giving a coworker a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, is it rude to answer a voicemail with an email, and more

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

1. Our intern wants us all to give a coworker a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug

A birthday came up for a person in the department named Bob. He is the oldest in the department and has been with the company for over 20 years. He is loved by many and is seen as a welcoming person to the department. He has a particularly jovial relationship with one of the interns I supervise, and they jokingly refer to each other as “dad and son.” The intern showed me the birthday gift he bought for Bob and it was a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. He said he wanted the entire department to write loving messages to Bob that would go into the mug and be presented to Bob at a later date.

I recognize the intern bought the mug with his own money, but I feel uncomfortable promoting the “Bob is the department Dad” mentality to the entire department. I do not know why exactly, but I do not think it sends the right message. (Also, we already celebrate Bob’s birthday with a happy birthday banner signed by people in the department)

I have no doubt that many in the department will love the intern’s initiative, so I have been thinking about letting it go. However, I am curious if it is more appropriate to redirect the intern to make his gift a personal one for Bob and leave the rest of the department out of it.

Yeah, the “dad” thing is a pretty weird and problematic message to promote as any kind of official department gift. It’s asking people to buy into a label for the relationship that probably won’t resonate with some/most of them, and it’s age-focused in a way you don’t want any even quasi-formal gifts at work to be. If Bob and the intern want to jokingly refer to each other as dad and son, that’s their own (odd) thing, not everyone else’s.

I’d say this to your intern: “That’s your private joke with Bob, so the mug should be your own gift to him. Ultimately, though, these are professional relationships, warm and friendly as they may be, and I don’t want to promote the ‘dad’ thing more broadly.” Frankly, that’s not a bad message for your intern to hear anyway.

(Oooh, and in a convenient tie-in, today’s episode of the AAM podcast takes on a different version of this — an admin who positions herself as everyone’s mom and literally calls them “my kids.” Not everyone is thrilled.)

2. Is it rude to answer a voicemail with an email?

I spend a lot of time on conference calls, so I often can’t answer my phone when people call me directly. More often than not, the voicemails I get are along the lines of, “Do you have any information about the teapot design meeting on September 5?” Is it rude to answer these voicemails with an email, especially when the response is a simple answer? I understand that sometimes a quick call is easier, but what if it’s not?

I think it’s totally fine, but I’d include some context to explain why you’re choosing to do that — like “figured it would be easier to get you this in an email” or “running to a meeting, but here’s the info you wanted.”

Obviously the answer is different when someone is clearly calling because they want a back-and-forth (like “I was hoping we could hash out your concerns about the X project”). But for stuff that you can easily answer in an email, go for it.

3. My manager is denying me a day off because I “might” be needed

My manager is possibly denying me PTO because it lands on the day of a conference that my team “might” need to help with. This manager has historically required weekend travel that was unnecessary because he is anxious and insecure about his place in the org and we all have to suffer for it rather than working for a boss with confidence and boundaries. I suspect this event will be more of the same. In the meantime, the PTO day for me is an opportunity to be part of a huge event at my school (I also work on a master’s in addition to full time work). It is a long-term career growth opportunity to participate, whereas there is little career growth available to me in my current role. Any ideas on navigating the conflict? Or my right to refuse and insist on PTO?

You can’t insist on taking that day off if your manager continues to refuse it; he has the ability to say yes or no to you taking that particular day. But you can certainly try pushing back and that might work. Say something like this: “This event is very important to me, and I don’t want to miss it just because we might need to help with something, when it doesn’t look likely that we’ll be needed. I wouldn’t normally push for this, but this is an unusual circumstance. Can you help me make this work?”

4. My coworker won’t stop talking about my hair

I recently (about a month ago) started a new role, and one of my coworkers (let’s call her Kira) is making comments about my hair that are making me uncomfortable. Some background: I’m Caucasian with a head of wavy/curly hair. I wear it this way because I like it, and I’m proud of it. It’s styled in a professional-looking, below-the-shoulders hairstyle, and even though I have frizz some days, I think it looks fairly good. Kira is from a culture that is different than my own (I’m in the U.S.). She has been coming to my desk almost every morning as soon as I get in to talk about my hair. First, she suggested under the guise of some small talk that I needed to get a product to “deal with my frizz.” I just wrote it off as a weird culture/language barrier issue, and changed the subject.

