pushy recruiter, sleepy employee, people eating at their desks, and more

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

1. Pushy recruiter

I was recently contacted by a recruiter and ended up sending over my resume just to talk. They ended up sending it to a company who then requested to set up an interview. This all happened very fast and I realized after some thinking that I was not ready to leave my current position. I also read reviews of the new company online that were less than stellar.

I reached out to the recruiter to cancel the interview and apologize. They then called me multiple times from a blocked number and when I answered they were very aggressive. I apologized for the waste of their time again but they wouldn’t let it go, telling me I had nothing to lose by going on this interview.

I restated that I would not be going and did mention the online reviews when asked. The recruiter claimed that these sites are all simply all disgruntled former employees to be ignored. (I don’t believe this because my current company has a very high and accurate online rating.) Despite me repeatedly saying that my choice was final, she wouldn’t let it go and kept trying to convince me to change my mind. She then told me that I had wasted the future employer’s time and that I was burning bridges. Is this true? I had cancelled 48+ hours in advance and thought it would be worse to go and take up 1-2 hours of their time with no intent of taking the job. I understand that cancelling is never great but I need to know if what I did was truly terrible? And as this was also my first recruiter experience is this behavior and reaction normal?

Nope, you didn’t do anything wrong. It doesn’t make sense to waste your time or theirs if you know you’re not interested, and you’re never under any obligation to go to an interviewer just to appease a recruiter. There are all kinds of reasons you might cancel an interview — you changed your mind, you accepted another job, you got a promotion at work, you decided you don’t want to change jobs now after all, and plenty of others. None of these are bridge burners, as long as you explain and apologize. And no good company wants to waste their time interviewing someone who’s just there because they’re afraid of canceling.

As for whether this recruiter’s behavior is normal: No. There are some recruiters who are pushy and aggressive like this, but they’re exceptions. They’re bad at their jobs, they’re not serving their clients (the employers) well, and they’re to be avoided. Good recruiters don’t do this.

The bridge might be burned with this recruiter, but that’s because she burned it.

2. Can I get people to stop eating at their desks?

Everyone around me in an open floor plan eats lunch at their desks. Some group together at a table and chat during an extended lunch hour. I take lunch relatively early away from my desk, and am back at my desk trying to work when the smells of others’ lunches wafts around me. I turn on a small fan to help diffuse the smell, and put on noise-blocking headphones to cancel out the endless talking.

How do I influence a sea change and get the office to start using the very nice kitchen area, or picnic tables outside? Especially the ones that gather in the work area and chat during their lunch hour. I might add, that this chatting about not work topics goes on almost all day. It does not help that the CEO and COO eat in their offices, setting a bad example.

You might not be able to change it, if this is the culture. You could certainly speak up and explain it’s hard to work with the conversation (yes, it happens all day, but I’d bet lunch is worse if people are gathered together specifically to socialize) and the food smells, and you could ask if people would be willing to use the kitchen or the picnic tables instead. But a lot of people like eating lunch at their desks because they want to read online or do work while they’re eating.

In that case, you’re stuck with seeing if there are changes you can make yourself that would help. You’re already on that path with the noise-canceling headphones. Could you also take your own lunch later so that it’s around the same time most other people are eating? It’s not ideal to have to change the time you eat, but it might get you away from the worst of this.

3. The word “bitch” at work

I work in a female-dominated industry although our top boss, Fergus, is male. Fergus is in his 60s and not always great at being politically correct in his workplace conversations. Recently, he has begun using the word “bitch” in meetings with staff, perhaps on a weekly basis.

The context is never him calling someone a bitch, it’s more referring to how staff might perceive someone for an action that they have done. Such as, “Jane changed this policy that impacts her staff. They might think she’s a bitch, but I think it was a needed move.”

I am a woman in my mid-30s. I’m several steps below Fergus, but we work together fairly regularly on projects, and have a pretty good rapport. I’d like to talk to him about the changing way that this word is perceived, particularly among women, and how he probably needs to just cut it completely out of his vocabulary, but I’m not sure how to start this conversation. Any words of advice?

This is one of those words where a lot of people don’t realize that the way it’s perceived is changing. Lots of people who are otherwise thoughtful about their language use still use it and aren’t bothered by it, even as many others are becoming more aware of how gendered it is — the word itself, obviously, but also the behavior it’s often used to describe. (This article describes it well, pointing out that we use it to shame both men and women for “doing gender wrong.”).

Anyway, if you have good rapport with Fergus, by all means talk to him. You could frame it as letting him know something he probably doesn’t realize. For example: “You’ve used the word ‘bitch’ a few times in meetings recently, and I wanted to mention to you that it’s increasingly being seen as a misogynistic slur, especially by women. I know you don’t mean it that way, so I wanted to alert you.”

4. Employee keeps falling asleep in staff meetings

I’m the manager of a department and have noticed that one employee tends to doze off at our weekly departmental meeting. I don’t believe she has any medical condition that would cause this, and I don’t see her dozing off at other times. But I’ve noticed the dozing off many times during these weekly meetings (usually held after lunch or around 3 p.m.).

We’re a laid-back office, but this feels disrespectful and unprofessional. Should I speak with her about it and ask if there’s a medical issue? Should I ask her to drink more coffee?

Yes, you should talk to her! She’s presumably supposed to be paying attention at these meetings and if she’s sleeping, that’s not happening. Plus, she’s doing her reputation no favors — if you’ve noticed her sleeping, other people probably have too. And if you don’t intervene, other people are going to think you’re okay with it.

Say this: “At our weekly department meetings lately, it’s looked a few times like you’ve fallen asleep. Is everything okay?” Then, depending on her response, you’d say something like, “I do need you awake and engaged for these meetings. Can you do whatever you need to to solve this?” You don’t need to make specific suggestions like drinking coffee; she’s an adult and should be able to figure this out on her own. You just need to let her know what you need from her. (Of course, if she mentions there’s a medical issue, that’ll require a somewhat different approach. You’d probably still need her awake for meetings, but you might give her more time to get it under control, offer to schedule them earlier in the day, or otherwise work her on it.)

5. Should I tell my boss about an email sent to my old manager’s account?

I get forwarded my previous supervisor’s emails, as he left the company about six months ago and there’s the chance a low-contact client will send something important to that email address we need to catch.

Recently, we’ve lost access to a client’s account and I’ve gotten emails (sent to my old supervisor) indicating that the client has revoked our access because he’s moving to work with my old supervisor, presumably at his new company. Do I have a responsibility to disclose this to my current boss? I feel like the answer is yes, but it doesn’t seem like this client is open to being won back — he’s just waiting on the go ahead to tell us he’s left. Also, my current and former managers used to be close friends outside of work and my current boss took it especially personally when my old boss left. I suppose I’m worried that my current boss would take his resentment at my old supervisor out on me, the messenger, which seems a bit silly written down.

Yes, you should tell your boss. You have information about a client that’s highly relevant to your company, and you received it through a work-related channel. It would be weird if your boss later found out that you’d know this and didn’t tell her. It doesn’t change things if there’s no way to win the client back; it still isn’t right for you to know something important about the account that you don’t share with your boss. And it’s very unlikely that he’d take out his resentment at your old boss on you; if anything, he’s likely to see you on “on his side” for sharing this with him.

{ 694 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, there was never a point in Fergus’ lifetime that calling a woman a “bitch” in that context was ever anything but a nasty insult. This isn’t an edge case where someone is using the word in a way that they mean positively.

    You don’t need to soften his actions by saying he isn’t politically correct. He’s choosing to be an ass. Particularly since he’s doing so in a roundabout, cowardly way – oh, you see, it’s not that *I* think she’s a bitch, it’s just that some people might foolishly say that, amirite?!

    Sometimes with dudes like Fergus, false sympathy works. “Ooh, I hope nobody takes that the wrong way and brings it to HR.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think this is more complex than that though — many women say things like “I felt like a bitch” and it’s still a term in general use by people who don’t mean it to be misogynistic but aren’t analyzing how very gendered the word and what it describes actually are. Loads of well-intentioned women have used the word frequently — especially in the context of “I don’t want to be seen as bitchy,” but lots of others too, without seeing it as loaded. (I’ll admit I used to use it plenty myself.) Our understanding of the issues around the word is changing, but I’m not going to assume that Fergus is choosing to be an ass by using similar language. It’s still in really common use among good people.

      1. Not my usual name*

        Is this a generational thing, then? I’m an older Gen Xer and of my friends who are my age, only one uses the word “bitch” casually like that. And she has no issue with using the “c” word, either.

        And that probably sounds judgier than I mean it!

        1. Leela*

          31 year old checking in. Most of my female peers use it casually. I don’t know if it’s generational or not.

          1. notanon*

            36 here, and I have never heard anyone older than me use “bitch” in any way other than as a pejorative, offensive slur. I have heard younger people use it somewhat more conversationally, but definitely never in a professional conversation. More like three drinks in during happy hour with friends.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I’m 37 and I think the Meredith Brooks song caused some minor waves in using it non-pejoratively; one of my college roommates and I dubbed ourselves the Sarcastic Bitches my senior year. While I don’t want anyone to use it against me, I also don’t have a problem with it in non-slur usage.

              1. What's with today, today?*

                You may be on to something. That song was big while I was in high school. My friends and I have called ourselves “Bad Bitches” for years. As an example, if BFF got a raise, I might say, “Congratulations you Bad Bitch! Let’s go celebrate!”

              2. Anon for this one*

                36, and yes, that song was my anthem throughout college. It’s still on my “pump myself up before a difficult meeting or interview” playlist. But. . .while my friends and I jokingly call ourselves bitches, I would never call someone outside my closest inner circle a bitch. And if someone outside my circle of close friends called me one, or called someone else a bitch in front of me, I would definitely perceive it as an ugly insult.

              3. Washi*

                Yeah, I think that for women using the word it’s not necessarily as cut-and-dry as bitch = bad. Here’s my spectrum:

                “I feel like such a bitch for yelling like that” said by a woman = generally ok
                “hey bitch, you’re my best friend and I love you” said by a woman = not workplace appropriate, but generally ok
                “Ugh, people need to stop bitching about those TPS reports” = borderline, better not to say
                “Jane might be seen as a bitch for this, but I think it was necessary” = not work appropriate
                “Jane is a bitch” = extremely offensive, never ok

                1. ThatGirl*

                  Same. I mean, I’d never use it at work, but I think it’s OK in some casual contexts.

                2. BF50*

                  I agree, though, I would say #1 is still not work place appropriate.

                  Even though this week I went to an event titled “Diner, Bitches”, in a work place I would side eye the word bitch way more than an f-bomb. (but oddly I won’t type that one out in a comment section)

                  Also, pretty much any time a man says it, I’m not ok with it.

                3. BF50*

                  Question: What about “son of a bitch!” said after dropping something on your toe? I’d say not work place appropriate, but then neither are f-bombs and I hear those at work fairly regularly.

                4. roisin54*

                  That’s pretty much my spectrum too, I use the phrase “bitching and moaning” quite a bit in casual situations. I have never called someone a bitch to their face although I have referred to quite a few as such when I was pissed off at them. Never at work though.

                  My brother called me a bitch once when we were middle school age, I slapped him and did not get in trouble for it (our dad basically told him he had it coming.) He has never called me a bitch again.

                5. Janie*

                  Also depends on the industry. I’m a lawyer and we cuss (amongst ourselves, not to clients or judges obviously) a LOT.

                6. iglwif*

                  I don’t know that I’d have come up with this list myself, but it seems broadly accurate to me.

                  And I feel pretty strongly, if not necessarily rationally, that there’s a difference between “bitch” used between women and “bitch” used by men about women?

                  I’m not sure how to articulate why I feel like, for instance, “stitch & bitch” is OK to call a knitting and talking session outside of work while “bitch fest” in a work context is super not OK, but that’s how I feel. I’m curious if others have different takes on this.

                7. boo bot*

                  I feel like “Jane might be seen as a bitch for this, but I think it was necessary”, in addition to not being work appropriate, comes across as a backhanded compliment.

                  Like, “You’re great, I don’t believe all those things everyone else says about you.”

                  Uh…. thanks?

                8. Not Rebee*

                  When I was a kid the rule with language in general (set by my mother) was that there could be no name calling. That meant even if there were no curse words used, I couldn’t call names. I could describe behaviors, but not people, in mean ways (and basically use whatever language was roughly age appropriate at the time to do it). There’s a huge difference, IMHO, between “she’s a bitch” and “she’s acting like a bitch”. If you look at your list, it seems like all of the more appropriate options are describing behavior while the less appropriate ones are describing people (exception being the self-identification).

                  (From a parenting perspective I think this was helpful in realizing that there’s a difference between character and behavior, and that one is changeable and the other is less so, and that it’s important not to mislabel these things. Not always a bad thing to remember, as an adult.)

              4. AKchic*

                It’s the whole “shades of nuance and intent” argument.

                Sorry, but in a work setting, I don’t think any of us want to sit here and try to figure out why an elder statesmen is saying the word and throwing a shady, subtle insult in the form of a hypothetical insult from an unknown party (as referenced in the specific example).

                “Politically Correct” is just another word for “kind” or “polite”. How dare we ask a grown person in a workplace to be kind and / or polite and not throw veiled insults around at coworkers.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I agree that it shouldn’t be used at work, especially by a man, and especially aimed at a woman.

                  I was just offering an example of a a broader cultural usage/possible reason for it.

            2. TootsNYC*

              “Bitch, please!”

              There is an increasingly casual use of that word–I think it’s still not good at work. I hate it, and am often pushing back against using it in my publication.

              I think the way this guy is using it is not professional.

            3. JSPA*

              I have, but usually in parts of society that were either very blue collar, or very “edgy,” or very into “reclaiming words,” or with a large LGBT and/or theater-drama quotient, where there was a “camp” edge to everything.

              Seattle, Portland, young professionals? Yes. Philly, Cleveland, blue collar older women? Yup. Many other situations? Hell, no.

          2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            I’m 35 and hear “bitch” all the time from people my age (and all ages, really). “The c-word” is seen very differently and I rarely hear it.

            1. Salad*

              Same here. I’m 31 and I use bitch in a fun “reclaimed” if you will way with my friends. The c-word is definitely different, I rarely hear it, and I’m offended when I do. But if a man called me a bitch I would NOT be ok with it, and while swearing (including f bombs) was prevalent at my last job, rarely if ever did I hear bitch (male-dominated industry).

              1. Amber T*

                28 and ditto. Some girlfriends will just use it interchangeably with “girl” or as a way of greeting (like, “bitch, how are you?!” or “let’s go bitches!”). I haven’t heard it at work (and I’m in a male dominated field), but I would be pretty angry if I suddenly heard them start using bitch.

                (I feel like the c-word is very localized? Like that’s a big no-no in the northeast, and I think in the US in general, but it’s more of a run of the mill curse word in the UK? Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve just heard English/Irish acquaintances use it than American ones).

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I recently saw the latest Jim Jeffries special and he uses the c-word continuously (he’s Australian) He calls both men and women that… he seems to use it to call people idiots, or make fun of them.

                2. kallisti*

                  Americans have way more of an issue with the c-word than British/Irish people do. I’ve been trying to reclaim that one as an anatomical term for years (inspired by the Vagina Monologues) and my husband still flinches every time I say it. I know quite a few people who think that it is the absolute worst thing you can call someone, right there on par with the n-word.

                3. ZK*

                  Ugh. My English father-in-law uses the c-word frequently, along the lines of calling someone a jerk. As an American, it still really bothers me, so we had to ask him to be more careful of his language around our daughter when she was little.

                4. Lindsay J*

                  Yeah for the c-word. Not exactly sure about England/Ireland, but in Australia/New Zealand they use it much more casually.

                5. Ron McDon*

                  I’m from England, and the c-word is very offensive here too!

                  It is sometimes used for dramatic effect in a drama/comedy show on TV (and is not always bleeped out nowadays), but it is not a word one would expect to hear often or in casual conversation.

                6. Gypo Nolan*

                  Yup, many of my UK colleagues use the c-word referring to both men and women (usually in a semi-humorous way), and it’s obvious it’s not the taboo it is here. The same with the word “tw*t” (and this one is nearly always reserved for men). The f-word always seems to spring to British lips a lot more readily as well.

            2. Pebbles*

              Yep, I’m 40 and have never used the “c-word”, but I will say “bitch” in situations like:
              “Hey, what are you guys talking about?” “Oh, we were just bitching about X.”
              or “Quit your bitching.”

              And I’ll use it no matter the make up of the group (women only, women+men). I will never call someone else a “bitch” though.

          3. Emily K*

            33 y/o female and yes, it was pretty casually used by my peers in high school and it’s still pretty commonly used that way among everyone except for a group of friends I met through progressive activism who are sort of progressive activisty in all aspects of their lives.

          4. Alienor*

            I think there’s a generational component for sure. I’m 46 and have always used it with select female friends, but for my almost-20-year-old daughter and her friends it’s like a casual greeting (sometimes they say “binch” or “betch” instead). To me the word itself isn’t bad unless you’re using it to attack someone–like I said to my daughter when she was a few years younger, “You can say f*ck all you want, you just can’t tell me to f*ck off.”

          5. cheeky*

            I’m 35. I cut this word completely out of my vocabulary, and if someone called me a bitch, or said I was being bitchy, I’d be very unhappy about it.

          6. Grapey*

            32 and somewhat similar. I only hear my female friends use it.

            I’ve told my male friends off about it when we were in our early 20’s and they’ve either stopped entirely, or stopped around me, the effect is still the same.

        2. LeRainDrop*

          As a Xennial, I will say that I would be completely shocked to hear a boss use the b word (or the c word) in the professional context, and the example the OP gave would also be offensive and make me think less of the man saying it. Alison’s later example of “I don’t want to be seen as bitchy” seems fine to me; it’s actually sort of a recognition that a “bitch” is something really bad! Anyhow, I realize there are a number of women (and others) who use the word “bitch” in casual conversation, but I just don’t think it belongs in the workplace at all.

          1. Glowcat*

            This! It’s good to give Fergus the benefit of the doubt, but the fact is that the word should not be heard at work, and definitely *not* from the boss! It should not be heard anywhere, but… in a work meeting! What!

            1. Allison*

              Agreed, I’d feel super uncomfortable if I heard anyone at work call anyone a bitch, especially a man, or anyone in a position of power.

            2. Massmatt*

              I agree, though there is a different, common use of the word as in complain: “Finance is bitching about how we are not providing receipts for travel reimbursement”. This does seem less offensive to me but still less professional than simply “complain”, or at least less formal.

              I am curious about how frequent the c word is, I dont think i have ever heard it in a professional context, that would be shocking, maybe it’s used more casually in Britain?

          2. Work Appropriate*

            I’m the OP, and also an Xennial. I would find this much less offensive if a peer of mine used the word, but the fact that it’s a much older male feels completely innappropriate.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Yeah, it’s pretty common in my friends group (30s-40s females), but I agree that it’s inappropriate in this context.

              To me, it’s comparable to the n word. POC can reclaim and use it, but I as a white person definitely cannot. Bitch is the same way except for women, not men.

              1. Erin*

                I wouldn’t have a problem with someone using bitch as long as it’s not directed at someone. Someone spills their scalding hot coffee and they say “son of a bitch” I’m not going to notice or be bothered.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            This. My workplace isn’t super formal but I cannot envision a single situation in which the use of “bitch” wouldn’t be completely inappropriate. And I’m not wild about it being used casually in general (I’m 41). I know there’s a movement to reclaim it but I still feel like it’s dicey and if somebody directed it at me I’d take a hard look at them and the context.

            1. Annoyed*


              I’m 55 do just at the cusp of youngest boomer/oldest x-er. IMO “bitch” is a pejorative term that literally dehumanizes women no matter the context or to whom it’s said/who it’s said about.

              Even when said to/about males it basically says “you male person are equal to a female person which is the least desirable thing to be.” No matter what it is derogatory towards women.

              I dont like the idea of “teclaiming it.” I want to, and have actively been working towards erradicating it for years now. However if anyone is hoing to be “allowed” to say it then it should ne only women. Males have no business saying it particularly hiven the history surrounding it’s use.

              Even in OP’s exampme she says that Fergus says it because he perceives others will think the woman making the decision to be aggressive, or mean, etc. yet he, a male in his 60s chooses to use a word that keeps women in a position of disrespect instead of using any of hundreds of perfectly good words to describe his thoughts.

              Expext Fergus to tell you that you’re overreacting OP … I mean youre a woman so *naturally* you will overreact, maybe not understand that he doesn’t mean it that way. He may even say he is reclaiming it to lessen its power (had some male tell me that…really!)

              You are not overreacting, you do understand, and as a nale he has no business “reclaiming” it any more than a white person can “reclsim” the N word.

              This is massively problematic. It has no business in the work place. It needs to stop but expect a lot of push back.

            2. Chameleon*

              It’s less about reclaiming the word and more about proudly reclaiming the behavior that triggers it. “Bitch” is a way to shut women down for behavior that men don’t like–such as having opinions or insisting on our rights. If you didn’t want to be called a bitch, you would be quiet, sit down, and do as you were told.

              Reclaiming the word is a way of proudly stating “yes, I am willing to be called a bitch. I will not shut up, I will not sit down, and I will not do what you tell me to do.” I think it’s less about normalizing the word as making it less powerful of a tool.

              Disclaimer: I am 40 and firmly in the GenX casual bitch usage generation. Also, link to my favorite bitch-related video in my name.

          4. Sara without an H*

            I’m in Fergus’s age bracket and I agree that “bitch” is completely inappropriate in a professional setting. It’s not so much that the word can’t be used in a more casual sense — I’ve found the examples on this thread interesting — but that it’s not appropriate at work.

            And anybody who used the “c word” here would be invited to my office for a Very Serious Conversation.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              I’m also in Fergus’s age bracket, and my reaction is “Stop saying ‘bitch’, Fergus. Today.”

              1. Sara without an H*

                Yeah, if Fergus reported to me, he’d be in my office for a Come to Jesus conversation.

        3. Kir Royale*

          It is generational. I am GenX, and remember when both bitch and ass were censored on the radio. I remember the day when ass became an allowed word in the 90s and the DJs spent the day saying it as often as possible. So it’s possible Fergus is incorporating bitch more often because he is trying to sound up-to-date where bitch is used casually and is off the ‘censor’ lust..

          1. Anonymosity*

            I remember that too, and when Saturday Night Live did a sketch where the entire thing was just an excuse to repeatedly say “penis” because now they could. (Google SNL Nude Beach-1988 but not at work, haha.)

        4. TheNotoriousMCG*

          26 here – could be field-based (cursing overall is well tolerated in mine) but I have fewer issues with contextual ‘bitch’ usage. For instance, the other day I was having difficulty getting my personal trainer to understand what I’m studying when I leave for grad school in the fall – he kept downplaying it which was frustrating – so I just came out with ‘I’m studying to be the head bitch in charge!’

          So while I’m fine with calling my bridesmaid group chat Bridesmaid Bitchezzz, I do feel a bit icky about Fergus’s usage.

