw everything off track, sometimes to an extreme degree.

              I am sorry doctors dismissed you and caused so much trouble for you, and am glad you’ve got what you’ve need now. After my own experiences, I’m more committed than ever to believing people and cutting them slack when it comes to health.

          2. LJay

            But because it is easy to forget things and because there are issues that cause memory problems is reason that, if you have chronic pain issues, you learn to be prepared.

            I get migraines. If I don’t take some pain killers at the beginning of the onset, I’m dead in the water. I also have ADHD which makes it harder to keep track of things.

            Because of that I have meds in my bag that I carry with me everywhere, meds in my desk at work, meds in my house, and meds in my travel bag. That way I never have to worry about remembering them, and never have to worry about taking them out and forgetting them. They’re just there.

            (Though I do have to say that this method was developed by trial and error because I found myself somewhere having to buy a bottle real quick or dealing with the consequences of going without, and I’m betting that the OP will have some on her from now on so I can’t really judge. Everyone does make mistakes, and I know it’s not like she wanted to suffer through the work day.)

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

              That’s the thing – you learn to be prepared. I know I did. And even then, something happens and you’re caught off-guard.

              Like you, my method was also developed through trial and error. And I still have mornings where I start my day and realise I’ve forgotten to take my medication. I’m pretty good about everything 99% of the time, but if something happens, I’m thrown off.

              What is bothering me immensely, and this isn’t an attack on you at all because I think your method of having them everywhere is a really good idea, is that all kinds of judgements are being heaped on OP. Her manager’s awful behaviour isn’t being addressed. She’s being attacked for daring to make a small mistake and not wanting to pay extra money that she might not have. That’s what’s so upsetting here.

        3. Birch

          Or maybe it’s not 100% predictable, or maybe like many people she worries about the consequences of taking too many painkillers or maybe she didn’t make it to the pharmacy that week so only had one pack of painkillers to transfer between bags. Seriously? Stop judging other people’s pain.

          1. Lara

            This. Due to concerns about suicide there are legal restrictions on painkiller use. You can only buy 1-2 packs at a time and when it’s my time I have to take them every 4 hours. So that max lasts me about 2 days.

        4. Tara R.

          I have once or twice skipped lunch at work because I got really busy, and ended up getting dizzy and sick and needing to rush to the corner store to buy a granola bar. But I guess I must secretly love passing out, because I’m not a 100% perfect human being who is on top of my health at all times! Some people are much better at managing their health than others. I have two friends with type one diabetes. One is a shining model of responsibility, the other is bad at managing it and isn’t allowed to drive because she can’t keep her numbers in line. Think of how absurd it would be to say “Oh, well, I guess her diabetes can’t be all that bad since she had to call her mom to bring her insulin at school one time!”

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

            Think of how absurd it would be to say “Oh, well, I guess her diabetes can’t be all that bad since she had to call her mom to bring her insulin at school one time!”

            Give it time, someone will say it.

            But I guess I must secretly love passing out, because I’m not a 100% perfect human being who is on top of my health at all times!

            Your secret agenda has been revealed!

      3. tusky

        But, why does she have to suck it up and buy the pills (as opposed to sucking it up and restraining her grimaces for when she’s not interacting with customers, as she did)? I genuinely do not understand where this supposedly common-sense social rule comes from.

    4. Rae

      I have painful cramps but I also have kidney stones. When I go to work, no matter what is causing me pain, I need to be at work and not distracted by severe pain. I cannot help either but if it’s so bad my boss (or co-workers) are noticing, it’s probably a good sign I am not focusing and not really working.

      The onus is on the adult to be an adult and work with supervisors to have a plan if you have unpredictable pain.

      1. Les G

        Okay, but we don’t know if the OP wasn’t focusing and wasn’t working. All we know is that her boss chose to be rude to her because her performance of the role of “unembodied worker-robot” wasn’t up to his exacting standards that day.

        1. Rae

          If you’re on a sales floor part of your job is to look happy and presentable and welcoming at all times, even if no one is looking. Being human, we know we have moments when this isn’t possible but it IS part of the job.

          1. Specialk9

            The weren’t on the sales floor, no customers were in the building, she was alone in a private office with her manager and grimaced in pain while telling him he had a call.

          2. tusky

            “part of your job is to look happy…even if no one is looking”…um, what? This makes no sense, except as something a micromanaging/controlling boss would say. If no one is looking, then how would it actually matter?

      2. Lara

        Sure, if you have kind, considerate, adult supervisors who won’t penalise you for it. Given his “Your pain is unprofessional” attitude, I doubt OP is in that situation.

    5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      I agree. I’m really appalled at the lack of sympathy. We all sometimes forget things. Pain also makes it a lot harder to think clearly. That doesn’t make someone lazy or unwilling to properly manage their life.

      And sucking it up and paying more – not if you’re on a tight budget where every cent counts. You can’t understand that fear unless you’ve been there. The extra two dollars you pay will come out of something else: rent, food, electricity. You decide to deal with the pain because that will subside eventually and it’s better than falling short later.

      As for getting help from a doctor, ha ha. That’s a joke. The majority of doctors assume if they can’t see your symptom, you’re lying about it. The medical community as a whole is very conservative and dominated by men. It can take years before you find a doctor who sees you as a human being, let alone be willing to help you.

      At any rate, OP’s question was about her manager, not about anything else. Yes, he was awful and his behaviour was unacceptable. I highly doubt he would have treated a visible injury the same way.

      OP1, if you get down this far, I suggest you start to keep a work diary, if you haven’t already. It might be that this was a one-time thing and he’ll never say it again. Or it could be part of a pattern. I’m sorry people are lecturing you about something that isn’t your fault. Women really can’t win in this world.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          Thanks. I think I need to get out of this thread, it’s so hurtful. I hope OP doesn’t read the comments.

      1. Kj

        Yep. Docs pretend pain is nothing. It took visiting three docs, in the same month, to get a diagnosis of chronic migraines and medication to help. One doc basically told me I was being dramatic, the other thought it was a sinus headache and gave me an allergy med that did nothing and the third listened and prescribed me good migraine meds I have been using ever since. You can’t see migraines, so often docs assume you are wrong about your pain.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          I’m sorry you had to deal with that nonsense and so glad you found someone to help you. It’s bizarre how doctors assume people are lying – why would someone waste their time going to the doctor if they’re healthy?

    6. arjumand

      “Could we not be so dismissive of her pain ? I have never seen this kind of comments towards someone with chronic pain . . . ”

      Yes, absolutely (on this website). I’m really surprised at how unsympathetic people are being here. Though I shouldn’t be, I guess. That’s because it’s period pain, which is UNCLEAN, apparently.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        Oh goodness… can we stop with the ‘woe is me’ it’s not because it’s a ‘female thing’ it’s because it’s a situation that comes up regularly enough that a grown adult should be able to manage.

        If, for whatever reason they don’t, then they figure it out or deal with the consequences. Maybe it’s upsetting that the OP isn’t getting special treatment because it’s a ‘female thing’?

        1. Birch

          OP didn’t ask for special treatment. She was managing. Her boss interrupted that management by having a problem with her face.

        2. Pollygrammer

          I don’t think the “suck it up, it is unprofessional” comments would be happening if she had, say, migraines.

          1. Genny

            The problem isn’t that she felt pain. The problem is she didn’t do anything to mitigate that pain, instead choosing to (unsuccessfully) grin and bear it. Migraines are horrible. But if you come to work with a migraine and then sit at your desk all day visibly suffering through that without bothering to remedy the situation (take medications, lie down, go home, whatever you need), then yes, that would be unprofessional.

            Everyone is responsible for managing their health. If that means buying the more expensive bottle of painkillers, you have to do that. If that means calling in sick because of your migraine, you have to do that. If that means arranging a reasonable accommodation with your boss, you have to do that.

    7. CupcakeCounter

      Here is why I think she isn’t getting a lot of the sympathy most chronic pain sufferers receive here:
      -she knew she was going to have cramps and had painkillers at home she meant to bring which makes me think that they usually work for her if taken at the right time (based on my experience the meds won’t help relieve the pain if taken past a certain point – they will only keep it from getting worse)
      -when she realized she forgot them she decided she didn’t want to pay for them at the nearby convenience store because of the price which caused the cramps to get worse

      There is no indication that the OP’s boss knew why she was in pain, only that she was physically showing signs of pain and wasn’t doing anything to mitigate it. For all we know she had been doing this for hours and boss was fed up. My husband thinks he is a master as masking pain but the whole freaking world knows just by looking at him. Whether or not there were customers in the dealership doesn’t matter that much – if you can’t hide the pain for a 15 second conversation you probably can’t do it for a 1 hour sales consultation.
      His wording sucked no question but we only have OP’s side of things.