I didn’t think she had bad intentions, but it has been happening for around three weeks, and today it escalated. I hadn’t even set my stuff down on my desk when she came over and told me something to the effect of “You should go to my stylist, she can show you how to do your hair.” I was speechless. I told her something about liking my current stylist, but I honestly was at a loss for words!

I brought this up with another coworker, who is African American, and she told me that Kira has made comments about her hair before, like asking if it was “real.” Said coworker told Kira that it was rude and wrong to ask people questions like that, and Kira apparently got all upset that someone would be so “touchy.”

What do I do? These comments have been happening nearly every day. I have the ability to be direct with people when needed; I am just having trouble with it in this situation! I don’t want to make Kira hate me, but I also am getting sick of her making comments about my hair.

Be direct: “Please stop commenting on my hair.” Or, “I’m really not interested in discussing my hair anymore.” Or, “I don’t want to talk about my hair with you anymore.” If these feel like slightly rude things to say, they’re really not. They’re just the sort of comments that you’re probably not used to having to make, because most people aren’t commenting on your hair every day. But Kira is the one making the situation weird, not you.

Your measure of success here isn’t “Kira gets the message and doesn’t get upset.” Kira shouldn’t get upset, but who knows, she might. You can’t control that. But if Kira hates you forever afterwards because you made a perfectly reasonable request, that’s on her, not on you (and really, if she’s that unreasonable, you were likely to set her off with something else at some point anyway, and at least this way you get to end the constant commentary on your hair).

5. Our flexible schedules have me staying up too late at night while I wait for work to come to me

I’m a team lead who works on projects for a company that gives its workers the perk of working pretty much anytime they want as long as they are present for meetings, are in for the core hours and meet their goals. All of my teammates come in and go home at different times and the flexibility allows us to take our work home and finish up there.

So, this package is pretty awesome, right? It is! Except when projects are ending. We have a QA process where things are sent back for feedback among members of the team. The team member makes the changes and sends it back for approval. I really like this because high quality content comes out of it so I’m not complaining about that.

The complaint I have is that as projects close, some team members will bring their work home and respond to feedback long after business hours as if that part of the project is not due the next day (but it is!). Which means that the person waiting to check to see if the updates are made also has to be logged on waiting for those to come back in for review. This is stressful for me because I am the last step before the material goes live and that means that I will have to stay up and just wait for things to come in so I can check them. I’m exhausted all the time and nod off on the couch by 9:30 pm and I’m terrified that one day, I’ll sleep through a deadline because someone waited until 10:30 pm to send it to me.

Since I am not the manager, just a team lead and we all report to different managers, how can I approach my team about being considerate of other people’s hours and schedules? How can I say it without sounding bossy or inconsiderate of THEIR time? I’m a little worried about asking my manager about it because this perk may be taken away. I benefit from this perk by being in the office by being in the office at 8 and leaving at around 4. I also bring my work home with me if I need to catch up.

It’s reasonable to lay out your own deadlines, based on when you need to receive work in order to have enough time to finish it. When you know someone is due to send work to you that day, let them know ahead of time that you’ll need to receive it by 6 p.m. (or whatever time you pick) in order to finish your part on time. This is actually a pretty normal thing to do! It’s not overstepping your authority or anything like that; it’s giving them info about how long you’ll need for your piece of things.

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, that mug is going to walk the whole company into an age discrimination lawsuit. You’re totally right that it’s inappropriate as a workplace gift (and frankly, kind of inappropriate that Bob and the intern have this shtick, but to a certain extent, that’s their own circus).

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. Some future employee-side lawyer is looking forward to using that mug as an exhibit.

      1. Two cents*

        Not really seeing how this could be construed as age discrimination. The mug says “World’s Greatest Dad” not oldest, one can be a dad at any age, it’s not only people of the same age (e.g. a group) who are being singled out and referred to as “dad,” there is nothing in the letter to indicate this person is being treated differently or negatively because of their age relative to the intern.

        I think it’s a dumb idea for gift; but I don’t think rises to the level of age discrimination.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I mean, that would be a good point if the office was celebrating a life event for Bob that included his status as a father. But that’s not the case. If the intern wants to give Bob the mug as a personal in-joke gift, then sure. Whatever. But if the whole office presents Bob with a World’s Greatest Dad gift collectively, that’s really heavily tinged with “Bob is older than us.”