          1. CarolynM*

            I agree – context is important.

            (oof – this got long! sorry!)

            I do a lot of backstage work – everything from tech to stage manager. If we didn’t swear we would be silent! LOL In my experience, because I am a woman (especially when I was younger), some people who had not previously worked with me would bristle when all of the sudden they were expected to take direction from me. It never really got under my skin when someone would call me a bitch, but on one occasion (of many!) when someone did NOT like the fact that I was in charge, he decided to go OFF on a screaming tirade that ended in “You are such a BITCH!” As cool as ice I spat out “That’s QUEEN BITCH to you – now F*** off and get to work.” As if on cue, my tech director screeched out from the lighting booth “YAAAAASSSSSS QUUUEEEEEEENNNN!” I grinned, gave him a nod and then just carried on with what I was saying as the guy who called me a bitch looked flustered and confused that he had failed to make my cry and win the support of the rest of the crew. To this day, it is not uncommon for guys on my crew to answer me with “Yes, Queen Bitch!” and it makes me grin every time. It’s meant as a term of endearment/respect in that context.

            At work? I work in a small office of a mid sized company. Because my location is small, I wind up wearing many hats, one of which is coordinating events, including the food. The day after an event, a coworker came up to me and demanded a can of Pepsi because he wasn’t there the day of the event and felt it wasn’t fair that he didn’t get soda. (No – I don’t work with children – this guy is in his late 40s!) I told him that everything had been put away and those sodas were for events only. He got UNREASONABLY upset about this (I swear, the only drama in my office is about food!) – I gave him a level look and told him that if he needed a soda, there was a deli across the street and went back to what I was doing. HE went to the break room and proceeded to tell coworkers AND some people in for a training class what a bitch I was.

            Of course, someone skipped into my office and gleefully told me all about it. I’ve been called worse than a bitch and it certainly didn’t cut me to the bone, but this guy had done a lot of unreasonable things that I didn’t really have standing to address. Until then. I made a federal case out of it. I told my boss that I demanded an apology made in person in my boss’ presence – my boss (who is great, truly, but hates being the heavy) tried to mitigate it and make excuses for the guy, but I doubled down. I told him that I was a professional and would not be undercut by him and called misogynistic slurs. That it was disgusting language for a professional environment. I told him that this guy runs roughshod on other employees and is never confronted and that I was completely unwilling to let him run roughshod over me and that if the apology made in my boss’ presence was not forthcoming, I would go to HR. I got my apology. And that guy and I had a long talk, we cleared the air, and we have never had anything even resembling an issue since.

            1. Alli525*

              I have a potty mouth too (you had backstage, I had Wall St) and I am just in awe of you.

            2. TheNotoriousMCG*

              WHAT UP, QUEEN BITCH!

              I’m going to grad school for theatre management! Maybe we’ll find ourselves in the same theatre some day :) you’re awesome.

        5. Xerwhousedbitchin’*

          Yes, it’s a GenX thing. But he’s not. He’s too old. He’s a Boomer.

          This might be different if he were 52 and had been a surfer dude during the rise of bitch and bitchin. He’s not.

          1. Xarcady*

            As a Boomer, I can barely remember the last time I heard someone use “bitch” in the workplace. Yes, I’ve heard the occasional “son of a bitch” when something goes wrong, but I think I would have to go back to the late 80s when I worked on the fish pier for an instance of someone using bitch in any other way while at work. And then it was a one-time outburst by my boss, in the middle of an actual crisis–a boat was out at sea and not answering any communication–and the stress simply got to him.

            When I was younger, it simply wasn’t a word that you used in polite company. Certainly not at work, in front of women. Being a Boomer definitely does not give him a pass on this.

            (For the record, I grew up on military bases. I heard more “bad” words at the Catholic girls’ high school I attended than I did on base, or on the fish pier.)

            1. schnauzerfan*

              57 here. Bitch was one of the worst things you could call a female person back in my young days. Bastard was what you called a guy. It was even frowned on to use bitch for a dog. It was never something you’d call a co-worker. The older this guy is the more likely it is that he knows this is ruderuderude.

            2. Rovannen*

              Another Boomer here, and no, you don’t say that word unless you mean it in the nastiest way; especially in the professional world.

          2. Cat Herder*

            No, even if he were in his 50s, surfer, etc — he’s NOT a teenager anymore, it’s not the 1970s, and he’s a manager slinging this term around *about* women (or rather, about a specific, individual woman) in a work meeting. Bad all around. Grow UP, duuuuuude (saying that in my teen So Cal voice).

          3. Competent Commenter*

            I’m 52 and female. Bitch and bitchin as you’re referring to them just aren’t the same as calling someone a bitch. I’d be appalled if my supervisor used the word bitch in the context described by the OP. It’s a classic use of the word to put woman in her place for using her authority, setting a limit, saying no thanks to a date, not answering a street harasser, or otherwise doing something a man would do without comment. It is incredibly undermining and offensive for a supervisor to use that word that way. I think I would have gasped in the meeting.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I’d be wondering if I need to update my resume. And documenting for HR, just in case.

            2. JSPA*

              Part of speech matters dramatically here.

              “Ah, quit bitching” is completely different from, “you absolute bitch.”

              Just as “F-you” is way ruder than, “time to stop F-ing around.” And interjecting almost any word after you slam your finger in the door is completely different from directing it at someone, or using it to describe someone.

          4. AKchic*

            And swearing on the job is industry-dependent too.

            Teachers? No. You don’t really get to swear on the job around littles.
            Road crews and construction workers? Totally fair game, as long as the boss is okay with it.
            Customer-service jobs? Not really. Not if you’re facing the customer (but again, it’s at the boss’ discretion, some unique places are okay with it and bank on it)
            Mechanics, plumbers, and other “rough” work? If they aren’t talking to a client – it’s usually fair game.

            An office worker usually doesn’t get carte blanche to drop whatever swear crosses hisser mind. Even I had to tone my creative invectives down when in previous jobs.

            1. Lindsay J*

              Honestly in my experience, mechanics and blue collar workers are less likely to drop it in front of women than others. It almost feels a little too deferential, sometimes. Though I’m sure when I’m not around their language is another story all together.

          5. Brett*

            That particularly piece of surfer slang was probably invented by the boomers. I first learned that one from boomer surfers back in the 80s, who had been using it since they were teenagers.

            But it has a completely different usage and vocal inflection from what the OP is describing.

        6. Kittymommy*

          Ehh, I’m 42 and I and most people I know (my age and some older) use it very casually -they don’t really consider it an insult, some even consider it a compliment.
          Personally, I think this doesn’t even need to get into is it an insult it not, he shouldn’t be swearing in meetings or at work. It doesn’t sound like it’s the type of office where this is acceptable.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I’m with you on this. It’s turned more of a casual term than an insult.

              1. What's with today, today?*

                “Fucking Bitch!” Is pretty much my fave thing to say if something goes wrong at work. As long as the mic isn’t on. We don’t ever cuss on the air, in fact, our version of “the devil went down to Georgia,” says “son of a gun,” not “son of a bitch.”

        7. RVA Cat*

          Casual use among friends is irrelevant when we’re talking about a male boss using it at work. Compare with people of color using an even more offensive word socially.

          Fergus should replace it with a gender-neutral insult like jerk or a-hole.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, Fergus should drop it altogether. There are other, better ways to make the point rather than using theoretical name calling.

            But, yes, if he really needs to put it this way, he can use a non-gendered insult.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Well said. Sounds like there’s both a gendered language problem and a disrespect/anger problem.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Which is why I said “in that context.” Fergus isn’t a woman and he’s not using the word in any kind of complimentary context. Taking the LW at their word, he is saying that someone else would describe a woman as a “bitch” as a criticism.

        This isn’t a question of whether one can ever use the word and still be a decent human being. It’s that in 2018 we should be able to recognize that when a male boss calls a woman a “bitch” as an insult that we might possibly be able to say that’s a bad thing without doing the thing where we are honor-bound as ladies to assume nice things about him?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t feel honor-bound as a lady to assume nice things about him. (Come on, that’s actually pretty insulting!) What I am saying — and all I am saying — is that in my experience, the word is not as widely recognized as a slur as other slurs are.

          1. Annoyed*

            But it needs to be. Women need to push back. Lots of words weren’t seen as the insults that they are, especially by the dominant power that kept telling those insulted that they were being too sensitive.

            It remained this way until the affected groups recognized on a macro level just how they were being disrespected and pushed back hard against anoyone other than themselves being able to use those words simply because of their use in historical context.

            Bitch is the same. We just need to get MAD and not keep taking it from those “in charge.”

            1. Oof*

              I don’t see this stance as ok either – all it makes me feel, is “gee thanks for telling me what to be sensitive to, I surely could not make a decision on my own!It’s so freeing to be told how to think and feel!” Do you see what I mean?

              1. Jadelyn*

                But nobody is telling you, on an individual level, how you must feel about something. Annoyed is talking about larger patterns of how and when slurs start being recognized as such and people start facing social censure for using them.

              2. Kimberlee, Ranavain*

                I’m with you. It’s not super relevant to this conversation (cause, nah, I wouldn’t say “bitch” at work unless I was in, say, a closed conference room with a bunch of women I work with who are also my friends and we all use it colloquially. It’s just too fraught for the workplace), but I’m a woman and while I think it’s worth considering how the word is gendered and how that reflects in its usage, I don’t think women need to rise up against it.

                To me, this feels like something where a small group of women got together, decided they didn’t like this word because feminism, and now represent that opinion as being on behalf of ALL women. No. I don’t believe the word has the harms that a lot of feminists represent it as having, and I resent people using MY identity to back up something I don’t agree with.

            2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              Why? I’m a woman and I don’t see it as an insult. I use the term as a descriptor that is neither good or bad. Hell I’m kind of proud to be a bitch, when I want to be.

              I’m not going to find something insulting because others think I should. If you are, great rage against the man, but leave me out of it.

            3. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Women are not a monolith. I am not going to judge women who reclaim slurs like bitch or c*nt for their own use.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Me either. But I am going to judge the hell out of dudes who use it as an insult for women.

                1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

                  I’m not even going to judge men. Quite frankly I have bigger and better things to worry about than name calling.

                2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

                  I’m assuming that was to me.

                  Sure, why not discuss? I never said it was a verboten topic in my world. I said it’s something I’m not going to get angry about or judge people about.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  Yes, there are other things to worry about than if you overhear friends using it with each other.
                  But in this case it’s cause for concern. Fergus may be showing disrespect and hostility to women by using it. Unless he thinks he’s being hip and up-to-date with the latest slang?
                  So if it is disrespect and hostility, that needs to be addressed by management… or all the non-misogynistic people in the office need to start looking…

            4. uranus wars*

              I really prefer not to live my life in anger at someone for using a term I use A LOT, especially in the casual. I think pointing it out, as Alison suggests, is the way to go. I am a 39-year-old female.

              Especially in the context. I think it completely inappropriate at work no matter who says it and it is a word I only use when having a casual conversation and could not see using in a meeting.

              However, I can also see, as someone else pointed out, that if this guy is feeling like a old guy he might inappropriately be trying to adopt some youthful language and doing it all kinds of wrong. Which is why talking to him about how it comes across could be a good idea.

            5. Emily K*

              Even if that’s your position, it doesn’t really follow from “people SHOULD see it as a slur” that we can then assume Fergus is being willfully and maliciously ignorant when he uses the word.

              I generally agree Fergus shouldn’t be using the word in professional settings, but I don’t find the examples given so offensive that I’m willing to jump right to calling him an asshole who is secretly pretending to not think a woman deserves to be called a bitch just so he can have a covert excuse to say the word bitch, right in front of a woman, which is what the original comment on this thread seemed to be suggesting.

              People do problematic things all. the. time. without malice. It doesn’t mean it’s not problematic and shouldn’t be corrected, but the correction conversation usually goes better when you at least start off giving someone the benefit of doubt. It’s like how Alison always suggests you start out trying to address illegal workplace behavior with, “Oh, a lot of people don’t know this, but we actually can’t do that,” instead of jumping straight to, “This is illegal and I’m going to sue if you don’t stop it!”

              If someone doesn’t respond to the conciliatory/collaborative/call-in approach, then by all means escalate. But the example given by the OP – which is problematic but not antagonistic – don’t to me seem warrant starting things off by assuming the boss is being a jerk on purpose.

              1. uranus wars*

                You said this so much more eloquently that I did but these are my exact reactions to the scenario.

            6. Mazzy*

              Not push back but more like, we need to stop using it about ourselves. Your comment cedes power we do have

            7. neeko*

              Or YOU can consider it a slur and allow others to make their own decision about it. I don’t NEED to get mad about something that isn’t that serious to me.

            8. JS*

              As a woman, I disagree. I like saying bitch in a variety of context.

              In this case the manager said “Jane might be perceived as a bitch but I think it was a needed change”. If anything he acknowledged the fact people may stereotype Jane or associate negative feelings towards a decision that he thought was made with a level-head with the company’s best interest in mind. I see no reason to be angry for that.

        2. Mad Baggins*

          I feel like you’re conflating “Stop being such a bitch, Jane!” with “Jane’s team may think she’s being a bitch, but I think she made the right move.” You can argue the word has a gendered meaning in both instances, but even if you replace the word with “jerk” it still has a different usage (the old swearing with people vs. at people). I don’t think “bitch” ever has meant something positive (even “bad bitch” relies on the edginess of the insult).

          Either way Fergus should stop using the word at work, but I don’t think he’s knowingly, openly insulting his female staff based on their gender. I think he’s using inherently-gendered words in business contexts, and he should choose other words.

          1. Xerwhousedbitchin’*

            The whole reason we Xers started using bitch and bitchin’ all the time was because they were edgy and not said in polite society.

            So the whole GenX slang thing isn’t an excuse, even if dude were an Xer and not a late Boomer.

            1. Mazzy*

              But your comment is contradictory. We’re now in the prime of our lives so everything we did to be edgy is now mainstream. Doing something to be edgy usually loses the it’s value over time

        3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Lookit, I am a pretty hip 57 year old woman and cannot come to grip with the sudden (to me) proliferation of the C word used today. This was *never* to be said, ever, except in deeply misogynistic terms and was an easy pick off to say do not use this word ever.

          And then, language changes, and now the C word is hip and feminist.

          Not everybody gets the memo or reads all the memos they get or remembers all of the memos they read. Assuming good intentions costs nothing (but please don’t use the C word around me because I just can’t).

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I’m a not hip 37 year old but I agree completely. The c-word is just now one I will ever ever say, and I have been known to drop f-bombs.

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh gosh me neither! I am a former firefighter, and have a beloved salt shaker full of F-bombs to season everyday conversations… But the c-word, especially if applied as an insult to a woman, is instantly enraging. That’s a hard line, especially for guys, but really anyone.

              (The only exception is sexy times with a partner who ONLY uses the word as an earthy anatomical term, relevant to the activity of the moment.)

            2. MicroManagered*

              I am also not-hip and 37 but I will b- and c-word sometimes. I think it’s all about context and intent, and I respect others’ right to not hear that kind of language. A work setting with mixed company would never be appropriate, but a private conversation with a friend who I already know is not sensitive to swear words is fine to me.

            3. Turquoisecow*

              Same. I’m ok with bitch but I will never use the c word in any context and it kind of rubs me the wrong way to hear anyone say it. I don’t police other people’s language, but I won’t say it myself.

          2. Christmas Carol*

            Yet here in the state of Michigan, a female member of the state House of Representatives was banned from speaking on the House floor after using the word “vagina” while debating a bill on women’s health.

            1. Not A Morning Person*

              Seriously? Who had the temerity to ban someone from using the anatomically correct term during a relevant discussion? What? What? What?????

          3. BeenThere*

            I hate the C word! I am 60. I hate it so much I won’t even say the word… Although I might tell you I will See You Next Tuesday….

          4. Dust Bunny*

            I’m 41 and I HATE the c-word. I’ve never uttered it myself and there is no context in which somebody could call me that that I wouldn’t be offended, even if they meant well. It’s just still far too loaded for me. I’m pretty chill about swearing in general (although I don’t think it’s appropriate at work) but the c-word is still too far.

          5. neverjaunty*

            The C word as something to call a woman isn’t “hip and feminist”. In the UK it’s much more of a generic insult, but in the US it’s still very, very gendered and ugly. (Are you thinking of women using the C word for their own genitalia? Because sure, that’s a thing. But a way different context.)

            I respectfully disagree that always assuming good intentions even when someone is behaving badly costs nothing.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

              Except this is not true. You may think it feckless, but the C word is proliferating both as a word of power and as a non gendered insult and it is no longer a word used by horrible men in the same way they pop off the N word. This was brought to light very sharply recently when I realized that I no longer know what that word means.

              And that’s okay. It doesn’t change that I will ask people not to use it around me, but it does pause a leap I have to assume intent.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Female terms used as “non-gendered” insults are totally gendered because when you use them on men they’re doubled: You’re calling him the same insult you’d use on a woman AND you’re adding the insult of functionally calling him a woman, which is historically an insult in and of itself. (This applies to “bitch”, too, to a lesser intensity.)

                In the US, at least, the c-word is still pretty far from being generally accepted as an all-purpose insult. The few people I know who use it are the kinds who pride themselves on being kind of edgy and gratuitously shocking. And they know better than to use it with me.

                1. Annoyed*

                  This. Exactly this.

                  I want to underline your point anout the C word in the US. It is so NOT a generic insult and potentially it is a “get your face smashed in” word.

                2. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

                  So, I agree with this POV except my only point in what I posted is that with the evolution language, stating matter of factly that one *knows* a 60 something man’s intention in using the word “bitch” as described in the OP is not possible.

                  Nobody reads all of the memos on changes to language and not all memos agree.

            2. Liz T*

              Since we seem to be doing a roll call, I’m 36 and I love the C word.

              In high school I discovered that boys were APPALLED if I said it, and specifically felt only THEY could say it–one boy literally told me that. So yeah, lifelong love with the word. Ani Difranco sang it, Eve Ensler had a whole monologue about its beauty, and in college there was a C*** Club that joyfully and earnestly spread sexual health awareness and screened Betty Dodson videos. I use it anatomically and sexually and admiringly and insultingly. I love it.

              Men should just probably not say it ever. There are a few exceptions I’m sure but generally just don’t.

              1. kallisti*

                I love it too! I don’t use it as an insult, though. I prefer it as an anatomical term, and mostly only use it to refer to myself unless I KNOW that the lady I’m referring to is on board. I think this is a matter of the platinum rule — if I know someone else hates the word, I’m not going to use it to refer to her even if it doesn’t bother me.

              2. Loud Noises*

                I picked up my usage of it in Britain and enjoyed it and “twat”” very much during my time there, but having since left I dropped it just because I wasn’t hearing it any more. My general rule of thumb is if I hear something said in a particular setting and no one looks askance then I’ll feel free to say it myself.

          6. Alli525*

            I’m 32 and hate the c-word. I only reserve it for TRULY awful people, and never to their face at any rate. However, it’s a very popular word (and less potent) in the UK and some of the commonwealth, so theoretically you’re just seeing it more due to global bleed.

        4. Work Appropriate*

          LW here. Yeah, no — I think he realizes that it’s insulting. I don’t necessarily know that he would feel that it is misogynistic slur, but I’m certainly not assuming anything nice about him when he says it.

          1. Observer*

            Of course he knows it’s an insult. The point is that it is quite likely that the doesn’t realize how gendered it is and that it’s therefore more offensive that more generic terms like jerk.

            I do think that there are better ways to make the kind of points he seems to be trying to make, though, that don’t require calling people names – or claiming that other people are going to name call.

        5. Observer*

          Can we dial down the pearl clutching and stereotyping here?

          No one is saying that Fergus is in the clear here. Nor is there any evidence that anyone feels any sort of female obligation to assume nice things.

          Bitch is an insult and it’s a crude term that doesn’t belong in the workplace. It’s also obviously gendered in that it’s only applied to women. It’s more subtly gendered in that it often applies to behavior that’s only seen as a problem in women, much like “bossy”. All of these things are true. But it still is not close to being the same thing as C***.

          Insisting on that equivalence is a bad idea on a practical level. If the only language we can reasonably ask people to refrain from is at the nuclear level, it’s going to get very hard to move to a more civil and respectful standard in the workplace and public square. You don’t want a professional workplace full of people who call each other jerk, idiot, cretin, etc. Nor do I want women to get tarred as “bossy”. But, it becomes much harder to push back if the notion that only REALLY BAD words should be avoided.

          In this case, Fergus is totally in the wrong. But, to be honest, no one should want him to replace it with “People are going to think Jane is a jerk”. It’s just not a good way to talk about your staff.

        6. Decima Dewey*

          The word “bitch” is unnecessary to the point he’s supposed to be making. Why not say “Jane made this change that affects her subordinates. I think it’s a needed move.”

      3. SS Express*

        Yeah, I think of it as (until recently) similar to “dick” or “asshole” – not exactly a compliment, but not really an offensive gendered slur either. I think a lot of people who use it in the way the OP described are using it the same way they’d say “they might think he’s a dick, but I think he made the right call” and not realising that it doesn’t really mean quite the same thing anymore.

        PS: I’m a milennial. But I’m also Australian, so…

        1. Molly*

          Do you think asshole is gendered? It’s one of my favorite all-purpose insults specifically because I think of it as a word that refers to bad behavior generally without reference to identity.

          1. Myrin*

            It is in my language! I mean, we do insults differently in general because they all have a genus, a grammatical gender, so you generally (though not always) use them accordingly. “Arsehole” is a neuter, grammatically, but it’s basically exlusively used for men. (At least where I’m from; there’s probably parts of the country where it’s different but it feels decidedly wrong to me to refer to a woman as “arsehole” and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it that way.)

            1. Tau*

              You know, I’d never thought about this but you’re right. And IIRC you’re Bavarian, in which case I’m from the opposite side of the country from you (Lower Saxony originally). Not sure what I’d use for a woman in the same sort of situation – possibly “sie hat sich voll beschissen verhalten”, but then my German swearing tends to consist mainly of fecal matter and pigs.

              1. Myrin*

                “Blöde/dumme Kuh” all the way! Which is technically much milder but I personally use it in exactly the same context as I use “Arschloch”. And yeah, fecal matter and all members of the pig, goat, or duck/goose family. I actually read a scientific paper not too long ago about the “Analfixiertheit der Deutschen”, which… valid. :’D

          2. Specialk9*

            I think a-hole is exactly that “all of us have one and nobody’s is exactly pretty, no not even you who bleach it” insult that is agendered. It’s definitely used more for men, but I kind of like that because it’s not so loaded for men.

            But maybe as a manager, don’t try to be edgy by connecting people you manage with swear word insults. Find a professional way to say it.

            1. Observer*

              But maybe as a manager, don’t try to be edgy by connecting people you manage with swear word insults. Find a professional way to say it.


          3. Trout 'Waver*

            Yup. It’s almost always used to describe men and not women. But I think that’s because offensive people default to bitch for women.

