should I give my boss a heads-up about my half-sleeve tattoo, I cried on a client call, and more

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

1. Should I give my boss a heads-up that I’m getting a half-sleeve tattoo?

Thanks to your blog, I recently landed a job I LOVE at a small tech nonprofit, in the marketing department. The environment is very relaxed and we are encouraged to dress in whatever we are comfortable in.

This summer (and over the next year) I’m planning to get a half-sleeve tattoo, part of which I’ve already started on my shoulder. I’m planning for the tattoo to be easily covered with a long-sleeve shirt or cardigan, so nothing visible below the elbows and nothing on my neck or too far into my shoulders. Several of my coworkers have visible tattoos as well.

Should I tell my boss my plan, and if so, how would I frame it? The reason I ask is that we are a small office with fewer than 10 people, and in my role, I’ll eventually be expected to take on more responsibility with partners (some of whom are in government) and I don’t want to freak my boss out with this growing tattoo. I know that many offices are totally fine with tattoos, but considering I’ll eventually be pitching to both clients in government and potential funders, I don’t want my boss to make any assumptions about how I’ll present myself to people outside of our organization who may be a little more skittish about things like tattoos. Am I overreacting? Should I just chill and only mention it if my boss does?

Are you willing to eventually cover it, if it comes to that? If so, I’d say there’s no need to check with your boss first, particularly in an office with others with visible tattoos. But if you’re concerned that your boss will have concerns that she won’t immediately mention to you (particularly since it will be slowly growing and she may wonder just how far it’s going to spread), there’s nothing wrong with mentioning it to her now. You could frame it as, “I’ve started work on a tattoo that will eventually be cover half my arm — nothing visible below the elbow or too far into my shoulders. When I wear short sleeves, you’ll be able to see the work on it progress, so I wanted to mention to you that I can easily cover it with a long-sleeve shirt or cardigan if I need to when I’m working with people outside the office.”

2. Our coworker dresses inappropriately and management won’t act

We have a coworker who is 57 years of age and wears clothes that her daughter of 15 should wear. Very inappropriate for office attire. I have voiced my opinion to our CEO but nothing gets done.

She wore a shirt off the shoulders and a shirt that is so short and looks like she is not wearing a bra. She is very slim and has just lost a lot of weight but the clothes she is wearing is not right for a women her age. What can we do about this?

Most likely nothing. You’re not her boss and apparently the organization’s management doesn’t consider it something they want to intervene on, so your best course of action here is to accept that your management is fine with her clothes, whether or not you think they should be. If the people who manage her don’t feel they need to address it, it would be really inappropriate for her coworkers to try to.

Also, it might help to keep in mind that her age isn’t really relevant here; if the clothes aren’t professional, they wouldn’t be professional regardless of her age. The whole “a woman of her age shouldn’t dress that way” thing can be really problematic and tied up with damaging ideas about youth and beauty and women’s obligation to please onlookers. The clothes are the issue, not the person who’s wearing them.

3. I cried on a call with a client

I had a conference call scheduled with my client team for testing their new solution. The first meeting was a disaster due to the system being down. Then, I had to reschedule the second meeting because they didn’t return materials to me timely.

Finally, this morning I was ready for them, except I was in a car accident and didn’t have my cell phone with me to contact anyone. I finally got home (I work from home) and texted a coworker, who reached out to said client and told them I would be ready in 15 minutes, which was an entire hour late.

I honestly thought I was fine to hold the call. But during the call I said something I had intended to be reassuring, yet since I was off my game it apparently didn’t come off that way and the client got pretty upset. Between the fact that I’d worked until 10 p.m. the night before due to their delay and that I felt incredibly guilty for being late and my stressful morning, I lost it and I began crying. I was unable to hide it, but managed to pull it together pretty quickly.

I of course apologized in the moment and again later in the day when we met again. For what it’s worth, they knew the circumstances of my tardiness. But, should I address it again, or will that seem overboard? I filled in the project manager on the account and suggested she may want to call her counterpart on the clients team to reassure him.

Don’t address it again; it’ll feel overboard. You apologized in the moment and again later, and now it is dealt with. If you keep bringing it up, it’s likely to make it into a bigger deal and possibly will make them feel awkward. They knew you’d been in a car accident; you’re human and humans get rattled by that stuff. But even without that context, sometimes people just mess up. You addressed it and have moved forward. Just make a point of being super on top of stuff with them for the next couple of weeks, and it’ll be behind you.

4. Brand new coworker is doing weird thing on our staff email list

A new coworker (who we haven’t even met yet) just sent the entire school staff a chain email full of bad information (and graphic pictures of children purportedly mauled by pit bulls) urging us to vote for a pit bull ban in our city. As an active volunteer in a local animal rescue, I’m fuming. I have fostered many wonderful dogs over the years, many of which would be considered pit bulls. As you can imagine, I’m very much against a pit bull ban. I feel like her email was inappropriate and I shouldn’t respond, but at the same time I hate that my coworkers may believe these inaccuracies. What should I do? And how do I move forward working with someone who has made a terrible impression before we even met?

Depending on the norms in your office, one option would be to reply-all with, “I volunteer for an animal rescue and there are a lot of inaccuracies in here, but this isn’t the place to discuss them — and more to the point, I’d prefer we not use the staff list for this kind of email.” I’m not normally a fan of reply-all, but if it kills you to let the inaccuracies stand, that’s one way to do it. (Only do that if your staff list is pretty small though; if it’s large, you just shouldn’t be the reply-all person, regardless of the provocation.)

Alternately, you could reply privately to her and say, “Hey, people have varying views on this issue — mine, for example, are quite different than yours, although it’s not something I’d want to get into at work — and we don’t typically promote political issues on the staff email list.”

But the whole thing is bizarre for a new hire you haven’t even met yet to have done — and she’s putting you and anyone else who wants to say “don’t use the staff list for this” in the awkward position of having to chastise a brand new coworker they haven’t even met yet. As for how to move forward with working with her, try to keep an open mind (who knows, maybe she’ll be lovely once she learns email list etiquette, or maybe she only meant to send the message to her mom and made a terrible typo in the “to” field) but be prepared for the possibility that she might not be the savviest about office norms.

5. Applying for jobs from another country

I’ve been working in Japan for the past three years at a contracted position that will end this August. I plan on moving back to my hometown in the U.S. afterward and thus am searching for jobs in that area.

My questions are regarding phone numbers and timezones. What should I do about the phone number section of applications? I don’t have a U.S. cell phone, but I do have a Japanese cell, as well as a Skype number set to my hometown’s area code. Is it acceptable to use a Skype number on a job application? Also, should I make mention of my timezone when applying? I fear causing annoyance for the hiring manager if they always have to leave a voicemail because they’re calling at 2 a.m. my time.

Yep, you can use a Skype number on your job application. I would, though, note in your cover that you’re currently in Japan, moving back in August, and available by the Skype number listed meanwhile. You could add a note about the time zones, but because the time difference is so great (and thus the hours you’re likely most reachable are outside of U.S. business hours), you’re probably better off just waiting until someone wants to talk with you and working out a time then.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 539 comments… read them below }

  1. FaintlyMacabre*

    I agree with the advice on the tattoo. My ex has a full sleeve tattoo that his family still doesn’t know about years after the fact because it can be easily hidden with a little forethought. He keeps it covered at work, too.

    1. Specialk9*

      When I worked in conservative government offices, I was gobsmacked to realize that two buttoned-down people I had worked with for years had enormous tattoos, just covered at work. It can be done. It’s worth remembering it’s a strategy that requires one to be covered even when the weather is 100°. If OP is cool with that, why not?

      1. Loopy*

        I’m pretty much this person- the buttoned down with huge tattoos :) I have a half sleeve on the lower half of my arm, both my calves are entirely covered and my upper back has a decent sized one too. No one can believe it when they find out. I also cover it 100% of the time- I work in climate controlled offices and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

        That being said, no one’s batted an eye when it’s come up aside from being surprised.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m always amused by “no respectable person I know has a tattoo!!!” emoting, because invariably the person is talking about a swath of the population they have only seen fully clothed.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think you’re responding to me. That wasn’t actually what I said. (I quite like tattoos, and body piercing, and bright hair colors.)

          I was shocked because I’d never seen any hint of it, for either of them. Often you see tattoos when someone reaches for something, or they get hot and roll up the sleeve, or if they go for a run. But they must have really been working to keep theirs buttoned up. (Which in that environment was a good choice – super conservative.)

          It made me stop and realize how narrow a band of life one shares with coworkers, despite being friendly and talking most days.

          That said, I don’t disagree with your belief that it’s a topic of judgement.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            No, no, responding to a frequent cause for clutching pearls and retiring to fainting couches at Hax. (I have no tattoos, and with a needle phobia it is very unlikely I ever will.)

        2. AKchic*

          Or the flip side where only certain “respectable” men are allowed certain tattoos and still allowed to be “respectable”, but *ladies* are only ladies if they have no tattoos and at most, one set of earrings (and those had better be modest!).

          My grandmother is like this. My cousin and I both have tattoos, and she softened her stance on tattoos for men (because my cousin looks like my grandfather). For me, tattoos are still disgusting. And my earrings are still vulgar (I have 11). Oddly, my hair color is “sweet” and “fun” (multi-colored).

      3. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I feel like we’re getting to a point where many-to-most people have at least a small tattoo. That’s totally unscientific and based on hanging out with more artsy liberal people though.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          My grandboss has tattoos. And there’s a children’s librarian in the system who has sleeve tattoos. Unnatural (but beautiful!) hair colors are also common.

        2. Flask Manager*

          I’m a massage therapist. I’d say that at least 50% of my clientele have tattoos. Many of these be-tatted people appear very “buttoned-down” until they remove their clothing!

        3. Jadelyn*

          The artist who did my first tattoo had a sign hanging up in their shop that said “The only difference between people with tattoos and people without tattoos, is that people with tattoos aren’t judging you for not having any.”

    2. I Herd the Cats*

      This made me smile. Over the years I’ve belonged to gyms that fellow co-workers used, including outside gyms as well as the gym in our office building. Some of their tattoos have been amazing, and if I hadn’t seen them at the gym I’d never have known.

      For the record, I’m an older person who I guess doesn’t look like the type (whatever that is), and I’ve stunned a couple of co-workers in the womens’ locker room with my fairly extensive tattoos, which are entirely hidden by my work clothes in our relatively conservative office.

      1. Jadelyn*

        My mother always startles people. She’s a petite, plump older woman who looks like a PTA mom whose kids have gone away to college – and she has more tattoos than I do! I think she enjoys shocking people, especially as she sometimes gets other people her age trying to talk with her about “those people” who have tattoos, assuming she’ll agree with them because she looks like their type of person, only to have her turn around and start showing off her ink.

        1. Chinookwind*

          That is one of the perks I have with my one tattoo – I am not someone who looks/acts like “those people” and have gotten some great reactions from other “tattoo freaks” about seeing someone like me sporting a leg tattoo and even had it start conversations from people who felt like outsiders in my community.

          I have even had parents come to me to talk to their children about not getting one only to turn around and show them mine and then explain to the kids about thinking about placement and how it will look when they are 65 and wrinkly. I also mention the quality of tattoo artists/studios and give them examples of bad tattoo choices made by DH (think cigarette flakes in the lines and an arm filled with the initials of a military unit he was only part of for 6 months before joining a rival one). Both kids and parents walk away with something to think about. :)

    3. Audiophile*

      I have 2 tattoos. One is on my arm, well above my elbow and the other is on my leg. Most co-workers have never realized I had tattoos and unless I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt or a dress, neither tattoo is ever visible.

      It seems a lot of people still have a stigma against tattoos and I still often hear, “I’m so surprised, you just don’t seem like the type.’

      1. Mouse Princess*

        Same. I have a piece on my deltoid to my elbow and two on my forearms. I keep them covered at work. It’s harder as a woman to wear long sleeves all the time (especially during this heatwave) but nobody really seems to care. I just don’t complain about being hot. My boss and I live in the same town, so I sometimes run into her. Recently, I ran into her after going for a run so my tattoos were exposed. She was incredibly shocked and couldn’t seem to process the fact that I had them. I just told her “Yeah, I have a whole life outside of work!” and winked. Her 13-year-old daughter, on the other hand, was enamored haha.

      2. Sally*

        I wonder what that “type” is! I’m 55, and I have a small tattoo on the top of my left wrist that I got four years ago. The funny thing is that the first time a lot of people notice it is months after I have been seeing them every day/every week. I live in the Boston area, though, and MANY people here have tattoos. I’m planning on getting another one that will fill the inside of my right forearm, and I think people will definitely not miss that one. I am job searching, so I bought a couple of long-sleeved blouses just in case, but my field is not very conservative. In any case, a company in this region that would have a problem with it is probably not someplace I want to work.

        1. OP1*

          Thanks for all your comments! I live in a city where it *feels* like 50% of people my age have visible tattoos, and I can freely keep my arms uncovered in the office without shame in my job/industry. My boss even commented on the first one, saying it’s beautiful! So I don’t feel compelled to cover it at work on a daily basis which is why I’m leaning towards telling my boss that while I keep my arms uncovered in our office, I will gladly cover them up when required.

          1. Jaydee*

            If your boss has commented favorably on your tattoo so far, I think that makes the conversation much easier. You know that from a personal standpoint they have no problem with it. So you can simply say that you’re planning to gradually expand it to a half sleeve, that you know that may seem a little less conventional to some, and that you have no problem with keeping it covered when neede.

          2. Cloud 9 Sandra*

            Advice I wish I had had last week: bring a cardigan/sweater to work with long sleeves in a neutral color or one that matches a lot of your clothes. Leave it at work for out of the blue meetings, client visits, anytime you feel self-conscious.

            1. OP1*

              Genius idea! I can think of so many reasons to keep a nice cardigan/sweater at work, having more tattoos is definitely another one! Thanks :)

          3. Specialk9*

            It sounds like in your industry/city, a big tattoo won’t be a career liability. No sweat then!

            I hope you find/have a really awesome design that makes you happy.

        2. Jadelyn*

          My VP shocked another VP in our company when he used me as an example of our staff policy on personal appearance – basically as long as it’s not actually vulgar we don’t care – because she had never noticed my tongue ring or tattoos. And I’d been here for like 3 years at that point. People often don’t notice stuff if you don’t make a point out of it.

          1. Specialk9*

            I’ve found that, with a small face piercing, there is a kind of person who notices from a mile off. I’ve learned that I should watch my mouth, hard, around people who notice my piercing. It’s a useful barometer.

      3. LQ*

        I think the type is like me or not like me. I’ve several times had people be surprised I don’t have a tattoo. I think that it often means, we are alike and that means that the things I have you must also have and when that changes I will be surprised because it is a way in which we are not alike. If you want to reinforce the bond with those humans you should highlight another way in which you are alike and move on, if you are not interested in reinforcing the bond highlighting other ways in which you are different can help grow the chasm between you.

        Alternately it may be someone who is surprised you are more like them than you are unlike them, the same principles of reinforcing or distancing can apply here.

        1. katkat*

          such an interesting theory! I think that makes a lot of sense.
          It made me think: in my experience, most people that have been *shocked* to see tattoos on “buttoned-up people” are those who don’t have any themselves, so maybe they assume, “well, they are like me”

          1. Specialk9*

            In my case it’s this world-tilting realization that I’ve only seen this tiny portion of you, and we talk every day but you have a completely separate life that’s opaque to me. Which, DUH, but it’s still always so surprising to me!

            1. Anonymosity*

              This, and the reason many people are “buttoned-up” is because they’re conforming to a dress code at work. We might not have any idea what coworkers wear outside the office.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I can see this. The only reason I don’t have a tattoo is because I couldn’t decide on a meaningful design and I eventually just gave up on the idea. Which I think is probably the right choice for me.

          For instance, I have a very young colleague right now who has a work in progress, two full sleeves of album art from his favourite band. Which I am not judging, but I know that if I had gone with my original ideas I’d have something similar for bands I no longer care about. I wonder if he will feel the same in 20 years? But it just highlights the importance of really thinking about what you want and why.

    4. aebhel*

      Yep. I have a half sleeve tattoo. It could easily be hidden if need be (although I don’t at work), but I did mention it to my boss before I got it. I would have gotten it either way, but nobody else at my job has visible tattoos, so I didn’t know if she’d want me to cover it and wanted to be prepared.

      (Librarian here. I’ve had it for years now, and mostly just get tons of compliments from little old ladies when I’m working the reference desk. Go figure. :D)

  2. Tim Tam Girl*

    LW 5: My wife and I both had to apply for jobs in Australia prior to leaving the US, and we used a service called Toll Free Forwarding (there are many similar ones available). This set up a virtual phone number that was a free-call/local number in Australia and would ring to our US mobiles. They offer their services to/from a massive list of countries, the price was very reasonable and we were able to cancel it as soon as we were set up in Australia.

      1. Herder of Teenaged Cats*

        Tagging in on this, as someone who successfully found a US job while in Japan:

        Your resume should already be making it pretty clear that you’re still in Japan, but definitely add that information in your cover letter or the email it’s attached to just to be sure.

        You’re looking at between a 13 and 16 hour timezone difference with the US, from the East to West coasts, so the onus will be on you to accommodate to their schedule for calls. That means doing the conversions for them in providing mutually acceptable times. Usually that means staying up a bit late or waking up early for a Japan – USA call. I’ve always been able to do Skype calls with international interviews, so you really shouldn’t have a problem with that (and if for some weird reason it is, you will be back in August so they can always wait for that.and if they can’t wait, well, not sure how much you’d want to work for a place that inflexible!)

        Best of luck with the job hunt!

        1. MK*

          I do wish people saved the “would you really want to work for a place like that?” comments for practices that are actually problematic, not just inconvenient for a candidate.

          Personally, I would very much like to work for a company that isn’t willing to hold up the hiring process for two months to accommodate one candidate, while keeping the rest of the candidates waiting, the position vacant and the rest of the employees covering the work on top of their own. It might make sense for them to wait, if the process wouldn’t be done sooner anyway or if the candidate is particularly strong, but refusing to dp do is not inflexible, it’s perfectly reasonable.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            But it’s a good question to ask even for places that aren’t problematic if they are a place that clearly wouldn’t fit you. So if you are someone who cares a whole lot about having multi-colored hair, and you are considering applying at a place that would not allow it, “would you really want to work for a place like that” is a legitimate question.