        1. CupcakeCounter

          I get period pain. Not as bad as some but my sister and best friend both have pretty horrendous pain and I’ve seen them in pretty bad state. They don’t whine about buying the pain meds they need or how there boss isn’t very nice. They take when they need to deal and get on with life.

          1. Constanze

            So some people you know have period pain and they just get on with it ? Why haven’t you said anything before ?!

            This changes everything, since everyone is the same, experiences pain the same way.
            Also, now that these silly women know that some other women don’t inconvenience people around them with their female trouble, they are now duly chastised and will do everyting in their power to keep their pain to themselves and make sure the world doesn’t know anything about it.

            Good girls.

            1. Thursday Next

              This isn’t fair to CupcakeCounter.

              Think about the way ADA accommodations are discussed on this site–people are entitled to them, but they have to initiate the process. In other words, it’s incumbent on the person with the health concern to say, “We need to discuss my medical needs.”

              It sounds like the boss was unkind and rude, but OP also has the primary role to play in managing her care, whether that’s buying OTC medication, asking her boss if she could leave early or take a break from the floor–whatever might be possible or helpful to alleviate the OP’s pain and/or help her perform her job duties.

              1. Constanze

                I don’t think I am being unfair on Cupcake Counter. They didn’t say anything remotely similar and nuanced to what you just explained. There is a pretty big difference between saying “Stop whining and deal with it” and mentioning the options the OP might in a work environment with a potentially uncaring manager.

                They don’t whine about buying the pain meds they need or how there boss isn’t very nice. They take when they need to deal and get on with life.
                Their comment is dismissive, unhelpful and extremely cliché (well I dealt with it so so can you ! ). The use of terms such as “whine” or “deal with it” was also uncalled for, and bordeline cruel. I stand by my comment.

                1. Constanze

                  Lots of typos, sorry.
                  *remotely similar and as nuanced as what you just explained
                  *the OP might have

                2. Thursday Next

                  I see your point about the words/phrases you quoted. That wouldn’t be the route I’d take in talking to the OP.

                  The underlying sentiment might be similar—we need to take primary responsibility for our own health issues—but of course language makes a big difference.

              2. CupcakeCounter

                This is exactly what I was getting at. This was not a sudden, on-set medical issue that the OP was not equipped to deal with it was a known quantity that she chose not to deal with because she forgot the very basic medication she knows can fix it and did not appear to do anything about rectifying it. No discussion with manager that she was under the weather, did not appear to ask if any coworkers had the meds, she knew where to get the meds but didn’t want to pay for them, and when it became an issue instead of explaining the situation (in pain but forgot my meds – no details necessary) she wrote an advice columnist saying boss was mean.
                No question that his comments were not kind or helpful and I have said that numerous times.
                I’m not saying my sister or friends pain is exactly the same as OPs. I’m not saying that all people everywhere have to suck it up and deal with it.
                What I am saying is that if you have a situation that you know is coming, know what you need to deal with it, and choose not to I’m not going to have a lot of sympathy. I have foot problems and can’t wear heels. If I wear heels to work and my feet hurt that is my problem and no one else’s and I expect zero sympathy. Not the same as a bodily function that 50% of the population gets and has minimal control over I know. The point isn’t that she has a period. It is that she knew she was going to have cramps, forgot her meds, and knew in time to minimize the worst of the pain that she could get them at the store and chose not to because she didn’t want to pay the price. I saw no where in her letter that she couldn’t afford them just that she didn’t want to pay the up charge.

                1. Lucy

                  It might be worth remembering that everyone makes mistakes and that’s not a reason to withdraw empathy.

    8. Justin

      I’m sympathetic, but she could have just purchased the pain pills and she didn’t. Her boss was an ass about it, absolutely, but she should have shelled out for the expensive pills.

    9. Calpurnia

      But she is alleging that, had she ponied up the extra cash for gas station pills, this wouldn’t have been an issue, so I presume the painkillers are how she usually copes (although she does muddy the waters a bit when she claims later in her post they don’t work anyway–?). I have horrendously painful periods (I have LITERALLY lain on the floor some months), and though OTC meds don’t completely resolve the pain, they are better than nothing. So I know I would have spent whatever it took and opted for the pricey pills before I’d inflict my “wincing” on coworkers or customers. I think the OP just needs to bite the bullet or stay home. Who knows, maybe she tries this on every month, which could somwhat explain the boss’ attitude, as dismissive as it sounds.

      1. Rat in the Sugar

        I’m really confused as to how wincing is such a big deal…? I don’t really understand this view that it’s unprofessional or making your pain other people’s problem (also wth does that even mean, how is seeing you in pain making a problem for someone??) or something that you “inflict” on people. Are other people really that “inflicted” by seeing you wince?? I’m seeing this all over the comment section today and it’s really bizarre to me. I’ve had coworkers in customer service jobs come in while in pain from an injury and never heard anyone say that they we were being unprofessional or somehow inflicting the customers with their pain when they made a face. I have literally never encountered this before and I’m honestly confused.

        1. Delphine

          Right, this is the bit I can’t get past, policing a person’s (perhaps momentary) expression.

        2. aebhel

          Yeah, this is where I run into a wall. If she was writhing on the ground, then yeah, that’s probably a sign that she needs to go home. But a wince is a momentary expression. Have none of these people ever bashed their elbow on something at work? Stubbed a toe? Dropped something on their foot? If so, did you keep a bland and pleasant expression on your face as it happened?

          Because if so, I hear there are houses for rent in Camazotz…

        3. LJay

          I mean, it probably inhibits your ability to make a great connection and sell a car in a way it wouldn’t in a 2 minute interaction where a cashier is ringing someone up. Sales is hard, and it’s harder if you seem like your focus isn’t 100% on the customer or their needs. The customer might not necessarily name the issue, or might not think that they’re judging someone on being in pain, but they might just vaguely feel like the salesperson is less likable than someone working at 100% and be less inclined to give the sale.

          However, that seems like it would be more the OP’s problem than the manager’s if she wants to risk a sale over it, so I’m wondering why he cares so much. Presumably if she thought she was going to lose a potential sale over it she would have ponied up for the more expensive meds.

        4. Lucy

          It’s a real empathy fail. I never thought someone could type “it’s not unprofessional to feel pain, its unprofessional to show pain” with a straight face.

          1. Engineer Girl

            It’s unprofessional to not manage your medical condition when you know it will cause problems.

            1. tusky

              But she did manage her medical condition! Just (apparently) not in a way that you find satisfactory.

  28. Rebecca

    OP#2 – please put the shoe on the other foot.

    Look forward a year or two or three – maybe you will find out about a job that offers better pay and benefits, or is closer to your home, or something – and you want to improve yourself and your situation. Would you want one of your coworkers to tell your boss, before you had a chance to give notice or perhaps even before you had even gone to the interview? You might get an interview, go, and decide it’s not for you. But, now your boss knows you are looking. In many workplaces, this can be the kiss of death. Please, please take the advice of the other posters and stay out of it.

  29. This Liz Sews

    #5, please use these resources! They are there for career development and your employer wants you to use them.

    1. EddieSherbert


      I’ve really enjoyed opportunities for career development and I have gotten very positive feedback from higher ups for utilizing them – conferences, webinars, books,etc. They wouldn’t offer them if they didn’t want people to use them!

  30. MicroManagered

    No, OP2, do not tell your boss you think your coworker might be looking for a job. First–That’s a really rotten thing to do for someone you rely on for help, and second–for all you know it could be inaccurate. (What if she is helping a spouse/partner job-hunt or proofreading a friend’s resume and that’s why she had emails about resumes and interviews? Also, I get emails all the time about “your resume” from recruiters who found me LinkedIn or Indeed, despite the fact that I’m not looking.)

    Even if it *is* accurate, and she is job searching, all she has to do is tell your boss that’s crazy and she has no idea what you’re talking about–which is going to make you look bad to both your boss and your coworker. I bet she would also not be as helpful toward someone who creeped* on personal email and then snitched* to the boss about it! (*I know you saw by accident, but I’m talking about perception. This sounds like a solid plan to make enemies fast!)