            Similar with jackass, dipshit, and ironically, douche.

            1. Molly*

              I’m very fond of douche as an insult because douches are pointless and harmful to women ;)

            2. Liz T*

              Yes: asshole should be used gender-neutrally. We tend to hear it more for men than for women because it refers to behaviors that are GASP unladylike and thus BITCHY. We should cut that out and resolve to call women assholes, too. (When they’re being assholes.)

              1. Specialk9*

                I started referring to terribly rude behavior from women as “being dicks”… But stopped because it just seems problematic. I don’t like calling women by their genitalia so it seems hypocritical to do that to men. (And also I don’t love actually insulting people except a couple steps removed.)

              1. Specialk9*

                I’m not really clear on what that is though. Like a stick one dips in shit? I get nervous when I don’t know meanings because I hate stepping in something that sounds like ‘this’ level of offense but it’s really ‘THIS’ level of offense.

          4. Cat Herder*

            Interesting question! I wonder if people do use it about women? or mostly men? From my experience (speaking and listening), it seems to be almost always directed at men.

            1. Molly*

              Hmm, culturally I think this may be true, although I use it to refer to people of all genders, including myself (i.e., “I don’t want to be the asshole”). I guess my take is that even though that’s the common usage, there’s nothing inherently gendered about it like “bitch” and no gendered anatomical referent (like dick).

          5. Dust Bunny*

            No, because we all have one and everyone’s functions in the same way, regardless of sex.

          6. SS Express*

            No, I don’t think asshole is gendered at all. That’s my point, it’s an insult but *not* a sexist slur. And there are lots of people who still see “bitch” as similar to “asshole”, which makes it unfair to assume that someone saying “you might think she’s a bitch but…” is trying to use sexist slurs without taking responsibility for them. More likely he’s trying to say “you may think she’s a big old meanie but…” and not realising that these days, “bitch” is more than just a colorful word for “big old meanie”.

            (“Dick”, I think, is gendered in the sense that it refers to a body part primarily associated with a specific gender and is mostly used as an insult to men, but I wouldn’t consider it a sexist insult – it’s also used for women, and its meaning doesn’t change depending on the gender of the person it’s describing.)

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          You aussies can be pretty blunt, but. I remember the south Australian state government ran a road safety campaign with the strap line don’t be a dickhead.

          1. Daria Grace*

            There was also a National ant-drink driving one in Australia about not being a bloody idiot

          2. Carpe Librarium*

            See also the billboards “Don’t drive like a W+[Pic: anchor]”, “Don’t drive like a [Pic: rooster]” and “Don’t drive like a [Pic: doorhandle]”.
            The Motor Accident Commission of SA has some very effective ad campaigns under it’s belt.

            1. Specialk9*

              What’s the doorhandle one? I’m assuming a Britishism, since the first one is so so British. (But also interesting that the first two were male coded as an insult!)

                1. Specialk9*

                  Ohhh. Does knob mean the top of a penis? I think nob without the k means a stuffy rich person (toff?)?

                  I’m so lost when y’all talk. :D

              1. S. Ninja*

                I assume the doorhandle one is “knob”. Which is also male-gendered now that I think of it.

              2. GrilledCheese*

                An ex’s workplace used ‘reknob’ (boner sort of spelled backwards) as a general insult. 20 years divorced and I still use it myself sometimes.

        3. Lonely Aussie*

          We use the c word pretty casually though… I’m convinced that Aussie PG is vastly different to the rest of the world.

          1. Specialk9*

            You’re kidding me. That’s really shocking to this American! I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard someone use that word, just out and about.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              In 2014 a Member of Parliament called another member of the house a C*** in the middle of a parliamentary debate. As far as I know the speaker of the house didn’t sanction or discipline the MP for that use of language.

              1. EmKay*

                Holy. Crap. That would never fly in North America, people would want to hang that guy by the nearest lamp post.

                1. Emily K*

                  Yeah, the Scots especially use it trivially. “Oh, he’s a silly little c***” is a frequent handwave I hear from my Scots friends dismissing something of no importance.

                2. Akcipitrokulo*

                  Or affectionately “Hello, you old c—t, how’ve you been?” or generally “Any of you c–ts going out tonight?”

                  Not something I’d use myself, and don’t hear it often, but it isn’t one that bothers me that much.

                  And when it gets used as an insult… you’ve really angered someone.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  “That would never fly in North America, people would want to hang that guy by the nearest lamp post.”
                  That sums up what’s wrong with our country. People getting hung up on small things and refusing to deal with big things.

            2. otter-baby*

              American living in England here – the English use the c-word pretty frequently and casually as well. While you wouldn’t normally hear it in a workplace setting, it’s typical to hear it used between friends in a joking manner or as a swear word (it easily substitutes any other insult). Although to the older generation here, it is still seen as one of the worst bad words.

              1. BeenThere*

                I hear it on some of the more off color (aka “the good kind”) of British TV. I remembered being a little surprised the first time.

            3. Michaela Westen*

              Watch Jim Jeffries’ latest special on Netflix, he does it. Calls everyone that!

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  :D It’s a good example of using the word casually, I didn’t find it very offensive. Basically the same as if he said “that guy’s an idiot”

          2. Liane*

            Based on what I read at Not Always Right, I have gotten the impression the C word is also used way more in the UK than US. Seems like every other anecdote with a UK tag has one to several ” You C—! “

            1. MsSolo*

              We do like things like “Oh, he’s a bit of a cheeky c-” as a compliment. You can still find it in some street names, too, though most of the “Grope C- Lane”s got changed to “Grape Lane”s in the Victorian period (loads of towns have a Grape Lane, because that was where the brothels were). Middle and upper classes stopped using it, because sex bad, but for the working class it never carried the same shame, and took on this sort of friendly vibe because it told you who your tribe were.

              1. smoke tree*

                Yeah, I suspect it’s for puritanical reasons rather than feminist ones that it’s so taboo in North America. In Canada it’s pretty much never used either.

              2. Specialk9*

                Oh my. (Fans self, mostly ironically, but not entirely)

                Grope C Lane is historically delightful though. Just don’t bother with euphemisms there, guys!

                Thanks for enriching my afternoon!

          3. Flower*

            I’m from the US but this is my experience with interacting with others via internet. I was actually going to suggest that that casual global connection is part of why ideas around the c word have changed among younger folks in the States. I see that Aussies use the term very casually, not always negatively, and not in nearly so gendered a way, and that that’s also true (to a lesser extent) in the UK.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Nah. In the states a lot of misogynistic twerps like to use the C word exactly as it’s traditionally been meant in the US and then hide behind UK/Aussie usage. “Oh, but in England that’s no different than if he’d called Famous Woman an asshole!”

              1. Flower*

                I agree it’s still mostly that way in the States (especially when directed at people that aren’t friends), but I have noticed some shift (speaking as a recent graduate of a very liberal US women’s college).

                Personally, I can’t stand and avoid using either the c-word or “bitch”, especially when directed at people, but but from what I’ve witnessed, there is a slight start to a shift.

          4. ThatGirl*

            One of my friends spent a year in Northern Ireland and came back dropping c-bombs all the time, she said it was very casually used in Belfast.

      4. Xerwhousedbitchin’*

        I have to push back. Fergus is not GenX. He’s the age of my husband. The tail end of the baby boomers, aka the Sandwhich Generation. He was born in the 1950s. You don’t get to GenX before the mid 60s.

        Use of bitch is not, and was never, cool for them.

        Bitch and bitchin’ is GenX, not Boomer. I know. I was there. I’m GenX married to a late Boomer. Shamefully, we popularized that word and used it as they never did. We hated their terms. Cool was not cool to use. And groovy! Ugh, vomit.

        Reclaiming words is also something that started w GenX, but was never a Boomer thing. In fact, I’ve been lectured by Boomers so many times about this, I can assure you, it’s very different for Xers.

        Just ran this by DH who is sitting w a group of early 60s white dudes from around the country. Consenus: there’s no way this dude doesn’t know it’s a slur. They think he is trying to be edgy and show pro-woman sentiments. Likely bc he’s off kilter in a #MeToo world.

        That might not change the advice, but I’m not cool w giving him a pass bc the term was in vogue for a while.

        1. Xerwhousedbitchin’*

          PS. I googled this for kicks. Yes, these terms are definitively linked w GenX. Plenty of blogs on GenX slang have them. Old news articles in GenX slang from the 1980s.

          Bit he’s still not GenX.

          1. Annoyed*

            At 55 I am technically in that “sandwich generation” but psychologically, emotionally, and in terms if pop culture I am solidly gen x.

            Fergus however is just some gnarly dude thinking he is being totally bitchin’ for using that word.

            1) he is not “bitchin’ “ 2) he needs to stop.

        2. Xerwhousedbitchin’*

          Apologies to my GenX cohort. I should not have said vomit. I should have said gage me w a spoon.

          1. Opting for the Sidelines*

            LOL. Gen X here. I member gag me a spoon and every other Valley Girl speak.

            I too am Gen X married to late Boomer. Every time he tries to be hip, it just so does not work. Especially in the #MeToo world.

            I agree that Fergus may be trying to be “in” and it is simply a um, yeah, no situation.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Fergus isn’t trying to be hip. He’s trying to be clever and call Jane and others a bitch while playing the Good Guy.

              1. Observer*

                I think you’re giving him credit for too much planning and thought about his language.

        3. Cat Herder*

          I used bitch and bitchin (as an adjective) when I was in high school in the mid/late 1970s — I’m 58, a late boomer. But I’m from So Cal, where “bitchin” started (surfers), so we probably would have picked it up earlier — I’ve never thought of it as a GenX term. Amongst non-surfers the word was used frequently but rarely in front of grown-ups; it was considered especially bold (and likely to get you in deeeeeep trouble with your parents) to say it where a teacher could hear you. (I can’t speak to how surfers used the term — not my crowd.) I remember someone’s mom saying “bitchin”, trying to relate to the kids I guess, and we were all shocked.

          Bitch was not used in the same way as bitchin. It was definitely a much more offensive word.

          I stopped saying bitchin when I went to college. It was too high school!

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            Is anyone else hearing Steve Martin in their head? When he gets the hair cut/dye job in Father of the Bride 2? Classic example of a boomer using “bitchin’.”

      5. Artemesia*

        If it were used as complaining e.g. ‘he keeps bitching about the Winthorp project instead of just buckling down and getting it done.’ Or even ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’ it would not be IMHO a gendered issue although I realize the word itself is becoming more radioactive. But I would not bother with that kind of usage. But the way this guy used it has always been misogynistic i.e. calling a woman a bitch and that is today completely inappropriate.

      6. JS*

        29 year old woman and I say bitch all the time. “She’s a bitch” “Yasss biiiitch” “That’s my bitch!” “Damn, that was a bitch (talking about a difficult task)” “Omg Bitch!! (surprised)”.

        Of course it depends on the culture and environment of the workplace. But if its said casually and not directed toward someone then in certain cultures with certain groups no one would blink twice.

        Sidenote if anyone is in Miami “Bacon Bitch” makes amazing croissant sandwiches. Also “Biscuit Bitch” in Seattle makes amazing breakfast (Hot Mess Bitch with Bacon is everything).

      7. Sara without an H*

        Alison, I have to agree with neverjaunty. I’m in the same general age group as Fergus, and the only reason a man of that age uses the word “bitch” when talking with women is to make them uncomfortable. If Fergus reported to me, I’d tell him to knock it off yesterday.

      8. batman*

        Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’ve never known the word bitch to be okay for a man to say to a woman. I am 34.

      9. cheeky*

        Even if you don’t intend “bitch” to be misogynistic, it still is. You can’t separate the inherent misogyny in the work from the word.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      I think your point stands regardless of the slur/cussword being used. The fact that it is gendered almost doesn’t matter in this context.

      Having a boss say I don’t think this but others might think subordinate is “slur” is just .. really really awkward and suggests boss actually wants people to feel that way. I mean if everyone thought x decision was great but grandboss went and hemmed and hawed not to feel like boss is slur for it then suddenly there is this unneccassary negative thought about boss and the idea.

  2. Elena*

    While I’m no fan of the word “bitch”, and class it with swear words, I gotta wonder: how many people have to agree that a word is considered a slur before it is actually a slur? If I decide that something is a slur today and get a vocal enough group to proclaim it on Twitter, and The Atlantic (for example) writes an article, is that now The Truth That Must Reign, and all who fail to jump on the bandwagon are out-of-touch bigots?

    1. Biscuits*

      When you can convince members of the opposite side (so in this case, likely men – or similarly how white people avoid the n word, able bodied people are coming to refrain from the r word.) Then you’ll finally have enough people on both sides attempting to shut it down, and it will be generally accepted, I guess.

      1. Dram*

        I don’t know if that helps. Gay men use the word as much or more than most people I know, often (but not always) referring to men.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I really like Alison’s quoted line that you’re a bitch if you’re doing your gender wrong.

      2. Anon today*

        Both the r word and n word were popularized with Gen Xers, so it’s taken another generation plus to make them less popular again. Both words had been used before then, but were considered slurs that were used by bigots (at least with Boomers), but gained acceptance with Gen Xers.

    2. HA2*

      When enough people believe that.

      I mean, that’s how language works. People understand words to mean certain things and have connotations. If enough of the population treats a slur as such, then it becomes one.

        1. neverjaunty*

          If the comment begged the question any harder, someone would throw treats at it.

          1. Les G*

            Well if this isn’t a perfectly delightful turn of phrase. Granting myself permission to steal, please and thank you.

    3. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      I mean…enough to change social norms? There has to be enough of a consensus to examine the context, baggage, and history of a term to come to the understanding that it’s been harmful to certain groups in ways that are reflective of systemic oppression. When it comes to stuff, there’s always going to be an awkward transitional periods, with some more aware than others. This is not inherently bad, as growth is never easy, but there’s a difference between awkward learning curves and privileged apathy/hostility. (Even when it comes to widely agreed upon slurs today, you’ll still have plenty of people whining about how it’s ~unfair~ and ~they’re just words~ and ~why is this group allowed to say them but not me~.)

    4. TheNotoriousMCG*

      Elena, I think you’re point is that these changes seem sudden and arbitrary, but let’s be real – yours wouldn’t catch on (or at least wouldn’t stay caught on) without a good reason/argument behind it. It seems like every day there is a new word that’s bad and people are getting frustrated by that, but see it as a good sign that we as a society are putting more weight on being respectful of people. That has frustrations but is a net gain for all of us.

      1. Specialk9*

        I for one thought ‘enh I’m fine with bitch’ before watching that video.

        So what made me really stop and think hard that maybe I need to stop using that word were a couple things:

        -I didn’t know that it was historically used to sl00t-shame women. I knew it meant dog, but not ‘a woman having sex is a filthy dog in heat’, which is an important distinction. As she said, so little has changed on that front in 7 centuries!

        -Mapping out how the word is used to belittle people for doing gender wrong. Yikes, that’s really true, and ugly.

        Her connection of the word to domestic violence. That was super sobering. It really is an ugly word that when applied directly to someone with force and anger, is awful. (True of any curse, but extra loaded because it’s gendered.)

        I kind of feel like I’ve been slapped by a whole raw chicken: gross, but with enough heft to jangle me.

        1. Aveline*

          People are often fine with a lot of terms that are inherently offensive. Especially if they aren’t really part of the group against whom the slur was used.

          I have a friend who is a Drag Queen who is constantly trying to get his fellow Queens to stop using fishy because it is misogynistic. They just don’t, or won’t, see it as a problem.

          I know a lot of white people who use thug and don’t realize how loaded it is.

          And the c-word is also deeply misogynistic in its origin and use, but it’s de regueur now in the U.K. The ugly history and context gets buried.

          Personally, I want to decolonize my mind and also try and free my thoughts as much as possible from the cishet patriarchy. This includes looking at the words I use. It’s not easy. So much of what is acceptable and normal is really ugly in origin and purpose.

          When I was a kid, the term Gypsy and to gyp someone were used. Frequently. I had no idea the origins of the term or the insult behind them.

          1. Autumn Anon*

            In origin, the c-word wasn’t misogynistic. It was actually the standard term for vagina, as seen in medieval medical texts, but when Latin became more of the language of medicine, replacing the older English word (and therefore also having implications for both class and native-ish language) it got pushed out of medical and standard use and became a swear word and an insult (and I agree it’s a deeply misogynistic thing to call someone). In making ‘vagina’ the term, it also became a passive thing in sex (‘vagina’ is literally Latin for ‘sheath’ like in the sheath for a sword) whereas when it was the c-word it was considered to have much more of an active role (ie wasn’t just a sheath). So the origins of the c-word were actually much less misogynistic than the word has now become, and it became a slur through hatred of women, possibly hatred of women having sex, and the semantic removal of women from their own medical lives (as women were generally much less likely to know Latin, and indeed lower-class women were almost certain not to).

            I realise I’m derailing a little here, so I apologise for that. I just find the way language behaved and was made to behave around this kind of thing fascinating.

            1. MsSolo*

              Also, it was an anglo-saxon word (a lot of English swear words are, and that’s part of what makes them fun to say because anglo-saxon is a much more percussive language!) and when the Normans swept it, the linguistics of the haves and have-nots turned a lot of unloaded descriptive terms into something perceived to be much cruder.

            2. Aveline*

              That’s actually disputed. The first line of the wikipedia entry tells you that.

              But let’s not derail.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Same. But I’ve only ever used it in the sense of meaning “suspicious”, where it comes from “slippery as a fish”, basically, which has nothing to do with women. I guess it must have a usage with which I’m not familiar. (I *am* familiar with how it could be applied to women, but I’ve never heard it used that way any way but literally and not as an insult.)

            2. PersephoneUnderground*

              In drag circles, a drag queen who looks like a cis woman is often described as “fishy”. It’s a play on the old joke about vaginas smelling I think, so yeah kinda misogynistic. Lots of drag culture is edgy and plays with shock terms etc. though, so it sorta fits in context- it’s a subculture that has learned to make fun of the bigger culture and twist it around in a funhouse mirror. As an outsider I don’t really have an opinion on the term, but yeah it could be offensive since it insults women’s genitals (though it’s usually seen as a compliment, so yeah, playing with the culture there).

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Okay, that makes sense. It’s a play on both uses of it, then. Very clever. But, yeah, I’m not in those circles and would never use that in that context.

      2. Aveline*

        What’s really happening though is not that a formerly good word is no bad. It’s that a formerly voiceless group is being heard. Because of the internet. iPhones. Connectivity.

        What’s happening isn’t a changing of what’s offensive, but a changing of whose offense we consider worthy of examining. Because the voices of the oppressed and outsiders can no longer be so easily silenced.

        This is why respectability politics and civility politics are being weaponized. Because allowing those voices into the debate and considering them worthy is dangerous to people who’ve traditionally been the only ones whose opinions mattered.

        The world has always been this way. These terms have always been bad. We are just forced to see them now. And to see the people they are used against as people.

        I remember in the 80s, some white dude celebrity saying they could use a slur because blacks people didn’t mind. Now, we have spaces where those black folks can tell us they mind in a way that makes it hard to ignore.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          This! Thank you! And- yes, some of this stuff can take adjustment (like getting used to using a different set of unfamiliar pronouns if someone requests it, to cite the example that seems to cause the most confusion lately) or feel unnecessary to someone not impacted by the issue themselves, but how hard is it for us to adjust a bit to make someone else comfortable? A whole lot easier than dealing with being a marginalized group (like a trans person in my example).

        2. Yet another Kat*

          100% this!

          If a word is negative in any way, and refers to any marginalized group (whether by gender, ethnicity, orientation, ability, etc) it is a slur by definition, whether or not “society” (aka a critical mass of non or less marginalized people) agree that it is. There are still a lot of slurs that are very commonly used, and are not acknowledged as slurs outside of very specific communities, but that doesn’t make them not-slurs. And just because a slur can be/is used by members of the community to which it refers in a positive/empowering way, doesn’t mean it can then be reclaimed by nonmembers of said community.

        3. Emily K*

          This is what I keep finding so fascinating watching men of Hollywood try to excuse their long culture of harassment and misogyny with some mealy-mouthed “times were different.” They dance around the words they won’t actually come out and say, and do linguistic gymnastics to figure out how to say, “Back then, this wasn’t a problem,” without saying it, because they know it was never not a problem – what they mean is, “back then, nobody with any power cared enough to stop this.” Predators didn’t harass their subordinates because they thought it was OK. They did it because they knew they could get away with it. And while that’s understandable, somewhat like grabbing as much cash as you can when the armored truck crashes and spills it all over the highway (“I want this is and nobody has the power to stop me from taking it”), it’s not a moral defense.

        4. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          I can’t even count the number of times that a fan will defend the Redskins name as a compliment and then a Native American will reply no, it’s really really not. That’s one slur I hope dies a flaming death soon.

        5. Specialk9*

          “What’s really happening though is not that a formerly good word is no bad. It’s that a formerly voiceless group is being heard.”

          Beautifully said.

        6. batman*

          @Aveline – yes, thank you. Bitch was never a neutral term. Well, maybe it was at one point, but that would have been well before the baby boomers’ time.

        7. Brett*

          “It’s that a formerly voiceless group is being heard.”

          “What’s happening isn’t a changing of what’s offensive, but a changing of whose offense we consider worthy of examining.”

          I think these are two different things, and the latter is more the case. The easiest example I can think of for this is that Hispanic-Latino-Latinx dispute. This dispute is unique in that members of this ethnicity but in the three different usage camp often think the other segments’ preferred words are offensive. (e.g. those who support Latinx consider Hispanic offensive and vice versa).

          The disagreement itself is among the members of the “voiceless group” (I’ll call them HLLs for short). In particularly, you have young professional HLLs, especially west coast journalists, supporting Latino, even younger HLLs supporting Latinx (with strong support from the larger LGBTQ community), and middle-class and older HLLs (especially those who are non-citizens and not digitally connected) supporting Hispanic. I would argue that in this disagreement over what is proper and what is offensive, the group with the most “voice” is the one winning out. Originally this was the proponents of Latino, thanks in large part to proponents at the Los Angeles Times, but more recently the better connected proponents of Latinx.

    5. tusky*

      Elena, whether something is a slur is inherently subjective. There isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’d say that if someone thinks a word is a slur, it’s a slur. What I think you’re really asking is whether you always have to stop using words that others have deemed slurs, or does using those words really make you a bigot? To that, I would say, you can use any words you like (really! we’re not talking about censorship here), but if you’d like to avoid being called a bigot, don’t use those words that are deemed slurs. (Or, as Kamau Bell says (I’m paraphrasing), white people can use the n-word if they can handle the consequences of using the n-word.)

  3. matcha123*

    #2: I think this is part of being in an open office. I also work in an open office, but leave for lunch. Others stay and eat at their desks and there are a few who take lunch 30 minutes earlier or later than the typical 12 – 1 break time. Those who take a later lunch will be in a darkened room (lights are turned off at lunch to save electricity, although a lot of light comes in through the windows).
    I don’t think you are going to get people to stop, especially since you are taking an earlier lunch break and the office culture is pretty set.