        2. JamieS*

          Yeah, I’m not sure age discrimination is really a concern here. The mug is obviously the result of an inside joke/schtick that Bob is choosing to participate in and not a case of the intern having malicious intent. However, allowing a moment for speculation, if this were instead a situation where there wasn’t a schtick and the intern did give the gift with the intent to mock Bob due to his age I’m not sure even then that’d have merit as an age discrimination case.

          My understanding is that a person has to experience actual harm such as not being hired/promoted, working in an ongoing environment of age related harassment, etc. I don’t think an intern, who is realistically the employee in the office with the least power, giving a cup would meet that standard regardless of the intent in giving the mug.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Right — PCBH’s point was not that this is age discrimination, but if there is a case somewhere down the road, even related to a different employee, this would not look good. (Or, for the haters — would not be a good look/optics would be bad.)

            1. JamieS*

              Well she did say this mug specifically would cause an age discrimination lawsuit. However assuming you’re right and she misspoke I still disagree.

              Even if there is hypothetically a lawsuit in the future, which this incident in no way increases the chances of, I don’t think a non-sequitor about a mug given as an inside joke is going to be of any consequence. Maybe if it’s part of a pattern but otherwise no.

          2. LJay*

            People without power in the workplace can still harass people with power, however.

            A one-time event would not rise to it, but if, say, the intern was calling Bob “gramps” every day and Bob did not like it, or if the interns were making jokes about Bob not being cool enough or “with it” enough to grasp workplace technology due to his age on a regular basis that could be actionable even though the interns have less power or standing in the workplace than Bob does.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          My point wasn’t to derail into an argument of whether ADEA applies. Based on the limited information OP has provided, it does not. (Although calling someone “dad” can definitely trigger age discrimination provisions, there are other elements of an age discrimination claim that aren’t met.)

          My broader point was that the idea is exceedingly dumb, even if the intern meant it kindly/earnestly. And it has the added bonus of being more likely to stigmatize than to celebrate.

          1. Forking Great Username*

            If that wasn’t your point, why literally lead with saying that this will “walk the whole company into an age discrimination lawsuit”? Especially if you know it really doesn’t do that. I don’t get it.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Consider this: a couple years down the line, Bob’s position gets eliminated and he gets laid off. Or he gets fired for poor performance, or whatever. People who’ve been laid off or let go can get vindictive about it, and what if he decides to file a complaint that he was only laid off/let go because of his age? That mug becomes supporting evidence. And even if the claim is totally spurious, most companies would rather settle than take it to court if there’s even a possibility that they might not win, because it’s a whole bunch of extra time and expense.

                So is the mug, in and of itself, an act of age discrimination? Eh. Not necessarily, though the optics still aren’t great. But can it later be used against the company as part of an age discrimination claim, costing the company money and hassle whether they settle or go to court over it? Hell yes. Why would you ever want to let your intern do something that invites unnecessarily potential liability like that, just for the sake of a cutesy joke gift?

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Here’s the deal:

              If Bob (or someone else) ever end up with an age discrimination lawsuit against OP’s employer in the future, the mug would be a great piece of evidence for his lawyer to introduce. My point for OP was that yes, it’s inappropriate, and also, it could be harmful (in a legal sense) if the company appears to be tacitly endorsing or promoting it.

              Is there a lawsuit right now, based only on OP’s letter? Who knows; probably not. But I think it’s useful to have policies that avoid unnecessary legal risk, especially when they involve behavior that is non-essential and could offend (it doesn’t even have to offend Bob to be problematic).

        4. Akcipitrokulo*

          In itself, no, probably not. As evidence of a pattern of being singled out for age? Not something I’d want to have to explain from employer’s side.

          1. snowglobe*

            There may not be any discrimination now, but if Bob is, in fact, the oldest person in the department, then a gift from everyone calling him “Dad” is going to seem like they are all making a point of his age. If Bob then has some other issues at work, like being put on a PIP, then the age discrimination thing could be inferred.

        5. WellRed*

          I don’t think so either, but Dad pretty much signals “older” than the person calling him dad. And it’s weird.

    2. Les G*

      It bums me out when commenters try to freak the OP out with the most extreme possible worst case scenario. Seems like needless fear mongering, particularly in a case like this one where Alison’s answer established a realistic objection that makes way more sense.

      1. anon today and tomorrow*

        This. In most cases, those extreme scenarios are unlikely and not helpful to the OP.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        I hadn’t considered this before, but you’re really, really right about the fear mongering.