            1. Les G*

              I’d say not allowing multi colored hair in 20-friggin’-18 is pretty darn problematic.

              1. Specialk9*

                Have you worked in many industries? Because that’s never really been a thing where I’ve worked, though admittedly I have tended toward conservative (ish) industries. We have 1 guy, in an office of 3,000 who has unnatural hair colors. I feel comfortable saying that he’s not a manager, based on that and other attire clues. (And I say this as someone who has a whole Pinterest page just for the gorgeous greens and blues and purples I’ll dye my hair once I retire. So I’m not disapproving, but know my industries enough to know it’s not a go.)

              2. hair gal*

                Hm in my opinion, I don’t really think the word “problematic” fits here. If we are talking about a company not allowing multi colored hair, as in non-naturally-occurring-on-humans (so like a blue, green, purple, etc.) I think “problematic” is too strong.

              3. watersquirrel*

                I work in insurance and while this wouldn’t be against dresscode, as a manager I wouldn’t recommend someone do this here. It’s just not done – and we have to face brokers and clients and I’ve never seen anyone with non natural hair colors. You just have to know your industry.

            2. Specialk9*

              The difference is that it’s an unusual and unrealistic expectations that a company hold an open position for two months for someone they have never met.
              Unless you’re a big freaking deal and a mighty rare unicorn in a field of ponies, that’s just not how things work.

              ‘Would you really want to work there?’ has this implied contempt for orgs that are unreasonable or too rigid or a bad match. So like trying to decide if you should hide some protected status that might get discrimination… but would you really want to work at a job that discriminates? Or on the style choice side — let’s say I have blue hair or a nose ring or neck tattoos, if they care maybe that’s not a good match, I’d probably value individual expression over conformity so not the right fit.

              It’s not a good application for someone who wants a job to hold a job for them… just because the job applicant wants it. It’s just not realistic.

              And also, maybe yeah they do want to work there, once they move stateside and can job search locally.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Why? Everyone has their own criteria for what makes a dealbreaker on a job.

          3. Say What, Now?*

            I have to second this. I am short as it is and if I can alleviate some of my employee’s stress by hiring candidate A over waiting a month to even talk to candidate B… I just don’t find that unreasonable.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, not being able to hold up a hiring process that long isn’t unreasonable in many cases, and “not sure how much you’d want to work for a place that inflexible” doesn’t really fit there.

          5. Herder of Teenaged Cats*

            Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but the “do you really want to work there” comment was meant to be attached to the possibility of a company being so inflexible that they wouldn’t be willing to Skype to accommodate the long distances. My bad for wording it otherwise – – holding a position for two months is, of course, unreasonable.

        2. Minocho*

          Ah, the halcyon days when I had to work out if it was daylight savings or not and what time it was in Michigan from Kagawa-ken…


          1. media monkey*

            i highly recommend world time buddy (no link so that this doesn’t drop into moderation but it is dot com). on the free version you can see up to 3 time zones at a time and it takes account of daylight savings!

          2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

            Oh wow – one time I had booked an exec on a flight from Tokyo to the East Coast that was right during the daylight savings change over. The exec noticed the time differential (flight was shorter/longer than it “should” be – she did that trip regularly), but it took several us way longer that it should have to figure out why.

    1. AnecData*

      Google Voice is a free option – you get 1 (US) phone number that you can have ring through to multiple phones, to a Google hangouts voip call, or to email you texts and audio recordings of messages. When I set mine up, you needed a US phone number for initial verification but you could detach it later.

      I work in international development and am moving around a lot, so I’ve been using this as my professional phone number for years, and it works out pretty well.

      1. Laura*

        I second the google voice recommendation. The best part about it is that they can leave you a voicemail which you’ll get via email. Then if they choose to make initial contact via phone it won’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night. You’ll get the message and can call back during their business hours.

      2. Anonymosity*

        Yep. I use mine for job hunting. Whenever I’m doing that, I seem to get far more spam calls. This way, I don’t need to give out my actual phone number to anyone.

  3. Drew*

    OP4, I think your best bet may to be to treat this as a terrible, awful mistake. Send her a private note saying, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to send this to the all-staff list. We’re looking forward to meeting you!” If she DID mean to send it, that will be a low-key heads-up that y’all don’t use the staff list that way.

    I wouldn’t even engage with the content unless it continues to be an issue after the coworker comes to the office. If so, I really like your approach: “I haven’t found that to be true with the dogs that I’ve fostered over the years. It takes patience, training, and love, and too many owners aren’t ready to offer some or all of that. It’s really sad, and blaming the dogs is misguided.”

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Either it’s a horrid mistake or the person has poor boundaries. I would see how much pushback you get.

    2. beth*

      I think part of the point of a corrective reply-all would be not just educating the newbie, but also letting everyone else who got the anti-pit bull propaganda know that it’s full of misinformation. Probably the more professional thing to do would be to skip the reply-all entirely, but it sounds like OP4 is pretty passionate on this issue; sometimes we have to stand up for what’s important to us, even if it’s minorly less than ideal professional behavior.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I would see some advantages to not getting involved with the rights or wrongs of the content — on this one issue, OP happens to have more accurate information, but even if the new staff member were factually correct, you wouldn’t want her sending political material and grisly photos to the all staff list.

        1. pleaset*

          I agree. I don’t think it’s right to say in a mass email that someone is sharing wrong info AND in the same message that people shouldn’t discuss things like that in the same forum. By saying the other person is sharing inaccuracies, the OP would actually be doing what she’s also saying is inappropriate – throwing out info on the subject. Stick with the message of not doing discussing this stuff on mass email.

        2. Oserver*

          I happen to agree with the OP that there is a LOT of misinformation about the supposed dangers of pit bulls out there. Nevertheless, I agree with this as well.

          Even from the point of view of the misinformation, bringing it up may not accomplish what they want. There is a really good chance that the new coworker will respond with something like “This was a mistake / I won’t do it again. BUT you should just be aware that this is 100% true. Blah blah blah.” You really don’t want to give them an “exception pass” to continue that discussion.

      2. Artemesia*

        This should be dealt with by the newbie’s supervisor immediately; it is always easier to deal with this first thing than to let it go on. As a newbie it can be ‘this is not the way we do things here’ which is a gentler message than will be heard a month and half a dozen emails later. Misuse of mailing lists is a big deal and when it isn’t stopped quickly you end up with lots of people crossing that boundary. She isn’t on facebook, she is using a work mailing list at work; she doesn’t seem to understand the difference.

        1. Lora*


          There are people in the world who do not seem to comprehend, for whatever reason, that the only thing which is Facebook is Facebook (thank god). They must be told, explicitly, and in no uncertain terms, what belongs where and how to use things like Reply-All and LinkedIn and break room bulletin boards.

          Treat it the same way you would treat someone posting their Ponzi Scheme Du Jour flyers on the company bulletin board: “wanted to let you know that we don’t do that here, the bulletin board is for OSHA notices and girl scout cookie forms only.” “Wanted to let you know, the all-staff list is for snow days and in service days sort of thing, we don’t do that here.”

          If you want to elaborate on it, and there is some value to not engaging such people at all if you don’t really have to, “and by the way there was quite a bit of misinformation in what you sent, so probably best not to send that kind of thing at all – it could give people the impression that you don’t do your homework.”

      3. Zombeyonce*

        Your logic is nice but it’s likely exactly why the original email was sent to everyone by OP’s new coworker. She’s surely passionate on the matter and if she sent it to everyone on purpose, she decided she had to stand up for what is right (to her) ever though it was less than ideal professional behavior.

        I don’t think OP should reply all, just to the person that wrote it, else she gets into the sticky situation of having to say it’s okay for her to use the email for a political-feeling statement but it’s not okay for the newbie. Best to tell the newbie in a private email that her information is wrong and that sort of content is inappropriate for an all-staff email.

    3. Les G*

      But she obviously meant to send it to the whole group. Why be passive aggressive and disingenuous?

      1. Drew*

        It wasn’t obvious to me from the letter – I could see typing “st” for Steve, getting the autocomplete and assuming it WAS Steve, and not realizing it was actually Staff. The OP has clarified now, so I retract that bit of the advice.

      2. Susan Calvin*

        In general, out of politeness. It would allow the one getting called out to still save face – a tenor of “Please don’t, and let’s pretend you never did” can often be more effective than outright confrontation if your goal is to fix the issue and move on, rather than picking a fight. In this particular case, I don’t it’s a great idea, if only because it might be too subtle for someone with the social graces coworker has displayed so far.

    4. OP*

      She absolutely meant to send it to the entire staff. She started the email with “Dear school staff and others” and then went on to tell us we needed to vote for this ban if we care about our students.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Ah, so it’s not even “here’s a cause close to my heart, please consider joining me”, it’s “if you don’t vote for this and a student is bitten by a dog, it’s on you”.


      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        She sounds like a delight. I hope you’ll keep us updated on her future antics.

        1. OP*

          I’m actually trying very hard to get hired somewhere else, so hopefully I won’t be around to see her future antics. I have an interview on Thursday, fingers crossed! (But it’s my 5th one this summer, so I’m not getting my hopes up).

      3. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

        I’m already looking forward to an update from you in a few months (if you want to provide one). I have a very hard time believing this will be the only office norm she violates.

      4. I Herd the Cats*

        Does anyone “own” your all staff list in terms of administration? In our company’s culture the all-staff emails are entirely work-related. If someone sent an email like you described, it would be my job to remind them not to misuse the list. Now I’m wondering if this is an actual thing in many offices — if I got spammed constantly by coworkers re their pet causes and fundraisers it would be awful. We don’t even make an exception for Girl Scout Cookies (which are sold via the kitchen bulletin board).

        1. TootsNYC*

          actually, in my job, it would not be possible to send an email to the whole staff.

          Once I organized a companywide social/holiday event, and I had to get special dispensation to send one email a day (with a clear subject line so it could be easily deleted by those uninterested) for a week.

          We do have department email groups that are accessible by anyone (or of course you can build your own).

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yes, I used to manage a list that included about 300 people in my office. I had IT set it so that only the account AffinityGroup (at) Company.Com could email the list. About 10 people had administrative permissions for the AffinityGroup, and therefore could email the list. But, in spite of repeated verbal and email instructions, posting instructions online, etc., one of the “administrators” would hit me up monthly that they were “trying to email the list & couldn’t” because they were trying to send it from their personal Outlook account instead of the AffinityGroup account. Anyway, there are ways to avoid letting everyone in the company have full access to the company-wide email list!

          2. Moonlight Elantra*

            I was chair of the Fun Committee at work for a while, and I’d always feel a little thrill of horror when typing “All Staff” in the address box, even though it was always fun, work-sanctioned stuff.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Ugh, I twitch whenever I have to hit send on an all-staff email, regardless of how many times I’ve proofread, checked, re-checked, gotten someone else to check for me, etc. It just feels like inviting disaster when I click the “send” button.

            2. Violet*

              I’m in the same position at my job and I internally cringe every time I have to email our entire staff.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          My old job had a “broadcast” list that was basically all the office workers, (we had retail stores also, but those weren’t included in this grouping) but although theoretically anyone could send to it, it was a kind of unspoken rule that only Official emails came through HR that way.

          (Apparently, before I started, someone replied all to a broadcast email about the dress code – just a routine reminder to dress professionally despite the heat of summer – with a complaint about how he couldn’t possibly afford professional clothes on his pitiful salary or something like that, and he was promptly gotten rid of.)

          That was a fairly large company, though, with some 500 people just in the office. My current employer has about 60 people in the office, and the Staff email gets used much more frequently – people use it to let others know about donuts in the kitchen, for example, or to complain about people not being clean in the kitchen (which he said had nothing to do with the fact it was his turn to clean the kitchen). Around each holiday, a number of people use it to send holiday greetings, and then reply to holiday greetings, and then reply, so my inbox gets pretty cluttered with “thanks everyone, have a great holiday!” type emails.

        3. OP*

          I don’t think so? Maybe the principal? We use all-staff e-mails constantly. We are supposed to send one out to let everyone know if we won’t be there, and it’s constantly used for things like “Great Job Frodo” (which is particularly terrible because then everyone replies all just to say “thank you” or whatever), “there’s cake in the teacher’s lounge”, “Happy Friday, look at this funny video”, and “have you seen my umbrella?”.

      5. Persimmons*

        Oh, brilliant. “Educators: spread misinformation for the betterment of your students!”

      6. Artemesia*

        The principal needs to handle this immediately or if there is someone who onboards (never have seen this in a school) then that person.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          I agree. It’s not OP4’s responsibility, unless she is an administrator.

          1. OP*

            I’m not. I would be surprised if our administrators did anything to address it though…which is a big part of why I am looking to leave this school.

      7. LQ*

        Our all staff email privileges were revoked after a series of incidents (not nearly this bad) happened. It’s really wonderful. Only senior leaders can send the messages to that all staff email list. Unless all staff need to be able to send all staff emails this is really helpful and I would strongly encourage it. It also fixes the problem of when leadership sends out the all staff message and someone reply alls to it.

        But she’s just horrible.

      8. Evan*

        Her feelings on pit bulls are a way of telegraphing her feelings about the “kind of people” who tend to own them. I’d be worried about how she’ll treat minority students.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I…feel like that’s kind of a stretch. I’ve known people who were anti-pit-bull purely because they’d bought into the propaganda of pit bulls as violent dogs and thought they were doing something good for public safety by supporting bans, without it having anything to do with owner demographics. I’m sure there are people who are anti-pit-bull because they associate pit bulls with “those kind of people”, as you said, but I don’t know that it’s something so widespread that it makes sense to assume it of a total stranger and then extrapolate to how she will treat minority students as a result.

          1. Evan*

            I’m not saying that she’s consciously trying to spread racist messages using the pit bull thing as a Trojan Horse. You’re right that most people with anti-pit views are just “buying into the propaganda.” But that propaganda exists around pit bulls and not other aggressive breeds for a reason. It’s a way of framing your discomfort towards people you think are raising aggressive dogs. I’ve known tons of people who shared this prejudice, and I wouldn’t label all of them as outright racists. But it’s easy to sniff out the underlying anxiety around this publicly acceptable fear.

              1. Specialk9*

                I’ve only met white professionals who own pit bulls/AmStaffs, so I’m assuming white yuppies?

              2. Blueberry*

                It’s not so much who actually owns them as who are assumed to own them: there’s a stereotype of pit bulls being owned by Violent Minority Thugs. I think Evan has a point.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Right, I get that there is a potential connection and a…let’s call it a cultural framing issue at play here – I just think it’s a stretch to go from that to “therefore I’m worried about how this person will treat minority students”. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, I’m not questioning the premise, just the specific application of it to this case.

        2. Specialk9*

          This is a stretch. I get why you’re raising it, but you are in 100% speculation land.

          Besides, most generations get a dog breed that gets demonized. In the 80s it was Dobies, now it’s pits.

          Statistically speaking, spaniels are the bitiest, last I looked. (Something like Prince Charles spaniel, if that’s an actual breed.) Nobody cares, they don’t look scary.

        3. OP*

          I don’t disagree with you. She did make what seemed like veiled comments in the e-mail. I deleted it, but there were things like “some parents don’t think about their children’s safety” or “these dog owners don’t know enough”, etc. I wonder how she’ll react to the multiple parents who drop off and pick up their kids with the family pit bull along?

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            I’m days late to the discussion, but I wanted to say it’s utterly bizarre for her to say “some parents don’t think about their children’s safety” in this context. I mean, I know there are neglectful parents out there, otherwise we wouldn’t have children’s services, but dogs have nothing to do with it.

            Also, +1 million to pit bulls, and good on you for fostering! I was nervous about them until I became a dog walker, at which point I realized they were actually some of my favorite dogs ever. I look forward to being a homeowner one day so I don’t have to bow to misinformed landlords.

      9. Luna*

        Ugh. You should definitely say something, either to her directly or to someone in charge. But I agree with the others who recommend limiting it to a simple “this is not what the email list is for” statement. Maybe an additional line about inappropriate/offensive content, but I wouldn’t start a debate about the merits of the ban on a reply-all thread to the whole list. If you are worried that other staff might be swayed by her message it’s better to speak with them one on one or in small groups, if they seem open to discussing it.

        1. CM*

          I would use Alison’s script that also notes the inaccuracies in the message. I think making a simple statement about that is different than jumping into a debate, and I think it’s warranted here where the email involves political fearmongering.

      10. Iris Eyes*

        Defamation of innocent parties who are incapable of speaking for themselves is definitely in my category of things worth standing up for but replying all has the tendency to start a back and forth that could spiral into something that everyone remembers for the rest of their life.

        Ideally someone in authority would come in with the shepherds crook to get them off the All Staff email stage and address both issues. And then lock the distribution list.

        1. OP*

          Yes. I ended up deleting the e-mail out of fear of making myself look bad. There’s a strong temptation to make my classroom theme “pit bulls” this year though…

          1. Iris Eyes*

            It sounds like there will probably be plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge and experience on a personal level. Who knows maybe people who were on the fence will be more likely to talk about it now.

            I guess it really isn’t surprising that a person who feels entitled to determine what type of dogs her neighbors are and aren’t allowed to own has boundary issues in other areas.

      11. Oserver*

        So totally inappropriate. I still think you should skip any mention of the inaccuracies. I can’t imagine her NOT trying to convince you that YOU are totally wrong.

        And, yeah, she sounds like a delight. For your sake I hope that there’s not much update material here, but I suspect that there will be.

      12. Autumnheart*

        I feel like this new hire should become the Scaramucci of your organization and not be brought on board at all. Call #2 on the “people we wanted to hire” list and offer them the job instead.