    Finally, nobody likes the office busy-body. Of course, if you see someone doing something illegal or unethical (like stealing from the employer, drinking at work, etc.), you should report it. Job searching is not a crime, so what you think you saw is none of your, or your boss’s, business. Staying in your own lane is a skill. The ability to discern what is/isn’t your business is a trait that will gain you the respect and trust of your peers.

  31. Birch

    What the actual flaming teapots today with both letters and comments!!

    OP#1, your boss is awful and you did nothing wrong. I don’t understand these responses at all considering the way people typically jump down each other’s throat at the mere possibility of someone having any type of medical condition. And the ‘well I deal with painful periods too so suck it up buttercup’ attitude is awful. There’s a million reasons people wince at work. It’s not unprofessional to wince at work every once in a while, especially when there are no customers around! We are not robots.

    OP#2, flight risk?! This is absolutely NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS and I cannot believe someone new to the office would even have the gall to consider snitching on a new coworker! Let alone using information you gleaned accidentally from her private email!

    1. Les G

      Yeah, it’s pretty weird to me as well. Folks love to diagnose others (not to mention themselves) with extremely rare medical conditions, but a very common situation like the OP’s is deserving of scrutiny? Of all the things?

    2. Lara

      Yep. I’ve seen people argue that not accommodating allergies is literally equivalent to the civil rights struggle. But obvs a woman with painful menstrual cramps is an irresponsible idiot who needs to grow up.

      1. Nita

        OK, I honestly don’t know the answer to this question – do all allergies have basic OTC medications you can take to control them at the start of symptoms? The allergy discussions here really are way over the top. On the other hand, if it’s really a serious allergy, it’s a problem on a whole other level. One, because it can happen every day, and two, because keeping it under control may mean a lot more than a Tylenol.

        1. Lara

          No, not at all. Allergies, like most health conditions, vary wildly. There are some that can be controlled with OTC meds that cost 50p a box and some that require stringent environmental control plus epi-pens.

          Same as some cramps can be controlled with cheap OTC meds and some require surgical intervention. That was kind of my point, I wasn’t mocking allergies – they can be a real problem. I just think it’s shady that one health condition is taken seriously and the other is not.

    3. LGC

      I’m thinking that Alison just skipped a day ahead. Or is trying to kill the concept of “WTF Wednesday” forever by replacing it with “WTF Tuesday.” (Is it just me, or have the Tuesday letters been wild the past few weeks?)

      I’m impressed that no one is batting an eye at the person who wants to request a month of holiday (presumably in the US) within the first four-five months of starting a new job because the other letters are so bonkers.

  32. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

    For everyone saying OP1 is being dramatic or unprofessional, hello, I cannot take any OTC pain pills due to chronic liver and kidney conditions. If I’m in pain, then I’m going to remain in pain until my body decides to cut it out on its own. I cannot stop living/working/whatever, to go home every time, and IMO doing so would be much more unprofessional and dramatic than the occasional on the clock grimace. My point being, life occurs and sometimes gets in the way of work, and in no way was OP1 being the problem here.

    OP1, your boss is a jerk, and probably won’t change. *handing over a nice hot water bottle and some chocolate*

    1. post-it

      Thank you! I’m shocked how many comments are acting as if grimacing in pain is absolutely enough to put you over the “not fit to work today” threshold. That is absurd. Thanks for a sensible response, (D)RP!

      1. Bones

        Because it’s pain that’s associated with women, and there’s a real problem with people (from acquaintances all the way to doctors) dismissing women’s pain/medical issues.

      2. Birch

        Yep. It’s also not as if grimacing or wincing is the worst thing ever to see another human do. People have defended clipping nails at your desk, tiptoed around coworkers with bad hygiene and abusive behaviour…. I really don’t understand why this is such a horrible thing to be stamped UNPROFESSIONAL. Has no one had a hangnail or stubbed their foot at work? Or god forbid a broken bone, a toothache, a headache, an upset stomach, a cold?

      3. Jaybeetee

        This seems pretty case-specific – it sounds like a case where OP can usually manage her pain, and that this was a one-off exception. It also sounds like she could afford the more expensive corner-store pills and had time to buy them, and just didn’t feel like it. If any of those were different, I’d think a lot of the answers here would be different. If OP was frequently suffering from pain she didn’t yet know how to manage, she’d probably get different advice. If OP was on such a tight budget (due to low wages or other reasons – I’ve had some crappy points in my life where I didn’t have $5 to spare for anything from a corner store) that she couldn’t afford the other pain pills, that would also be different. But this sounds like a situation where she was *able* to do something to manage the pain, or was able to go home as a one-off, and chose neither.

        I once worked in a place where a colleague was *ordered* by his manager to go home, and not come in the next day, because he was ill and coughing loudly all day in a shared workspace. This was a salary position so the guy wasn’t going to be out pay if he didn’t come in. In most workplaces there’s some acceptance of people working through pain, injuries, illness, etc, but also a line where someone will usually intervene in some way or another to say “Look, if it’s THAT bad, you should go home.”

        That said, I also disagree with how this OP’s manager handled this situation. He should have shown more concern with her, and calling her “unprofessional” is just…bad form.

        1. Birch

          It’s not up to the boss to decide if she should take medication though–it’s really irrelevant to the letter whether it works for her or she meant to take it or whatever. Even though she says explicitly that when the cramps are that bad, the painkillers don’t work anyway. It’s inappropriate of the boss (and commenters) to be making that call. “Ordering” someone to go home is different–coughing loudly is also different–you can’t just look away, and coughing might mean the illness is contagious. OP was hurting no one.

          1. CupcakeCounter

            No, she said that by the time she took the meds they didn’t work anymore – based on personal experience and her comment about bringing the meds and looking for them earlier they most likely would have worked had she taken them when she originally went looking for them.
            She knew she would be in pain and *chose* not to purchase the meds right away that would, most likely, minimize or relieve the pain. That is why she isn’t getting as much sympathy as this community usually gives.

            1. smoke tree

              Yeah, but it’s not like she then went and loudly complained to customers and coworkers alike about her terrible cramps. She grimaced once in private. Sounds to me like the boss overreacted and is being pretty unreasonable about never showing human emotion at work. I don’t think failing to take painkillers once in a while is horribly unprofessional.

            2. tusky

              She’s not asking for sympathy for her pain (though really, why is sympathy for pain conditional in this way?) She’s asking for sympathy/advice because she was chastised for moving her face in a way that showed pain. Once. Out of view of customers.

          2. Jaybeetee

            TBH, I also disagree with the manager in this situation – it is indeed an overstep to TELL someone to take medications (outside what has been prescribed – I can see some grey areas around that, depending on the circumstances and the overall relationship between that boss and that employee, but that’s a different discussion). And calling her pain “unprofessional” without concern for her well-being is just callous. I admittedly haven’t read all the comments here, but I read most of them, and I didn’t see anyone saying they agreed with how the boss handled it. It’s more that…the OP herself could have also handled this situation differently. This doesn’t sound like a situation where she was helpless with no options. It sounds like she chose to try to tough it out.

      4. Aleta

        Me too! I’m really surprised that occasionally wincing is apparently such a huge deal. If I even noticed it as a customer in a service setting (which I probably wouldn’t unless we were actually speaking to each other), my reaction would be sympathy, not “how unprofessional.”

    2. John Rohan

      But the OP1 didn’t say she couldn’t take her meds because of liver or kidney issues, etc. She simply didn’t bring them with her that day, and didn’t want to buy them from the convenience store. In this case, going by the letter, it was avoidable.

      1. Birch

        If we’re really going to double down on things that are technically avoidable, we might as well also throw under the bus everyone who has ever forgotten something small or made a bad decision and later regretted it.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

          What Birch said. The amount of times I’ve changed my lesson plans because of a forgotten or malfunctioning piece of equipment…

        2. John Rohan

          I didn’t say she was a horrible person or anything like that, just that it’s not fair to compare this to situations where you have a medical problem that is unavoidable.

          1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

            No, it’s completely fair, because it’s all a part of the “life happens” thing. In my case life happening is inevitable, and in the OP’s case it was because of accident and then subsequent choice, but she was handling it, and unless and until it interfered with her work, which it was not doing, her boss had no reason to intervene. And, to extend the metaphor, her boss had no way of knowing if the problem was indeed unavoidable. It is not for him to speculate, in either case.