      3. Bea*

        There is case law that shows refereeing to someone as dad or grandpa will bolster am age discrimination lawsuit. It’s not just crazy talk. As an HR trained professional we’re taught not to allow this behavior.

        1. JamieS*

          Is that case law of the person being subjected to it against their will or of them actively participating in the schtick? If it’s the first I don’t see how it applies here.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s both. It can also be evidence of a culture of ageism if it offends another employer, even if it doesn’t offend Bob and Bob willingly participates in the shtick.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Even if it’s “part of the schtick” now, what happens if Bob gets fired later on and decides to file a claim then? The court has only the company’s word that Bob was in on the joke at the time, if Bob is there now, saying “I felt like I had to accept it and go along but I was actually really uncomfortable with it.” And historically speaking, a company saying “hey, the employee was totally cool with this potentially-discriminatory behavior at the time!” does not go over well.

      4. JB (not in Houston)*

        PCBH is very sensible, that last thing you could describe her as is “fear mongering,” and what she said in her comment was not describing “the most extreme possible worst case scenario.” I’m sure we could all have some fun trying to imagine what the Most Extreme Possible Worst Case Scenario would be in this situation, but it’s not what PCBH said. You might have a good point in general, but you should aim it at someone who is definitely doing some chicken little-ing, not this comment.

        1. Les G*

          My comment had nothing to do with this particular commenter’s general commenting history. The comment I am responding to was straight up fear mongering fan fiction. I don’t see any other way to interpret the claim that this mug will literally cause an age discrimination lawsuit (folks upthread are reading it the same way).

          1. Indie*

            Planning for the worst case scenario (so long as it isn’t arduous) is as important as planning for the best, no? You can do both simultaneously.

          2. Jadelyn*

            I don’t think I’d describe this as “fear mongering fan fiction” so much as “here’s an additional liability angle you might not have considered in detail”. It’s less about scaring the OP and more about making sure the OP has access to knowledge about other variables that your average person might or might not be thinking about.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think a worse scenario is Bob and his partner have been trying to conceive and indeed have a child but they have been unable to and this mug of worlds greatest dad will bring up strong emotions make Bob cry and think people are making fun of his inability to have children.

          But likely since Bob is in on the dad joke the intern giving it as a personal gift would be fine, but I agree it should not come from the whole department.

          1. Carrie*

            Actually, that’s a VERY good point. What if Bob has lost a child (many people have) or had trouble conceiving at some point in his life? Even if he jokes about the dad/son thing with the intern in person, that’s different that having it written on an item.

            1. Tara R.*

              The problem with shooting down an idea based on a hypothetical scenario like “Well, you shouldn’t hire a troop of dancing clown strippers because what if Gus was almost abducted by an evil clown as a child and you traumatize him” is that it runs the risk of the person thinking “Well, Gus specifically told me that he was never almost abducted by an evil clown, so I guess the clown strippers are a go!”

              In this case, I think it’s really a stretch to think that an ongoing in-joke that Bob has been happily participating in is going to cause him trauma. We should be conscious that there are a lot of people out there who have lost children or struggled with fertility, but if there’s ever a scenario to assume it’s okay to make a dad joke, it’s with a guy who’s been making dad jokes about himself repeatedly for months. OP should focus their comments on the actual issue (age-based humour isn’t appropriate for the broader office) and not on a baseless hypothetical.

        3. boo bot*

          Yeah, I understood Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s comment to mean that from the perspective of the company, allowing this kind of thing to happen looks bad if there’s ever a lawsuit.

          The company is looking at it from the big picture of, “How does this type of thing make us look under scrutiny?” not, “What if Bob sues over a coffee mug?”

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks, JB. I truly did not mean to ignite the maelstrom of comments decrying my comment as attempting to freak out OP.

          I think OP is to be wary of the mug because it’s inappropriate for the workplace. In flagging the lawsuit dynamic, I wasn’t trying to scare OP, but rather, to let OP know that the mug is a concern in the long-term legal liability sense (even if there is no case regarding Bob right now).

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Maybe it’s because I’m also a lawyer, but I totally got what you were saying. And I know that you don’t make wild, overreacting “sky is falling” comments. :)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Thank you! I probably should have hedged so my point was clearer for everyone, but alas. :(

        1. Snark*

          I think it’s really, really a reach, and really, really unlikely, and pulls a big scary card that nobody will ever play.