      13. Shamy*

        I don’t blame you for being upset. This would trigger the hell out of me as someone that loves “pit bull” type dogs and hopes to work heavily in rescuing/fostering in the near future, and as someone who lost a beloved pit bull 2 years ago quite suddenly to a brain disease, but was so meek and sweet, I was training him to be a therapy dog. This would sour my opinion on this person to the point that the most I would be capable of would be polite cordialness and treating her professionally.

        Maybe I am too emotionally close to this, but I actually think I would say something to counteract the spread of such egregious misinformation, just because I sometimes think people count on spreading this sort of propaganda with no pushback. That probably isn’t the right thing to do, but I am not sure I would be able to resist.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m with you tbh – is it necessarily the ideal way to handle this? Maybe not, but I can’t stand to let egregious misinformation go unchecked when it’s harmful like that.

          Like, if someone pushed a pro-declawing thing, there’s no way in hell I could stop myself from jumping in whether or not that’s the best way to handle it. We’re talking about the lives of innocent animals here. This is not the time to stay silent or quietly address it only with her.

          1. Shamy*

            Exactly! Someone wrote a script downthread that seemed like the perfect response. I hope that OP will use it or tuck it in their arsenal. I highly doubt this will be the last time this person uses the listserv in this way.

      14. Jadelyn*

        Wow. I commend you and your coworkers on your presumed restraint in not slashing her tires or anything so far. Cause that’s not even just “wrong information” it’s “guilt trip to join me in wrong information”. Gosh she sounds like a charmer.

        1. Jess*

          Yes! It’s the classic “but it’s for the children” guilt trip, designed to shut off all critical thinking because no one wants to be the one against protecting children. It’s such a manipulative tactic. (I wonder if it sometimes also actually makes people think that normal rules don’t or shouldn’t apply—like thinking this transcends normal politics b/c it’s about an imminent “threat” to the safety of children, so of course new co-workers at a school would want to know about it.)

          This would seriously sour me on new coworker. Especially b/c I would feel hamstrung from replying to the misinformation. I keep going on back and forth on whether that should be addressed with her too, or whether the focus should just be on not using the all staff email for that stuff. But either way, it would drive me crazy that I would feel that I didn’t have the same freedom to use the same forum to correct the misinformation she inappropriately spread there. Also, breed bans are the worst.

          1. Shamy*

            So glad to know I am not the only one whose impression would be permanently impacted by this new worker’s actions. You perfectly articulated everything wrong with all of this: the manipulation tactics, the hamstrung response, the limitations of what part to address.

            +1000 breed bans are the worst

      15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You might be able to shut this down with a word to her supervisor about the school’s nonprofit status. (Can you tell I’m on a listserv owned/maintained by a 501(c)(3) that had to shut down a bunch of people posting requests to support candidates and donate to them?). A pit-ban is slightly different, but I suspect your employer has a policy (or other rules) about not using their list to lobby one’s coworkers.

        She sounds absolutely delightful. /sarcasm

      16. Someone else*

        Every company I’ve worked for had something in the handbook explicitly forbidding anyone from using all staff emails for soliciting anything, and a list of “including but not limited to”s that would’ve totally covered what your new person did.

        Someone (who was not new) once did something similar but for something much less gorey and not political, but the CEO replied all about 20 minutes after we all received it and basically went all “per the handbook: PASTED BLURB.” And that put a right stop to that. Come to think of it…the person stopped working there very shortly thereafter. I’m not sure if they got fired or quit over it, but the timing was a little suspicious.

    5. A.*

      For me, the biggest issue is someone sending me graphic photographs of injured children. I would be so angry if I got a photograph like that sent to my email. I purposely do not click on links that contain graphic images. Not only would I reply all and ask her to refrain from sending graphic images to the entire list serve but I would complain to her supervisor.

      I also have defriended people on social media that like to send those types of images.

      1. OP*

        Fortunately, I saw her description of the images before I saw the actual images, and had the good sense to not look. I’m sure I would be significantly more upset if I had.

  4. Triple Anon*

    1) I would think about how you want to be percieved there long term. A lot of people are a little judgmental about tattoos even if they don’t mean to be. I would cover it up at work. You could always show it off to your co-workers later on, but I wouldn’t tell the boss about it unless there was a reason to.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It sounds cautious to me. Some people are judgy about tattoos. And if you’ve been burned in the past by it you’re gun shy.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I’d like to make a request for the sake of discussion and clarification. If you (or anyone else) are making an assertion (it’s judgmental) then you really need to make supporting arguments for the assertion.

        An assertion by itself is no argument at all. Without supporting statements it is downgraded to opinion only. Which means no one has to consider it.

        1. Specialk9*

          You can make the request, but this isn’t a scientific paper or dissertation, it’s an opinion page. Yeah it’s nice to cite reasons when making a controversial statement, but again – opinion page.

      3. Triple Anon*

        I can see that. Hopefully the underlying assumption wouldn’t be, “These people will judge me,” but more like, “Better safe than sorry.” In my experience, a lot of people are fine with tattoos, but it still can affect how they think of people who have them. For example, they might see you as an adventurous, creative type and want to steer you towards those kinds of roles and away from interfacing with clients. Maybe without being aware of their own biases.

        On a more personal level, I’ve seen it go both ways. I’ve been harshly criticized at work for having tattoos. It’s also been a positive thing that helped me to connect with people who appreciate my tattoos. They’ve opened and closed doors for me. But if it’s a corporate office, even a small one, I’d be erring on the safe side. More of a, “you never know,” kind of thing.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I got my first tattoo 20 years ago and it was ~scandalous~ among my family. Now, my mom, my siblings, and the majority of my cousins have tattoos.

      Basically, tattoos have become a lot more mainstream and I imagine will only continue to do so.

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          I feel like I’ve noticed a difference even in the 12 years since I got my first tattoo! I have several small-med, but very easily hidden tattoos (all on my torso, hips, ribs). I also have one small, but visible one on the inside of my wrist. For the first five or so years after I got it, new people that I met often commented on it and I was very careful to cover it with a bracelet at job interviews. But then in the last 5-6 years people have pretty much stopped commenting on it (I’m talking new people – new co-workers, people I meet at parties/in bars, new acquaintances, etc.). I’ve completely forgotten about it and didn’t even think to cover it when interviewing for my current job (and I’m in a semi-conservative field – finance).

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        Ha, about 20 years one of siblings got their first tattoo, and I was shocked, I tell you, shocked! (I was also a teenager, in my defense). Nowadays, it’s just whatevs!

      2. many bells down*

        I told my mom I was getting a tattoo back when I was in college and she was horrified. I never did get around to getting that tattoo, but when mom turned 50 she got one herself.

        1. JeanneM*

          I waited until after I got mine to tell my parents, and my mom was so mad she wouldn’t speak to me for several days. Fast forward about ten years to when my brother got one and suddenly it was cool. She still doesn’t approve, but he didn’t get any crap for his whereas I had to walk on eggshells around her for weeks after I got mine and endure repeated lectures about how stupid I was to get one anytime the subject was brought up for years afterward. She claims it’s because my brother was older when he got his than I was when I got mine, but I ain’t buying it.

          The few co-workers who’ve seen mine think it’s cool. It’s small and on a spot on my torso that’s covered all the time but can be easily uncovered without violating any decency laws, unless I’m wearing a dress.

          1. Blueberry*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry your mom was so judgmental and in such a sexist pattern too. Wear your skin art proudly!

    2. pleaset*

      I have to admit I’m an older person, no tattoos, pretty conservative in dress and style myself, and I’m certainly very judgmental about big ones: I think they’re awesome! Wish I could do that.

      Or at least they’re awesome is the person with them clearly puts some good effort into style in general. On sloppy people or people who look like they don’t take care of their appearance, they’re lame.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        As an artist, I get picky on how it looks.

        I follow a youtuber who has a BEAUTIFUL tattoo across her collar of mechanical blue birds (PushingUpRoses if you like retro and computer games).

        Bad pin up and faces make me cringe. Same with Asian characters because the people tend to pick them without realizing if it is Chinese, Japanese, etc and without realizing their true meaning. Like… no. Please don’t get stuff on your body in a foreign language unless you truly know what they mean.

        1. Chinookwind*

          “Please don’t get stuff on your body in a foreign language unless you truly know what they mean.”

          Or that you know is drawn correctly. I was surprised the first to see DH’s tattoo of a Japanese preposition on the back of his leg. He explained that it meant “strength” or “wisdom” or something like that. I pointed out that it actually “with” and needed an extra line to get the meaning he wanted. This would be example #3 of 4 bad tattoo choices.

        2. Anonymosity*

          I love beautiful tats but I have to agree with you. I’ve seen some really, really bad ones. D:

          I have two–one is a mahjong character but it refers to a book (it’s very small and I might tat over it and move it to a different area). The other is the Hogwarts crest. I wore a sleeveless shirt the night I stood in line for Deathly Hallows, and people kept poking my arm in awe and saying,”Is it real???” Yes, now stop poking me!

          One of the best ones I ever saw was in Santa Cruz–someone had an octopus wound all around their leg, in gorgeous, brilliant colors. It was huge and I LOVED it. They could cover it at work if they wore trousers.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Many boomers don’t have tattoos because they remember the ugly ones that the WWII generation brought back.
        These guys were old, the tattoos were on now sagging and wrinkled skin, and many times the tattoo looked smeared and distorted. I suspect that the tattoos were a combination of older and bad technique combined with age.
        Today’s tattoos are precise, colored, and very different. I’m still wondering how they will age though.

        1. Canarian*

          Today’s tattoos are precise, colored, and very different. I’m still wondering how they will age though.

          This! I love the look of watercolor tattoos and I have seen some incredible ones. But the fact that there basically are no 30-40 year old watercolor tattoos in the world that can be a good guide for how they age is the main reason I haven’t gotten one.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Me, I’m too indecisive–so I just get fake ones for various occasions. Yes, a little spendy, but not nearly as much as laser surgery.

    3. OP1*

      I actually live in a city where a LOT of people my age have visible tattoos and I feel comfortable keeping my arms uncovered in the office in my job/industry without people judging – believe it or not, my boss even saw my new one and thinks it’s beautiful! So no, I’m not going to cover it on a daily basis.

    4. MJ*

      I’d say yes to this for a lot of sectors, but given the OP’s working in tech *and* non-profit, I wouldn’t worry too much. At least, if someone is accidentally/instinctually a bit judgemental…they’re gonna be judging most of their sector.

  5. Sami*

    OP#2: In addition to what Alison mentioned about your coworker’s age, it doesn’t matter what her figure looks like or that she has lost weight.
    This just is an issue for you to leave alone.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Yeah. But she could be dressing in a way that would be inappropriate for anyone. Still, it’s the boss’s job to decide what, if anything to do about it. LW has to either accept that that kind of attire is part of the dress code or find a different place to work.

      1. Sami*

        Right. That’s what I meant. Regardless of age, figure, whatever, if clothes are inappropriate, then they’re inappropriate (at least in that office). But the line needs to be defined by TPTB, not an opinion of one coworker.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Giving the OP the benefit of the doubt here. The OP may find the same clothes inappropriate on anyone in the office, but it’s particularly egregious on someone who should have the experience to know better.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            They were very clear in their wording, there really isn’t any doubt about what they meant.

            1. Triple Anon*

              Yeah. Throwing in age and other physical details was kind of yucky and irrelevant, but I’m assuming they meant well and didn’t think about how it would come across. We’re all here to learn.

          2. Oserver*

            They were pretty clear that it was an issue of age. But even if that’s not what they meant, they have lost all credibility and standing to say anything at this point, because they very explicitly complained that a “woman who is 57 years of age” is wearing these clothes.

            I don’t know if these clothes are inappropriate in this office or not. But I suspect that if HR is competent, they are not going to touch this with a 10 foot pole, because the OP has turned this into an age discrimination issue.

            1. CubeGirl*

              We have 2 women in my office who are in this same boat. Too short, too low, and too old yet dress so young. It is unprofessional. I (and those around me) do not need to see nipple or upper thigh. There is an almost daily viewing on undergarments in the office from these two. I pointed out to one of them that i could see her underwear when she walked by in a particular skirt with a slit up the backside. She was horrified and said she would check it at home. The skirt is still worn.

              When it comes to the age and clothing issue i think i may understand more of what OP is talking about. One womans hayday was in the 80’s. Very little has changed about here wardrobe. The big big rats nest hair is still there, itty bitty skirts and dresses, and low cut tops with very large breasts. The fabric can not seem to keep them contained. Most everyday her Bra is showing.

              The other woman wears short shorts and skirts as much as humanly possible. So much so that there is nothing left to any possible imagination. Nothing seems to fit her age and would belong better on a teenager, which we are all pretty sure she thinks she still is. The choice of clothing that the second woman wears maybe could be appropriate for the office on someone starting out but not someone less than 10 years from retirement.

              It makes them both look like they are trying way way to hard to be young and they are both failing horribly at it. It has the opposite effect of making them look older and trashy. Not professional looking at all. Every time there is a meeting coming into the office people cringe knowing what image is being presented when the women are in attendance.

              Management does not do anything about it. We have a loose dress code in the office but it does to seem to be enforced on these two at all. We also have and all male executive group, and a past (now dead) CEO who loved leering at women. This seems to have set the tone in the office with these two. If you show what you got they will not fire you because they like looking at what you got.

                1. CubeGirl*

                  Ha Ha Ha no not OP2 in hiding.

                  Not exaggerating and not being an asshole (but thanks for the assumption. says more about you than me) just tired of having T & A in my face at work. It’s an office. Not a strip club.

                2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  CubeGirl, sounds like it might be time for you to find a new job since it sounds like you and that workplace’s dress code and culture aren’t a great match

                3. tusky*

                  CubeGirl, you are being mean and cruel. Lest you think I’m making assumptions, let me point out some of the ways: comparing human beings to garbage (“making them look…trashy”); comparing adult women to children (“would belong better on a teenager, which we are all pretty sure she thinks she still is”); implicitly blaming the way women dress for others creepy behaviors (CEO who loved leering at women…If you show what you got they will not fire you because they like looking at what you got).

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                As a great man once said… “I like my women a little on the trashy side.”

              2. Not a Mere Device*

                My wardrobe is also as close to what I was wearing thirty years ago as I can manage without learning to sew (what clothing is easily available changes over time). The reason I’m not wearing itty bitty skirts is that I’ve never particularly cared for that look, not because I decided I’m “too old” for it.

                One deliberate change as I got older is that I added more sleeveless shirts, to show off tattoos that I got when I was in my 30s. (That was long enough ago that the tattoos on my arms are placed so a t-shirt will cover them.)

                I have slightly more body modesty than my cats–but in the same “I don’t care if people are looking”, it’s warm enough that I don’t particularly want to be wearing clothes” way, not “hey look I have tits.”

              3. Anonymosity*

                My boss at OldExjob once sent home a twenty-something temp for wearing a very low-cut blouse. Offices tend toward conservative dress, at least in terms of what it covers.

                If ’80s Lady were wearing knee-length skirt suits with padded shoulders and a bow-tied blouse (also very ’80s), she’d probably be fine, if a bit dated. Showing underpants and bras is inappropriate at the office even if done by a teenager. Age has NOTHING to do with it.

              4. tangerineRose*

                That clothing doesn’t seem like it would be appropriate for a teenager either, at least not at work!

              5. Len F*

                If it’s unprofessional for these older women to wear these clothes, it would *also* be unprofessional for a younger woman to wear these clothes.

                The problem is management, not the age of your coworkers.

              6. R*

                It sounds like you’re spending an awful lot of time checking out these womens’ bodies and fashion choices at the office. Sorry to be a bit blunt here, but it *might* be you who needs to MYOB.

                1. R*

                  Also – I’m a woman in my 20s, and dress quite conservatively, so am I dressing “too old”? Or is that okay? See the double-standard? You can have an opinion and preferences on other people’s clothes, but that’s where it ends. Unless someone’s clothing is literally exposing themselves, it’s not your place to try to tell them how to dress.

      2. TL -*

        And the descriptions are pretty vague; I’m not sure if the clothing is “inappropriate” because she’s over the age of 50 or if it’s truly inappropriate for an office.

        Short skirt could just mean anything above the knees is “too short for an older woman”, or it could mean sitting or bending over is showing the office more than they signed up for. Off the shoulder is fine in a lot of more casual offices (and pretty in right now, I think?), but inappropriate in formal offices. Not wearing a bra depends entirely on the individual person – some people you can’t tell and others it’s very eye-catching.

        OP, if you’re catching glimpses of undies or bras, you might want to take Coworker aside and say, very gently and without judgment, “Hey, just so you know, that skirt is probably a little more revealing than you intended – sorry to bring up such an awkward thing; I’d just want to know if it was me.” But other than that, I would stay out of it and just let your coworker feel good in her clothing.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If you’re arguing professional norms while citing the wearer’s age and weight, you’ve already lost the ostensible ground of the argument.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. I’m imagining complaints about a 57-year-old man in the same situation but he’d have to be skateboarding in the office or something.

            1. NaoNao*

              The most annoying thing is that half the older V.C. types walk around in expensive versions of hoodies, jeans, and skate shoes. I can’t imagine a more literal version of “clothing a 15 year old wears” and yet on the distaff gender, it’s hip, fun, trendy, and cool.

              /need more coffee to balance out my Angry Feminist

              1. tusky*

                THIS. (Also, my Angry Feminist has had a lot of coffee and says to yours, “never balance out Angry Feminist!”)

                1. Plague of frogs*

                  But since I’m here, I’d like to mention that I (a female) am wearing the *identical* outfit that you described (minus the expensive part), and no one at work has compared me to a 15 year old, ever.

                  I like your angry feminism, but it might be misdirected. Or, I might just be lucky.

            2. Opting for the Sidelines*

              Then we would probably just say that he was embracing his inner-youth or embracing the hipster lifestyle. In short, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

              Unless he was wearing Speedos and only Speedos to the office.

          2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I’m going to disagree with you on this. Yes there are clothes that are inappropriate in a work setting that age does factor into.

            Just as someone mentioned below, if a man (or woman) came in to work sporting their latest look from forever 21 or teen boy shop (strangely teen boys generally don’t dress much different than adult men if you think about it) it would be just as odd. I go with odd, because the clothes themselves could be in the realms of professional (e.g. appropriately covered, clean, etc.) but very out of place on the wearer.