          2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

            Addendum: some days we’re not going to be at our best, and nitpicking over why exactly that is, and who’s fault, tends to be counterproductive toward people actually doing their jobs. As was said the other day, you don’t have to be 100% all the time.

          1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

            Are we really comfortable telling someone how they should spend their money and what they should put in their body, merely so as to not inconvenience someone else with their facial expression? Really?

            1. Rat in the Sugar

              Yeah, this attitude I keep seeing that it’s your responsibility to take medication or time off from work to ensure that others are never able to detect your pain makes me really uncomfortable. That’s taking emotional labor to a WHOLE new level!!

            2. Thursday Next

              Do you think it’s different here because OP opened the door by saying she meant to bring pain meds, but forgot and didn’t want to spend the money? In other words, she established that it was something she typically does and was prepared to do if it didn’t incur X monetary cost?

              I’m genuinely asking. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest meds/strategies to someone who wasn’t explicitly asking “”how can I treat this?,” because I try to follow Captain Awkward’s health commenting guidelines. But in this case, OP has said this is something that’s in her repertoire.

              1. Birch

                She also said that by the point it was getting really bad, the painkillers don’t work anyway, and no one is taking her word for it. It’s still a case of not trusting OP to know her own body and decisions, which is gross but not surprising.

            3. Genny

              She’s in a customer-facing position, so yes, I am comfortable with requiring a basic standard of professionalism. How OP chooses to meet that standard is up to her (meds, sick day, heating patches, etc.), but being told you’re failing to meet the standard and that you need to do something differently (even if it was said rudely) isn’t the crime against humanity you’re making it out to be.

              Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has off days. The OP isn’t a horrible person for forgetting her painkillers or expressing pain. She does however have agency, and she can use that agency to make different choices. The way she wrote the letter jumps right over her responsibility straight to “my boss is a sexist jerk, right?”.

              1. Delphine

                The LW specifically states that no one saw her. Many people may show pain when they’re more relaxed but can put on their game face when they need to, so we’re not even in a position to judge whether or not a customer *would* have seen anything amiss. It’s not a crime for someone’s body to react to pain, in fact it’s far more understandable than people demanding human beings behave like robots for “customer-facing positions”.

              2. Rat in the Sugar

                I’ve never understood a basic standard of professionalism to include never wincing in pain. I’ve had coworkers in customer service wincing from back pain (customers commiserated about long days at work), wincing trying to get down from a stool while hugely pregnant (customers made jokes about “bet you’re ready for that baby”), and I myself have have winced in front of customers when I was waiting tables with stitches in my leg (customers asked if it was alright and when I said yes and laughed it off they said “oh ok” and went back to ordering food). I’ve just never seen this be a big deal in customer service and I’ve never before heard anyone say that never showing pain/discomfort was a basic part of being professional.

                1. Genny

                  I don’t really care all that much if the cashier at Wal-Mart is a bit terse due to pain or if the waitress winces a bit. However, if I’m making a large purchase like a car, I absolutely want the salesperson to be on the ball. Cars are expensive, and I want to know the person I’m talking to is fully engaged in the conversation, paying close attention to what I want/need, able to accurately answer my questions, etc. If I feel like the person is distracted by something else, I’m going to be much less likely to buy a car from them because they aren’t exactly inspiring confidence. One wince? Not a huge deal, but cramps far more regularly than that, and someone constantly wincing through my interaction with them would be off-putting.

      2. Delphine

        The boss is still in the wrong, though. If we’re evaluating his response, his response is not “more okay” because she could control the pain.

  33. Kate Daniels

    #2. Please, please don’t be the person who tries to get a pat on the back from the boss (for “loyalty”) while throwing a coworker under the bus. You really don’t want to be known as the untrustworthy coworker.

  34. Bored IT Guy

    OP#5 – Use the resources that are available! I help support my company’s e-learning platform, and the Learning team is going through a pretty significant redesign of the page to bring the external resources that we subscribe to closer to the top of the page and make them more visually appealing, trying to get more people to use them.

  35. John Rohan

    #1: The only way what your manager said would be justified would be if you were, like, lying on the floor grimacing and clutching your sides and loudly cursing your uterus while calling out for the comfort of your mother, and otherwise turning your cramps into a public set piece. Assuming that’s not what was happening, your boss sounds like an ass.

    Really? It would have to rise to that level before it’s considered unprofessional? Keep in mind that the woman isn’t an IT professional, HR, etc . She in sales, which means she has to interface with the public. Just because she wasn’t with the public at that moment doesn’t mean the manager should just ignore it. Sure he could have asked how she was doing first, but that’s not the germane issue here.

    #2: A “flight risk”?? Are you convicted prisoners on some kind of work release program?

      1. John Rohan

        I know it sucks. No one said it was pleasant, but that’s why you get paid to do a job professionally.

        You have to draw the line somewhere on being “allowed to be human”, otherwise that would excuse any kind of office behavior, even sexual harassment.

        1. Constanze

          I think the line between “being a emotionless indestructible robot” and “sexually harrasing your collegues just because”… is not than thin a line, actually.

          1. Les G

            What, you mean it’s not normal human behavior to sexually harass someone?!?!? Man, just when I thought Brent had the worst take of the day John came in hot.

        2. Database Developer Dude

          But the occasional wince or grimace when you’re in pain? I’m a man, and I get it, and that manager didn’t even know why she was in pain, so the issue of it being menstrual cramps shouldn’t have even come up. It doesn’t matter why she was in pain.

          An occassional grimace when one is in pain is *not* unprofessional, it’s a part of being human. She did say no one was on the floor at the time, and if you (generic) as a manager are that bothered by it, you need to get over yourself. People aren’t robots.

        3. Afiendishthingy

          i’m sorry w h a t??? that’s quite the slippery slope argument. First you allow employees to wince in pain in a private office, next thing you know they’re Matt Lauer!

        1. bonkerballs

          This is boggling my mind. Flight-risk is such a common phrase used to describe so many different things. It’s used in corrections (the way everyone on this thread agrees with and is somehow finding offensive), it’s used in HR, it’s used in love songs about people who have a hard time committing, it’s used to describe that one friend who you go out with but you know probably won’t be going home with you because by the end of the night they will always have someone new to hook up with, it’s used to describe clients people think are getting ready to leave a certain workplace, etc, etc, etc.

          I am *baffled* by the amount of people who don’t regularly hear this phrase.

  36. eLearning_eVangelical

    OP #5:

    As the individual who oversees online learning for my company, please use these resources! Organizations invest in these platforms to ensure their workforce is growing, learning, and developing. At my company, less than 10% of employees make use of these platforms voluntarily. During performance review season, we provide reports of learning completion to supervisors so they are aware of which employees have expanded their skill sets and displayed a commitment to growth.

    Not only are these free perks for you, but they can also help you expand your career in so many ways! As Alison states, don’t sit around all day and complete online learning to the detriment of your position, but if time and workload allow, these are excellent uses of your time.

    1. Blue

      I would venture to say that most people potentially interested in using such tools don’t have time in their work load to do so. If OP *does* have the time, they should absolutely take advantage of that!

  37. LGC

    I like how the theme of today’s letters is “just DON’T.” (Except for LW5, where I totally agree that she should – and also give feedback on her experience!)

    Specific to LW2: People leaving jobs is a really normal thing, even at inconvenient times! (Our old HR manager left right in the middle of our performance review period. One of our counselors left right around the end of the fiscal year – when we’re also dealing with grants on top of clients.) More importantly, one thing I’ve learned is that NO ONE is irreplaceable, and if they are, the organization was doomed regardless.

    It’ll be tough if she leaves. But you guys should be able to manage! And hopefully she documents her knowledge so you don’t have to rely on her as much.

  38. Pretend Scientist


    I agree with a number of other commenters on several fronts regarding this amount of vacation–though, it may render the point moot if your job search takes longer. That said, depending on when you would start, if I was your coworker, I would seriously be side-eyeing you about the bachelorette party plus 10 days at Christmas, as a new employee. Right or wrong, it’s a lot of time within the first few months of a new job, and established employees may already have reserved that time off. And, like another commenter said above, taking days off for a bachelorette party is not equivalent to taking time off for a milestone anniversary for your parents, etc.