          1. Forking Great Username*

            Agreed. The fact that some of you can think of scenarios even worse than this one concerns me.

            1. Crylo Ren*

              Yes! There’s been an unnerving trend lately of commenters trying to out-dramatize each other with progressively worse-case scenarios. The advice given is valid without having to make such huge, unnecessary leaps of fantasy.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Is Bob LIKELY to sue anyone? Probably no. Is giving the oldest guy in the company a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug signed by most of a significantly younger workforce the kind of thing that makes Legal send terse memos and that you tend to see in the more over-the-top class of harassment training video? Yep.

          3. Green*

            It’s not that it’s a lawsuit over a mug.

            It’s mostly that it’s every employee’s job to protect the company and not do needlessly stupid things that could make anyone feel like age, race, gender, etc. is a factor in *anyone’s* work assignment, perception, performance, advancement, etc. OP’s audience here isn’t just Bob, but anyone who may be weirded out that older individuals at the company get pigeonholed into weird, nonprofessional roles based those characteristics.

            You never know who will sue the company and when, which is why most companies have training and guidance about being careful in communications/writing and hiring practices. The possibility of a lawsuit in any particular scenario is probably low, but if you have these kinds of things playing out all over the company, there’s needless risk for no advantage to the company.

            That’s the point of counseling in-house: teaching employees to take only informed, calculated risks for business purposes, not weird risks that introduce liability or opportunities for misunderstanding with no clear benefit or business purpose.

      5. not. my. real. name.*

        Aaaand, this right here is why I went from being an active, engaged, multiple-times-per-day commenter to someone who reads the blog a few times a week and almost never reads the comments anymore. (Occasionally I have a few minutes to spare and just end up here, against my better judgement.) Those types of over the top comments are a detriment to the site. I know it’s against the rules to call out other commenters in a mean way so I’ll bite my tongue and make this a little more general but let me just say that those of you who consider yourselves to be Alison’s unofficial assistants and comment on literally every letter, basically reiterating exactly what she just said and then taking it over the top with your own spin… you are ruining this site for so many readers.

    3. What's with today, today?*

      Yeah, we have a 22-year-old, just out of college employee. We also have a man working for us in his 80s. I’m 37, and The older man constantly tells me to “just be a mother to him,” when talking about the young guys inexperience. I’ve constantly answered that I already have a son, and am in no way interested in mothering a coworker. Not to mention I’d be doing him a disservice. Yuck.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally inappropriate. I’m so sorry your coworker doesn’t get that his comment is inappropriate.

    4. Cat Herder*

      OP #1, best for the mug to be a personal gift.

      I hope you will talk with the intern about how this dad-and-son talk is in most workplaces reeeeaaallly inappropriate and could harm him professionally: he does not want to be seen as “the kid” and he definitely does not want to be seen as “the kid who doesn’t understand professional norms.” I have a young colleague who calls me her “work mom.” I NEVER call her my work daughter — so unprofessional, and skirting way too close to “we’re a family!” bs. We had a serious talk about this — it is marginally ok if she’s joking and she’s NEVER to do it when there’s any possibility of anyone else hearing it. LOL, she said it in a staff meeting and I fixed her with a withering look and said, no, I have one kid and you are not him. Hasn’t happened again…

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t think the work-mom/dad talk used jokingly between two people who both are into it and agree is really inappropriate or unprofessional. Maybe if it is being thrown around excessively and used in team meetings or with clients. But if it is an inside joke between the two of them it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. In your situation it seems you are not into it cat herder your colleague should stop.

        PS: Did you apply for the cat caretaker position on the Greek Island?

        1. General Ginger*

          The problem with it, imho, is that the joke could spread. So what started out as the intern and Bob joking about their work relationship might warp into “Bob is the office dad” and persist even if/when the intern leaves. Or it might follow the intern around forever, “oh, that’s the kid”, even if he goes to full time and gains more experience.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I think it establishes a potentially unhealthy dynamic even if it never goes beyond the two of them. My (actual, literal) mother has a coworker who’s about my age, let’s call her Lucy, and she used to jokingly call my mom her “work mom”. Which was funny at the time and my mom didn’t mind it.

          Then my mom got promoted to team lead and was responsible for overseeing Lucy’s work. And Lucy started slacking off, whether because she just got lazy or because she thought working for her “work mom” would mean she could goof off and do what she wanted. My mom had to enlist her boss to help talk with Lucy about her performance, but it didn’t have much effect, and eventually my mom had to let her go.