            It would be just as odd if you had an 19 yo intern come in to work wearing a cardinal sitting on a snowy branch applique sweatshirt with built in lace collar, elastic waist chinos, and sensible shoes with velcro closures. I would side eye this 19 yo just as much as I would a 57 yo wearing the same clothes as a 19 yo.

            With all that being said, OP can judge all day long what the coworker is wearing. She voiced concern to the person who could and nothing came of it. Not much more they can do and they need to let it go and go back to silently judging. But let’s not teeter on our high horses that judging people on their appearance isn’t something that we all do.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I don’t see anything wrong with the outfits you describe–if they would be office appropriate on someone of 50/20, then they should be office appropriate on someone of 20/50. The sensible shoes with velcro closures, especially, sound like something the person has a physical reason to wear and I would definitely never comment on it.

              I might have all sorts of thoughts on the flattery of people’s clearly-not-comfort-related clothing choices based on how they work with the rest of their appearance, but I am not the fashion police and there’s no reason for them to adjust their clothing to my preferences. (Let’s all wear comfortable separates from LLBean, mostly in blues and greys.)

              1. Zombeyonce*


                Just because a trend is mostly worn by a younger generation doesn’t make it automatically unsuitable and unprofessional. That sounds like RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone wants people to fit in perfect little boxes defined by their age and gender, which isn’t helpful to anyone. With the exclusion of public nudity at work (unless that’s your job), let people wear what they feel good in!

                1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

                  No I actually don’t… and if you read some of my other comments you will see that I don’t fit into a box myself.

                  People can sport whatever look they want, but doing that doesn’t change the fact that how you present yourself will have an impact on how people judge you. If you are a 60 yo man or woman wearing clothes designed for a 15 yo, then don’t be surprised when people’s perceptions about you are based on that.

                  Go ahead and find the oldest man you work with. Now imagine him coming in one day wearing skinny jeans, toms, a madras shirt, and a knit slouchy hat. Yeah, how’s that look on him?

                2. Zombeyonce*

                  I live in Portland so I see older men wearing clothes like that every day. They look fine to me.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  Pretty nifty! But then the “hipster male” look is, I think, partly modeled on an earlier era of fashion anyway and is intentionally kind of “grandpa.”

              2. Mad Baggins*

                Yes, I have a lot of opinions on what people should wear to look more fashionable or what would flatter their skin tone or better suit my personal fashion sense. But that’s not the same thing as “does what they’re wearing follow the dress code.”

        2. Ladyphoenix*

          Coworker may not have a bra to wear if she lost a lot of weight. I know it is harder, but you can make your breasts smaller through losing weight too.

          1. self employed*

            This argument is ludicrous. A bra is pretty standard minimum of appropriateness for the vast majority of workplaces.

            And before anyone regales is with all of their braless in the workplace stories, I am referring to noticeable bralessness. Sorry, it’s a convention and a pretty solid line of what is professional.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              Agreed. Especially since the OP states off the shoulder blouses which tend to be problematic to wear without specialized undergarments.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              The bralessness may be legitimately outside usual professional norms, but you don’t go up to a coworker and tell them to wear different underwear. If they are customer facing then you can mention it to your boss, once.

              If OP had kept it to “My coworker recently lost a lot of weight and has stopped wearing a bra” then the advice would have been along those lines.

      3. Mookie*

        Right. I don’t actually care about what fifteen year-old girls wear and I think they’re policed enough to the point where by default they’re forever letting down the (often unreasonable and contradictory) expectations and some or other group, but it’s possibly worth unpacking why one associates clothes that might ‘scandalize’ their own sensibilities with teenage girls. Teens are pretty heterogenous, except in fiction where they are mostly stereotypes held by people who don’t regularly interact with teenagers in the real world who, pace some people’s fantasies, are more ‘modest’ in their wardrobe selection than their adult counterparts.

        My general advice would be to focus on the norms, not what transgressions remind you of. In this case, though, there’s no standing to dictate what those norms are. The office / management already decided for you. It’s time to let it go and let it be the co-worker’s and the boss’s problem.

        1. Allison*

          I wonder if the clothing is being associated with teen girls because teenagers don’t know how to dress for the office, unless they had a good mentor or a parent who understood that “professional” clothing guidelines need to be spelled out, you can’t just assume they’re “common sense” or “common knowledge” and intelligent people will “just know” these things (and if they don’t, they’re not suited for “proper” office jobs). Young people need guidance, and sometimes get a pass on making mistakes, but older people are expected to know better.

          1. Allison*

            (please don’t jump down my throat, I’m just justifying the agesim here, I don’t like or agree with it, I’m trying to offer an explanation of where it may be coming from, benefit of the doubt and all that)

        2. Iris Eyes*

          This woman has a teenage daughter of 15. That’s why that particular example is being used, presumably this woman is raiding the closet of her daughter instead of purchasing a new wardrobe or something along those lines. So it is in all likelihood literally clothes that a 15 year owns.

          I guess you could always nominate her for a What Not to Wear style show. Or you could make sure and be vocal about any sales at stores with a more professional profile.

        3. Genny*

          I think the point the LW was trying to make is that clothes geared towards teenagers have a certain look. They’re often thinner fabrics, generally “trendy”, and cut a little tighter or shorter (for instance, instead of touching the top of the knee, a dress might hit mid-thigh – it’s not “sleazy”, it’s just shorter than what’s usually acceptable for an office). I mean, there’s a reason you don’t see many women shopping at Forever 21 or H&M for professional clothes or teenagers shopping at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor.

          1. Jess*

            Exactly. This is what I took from the letter as well. I didn’t think LW was saying she couldn’t wear it b/c she was 57 and not 27, but that even a 27-year-old or 23-year-old or whatever in an office would be “too old” for a 15-year-old’s clothing. “Too old” in this sense is more like saying the clothing is unprofessional or immature for any professional adult. A lot of teen clothes may be perfectly appropriate for teens and technically cover enough skin for an office, but still look “too young” or “immature” overall. Not all norms about professional dress are about covering up skin. I feel like we should at least try giving OP the benefit of the doubt as to her intended meaning until there’s a reason to think otherwise.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          When I was 15 I wore Dr. Martens, jeans, t-shirts and flannels. I’m pretty sure a 57 year old could rock the same look in a casual office

          1. Anonymosity*

            I wore a lot more dressy clothes when I was a teen than I do now at 53. These days, I almost always wear jeans and graphic tees. And that’s what the majority of people wore at Exjob, including me.

    2. beth*

      Yeah, all the body talk in this one (weight, age, blah blah blah) makes it feel like it’s as much about OP not liking her coworker’s way of being female as it is about professionalism. Maybe that’s not the case, and the clothes really aren’t professional–but if that is the case, the body talk is a big distraction from the real point.

            1. DFW*

              Maybe if you look at it from a strict dictionary definition of the term sexism. That doesn’t change the balance of power if it was a man that was complaining about this vs a woman. Woman can’t be sexist to other women when you consider the imbalance of power and the extent that women’s bodies are policed by men in power.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                But women most certainly can judge other women by sexist standards and play their part in upholding systemic misogyny, which is the issue at hand.

                1. DFW*

                  I’m not disputing that the writer is being judgmental. I am saying that women can’t be sexist towards other women factoring in the disparate amount of power that men have against women especially when it comes to creating and enforcing dress code.

                2. Oserver*

                  That’s just such a load of baloney. Sorry. This is the kind of argument that is used to judge all sorts of bigotry. Bigotry is NOT defined by “balance of power.”

                  Sure, bigotry on the part of the more powerful tends to be more damaging, but it doesn’t make it more bigoted per se.

                  Let’s stop giving people a pass for gross behavior because they belong to a particular demographic.

                3. EOA*

                  Women can internalize misogyny and then use whatever power they have to reinforce sexist, patriarchal messages towards other women. Furthermore, there are certainly power differentials among different groups of women, in terms of race, ethnicity, age, cis/trans, etc. In those ways, yes, women can be institutionally sexist.

                  And they can also be personally sexist – I am not someone who believes that the ONLY way to be racist or sexist is institutionally. Personal actions impact institutional ones.

              2. Environmental Compliance*

                “Woman can’t be sexist to other women when you consider the imbalance of power and the extent that women’s bodies are policed by men in power.”

                ………………………………………………… Just…

              3. Turquoisecow*

                Women are faaaar more likelier to make comments on another woman’s clothing and/or body. I’m not going to speculate on the gender of the LW, but internalized misogyny is 100% real. Signed, a woman who has definitely seen other women make sexist remarks.

                1. SarahKay*

                  Agreed. I’ve stood next to two early-20-something female co-workers who were judging an ‘older’ woman (in her 40’s) for her dress sense, which I would have considered to be both stylish and very fashionable.
                  Their comment went along the lines of “What does she think she looks like; she shouldn’t be wearing stuff like that at her age” :(

              4. Natalie*

                The power+prejudice idea of -isms is one particular definition, not the universally agreed upon standard. It’s fine that you use it, but you don’t need to “correct” people who were being perfectly clear.

              5. Decima Dewey*

                I have to disagree. Women can be sexist, and not just by a strict dictionary definition.

                I’m also having trouble with OP’s comments about coworker’s age and weight. As a 62 year old woman, I don’t wear short skirts or crop tops anywhere, never mind at work. But I balk at the idea that a woman shouldn’t wear cool stuff after perimenopause. Again, not talking about inappropriate for work. Talking about someone like the guy who yelled “Nice goat, Grandma!” when I was wearing my red and pink striped fake fur.

              6. Zombeyonce*

                “Woman can’t be sexist to other women when you consider the imbalance of power and the extent that women’s bodies are policed by men in power.”

                This is demonstrably untrue. Sexism is often practiced by people in power (who may or may not be men), but not exclusively by people in power. Misuse of power, while a problem, is not the same as sexism. They may be combined but they are not identical. Women can definitely be sexist toward other women in the same way that men can. Acting on sexist beliefs using an imbalance of power is different, and can ALSO be used by women against women.

              7. anonmale*

                This is so ridiculous! The LW gender isn’t even specified. I can’t stand how commenters here like to automatically jump to it must be men’s fault whenever a woman experiences a problem. I feel like the anti male bias is subtle here but progressively getting worse over time.

                1. Zombeyonce*

                  That seems pretty untrue. There are quite a few negative responses to the person that wrote it and the majority are from people with usernames that are women’s names, so even the women here generally think the original comment was uncalled for.

                  Also, I have to point out there there’s been a general anti-female bias in so many parts of society for so long that it’s not an anti-male bias, it’s just the system correcting itself to be eventually equal that you’re noticing.

            2. Allison*

              Oh yeah, and women can be super judgmental of other women in the workplace! We’ve all heard the judgmental office lady scatting – hemmm nmmm tsk tut *sigh* aaaaaah . . .

          1. beth*

            This literally doesn’t matter. “You’re womaning wrong, and I’m considering attempting to use the power structure of our workplace to force you into compliance with the way I think you should woman” is a sexist attitude regardless of the sex or gender of the person thinking it.

      1. Tim Tam Girl*

        ‘…it’s as much about OP not liking her coworker’s way of being female….’


      2. Scarlet*

        My thoughts exactly. If it was really about “professionalism” (and even if it were, OP has no standing to do anything about it), why the strange focus on the woman’s age and figure? Sounds like an office busybody with weird hangups.

        OP should mind their own business and keep their sexist and ageist opinion to themselves.

      3. Mookie*

        I don’t want to impugn the LW’s motives because there’s no reason to doubt them, but yeah, there’s something sniff-worthy lingering in the background when one expresses Concern that a woman’s bodyweight, size, or general appearance may have gone to her head. (The same thing happens when a woman doesn’t meet prevailing standards of beauty; “she‘s not allowed to dress like that! She should know her place!”)

        1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

          “She’ recently lost a lot of weight” has a whiff of “how dare she” about it….

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I interpreted that as “I guess she wants to show off her body now.” And I agree, there’s a LOT of inappropriately judgey discussion of whether *this* woman should be able to wear *this* outfit. But I think an off-the-shoulder top would be inappropriate for most offices, wouldn’t it? So, OP, ask yourself this: should ALL women in the office avoid this particular outfit? If so, it’s a dress code violation (though not necessarily your circus or your monkey). If it would be okay on some women, but not this one? That’s not a dress code issue.

            1. Thankful for AAM*

              I also took it as, she might have changed to this unprofessional clothing bc she lost weight and wants to show off her weight loss.

              I also happen to think cold shoulder tops look totally unprofessional on everyone except runway models on the runway. And maybe costumes.

              I know it is wrong but I will judge you and think poorly of your professionalism if you wear cold shoulder tops to work.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I was actually thinking of a true off-the-shoulder top that leaves the shoulders completely exposed, not a cold-shoulder top. I don’t think cold shoulders are any less professional than sleeveless tops/dresses (meaning I personally wouldn’t wear them to work, but I’m not going to side-eye you if you do).

              2. medium of ballpoint*

                I dislike cold shoulder tops, too, but damn if they haven’t been everywhere the last few years. If you’re someone limited to the selection of a few stores, whether by size, geography, etc., it can take some hard work to find work appropriate tops.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  It’s so annoying when even the longest-sleeved, most Victorian-necked blouses have shoulder cutouts. I think it’s a conspiracy to sell cardigans. Only half joking.

                2. Anonymosity*

                  They’re fine if you’re going on a picnic, but I don’t think they’re all that great for the office. Which is annoying–it’s hard enough to find work-appropriate clothing that’s not too short, too tight, too low-cut (what is WITH that!), too sheer, etc.

        2. Anon for this*

          It’s unreal how nasty people (ok, usually women) can be to someone who has lost a lot of weight. Lots of “she thinks she’s so hot” and “she thinks she’s better than us”. When all the person who lost weight is thinking is “finally! clothes that fit and don’t look like upholstery”.

          Someone that lost 140 pounds

        3. smoke tree*

          I’m getting a hint of good old-fashioned 17th century Restoration comedy from this–at the time the idea of an older woman (read: any woman over 25) trying to look good or being interested in romance was the pinnacle of humour. I would have hoped that we had moved past that, but … welp.

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*


        Plenty of women of all ages wear those cold shoulder tops where I work and they don’t look unprofessional.

        1. NCKat*

          Cold-shoulder tops literally leave me cold. Our building services department has the A/C on full blast these days, and more times than not, you see women in sweaters. We are in a conservative Southern city; most women wear slacks and professional blouses, regardless of age. I once worked in a building in which we had a woman in her 50s wear very colorful and strange outfits. Think yellow blouse, red skirt, and different colored hose, meaning red on one leg and yellow on the other. When we were allowed to wear long shorts at one point, she wore biking shorts with a very oversized t-shirt. When management changed the dress code back to a more formal level, she protested, loud and long. She retired from the company 15 years later. Point of the story – people commented on her outfits, not her age.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I am the weirdo who always has a fan running, but there are plenty of people in my office who keep blankets at their desks.

            Also, I am imagining that you worked with Ronald McDonald’s mom.

            1. NCKat*

              LOL! I often wondered if she was in training to be a clown. She was an artist in marketing, which had a reputation for hiring avant garde employees at the time. Another thing that made her stand out – makeup applied the exact same way every time – eyeliner, blush, etc. I was convinced it was tattooed on. That was a fad at one time.

        2. Temperance*

          There’s a woman in my office who wears one with a leather vest. Not particularly professional, but really, who cares?

          1. Lora*

            Heh, I’m picturing Gina Torres in Firefly with the leather vest.

            Also, when Alison says inappropriate attire for the office, I feel like this is basically Walmartian attire. Like, if you would be furtively photographed by strangers and posted on People of Walmart, probably don’t wear that to work – but that includes, you know, neon feather boas and actual nekkid butts and body stockings with nothing else, which are incorrect for everyone.

            1. embertine*

              *stuffs lurid yellow feather boa into her stationery drawer*
              It kept getting stuck in the shredder anyway.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I feel like wearing a vest over a cold-shoulder top sort of defeats the purpose, but I also don’t understand fleece sleep shorts or open-toed booties.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Depending on the outfit, it can definitely work.

              I’ve done it a few times to shift the cold shoulder from “entire shoulder area is bared” to “between shirt and vest, there’s a crescent along the shoulder/upper arm border that is bared.”

    3. DCompliance*

      I basically read this post as “My coworker shouldn’t be wearing these things because she is old. I would almost give a free pass because is thin, but nope. She is too old.”

  6. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, I am about your co-worker’s age and am thinking about playing around with some colored nail polish like emerald green, royal blue, deep purple, etc. I wondered if I should given that I am out of my teens/twenties, but thought, “What the hell.” I think they are going to be fun. And if someone much younger than me commented negatively on them, using the language that a “woman of my age” shouldn’t do it . . . I would not respond well to that.

    1. Sylvan*

      You are wearing colorful nail polish, not wearing crop tops to work, which isn’t really great at any age.

      1. Scarlet*

        But the coworker’s management doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, therefore it’s not a problem (and definitely not OP’s problem).

        1. Sylvan*

          I agree that it’s not OP’s problem, but it’s not within professional norms to wear revealing clothes.

          I’ve had a couple of coworkers over the years who wore short skirts, shorts, rompers, leggings, etc. to work in offices that had business casual dress codes. I made similar mistakes just out of college (encouraged by a boss who broke the dress code daily) and I think it held me back then.

          1. Scarlet*

            “Professional norms” vary widely from one place of work to the next. And we don’t know how “revealing” those clothes are.

            We just know OP doesn’t like to see those clothes on a 57 year old woman, which comes across as pretty gross. Maybe they should concentrate on doing their job rather than judging their coworker’s sartorial choices.

            1. MLB*

              Based on the fact that LW is saying the clothing is not appropriate because of her co-workers age, I would be skeptical about how “revealing” they really are. But as was said, bottom line is that it’s none of her business.

            2. Sylvan*

              It’s true that norms vary. It’s true that it’s not OP’s business unless OP is managing her or being represented by her to others in some way. I’m going to take OP at their word that the clothes aren’t appropriate for their office.