  39. Tiny Tiger

    I’m quite frankly appalled at the number of comments on here trying to chastise OP1 about “grimacing” at work. I’ve had to force myself to go into work and school during horrid period cramps, migraines, and other abdominal pain and not once did any of my teachers or bosses respond to my pain so rudely. It costs absolutely nothing to treat others like a human being with common decency, especially when said person is in pain! I can guarantee even if a customer saw the OP was in pain, if they were any kind of decent they’d be sympathetic and be wondering why the manager wouldn’t allow someone in that much pain to be sent home. The OP forgot her pain pills, something that happens to literally EVERYONE at least 5 times in their life. Especially with how wages and prices are in the U.S., I’m not surprised she didn’t want to shell out more money for something she already had at home.

    1. Bones

      A fair few of the chastising comments are coming from commenters who appear to be men… make of that what you will.

      1. Roscoe

        In fairness, I would have the exact same opinion if a guy was visibly grimacing due to a sore tooth or something as well. There is no indication the manager knew it was menstrual cramps, he just saw her in pain and told her to do something about it.

      2. Database Developer Dude

        Speaking as a man, what I’ve observed is that the commenters chastising OP#1 who appear to be men are clueless men who just don’t give a flip, and they’d probably chastise me for stretching out at my desk and grimacing if I had a twinge (I have two slipped discs, L4 and L5).

        On average, men tend to be either 1. clueless or 2. uncaring when it comes to womens’ health issues. There’s a metric boatload of peer-reviewed research out there that shows this.

      3. Tiny Tiger

        Although I’ve witnessed this behavior coming from men, I’ve met my fair share of women who would have similar if not the same reaction to it just because they’ve never experienced it either. I could rant all day about the hypocrisy of how my gyno is a woman and refuses to tie my tubes because “I might change my mind” despite my emphatic insistence that I DO NOT WANT TO BE PREGNANT, EVER!

        1. Database Developer Dude

          For what it’s worth, Tiny Tiger, if I were a gynecologist, and you came to me, I would do it for you.

    2. Roscoe

      I think when you are in a customer facing role, the rules are a bit different. You are supposed to present a welcoming face for people. If you are grimacing, that isn’t very welcoming.

      1. Database Developer Dude

        Except OP1 said she was talking to her manager and there was no one on the sales floor at the time.

        1. Roscoe

          I understand that, but if you are showing pain on your face that bad, to think that you can magically switch it off when a customer comes in so they won’t see any discomfort isn’t really that convincing. Even if you can do it for a few minutes, can you really sustain it all day?

      2. Tiny Tiger

        I worked in customer facing roles throughout college and after when I started getting migraines and other abdominal pains. If you’re grimacing just because you don’t want to be there, then you have a point. If you’re grimacing because you’re in an excessive amount of pain and don’t have the ability to leave to get pain relief and your boss is being an ass about it, the customers can deal with it. We do not turn into robots that can ignore pain and illness symptoms just because we step foot in a building.

        1. Roscoe

          But she did have the ability to leave and get relief. She just chose not to. This whole letter is about the boss essentially saying you need to relieve this because you are showing it on your face.

          1. Tiny Tiger

            And the boss is still an ass for it, that fact will not change. Customer-facing roles do not suddenly exempt people from being able to act human. There is nothing inherently “unprofessional” about being in pain on the job and sometimes showing it. We’re human, it happens whether we’re at work or not.

      3. LGC

        I beg your pardon?

        So what you’re saying is that if you were LW1’s manager, you would be more concerned about her appearance than her well being if she appeared to be visibly in pain?

        That sounds…callous at best.

    3. President Porpoise

      Well, hey, actually it does cost something if you have a sales person on the floor, who is wincing and grimacing in pain, particularly if you are selling a large, expensive product that requires a fair amount of affability and sales person – customer connection to close the deal. It could legitimately hurt the dealership’s ability to move stock if it looks like the salesperson is not engaged, or doesn’t want to be there. If I’m seeing a lady wincing in pain, I’m not assuming menstrual cramps, I’m assuming migraine or bad shoes. It is absolutely the manager’s prerogative and responsibility to tell his report to change a behavior that is making them less effective at his or her job. Yes, the manager could have been less rude and more compassionate – but it isn’t required. It is actually to the manager’s credit that they told OP to fix the issue while there were no customers on the sales floor – it’d be wholly inappropriate to have this conversation, no matter how nicely phrased, in front of someone to whom you’re trying to make a sale. There is nothing in this letter to suggest that the manager is a sexist jerk and has a history of sexist jerkism, which would change my calculus.

      OP is an adult who has regular pain. OP has worked out a strategy to deal with this pain, but that strategy failed in this instance. This is an opportunity for OP to look at her strategy and find a corrective action to mitigate future possible failures – such as seeing a doctor for cramp evaluation, having a back-up kit of emergency cash and hygiene/health products, telling her supervisor about this long standing condition and seeking accommodation, planning on a PTO strategy (and rainy day fund) for days where she can’t work due to pain, etc.

      Instead, OP is taking her embarrassment out on her manager, who was just doing his job. This is neither a responsible, reasonable, or mature response to the situation. All the commenters here who are feeling angry on OP’s behalf – I get the desire to be compassionate and commiserate with the OP, but the reality is that in order for OP to be successful in the long run, OP needs to take responsibility for her health.

      1. tusky

        I realize it’s the norm in sales and customer service jobs to expect robotic levels of good cheer in employees, but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it, or condescendingly lecture OP about “responsibility.”

  40. LQ

    Another strong vote to use the resources! These resources are provided as a resource. Definitely use them. Your training/learning/development office might have resources on using them like recommended classes, signs you can put up to not be interrupted, or development plans to talk with your supervisor about. (If you have something like an internal website I’d check that.) I know we do weekly reports for supervisors on who is using the resource and people who are doing classes during the summer lull are really doing the right thing. It is there to use!

  41. Lia

    We have had a few people hired who negotiated time off soon after the hire. One in particular stands out: he was the second choice for a role after the initial hire backed out two days before the scheduled start date. However, he told us that he had a 10 day honeymoon booked two weeks after the start date, once we made the offer (over a month after initial hire backed out). We wanted him, so we agreed to it.

    The big kicker here would be the 10 days off at the holidays. Time off then is granted by seniority and coverage, and I can guarantee you’d wind up with some very resentful coworkers if you swept in and took those days off. I’d very strongly suggest waiting on the job search until later this year if you can at all.

  42. Jane

    #1 I wonder what your boss’s reaction would have been if you said you had a headache or a foot ache or a back ache. Would that have been unprofessional as well? Somehow I have a feeling that would have been treated differently.

    1. CupcakeCounter

      OP didn’t indicate that the boss knew why she was in pain – just that she was in pain. My sister often told coworkers she had a bad headache when her cramps were at their worst and it changed nothing. Obvious pain in a customer facing role isn’t ideal. No he shouldn’t have been such an ass but we don’t know how long she had been grimacing or if any other coworkers had asked if she was ok and what her responses were. We only have what she states in the letter 1) she knew she was going to have cramps and planned to take meds 2) she forgot said meds 3) she chose not to purchase some at the nearby store 4) her pain was obvious to those around her.

    2. Thlayli

      There’s absolutely no indication in the letter that OP told her boss or that her boss guessed what was causing her pain. All we know is he told her it was unprofessional al to be visibly in pain and to go get some painkillers.

      Honestly I think all the accusations of misogyny are baseless. Unless OP has reason to believe her boss would be ok with a man being visibly in pain on the sales floor then there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t say the exact same thing to anyone who was visibly grimacing in pain.

      Also, OP, I’m sure you’re aware of this but just in case: period pains so bad that painkillers have zero effect are uncommon. It may be a symptom of a more serious condition eg endometriosis. It’s estimated that a huge percentage of endometriosis goes undiagnosed because of the myth about periods commonly being excruciating. Yes some people have excruciating period pains that are not caused by any known medical condition, but often it is a symptom of something far more serious.

      Alison, sorry for armchair diagnosing, I want to make it clear I’m not saying “you definitely have something”. I just want to let OP know it’s a possibility. And there may even be a cure.

  43. Exhausted Trope

    OP1, I agree with Alison’s assessment – your boss is an a__! Instead of chastising you for working in pain (Gaa! I am dumbstruck by the sheer gall!) he ought to be grateful to have such a committed employee. And immediately ran out to purchase said medication for you!
    If he is as “thoughtful” about other aspects of the workplace, you may be better off seeking other opportunities.