    #4: Is the employee also expected to contribute in the meetings, or is she just there listening to other people? I’ve struggled to stay awake in those kinds of meetings (which I now never have) because I have nothing to contribute and I am not expected to contribute anything. I mean, if people are going around a circle repeating the same information each week, I can understand why she’d have a hard time staying awake (not saying it’s ‘right’).

    1. Dram*

      But at so many workplaces — blue collar, white collar — falling asleep on the job is grounds for immediate firing. OP does need to talk to the employee. And it’s nice for the employee that the OP is kind about this. But it seems there’s a huge amount of worry about all sorts of hypotheticals when really, the issue just needs to be addressed and then worry about extenuating circumstances if they arise. Seriously. Not only could someone above OP fire this employee, but if OP were in the same meetings and routinely not managing it, OP might face unpleasant repercussions too when people higher above learn of it.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I feel like every time there’s a letter about meetings, there’s a lot of “is the meeting necessary?” in the comments. I hate pointless meetings as much as the next person, and am not always raptly attentive, but not falling asleep is a pretty basic and achievable standard to set in the workplace.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          “…not falling asleep is a pretty basic and achievable standard to set in the workplace.”

          This is how I feel about it. I have someone who completely zones out during meetings and I’ve caught her nearly dozing a few times. I told her that, at the very least, she needs to pay attention and not fall asleep. If she needs to doodle in her notebook or bring a mini slinky to help her stay alert, that’s fine. (No, we don’t have a lot of meetings at my company, and the ones we do have are necessary and don’t typically last longer than an hour. She only has to attend one, one-hour or less, meeting per week.)

        2. Kathleen_A*

          I agree, but the thing that really leaped out at me from that letter is that the OP actually had to ask an advice columnist if she should talk to an employee who falls asleep during meetings! I get why some personnel issues are difficult to talk about – dress codes can be pretty fraught, and so can things like sick days and religious issues. But OP, please, when someone does something so obviously inappropriate as regularly falling asleep in a meeting, you do not need to walk on eggshells. Alison’s formula of “I’ve noticed this problem. What’s going on?” is really all you need.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          But it really honestly does depend on how the meeting is structured. Staying awake in a 15-minute standup session where team members share pertinent information in the form of brief updates is, indeed, a pretty basic standard. Staying awake in a three-hour meeting where one person drones on about who knows what and the others are passive listeners… if failing to do that is a fireable offense, I’ll go ahead and proactively resign.

          1. Emily K*

            I attend one of those long droning meetings once a month. I think falling asleep once or twice would be forgiven, but doing it every month would absolutely be fireable, the same way failing to address any other problem would be. Like Alison says, if there are extenuating circumstances and the employee is making a good faith effort to find a way to stay awake, you might give a longer timeline for correction or work with them on accommodations, but you can’t just keep falling asleep every month when that meeting rolls around. You need to figure out a way to more or less reliably stay awake at work, whatever that way is.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Exactly. Every now and then could be passed off as an aberration – “Oh, I’m not feeling well today” or “My baby kept me up all night last night.” But every meeting? Nope nope nopety nope.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              My point is that, if people have enough time and are disengaged enough to actually fall asleep in a meeting repeatedly, then there’s something wrong either with the agenda of the meeting or with the list of people invited. If the sleepy employee was the one who had written in, I could understand all the advice to drink coffee, take meds, think of a horror movie and whatever other coping techniques can be used to stay awake in a meeting that she cannot change the structure of, and cannot get out of. But the OP is actually the one person with the power to, like others commented downthread, restructure these meetings. If an attendee has nothing to contribute, or no way to contribute, then this meeting isn’t work to this attendee, it’s a waste of company money TBH. The person is being paid for struggling to stay awake. Struggling to stay awake is not work as far as the bottom line is concerned.

              1. Emily K*

                I was responding to your suggestion that it was unreasonable to fire someone for falling asleep in a boring meeting (“If that’s a fireable offense I’ll go ahead and resign”)–and I agree it would be unreasonable if they fell asleep once, but if they fell asleep multiple times and there was no evidence of a good faith effort not to, that’s a different story.

                As for the meeting structure, there may be something wrong the meeting, but I don’t think it’s a given. Believe it or not, I am with you on the subject of unnecessary meetings and have personally been responsible for killing several at my job, so I enthusiastically support your position in principle. But if everyone else has no problem staying awake then sometimes you really do have to expect sleepy employee to try harder to stay awake rather than restructure meetings that nobody else is having trouble with.

                A lot of times when we’re bored in a meeting it’s because we don’t need to be there. Other times, it’s because the work we’re doing is boring and there’s no way around that, but the work is still necessary. Work can’t always be interesting all the time in every job – not just in a “managers are imperfect and we have to live with it” practical sense, but in a “interestingness is not perfectly correlated with usefulness/importance and sometimes necessary work is boring” sense.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Ah, no, I didn’t mean it as “it is unreasonable to fire someone for that”. I meant it as “this is something I personally would not physically be able to do. If my job description suddenly included sitting with my eyes open in a room that is quiet except for some background noise that is not relevant to my work, and if I could not do anything else during that time except sit there and pretend to be listening, well I would then have to admit that I am not the right person for this job.

                  I’m not sure what interesting work means… We do the work. We report our status on it and any issues/roadblocks. We ask the team for help and offer help, or we don’t. Even if it isn’t about launching rockets into space, I’d find it difficult to fall asleep during a discussion like that. Which is how I envision a team meeting; unless OP’s team meetings are something else? I cannot even think of what it might be.

                2. Emily K*

                  That makes more sense!

                  I don’t know about OP’s meetings, but the mega-meeting I attend monthly is one where our data analysis vendor comes in and presents 40-50 slides of charts and graphs reviewing performance metrics and KPIs for our programs, and those in the room will speak up if they want to ask a question about something they see on the slide, or if they want to discuss a trend that’s been highlighted, what we think is causing it, how we can find out if that theory is correct, and what we want to do about it. Each month is a combination of an overall high-level view on a rolling-12 basis, plus a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of one program, and after the slides/charts we have lunch and then do some kind of small group breakout discussions/brainstorming.

                  Our group (marketing and customer relations) is divided into smaller functional teams, and some of the slides/discussions will end up being focused exclusively on the work of a team I’m not on. Others will be focused on my team to the exclusion of others. But the analysis vendor isn’t going to want to come in for a different meeting for every team, and a majority of the content is generally applicable to all of us, so it’s just a reality that over the course of the 4-hour meeting I will have to sit through an incredibly boring 25 minute discussion or three about direct mail even though I work in digital targeting a different audience segment than the mail team.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            You really don’t think “stay awake during working hours” is a reasonable requirement? I mean, I get that meetings are boring. I have to go to a six hour meeting every month. I absolutely hate it. I do not always pay attention for the entire six hours. Sometimes a colleague and I will sit in the back of the room and play a couple rounds of MASH or tic tac toe. But we stay awake because we’re paid to, at minimum, sit in this room and be awake.

          3. TardyTardis*

            I have trouble in long meetings, especially budget year projections where I was not expected to contribute–and since I had the only laptop, I was supposed to take notes about things I didn’t quite understand. I was literally kicking myself to stay awake. Now, in other meetings where I have a physical notepad and a pen, I could do chapter outlines for my latest novel and still look attentive (I once had zoology classes at 7:30 am, so I have experience with that). But please, don’t have three hour meetings with no bathroom breaks, most people will be swigging coffee/other drinks and it will not be fun.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yes re: firing. I was told at a past job that I should give a team member one warning for falling asleep in meetings and then could/should proceed to firing. Her overall performance was fine and she was a new mother, for what it’s worth. (I didn’t fire her.)

    2. AnyaT*

      Re #4, I was thinking the same thing. We have pointless bi-weekly team meetings where we just go around the table to reiterate what we are working on and review the upcoming list of reports. A couple people get really into it and spend upwards of 15 minutes asking minutely detailed questions about a particular report they are working on, that has nothing to do with the rest of us. There is absolutely no need for these meetings and I have also almost dozed off a couple times. It might be worth considering whether the meetings are necessary.
      (Caveat: I understand that I have a particularly strong aversion to meetings)

      1. Mbarr*

        Oh gosh, I hate hate hate those kinds of meetings. Ours are the same – a round table where we recite what we’re working on. Ostensibly it’s so that we can learn from each other, but when my work doesn’t cross paths with my coworker’s, why should I care?! Unless it’s a soft skill I’m learning… But ugh. Just ugh.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          These can be extremely productive, unless and until you get one person on the team who loves hearing the sound of their voice. We had two guys like that added to our team at OldJob and that pretty much killed our “morning huddles”; first the meetings went from 10-15 minutes to 45-60 and then the manager just stopped scheduling them.

        2. Rainy*

          My workplace has instituted daily standup meetings despite an hourlong weekly all staff meeting plus weekly hourlong large team meetings, and many of the larger small teams also have hourlong weekly meetings. The expressed intent of them was to “keep us all aware of what we’re doing” despite quarterly routine updates in all-staff and periodic updates whenever anything specifically comes up.

          The standups are non-mandatory (thank god) and I simply don’t go.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        “A couple people get really into it and spend upwards of 15 minutes asking minutely detailed questions about a particular report they are working on, that has nothing to do with the rest of us.”
        Sounds like one-on-one meetings with the boss would be better, to answer individual questions. then maybe just a quick meeting for briefing.
        Or “please hold questions till the end”

    3. SarahTheEntwife*

      Agree on #4. The falling-asleep is still super problematic and should be addressed, but if she has little enough to contribute that she has *time* to fall asleep, that might also be a sign to re-evaluate how meetings are run and/or who is included in them.

      1. Chatterby*

        Also agree.
        My first thought was that her falling asleep is a major indicator that the length, content, frequency, and/or staff invited to these meetings need to be reassessed.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My first thought also was, “just how long are these team meetings?” We do not have the time to fall asleep during ours!

          1. california_manager*

            OP of # 4 here. The meeting is half an hour. It’s usually a discussion of upcoming work, a review of any process-related work issues that have come up, and a time for people to answer questions. Really, it is not a taxing meeting.

            1. Quackeen*

              Yeah, that’s not a big ask, to stay awake during a 30-minute meeting, unless there’s something medical going on.

            2. a1*

              And it wouldn’t matter if it were a 6 hour meeting. Falling asleep at work is just a no-no, no matter the meeting. And the advice doesn’t change. Talk to her about it.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Hmm, that makes sense to me. None of my teammates, or I, would have any trouble staying awake for that.

    4. GreekGeorge*

      ….right after or within an hour of lunch can be a tough time to be not actively engaged in something, perfect nap time.

      1. Rachel*

        My thought, too. Yes, you shouldn’t overlook an employee who falls asleep in meetings – this needs to be addressed. But after lunch/around 3:00 is also absolutely the worst time to schedule a meeting, especially if it is one of those boring ones where everyone reports on what they’re doing, whether it has anything to do with the other meeting participants or not. It’s a problem, but not surprising, that at least one person has trouble remaining alert. That’s why my team schedules our weekly boring meeting midmorning. (Not that anyone but me will admit it is a boring waste of time, but that’s a different issue.) You have a chance to address anything urgent that came up overnight, but everyone is awake and alert.

        1. Whit*

          “usually held after lunch or around 3 p.m.” This is the key. There’s plenty of information out there on why people hit a wall after lunch.

          An example: “Post-lunch sleepiness can stem from a dip in your core body temperature that naturally happens between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. It’s a dip that triggers the release of a snooze-inducing hormone called melatonin. It’s a normal part of your body’s circadian rhythm. To combat this dip, try listening to upbeat music, stepping out into the sunshine for a few minutes, or going for a brief, brisk walk to rev up your body.” (https://sleep.org/articles/reasons-for-afternoon-slump/)

          I don’t know all the science, but I know that even as a contributing member of my company’s meetings I am still susceptible to intense sleepy eyes-drooping-omg-I-might-fall-asleep spells around this time if I’m just sitting in a chair in a conference room. The 8-10 hour office workdays don’t work for any of us.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I had a tax class right after lunch one time–I and one other participant were the only ones who stayed awake, and that was only because we argued with each other.

  4. Cheshire Cat*

    OP3, I have to admit I’m a bit confused. In my experience the word “bitch” has always been a misogynistic slur; what else did it mean? If the usage is changing, it’s going back to what it used to be.

    I’m close to Fergus’ age, so he should definitely know better.

    1. JamieS*

      It can also be used as a term of endearment (something I never really understood) or mean to complain. The latter definition probably has it’s roots in the misogynistic slur but it’s typically not directed at a person (ie Karen bitched about having to work late vs Karen’s a bitch for complaining about working late) and isn’t as gender seclusive so it has different less misogynistic connotations to some people.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        Thanks for the explanation, although the endearment part makes no sense to me.

        I wasn’t thinking about using the word as a verb, but I agree that it probably derives from the slur. When I was in college it was frequently used by the men to refer to women “moaning and groaning” about a situation but not doing anything constructive about it. As if it meant an “inferior” way of handling things.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Right – and like most reclamation of slirs, it’s something in-group people use with each other (and there’s not usually agreement on whether and to the extent that’s okay, though).

          A male boss saying a female colleague is a bitch isn’t reclaiming squat.

          1. Les G*

            Right. I’m pretty freakin’ comfortable with saying men shouldn’t “reclaim” gendered slurs. Not even feminist men.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              If you’re not part of the group at whom the insult was directed, you don’t get to be a driver of reclamation. Period.

            2. Anon E. Mouse*

              Though gay men have played with gendered terms like bitch and more in part because they’ve been beaten over the head (or more literally beaten) with gender norms and expectations of masculinity over their lives. So it’s not so black and white.

              however, there’s an in-group out-group component there too.

              1. Delphine*

                I’m not comfortable with any man using it. There are versions of the n-word that are used against non-black people of color of certain ethnicities and religious affiliations–it’s still not okay for them to use/reclaim the n-word.

              2. Specialk9*

                Right, but gay men can be sexist against women. (Just like women can be sexist about women, but more because they’re not women, ie the group being insulted.)

                But just because gay men get insulted by being called women doesn’t mean that isn’t sexist.

                Even if gay men take on that sexist idea of insulting themselves by calling themselves women, it’s still sexist to women. Being female isn’t an insult.

                1. Courageous cat*

                  Sparglke, that’s a pretty messed up generalization to make. I would work on unpacking that one a bit.

                  Men as a whole can be pretty sexist – I’m not sure why gay men would be particularly targeted
                  especially as a monolith.

          1. Specialk9*

            The video made a good point that one can’t “re” claim words that have always been a slur, one can only “claim” words. Which left the unsaid thought of whether we really want to claim this word.

      2. pleaset*

        It’s the like the n word – among black people, especially among men, it can be used as a term of endearment, as in “my n——.” Ideally sound more like it has an “a” on the end, not “er.”

        And it is reclamation as ScienceTeacherHS says. So outsiders probably should avoid it.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          One of my nieces, a white 20-something, uses this word on Facebook when talking to her friends, etc. and I cringe every time I see it. I absolutely hate it and I feel like it makes her sound very ignorant.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh yeah people are judging her hard. Hope she has her privacy settings locked down TIGHT or she may have problems with employment.

          2. HS Teacher*

            If she’s posting that on social media, it may catch up with her one day. I don’t understand why so many people don’t get that the stuff you put out there never disappears and can come back to haunt you.

    2. ellen*

      ffs. It means “female dog”, so yes, it is gendered, and no, it isn’t a particularly positive or affectionate thing to say. Considering the implications of being CALLED a girl dog – which kind of dog? (Obedient, subservient? bitey? Growel-y?) this GenX would just be mildly offended to the extent that it would impact my opinion of you. Not to the extent that I would directly complain to HR, although if someone else WERE that offended, I’d be willing to chime in on the chorus.

      1. Specialk9*

        You didn’t watch the linked video, I take it. I’m really curious, watching that video really changed my mind on this. Would you consider watching it, thinking on it for 10 minutes, and then coming back? I’m wondering if it makes that same impact on you.

    3. Work Appropriate*

      OP3 here — when I was younger, I feel like I heard bitch used a lot more casually and often. Women called each other bitches without it being as offensive as it feels today. In a way, it felt like women used to own that word. I think especially during the 2016 presidential elections, the word took on a different connotation and became much more insulting. Just my two cents.

      1. Anna Moose*

        Bitch was offensive long before the 2016 election. There was a period where some women used it with each other as a way of “reclaiming” the word, but it was still generally an offensive term. I’m about the same age as you and I’ve never heard someone say “you’re a bitch” as a compliment.

    4. Dram*

      Bitch was definitely reclaimed by GenX or Riot Grrrl feminists for at least a time in the 1990s. There was a magazine called Bitch (and another called Bust). Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, wrote a book called Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women with a cover where I think she was giving the middle finger. I understand social norms change fast.

      1. Reba*

        Bitch and Bust are still around!

        And as others have pointed out, that’s in-group usage. And part of the appeal of “Bitch” as a magazine title is that it *is* edgy–it is intentionally attention-getting–it remains so to an extent even after being reclaimed through in-group usage.

  5. msroboto*

    OP #1 “I was recently contacted by a recruiter and ended up sending over my resume just to talk. They ended up sending it to a company who then requested to set up an interview. ”
    Did they ever ask you if they could submit your resume to this company? That was the first problem I saw in this situation? A good recruiter does not send your resume anywhere without permission. If you had already been presented by another recruiter that can cause issues.
    NEVER MIND actually scheduling an interview.

    1. sacados*

      Yeah that jumped out at me too. If anything, this whole incident started because the recruiter just went ahead and applied OP to a job without properly talking to her about it — which along with the pushiness is not great business practice for a recruiter

      1. Empty Sky*

        Thirded. If that’s what happened then it’s really bad practice on their part. If it had happened to me then I would have told them that they did not have my permission to send my resume to any further employers, and possibly given them an earful about it depending on my mood at the time.

        I highly doubt it would have happened to me though, because they would have guessed from my resume that I’d worked with plenty of recruiters before and would have known not to try it. I think it’s probable that they picked up on your inexperience and were trying to take advantage of it. You are well rid of them.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Fourthed, I gasped. Who contacts a company and schedules an interview behind a candidate’s back?!

    2. Yvette*

      Considering the recruiter’s behavior, I would not be surprised if the resume they submitted to the company was not the same resume you gave them as well.

      1. ChaoticGood*

        Oh god, I have had recruiters change mine around without my consent, as I found out afterwards. Never trust them.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          ALWAYS bring a copy of your resume to the interview. Especially if you’re working with a recruiter, but even if not. The odds are decent that someone will be involved in the interview process who hasn’t seen it before. Even if the recruiter doesn’t change your content, they’ll probably strip your contact information out, and maybe you want this interviewer to have that info handy.

          Even if nothing gets changed in the content, odds are decent they’re looking at a crooked third-generation copy and yours will be a ton more attractive. (And these things matter to their impression of you, in the same way that dressing well does.)

          And if your work involves writing, bring along writing samples that you can leave behind, for much the same reason. (My personal favorite is a cheat-sheet on how to turn off Word underlining on-screen, because I find it very annoying to see that when someone is screen-sharing. Another favorite explains how to not have IM or email notifications show on-screen in case you are presenting in a meeting, because it’s both distracting and a security risk.) I can’t believe how often I interview for writing jobs and hear that nobody else did these things.

        2. Kat in VA*

          I learned the hard way to submit resumes in read-only PDF format. DON’T CHANGE MY RESUME WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE OR PERMISSION!

    3. Buu*

      Yeah it’s weird, I’d be tempted to e-mail the place that OP1 was going to interview at and let them know that the recruiter was being a jerk and just to reiterate that they wouldn’t normally cancel an interview but the recruiter *set it up without asking*. This isn’t a way to get good candidates and may scare ones who are interested away.
      That said you don’t know the politics on this one so it may be best to block them on your phone and move on.

      1. Specialk9*

        Agreed. The recruiter was way out of line. OP, what usually happens with a recruiter: they find a job you’re a match for, you do a phone call to talk about the job, if you say yes they apply you.

        In this case they got your resume for one reason (just to talk!) and started shopping you around without permission, then tried to guilt you and badger you when you didn’t just fall into line with their nonsense. Blacklist this recruiter permanently, but don’t assume all recruiters work this way. (Though there are way more bad recruiters than good ones due to market forces – if you find a good one, keep in touch.)

        But also, think about telling the company about it (the lack of permission, and badgering you). They want to know that the recruiter is doing shady stuff in their name.

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      Agree. I worked with a recruiter to get current job and she was fantastic. We had a couple of phone calls and an in-person meeting to review my materials, go over what I was looking for in detail, etc…
      Whenever she had a posting she thought I might be interested in she would send the job description and a ton of info on the company I could review. Before submitting any of my info she would ask, very specifically, if I had ever applied to this position with this company and if the answer was no could she submit my materials.
      When I would get asked for an interview she would send even more information including the names of who I would be meeting with and a ton of background on them. We had an interview prep phone call where we reviewed the company and job description and went over a few questions I had.
      If I am in the market again I am going straight to her. I did meet with a few other recruiters while job hunting and it was a 50/50 bag of how those interactions went (some were just as good but didn’t have the resources my person had and other were super pushy in an “I know you don’t want more than X time commute but the pay on this position will more than make up for it” when the commute time in question was triple what I was looking for).

      1. Sally*

        Yes! That’s exactly how it should work.

        I never understand why people who can’t manipulate you into doing what they want often resort to insults and threats. That is certainly not going to get you to go back to them when you are in the market.

        I got a call from a recruiter a while ago about a position he was trying to fill, and when I wouldn’t tell him my current salary, he went off the rails. I agree that people who do this sort of thing are not recruiters you ever want to work with, so maybe they’re doing you a favor by showing their lack of professionalism early on.

  6. Thursday Next*

    +1 to the second paragraph, particularly its last sentence. “It’s not what I think, but some people would say X” is a common refuge of people who either can’t see their own prejudices, or who are testing their audience to see how receptive they’ll be to their views.

    Fergus isn’t a 19th century dog breeder. “Bitch” has been considered derogatory and profane his whole lifetime.

  7. sacados*

    OP2: I think this is something you may just have to live with.
    Although I am literally sitting at my desk eating lunch while reading this post so….. I’m perhaps less inclined to sympathy.

    1. Nom Nom*

      Ha ha I was eating at my desk too and went to reply. OP2 as an indication, someone tried to bring this in at a previous workplace and it caused a minor war for a couple of months and nothing changed except some hurt feelings that took a while to smooth over. It seems to be a very emotive issue. I also got asked to apply for a job recently and the recruiter specifically mentioned that the company had a no eating at desk policy right up front as it’s a little unusual (in a general office setting) and she had had previous candidates drop out when they found out at the interview. While there were a few reasons it wasn’t a match, it’s a bit of a red flag that the company will have some fairly inflexible and rigid rules absent actual safety reasons. (and this company DID have many, many rules)

      1. Les G*

        People really dropped out of an interview when they found out they couldn’t eat at their desks? Sounds like the company’s not the only one being rigid and inflexible.