            3. Fiennes*

              I think OP is being overly judgemental of the coworker’s age and weight loss…AND I think most off the shoulder tops/crop tops are unprofessional at any age in virtually any professional setting. I’m trying to come up with workplaces where very short crop tops would be appropriate, and so far have come up with (a) some hair salons, (b) some kind of funky art gallery, and (c) Hooters.

              It’s possible OP’s judgment of the clothing is skewed—that the crop tops aren’t that short, or that these are only very nice cold-shoulder tops—but my dislike of ageism/sexism/etc is not going to bait me into defending crop tops in professional settings.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              How can you take OP at their word about whether the clothing is appropriate for her office when literally no one in management agrees with OP? If there were an objective dress code to point to, we’d be having another conversation, but so far OP is applying their norms about how a “woman of a certain age/body type/ weight” should dress at work, and those norms do not appear to be shared by anyone with decision-making power re: dress at OP’s workplace.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                This is what I don’t understand. For sure, a ton of people work in places where professional norms are different, but if the management are OK with it, what this person is wearing is obviously not outside *their* norms.

          2. Pollygrammer*

            I do think that OP’s concerns stem from factors she should absolutely not be policing and she should definitely leave this alone.

            But in other circumstances, it is a little annoying when dress codes are enforced for everyone except one person. I had a workplace that was fairly rigid (think East Coast business casual) and the one guy who got to wear jeans every day without any of his superiors calling him out did get under everybody’s skin a bit.

            1. DFW*

              Jeans are a huge stretch in a business casual environment. In my experience, dress codes tend to disproportionately target and be enforced against women.

            2. Scarlet*

              But OP doesn’t mention anywhere that the dress code is enforced more rigidly on everyone else. Actually, they never even mention a dress code. They just mention the coworker’s age and her body size.

      2. Oserver*

        But that’s really the issue here. If the OP had been complaining about “this is not ok in the office AT ALL”, it would still not be her problem, but there would be a bit more sympathy. But “she’s too old for these clothes”? That’s just so utterly inappropriate.

        1. Megan*

          Eh, the comparison was to a teenager not to a younger adult. Appropriate for school really is a different thing than appropriate for the office.

          1. Observer*

            It doesn’t matter. She’s explicitly complaining that her coworker is “too old” to wear those clothes and it is HER AGE That makes the clothes unprofessional That’s just so utterly inappropriate.

    2. Bea*

      My mom is that age and I’m always responding with “yeah you can tho” to her “I can’t wear nail polish, I’m too old.” and “I can’t wear eyeshadow, I’m too old.”

      It’s all about being tasteful and well put together. Nobody looks good with clunky chipped claws or caked on makeup IMO. But colors are for everyone all ages.

      1. RainbowGrunge*

        Thank you!

        I’m in my 20s, but I work with amazing women well into their 50s and 60s. They absolutely rock corals, aquas, purples, and greens on their nails all while maintaining a professional look. I feel like I can’t pull these colors off, because when I do my nails, it looks sloppy, they chip easily and quickly…these women all get gel manicures.

        One woman, probably in her early 50s, dyed her hair lilac and it looked great.

        You don’t lose the right to colors past a certain age.

        And if you think what a 50 year old wears in the work places is inappropriate on her, but that it wouldn’t be inappropriate on a 22 year old in the same workplace…it’s you that needs to change, not her wardrobe.

        Hell, my mom still shops in the Junior’s section at Kohls and loves blue eyeshadow. She’s retired, but still. Good for her for not giving a care.

        1. ElspethGC*

          Re the nails thing – you don’t need gel to have a good brightly-coloured manicure! I’ve had gel once, and my nails didn’t recover for months because of how naturally weak they are anyway, so I stay away from that sort of thing. You can have a good manicure that gives you at least the better part of a week without chipping if you apply it well (don’t paint over the cuticles, wrap the polish over the tip of the nail so there isn’t a bare edge to chip) and use a base and top coat. I like teals and duck-egg blues and multi-chromes and sparkly top coats, and they generally last quite well before getting chipped.

        2. Anonymosity*

          One woman, probably in her early 50s, dyed her hair lilac and it looked great.

          I’m waiting for mine to go white so I can do this. :)
          I remember being a little freaked out when I wanted to wear black nail polish. But if it’s neatly done, it looks great and I wore it to work with no problem.

      2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        Nail polish knows no age.

        No one cares what color one’s nails are, as long as they’re nicely groomed. I can’t believe this is even a thing to comment on! If you’re judging someone’s nail color, you’re living in the 1950s.

        1. SarahKay*

          I might judge – but only in the “Wow, awesome nails, I really like that colour!. Hmmm, I wonder where she got it….” kind of way.

        2. Persimmons*

          I can’t stand blue nails, in a “that’s what my gram’s hands looked like when her heart was failing” kind of way.

          1. anon.*

            I’m 60 and my nails right now are turquoise. I have basically always felt, since I was a teen, that I look the way I look. If someone doesn’t like it…tough. ;)

          2. biobottt*

            I’ve always avoided cool-toned blue and purple nail polishes because I’m pretty pasty, and I think they make me look like a reanimated drowning victim.

    3. Mookie*

      I’d associate these choices with opportunities related to clout and rank, not age, myself, but then again, I don’t think the choice is inherently wrong.

      My mom’s a decade older than you both and considers herself a minor muckety-muck in her organization (in a male-dominated field that’s starting to skew alarmingly older), and she and her female peers do the loud nail polish routine with regularity, while their male peers are either gauche in their wardrobes or admirably unconventional, depending on who’s looking.

      It’s like getting away with terse, ungrammatical correspondence. The boss is too important to follow the rules, a convention I don’t really approve of in most instances but here I think is fine.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Heh, I am in a higher level role, but have 3 quirks that I fully capitalize on.
        -Nail color : will wear the really bold dark colors
        -Hair color/style: Red with a capital R and short/messy/curly
        -Socks/shoes : my normal professional wear/uniform is black trousers, neutral blouse, and neutral cardigan or blazer. Shoes are black chunky heels, Mary Janes (unique style (fluevog dot com) and bright colored socks.

        I came to grips long ago with the fact I will never fit the polished/executive style, so I cultivated a professional/quirky style.

        I’m really looking forward to gray hair (in a way) because I’ve already picked out the color I want to dye it, gray with lavender undertones.

        1. Not All Who Wander*

          oh. oh dear. I should NOT have gone to fluvog just to see. This was a bad, bad, bad thing to share…shame on you! ;-)

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      TBH. I get regular manicures and I see more women your age go for bright colors than women around my age (late 20s/early 30s). Unless you’re in a super formal environment where you can only wear light or neutral colors, I say go for it. I have a bright mint green manicure now and it just reminds me that it’s summer and gives my normally dark outfits a pop of color.

      1. Blue Anne*

        My 91 year old grandma has gotten into nail art. Last time I saw her, her manicurist had painted a little tree on each nail.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          Bless your grandma, she sounds delightful. May we all be that fantastic at her age.

    5. Rebecca*

      I’m 55 – have long nails and I use whatever color nail polish I want, including bright metallic colors, blue, green, red, orange, whatever strikes me. I also do an accent nail on my ring fingers, and glitter coats. Granted, we have a casual office, but I like it and it suits me. Also, my hair is long, almost to my waist, and no, I’m not getting it cut short because “I’m that age now”. I actually had people ask me if I was going to get my hair cut shorter after my 50th birthday!

      I think the OP in this case needs to let it go. If crop tops are outside the dress code, sure, address this and tell the coworker no crop tops in the office, but do it because NO ONE is allowed to wear them, not because it’s perceived the coworker is too old, or too whatever, that’s just not cool.

      1. Scarlet*

        Even if it were outside the dress code, OP has no standing to address it with her anyway since they’re not her manager.

        1. Rebecca*

          Oh, agreed – I should have been more clear. You are so correct, it’s up to management to address it, not the OP, if the short tops are outside the dress code for everyone. **blaming the early hour and not enough coffee :)

      2. Anonymosity*

        I actually had people ask me if I was going to get my hair cut shorter after my 50th birthday!

        Someone asked me this not long after mine. My answer: “NEVER.”

    6. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Also, what’s considered “normal” is so arbitrary. Black clothes are totally normal and boring as a part of business attire but black nail polish is extreme or edgy? Doesn’t make sense. And last year “griege” was an edgy nail color – like gray tinged beige? Most boring color ever in any other context. Wear what nail polish you like. I can’t just because I work in a hospital and it’s an infectious risk for patients. Sad.

      1. DFW*

        They ban all nail polish? I work in a clinical setting and they only ban acrylics for us because acrylics is too porous and it harbors bacteria.

    7. DCompliance*

      I vote for the deep purple nail polish. Those shades of purple are my favorite.

    8. JeanB in NC*

      I’m also around that age, and my friends keep telling me I can’t wear a pair of pink jeans. I beg to differ.

      1. many bells down*

        I’ve gotten way more creative in my clothing choices the older I get. Because I don’t care anymore if people think my homemade unicorn-print dress or purple plaid pants are weird. I spent my 20’s and 30’s trying to blend in as much as possible.

        (link to that dress in my name, btw)

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          That’s a cute dress (and shoes) I’d love that in a bright eye searing paisley print!

        2. VioletCrumble*

          OMG.. your dress is so adorable.. love the contrast and the style… you’re so talented..

        3. medium of ballpoint*

          Yup, the IDGAF-about-what-you-think phenomenon is one of the perks of getting older. I probably wear clothes that are a little age inappropriate, but I’m doing my best to clothe myself in ways that are comfortable, appropriate for the office, and fit with my style. If I can check those boxes, IDGAF if I’m not checking the age appropriate box some random person is going to judge me by.

        4. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That is adorable and I am so very jealous.

          Also, all dresses and skirts should have pockets.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        One of my favorite people is in her late 60s and wore matchstick red jeans with really cute slip-on sneakers, and she looked FABULOUS. Your friends are limiting themselves too much!

  7. Triple Anon*

    4) You could use Allison’s plausible excuse as a way to bring it up with her. You could ask if it was a mistake. If she wants to talk, mention that politics and graphic images are kept out of work. But do so in a friendly, mentoring way. Not in a managing way, but just being a work friend.

  8. TheNotoriousMCG*

    4. I’m pretty confused that no mention was made of approaching a communal manager like a principal (school staff was mentioned) to shut it down. Especially since the letter said it contained *graphic pictures of child dog attack victims*

    That sounds incredibly awful and gratuitous for anyone, new hire or veteran and I think that anyone should be able to approach the big boss and discuss how bad it is.

    1. TheNotoriousMCG*

      If it didn’t have graphic photos of children, I would be fine with the answer. But after that line is crossed I really feel that the rest of the staff needs to see something happen from above to address the issue.

      1. Triple Anon*

        Right. It would be fair to point out that the email was upsetting and ask them to send out a reminder not to share graphic images at work. Sending all the school staff pictures of badly injured children? Terrible, terrible judgment. I bet at least one other person will intervene.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think that’s the OP’s main objection though; it’s the new hire using the email list to push a viewpoint that not everyone will agree with and doesn’t belong there. The photos are really inappropriate too, but that’s only part of the problem.

          1. Holly*

            I’m not sure why that wouldn’t *also* warrant a manager or in this case an assistant principal/principal figure saying something.

          2. OP*

            Alison is right. Fortunately, I didn’t actually see the pictures, which is probably why I’m not more upset by that aspect of the email. I read the description of the pictures and had the good sense to not continue. There’s no telling what was included in the email after those pictures.

      2. TheNotoriousMCG*

        And, PSA, Pitt bull band are dumb. But also graphic photos and hot button mass emails are not appropriate for work.

          1. Future Homesteader*

            Based on my experience, they’d just put all their time and energy into creating epic riders asking for food, and then sit and eat said food instead of playing. But it would still be adorable, 10/10 would buy tickets.

            A newly converted recent adopter of a pitt mix

            1. Anonforthis*

              I recently adopted a dog who has a dollop of Staffordshire terrier and she is the most adorable, loving, goofy little cuddlebug.

        1. Anonymosity*

          If my city banned pitties, then my little buddy on the next block wouldn’t be able to give me kisses when I go past his house on my walks. <3

    2. Sylvan*

      +1 The problem isn’t that you disagree with them about dogs, the problem is the GORY PHOTOS.

      Do not engage with the actual opinions on dogs, because that’s not the problem.

      Also, people who have strong feelings on dog breeds are a special kind of internet crazy.

      1. Les G*

        I’m gonna go ahead and assume you aren’t calling the OP crazy because they care about defending the reputation of a really unfairly maligned dog breed, because…oof.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, let’s not do that here, please! And preemptively, let me also ask that we not get into a debate about pit bulls or other animal issues. Thanks!

          1. Sylvan*

            I didn’t want to bring this up because it may be derailing. Probably my worst day in a customer service position involved people who were strongly for/against a dog breed, who thought that the company I worked for had taken the opposite position. I’ll spare you the details but Dog Breed Opinions People are a type of internet crazy to avoid, lol.

    3. sacados*

      Exactly. My first course of action would be to go to either admin/HR (if there’s someone like that who is in charge of mailing lists) or a manager (doesn’t necessarily need to be OP’s or coworker’s manager, just someone on that level) and ask them to either reply-all or send a new email “reminding” people that emails like that are not what the staff mailing list should be used for.

      1. pleaset*

        I think the first course of action should be to email or tell the person not to use mass email like that.

        Really. Step up and communicate with the coworker as the first act. Don’t escalate right off the bat.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          But schools are a little different. At least where I am, it is literally administration’s job to deal with stuff like this. As a co-worker, it is not my job to tell a co-worker how to use the all-staff email because it isn’t my business. Where I am, I would forward this to my administrators (and IT) and say “just in case you didn’t see this” and let them take it from there. It’s not escalating, it’s putting it in the hands of the people whose job it is to deal with this.

          1. Teach*

            I think this is a thing that is unique to school culture, possibly coming from years of “not evaluating peers.” Many, many teachers will not comment in any way on each others’ actions, and others are hypersensitive – I have worked with people who would 110% bring in a union rep if the OP responded to their email as described. Let the admin handle this! (I will also bet good money this new teacher will be the one to raise her hand at the end of a faculty meeting to ask a question involving a super-complicated thing that is only applicable to her…)

    4. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      The graphic content is far worse. Like, trigger-warning-worthy worse. OP needs to talk to someone with authority asap, before new coworker does it again.

      1. Les G*

        Yeah, I sort of wonder if Wilson’s animal-rights background is blinding her to that. Even for one who gave not a single fig about the reputation of the pitbull, pictures of bloody children (!) would be a pretty effing big deal, I think. If that’s not more important to the OP than the pitbull, well, I think it should be.

          1. Anonymosity*

            Now I’m picturing an advice column run by a handprint-stained volleyball.

            Dear Wilson,
            I’m floating away! What should I do?

            Dear Castaway,
            Go with it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t feel particularly blinded to that, but it didn’t sound like the OP’s main concern, and I think she wants to address a different aspect of the email (she can correct me if I’m wrong).

          – Wilson

          1. Oserver*

            I agree that the OP is more concerned about the Pit bulls, but I think they will have more credibility – and accomplish more, if they stick to the fact that list was misused with a side of “gory pictures”.

            1. a1*

              I agree that just because the pit bull misinformation is OP’s concern doesn’t mean the gory pictures shouldn’t be brought up, too. They should.

            2. Les G*

              Yup, thanks. That’s what I was trying to get at. Apologies to Wilson for being unclear ;)

          2. OP*

            You are not wrong. I mentioned this in a different comment, but I stopped reading the email at the description of the pictures that were to follow, so I never actually saw the pictures. I’m sure if I had seen the pictures I would be much more concerned by them.

  9. sacados*

    #5 — omg, are you me? Haha. I am also in the middle of attempting to remote job search from Japan (tho the difference for me is I am not on a fixed contract, but am just hoping to be able to find something new while still employed).
    So far I have just been including my Japanese cell — the address on my resume lists Tokyo and I always try to remember to add the +01 country code bit when I input the phone number, so hopefully it’s clear that I am not located in the US. And then in my cover letter I explain that I am available for interviews via skype, etc.

    1. RabbleHey*

      I’m also job hunting from Japan! heading home in three weeks, I’m just assuming #5 is in the same program I am. As for resumes, I’ve been using my American Google Voice number which comes to my Japanese phone through the app.

      1. OP5*

        I considered getting a google voice account with my skype number, but figured it was 6 of one half dozen of another since they’re both over the net. Are there any charges for international calls on GV?

        and if your program(me) has a plane-themed acronym, then yes! ;)

        1. RabbleHey*

          Google voice calls have been free for me over wifi. Very convenient when I’ve needed to call home about loans or banking. I don’t know about signing up for it from a foreign IP though.

          And yes, of course it’s the same program, what other program has an August start/end date? My classes have been cancelled for the typhoon and I’ve already planned my last two weeks of classes. Hence, browsing AAM and looking up job postings this afternoon! Good luck on your job hunt!

      2. Julia*

        So am I! Though I’m currently finishing up grad school and moving back to Europe, not the US.

        OP5, I just put my current address and my parents’ address in Europe on my resume and explain in my cover letters or mostly contact with the recruiters that I am moving back. My resume has my Japanese cell number, but they always ask about Skype. I don’t hand it out on my resume right away because some people just video call without a warning (Alison, how’s the etiquette on that?)

        Why are there so many of us? lol
        We should have a focus group in the next open thread.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I would include a brief note that due to the difference in time zones, the best way to contact you is via email, and you can set up a time to call/Skype. Otherwise you risk companies calling you for a phone screen, and waking you up at three in the morning, when you’re not going to be at your best.

      1. TL -*

        I don’t wake up for my phone at three in the morning. I sleep and it is on silent. :)

        As long as you make it clear that you’re in another country, they should figure out that the time zone is an issue and either leave a voicemail or email. I’ve had people do this when I’m job-searching across the USA and it’s never been a big issue.

    3. HR Expat*

      Apparently there are a lot of people looking to move internationally to get back home! I’m trying to get from Europe to the US in October. I’ve been struggling with US employers wanting to consider anyone who is overseas, but GV is a great idea.