    1. Exhausted Trope

      I’m replying to my comment here as a thought just struck me.
      OP1’s situation seems similar to the annoying practice of some in the workplace who command others to smile. “Your current facial expression isn’t 100% pleasing to me, so change it!” OP’s boss stated her grimacing was unprofessional. Maybe the real reason was that he just didn’t like it and preferred OP be smiling regardless of her pain. If so, he’s reached a whole new level of ick.

      1. Database Developer Dude

        That’s an excellent point. Thank you for bringing it up. I see it often. I’m male, and when I walk by females in the hall in my current workplace, many of them smile when they see me, and I get the distinct feeling from some of them that they do it because they’re ‘expected to’.

        I rarely say anything unless I know the woman personally, though, because I can’t read minds, and it would be a horrible overstepping of boundaries to assume why they’re smiling at me.

        1. Thlayli

          I smile at everyone – it’s like a way of saying hello without having to bother opening your mouth. I don’t distinguish by gender. It also has a nice side effect of making people associate positive feelings with you. Smiling is contagious. It’s also been scientifically proven That smiling, even forced smiling, increases your happiness.

          When I’m in a bad mood or tired I don’t bother tho. I’ve never had anyone tell me to smile since I was a very young child. I think that’s purely an American thing. I imagine if I had people telling me I had to smile I’d probably smile a lot less often.

          1. Jan

            Oh, people do that in the UK too, and it’s always women on the receiving end. If it’s not “Smile!” it’s “What you in a bad mood for?” Funnily enough, I wasn’t in a bad mood till that twat started monitoring my facial expressions…

  44. Meredith Brooks

    Sooooooo, here are my thoughts on #1 and the comments #1. First, I think the boss was a jerk, but no more or less a jerk than other bosses that exist. He could have been sympathetic, he wasn’t.
    The LW may not be able to take time off, work on commission, or etc. But the fact remains is that LW is an adult and it’s her responsibility to take care of herself, not her boss’s. Her pain may have been intense because of medical issues or just because having your period can really, really suck. It’s her responsibility to take care of herself. As she’s worked with her boss for a period of time, I imagine she’s come to an understanding about who he is and how he manages. It’s childish and immature to fault her boss for not being sensitive to her pain. He’s her boss, not her friend. Let’s take a step back from the pity party.

      1. Meredith Brooks

        Perhaps. But, all I can say is that I’ve been in very similar situations (with a female boss) and what I learned is that when you’re experiencing something, it’s yours alone. You cannot expect a supervisor to feel sympathy or send you home or validate your experience.

        1. Lara

          Plenty of kind and attentive supervisors do though, because they want an efficient and high morale workplace.

          1. Meredith Brooks

            This is true. I have a lovely boss now who is very empathetic and sympathetic. Which is why I still work for her 6 years later. But, I still don’t expect her empathy, even though I appreciate it.

    1. Birch

      But it’s not really about the boss being sensitive to her pain or even her pain at all, and it is not up to anyone here to comment on the validity of her pain or her choices. The boss complained because she “winced” at work and he said that was so unprofessional that she should leave. All the other details are just noise at that point–it doesn’t matter in the end whether she could have taken steps to not be in pain, the fact is that wincing in pain at work is not the depths of unprofessionalism and her boss should butt the heck out. She WAS taking care of herself to the best of her ability and choice at that point. Give her the benefit of the doubt that she was doing the best she could at that time.

      1. Sally

        But if you are in pain to the point when you’re wincing at work, in a customer service context, it’s inappropriate to be there – you either have to take pain medication so you feel better, or you have to go home. The boss could have been more understanding about it, but if you’re in a public facing job you have to keep it together or go home to get better.

      2. Meredith Brooks

        Totally fair point, up to a point. The main crux of the issue is that her boss reprimanded her for wincing, which is ridiculous.

        But, I question whether she was taking care of herself to the best of her ability. She says she left her meds at home, made no attempt to buy or borrow ibuprofen while at work, doesn’t mention whether she asked her boss for any kind of accommodation, and then called him a misogynist.
        None of these things are necessarily problematic. But she wrote in to an advice column and I’m not really clear that she was looking for anything more than validation that her boss was a misogynist.

      3. Falling Diphthong

        Taking care of oneself to the best of one’s choice is a standard a lot of second parties might conclude means they don’t want to deal with you. In this case, if I know there’s an easy fix for someone’s pain but they are choosing to forego it.

        Usually it arises in the context of mental health, like if someone doesn’t like the side effects of their meds but other people don’t like dealing with them when they are off the meds.

    2. Grimace

      So we should also tell all the people who are only emotionally hurt by something someone said at work to just deal with it? Hurting a child free woman’s feelings by saying she needs to start procreating is outrageous but wanting human decency when you’re in physical pain is too much?

      1. Meredith Brooks

        I don’t believe we should tell all the people anything. I don’t advocate hurting anyone’s feelings (and I’m certainly not advocating that women with difficult/painful periods should get pregnant). Her boss was insensitive. He handled the situation poorly. But, as far as I can tell — based on the letter – OP didn’t make any attempt to alleviate her pain, explain her situation to her boss, or ask for accommodation.

      2. Genny

        We do tell people to deal with it. Does it hurt a woman who just miscarried to see an invitation to a baby shower at work? Quite possibly. Would I understand if she was sniffling, tearing up, or otherwise visibly upset? Of course. Would it be appropriate for her to burst out into wails and sobs at work? No. Would I immediately discipline her for that? No, but I would ask her what kind of support the company could offer. Would I let that type of behavior continue indefinitely? No. You can be empathetic to a person’s situation and still think they’re not handling it very well.

    3. Afiendishthingy

      I would argue that basic human empathy should be a job requirement. Empathy shouldn’t be reserved for your friends and family.

  45. pcake

    OP #2 – your co-worker may also not actually be looking for another job. My husband browses job listings, not to find a job – just because. Considering this is his 11th year at the company he’s with, and that in all that time he’s never contacted another job or sent out a resume, and has turned down a couple offers, his job site browsing is just that – browsing. Your co-worker may do the same thing.

    1. EddieSherbert

      +1 I still get weekly or monthly emails from various job boards (and I do at least skim them or read some of the more interesting sounding positions). I love my job and have no intentions of leaving!

    2. Database Developer Dude

      Doesn’t matter whether the coworker is or isn’t looking. It was personal email to begin with, and it’s none of the OP’s business. The only reason I’m not breaking all kinds of Alison’s rules in my response is because this is likely a naive fresh out of college person rather than someone with experience.

      Someone with experience doing this to me would quickly come to regret it after a conversation with an attorney I would hire……

  46. Justin

    LW#1’s main issue is that she didn’t want to spend extra on pills from the convenience store. The boss was a jerk about it (and shouldn’t have been), but she is responsible for managing this.

  47. mcr-red

    OP#1 – I have a chronic pain condition, and have several friends who do as well, two of which can no longer work because it’s that debilitating. So I’m sympathetic that sometimes nothing helps, and sometimes you have to work when you’re in terrible pain. I have also had a boss who definitely wanted us to work all time, even if we were sick, and basically wanted us to shut up about it. And I have also worked with a variety of people who have come into work when sick or in pain, and then have walked around grimacing, complained to anyone and everyone how bad they feel, etc. until a boss told them to go home if they feel that bad. And sometimes they did, and other times they just stopped talking about it.

    So I say this with all of that background in mind – if it is bad enough that you cannot function, you need to go home. Your boss might not be happy, he can suck it. You might not have sick time/get paid that day, but unfortunately, that will happen with chronic pain and leave time policies. If you can function, then you need to function. That may mean telling everyone that you work with that day once, “Heads up, I’m not feeling well” but then not talking about it the rest of the day. It may mean asking for a chair, or to take a break halfway through the day so you can still do your job to the best of your ability. And unfortunately, in your job, grimacing in pain probably files under the category of not being able to function.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I so agree with this. “Heads up, I’m not feeling well” is exactly what I’ve done, and when other people say that to me, it’s very helpful. As in, it leads to either offering to help or offering to leave someone alone, and to understanding that someone may not be operating at 100%. Then we adjust.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      I really agree with this. I can’t see my coworkers (freelancer) but I can see the people on various volunteer things I might show up for. (And I’m the one who might have to explain that I can walk to the next field but cannot possibly drag anything, or carry more than a light bag that rests close to my body.) One heads up is helpful. But then you need to function within the parameters you laid out.