          My mom and I had to talk through it ahead of time a bit, because she was feeling so. damn. guilty. about “betraying” this young woman (I mean, relatively…we’re both in our early 30s, so not exactly kids) who had established that kind of pseudo-familial dynamic with my mom. I had to keep reminding her that while we both liked Lucy (I’d met her several times outside of mom’s work), she was still a coworker and employee, not her actual child who she had a responsibility to care for and support, and that this exact thing is why well-managed companies will make sure they don’t have immediate family supervising/working for each other. It was surprisingly hard for my mom to emotionally make that shift back from “I’m responsible for taking care of this kid” to “I’m responsible for making sure my team functions and that my employees receive accurate feedback on their performance, including potential consequences for poor performance.”

          So while it might be silly and just an in-joke…it can still be a problem.

      2. Forking Great Username*

        It feels like you might be projecting a bit based on your own personal situation. It sucks that your young colleague hasn’t picked up on obvious cues that her calling you her “work mom” is not okay – but in this situation the older co-worker is part of the joke and uses those terms as well. Really not the same, and doesn’t necessarily seem to warrant a big discussion about professional norms. Especially if you only give that talk to the younger co-worker when it’s both of them keeping this joke going.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m with Cat Herder on this one. Regardless whether Bob and the intern are into this overly familiar dynamic, it doesn’t belong in the workplace. In addition to the optics issues, it could read badly for anyone who witnesses this behavior, because it makes it look like the workplace is comfortable with people failing to comport with appropriate boundaries and professionalism.

      4. Green*

        Similarly, the “work wife” and “work husband” thing just needs to just go away and die alone in a corner somewhere. It weirdly introduces gender and sexuality into a relationship when you could just say “work friend” or “colleague.”

    5. Bea*

      This was my immediate concern. You have to put a stop to it. Even if he’s involved, he can’t call himself “dad”.

    6. A username for this site*

      I don’t think it’s appropriate for a group gift, but as an inside joke, it’s not age discrimination.

      When my husband started grad school, he was 23 and paired with a postdoc who was 30-ish? The postdoc liked to give unsolicited advice, grump about “kids these days”, go to bed early, nag people about exercise and eating healthy, etc., and so my husband nicknamed him “Daddy Postdoc.” He was a) not old enough to be my husband’s dad b) not old enough to be discriminated against, especially in their field which favors late-career people c) my husband, at 23, was technically old enough to be a dad too.

  2. Sandy*

    Ugh. I dealt with a manager similar to #3’s for over a year before I finally quit.

    Basically, she was a brand-new manager, and hadn’t quite figured out how to balance operational needs and PTO. So ALL PTO requests were denied on the basis that “well I MIGHT need you that day” even if it was eight months down the road or there was no specific event/conference/meeting scheduled that day.

    Inevitably, what would happen is she would deny your request on that basis, then the day before, come to you and be like “hey you can take that day after all, turns out I won’t need you!” as if it was this great kindness she was extending to us; meanwhile people had turned down family reunions, hadn’t bought plane tickets, etc.

    Drove me BATTY. I understand that she eventually calmed down and settled into her role as a manager so the practice has stopped, thankfully for her current reports!

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Yes, I had someone like that too. I finally got nasty and asked them if they were willing to pay then$800 difference in walk up plane fare.

      1. Julia*

        I had a co-worker who would hog the good holidays and then release them like a week before, when tickets home for Christmas were several times as much as they were when I first asked about taking that time off. She had other issues as well (so, so many), but boy did we hate her for that.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I had an manager who routinely sat on PTO requests for weeks and then approve them the day before. People got around it by calling in sick when they needed the day off. Not the best way to manage. It was just one more reason it was a toxic workplace with a high staff turnover.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        And once a team realizes that lying about being sick it’s going to cultivate an environment of dishonesty.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        My manager does the same but fortunately in our job and division, we can just handle duty coverage among ourselves and don’t wait for him to approve it. He’s mostly reasonable otherwise so it’s never been a problem.

        Now that we have a new boss one level up we just inform her as well and she’s always on top of noting it and adding us to the Out of Office shared calendar.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Uf, yes, I had the same thing with a manager (who was a walking dumpster fire for many reasons, this just one among them). I put in for vacation something like eight or nine months ahead of time because I needed to make significant (and expensive!!) travel plans — and he just kept sitting on it and shrugging and saying “I don’t approve vacations more than two weeks ahead of time!”