  10. wayward*

    Seems like sending gory images or political messages could get the sender automatically filtered into people’s trash folders.

  11. Technomum*

    OP #2
    As a petite woman with a natural G cup (currently enhanced by breastfeeding), trying to navigate the kinds of clothing that look suitable for fairly conservative office attire is waaaay harder than many might realise. Clothes that look perfectly on smaller cup sizes have a tendency to look inappropriate on me – and vice-versa.
    # must be able to access bra for expressing milk without having to remove all clothing, so no shift dresses
    # cannot be a button-up front because they are built for a standard B/C frame, and don’t close over the girls without serious gaping/straining buttons (or wearing a shirt three sizes larger, which looks scruffy and under-dressed)
    # cannot be high neck or straight/boat neck or I look like a pair of boobs with legs, which is very distracting for others and makes me self-conscious
    # v-neck or wrap front tops are minimising, but great care must be taken to make sure there’s not too much cleavage on show. This varies daily on whether I’m sporting grapefruit or watermelons on my chest. There is no one top that fits perfectly on all days.

    Throw in the fluctuating weight with post-baby body, and reluctance to buy an expensive new wardrobe for what is a temporary “transition phase”, and finding appropriate clothing to wear becomes Just. So. Damn. Hard. If anyone other than my manager pulled me aside to complain about my attire I don’t know how I’d react, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

    You mention that she has recently lost weight, and she might be in a similar position where she doesn’t yet have appropriate clothing that fits, or doesn’t yet know how to dress her new shape appropriately. Maybe she’s loving her new shape and intentionally dressing more provocatively. Either way, her age is not relevant (?!), and this is firmly none of your business

    1. AliceBG*

      What do all these details about your cup size and breastfeeding woes have to do with the situation in the letter?

      1. Les G*

        A huge portion of comments on this site are barely-relevant personal stories, so it’s…interesting that this is the one you chose to object to.

      2. MLB*

        She used her own story to relate to the letter – it’s not that hard. LW mentioned the co-worker had recently lost weight and she may be having trouble finding clothes that fit her properly. Why did you feel the need to reply?

        1. AliceBG*

          Because a young woman complaining about breastfeeding making it hard to find shirts that fit has nothing to do with examining the OP’s ageism while nose-wrinkling about an older woman dressing “too young” for her age.

          If the comments are just going to be generic gripes about clothes, I’ll peace out.

          1. DFW*

            I agree that there is some ageism here and that needs to be examined but there is a bigger picture here about how women’s bodies are constantly being policed by men in power.

            1. Susan Calvin*

              Not to exactly disagree with you here, but please, please consider examining your blind spot about how this issue in particular is one that many many women do buy into HARD and prop up the system with as much and more zeal than any man (presumably because they feel they’re “winning” and would be giving up some degree of perceived power by dismantling the system).

              1. Leslie knope*

                The entire point of sexism is that it keeps men in power. No amount of “zeal” from a woman is worse. Men don’t need zeal when they already have everything else.

                I’m really disturbed by all the comments in here laying the blame for sexist tropes and attitudes squarely on women because ~Lol men don’t care about this stuff~. They sure do. They just don’t have to say it, because it’s already written into how society works .

          2. Iris Eyes*

            A 57 year old professional is raiding her 15 year old daughter’s closet for work clothes. The chances that what she is wearing to the office don’t fit within the office norms (even if they don’t expressly violate the dress code) is pretty high. There’s a reason there are stores that cater to young teens and those that cater to working professionals there’s not a ton of overlap.

            How about we give everyone the benefit of the doubt (like we are asked) and assume the OP is coming from a place that is a bit more on the side of she’s old enough to know that those clothes don’t fit workplace norms?

            1. Oserver*

              Firstly, we actually do NOT know that this woman is “riding her daughter’s closet”. We only know that the OP thinks that the daughter should be the one wearing them. Secondly, even “she’s old enough to know better” in this context s out of line.

              Most importantly, the OP is pretty clear that this is not all it is. They put SO much emphasis on her age and say that the way she is dressing “is not right for a women her age”. That’s pretty different.

              1. Iris Eyes*

                We don’t know that’s the case but it is an entirely reasonable assumption to make in this scenario.

                1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  The OP took it to the CEO who didn’t care, so either the OP is incorrect about how it looks or is incorrect about it violating the dress code, and the OP has to let it go. Whatever coworker is wearing has been deemed appropriate by TPTB

                2. biobottt*

                  How is it the most reasonable assumption to make? It seems to me to be more reasonable to assume that she’s enjoying wearing certain types of clothes that she didn’t feel comfortable in before she lost weight.

            2. Smithy*

              I think the pushback you’re receiving is that “workplace norms” around women’s clothing in particular are far more fluid across industry, location, and year. I’ve worked in a number of different nonprofits over the years – and just across my small sample, each place truly did have a different attitude. Sometimes based on industry (healthcare vs human rights), sometimes city (NYC vs DC) – but to say there’s truly one norm would be wrong.

              Look at all the people here who say that cold shoulder shirts are not professional – across places of employment I’d guess that answer is far more in flux. Whether your 15 or 57. So just by saying that the clothes are “too young” and management does not feel the need to intervene – that’s also an indication that perhaps the OP has missed the mark.

      3. Merida Ann*

        It has to do with the fact that getting clothing that fits is difficult and having your body size in flux makes it even more difficult. There are a million ways you can wear the “wrong” clothes and it’s really tough to find the “right” ones. It can be really stressful and the coworker is potentially already having a difficult time with that and doesn’t need extra judgment because their attempt to find clothing that suits their new size doesn’t agree with one of her coworkers’ opinions on what people should wear at different ages. This is for the manager to address if and only if they think there’s a real, business-related problem. No one else needs to be involved.

        1. Technomum*

          Thank you, this was my point exactly.

          I gave some detail about my struggle to find appropriate clothing only as an example of how dressing appropriately can be harder than you might realise (not just “it’s difficult”, but the reasons *why*). I am sorry if my last paragraph getting to the point of the analogy was lost on some.

          I made the assumption that the change in clothing happened after the weight loss (or else why mention it?), and sympathised with the difficulty of appropriately dressing a body in flux.

          There may be many reasons why she is wearing clothing that the OP disapproves of. Maybe she is still losing weight and doesn’t have the resources to buy a whole wardrobe in this size – quality business attire is expensive, and (in my town at least) cheap clothing is targeted almost exclusively to the younger market. Maybe she is borrowing clothes from her daughter. Maybe she hasn’t been this size since she was younger and is going back to what she wore last time.
          Maybe she hasn’t felt this confident in her body for 20 years and is enjoying herself. Maybe she was given all the clothing and didn’t choose it for herself. Who knows?

          My point is that there may be a whole lot more going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about, and unless she is your direct report it is kinder to leave it alone

      4. Susan Calvin*

        I’d assume it’s an attempt to illustrate just how much more extra effort it can put on women if a dress code implicitly includes “required to adequately camouflage any physical features that I consider too sexy/not sexy enough/[whatever]” – case in point: finding the right balance between ‘distracting cleavage’ and ‘hideously frumpy’, without being an hour late every morning and taking extra long breaks to get completely undressed for pumping each time. I’m getting a headache only thinking about shopping for that kind of wardrobe!

      5. Tableau Wizard*

        I think it gives helpful context for what different women might be going through that contributes to a less than perfect look from day to day. Just to remind us all to have a little empathy.

      6. Leela*

        Because women are consistently treated like their appearance is for public consumption, especially in the workplace, where we’re expected to conform to moving targets and often the problem isn’t the clothes, it’s something about US. In the OP’s letter, the age, in the example given, her breasts. It’s a completely relevant example that further demonstrates the point.

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This seems really uncharitable. A good number of commenters use personal stories to relate back to the situation in the letter, which is what Technomum did, here. You may not like her take, but we’ll get farther as a commenting community with empathy and kindness, not with impatience.

        If you don’t like the comment, you can collapse the replies or skip it—that’s what many of us do.

  12. Some Sort of Management consultant*

    “The whole “a woman of her age shouldn’t dress that way” thing can be really problematic and tied up with damaging ideas about youth and beauty and women’s obligation to please onlookers“

    Alison, thank you so much for this!!

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      On a completely different note:
      I sat here, thinking about a problem I’d love the Commentariat’s opinion on, and said to myself: “I’ll post it tonight during the Friday open thread.”

      And it took me like an hour to realize my mistake.

      1. Snark*

        Given that weeks these days seem to take about six thousand goddamn years, I think that’s forgivable.

    2. Thursday Next*

      This is why I love reading Alison’s responses—she often comments on the problematic underpinnings of questions, and has a remarkable command of tone in doing so.

      Right now I’m looking at a billboard advertising a Cher concert, which underscores Alison’s point that appropriateness of clothing has everything to do with one’s job and work environment, and zilch to do with age. OP, since management has declined to interfere with your coworker’s wardrobe choices, you need to let this one go.

  13. TakeBackPower*

    I once got injured very badly and texted my boss on the way to the ER to let them know what had happened. HR immediately called me back to let me know that they’d prayed for me, so I would NOT need surgery or follow-up medical treatments, and therefore I was NOT to get them. I had a bad concussion and didn’t stand up for myself and shut them down. Several doctors disagreed with HR’s assessment, so I got the care I needed and was consequently fired & had my good name dragged through the mud. It’s a small industry and now that my side of the story is beginning to come out… the truth makes a lot of people look bad and it’s often tense at networking events.
    The point of the story is this: Too many post-recession employers see employees as their property, not as actual humans. Unless you were literally trafficked into your job, you’re not a slave.Don’t ask “permission” or give a heads up for how you manage YOUR body- you’re only hurting yourself and others by perpetuating the “your company owns you” perception.
    Enjoy your tattoo!

    1. Claire*

      “But on the other hand, at this point I’d believe pretty much anything about Americans.”

      Can we not do this please? Not all Americans are like this.

      1. TL -*

        This. Just because other countries don’t air their dirty laundry doesn’t mean they don’t have it.

        We have 325 million people. That’s a beautiful array of dysfunctional no matter what the country.

      2. Les G*

        Oh, right, because the U.S. is not only the most religious country in the world, it’s the *only* one. OP must be from there and this tells us something about Americans in general. Congratulations on showing us how enlightened and knowledgeable about the world you are! Thanks for playing!

        1. Les G*

          …are you? Why are you singling my comment out when I’m just agreeing with two others?

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s not even the way prayer works. Even those religions that do faith-only healing don’t argue that it instantly cures believers every time, much less random non-believers who share their office.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Seriously. Not to mention that to a lot of us, unsolicited praying for someone else is a huge ethical breach.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Can you tell me more on the ethicality? I’m legitimately curious, I’m not very religious at all and tend to nod and smile if someone tells me that they’re praying for me, but it does seem that to my largely Baptist family that everyone should/needs to pray for everyone else completely unasked for. I’ve been told to pray for random people I’ve never met before, because the person(s) telling me to feel it is the right thing to do (regardless, of course, of my own beliefs, which is a whole different issue).

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I’m not sure how widespread it is outside my own faith (I’m a Christian Scientist, meaning member of a sect that does believe in and practice healing through prayer), but for us, the core issue is that prayer is a means to change one’s thought or perspective on a situation to bring it in line with God’s true creation. So praying for someone else is an attempt to change their perspective or thoughts, and that’s… not something you do without asking.

            You can still pray to change your own thoughts and feelings about a situation that someone else is in with an objective to ultimately improve the situation for them, but that’s as far as you are supposed to go.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              That’s very interesting! I was always taught that prayer was an invitation to God to change something, I’ve never heard of a different interpretation. It would make a lot of sense then that there’s a different ethical connotation to praying for someone un-requested, it’s a different type entirely of prayer.

              I have learned something interesting today – thank you!

    3. TakeBackPower*

      So… I shared a really painful personal story and you accuse me of being a joke account. Wow.

      There was no immediate “don’t get this treatment or you’ll be fired”. Just “you’re healed and you don’t need to be missing work for treatment.” The fired came later.

      FTR this was not a religious institution and I never stated my nationality. (Though it happens you guessed correctly.)

      But way to make people feel like they can share their experiences here.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This ended up leading to a long thread discussing this story and asking questions about it, which was taking us many comments off-topic from the post, so I’ve removed most of that.

    5. TakeBackPower*

      I’m going to apologize to he group and – based on a few unkind comments made about my honesty and nationality – not visit this site again. Please understand I meant to empower OP – be yourself and don’t apologize. Life is too short.

    6. OP1*

      Thanks so much for sharing and I’m so sorry about your accident and horrible workplace! Best of luck and thank you. I am definitely in the camp of it’s my body, and if I do good work, who cares? But I’m also very aware that not everybody feels that way about body art.

    7. Jamies*

      This is a rather adversial stance. HR ordering you not to get a needed medical procedure (or even an unneeded one) isn’t comparable to having a policy of not showing tattoos when meeting with clients. If the company asks OP to cover their tattoo it wouldn’t be smart for OP to refuse unless wearing shorts sleeves is the hill OP wants to risk becoming unemployed on. Based on the letter it doesn’t sound like it is and OP shouldn’t be guilted for it.

    8. Anonymosity*

      OMG that’s terrible! Worst HR ever!! >:(

      You make a good point; OP really doesn’t need to ask permission to decorate her own body, especially since the tattoo will be easily coverable if necessary when meeting with clients.

  14. LGC*

    *sigh* at 2 and 4, but for totally different reasons.

    LW2 at least answered their own question as to why their coworker is turning up – she just lost a lot of weight and likely feels more confident! But also, Alison’s on-base in saying that her age is completely irrelevant to this. (And it doesn’t sound like it’s THAT terrible if she’s wearing an off-shoulder top, in my opinion.)

    I think that responding to 4 as if she made a mistake, even if it was well clear that she did it intentionally (which LW4 commented that she did) is probably the best option. Because even though the coworker doesn’t think she made a mistake, she absolutely did. If LW4 wanted to be super petty, she could simply reply all that Coworker must be so embarrassed that she sent that to the entire mailing list.

    In all seriousness, I would be very wary of replying all in the best circumstances (even on a small list). Maybe it’s just that I work with compulsive reply-allers (as in, one of my coworkers has replied all to all-company e-mails more than once, and I ended up getting 15 emails in an hour because people were spamming back and forth about the all-hands meeting today and who was bringing WHAT for the clients), but you don’t want to trigger a reply-allpocalypse by accident. Usually, when I’ve noticed a mistake, I’ll just shoot a direct reply saying, “Hey, did you mean to send this?”

    Alternately, this is…egregious enough where complaining to your boss is definitely appropriate, mostly because of the graphic detail shown. Obviously, this is a more nuclear option, but you’d definitely be justified in escalating it. (And it might be escalated anyway, since she sent it to the ENTIRE MAILING LIST.)

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      In my time at my company, we’ve had a few of those never-ending chains where someone accidentally emails pretty much the whole company and then like a dozen or so people stupidly reply-all with something like “I don’t think you meant to send this to me” or “Did you intend for this to go to another Susan?” and a handful of “Stop hitting reply-all!!!”

      Every time it happens my boss says to our team something along the lines of “I had better not see any of your names pop up in that chain.”

      This is a different circumstance, because the original sender apparently DID mean to send their email to everyone, and the email includes misinformation that OP wants to correct. In this situation I think sending one correcting email could be appropriate, but I think OP should check with their supervisor first.

      1. LGC*

        True, and there’s not a right or wrong way to respond in this case.

        Again,my tack would be feigned ignorance at first – certainly, Fergusina wouldn’t be so crass as to ACTUALLY email her new work’s email list with pictures of maimed children intentionally! She must have done it in error! But also, I personally wouldn’t be as worried about Fergusina spreading misinformation – not my monkeys, not my circus. I WOULD be concerned how I’d come off if I responded, “Well, ACTUALLY…”

        And that reflects differing priorities. I’m not as passionate about animal rescue as LW4. And this can have real effects if people believe her terrible email.

        I totally agree with you that LW4 wouldn’t be wrong however she handled it. It’s just that if I were LW4, I’d offer Fergusina a way out of her stupidity first. Maybe that’s too kind.

  15. Thlayli*

    OP3: I’m so sorry you went through that. You sound so stressed and super focused on your job. I was you a few years ago. When I had my first miscarriage I went back to work for a couple of hours to get the document I was working on in fit state for a handover then took a total of 2 days off. It was a big mistake. It’s only now a few years later while dealing with post-natal depression after my second miscarriage that I’m realising how totally messed up that behaviour was.

    I think you should seriously consider having a holiday or a break from work, or even starting to look for another job. This job sounds incredibly stressful. It should not be expected that you would attend a meeting an hour after being in a car crash. Because, as Alison says, you are human and humans have emotions. It’s normal to cry after being in a car crash, please stop beating yourself up about it. What’s not normal is someone expecting you to attend a meeting after being in a car crash.

    Alison’s advice is spot on – say no more and just leave it behind you and move on. But please do also at least consider my advice and don’t work yourself into a breakdown. Seriously consider if you need time off, and if you do, take some.

    1. WellRed*

      I did wonder if she set the expectation on herself that she had to go ahead with the call.

    2. TL -*

      Plenty of people just get on with their day after a traumatic event without realizing how much they’re affected, even if there’s no pressure.

      It sounds like the OP had a terrible week but it could easily have just been a series of unfortunate events and a lack of realization of how badly they were rattled by the car crash, not a ton of undue (internal or external) pressure or a reason to take a vacation or look for another job.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Exactly – it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to ‘soldier on’ because ‘I committed’. I’m a yoga teacher and I’ve learnt the importance of stepping back and really thinking about what’s going on and connecting with where I am. I can get so focussed on the fact what I’m supposed to be doing that I get tunnel vision. I have to make a concerted effort to step back assess what really is the best thing to do, given the changed circumstances.