      And if there is an easy fix for your problem–even if it’s got some mild annoyance factor to it–then you take the easy fix. You don’t whimper along because on principle you won’t spend $3 for 6 ibuprofin. I take the volunteer job that lets me sit down and not carry anything, rather than try to drag through the others in visible pain.

    3. mrs__peel

      “You might not have sick time/get paid that day, but unfortunately, that will happen with chronic pain and leave time policies.”

      I mean… that’s very easy to *say* if you’re in a secure enough financial position to take unpaid time off. For many, many people, taking that unpaid time means (e.g.) not being able to eat that week, not having enough money for transportation to work, not being able to keep your electricity on, etc. I’ve been in situations like that, where a day’s pay was my entire food budget for the pay period.

      If someone is dealing with chronic pain AND is living on a very tight budget AND has no paid sick time/PTO, then taking multiple days off a month is just not realistically happening.

      1. mcr-red

        I’M someone who is dealing with chronic pain AND living on a very tight budget. I’m now getting paid sick time/PTO, but it wasn’t always like that. My friend who lived with chronic pain until the day she died had paid sick time/PTO, and ran through every single day she had and still had to take off unpaid days when she couldn’t function because she literally couldn’t get out of bed.

        Sometimes our reality sucks, but it is what it is.

  48. MagicToilet

    #5, I used to get really weird about not wanting to utilize the perks our company provided (discounts, snacks, any of it, really). So I get where you’re coming from. But please know that you should absolutely use them (without abusing them, of course, such as using the knowledge in your e-learning portal with the intent of starting up a company of your own). Your company has already paid for these things, I assume, so you should help them get their money’s worth!

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Agreed.. (and poor OP5 getting lost in all of the pain posts!)

      Yes, as a manager, I would be really happy if I had an employee taking advantage of company perks. Just use common sense.

      *Don’t do it if there’s other work to be done or deadlines to be met
      *If possible try to focus on things that will help you in your current or future jobs
      *Try to apply the things you’ve learned to your current role
      *Mention it to your boss so that they know you are doing them
      *And hopefully this goes without saying… don’t let it become a distraction to you or others.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      This sounds exactly like the sort of thing employees would ask for, as a perk other than money or time off–can we have a chance to take classes (at work, from our desks) during slow times? Rather than check Facebook? OP5 should definitely leap on it.

    3. Lucille2

      Agreed. OP should definitely use the company e-learning resources. In fact, if they aren’t used and the company finds it to be a big cost, those resources could be cut in the long run. I’m a big fan of company offered trainings, and I usually will utilize those resources when available. And, as others have mentioned, use good judgement for anything that isn’t within an obvious career path for you. However, if you really have nothing to do and you find yourself just needing to kill some time for the moment, it beats shopping online or facebooking during work hours.

  49. Sue Wilson

    #2: I’m not sure what you’re endgame is here, OP. If you don’t tell your boss, and the co-worker leaves than you won’t have her expertise. Or you could tell your boss, and the co-worker might still leave, because your boss fired her for looking or your co-worker is leaving because of insurmountable problems that the boss can’t fix, in which case you will still be without the expertise and have meddled in something that’s none of your business. Either way doesn’t get you the “co-worker stays to train me” outcome you say you want, because your boss can’t force her to stay. Let it go.

    And you might want to start thinking about why you’re so anxious about this that you’re trying to ensure your co-worker won’t leave, because it will probably say something about either what you really think about your new job or what you have brought from previous jobs. Why are you so afraid of not having access to institutional info? What is the loss it really going to mean for your job?

  50. Database Developer Dude

    OP#1 – You need to find other employment, seriously. I am thinking the boss didn’t know why you were in pain, but considering there was no one on the sales floor, and you were in his office talking to him, his comment was waaaaay off base. “Unprofessional” is an all purpose epithet thrown around by people who like to exercise control for no other reason than power. This workplace has the opportunity to turn toxic.

    OP#2 – I speak, to some degree, five languages, and there is not enough profanity in my vocabulary to respond to your letter, so I will merely say that the possibility that your coworker may be looking for another job is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Plus, even if she is, you could jeapordize her employment AT THIS MOMENT. They could fire her just for looking for another job. Stop it, and mind your own business.

    OP#3 – No comment. Outside my experience

    OP#4 – *rolls eyes*. Not worthy of any of our time

    OP#5 – Just. Do. It. You know you want to, the company encourages it, and it will benefit you. Do it. Plus, learning new things is fun.

  51. Trisha

    For OP#1 – we only have the LW’s perspective on this. Maybe they are chronic complainers – I mean, how bad was the “grimacing” that the boss had to say something – and just because the LW says they were only grimacing – can we take that as fact? Or were they standing in front of the boss whining and moaning, clutching themselves, making retching noises, etc. I think the LW is whining – “poor me – isn’t my boss just the worst!”

    For OP #2 – the world does not revolve around you and your needs; MYOB and let the other person job hunt without you interfering and telling their boss. If they leave, I’m sure the organization can make other arrangements for you to lean on someone else for their expertise.

    For OP #3 – that’s a lot of time off to require in a new position. Most jobs require some training and in the first year lots of places won’t front you vacation time (it’s not granted until you’ve earned it). I would assume that yes, it’s going to be a problem. I’m fortunate to be able to take long vacations (I’m at 4 weeks and 3 days of annual leave per year now); I suspended my job search when I had 2 long trips planned (one 3 weeks and 1 two weeks) within a few months of each other because I wouldn’t expect a new employer who is still trying to assess my skills, abilities and fit to accommodate those trips.

    For OP #4 – You left the company on great terms (rife with a celebratory send off it seems) and you’re surprised that people want to keep in touch? sigh……

    For OP #5 – Your company supplies those tools for a reason – not out of the goodness of their heart but to ensure that you have the skills, abilities and knowledge to do your current position and also stay abreast of new tools and ideas. Of course you should use them! In moderation, yes. When time permits, yes.

      1. Observer

        Yes, we should. And there is nothing in the letter to indicate that she’s a chronic complainer.

  52. Myrin

    OP #1, I’m going to look at this from a completely different angle – it appears to me that the many comments above who seem somewhat unsympathetic or like they’re focusing too much on how you handled this situation (which I think is a bit of a red herring anyway) are reacting more to the overall tone of your letter than its actual content. I’m going to come back to that in a minute.

    The thing is: your boss’s reaction and wording wasn’t only harsh and unsympathetic, but downright bizarre – that’s not how people usually react to seeing someone else in pain! So I’m wondering, and this is really something only you can answer: what’s your boss like normally, what’s your relationship with him outside of this incident, and is it at all possible that there’s a reason for his strange reaction? (Like, is he notorious for being an unfeeling hard-ass? Was there a customer who complained about you looking like you’re in pain? Did he seem to have a bad day himself and kind of shifted his annoyance with himself onto you? And so forth.)

    Coming back to the tone I mentioned – it seems like emotions were running a bit high here on both sides. You say that you feel “insulted” and “discriminated against”, which I’d argue is also a pretty strong reaction to a situation like that. Being taken aback? Sure. Upset? Absolutely! But you do seem overly offended by this situation, especially with your last sentence being “Maybe now I’ll just get fired because of my own body that I can’t control.”, which comes across as kinda foot-stompy (and also might not be true? I mentioned above that I’m not sure I read that part correctly but it seems to me that normally, your painkillers do work, right? So in this case, while you indeed can’t do anything about your biology, you can control its severity at least to some degree, so I don’t think this is quite on the same level as someone who, say, has a missing limb).

    So again, a question only you can answer: why is that? If I’m reading the timeline correctly, as you were writing this letter, you were still having your period, right? So above all, the letter seems to be a product of big upset and pain. If that’s the case, are you feeling any different about the situation now that it’s over? You don’t mention that your boss even knew what caused your pain, yet you feel discriminated against – is that because your boss has a history of treating female employees poorly, not taking them seriously, etc.?

    So, to circle back to your main question of “Was it okay for my manager to say that?” – nope, not in that form. But I don’t think it warrants the outrage, either (again, providing that this isn’t his last stunt in a history of misogynist behaviour or similar). If you have good rapport with him, you might even want to go back to him and ask what this was all about, maybe you could find out useful information that you weren’t perviously privy to. In any case, I hope you’re feeling much better now and maybe some commenters could even give you some tips on this kind of pain that’ll help you during future episodes!