        1. Techworker*

          If the policy was ‘no snacking at all ever’ – I can see that putting people off.. or if the place where you’re allowed to eat is a while away from where you work then ‘having a quick lunch at your desk’ is never an option and it might actually affect how long you have to be at work?

        2. Nom Nom*

          It was no eating ever. You could ‘register’ for medical exemption but you had to leave the area still maybe with a scarlet letter on your forehead / s (assume they had a diabetes exemption for emergencies). Who would want to do that? Register to be allowed to eat more often. There were an abundance of other really stupid and petty rules, the job was really highly paid but obviously quite a few people had thought it was a hill to die on cos they were having trouble recruiting in spite of the excellent salary. YMMV but there are plenty of medical conditions where the advice is to eat small portions more often / graze rather than eat big meals once a day at lunchtime. And if it’s otherwise not interfering with your work they shouldn’t even need to know

          1. ellen*

            I work in a hospital, in food service. No eating in my area, ever, due to the myriad ways it could go wrong, both for me and the patients I serve. I also have diabetes. I assure you, I don’t need an exception to leave the area to grab an emergency nibble, and my boss would even provide me with one, but I do have to leave my immediate work area (what if I’m having a sandwich near someone that has celiac’s lunch?) and absolutely no one would say boo or even notice. It takes slightly more time than going to the restroom (less time if you have your cell phone in the stall with you). No scarlet letter. I’m pretty open to sharing my medical condition (If I collapse on the floor, here is what you tell the responding resident that JUST WANTS A COFFEE) but I sure don’t have to.

            1. Les G*

              Yup. Maybe lab scientists and hospital folks are just a little tougher than “regular” office folks but this just…doesn’t seem like a big deal.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                Or just anyone working in an area where there are customers around you or likely to turn up.

              2. Beth Jacobs*

                I’m more than willing to follow a rule that is justified by health, safety or customer satisfaction. But if the same rule exists without a reason, I see it as the company being too rigid. I wouldn’t blink an eye about wearing a hard hat and ear muffs as a construction worker, but I’d consider it a ridiculous requirement for a financial analyst.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Exactly. Is this necessary, or weirdly paternalistic micro-managing? No problem at all if it’s reasonable! Jump off a cliff if it’s someone on a power trip.

              3. Nom Nom*

                But this was a professional office with crazy money in an open plan office and unlike ellen above *you need permission* that’s the sticking point. We are talking 6 figure salaries with a level of micro management that is pretty much unheard of in the industry. I could have totally articulated better above, but if you are being hired for your thinky shit on stupid amounts of money but they don’t trust you to know how and when to eat and make you register (and as I understand it Ellen’s work don’t make her do that) then there are probably far bigger issues than the eating. I’ve actually worked in chemical processing facilities where you have to leave to eat and I have no issue in that environment. But, and it’s a huge but, it was always understood if you need a snack, you don’t need to ask, and they had really friendly policies for medical issues and there was absolutely no need to register for anything. People did talk to colleagues and management and it was pretty open, ie if you see me drop, it could be this medical condition – call and ambulance or don’t call an ambulance because X. Mainly because it was safe to do so and you wouldn’t get the goon squad coming in the next day expecting you to sign away your life on some schedule that fit a liability issue rather, everyone looking out for everyone else. In the context of the original job I mentioned, this is way OTT overkill and a major red flag they have micromanagement issues not about how ‘tough’ people are.

                1. Tangerina*

                  I don’t know if “thinky shit” was a typo or not, but I’m appropriating it. I love it. I’ve been hired for my thinky shit and my typey shit.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  “Thinky shit” earned my keyboard yet another shot of Red Bull. I, too, have been hired for my thinky shit, my typey shit, my time management shit, and my executive handling shit.

                  Oh man I’m laughing all over again picturing my resume.

                  – MS OFFICE SHIT
                  – CONCUR SHIT
                  – EXIM/ITAR SHIT

              4. Yorick*

                It’s not about being “tough” or “not tough.” It’s about not wanting to follow an arbitrary rule that could make your work less pleasant.

                In many office jobs, you just work at a computer all day. We don’t all have clients, and many who do work with clients don’t have clients just show up at their desk. There’s no reason I can’t just have a snack at any time.

                Of course, if I worked a different job, eating while working wouldn’t make sense, and I wouldn’t be upset about not being able to (maybe I wouldn’t even want to)

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Right. Why would Fergus the candidate train himself to never snack at his desk, when there are dozens of other jobs available to Fergus where he wouldn’t have to do this?

              5. Lora*

                Even us STEM geeks working in clean rooms are allowed to leave the area to eat food as needed. You sort of work around it: it’s such a pain in the rear to get in and out of the clean rooms that you fuel up (minimizing drinks) and go to the restroom before you go into the suite/lab, do your thing for 5+ hours, then go out and have a long sit-down at your desk or in the cafeteria with your laptop, checking emails and whatnot, go to the restroom again, then go back in to finish up.

                That said, if someone told us that we needed to ask permission to eat in the office area, we’d wonder if they were out of their darn minds. You trust us to do things that mean life or death to a patient, but don’t trust us to eat a snack while we check emails?

              6. I snack, a lot*

                Or, you know, people like me who can’t go that long without eating/drinking/peeing self select out of positions where we can’t, so you don’t see us regularly and just assume we’re being extra special whiny on the internet.

                Disability isn’t just canes and wheelchairs. It’s also GI problems and medication side effects and a host of other things that can leave you miserable and unproductive.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Good point. Thinly veiled ‘you’re being a complainypants, I guess I’m just tougher than you’ can be super ableist, on top of being kind of a dick maneuver.

              7. agonist*

                I’m a graduate student in the biological sciences – every lab I’ve been part of has been fine with eating at your desk, but eating at your *bench* is absolutely not done. In my current lab my “bench” and “desk” are separated only by a transparent plastic divider between the two portions of the work space, but in some past labs the desk was in a different room entirely.

                (As a disclaimer, the institutional policies regarding eating at your desk in a lab probably wouldn’t support me eating hot cheetos a foot away from the centrifuge, but I’ve yet to meet an academic scientist who actually cares.)

            2. Opting for the Sidelines*

              At a past job, we had to ban eating lunches at desks because people were using company provided plates and silverware to eat and then leaving the used plates and silverware at their desks for days and days at a time.

              Bugs moved in as a result. It was gross.

                1. Charliesmom*

                  +1 to Dust Bunny’s comment. My work is open floor and I think it’s nice that we all have the option of when and where to eat.

                  Sorry LW but what you’ve described sounds like just part of working in a laid back open space and you’d be challenging the culture to complain. No one is doing anything wrong in the scenario you described.

                2. Tau*

                  Someday someone will solve the problem of people being immature slobs at work and win the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. Until then, we need workarounds.

                  (Don’t get me started on my office and how it behaves around dirty dishes. Just… don’t.)

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I worked at a place that went from “all the eating, and oh btw the microwave is sitting on a spare desk right there in the office and there is no breakroom anywhere” to “no food or drink at your desk ever” overnight. The owner had built a new office building out in the far suburbs, his wife did the interior design for it, and they didn’t want the employees dirtying the brand new cubicle furniture. Cannot remember how it ended, other than a vague memory of me snacking from under my desk and hoping no one notices. I left the place soon after and it was back in the 90s. Really curious now about whether they had banned water at our desks too. Wasn’t a big deal to me then as I was younger and could stay dehydrated longer, but now, I would’ve left over water being banned. My health isn’t what it used to be.

        3. Specialk9*

          I know a company with a rule that no eating or drinking at the desk, except water in one specific container.

          I’m not a kid in school. I don’t need that level of micro-managing of really anything, but especially not of my caffeine and schedule.

          1. Jadelyn*

            You can’t even have a cup of freaking coffee at your desk? Good lord.

            +an infinite amount to your second paragraph. You hired me as a professional adult. Unless there’s a real health and safety reason, step off and let me manage my meal schedule for myself.

            1. Specialk9*

              NO COFFEE!! I had seriously considered them many times before that, and they went into my Nope pile. Don’t step between me and coffee.

              (But also, don’t hire me for my advanced Adulting skills and then treat me like a child.)

        4. Observer*

          If it’s an across the board ban on eating at our desk ever, that can be an extremely burdensome rule, actually. It’s less of a problem in some cases than others, but unless the culture is such that people never have to work through lunch and can even take time for snacks without push back and there is some place handy for people to go and eat, it generally turns into a major problem for a lot of people.

        5. Pebbles*

          I would drop out, just because barring any safety issues or client-facing concerns, it seems like a weird thing for the company to police and it would make me wonder what other rules they have in place.

          Disclaimer: I’m a software developer that never sees a customer and rarely leaves my desk all day except to talk with other engineers. I always eat at my desk because I don’t like our small lunch room and I like to surf the Internet and read AAM during my lunch. We also have snacks scattered throughout the office for anyone to grab if they wish.

        6. Jadelyn*

          Eh…I’m a major introvert and have social anxiety, among other things. The break room anytime between 11am and 2pm is a nightmare for me. I can deal with it long enough to go in, heat up my lunch, make polite chit-chat while waiting for my food, and then I flee back to the privacy of my desk. I expend enough of my energy on Peopleing while I’m on the clock, I really need that brief respite where I can just sit at my computer and read AAM or watch art videos on youtube and not have to talk to anyone. So yeah, if a company banned all eating at your desk, I’d drop out because that’s not a work environment that would do good things for my brain. I don’t see that as being “rigid and inflexible” so much as “knowing my needs and limits and making choices based on that knowledge.”

      2. Pickle Lily*

        I work at a company with a no eating at your desk policy, which was introduced years ago as part of a merger. There was a bit of push back at first (from my company who were new to the policy), but now everybody likes it, or at least nobody has a problem with it or feels like it’s micro-management.

        There are a few reasons for it:
        1) to make sure that everybody takes a break from work, particularly from staring at their computer all day
        2) Hygiene (yes just for a normal office) – we hot desk with people coming and going at all times of the day. Who wants to have to deal with your coworkers crumbs on the only spare desk in the office?
        3) linked to 2), it makes the cleaners jobs easier as their only cleaning up crumbs and food mess from one area

        No exemptions are needed and whilst it’s not policed, no so if you’re hungry then you just go take however long a break you need to eat at whatever time of the day. Or several throughout the day if you get as hungry as I do!

        Admittedly the merger did introduce a whole bunch of silly rules, which we eventually got rid of, but this one stuck.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          See, I hate the “taking a break from work” argument because it assumes that what was comfortable for whoever made this rule is also comfortable for me. My desk/cubby (I share an office part-time with an intern) is my space. I don’t work on my lunch hour, but I also don’t want to be forced out of my comfort zone on what is ostensibly my own time. (Cleanliness isn’t an issue in this case. I’m not messy) but don’t tell me where to spend my time off the clock..

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Right! I’m at work either way. Not being at my desk doesn’t mean I’m ‘taking a break from work,’ it just means I’m forced to take a break from my desk. Which means either uncomfortable chairs in the frigid breakroom where I twiddle my thumbs and stare at the clock for a few minutes or trudging out to my car in various weather conditions which wastes half my break in the traveling (not to mention the car will either be frigid or an oven depending on the weather that day).

          2. Kat in VA*

            Honestly, I prefer to work through my lunch hour and leave earlier, if the company is flexible enough to do that.

            I *hate* going out to lunch. An hour isn’t enough to properly decompress, and it’s also long enough to interrupt whatever my headspace for workflow in the day. I’d rather just work and eat at the same time.

            I should add that I don’t leave around dirty dishes, I drink my coffee from an adult sippy cup, and I don’t eat things like tuna melt or stinky(er) foods at my desk because I’m a functioning adult.

        2. DCGirl*

          At my current job, there is a no eating at your desk rule, and I actually enjoy it. We have something like 40 different nationalities represented in our workforce, so I would add that it also eliminates the issue of food odors at the desks (because what smells yummy to one person may smell horrible to another) and encourages people to use the break rooms and get to know it each other. It’s not policed, by any means, but I’ve come to find that getting up from my desk and going to the breakroom is a good thing during the day. It’s just part of the company culture.

          There’s also a rule about not scheduling meetings at noon, because that’s when a lot of extracurricular activities take place (i.e., ToastMasters, yoga classes, etc.). Also a good thing, in my book.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            IME, people are pretty good about figuring out what the office-friendly foods are in terms of smells.

            I love your employer’s “not scheduling meetings at noon” rule. It is hard to enforce at my current job, because people are in different time zones and it’s always noon somewhere. Which I think got everyone into a bad habit of just scheduling stuff over everyone’s lunch even when it’s not necessary, because no one minds and it is now the company culture.

            1. LarsTheRealGirl*

              If letters to Alison and the comments section are any indication, people are decidedly NOT good about figuring out office food smells.

            2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

              YMMV, but since I currently work (and have worked) with people who are proudly like, ‘Yes I am microwaving fish and broccoli, sucks to be you,’ I would say that an awareness of non-office-friendly food smell is not necessarily a deterrent.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Jesus! Wow!

                I confess that many years ago, I unknowingly microwaved cauliflower once. I’ve known people who have microwaved broccoli or fish, once. The reaction they got from everyone was a powerful enough motivator never to try that again. And I’m in a field that is well-known for its lack of social skills.

      3. CupcakeCounter*

        We have a similar policy but it is specific to hot and/or smelly food – you can eat a yogurt, fruit, small sandwich etc…but no tuna or warmed up spaghetti.
        OldJob had that too but it was because we had a brand new, showcase building with frequent visitors and didn’t want the place to smell or be covered with stains. However they had a coffee station in each department and I think at least 2 cubes per area had serious coffee stains within a week of moving in. Week 2 we all had branded travel mugs with lids on our desks with a note about “no open containers”.

    2. Glowcat*

      I am sympathetic, but I agree that if OP is the only one doing different they are probably not going to change anything…

      1. EPLawyer*

        that is what stuck out at me from the letter. OP takes an earlier lunch than others and eats away from her desk. Yet is annoyed that everyone else takes lunch at a regular time and wants to chat at their desks. To me the rest of the office seems pretty usual for this type of arrangement.

        Trying to change everyone else to fit your preferences is never a good idea. The noise wouldn’t bother OP is they ate lunch when everyone else did. There’s the solution right there rather than telling people not to talk to each other while eating lunch. Or telling them to go elsewhere because she is working. They presumably know about the other places to eat and are choosing not to go there. Basically telling them they have to change their choice is going to create resentment against OP rather than any change in behavior.

        1. Opting for the Sidelines*

          Plus the idea that the CEO and COO eating at their desk are setting a “bad example” was a red flag to me. In many, many, many companies, this practice is seen as a “good example.”

          I am very much senior staff. I always eat at my desk as I find that if I do take a break for lunch, I lose my momentum and can’t get started again. But I DO love to see my staff socialize at lunch and encourage it as much as possible.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Yes, that was strange to me. Nobody is setting a bad example. eating and chatting at your desk at lunch is fine and normal.

          2. Someone else*

            I took the “bad example” to mean “people feel like they’re not allowed to leave their desks for lunch because the upper ups don’t”. It may or may not be the case, since clearly this place already has a culture of desk-eating and OP is the minority, and I’d argue if they’re socializing as much as they are during desk-lunch then whatever “bad” example isn’t really that bad since lunch is clearly still a break…rather than the “bad example” of never get up, never stop working, never take a break. But if the company did want people to actually get up and take a break, but management never does…I could see that being a bad example because lower level employees might be feeling unnecessary pressure.

        2. DCompliance*

          I agree. It doesn’t appear the set up is currently bothering anyone else. I don’t see the point in trying to change it or expecting it to change.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, OP would’ve had a fighting chance if she were the CEO. But people would not have loved her for that. If the actual CEO is eating at their desk, OP’s not going to get this change through.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      I always eat lunch at my desk. I love it. I check in with friends on Facebook and then do personal things like paying bills or shopping. On a good FB day I feel like I’ve actually gone to be with my friends and come back. :)
      I’m lucky we have offices with doors, but even if we didn’t, most of my colleagues eat at their desks too.
      I would not want to work at a place with a no-eating-at-desk rule. I also eat snacks morning and afternoon, but the main reason is it seems very arbitrary. What other arbitrary rules would such a company have? How uncomfortable do they want us to be?

  8. Moth*

    #4 reminds me how much I miss circadian rhythm conferences. If I haven’t slept well, I also get really sleepy in the early afternoon. To the point that it’s difficult to stay awake in meetings or at my desk. Most of the circadian rhythm conferences that I attended would not schedule lectures for the two hours or so after lunch, knowing that most people experience a “postprandial dip” in wakefulness during that time. It’s not always possible at work to avoid meetings during those times, but as a general rule, I try to avoid scheduling them between about 1-3, if at all possible. Especially if they’re meetings where I know several people are there for info only and won’t be contributing. However, Alison’s advice is apt, since meetings will inevitably end up during these times anyways.

    1. Gruella*

      Great suggestion! People are not at their most alert state in the afternoon. Add a meeting that’s most probably extremely boring (most meetings are) and falling asleep is very easy.

      1. Washi*

        But I feel like a lot of people would also say that they are not at their most alert state in the morning! So 9am – 10am is out, at 11am everyone is hungry and getting ready for lunch, 1pm -2pm people are sleepy from having just eaten, 3pm – 5 pm is towards the end of the day and people are tired…

        I sympathize with boring meeting + 3 pm syndrome, but (absent a medical issue) it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for this employee to manage to stay awake at a once-per-week meeting.

        1. Clare*

          Especially since there is only one employee who is having an issue staying awake, it’s pretty clear that this is a problem with this individual and not a larger problem with the meeting time or relevance. We’ve all had to go to meetings at inconvenient times or meetings that weren’t that relevant to our jobs. It’s not that hard to do the bare minimum and stay awake.

          1. Artemesia*

            When I started falling asleep when I was in a meeting or at my desk it turned out I had about zero thyroid; taking thyroid meds changed it in about 2 days. So it does behove the manager to start the interaction with the employee sympathetically as in ‘Is everything all right?’ And perhaps suggest a checkup if the person has only recently begun to do this. It never occurred to me it was a medical issue — I figured I was just getting old and not getting enough sleep.

            1. Old Biddy*

              I have the same problem when my thyroid med level needs adjusting, but I’ve noticed it’s also a lot more common when the room is really crowded/too warm or stuffy. So maybe look into the temperature and airflow of the room.

            2. Totally Minnie*

              You can’t really tell your employee to go to the doctor, though. You can tell them they need to stay awake when they’re at work, and from there it’s on them to figure out how to accomplish that.

    2. Serendipity*

      I agree! I always take a shorter lunch break so I can have a 20 min tea break at 3pm, and thereby remain productive for the rest of the evening. If I don’t I will inevitably get the slow head nod at my desk then sudden jerk awake hoping no-one noticed. It’s mortifying but I cannot help it.

      Falling asleep in meetings is never OK, but I can sympathise because recurring 3pm meetings would be brutal for me. Does she fall asleep in meetings at random times or only the 3pm ones?

      I like your suggestion to grab a coffee, but I would ask a breezy “I’m going for coffee before our next meeting, can I get you one?”

      1. Specialk9*

        Coffee isn’t always a good option that late in the day. But something very cold can keep you awake, applied to bare skin or thin material. A cup of iced liquid against one’s inner arm, or such…

    3. Harper the Other One*

      Circadian rhythm conferences – now THAT’S an amazing concept! What smart thinking!

    4. Anon because SECRETS*

      So, not trying to diagnose this, but it did strike a cord with me. I am newly pregnant, but still have over a month to go before i’m supposed to tell anyone (my god that is hard). I am so exhausted and sick at work some days, even though I’m doing my best to get the right amount of sleep. I’ve given up caffeine for obvious reasons, but can’t tell anyone the real reason why. People have been encouraging me to go back to caffeine because it seems like I am doing super badly without it, but I can’t and can’t even tell them why. So I’m stuck in this weird purgatory where I have a medical condition that explains why I am so tired sometimes, but I’m not supposed to actually tell anyone about it, and there isn’t much I can do but wait for the first trimester to be over. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, other than if someone has given up caffeine, maybe don’t push them about it? It’s really hard to push back on that for me because I miss it SO MUCH, and it is really hard for me to be cold turkey right now.

      1. Erin*

        I’m 30 weeks I tried cutting caffine, but couldn’t do it. Caffeine makes me feel so good and I felt like shit when I tries to cut back to 1 cup a day. I went from 6+ cups of coffee a day to around 3. My baby is doing fine. There are still a lot of studies about it on a fetus. Caffine isn’t poison, it’s not like smoking or alcohol. You and your baby will be fine if you have a small cup in the afternoon as a pick me up. Think about it it’s less dangerous than driving fatigued and getting into a car wreck.
        It really irritates me that there is a whole industry of fear to get mothers to do shit or buy shit that may not be needed. In the book the hospital gave me about pregnancy they had caffine on the same page as sniffing glue.

        1. ket*

          I did a big medical lit search and decided 1 cup of coffee a day was fine during pregnancy :) It’s an individual decision to make.

        2. Specialk9*

          Yeah, it’s ridiculous the things people expect of pregnant people. So much pseudo science, rumor-mongering, anti-scientific evidence, and JUDGMENT. It’s really ridiculous.

          The book Science of Mom did a deep dive into the science and research, and I felt pretty comfortable making decisions after reading all of that. I drank coffee (in moderation) and after the 1st trimester I drank wine (in even more careful moderation – ie measuring rather than just pouring).

          Ha, until the smell of coffee became yet another vomit trigger, in 2nd trimester. I wept.

      2. Future Homesteader*

        Good luck!!! It’s hard to believe, but the sleepiness does usually go away after that first trimester. What got me through it was just resting whenever I could (long naps on weekends) and occasionally taking part of a morning off or leaving early if things were slow (if you have a manager you can trust, maybe clue her in?). You’ll get through it, and congrats!

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          I slept during the whole thing. If I wasn’t at work (and even a few times there) I was sleeping.

      3. Artemesia*

        Or drink decaf tea but don’t mention that is what you are doing to get them off your back. Early pregnancy is so oddly tiring. I remember how much better I felt in the second and third trimesters when you would think things would be worse, what with a giant person kicking your bladder and jumping up and down — but it was the first 3 mos that were exhausting when noone could even tell I was pregnant.

      4. President Porpoise*

        Also preggers (with #2) and about at the same point as you. I believe the amount of caffeine you can have without causing problems is like 200 mg, which is multiple cans of Diet Coke. My doctor also recommended drinking some as a response to pregnancy induced ocular migraines, so there’s that.

        I’m also cutting it out completely though, because I was drinking way too much prior to the baby, so I do feel your pain. I’m finding a quick cat nap in the early afternoon, or a slightly longer one when I get off of work, is helping.