        It’s understandable – you felt like you’d already let the clients down and rushed to get to the meeting. I don’t fault you for that at all! But perhaps in the future you can take a moment to assess whether it’s better to say ‘I was just in car accident so need to reschedule, so sorry’ and anyone with a ounce of humanity would understand. Believe me, I used to tie myself in knots because ‘being fully reliable’ was very important to me so I understand totally how this all happened. But it can actually be better for the people you’re meeting to reschedule. Perhaps think of it this way. When teaching yoga, the energy I bring to the class and the energy I give my students makes all the difference to class. Sometimes When I’m running a bit late and rush to the class, I take a few minutes to ground myself again so I don’t bring that hectic rushing energy into the class. The energy are you going to bring to a presentation with your clients is equally important.

        Sometimes we need to see that it’s actually best to step back, even if it means breaking a commitment – because it will go better than meeting the commitment now. Here’s the clincher – it will go better for *the others* and not just you.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Especially immediately after.

        I flipped my car several years ago. Landed on top of a guard rail, a couple miles from my house.

        A truck was behind me, they pulled over and called emergency services. They told me they didn’t expect the person in the car to be capable of doing so.

        I remember thinking pretty darn logically at the time. “Okay, my car just flipped over. I should grab my purse from the front seat so I have my IDs and my credit cards, and get out. Key turns, let’s turn off the car because that seems safer. Okay, good, the door opened. I should get clear of the car in case it goes on fire. Oh, I left my cell phone in there. I don’t want to go back into it. I bet these guys back here have a phone I can use…”

        I was just sort of amused at the time at how many emergency vehicles showed up. I was 100% fine physically – all I had was a small scratch on my pinkie toe. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I declined medical care, talked to the cops, found out where my car would be towed to, called my mom – made sure to preface the call with “I’m safe and not hurt” and had her come pick me up, and went home. I made myself some hot chocolate and started watching TV.

        It was only about an hour or so later when the adrenaline and general shock wore off that I realized how close I came to dying (If I had a passenger in the front seat they probably would have died. If the car landed a couple feet to the right I would have). All of a sudden I was having the physical and emotional reactions one would expect – shaking, crying, etc.

        Immediately afterwards I would have absolutely gone to work and thought I was fine. And only would have realized that I wasn’t fine when I was in the middle of something and reality hit.

        1. Heynonniemouse*


          I was in a way, way more minor traffic accident (very loud and surprising bang, but the car was drivable afterwards). I exchanged details with the other driver, drove the rest of the way to work, walked the 15 minutes from where I parked, got to my desk and settled in and started planning my work for the day. A few minutes later one of my coworkers passed by and asked it I was okay because I looked so pale. At that point I burst into tears and started shaking all over. Adrenaline is amazing stuff, but coming down from it afterwards is brutal.

      3. Sylvan*

        +1. Seen it happen. I’m very sorry to the OP and to you, Thlayli, for going through things like that while working.

      4. Thlayli*

        True, maybe the pressure is coming entirely from OP herself not externally, but it sounds like the pressure is there. The client was late giving OP info which resulted in her working late till 10 pm in order to be ready for meeting with the same client the next day – this implies she didn’t feel she could reschedule the client meeting despite the client being the cause of the delay.

        OP whether the pressure is external or self-imposed, I feel like you are under a lot of pressure. I hope you do find the time to take a break, and maybe consider if you need to be under this much pressure at all. For example, if in the future a client is late sending you info, it might be possible to say “since we didn’t get the info till today, we won’t be able to have the meeting until [date], as we need time to process it,” rather than working till 10pm to make up for their delay.

        I’ve been there – my record staying in the office was half past midnight. I put my heart and soul into my work for years. I was well compensated and moved up the ladder quickly, but I’m much happier now (and almost as well paid) that I have a job with more reasonable expectations of work-life balance. I look back now and I wonder how much of it was pressure put on me by my boss, and how much was self-imposed. Either way, it’s not healthy long term.

      5. Empty Sky*

        I would likely have gone through with it if only to prove to myself that I was OK. Not particularly sensible or rational, I grant, but that’s part of how I react to those situations.

        Usually somebody tells me to stop and take a rest, which is enough of a prompt to my rational brain that it wakes up and says “they are right and you should listen.” But I’m far from confident that I could do that all by myself.

    3. Jersey's mom*

      Yep, sometimes shock will carry you through an hour or more and you seem to be quite fine – then your body physically reacts to what happened. The adrenalin, the psychological comprehension, the emotional understanding and horror. I was at an out-of-town conference where I had a heart attack, went via ambulance to the emergency room, was in surgery within an hour. Woke up the next morning in ICU and called work to let my boss know what happened, returned a couple phone calls. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized I nearly died and completely broke down.

      Everyone reacts differently to accidents. Your reaction (crying) was ok. As long as you’re physically and emotionally ok, you can let it go – I guarantee, no one will bring it up in a few weeks.

  16. MuseumChick*

    OP 4, I am all for the reply all in this situation for a petty and non-petty reason. Petty reason: I love when co-workers like this are politely put in their place. Non-petty reason: By stating you work for an animal rescue and that the email contains miss information your other co-workers who may have been swayed by the email will then know how inaccurate it was.

    I do also think it would worth speaking with a someone up the food chain in a this-happened-and-I-thought-you-should-know kind of way.

    1. CarolynM*

      100% agree with you. I would reply back something along the lines of “As someone who dedicates a lot of time and love to animal rescue, I feel obligated to point out that this e-mail was not factually accurate – I urge anyone concerned about this issue to do their own research ahead of this vote before making a decision. This e-mail list is for work communication, not for political e-mails – let’s please keep any further discussion of this or any other political issue off of the e-mail list – thanks!”

      I wouldn’t be able to let this lie – if you are running around spouting misinformation about something I know a lot about and really care about, I will not let you undermine my cause with lies and bad information.

      1. Future Homesteader*

        I like this script, because by encouraging people to do research, you’re (more or less) keeping out of it (or at least trying to stay out of a debate). Then, if she responds with reply-all again, you can reply to just her (or ignore it altogether).

      2. Shamy*

        This is perfect! I stated in a thread up earlier I would have a really tough time not responding, but would struggle with how to because I would be really upset by an email like this. This accomplishes everything, shuts person down, and offers a correction. I will be pocketing this sort of response for my own use tailored to whatever sitch I might find myself in.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As a skeptic, I find it hard to let glurge or legends go by without at least a link from Snopes, so although I literally don’t have a dog in this fight, the breed bans offend me because I know they’re ineffective and overreaching, so they offend my desire for justice as well as rationality.

      If it were me, I would have given top management a couple of hours to respond and let people know that all-staff emails about non-work issues were against office policy, and if I didn’t see anything, I would have responded with a reply-all to the effect of “this is not only inappropriate content for a work email, it is false and deceptive. If anyone wants to know why breed bans are useless and cruel, please email me or come see me, I would love to discuss it during lunch or a break”.

  17. nep*

    #2–Thanks, Alison, for making it about whether clothes are appropriate or not for the workplace, not the person’s age.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      Or body type.

      So she lost weight and wants to show it? Or maybe she is trying to find clothes that fit.

  18. Get Back To Work!!!*

    OP #1: My only hesitation about this would be if you were to leave this employer and go elsewhere and run the risk of finding an employer that requires tattoos be covered up at all times.

    1. McWhadden*

      That could definitely happen but half-sleeves really aren’t that difficult to cover. Can kind of suck in the heat. But even then there are light half-sleeve cardigans.

    2. seller of teapots*

      But it sounds like it can be covered at all times, so I dont think that would be an issue

  19. Bookworm*

    Agree about the tattoo. If you’re really concerned you may want to talk to your boss. There are plenty of people who work in government who really won’t care either way and will have their own, etc. But this is a case to definitely lean more conservative and prepare yourself to cover whenever it might be an issue.

  20. There All Is Aching*

    Re: #4 — Looks like yesterday’s alum relations lady found a new job already!

  21. Guy Incognito*

    OP 1: Best advice: Bring whatever you plan to use to cover up your tattoo while you’re planning it out (a cardigan you wear, the long sleeve shirt). Try it on. Move around a little bit. Make sure it actually covers up what you want. A buddy of mine got a half sleeve and did this just to make sure everything would be covered. His office still doesn’t know he has any tattoos, and he’s got a lot. (Including one on his hand. He’s VERY good with covering it up.)

    good luck! Hope it turns out nice.

  22. Dee*

    She is very slim and has just lost a lot of weight but the clothes she is wearing is not right for a women her age. What can we do about this?

    Mind your damn business?

      1. Jo*

        Yes, agree. If it doesn’t impact you or your work, it’s best to focus on the things that do.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          My first thought was “Make a business case to take to the employee’s supervisor about how this employee’s work clothes are negatively impacting your ability to do your work, and steps you have taken to try to work around this issue. If you are unable to do so, maybe consider that this is NOT a work problem, this is a YOU problem.”

  23. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, unless your co-worker is breaking dress code and/or revealing private parts of her body AND you are her manager this falls under “None of your business”.

  24. Ladyphoenix*

    Removed. Please don’t talk like that to LWs here, even when they are quite in the wrong. Thank you.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        Because I call poor OP 2 a “sexist jerk.”

        Granted, “jerk” is the nicest word I have for this person. I have other words to deacribe her and her attitude… but I would rather respect AaM’s stance on keep this relatively Pg (otherwise OP2 would be called that word that rhymes with “witch”)

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      Don’t care. Op 2 wants to police her coworkers and dictate what people can wear based on body type and age. Unless privates are showing, this is a massive case of “Mind your own beeswax”.

      I don’t have to give any respect to sexist jerks that want to police women’s bodies.

  25. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    OP #1 – congrats and I hope your sleeve turns out beautifully! I’d love to go full sleeves/hands/neck but I don’t think even my super casual university could handle that on a staffer. :) I do plan on getting half sleeves on both my arms at some point, and I often wear my upper arm piece out during the summer (like today), so I’m confident it wouldn’t be a problem to have half sleeves most of the time, but like you, I want to make sure I can easily and comfortably cover them if I need to. Your office sounds pretty accepting of tattoos so I’m not sure it would really be necessary to mention it to your boss, but you might casually bring it up in conversation if you think she’d appreciate a heads up.

    For people who are asking about how OP would feel covering it up during hot days – linen and rayon button downs. Very cool and breathable – I live in Texas and have comfortably worn them with sleeves rolled up during 100 degree summers. Just make sure they are 100% or blended with another natural fiber like cotton, and not something synthetic like polyester.

    1. OP1*

      Thank you! I really appreciate the advice about breathable clothes. I live in a city that gets *HOT* in the summer so I will stock up.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        Uniqlo has a good selection of these types of tops, and I like how they fit me (I am a woman, but they have them for men and women). But loads of stores have linen shirts so it’s just a matter of finding something that suits your style. Also I would stick to darker shades as linen can be somewhat sheer, depending on the weave, and if you wear a light-colored linen or rayon top, there’s a chance the tattoo will show through.

  26. WillyNilly*

    Hey OP 2 – once we are past HS jobs, there is only one age at work: adult. Everyone 19 to 99 needs to judged as equals. Sure experience, ability, and expertise vary, as do job titles, etc, but everyone is equally adult and held to the same standards. And unless a person’s weight affects their ability to do their job, there is only one size at work: human sized.

  27. Workerbee*

    For #2–
    Add my thanks to the others for Alison’s continued efforts against ridiculous social constructs. This was beautiful to read: “The whole ‘a woman of her age shouldn’t dress that way’ thing can be really problematic and tied up with damaging ideas about youth and beauty and women’s obligation to please onlookers.”

    It’s also so angering. We–and I include myself in this because it can be a jagged-edged road to travel–are so saturated in messaging that seeks to make us feel Less Than, that we often accept it without unpacking where it came from. I see this from “periods are nasty!” to “10 Tips on How to Dress Now That You’re *Gasp* 50.”

    If we felt great about ourselves, we wouldn’t need to buy Miracle Product X. We also wouldn’t need to come over all sanctimonious about another person’s choices.

    This is a very simplified way of saying that the next time you (we) have a reaction to what someone else is doing/wearing, or what you yourself are reluctantly putting back on the rack because it’s “too” young or whatever, think about WHY you have that reaction. Who said it to you? Why did they say it?

    It can be tough but lo, remarkably freeing despite it being an uphill battle toward a culture of acceptance.

  28. Elena*

    OP2, I agree with the advice that your coworker’s inappropriate dressing isn’t your fight to fight, but would also mention that your negative opinion is reasonable and most people probably agree to that certain age-appropriate and figure-appropriate norms exist and aren’t a priori oppressive.

    That said, you of course shouldn’t be mean to your coworker or look down on her as a person for her less than optimal clothing choices.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Nah, hard disagree on age-appropriateness as a factor. There are fashion norms over what looks “young” vs “old” but those have nothing to do with what’s actually appropriate to wear. As far as I’m concerned, there’s “this is appropriate for a pre-pubescent child” versus “this is appropriate for someone who has developed an adult figure” and everything else is just style.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I think if you look upthread, you’ll find that everyone is actually saying the opposite…

    3. Jessica*

      Hard no to figure-appropriateness, too. If it’s OK for a young/skinny person to wear a miniskirt, for example, then it’s OK for an old/fat person to wear one. The fact that you find my body aesthetically displeasing doesn’t mean there’s a separate standard of professional dress for it.

    4. Mike C.*

      No, it’s completely unreasonable to police people like that, inside or outside the workplace.

      Can you even justify such a position?

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m curious if there’s even such a thing as “age-inappropriate clothes” for men. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man accused of that, only women.

      1. Workerbee*

        I’m curious now, too.

        So far what I’m uncovering manages to address this topic without body-shaming. Far more positive than what I’m used to seeing for women even on the most casual, wasn’t-looking-for-it basis.

        One example: realmenrealstyle dot com slash dressing-your-age

        I will say I don’t necessarily agree even with their gentle take on “you don’t want to dress like This Age.”

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Well, Prince George is considered too young to wear full-length trousers…

        1. Thlayli*

          That’s specifically a British upper class thing though. Working class British people can dress their kids however they like.

      3. Manchmal*

        Men have such a narrow bandwidth of clothing to begin with, the comparison to womens’ clothing is not an easy one to make. As far as I can tell, men have about four levels of shirts: t-shirt, polo shirt, button down shirt, and then button-down shirt with jacket/suit. Dressing “too young” for a man would I think simply be a matter of wearing too informal of clothes (t-shirt and hoodie when polo shirt or suit is expected). So I think men do not have the same opportunity to “err”. Women just have so many more options and less of an obvious “uniform” that will read as “professional standard” no matter what body shape is wearing it. Women’s magazines that show different styles for different age groups also contribute to this difference. It’s annoying. As a woman who doesn’t love shopping and fashion, I wish there were more of a “uniform”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Definitely true .. but it’s interesting that when a man does wear a hoodie when something more formal is expected, he’s not accused of “not dressing his age,” just of not dressing formally enough.

          1. Jamies*

            It’s not that interesting. Most men’s style clothing has a female counterpart that also isn’t considered age inappropriate to wear. Most women’s clothing I’ve found being called age inappropriate is extremely tight clothing and/or revealing clothing and that’s not as much of a factor with men’s clothing.

          2. smoke tree*

            I think a major component is that women are expected to be maximally ornamental, which I think is really baked into women’s fashion. If you conform to conventional beauty standards, you’re obligated to dress in revealing clothing. Otherwise, you need to cover up to avoid offending the masses with your unsightly form.

      4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I made the comment further up, but men’s clothes don’t really change that much based on target age, not nearly as much as women’s styles do. Even casual clothes are pretty similarly styled, jeans/longer shorts t-shirts and button down shirts (short or long sleeve).

        Women’s clothes have way more variety then men’s clothes do.

      5. Thlayli*

        I actually had this conversation the other night at dinner with friends. We are in the middle of a heatwave and one guy said it was strange how all the men in his office are still wearing long-sleeve shirts. I said “that’s coz short-sleeve shirts make men look like 8 year old boys” (remember this was a conversation with friends, not a work one). Only then did I realise that the guy who’d raised the question was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

        I tried but failed to dig myself out of that hole.

      6. buttercup*

        Generally, no, but I’m thinking of that FRIENDS episode where Joey was trying to look 19 yo to try out for a part, and donned a backwards baseball cap, a jersey, and those baggy pants that revealed the top of his boxers!

    6. Oserver*

      most people probably agree to that certain age-appropriate and figure-appropriate norms exist

      That’s actually not really true – not in a professional context, for sure. The “professionalism” of an item of clothing has ZERO to do with age or “age appropriateness”

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        It does though… but it depends on what your definition of appropriate is. ‘Appropriate’ is a very loosely defined term.

        Let’s take a short midriff bearing shirt as an example. It covers the bikini bits, it could have sleeves and shoulder coverage, and yet be totally inappropriate and unprofessional to wear for many reasons, including figure, age, medical condition, location, context, event etc.

        People can rail against this notion as much as they want, but it does matter. Like it or not, agree with it or not, but there is an expected standard to how people dress themselves man, woman, young, old, etc.

      2. aebhel*

        Right. If it’s not appropriate for the office, than it’s not appropriate for a 20-year-old employee or for a 50-year-old employee (and it’s the boss’s business to bring up with her, not her coworkers’). Age DOES NOT matter here, except for judgmental people who feel like they have the right to police how women clothe themselves. Either it’s work-appropriate attire, or it’s not. In this case, whatever the OP’s feelings on their coworker’s fashion sense, the bosses don’t seem to care, which means it’s none of their business.

      3. aebhel*

        @Randomusername, no. A midriff-baring shirt may be inappropriate because of professional dress codes or the dress codes of a particular event.

        It is not inappropriate because of a flabby belly, or because the woman wearing it is older, or because of a medical condition; your personal aesthetic preferences do not determine the appropriateness of a particular garment on a particular person. If the garment is inappropriate, it’s inappropriate for everyone. It is not just inappropriate for women who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of hotness.

        1. Jamies*

          Yes it’s inappropriate for most offices regardless of age. However in other aspects of life, such as going shopping, that outfit would be considered by many appropriate for some people (usually younger) and considered inappropriate for others (usually older with some possible exceptions).

          Regardless of whether you, I, or any other individual person agrees with it societal expectations do exist on what is and isn’t considered appropriate to wear that can vary depending on age, sex, physical fitness, etc. If you don’t like it then you don’t have to follow it and/or can actively fight against it but claiming these expectations don’t exist at all is nonsense.