    1. voyager1

      This is a really good post. I am not the LW, but my first thought was that the floor plan was open and a customer could walk in at any point. So I could see how a manager could see someone making a weird facial expressions as unprofessional. That all being said, he should have asked her if she was okay or what was going on.

      Some people just aren’t that sensitive though. Reminds me of managers who excuse bad/annoying behavior from team members b/c they put our “good work” or number 1 in sales etc. never thinking about how that comes across to everyone else.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      That’s not how people usually react to seeing someone else in pain.

      Fwiw, I took that detail to indicate that he wasn’t seeing her in pain for the first time that day. The first time he might have asked what was up, she told him something that indicated it would be fine (told him it was a passing thing and no problem? told him she forgot med but didn’t want to go to store?), and then a couple of hours later it is visibly not fine.

    3. Clarice Fitzpatrick

      Yeah, I think people are…kind of mixing up LW’s actions/reactions and the boss’s behavior. Boss’s behavior seems REALLY egregiously insenstive to me. If I saw anyone in any context in visible pain, my first thought would be concern, not…how respectable their demeanor is. LW obviously should’ve been more prepared, but I really don’t think she “deserved” that sort of treatment either for a fairly minor mistake.

      I’d like to think this was a particularly bad one-off but I wouldn’t be surprised if the boss has always been kind of callous.

      The other thing is that I think most everyone has had a time when they were in pain and someone being….dismissive sets off a LOT of upset (and valid!) emotions (and especially in cases like this that may potentially be gendered). Even if it’s relatively small, it can feel like being kicked while you’re down, which really can burn and taint the memory of an interaction deeper in your brain than what it may normally warrant.

  53. Bones

    I think it’s bizarre that some are seriously trying to argue that by being in pain, OP1 was making her pain her bosses issue. Uh, no, he’s the one who’s choosing to get his jimmies in a rustle because of something he’s not even feeling. HE is the one making it his problem. Wtf.

    1. pcake

      Would you want to deal with a person grimacing, wincing and periodically closing their eyes in obviously bad pain while you were trying to choose a car – a large and expensive purchase for most of us – and counting on them to do important paperwork for you that involved your personal and credit info? I wouldn’t. I truly am sorry the OP was having such bad cramps, but perhaps keeping her pain meds in her desk or taking them when her period starts even if it doesn’t hurt much yet would have kept that scenario from happening. The OP said there were no customers, but customers do come in.

      BTW, had I been her boss, I’d have been concerned for her as a person and also for my business. I’d have offered to let her go home and lie down for the day. I would NEVER have said what he said – what a dick.

        1. LJay

          Because there were no customers. We don’t know that if there were customers she would not have been grimacing as well.

      1. Rat in the Sugar

        OP didn’t say that she was grimacing, wincing, and periodically closed their eyes in obviously bad paid while working with customers–she said that she winced while in her boss’s office.

        And yes, if I was with a salesperson who was in obvious pain I would be totally fine with it after checking once that they were OK. Sometimes you gotta work through a migraine or whatever, people got bills to pay. Why on earth would you not trust them to do important paperwork for you? What does that have to do with being in pain?

        1. mcr-red

          When I am having a BAD pain day (chronic pain sufferer) I would not trust me to do important paperwork.

      2. Bones

        If someone were selling something to me and were clearly in pain, I’d ask if they were ok and maybe see if someone else could help me (so the person in pain could help themselves).

  54. uranus wars

    I am not clear in #1 if he knew she had menstrual cramps and was saying that those are unprofessional or if she was just lying on the floor in pain and he was saying to take care of it?

    Not that I think he should talk to anyone in that manner, whether its a headache, cramps, or a muscle strain. I am just curious?

    1. Falling Diphthong

      “On the floor” means “on the sales floor, dealing with customers” in this context.

      As for what he knew, some people interpret it as “He saw her wincing, didn’t ask why, just told her she needed to cut it out” and some as “He saw her wincing, asked, she explained that she had cramps but wouldn’t take the easy fix because corner store prices and it would be fine, and then he saw her wincing again and told her she needed to deal with this better.”

  55. Should Have Been a Mermaid

    OP#1 reminds me of the boss I had who insisted on putting my period on his calendar.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Wow… I don’t think the two bosses are in anyway similar. Your boss creepy and wrong. The OP’s boss doesn’t want his supposedly happy to serve employees doubled over in pain on the floor.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      And how did that even work? How would your boss know what day put on the calendar? Seriously, am I the only female out there that doesn’t talk about my monthly cycle with coworkers?

      1. pcake

        Should Have Been a Mermaid – oh, jeez, is that ever creepy!

        RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone – every woman i’ve worked with did, in fact, talk about her monthly cycle. every female server and bartender when i managed a club talked about her period and all related issues every freaking month. i’m a woman, and i probably mentioned it occasionally, but most women i’ve worked with discussed it quite a bit.

        1. Thlayli

          OMG that sounds awful. No one wants to hear about your bodily fluids people! On the list of things not to discuss at work, any and all fluids that come out of your body are number 1!

          I don’t get this idea that it’s “empowering” or whatever to talk about your period or that if you don’t want to hear about your colleagues period you have “internalised misogyny”. I know my colleagues and I all urinate multiple times a day but I don’t want to discuss that or hear abott it either! It’s got nothing to do with misogyny or empowerment – I just don’t want to know about my coworkers bodily fluids!

          Note this is just for coworkers if There was reason for it to come up with actual friends I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

        2. A Non E. Mouse

          I found period talk to be a normal thing at all of the retail/food jobs I held during high school/college. I think the higher percentage of women working at each location means it feels like a much more natural conversation, and that the environments themselves lead to really loose boundaries (a lot of retail/food is so underpaid that coworkers rely on each other for rides to/from work, switching shifts because of other things, etc. – so the lines get blurred quickly).

          Office jobs? No, aside from the occasional discreet email or chat box from other women asking if someone has any extra products because there’s been a bit of a surprise.

      2. Database Developer Dude

        Well, my office talks about going to a spa and getting naked and taking pole dancing classes…so yeah, there is that. I wouldn’t put it past a couple of these boundary-crossing business analyst idiots to start talking about their periods….

      1. Database Developer Dude

        At my comment? I would have also gasped when I first started on this contract. I’ve seen it all now, so I just shrug and put my earphones on. I’m not long for this contract, and my firm is supporting me. I’ll be on the bench until we find me something else.

    3. Observer

      Did this place have HR? How does a boss get away with it? And why did he even know when you were expecting your period, anyway.

      1. Jan

        Not to mention that even those of us as regular as Big Ben don’t always time it to the day! How would that even work?

      2. Should Have Been a Mermaid

        Yes, we did have HR. This was actually at a large company, but in a smaller community. I didn’t go to HR because I knew I’d likely lose my job, and in that town, there weren’t a lot of other options in my field. I did talk to an attorney though who recommended I file a complaint with the EEOC. I never pursued it because I didn’t want to deal with the drama. Only recently though have I really started to understand how absolutely insane that was.

        1. Observer

          You mean HR would have allowed retaliation for complaining about such an egregious thing?

          I hope someone eventually filed a complaint and they got slapped HARD.

    4. Should Have Been a Mermaid

      Here’s how this went down:

      My boss was very close friends with a woman on our team. It was basically the three of us in our department. After being there about a year, they called me into my boss’s office and explained that my boss tracked both my co-worker’s and his wife’s cycle on his Outlook calendar so he could know when they needed “more sensitivity.” Then the coworker said she had noticed that it was likely we were on the same cycle, and he wanted to confirm so they could add me to the calendar as well.

      I basically just agreed and made up an excuse to go back to my office. Then I called a lawyer.

      To this day, that was probably the most mind-blowing moment of my career.

  56. Earthwalker

    Not a comment on this post, but I just wanted to say wow! Alison Green is front and center in the New York Times today! And terrific as usual. Hooray!

  57. Jaybeetee

    The more I think about it, the more I find the pain letter – and the reactions to it in the comments – really interesting. I see people with chronic illnesses and chronic pain issues posting about this, for whom this scenario would be a nightmare – getting dressed down by the Boss for a Bad Pain Day over which you have little or no control, and you’re just trying to keep your head down and get through the day. Others are likely taking an attitude equating this to say, a bad headache or having the flu at work – i.e. it sucks and we feel bad for you, but ultimately deal with it or go home, don’t sit arou