      5. LarsTheRealGirl*

        So – completely your decision how and when you tell – but don’t feel the need to “have to” wait until 12 weeks to tell anyone. I know that’s the “standard” rule, with the thinking being that if you happen to miscarry early you haven’t gotten everyone all excited (so you get to deal with the tragedy alone and without understanding from your friends/coworkers – great plan!).

        You may find it really useful to share at work. I chose to share with my manager very early on (she was the 2nd person I told) because of additional dr appointments due to complications, and terrible tiredness, morning sickness (explain running out of a meeting 3 times in half an hour without telling anyone….). It was really helpful to have her know and she was extremely supportive of accommodations I needed very early on.

        I guess, just don’t feel like you have to follow the “rule” if it’s making your life difficult. The rule is dumb. Do you.

      6. Massmatt*

        I don’t understand why you can’t just tell people you’re pregnant if you want to. Who do you need permission from to do this?

        1. Lora*

          Because the risk of miscarriage is higher and then you have to go around telling all those people that you lost the baby and pretty much burst into tears all day whenever someone asks you or tells you how sorry they are, when you’re barely holding it together and want to turn into a soggy weeping puddle of sadness every time anyone says so much as “hello” to you.

          1. Quackeen*

            And just when you’ve finally gotten through all that, you run into someone who somehow hasn’t heard that you miscarried and they say something well-meaning like, “How’s the pregnancy coming?’ and the whole cycle of grief starts all over again.

      7. Positive Reframer*

        I lucked out because I couldn’t tolerate the taste of coffee so that made it easier. lol I did go back to a cup a day or so after the nausea period passed. Chances are things are going to be similar with caffeine as withdraw symptoms and first trimester symptoms are pretty close. In the end though caffeine or no caffeine its YOUR choice to make and they can just shut their faces. And that goes for “rules” about when you can tell people.

        If you are already two weeks into abstinence, it is pregnancy not lack of caffeine (withdraw symptoms only last for so long)

      8. Nita*

        I haven’t cut caffeine, but it doesn’t wake me up, so I’m out of luck. Sugar still kinda does it, but there’s only so much chocolate I can eat before I get a migraine or heart palpitations. I really feel for OP’s coworker!

    5. IT Adjacent*

      I have never thought of this but will start keeping it in mind when I schedule working meetings!

  9. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #4: People have changing awareness and sleepiness levels throughout the day.

    Many people get sleepy directly after lunch. After all, your body is busy digesting. In German we have the word ‘Suppenkoma’ which literally means ‘soup coma’, which describes this phenomenon.

    And depending on the personal circadian rhythm, many people have a peak in sleepiness around 3 pm.

    I am one of those people. And if you put me in a meeting where I just listen and don’t participate nothing will keep me awake. Not even standing up…

    And in my department I’m sure as hell not the only one who falls asleep in long lecture style meetings.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      I knew there was a word for how I felt after lunch! I eat around 11:40; by 1, I’m crashing hard, especially if I had a bad sleep or if I’m not actively doing anything.

      That’s going to be my go-to explanation from now on: “hey MST, are you listening?” “Oops, sorry, suppenkoma. Not my fault!”

      1. Artemesia*

        The German language is wonderful at coming up with great new words. The way words are created makes it easy to come up with apt new ones when needed.

    2. Mystery bookworm*

      I’m reading Why We Sleep right now, and just finished a segment on how it’s only with modern society that we’ve mostly stopped taking afternoon naps, that they were the norm for most of our history, and the majority of people will get sleepy around 3ish. Which does ring true for me as well…

      1. Glowcat*

        They are still common in Spain, though: the famous siesta. But I recently heard that there’s a bit of protesting because not all offices take them into account when setting work hours.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          And apparently there is a correlation between populations that siesta (still common in parts of the Mediterranean, as you say) and longevity. And although it’s possible to entirely prove causal links, this relationship has remained strong even when accounting for some other common factors, like smoking.

          1. Specialk9*

            I seem to remember an article that said that there’s also a link between countries with siestas and lower business productivity.

            Though now that I think of it, that may have been some hidden xenophobia/racism.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        My grandfather used to take a nap every afternoon and as a kid it was baffling – GROWNUPS don’t nap, BABIES nap! – but as an adult I totally get it.

        1. Myrin*

          Ugh, I’m the worst at napping even though I think that they’re objectively awesome!
          I’m a natural early riser and am at my fittest and most productive until about noon. I totally start to become sleepy during the early afternoon – although not always; if I’m actually very engrossed in something, I stay hyper-focused for as long as I’m doing the thing, and if it stops at, say, five, I won’t become tired then – but I absolutely mustn’t give in and take a nap because 1. I’ll be completely useless for at least two hours afterwards, often paired with a headache or nausea, and 2. I won’t be tired early enough in the evening so that I’ll go to bed later and then I’ll also sleep longer and then my whole day will be shit! It’s a vicious circle!

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            Same. That is why I take as late a lunch as possible and workout – helps combat that cycle then I sleep better at night too.

      3. Tau*

        This reminds me of how traditionally, German shops would close for a few hours around noon to allow for lunch + post-lunch nap. So your local grocery shop might be open 8am-12pm and then 3pm-6pm. It’s pretty rare these days, and the main meal of the day has also mostly shifted from lunch to dinner.

        1. Myrin*

          I wonder if that isn’t mostly a logistical thing here, though. Like, if you’re at work all day and only get home in the evening, you’ll naturally eat your main meal then. But I actually only know one person who’d really rather eat in the evening and doesn’t just do so out of necessity – basically everyone here is always like “it’s midday, must acquire warm, filling sustenance!”.
          (Also, this reminds me that I need to call my local butcher who just opened again after Mittagspause. It’s still common with small shops here in my rural area but there’d be an actual mutiny if grocery chains did it. Although my supermarket-working sister would certainly appreciate that. The break, that is, not the mutiny.)

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, it definitely seems to be a consequence of the general shift to the workday with 30min-1 hour lunch breaks that aren’t long enough for you to go home. (Also, societal shifts meaning that even if you could go home, you are increasingly unlikely to have a stay-at-home wife who has lunch ready and waiting for you.) I do like light lunches myself, but I can’t really separate that from the fact that the only opportunity for me to cook is in the evening and light lunches mean going home earlier… never to mention less sleepiness in the afternoon. (I’m a morning person and the post-lunch dip in productivity is so real.)

            Re: common with small shops where you are – I didn’t want to sound too certain about “this no longer happens”, because although I haven’t seen it recently I also now live in Berlin and I’m never sure if things here are Germany-wide or just Berlin being Berlin. Makes sense that it’s still common in other areas, especially more rural ones.

            1. Glowcat*

              It still happens in Italy with small shops and private offices, even in rather big towns (I used to live in Turin).
              Dad is a lawyer and does 9-13 and 15-20; mom is a teacher and also is off at 13 or 14, so they leave the table set and the pasta pot on the stove in the morning and the first one who gets home turns it on.
              I now live in Norway and have half-hour lunch, it was quite hard to adjust at first.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I eat a substantial lunch because I’m hungriest in the morning. I eat a light breakfast, morning snacks, and chicken and pasta for lunch. I make the chicken in the slow cooker and freeze it with the pasta in individual servings.
            I’m an evening person, I feel at my best from ~late afternoon – midnight. I only get up for my office job because of making a living.
            I also eat a good dinner, so hungry! :) and plenty of snacks. Lots of allergies may have something to do with this – I definitely get very hungry if I have an allergy attack.

    3. Koala dreams*

      I would never have guessed the German word involved soup. In Sweden this phenomen is more associated with heavy food. We have a word in Swedish too: paltkoma (dumpling coma?). Nowadays people don’t eat so much palt, so many just say matkoma (food coma).

      I’m usually more sleepy before lunch, and get more energy around 3 in the afternoon. So I might fall asleep if the meeting is before lunch…

      1. Myrin*

        AHA, that’s the word I know it by but couldn’t think of at the moment (never heard of “Suppenkoma” before)! But then again, I’m a simple person with a primitive brain who also doesn’t eat a lot of soup…

      2. Tau*

        +1 (+2?) from another German who hadn’t heard of “Suppenkoma”. Although to me “Fresskoma” has definite connotations of having eaten too much.

  10. Anon for this*

    You can do what my coworker did to me: complain and get me in trouble every time I ate at my desk. (I can’t make any kind of noise because it offends her.) Now I don’t eat at my desk because it offends her so much and she reports on me.

    Kind of sucks when I am starving hungry and it’s only 3:30, though. Also one day a week I literally can’t eat during my lunch hour due to a standing appointment, so that means I can’t eat all until she goes out for her lunch. Sigh.

    1. Antilles*

      For me, being unable to eat one day a week would be such a major issue that I would absolutely bring it up with management. Not as a “get her in trouble”, but as a “how can we handle this”.
      As you know, Jane doesn’t like when I eat at my desk, so I usually will go out for lunch at noon. I’m generally fine with this*, but every Tuesday, I have that noon meeting, so I can’t. Because I can’t eat at my desk, I’ve been stuck not eating until 3:30 or entirely skipping lunch, which I’m sure isn’t really what anybody wants. How can we resolve this?
      The key is that your tone here is not accusatory or blaming, it’s a matter of fact discussion about how to fix an issue.
      *Even if you aren’t OK with it, you need to say this – the reason behind saying this is to prevent the conversation from getting derailed and re-litigating the current status quo.

    2. Maddie*

      If you are the only one who eats at your desk, that’s different. In this case everyone is eating at their desk. Also, drink a protein drink if you can’t get out.

    3. Kyubey*

      This would be a problem for me because I get hungry quickly and have passed out if I don’t eat regularly every 2-3 hours. I would hate to get a doctor’s note for it, but I would if I had to. And I try to eat relatively softer foods that aren’t as noisy (nothing too crunchy) I wonder what your coworker would do then?

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Have you considered eating early on that one day? Or even just having a snack? I mean, maybe this isn’t a big issue for you but it’s a BIG issue for me. I’ll get all kinds of lightheaded if I need to eat and can’t.

  11. Mark132*

    @LW2 to be blunt you don’t. I eat lunch at my desk because I choose to work out during lunch. Any efforts to change this are not going to be well received by people like me. It works for me.

    1. JamieS*

      Yeah, this is pretty solidly a world doesn’t exist to cater to you situation as far as the eating at desks. I can see maybe being able to make a change with people gathering in groups around OP’s desk and socializing but that’d probably require more capital than it sounds like OP has.

    2. Lorna D*

      i eat at my desk so I can go on walks during lunch (which in addition to being nice are medically prescribed because I have a disorder that puts me at serious risk for strokes if I’m not moving around a fair amount throughout the day). I’d be pretty irritated to lose this because a coworker wanted my lunch structured around what she happened to prefer. And I’d be pretty irritated to push back and be granted some kind of exemption and now I’m awkwardly the only one who’s allowed to eat at my desk, which will invite questions and I’d really rather not have to bring up my health to coworkers who are definitely asking because they’re upset that I’m getting to eat lunch at my desk when they aren’t.

      I feel more than anything though, that this is a great example of why open office plans are way more popular than they ought to be. Not saying they don’t work at all or for anyone, but I think a bunch of offices do them just to do it whether it’s what’s best for that office or not.

      1. Scarlet*

        Yeah, I worked in an open office plan for years and hated it. But when you work around other people, you pretty much have to deal with their quirks (within reason, of course). Like, I live in an apartment so I know that from time to time I’ll hear some noise from the neighbours, that’s just life.
        Also, it sounds like LW2 takes their lunch break earlier than other people, so they’re the ones who are out of sync with most of their coworkers’ habits. Nothing wrong with that, but if they were to complain, it would probably sound like “oh why doesn’t everyone behave like ME?”, especially if the higher-ups eat lunch in their office.
        Full disclosure: I often eat at my desk for several reasons and I’d definitely get pissy if someone decided I needed to change my lunch habits because it annoyed them.

        1. Annie*

          #2 sounds honestly pretty inappropriate and bordering on entitled. I would think very carefully about trying to force such a huge change in your company’s corporate culture just to suit yourself. Trying to make people eat outside? Is that going to be weather-appropriate? How big is the kitchen and does it have tables and chairs? You can’t expect people to eat lunch standing up!

          The LW might want to think about the message they’re sending by eating outside of lunch hours and by refusing to engage with coworkers.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Yea – the whole “The CFO is setting a bad example by eating at his desk!” struck a weird cord with me. It’s not a bad example, it is an example of what he thinks is appropriate behavior for the office. He is demonstrating how the office works. Honesty if the managers are all in at eating at their desk I don’t think it’s worth it to even try to get it to stop. People see eating at their desk as a perk, and you don’t want to be the person seen as trying to get a perk taken away, especially if the managers will not side with you. I don’t think it’s worth the social cost (there is totally gonna be a social cost if you push on this).

            1. Maddie*

              That CEO statement was strange. If people have their own office, why wouldn’t you eat lunch in it?

            2. Courageous cat*

              Damn, that’s honestly surprising to me to find that a perk. Eating at my desk is a nightmare for me. The only way it wouldn’t be is if it meant I still got to use my actual lunch hour for something else fun. But at my past jobs, that wouldn’t fly.

          2. Alli525*

            And really, unless someone is eating *microwaved canned tuna* at their desks, or OP has a medically documented odor sensitivity, there’s no leg to stand on here.

            1. General Ginger*

              Funny you mention that; our canned tuna microwaver is the reason I eat at my desk vs in the kitchen. The smell is horrible, and lingers in the kitchen area for ages.

          3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            I agree. There is a sense of “I don’t like what is going on, so everyone else needs to adjust.” If much of the office–including senior management–engages in a behavior that is typical for many offices, it does seem entitled to expect everyone else to change. As one of my mentors would say: “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Better for OP2 to adjust his/her behavior.

          4. Rainy*

            Even assuming that OP2 lives in a place with balmy weather year-round, there are a lot of people (I know because I’m one of them) who would be destroyed for the rest of the day by having to go out into the allergen-filled world at lunch.

        2. Blue*

          Yeah, the fact that OP is clearly the one out-of-sync really stood out to me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s simply not realistic to expect or even ask everyone to conform to your preferences in that situation. If it’s the ambient noises and smells that bother OP, taking lunch at the standard time seems the most reasonable path toward an outcome that might work for her.

        3. Antilles*

          I think LW2 being out of sync timewise means there’s no real chance of successfully arguing for a change. The obvious response from management when this is brought up is “LW, since you go out anyways, why not just have your lunch a little later; everybody else can have their lunch at their desk as they like and you won’t be bothered by it”. And from there, I just don’t see any way for LW to continue the argument that wouldn’t come off as “I don’t want to change my lunch habits, but I have no issue with expecting other people to change theirs.” I know that’s not what LW really means, but that’s how it’ll be perceived.
          As a fellow early lunch eater (11:30 am, sometimes even earlier), I sympathize that some people really prefer early lunches, but one of the natural consequences of that is that others will be having their lunch when you’re at your desk working and you just need to shrug it off.

          1. Clare*

            Yeah I am also an early lunch eater, which is part of the reason why I eat at my desk. I don’t want to take a break that early in the day and then still have 5+ hours with no break. So I eat while working and then go out for a walk later in the day. I’d be pretty annoyed if someone made a huge fuss about eating at my desk (this has been the standard in every office I’ve ever worked in over the course of 10 years).

          2. Pebbles*

            I eat lunch at 11am because I’m a minimal breakfast eater (granola bar typically). But I don’t begrudge others for eating later than I do.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Open office plans are a fad. Unfortunately, many businesses follow fads without thinking.

    3. Aaron*

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to eat lunch in a few minutes at my desk because I had such a busy day. Especially as you move into management and leadership roles, this just becomes a necessity at times.

      1. Antilles*

        Senior managers/leaders eating at their desk every now and then has been the case in pretty much every company I’ve ever worked at. It’s just the reality that at that level, you often have so many conference calls/meetings/scheduled things that squeezing in a quick sandwich at your desk is the only way to get time in your schedule to eat.

        1. Ali G*

          Yes this struck me as really naive on the OPs part. The CEO and COO don’t have the luxury of leaving their offices for lunch everyday. Describing them as “setting a bad example” is really inappropriate. They are setting a bad example – they are running a business!

    4. Les G*

      Wow, where is all this hostility toward OP coming from? Every time we have a letter about sounds every self-diagnosed misophonic in the comments has their back, but this OP is the only worker in history who does not want to smell other folks’s food and hear them chewing while she works? Yeesh.

      1. Mark132*

        The hostility is coming from LW2 wanting to demand people conform to their preferences. And in general people don’t like being told what to do, especially when the reason given boils down to “it annoys me”. And if we were talking karaoke parties during lunch time, I’d agree, demand away. But proposing to demand people not eat lunches at their desk during lunch time and talk to their coworkers? Most people get a little hostile when presented something like that.

        1. zora*

          I don’t see this as entitled or demanding. I see this as a common issue that comes up often of a culture mis-fit that can go both ways. Sometimes it’s the Letter Writer who is out of step with the culture of the office, sometimes the LW is dealing with a coworker who is out of step.

          The kind way to approach these is to point out that offices have their own culture, and if you are the outlier on a non-significant issue like where people eat lunch, or how people use Instant Message, you need to either adjust or go find a place with a culture that fits you better. These are things that are hard to see from inside, especially when it’s something that pushes a personal button/pet peeve, and many times once it’s pointed out, the LW’s reaction is “Oh, right! Huh, I didn’t see that, that makes sense.” I have been the one who didn’t realize something until someone else pointed it out.

          I also think people really jump ahead when they get hostile to the LW. Acting as if she has already gone to people and “Demanded” they change their habits. When in fact, she is writing the letter exactly because she’s *wondering* if there is a way to change it! If she was a total jerk, she wouldn’t be writing this letter, she’d already be walking around yelling at people in her office. So, let’s assume that she might listen to our advice before getting all angry.

          1. JM60*

            “I don’t see this as entitled or demanding.”

            The OP literally wants to demand that everyone else change their behavior to suit their preferences. That’s what it means to be “demanding”.

            1. zora*

              She’s ASKING if she can change this. I am assuming that if she is told no you can’t, she’ll deal with it. She hasn’t ACTUALLY demanded anything of anyone. That is what ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ means to me.

          2. Observer*

            The problem here is not just a culture misfit, though.

            Firstly, the OP is taking a fairly judgemental tone here. “Bad example” implies that this is objectively wrong. And, it totally is not.

            Worse, the OP is expecting an entire office full of people to make a “sea change” (their words, not mine) to accommodate their schedule. Even someone who explained why they NEED to do things this way would get some push back for that. When it’s presented as just “because I do things differently” it really does come off as entitled.

      2. Ali G*

        OP is choosing to make themselves an outlier in the company culture and then wants everyone to change to their habits to suit their preferences. Not gonna happen. I agree that the group socializing in the work area is problematic, and maybe that can be changed. But to me, it seems unlikely as it’s common knowledge this happens and no one higher up has tried to change it.

        The OP could make their life a lot easier but either actually socializing (which might make life more pleasant all around) with the rest of the co-workers during lunch, or taking a lunch break away from the office at the same time they take lunch. But trying to change what *everyone* else does to suit ones own preferences will never fly and will make the OP look really bad in the long run.

        1. Les G*

          Look, personally? I agree with you. But on every other post like this we have folks falling all over themselves to agree with the OP and call their coworkers rude and inconsiderate. So I think it’s pretty hypocritical that in this one instance, the OP is at fault.

          1. Specialk9*

            Calling people hypocritical for not agreeing with one OP but agreeing with others is oddly inflammatory.

            Your expecting that everyone will respond exactly the same to everyone regardless of the actual situation in the letters feels like you don’t think we have any discernment, or even right to discern.

            Letters, and letter writers, are not interchangeable; advice based on letters is also not interchangeable. We wouldn’t bother to comment if that were true!

          2. Ali G*

            I get what you are saying, but look at it this way – the vast majority of the letters Alison gets are from people who, objectively are being mistreated, wronged, or taken advantage of. The others are people just looking for advice on how to deal with something outside the workplace norms. A very small portion are letters from people who actually wrong/clueless (see the person who said they were “taking initiative” but really went around the boss, doubled down and got combative, and was surprised when fired), and when they are, people point it out.

            So it might seem like everyone agrees with the LW all the time, but it’s not true – and a lot of people seem to agree that this one is on the LW to solve on their own.

    5. MLB*

      I do think she needs to just deal with the “eating at their desks” thing, but my issue is with the fact that a group of them gathers in the open work space to chat and have lunch. This is NOT okay. If a group of them wants to have lunch together, they need to go to the space designated for lunch.

      1. Scarlet*

        Except that’s obviously the office culture, so unless LW is a manager, they have no standing to tell them they “need to go” anywhere.

      2. Sam.*

        If there were like five randoms who were chilling in the main space for lunch while some people worked around them, I would totally agree with you. But it sounds like pretty much everyone in the room save OP spends the standard lunch hour in this collective space, eating and socializing, which suggests it’s a pretty big part of company culture. Expecting to change that because one person wants the room to be used for a different purpose during that hour seems unrealistic, at best.

      3. Observer*

        That assumes that the kitchen actually has enough seating space to accommodate that.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      I eat lunch at my desk because I choose to work out during lunch.

      That’s not what’s going on here, though. The LW’s coworkers aren’t grabbing a meal at their desks and then going out to do other things. They’re intentionally socializing over their lunch hour, in the open office, when they could be doing the exact same thing in the breakroom. So I can see why she thinks it would be an easy thing to change.

      However, I also see why she’s wrong. #2, this is a culture thing that you are not going to change. The higher-ups aren’t setting a “bad” example, they’re just setting an example that’s different from what you want. If you can’t change your own schedule so you leave for lunch while everyone else is lunching in the office, I don’t think there’s anything else you can or should do about it.

    7. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      Yeah. I work in an office with 200 people, our lunchroom has space for 20, and we’re not allowed to eat in conference rooms. Oh, and I work downtown in a big city, so “eating in your car” doesn’t exist. Damn right I eat at my desk.

  12. Officer Crabtree*

    #4 If I have to sit and listen to someone else talk, after 2 minutes I struggle to keep my eyes open.
    If you get people to participate in the discussion, it might keep them awake. And the meetings will probably be more productive.

  13. nnn*

    My brain wrote a story where #2 picks up their computer and starts working in the break room to get away from all the people eating and chatting in the main office.

    1. misspiggy*

      I mean, that’s exactly what my husband does when he can’t stand the eating noises – the cafeteria tables are further apart than the desks.

    2. Ealasaid*

      OP #1, it sounds like you ran into what I call a spamcruiter. They all seem to use the same script, and 9/10 of the time I can hear a phone bank in the background, or there are obvious indicators of auto-dialing (or both). These people are not legit recruiters as far as I can tell. I believe they operate by scraping job sites, matching resumes to job listings, and then trying to shop the resume-holder to the listing company. They always sound like telemarketers to me, with that familiar “I have said this 100 times today already” tone. Their email messages all read like they’re from the same family of scripts, and often have pretty awful copy-and-paste formatting nonsense.