          1. Thlayli*

            I can see both sides of the argument here. In the case of professional clothing, I’m with the commenters (and Alison) who are saying that appropriateness of clothing is nothing to do with age. What is office-appropriate is based on dress code usually, and industry norms. If a particular office/industry does not accept midriff-baring clothing, then that is not acceptable for anyone to wear, regardless of age or gender. OP seemed to be implying that it would be ok for a young woman to wear this top into the office but not for an older woman to wear it in the office. That’s not how it works. In the professional sphere, appropriate clothing is not age-based.

            However, I also see your point. It is a sad fact that many people outside of workplaces have notions about what is and is not acceptable for women to wear at different ages. OP is clearly one of those people. So your point is valid in that sense – that many people might think it is acceptable for a young woman to go shopping in a crop top, but not for an old woman to do so. These are their personal opinions and have nothing to do with workplace requirements.

            The good thing about people’s personal opinions is that they are absolutely irrelevant. If OPs coworker wants to rock a crop-top to go shopping she can do so, and blithely ignore the personal opinions of those around her.

            If crop-tops are acceptable in OPs office, She can wear it there too! If crop-tops are not acceptable in her office, then her manager (not OP) should advise her of this, but that’s got sfa to do with her age. It’s not legal or normal for offices to have a rule, written or unwritten, that “young people can wear this but old people can’t.”

          2. aebhel*

            I think you and I have very different definitions of appropriate here. I don’t believe that I ever claimed those expectations don’t exist; simply that ‘inappropriate’ used in that context is sexist, body-policing BS and should be roundly ignored. It has nothing to do with whether or not a particular article of clothing qualifies as appropriate PROFESSIONAL garb. Those are two very different things that you (and the OP) are conflating.

            So, again: ‘I don’t think you have the body type for this outfit’ is not an equivalent statement to ‘this outfit is not work appropriate’.

          3. Observer*

            This is totally about the office though. In this context age is (and most of these other factors) are just not relevant. Considering that the OP is claiming that the CW’s *AGE* makes the clothing “unprofessional” it’s a red herring to get into what people would consider appropriate in a social context.

  29. self employed*

    Oh my goodness! People are being downright NASTY to OP2. What happened to “be kind”? Sheesh.

    We see workplace dress code issues here all the time. I think OP2 is trying to provide context and explanation for this woman’s wardrobe shift.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Because we are all tired of the policing and body shaming that women have to face on a daily basis.

    2. Becca*

      The context here is innately sexist and problematic though. It’s different to say, “Hey this person is dressed in a revealing way that’s unprofessional.” Instead, they are saying she’s dressing inappropriately for her age, which is not a thing.

      1. self employed*

        That can be pointed out without name-calling and rudeness and bad assumptions, however.

        1. LGC*

          But is it an assumption of bad faith when the LW comes out and says it? I’ll just blockquote their whole letter and bold the relevant parts:

          We have a coworker who is 57 years of age and wears clothes that her daughter of 15 should wear. Very inappropriate for office attire. I have voiced my opinion to our CEO but nothing gets done.

          She wore a shirt off the shoulders and a shirt that is so short and looks like she is not wearing a bra. She is very slim and has just lost a lot of weight but the clothes she is wearing is not right for a women her age. What can we do about this?

          I mean, some of the comments have been harsh. But also, LW2 expressly states that their issue with their coworker’s dress is primarily that she dresses in a more youthful manner than women her age typically dress. (Also that it’s expected that teenagers would dress in skimpy attire.) It’s not a leap at all to say that they’re being ageist.

          Further, the inappropriateness might be an issue but it’s almost certainly not a C level issue.

          Overall, I’d have to say that it’s not the coworker that has the worst judgment in Letter 2, and it’s not a close contest.

        2. Dee*

          If the OP doesn’t make that effort, why do I have to? Why is the work placed on people who are responding to rude and hurtful comments?

          1. self employed*

            Because one can choose to take the high road. It is plausible that OP didn’t realize how certain things would come across. One can choose to be generous or not.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, I do want everyone here being civil regardless of the provocation (and I’ve removed a couple of comments that didn’t meet that standard). But it’s not rude or uncivil to simply point out problematic or sexist thinking (if it is, we’d never be able to make any progress).

    3. DFW*

      Her question has a lot of ageist and sexist implications directed against what a woman ought to be wearing. That is going to trigger a visceral reaction in a many people, women especially.

      1. Thlayli*

        Especially since I get the impression that lots of commenters here are women of an age OP apparently thinks shouldn’t wear crop-tops.

    4. Workerbee*

      The context and explanation center around age and perceived lack of undergarments, plus notations on her weight loss. That’s a lot of deliberate scrutiny. Why does this woman bother OP #2 enough to take her issues to the freakin’ CEO of all people?

      1. Future Homesteader*

        Yeah, I only noticed that part on the second read-through, and did a double-take. I wasn’t feeling particularly kindly toward OP 2 before that, but the comment about talking to the CEO (unless the CEO is both OP and the coworker’s direct boss, and even then it’s a stretch) is what really tipped it into “oh, wow” territory for me. Sure name-calling isn’t great, and hopefully most people aren’t doing that. But OP is apparently very concerned with something that really does appear to be coming from a place of sexism/ageism/policing women (which, as so many people on here have noted, does not in any mean that OP isn’t also a woman).

        1. Workerbee*

          It may be grievously incorrect, but I am reading OP #2 as a woman. That could be far more due to personal experience than the reality of this particular situation.

    5. Sylvan*

      I read it the same way, but I seem to be in the minority.

      If OP didn’t provide that context, I would wonder about some things. Are their double standards for people of different sizes or body types? I’ve heard a lot of stories here about very fat or very thin women being held to different standards, or curvier women being expected to cover more, for example. Is the coworker someone new to the workforce who doesn’t have a wardrobe pulled together yet? I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen that once or twice or been that person ourselves.

    6. WillyNilly*

      Except OP2 never used the term “dress code”. OP2 mentioned age, OP2 mentioned gender, OP2 mention weight. But not dress code.

      1. Scarlet*

        Don’t you know that pointing out people’s prejudice is worse than prejudice itself? /sarcasm

      2. self employed*

        I am taking it as “don’t be a jerk.” There are jerk-level comments here. Way different than disagreeing.

        1. 12345*

          Exactly. Telling OP these views are wrong and not to do anything are fine. Hundreds of jerk-level comments are not. Whatever happened to calling it out, and then moving on?

  30. Tangerina*

    “Also, it might help to keep in mind that her age isn’t really relevant here; if the clothes aren’t professional, they wouldn’t be professional regardless of her age. The whole “a woman of her age shouldn’t dress that way” thing can be really problematic and tied up with damaging ideas about youth and beauty and women’s obligation to please onlookers. The clothes are the issue, not the person who’s wearing them.”

    I love you, Alison.

  31. Technical_Kitty*

    LW#4, send the reply all as AAM suggests and then stop caring about this person. You may be tempted to feel bad for the new co-worker, don’t. Using the work place to fear monger with information that ranges from suspect to wildly inaccurate is very concerning. I’m sad you all work at a school and this person may be a teacher.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      +100. I also do animal rescue and something like that would make my blood boil. Alison’s suggested phrasing addresses that and – importantly! – is still polite.

  32. Anon in AZ*

    OP#1 I’m the voice of dissent here I guess: I made the mistake of asking my boss for clarification on our ambiguous dress code and “permission” to sport subtly blue hair (black with streaks of blue underneath). The code says hair must be “professional” colors, whatever that means. Many many people at my location have colorful hair (I refuse to rock the boat for these folks by pointing this out), I don’t meet clients or customers face to face, and my boss is on the opposite coast. I have never met her in person.
    She pondered it and even discussed with her boss and the answer came back No. A few months later, I met another (veteran and well-respected) person on our team who has purple hair, the kind you get from a drugstore box that could technically be considered a shade of red, but obviously dyed. HR fell back on “manager discretion” rather than clarify the meaning of professional colors.
    My company frequently touts diversity as one of it’s values, but it seems only if you are of the suit and tie persuasion, I guess. To make this even more odd, tattoos are not frowned upon (although they must be work appropriate, of course).
    Had I not asked, I’m 90% sure this would be a non-issue (still no face-to-face clients, etc). It’s hair FFS. I perform well in my professional-level job, and I’m too old to worry about what people think of me anymore. I’m planning a 3/4 sleeve tattoo now. I’ll not be asking, and in the future won’t work for a company that doesn’t accept my appearance, which is pretty professional, relatively speaking.

    1. Manchmal*

      This is the kind of situation that the saying “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” was made for!

  33. NW Mossy*

    OP #2, in addition to Alison’s response, it would also be helpful if you drop this topic with your other colleagues as well. The “we” throughout your letter indicates that there are at least two of you chatting about the sartorial choices of your colleague, and that’s not a good use of time for anyone. It keeps you stewing on an issue you can’t do anything about, and that gets corrosive to your morale really quickly.

    You’re not this woman’s boss, so no one is expecting you to do anything about what she wears. You’re not accountable for her fashion choices, and you’re not going to suffer in your own career for these choices that are quite evidently hers, not yours. You don’t need to carry this weight – put it down so that you can carry something of more value.

  34. LCL*

    OP4: You said you are school employees. Where I live, if you are a public employee, it is really discouraged to do any kind of advocacy on company time or with company resources. (Except for some very special people, but that’s hyperlocal so back to topic.) You aren’t asked to be apolitical, just to keep it out of the office. Hijacking the email list sounds like a complete violation of this. So pass it over to first line management and let them give the lecture about ethics, norms, and how to be an activist without getting in trouble with the ethics police.

  35. OP1*

    I guess I didn’t make it clear that my boss has seen one of my new tattoos already. She likes it, I’m not worried about that! I’m more worried about clients and pitches I may have to attend (which isn’t often but will be expected of me in the future). I have check-in meetings with her so I think that will be the right time to bring it up and reassure her. I’m also not too worried about finding a job that allows tattoos if I did decide to leave because of the city I live in. Thanks for everybody’s advice, I especially loved hearing about people who have secret tattoos!

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      A lot more people have become accepting of tattoos, as your office demonstrates. If you know if you have a client that is more conservative, then just throw a cadigan on and say something about the AC.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think you’re on the right track to plan to tell her the eventual extent of the tattoo–it’s the sort of thing where she might legitimately wonder where you plan to draw the professional/non line, yet it’s your body, yet speaking up only when the barbed wire winds up around your neck would be too late to mention that that might affect whether you get tapped to do high-level presentations in future. It’s not like a tube top, where you can just tell the person not to wear that at work again and it’s easy to remove.

    3. Observer*

      That sounds like a good move. Reassuring that you “get it” without making it into a “big deal”.

  36. Lana Del Raygun*

    For #4, I think the combination of “Here’s my argument” with “This shouldn’t be discussed here” is insanely frustrating and passive-aggressive. If you’re going to stick your own oar in, it’s obnoxious to pre-emptively ban responses like that; if something shouldn’t be discussed, just don’t discuss it. But you can’t have it both ways.

    1. Thlayli*

      Thank you. Lana is right, OP. It’s fine to reply and say don’t discuss politics on group emails, but if you start discussing politics yourself you can’t then demand that no one else discuss it. That’s like demanding to have the last word and it’s not a good look.

  37. miyeritari*

    OP1: I wouldn’t bring it up if you can hide it. Don’t make it a potential problem until your boss does.

  38. HRM*

    OP1 – if it’ll put your mind at ease, say something! It doesn’t sound like based on the comments you made and your office’s culture that it’ll be a big deal. I just started a half sleeve myself and chose not to say anything to my boss, but he is also located out of state and I rarely see him, so when I do I’ve just covered it. My office is very lax about tattoos and such in general – I also have a visible (small) wrist tattoo, nose piercing and dermals on my chest and no one has said much other than asking if the dermals hurt.

    1. OP1*

      Thank you! This sounds a lot like my office culture, so I don’t think anyone will view them as an issue, professionally. I just tend to overthink things :)

  39. Nervous Accountant*

    I just wanna say that I find sleeve tattoos on men super sexy (cough*EdSheeran*).. that’s all.

  40. Leela*

    LW #2 – as a female who’s very tall (skirts are always short) and fairly large chested (everything looks tight) I bristle a lot at saying that someone’s attire isn’t appropriate if it’s in line with what’s accepted at the office. I don’t know what your office dress code is. But if she’s wearing things that would be acceptable on another person, it’s not her clothes, it’s her body, you have a problem with, and that’s over the line.

    “Appropriate” isn’t a concrete concept like “green” or “25”, it means different things to different people and frankly I’m sick of having to constantly recalibrate with what a million different variations of “appropriate” that are brandished like it was some kind of law, I imagine other women are as well (not that I don’t think that this happens to men but I see it far, far more with women, who bosses and coworkers sometimes think are public property to be dressed like dolls. We aren’t). If she’s wearing things that are in line with what’s acceptable at your office, you need to back way off of this. And really take a look at why you think women after a certain age lose the right to dress the way they see fit and must abide by a dress code set by other people.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      As someone who was previously extremely busty (a breast reduction was the best decision I ever made), I feel you so hard on the everything looking tight thing. I used to joke that unless I wore a turtleneck, I was going to have cleavage. And forget about button down shirts. The only way to get them not to gape/pop was to buy them 2 sizes too big.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        I know. I used to either have to wear mumu’s or accept that there will be cleavage. I have never been so happy as when I walked into a Torrid and found clothes that actually FIT me. There is still cleavage sometimes but it is the intention of the garment, not because I exist and clothing makers aren’t sure what to do with boobs.

  41. JE*

    @OP5 As a former JET I highly recommend getting some kind of letter of recommendation from your supervisor before you leave! Best of luck on the search when you get back, I know it’s a rough time for many.

  42. MCMonkeyBean*

    With the tattoo, if you really want to give your boss a head’s up, I would do it in a super casual way. Be clear that you’re just sharing some fun information, not asking permission. Find a way for it to come up naturally in conversation, like if you’re just sharing plans for the weekend–“Oh, I’m excited to get some work done on my tattoo!” Then you can briefly describe what the finished product will be like, and how one of the things you like about the design is that it will be easy to cover or show off as you please.

  43. Anna*

    For the one about the coworker who seems to dress inappropriately, you mentioned she lost a lot of weight. It could be that with this weight loss, she’s just feeling really good about herself and confident, which is a really great thing if it’s something she hasn’t always felt. I’d keep that in mind and as long as what she wears lines up with the attire of the office, I’d mind my own business.

  44. Manchmal*

    I’m as big a feminist as they come, and OP#2 didn’t strike me as particularly sexist. Cold-shoulder blouses and crop tops are not part of the professional wardrobe (with the exception of certain professions or contexts). A 15-year old’s wardrobe (in any variety) is very likely not professional either. I’m not sure why the OP is letting her coworker’s attire bother her so much, though. Does it affect you? Is she in a public-facing role? If it’s clear the manager isn’t going to do anything about it, I would ignore. There are more important things to think about!

  45. Anono-me*

    I loathe all staff email abuse,almost as much as I loathe reply all responses to the first offense. I would think “idiot” and delete the first email. If you sent a reply all response, I would think, “OP4 knows better and is being an even bigger idiot.” Then I would delete your email also. I think the only people who will read your email are the pitbull lovers and the drama lovers.

    I think this is a three part issue.

    Part one is sending a non work email to all. Normally this a roll the eyes, delete and if it happens again, let the sender know not to do it any more.

    The second part is that the email was supporting a controversial political issue and the workplace is a school. I would forward the email to someone in upper management, (If you are at a public school in the USA funded by tax dollars, is using school resources for political issues even allowed? If you are at a private school, doesn’t the school try to avoid political controversy so as not to offend deep pocket doners?)

    To address the thirt part, misinformation:

    I would not respond to the new person.
    I would put some ginormous bumper stickers related to pitbull rescue on my car and the two or three of cutest pictures possible of my most recent rescues on my desk. Then if people asked, I would have a super short response. ” That’s Daisy. She is such a goofy love bug. She’s my fifth pitbull rescue. It’s hard work, but so worth it. If you are ever interested in volunteering or just learning more, let me know.” If people ask you about the email specifically, I just say that I had some concerns about some of the information it contained and could give them the names of some websites so they could do their own research or I could meet them for coffee some where and explain.

    1. Anono-me*

      Appologies. I should have phased my third sentence differently. “If someone responds to a staff wide nonsense email with a reply all, I think 2nd sender should know better….”

  46. CubeGirl*

    Removed. You can’t talk to other people here that way, regardless of provocation.

  47. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: I wouldn’t inform my boss, under these circumstances. I recommend chilling out, as you say. If the topic comes up, feel free to discuss, and don’t avoid it. But I wouldn’t make it a point of telling my boss, because it’s a personal matter, and you have no reason to believe it will affect your ability to perform your job. Telling your boss your plan has a vague whiff of… asking permission? Or making a confession? I just don’t think it’s necessary.

  48. Kimberly*

    LW #4 – You mentioned school. I’m a Public School Teacher in Texas. The way I’ve handled certain things is a Reply to that person reminding/informing the person in an I don’t want you to get in trouble way
    1. Our e-mails are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests
    2. That any type of politicing using school district resources is illegal
    (For pyramid schemes – I change it to using school district resources for your sideline business is illegal)

    I usually get a oops forgot about that reply and the person lays off until the next election.

    If they keep it up I give our CITS (they do how to integrate tech into your lessons training) as well. She shuts it down by pointing out the person can be non-renewed for this behavior.
    When our principal was using school e-mail to push his religion down our throats I bypassed all this and with another teacher went straight to FFRF. The higher ups in the district pleaded ignorance. I can read a CC list. They got the same e-mails with whole sermons from some book typed in, bible verses to pray over and the one he said only True Christians TM should be allowed to teach. The FFRF forced the admin to make him stop.

  49. Sleeplesskj*

    LW4 you say that you work for a school – if that’s the case, this type of “all staff” email is probably (it is in my district anyway) forbidden. If it happens again, isn’t being it up with the principal’s assistant and let her deal with it.

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