      The one time I picked up for one of them, they were really belligerent with me. I don’t speak to them anymore. I apply directly to jobs, or go through recruiters from companies I know. I only pick up the phone if I have a call already scheduled or if the number is in my contacts list and it’s someone legit (I have contacts for spamcruiters, scammers, robo-diallers, etc., they all go straight to voicemail. Saves me time and energy!).

  14. Not Australian*

    OP#4, one thing you might want to look into is the meeting venue; is it stuffy, airless, too warm? Does the sun shine in directly on the place the co-worker sits? If so, it may be useful to change the conditions if you can – perhaps just finding a different place for your co-worker to sit would help.

    I speak from experience; I used to attend one particular after lunch meeting every week where I had to sit in full sun (no blinds, no chance of moving, windows didn’t open) and always struggled to stay awake. Other meetings, other venues, other times – fine; this one, not so much.

    If you’re going to talk to your co-worker about it anyway it might help to frame it as potentially being a problem with the room itself, which you could work together to solve.

    1. Mbarr*

      Maybe consider a fun activity half way through the meeting? At my old company, for our team meetings (and I stress this was only for our team – never with people outside of it) we’d do silly things in the middle of the meeting. Examples: Play Google Family Feud together (search for it, it’s fun), or Ikea or Death Metal (another browser game), we’d have a random debate over colours (is that wall purple or blue? – it was surprising the vitriol that erupted over that one). One person, whenever they led the meetings, drew stick figures in Paint and added them to their slides to illustrate points.

      All these things are just done for fun, and are meant to break up otherwise dull routine meetings.

      1. Clare*

        I don’t think the LW needs to go to great lengths to change the meeting time and structure for everyone when there is only one person who is having an issue.

        1. bonkerballs*

          One person she’s noticed having an issue. There could be others who are just way better at hiding it. I find most meetings to be excruciating, especially one where I’m not actively contributing much and instead am mostly listening. I come away from our weekly staff meetings with bruises up and down the undersides of my arms from nearly an hour of constant pinching in order to keep myself awake. I don’t know what the deal is, because I can be wide awake walking into the meeting, but as soon as we start talking I’m gone.

    2. Courageous cat*

      There are a lot of comments in here like this one, like how the managers should change the lighting/temperature/time/etc of the meeting, and it seems like it’s missing the overall point of: we’re adults, we should be able to expect each other to handle a 30-60 minute meeting without falling asleep, no matter *what* the conditions are like. It doesn’t matter if it’s right after lunch either, lots of things happen after meals, we eat at least 3 times a day so it’s bound to happen.

      I dunno, I just don’t buy the idea that we should be coddling someone else. Drink a coffee with your lunch. Eat a salad so you don’t feel weighed down. It’s your responsibility as an employee to make sure you’re awake, not your employer’s.

  15. anonymouse*

    #4 Others have also said this, but for me the key to staying awake in early afternoon meetings are to drink coffee a couple hours before lunch / before the meeting (because caffeine takes a while to really kick in), and either having lots to contribute or taking notes and/or doodling a little.
    If I have to sit still and just listen, I’m almost guaranteed to get sleepy quickly.
    It took me a while to figure this out, particularly the coffee timing.

    So what can you do?
    * Try to engage everyone in the conversation.
    * If that’s not possible, think about whether everyone needs to be in this meeting. We tend to invite everyone whom it might concern, but often that’s not a very productive way to spend everyone’s time and it would be better to have a small meeting with the people who can really contribute and then send notes to the others who just need to be informed of the results.
    * Ask her to take notes (might depend on the type of meeting)
    * Schedule the meeting to before lunch.

    1. Blue*

      I don’t have an issue with dozing off, but whenever I’m in a meeting where I’m bored to tears and likely to completely zone out, I take copious notes. The meetings are pretty much never worthy of that much interest or detail, but note-taking forces me to stay at least semi-engaged. That’s been my trick since freshman year of college, and I still use it all the time. Whether or not it’s helpful will depend on the employee, but it might be worth a suggestion.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes! Same strategy here!
        (Thought I was somehow ‘getting old’ because I also suffer “the slows”, as I call it, in mid-afternoon.)

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I second he notes suggestion! For whatever reason, bored and sleepy are cross wired in my brain and if I’m not engaged, either with the meeting/lecture content or writing something I’m starting to doze after about 30-45 minutes.

    2. Queenie*

      “If that’s not possible, think about whether everyone needs to be in this meeting.”

      ^This! I had a job where I had to go to a 3:00 pm meeting once a week. It was 2 hours long and it was sooo hard to stay awake. It involved a couple of my teammates catching my supervisor and each other up on what they were working on. Problem was, with the exception of a few small/random things I helped with, I wasn’t working on that stuff and I wasn’t in all the other meetings they had about their work, so I didn’t understand what they were talking about and had nothing to contribute. It was a job where I had learned not to question anything my supervisor said to do, otherwise I would have asked if I really needed to be there.

      1. Sam.*

        My old boss tried scheduling a standing meeting at 4 pm on Fridays because it was the only time he had free in his packed schedule. Half the people there didn’t really *need* to be there, and the other half were just displeased about it because, well…4 pm on Friday. Boss was totally baffled about why these meetings weren’t very productive!

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      > think about whether everyone needs to be in this meeting

      This is huge. Mostly, most people in a meeting don’t need to be there. Here is a helpful way to think about it: each person in the meeting room is costing the company $100/hour. How many people are in the room, and for how long? That’s how expensive the meeting is, over and above whatever bagels you bring in.

      That number will vary with people’s salaries, but the rule of thumb is: double what the person’s take-home salary is and that’s the annual cost of that person to the company. Divide that by 2880 and that’s their cost per hour to the company. Multiply that by all the people in the room and get quite a surprising number! (And I picked up the $100 about 10 years ago, in the Bay Area. It’s probably higher by now at least in large metro areas.)

  16. Sleepy head*

    4: OP, just remember that you have NO basis to say you don’t think it is a medical issue. There are a myriad of disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness or that can impact a person’s wakefulness. Most of them are invisible, and symptoms tend to be dismissed.

    I was told since my teen years that I was sleepy because I was depressed. I was taking an SSRI and a mood stabilizer for my “type 2 bipolar disorder.” Took til my mid-30s for a doc to say maybe you’re depressed because you’re sleepy. Now I take wakefulness promoters, stay awake the whole day for the first time in my life, and I’m off all the other meds.

    All those years I believed that I just couldn’t handle life like everyone else. I was always embarrassed about falling asleep in public. It was hugely shameful to me. I called it “non consensual napping.” With the right treatment, I handle life pretty great and also stay awake for meetings.

    I have no idea if your employee has a hypersomnia or other disorder contributing to her sleeping. But neither do you.

    1. straws*

      This struck me as well. As someone who lived with undiagnosed narcolepsy for 15 years, even the person with the medical condition doesn’t always know what’s going on. It’s odd to me to make that assumption about someone at work. That said, there’s no reason to assume one way or another–it needs to be addressed regardless of why it’s occurring. It may not be the OPs place to suggest a medical condition, but pointing out that it’s not acceptable could push the employee to get checked out or at least start working on coping mechanisms. There are numerous ways to address and ward off sleepiness, especially if you know that a triggering event is coming up, whether it’s a medical condition or not.

      1. PookieLou*

        Yes! Narcolepsy is too out-of-left-field for most people to even consider it as a potential problem. It took me months to be diagnosed, because it requires ruling out more common issues first, and sleep testing gets expensive. It also doesn’t manifest the way people expect. (I didn’t think my symptoms were dramatic enough to possibly be narcolepsy. The unconscious Argentinian from Moulin Rouge was my only basis for comparison.) This isn’t an armchair diagnosis, only personal experience. Many medical issues cause fatigue, and not all of them are obvious, or well-understood. They can affect people who are otherwise perfectly healthy.

        OP#4, please don’t assume disrespect on the part of your employee. Even if that is the case, I don’t think it’s professional to approach the issue with that assumption. If it is an issue that’s beyond their control, they need your full support and understanding as you work out short-term and long-term solutions.

    2. Yorick*

      OP doesn’t know it’s NOT a medical issue, but she only said that she’s not aware of one.

      It definitely COULD be a medical issue, but that doesn’t matter until the person asks for an accomodation. In the meantime, she is expected to stay awake at meetings.

      And I kinda get why everyone’s talking about the room/time/necessity of her being at the meeting, but ultimately there is one person falling asleep and that’s not appropriate, regardless of whether the meeting is boring, the room is warm, or we just had lunch.

      I mean, I’m bored in meetings right after lunch all the time but I have never actually fallen asleep in one.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      Agreed, and I also want to highlight OP’s comment about coffee – please, for the love of all things caffeinated, do not suggest that she drink more coffee. This woman is an adult in the 21st century – I guarantee you she has heard of coffee and is aware of how it works. Depending on your relationship and the mood she’s in when you talk, she will likely take your suggestion somewhere in the range of “not helpful” to highly patronizing.

      Focus on the *behaviour* you need to see (staying awake in meetings), rather than on advice for how she can do it. You can certainly ask her if she has any suggestions, but please don’t offer any of your own unless she specifically asks.

      1. Specialk9*

        Lol to “I guarantee you she has heard of coffee and is aware of how it works.”

        Always a really good idea to stop before giving advice and think, how likely is it that this has a) occurred to them, b) been researched extensively by this person, c) tried along with a whole range of ideas.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          That was actually some passive-aggressive snarking on my part, which I probably shouldn’t have directed to the OP! (Sorry OP!) It should actually have been directed to my colleague. Yesterday he saw that I had been sent an email that specified it was a followup to request #1234, and he helpfully suggested that I check request #1234 for the background. Yeah, thanks dude – that had actually occurred to me already!

    4. Lise*

      Yes yes yes this. To me this sounded like undiagnosed sleep apnea. I was told for years that I didn’t “fit the profile” for sleep apnea. Never mind that I was falling asleep at work, would spend half the weekend napping, or would drive to work punching myself in the leg to keep from falling asleep. (I really feel you about the “nonconsensual napping” language!)

      Finally a doctor believed me and sent me for a sleep study. GUESS WHAT. I have pretty severe sleep apnea.

      I’ve been using a CPAP machine for nearly ten years now and sometimes I look back and wonder how the hell I managed for so long without it…

      So yeah, please, OP#4, try to be sympathetic here, and don’t do what my Old Bad Job did — which is fail to mention it for years and then fire me with that as an excuse.

    5. Nita*

      Or a personal issue. I can think of quite a few reasons why this coworker may not be getting enough sleep at home, and long meetings where you just have to sit and listen may be pushing her over the edge. Most people don’t fall asleep in meetings for the fun of it, or because they think no one will notice if they grab a nap right there in front of their coworkers. (Oh, and seeing as it’s summer, the room could be too warm, which really doesn’t help).

      1. Courageous cat*

        Okay I hear you but like…. we all have personal issues. A lot of these comments are just offering excuses, when most adults can (and should) be expected to stay awake during the workday, barring a largely *uncommon* physical reason for it, such as narcolepsy. Then you add personal issues into the mix, like not getting enough sleep at home – I mean, that’s life, that’s part of being an adult, you have to stay awake at work anyway.

        Of course people are humans and should be treated accordingly, there’s nuances to every situation, but some of these comments just want to dismiss any blame from the employee whatsoever – and I say this as a very chronically sleepy person who also struggles to stay awake in an office setting.

        If there are medical reasons for not being able to stay awake, then that’s a different story, but I don’t think that’s the necessarily the most likely story by any means, and I do think people gravitate towards narratives where someone’s undesirable behavior is out of their control is the most likely explanation.

  17. Kir Royale*

    #4 I had a class once where it was me and 2 other students sitting in front of the professor’s desk in his office. The class was at 1,30 after lunch and lasted for an hour. No matter how much coffee I drank or what I had for lunch, I could not stay awake the full hour. I felt bad about it but no one ever commented.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      Computer science 101 in my first year of university. Right after lunch twice a week, in a large, warm, and dark lecture theatre. If I got there early enough, I could get a seat next to the wall so I could lean against it and close my eyes. To this day I don’t know how I passed that class.

      1. PookieLou*

        Not directly related, but that reminds me of church with my college roommates. For lack of an actual church building, we met in a drama theater. The room was dark, and the chairs were comfy. Every week, my one roommate would nod off, and sporadically talk in her sleep! We visibly annoyed a few people for laughing in church, but I’d like to see them keep it together when the person next to them randomly yells out, “MOSES!!” or “POLAR BEARS!” in the middle of a service. Plus, she’d bite at anyone who tried to wake her up.

  18. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    To me, the word ‘bitch’ (like the c word, and many others) falls into that category of ‘it’s OK to use it about a thing, but not to use it at a person’.

    E.g. If someone in my office said ‘the printer’s being a complete bitch again’ or ‘the commute was a bitch today’ or even ‘I’m so bored with people bitching about the coffee machine!’ no-one would bat a eyelid. If someone said ‘Jane’s being a bitch’, that would be a completely different matter.

    1. Bones*

      I think that drawing a connection between complaining & women is inherently sexist, though.

      1. Emi.*

        Yes, and so is “this printer is bad so I’m going to compare it to the female body.” When you’re using misogynistic slur, you’re using it against all women, even if you think you’re not. That’s how slurs work.

    2. LilyP*

      The first case still bothers me, even if it’s not about a person. The statement still relies on a gendered slur for impact. Plus I think using it that way just reinforces the “frustrating/annoying/complaining => women” association that the word already makes, and normalizes it as an ok word to say *sometimes*, which makes it easier for people like the OPs boss to make all these “oh but I didn’t use it AT anyone” excuses…and then we all have to have a debate about whether this one specific instance is an allowable usage or not (like using that word about, or even in front of, your female reports is ever meaningless). Is it so hard to just call the printer a butthead? Are “whining” or “annoying” suddenly beneath everyone?

    3. Maddie*

      People will bat an eyelash if that’s the language you are using at work. You just don’t realize it.

  19. Myrin*

    #3, I really like Alison’s wording and I’m sure you’ll be able to implement it well – you sound very confident and like you only needed an appropriate starting phrase to get the conversation going, so good luck with that!

    As an aside and just out of curiosity: You say that Fergus only started to use the word “recently” – any idea about what brought that change along? Is he under the misguided belief that it’s hip and cool to use now? Is he having memory problems and reverting to using words he used to use but stopped as he got older? Does he have trouble with a woman in his personal life and now sees “bitches” everywhere?
    Obviously not relevant to the professional conversation you want to have with him at all but whenever something like this changes so abruptly, I can’t help but wonder what on earth changed.

    1. fogharty*

      “Is he under the misguided belief that it’s hip and cool to use now?“

      I blame Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad” where it punctuated most of his sentences.

    2. Les G*

      Hammer, meet head. Thanks to my wife’s d-bag (see? Nice gender-neutral insult) of an ex we are all too familiar with the “one woman screwed me over and now they’re all b!tches” phenomenon. Among other considerations, I’m just like–I’ll thank you not to use my loved one’s actions as an excuse to treat others poorly, mmkay?

      1. Beehoppy*

        Are you saying d-bag is gender neutral?? That’s just an abbreviation of douchebag which is… pretty gendered.

      2. fposte*

        “D-bag” isn’t gender-neutral, though; it’s just a shortened form of douchebag, which is an insult because it involves women’s genitals. I’m always puzzled as to how that one flies under the radar.

        1. Les G*

          I meant it was gender neutral in the sense that it can be used for people of any gender. But I’m gonna push back *hard* on the claim that it’s an insult because it “involves women’s genitals.” It’s an insult based on a product predicated solely on the fact that women’s genitals are unclean and smell bad and need expensive products to purify them, which in my opinion makes it the perfect word to describe misogynistic jerkweeds like the aforementioned ex. Folks upthread are discussing the same thing.

          1. Les G*

            Aaaaaand by “fact” I meant “premise.” I definitely *don’t* think it’s a fact…but the douche industry sure does.

          2. Specialk9*

            I feel like that’s a subtlety missed for most people. I think douchebag comes across as gendered against women, not as a feminist rant against sexist products and their ilk. (Though I agree it should!)

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Douchebag is an insult based solely on the idea that genitals are unclean and smelly, yes. Women’s AND men’s genitals are smelly, my friend. (Even when clean, they have special genital odors.) But only women use douchebags, and that’s what makes it a gendered insult.

            Fun fact: the same bag can be a hot-water bottle, a douche-bag, and an enema-bag, depending on what stopper is used, and what attachment at the end of the tubing. The packaging usually includes all types. But do we call anyone “enema bags”? I haven’t heard that one, personally. And it would be truly gender-neutral, since we all have butt-holes.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              Damn, I should have refreshed before leaving my comment–I actually tried to start using “enemabag” instead, but it just doesn’t flow so now I mostly just don’t say either.

            2. Specialk9*

              Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee talks about exactly that, in the Kathleen Madigan episode, without remotely acknowledging the whole gender thing. It was like it was this whole hilarious MYSTERY, and Kathleen Madigan was not touching it.

              Why DON’T we call people enema-bags, or futons, or footstools? “That guy’s a real ottoman!”

              (It was a weird episode, with one of the few women on the show having a guy lurking in the back seat, but I think she requested it. It still had weird optics.)

          4. Beehoppy*

            But it’s gendered in the sense that it’s insulting to women. “You’re something that goes up women’s nasty stinky genitals” It’s an insult, and any insult that references my genitalia I find offensive.

            If you’re referencing women’s genitals in an insult, the underlying assumption is that there is something wrong with women’s genitals.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, it’s not like men use douches.
          Lately I’ve been trying to replace gendered insults with neutral equivalents when I talk and douchebag was a tough one to find a replacement for. I finally settled on “enemabag” as the best one, but it just doesn’t have as punchy a sound when you say it out loud. Ah, well. Sacrifices.

    3. Work Appropriate*

      Original Poster here — I also think Alison’s wording is great and I can make it work.

      I really don’t know what it is about Fergus. I don’t think there is anything that has triggered it, maybe he just used it once and then it’s the word that now comes to him in certain situations? He has a loving relationship with his wife and grown daughters, and works closely with many of our senior female staff members.

      1. neverjaunty*

        And is “not politically correct”? It doesn’t sound like insulting his female colleagues (and c’mon, his phrasing is a not very subtle way of pretending he isn’t the one doing the insulting) is wildly out of character for him.

  20. aussieslang*

    About #3 i’m australian so it might be different but bitch and the C word are so common that I barely notice it. It’s only when it’s angrily directed at someone that I have a bad reaction.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Yes, Britain and Australia have very different takes on these two terms. The fact//// /////t//////////////[i[[[[[[[[iiiiiiimpmmmmmm

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Let’s try that again. I’m fostering kittens and one got onto my laptop’s keyboard (I use a separate keyboard) and that was just TOO funny to delete.

        Britain and Oz have very different takes on those two terms. The fact that the c-word can be used toward *men* was very eye-opening for me when I watched Queer as Folk. (Also the word “twat”, which in the US is slightly less rude but still dirty, if that makes sense.)

        I think the fact that y’all lost all your men in both world wars, so that women’s labor was *needed* between and after the wars, made a big difference socially. Women here were harangued back into their houses after WW2, and they had all moved into suburbs where they were isolated and slowly went crazy. The US women’s movement came out of some major frustration! that British women didn’t experience. (Note: I have wildly oversimplified here but the gist is accurate and if anyone wants more info I’ve got it for you. That Women’s Studies degree did do me some good!)

  21. Marion Ravenwood*

    OP #4, my first thought is that whilst it might not be a recognised medical condition, it could well be sleep deprivation. A pretty extreme example, granted, but if for whatever reason your colleague isn’t getting much sleep (and it might not necessarily be work-related) then that could be why she’s falling asleep in meetings. I have a side project that requires me to work late nights on top of a full-time job, and at particular times of the year when that gets busy I’ll often find myself dozing off on the way to/from work. It’s purely being over-tired and there’s often nothing I can do but ride it out, so it could be something like a particularly busy life period or something more long-term/underlying.

    I think Alison’s suggested initial script is very good, but I would also be prepared for your employee to potentially come back with something about stress, either within or outside work. And yes, she’s an adult, but it might require you to work with her to fix it if it’s not a short-term thing or if she can’t totally solve it on her own.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Yes, I should have said – I don’t drive to work! I get a train and then the bus/tube. Apologies for lack of clarity.

      1. JM60*

        This is partly why I can’t wait for everyone to have fully autonomous self driving cars. So many lives will be saved, as fatigued and under the influence driving will be a thing of the past.

        “OK Google. I’m drunk. Drive me home.”

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It’ll be trucks first. Major truck-driver shortage in this country. I highly recommend the podcast “Containers” which looks at shipping thru the lens of containerization. (Link in name.)

          1. Specialk9*

            I’m really worried about all the truckers who will lose their jobs. The ones I talk to are very worried.

  22. Glomarization, Esq.*

    As I’ve said before, I am old, and IDAF, and I do not put up with people using the word “bitch.”

    Fergus: “Jane changed this policy that impacts her staff. They might think she’s a bitch, but I think it was a needed move.”

    Me: “Wow, why would you call Jane a bitch?” “What do you mean, a bitch?” “How does changing a policy make her a bitch?”

    When Fergus says “they might think,” these are weasel words that cover up what he himself thinks. Or anyway, even if that’s not the case, it’s time to return awkward, outdated, misogynistic term to sender, and not to tolerate it in a professional setting. Ugh.

    1. J.B.*

      They’re either weasel words or he wants to specifically draw attention to the fact that this is a WOMAN who is also a manager. I really can’t fathom anyone saying that about a male peer.

    2. Maddie*

      I would have spoken up and said could we please get through this meeting without using the term bitch? Thanks. Would Boss say: Tim may be viewed as a pr!ck if we don’t move forward but I agree with him. No.

  23. 653-CXK*

    OP#1: A few months ago, a contract agency cold called me to talk about positions, and the first thing she wanted me to do is download Skype for a video interview. I told her I didn’t have Skype, but she persisted, so I downloaded it and we had the video interview. After that, they gave me the Excel assessment (not good) and my “onboarding” documents (some “highlights” including binding arbitration)

    When the hiring manager called me, I already had a bad taste in my mouth with the pushy nature of the first recruiter and reading some comments on Glassdoor. I told her that the company I wouldn’t be a good fit for me, and after pressing for answers*, she gave up and said, ‘Good luck on your search!’ and hung up.

    *After all this, the hiring manager sent me a welcoming email, and I asked the questions I meant to ask during the phone conversation. I have not gotten a response back yet, but it’s probably for the best.

    1. 653-CXK*

      The “highlights” (which I forgot to complete) were not only binding arbitration (couldn’t sue the company in small claims), but a little paragraph suggesting I schedule my interviews at the client’s convenience, as in early in the morning, during lunch, or late in the afternoon. I sent those as questions to the hiring manager in an email rather than telling her on the phone, and I defaulted to “sorry, this would not be a good fit for me” when I spoke on the phone.

  24. Bookworm*

    #2: You’re going to have to get over it. I personally HATE the open office concept with the fire of a thousand suns but that is apparently the culture of the place. If anything, this may make you seem more like an outlier if the top people do eat lunch at their desk and you don’t.

    1. There is a Life Outside the Library*

      Yeah, IMO the open office is the problem. Whether it’s eating or talking or weird foot tapping, having to be 100% at your best while trying to filter out other people is very draining and unproductive. There’s really nothing LW can do, except to enjoy their time outside of the office when they do leave.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Why do companies keep insisting on open office floor plans when employee so obviously DO NOT WANT THEM?
      It’s horrid, horrid trend.

        1. Observer*

          What’s really stupid about this is that there is lots of evidence that it doesn’t really save money. You just don’t see the line items for lost productivity. etc.

      1. Anxa*

        It’s incredible to me how little employers can care about productivity. I could be 25-33% more productive with my main task if I had a computer that wasn’t so slow.

        Similarly, we have a break room at the other end of the building and it takes 6 minutes to get to. So to use it, that’s 12 minutes of my lunch break just to move. I won’t eat at my desk because I do find it rude, and I’m not at the can’t beat them join them point yet.

        Other job also encourages a causal eat in the office vibe which means that instead of having 4 hours of time to get focused work done, I have maybe 30mins to an hour when people aren’t chomping away.

      2. Kat in VA*

        Somethingsomething Agile open office collaboration kumbaya somethingsomething. One of those ideas that sounds great in theory but is horrid in practice.

        I have yet to meet someone in person who just looooves open office plans. Even if it’s a little chest-high cubicle half-wall, people like a wee bit of privacy, as well as feeling like they have a little bit of their *own* space.

  25. Nea*

    OP#4 – in my current office I am infamous for standing through meetings. This is because if I didn’t, I’d sleep through them. You just can’t put an insomniac in a room and talk for a while without that happening.

    The person running the meeting might try scheduling a brighter room, or scheduling during the morning, or making it a lunch meeting and having food to concentrate on (or just having cookies even). Few people fall alseep with full mouths.

    But as caffeine can be contraindicated by health or religion, then suggesting coffee is a bad idea. I recommend recommending standing for the employee and keeping the meeting moving quickly for you.

    1. Les G*

      This is reminding me of that b.s. letter from the other day where the OP was being hassled for closing her eyes in the break room. Some folks listen better sitting with their eyes closed! Some folks need to stand! It pisses me off when folks care more about “optics” than letting their employees freakin’ breathe.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        Yeah, I’m one of those people – I don’t need my eyes closed, necessarily, but I find it more difficult to concentrate on what somebody’s saying when I’m looking directly at them. I listen better when I’m blankly staring out the window or at the table – but that doesn’t look good, so I have to make a conscious effort to look directly at people who are talking. Which distracts me from what they are actually saying.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      According to my military friends, standing at meetings when you’re tired is perfectly acceptable behavior and part of their culture. I’ve done it a couple times in less-formal meetings and I really hope it catches on in corporate culture more widely.

      1. AnotherJill*

        I used to work with someone who would occasionally get up and walk around the perimeter of the room. Nobody minded at all.

    3. Kowalski! Options!*

      +1 to the idea of room choice. We have one meeting room in our office which never, ever gets booked in the afternoon: the HVAC is almost nonexistent (stale air central), it’s located right across from a director’s office (so you can’t keep the door open to let the air circulate) and the fluorescent lighting isn’t anywhere near bright enough. It’d be perfect for power napping if we had a sofa in there, but as a meeting room, it’s the pits.

    4. straws*

      Not only can caffeine be contraindicated, it’s also not always helpful. A single cup of coffee can give me an extra push, but if I have any more caffeine than that I start to get sleepy. If I have a lot more, I will pass out unexpectedly (usually at inconvenient times). Coffee would definitely not get the results that the OP is looking for with me!

    5. Seriously?*

      Just as caffeine can be contraindicated for health reasons, so can standing. I think it is far better to stay away from making any suggestions initially and simply state the expectation that she stay awake. She can figure out how to do that or if it continues to happen then the whole list of suggestions can be given, including coffee, with no suggestion pushed on her.

      1. Ali G*

        Yeah this. I can’t have caffeine, because I am really sensitive to it. If I have even a cup of green tea after 11 am I will be up all night. If my boss expected me to drink coffee in the afternoon for any reason, we’d have a far bigger problem than me dozing off.

      2. Forrest*

        I think the OP should treat her like an adult and skip the “you are expected to stay awake during meetings” since that’s a pretty standard thing for people to know. Just skip right to suggestions. If she can’t stand, she can’t stand. If she can’t drink caffeine, she can’t drink caffeine. Unless these are two traumatic things for her to acknowledge, she’ll get what the OP is saying and can just say “those won’t work for me but I’ll try this.” Which is what you’re suggesting with the condescending “you need to stay awake” expectation.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        Pro-tip from a gluttonous friend: If you sleep with candy in your mouth, you will dream about food and be able to taste it in the dream, and it’s better food than the candy.

        (Also, you might choke, but, you know…)

    6. Observer*

      I recommend against making ANY recommendations. It is totally not the OP’s place.

  26. drpuma*

    OP3, you mention that you and Fergus have a good rapport, so rather than “You may not realize…” you could lead with “I was surprised to hear you talk about Jane as a bitch. Normally I wouldn’t expect you to say something like that about one of my fellow employees.” As so many other folks have mentioned, Fergus definitely knows that it’s more or less acceptable, and he’s counting on it being less acceptable. Depending on your relationship it may be more effective for you to appeal to his better nature, or at least his idea of himself as a good boss.

    1. Work Appropriate*

      OP here — Well, he actually uses less than PC terms somewhat regularly, and often says something along the lines of “I hope nobody tells HR!” in a jovial way, so I’m actually not surprised to hear him talk this way. Not surprised, but still offended. I think going from the “You may not realize” tact may be more true to life here.

      1. Reba*

        Ooh I hate that “we’re all in on this haha-HR is such a buzzkill, amirite” attitude. It’s like, you’re acknowledging you know it’s objectionable! We are not bonding here! Just stop!

        Maybe with the specter of MeToo in the room he could be convinced to drop it, even if he doesn’t have a change of heart–although I wouldn’t be surprised if he feels that Office Culture These Days is really cramping his style.

        Good luck with the conversation, Work Appropriate!

      2. Specialk9*

        I also have found that people who use the word “PC” or “politically correct” are usually offensive f*#@ers in multiple ways. Oh hey, yup, there’s the sexism. Ooh and there’s goes the racism. Oh yup and now you’re ranting about bathrooms. Sigh. It’s handy though as a self-outing right off the bat.

  27. coffeeandpearls*

    Currently dealing with a co-worker calling colleagues and clients bitches when they “cross him” (and it’s always only women he has a problem with, hmm…) and it’s exhausting. HR is involved because I couldn’t stand it anymore but I knew once it was brought to his attention I would be on the bitch list. I don’t think he realizes how lucky he his that I don’t just walk down the hall Regina George style and tell these women how he degraded them.
    I can call myself a bitch (and a bad-ass bitch at that!), end of list.

    1. Specialk9*

      I’m sorry, he calls CLIENTS bitches and still has a job?! What do you guys sell, heroin?!

  28. Cassandra*

    OP3, I have a question or two about the “bitch” situation:

    1. Is Fergus using the word only to refer to women?

    2. If so, does he use a word of similar emotional valence to refer to men? With similar frequency to the frequency of “bitch” for women?

    If Fergus only insults women, that’s pretty red-flaggy sexist to me no matter what word he’s using. That it’s a slur fairly widely understood to be gendered does not improve matters.

    1. Work Appropriate*

      OP here — yes, he is only using it to refer to women. No other term for men, but we are 90% female, so it would be much more uncommon for him to need (I say this tongue in cheek) a male-oriented insult.

      1. Cassandra*

        Ugh. I would be enormously tempted to start calling men “dicks” at every opportunity — not that I recommend this; I don’t!

        I think my route would be Silent Shocked Face turned on him every time he uses the word. Don’t call him out, just look shocked/repulsed whenever he says it. I’d bet he’ll notice. If he asks you about it, stick with I-language: “I don’t like that word.” “I don’t appreciate that word.” “I am not used to hearing that word in a workplace.” This gives him less room to argue about the word’s acceptability — and if he calls you names, he’s putting himself further in the wrong.

        Good luck. I completely understand why you’re repelled by his behavior.

    2. boop the first*

      Wouldn’t it be sexist if used against men as well though? It challenges the man’s “masculinity”, implying that he has woman qualities which in itself is considered by men to be the worst insult of all.

        1. Cassandra*

          Oh, yes, of course it would. I was trying to get at a different-but-possibly-related pattern of Fergus leveling slurs at women but never men. Sorry, I was definitely not clear enough.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        Yeah, the word itself is rooted in sexism, there’s just an extra-sexist twist to the situation that he’s only saying this kind of thing about women with no “equal” phrase being applied to men in the same situations. So….double the sexism, double the yuck :/

      2. Kat in VA*

        Which I always find it amazing that many men feel it’s degrading to be compared to a woman – dude, we are some of the toughest creatures on the planet, let me tell you. I could list all the ways that we’re tough, but if you’re a woman…you already know. ;)

    3. OtterB*

      It’s interesting to me that OP says Fergus just recently began using the word. That seems to me an easier situation to deal with that if he had 40 years of ingrained habit. I think OP can just say, several times recently you’ve used the word “bitch” in meetings when you never used to. What’s up with that? And then, depending what he says, go on to explain that some people may use it casually but many find it misogynistic and insulting, especially from a man.

  29. Confused*

    I was wondering about Number 4! One of my coworkers has been using the “R” word (retarded). She says things like “that’s so ——“ and “wow I’m —-“ she’s been here for longer than me, close to a year and I’m on 4 months. My stepsister is autistic and I know she’d blow a gasket if she heard that.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      I used a lot of slurs a lot… as a kid. Only cause I didn’t know any better and all the kids would say it.

      I was a stupid, stupid child.

    2. Specialk9*

      Feel free to be really visible shocked, and then ask her not to use such an ugly word in front of you.

    3. Bea*

      She’s got a few months of seniority??? That’s nothing to worry about. You should tell her that word is inappropriate and please don’t use it around you. Don’t tell her about your sister. Autistic sister or not, she’s offensive and needs to grow up.

  30. Neosmom*

    OP 1: I had a very pushy recruiter call me a couple of years ago and insist I provide her with my salary history. She got nasty and indignant when I politely declined. The conversation was so off-putting that I posted that experience on the Glassdoor page of the recruiter’s company. I suggest you do the same.

  31. Kitty*

    4. It sounds like the meetings are overly long, dull, or both, if an otherwise alert employee is regularly dozing off. Are weekly departmental meetings really necessary? Could they be changed to monthly or fortnightly? Could the format be made more succinct or interesting? Often, departmental meetings repeat information various coworkers already know, so perhaps more information could be shared via email and important updates only in meetings.
    For every employee who falls asleep there are likely many more who are close to doing so!

    1. Persimmons*

      This. It’s a “tree falling in the forest” exercise. If an employee suffers no ill effects from chronically falling asleep in a meeting, does she even need to be there?

      I am a department of one within a larger department, whose meetings are relevant to my work about 40% of the time. The day before the weekly meeting, I get an Outlook cancellation from the department admin if my presence is not needed.

  32. AdAgencyChick*

    OP5, I’m guessing employees at your organization sign some kind of agreement saying that they will not try to entice clients away from the company after they’ve quit. Not saying your old boss is in violation of any such agreement, but I’m sure your company would like to know this information so they can try to shore up relationships with any other clients who like your old boss to keep any more of them from walking.

    (Let’s be real: They’d like to know so they can have a lawyer send your old boss a cease-and-desist. But from what I’ve seen with account execs in my industry, these things are rarely enforced, and really, the best way to keep a client from walking is to make sure they’re so happy with everyone else they’re working with that the departure of one person doesn’t kill the relationship.)

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      PS: I’d be willing to bet your current boss won’t shoot the messenger on this one. He’ll probably just grumble and be extra pissed off at his former friend.

  33. Maddie*

    It’s never OK for anyone to use the term bitch at work under any circumstances. Boss is being absolutely clueless. It doesn’t matter that is it used as slang in some interactions as a term of endearment or any other connotation.

  34. Maddie*

    Lunch is not going to change and if OP makes an issue of it, many people will be resentful. If lunch is flexible go at the same time as others. If not just accept it and know it’s self-limiting and doesn’t go on all day.

  35. Cucumberzucchini*

    Can someone suggest some alternative derogative words/names to use when describing my mom’s crazy behavior? I’ve been wanting to avoid using gendered insults but bitch just works so perfectly. This is 60% a joke and 40% a serious question.

      1. HannahS*

        manipulative, snarky, two-faced, aggressive, childish, petty

        lol @ screaming into a pillow.

      2. Cucumberzucchini*

        I need something that combines the words irrational, self-centered and mean into one word. Like 80% of the time she’s very nice. But man, that other 20% of the time, watch out.

        1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

          I think obnoxious arsehole pretty much covers it. But you could be creative. Mom, you’re being a craptastic jackalope right now and I can’t even with you!

    1. anon4now*

      I think there was an Orbit gum commercial where the characters did all that by calling each other bizarre insults: “lint licker”, “cootie queen” and “what the french toast” come to mind, although I guess “cootie queen” would be a gendered insult.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I remember that. They were “clean” versions of traditional insults because the gum allegedly “cleaned” your teeth. Along those same lines, the movie Johnny Dangerously has some good examples: corksucker, farging icehole. But my favorite word for someone like Cucumberzucchini’s mom is batsh!t crazy.

  36. Taryn*

    Man, OP#2, you got a much nicer answer than I would have given- it sounds lik you’ve already put a wedge between you and you coworkers by completely going against the grain on when/where you take your lunch….and now you want to drive that wedge even deeper by trying to change an entire office’s lunch culture to suit your needs. Grow up, and either eat lunch at the same time as your peers, or if that’s not possible, do as your currently doing but change your attititude and realize that if you’re on the freeway with hundreds of cars driving at you in your lane, you’re the one on the wrong side of the road.

    1. AnotherJill*

      Huh? What evidence is there that the OP has driven a wedge anywhere? She’s politely seeking ways that she can deal with the situation herself.

    2. LawBee*

      Telling OP2 to grow up is a little harsh. There may be a completely valid reason why she takes her lunch early; talking to her like she’s a child isn’t necessary or productive.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    Don’t have meeting right after lunch or at 3pm – those are notorious crash times. There are commercials about the 2-3pm slump. Try for mid-morning if possible or a lunch hour meeting where you provide the food (then still allow people to take their break before/after the meeting since you are basically making them work through their lunch hour).

    Also take a look at the content, frequency, and duration of your meetings. Is is collaborative or are you doing most of the talking about stuff that could be addressed in an email. I will cop to being the meeting sleeper at times at OldJob but usually the meetings I nodded off in either really didn’t require my presence/input or were basically a showcase for management to pat themselves on the back. Really look into the reason for the meetings and how necessary they are. Having a team of 10 people all going around the table and telling you/each other what they are working on each week is a waste of time and I would absolutely “check-out” as soon as my part was done.

    I might feel a bit stronger about this than a lot of people because OldJob was basically back to back meetings that accomplished nothing followed by a meeting to discuss why we missed a deadline. The answer, which I will admit to shouting at one particularly dense manager after a night of little sleep with a sick toddler, is because I have no time to work on the project because of all the damn meetings on the project. Then I left the meeting and got to work. 3 days later I had the project done because I did not attend any of the scheduled meetings for the project (no joke…8+ hours of meetings on this project in one week with no actual work being done on the project during these meetings). My immediate boss backed me up – he was the only thing that made that place bearable.

    So basically don’t have meetings for the sake of meetings if they aren’t doing anything useful and your people are mentally checking out. If you must have a meeting that isn’t collaborative, keep it short and sweet (with a snack if possible as another commented mentioned).

    1. Specialk9*

      I have to schedule meetings all day every day, in any slot that’s open. I’m already juggling multiple time zones. People can figure out how to be awake during hours they’re being paid to work. Not to be harsh, but this is a basic requirement.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, I’m kind of surprised by all the comments on this post. Let’s please just be awake during the workday in general, or at least don’t shift the blame onto *everything else* if we’re not.

        And I say this as a very chronically sleepy person, too.

  38. Technical_Kitty*

    OP5, holding a staff meeting after lunch or at 3pm is a guaranteed involuntary nap for me. There is no control, it’s boring, this information could be passed on in a better a way and for some reason mid afternoon I cannot keep my eyes open unless actively engaged. I feel for your employee, I know what it’s like to have involuntary “micro sleep”.

    I don’t know what kind of staff meeting you have, but I have never experienced one that wasn’t boring and often there are much better ways to cover off the information. That being said I had worked for 3 levels of government before heading to the private sector in mining, so my experience is limited to those areas.

  39. Not All Who Wander*


    I would lay very, very odds that if LW4 really looked around, they’d see a lot of spaced out expressions, that the careful notetakers are actually doing pages of involved drawings or writing shopping lists or even fanfic.

    In 20+ years, I’ve never seen people regularly falling asleep regularly in a meeting that was engaging & purposeful. I’ve seen more people than I can count falling asleep in standing meetings because they were completely meaningless to them, they were neither receiving any information they didn’t already have nor passing on information others didn’t have, etc.

    My current manager is a great (ugh) example of this with his oh-so-important standing meetings. He spends about 5 minutes passing on information from higher ups (that part is important) then the rest of the 1-2 hrs is him going around & doing what should be weekly one-on-ones with each person. Which means all told there is about 15 minutes of relevance for each person there. They are in the morning so we mostly stay awake but we try to bring our coffee & snacks. If it was in the afternoon? Not a chance.

    Another great example was at my previous officer where the manager insisted every single member of a project team be at every single meeting even if nothing was being discussed that involved their specialty ‘just in case’. Since I ran those meetings, I let people bring their laptops to work on other things, knit, or whatever. It was a complete waste of several hours and I didn’t blame them for falling asleep. It took me *2 years* to convince that manager that people who weren’t likely to be needed could stay at their desks and I could just text them or grab them on a break if something came up we needed them for.

    Really, REALLY take a hard look at these meeting to see if they are truly necessary, if all components are necessary, and if all people need to be there for all necessary components. Meetings get to be a habit & sometimes they are a bad habit.

    1. There is a Life Outside the Library*

      1000% agreed. I would bet money that these meetings are less than productive.

      At Last Job, we had a weekly manager meeting that was THREE. HOURS. LONG. 9am-12pm. It was even scheduled as such. Each person was expected to tell the group everything about what was going on with them and their team. As you can imagine, micromanaging was a huge problem there. Then Boss would tell us everything she had found out at every meeting she had been to- faculty orgs, meetings with her boss, etc. It was incredibly stressful because she would tell us stuff that we did not yet need to know, wasn’t certain and always negative.

      Meetings are not for this, people. If you have people seriously disengaged (and they don’t have health problems), get out a big old mirror.

  40. LQ*

    #3 I’ve managed to over the last year or so (even my boss who is demographically the same as the guy mentioned in the OPs thing knew it wasn’t exactly a great word to be using) to get my boss to shift away from this word (and nagging). I brought it up once and said, I think you have a better vocabulary than that, if you can’t find a more apt word I doubt your linguistic skills (which is a pretty serious throw down of a statement to him). He agreed and started to work on it, after that when he used it (and he always knew) a raised eyebrow or sigh and even yes (gasp) occasional eye roll, and he’s moved away from it. It took him a while to find a new set of language to describe the behaviors but he mostly doesn’t use it. And the behaviors he was using those words to complain about are much better managed when described clearly and not with casual slurs.

    I’m not suggesting you roll your eyes at your boss every time he says it, but sometimes a challenge to someone’s vocabulary goes a long way. YMMV

    1. Work Appropriate*

      I think after having had a legitimate conversation with Fergus, I could take this tact for future uses of the word.

    2. Yorick*

      I don’t think people should curse at work, but I find it really annoying when people say “don’t you have a better vocabulary/can’t you think of a better word than that?” People don’t choose to curse because they don’t know other words.

      1. LQ*

        If the best word you can think of at work to describe women who report to you is bitch? Try harder. I don’t think that, “Listen, you sound like a misogynistic asshole and I’m going to report you to HR for harassment” would go over well with my boss. My boss who has a linguistics degree and wants to do the right thing being challenged to do better by using better word choices? Totally went over well and he changed his language, and the people he was trying to get to improve performance improved performance.

        You can be annoyed all you like.

    3. Yorick*

      Also, I think it would go over badly for most people to police their boss’ language in this way, especially by raising eyebrows and rolling eyes.

  41. MatKnifeNinja*

    OP #2

    My friend, who is on the Autism spectrum, feels your pain.

    Do you have to take your lunch before everyone else to 1) dodge the sensory overload of crunching, slurping so you can actually eat? My coworker says the crush of noise and smells kills her wanting to eat. 2) You have to eat at that exact time because of your job?

    My friend got an ADA accommodation for eating way from her “spot” (she’s in an open office setting), when the bulk of the people are eating in the office.

    Besides the noise, she can’t even tell you which food smells will get to her. Curry may not bother her, but the person eating a peanut butter and white bread sandwich will send her over the edge. Another day teriyaki will make her miserable. It varies by a coin flip, which makes it almost impossible to tell the higher ups which smells are the worse offenders.

    Asking for accommodations…I helped her brainstorm.

    Noise? How loud is loud? Her office isn’t as nosiy as a school cafeteria. Most reasonable people wouldn’t have had an issue with the sounds.

    Food smells? All food smells bother her on any given day. Food banning is worthless because any food can be sensory overloading to her. She can smell a peanut butter sandwich 6 seats away.

    My friend wears ear defenders. She can handle noise or smells, not both. A buffet restaurant is a living hell to her. They are usually more noisy and all the food smells co-mingling. Ugh!

    Her solution was to time shift her lunch just before “everyone eating” hits critical mass in the open office. This way she can escape, eat her food, decompress and come back even everyone is almost done.

    My friend’s used to be scheduled before everyone elses, but boss was okay with the lunch shift because it didn’t blame the other coworkers and/or wanting them to adjust.

    I don’t know your reasons why sounds and smells are uncomfortable for you. I’m not saying you are on the spectrum. The above may be the best work around with the least push back from your boss. The chances of you changing behaviors that almost everyone does is next to nil.

    I never had a job where I would eat at my work station/desk. Either it was a health/safety rule, we work with the public (retail)-it “looks bad”, or the company sunk an ton of money into extermination to get rid of varmits attracted by crumbs/spills/garbage.

    Hope you find some relief.

  42. Work Appropriate*

    OP 3 here — thanks so much, Alison. This feels like something I can say fairly neutrally, without putting him on the defensive. The last instance of him saying bitch that I was present for was a week ago — should I wait until it happens again, or address even though its a week later?

    1. Marthooh*

      Hi, OP! Another thing for Fergus to consider is that people who don’t mind him using the word also won’t mind him not using the word, so he has literally nothing to lose here.