        (This was, incidentally, the same manager who kept “losing” all availability information related to any kind of religious observance or church-linked activity.)

    3. DCGirl*

      Yes, I too have worked for someone who couldn’t balance workload and the need for employees to take time off. She’d had also been promoted from the call center to a marketing manager position (long story, but she was wasn’t particularly qualified for marketing, which was another issue) and had a real butts-in-seats mentality. What really got me was when I’d have to cancel doctor’s appointments because she’d forget I’d requested the time and hand me something urgent. We also got around it by calling in sick, a lot.

  3. Observer*

    #4 Allison is right – you need to be direct. If Kira gets upset, that’s on her. And she sounds like the kind of unreasonable person that WILL find something to be upset about and also who will cross boundaries unless you stop in her tracks.

    If she won’t stop, you may want to have a word with your manager. You know that you are not the only one who has had to deal with Kira and her boundary crossing. So, this becomes useful information for the manager to know, as this is pretty clearly not a one off or out of character thing for her to do.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously. This is a “return rude to sender” situation. Kira should not hate anyone who draws a boundary with her, and if she does, well, OP, I think your best bet is to be ok with that. If nothing else, maybe she’ll finally leave you and your hair alone.

      She sounds insufferably rude and inappropriate, and she’s getting away with it because you’re not being direct. I agree with Observer that if she doesn’t stop or she gets bent out of shape and calls you “touchy,” you should report her behavior to her manager. And you may want to enlist your coworker when you do it.

      In addition to the scripts Alison has given you, you can also step it up if you want. For example:
      “It’s really inappropriate to comment on my or anyone else’s hair that way.”
      “There is a long history of women with curly hair being subjected to discrimination for their natural hair, and there have been lawsuits filed over it. I’m not interested in discussing my or anyone else’s hair with you.”

      1. Glowcat*

        Right. And I don’t think Kira’s nationality matters here: as someone said in another thread, chinese children may be fascinated by curly hair, but chinese adults (or whatever the nationality is) should know better than comment on it. This is a problem of rudeness and missing boundaries and Kira’s culture can be a reason but not an excuse.

        1. Julia*

          As an aside, when I worked with a lot of Japanese people, some (like my boss!) would touch my hair without warning. My also Japanese best friend, who has never touched me without asking first, was appalled.

          1. Minocho*

            Oh my goodness, yes! I have a mop of curly red hair, and Japanese people were _fascinated_ by it. I’d be waiting at the train station and some rando Japanese person would sneak up behind me and run their hands through my hair, exclaiming “Ningyo mitai!” (It’s like a doll!)

            GAIJIN SMASH!

            1. Julia*

              My hair is wavy at most and has that medium brown color Japanese women love to dye their hair in, but it is apparently very soft. Once, I was at lunch with my boss and a bunch of colleagues and she just reached over and started stroking the back of my head, while exclaiming, “sugoi, neko wo nadeteru mitai!” (It’s like stroking a cat!”) People exchanged such awkward looks, but she didn’t notice.

              1. Minocho*

                I must admit, as a 5’8″ woman who could never be called tiny or dainty, I often felt like Godzilla, awkwardly stomping my way through Japan.

                I can’t claim credit for the phrase, another JET in Japan in the early aughts came up with it. He created an amazing blog about his experiences titled Gaijin Smash. Essentially, this is a super power gaijin in Japan have. Sometimes, when it’s worth the disruption, you, as the gaijin, can smash through all Japanese social conventions to get what you want.

                Sometimes I did not want to practice English on the crowded train. I did not want strangers to reach out and stroke my hair for being red and curly or my arm for being pale and freckled. I wanted to be left alone. I would sit in a seat, put feet on the facing seat across from me, stretch my arms out, and rudely occupy four entire seats on the train to keep Japanese people off me for a few minutes (I lived in rural Japan, so these trains were usually not crowded). Everyone just gave the gaijin a wide berth. Gaijin Smash.

                1. Julia*

                  To be fair, the Japanese people touching you (!) or chatting you up for free English lessons were the ones smashing through social conventions first. It’s so interesting that everyone thinks Japanese people are so polite, but several of my Japanese friends agree that that’s only the case if they’re talking to someone who’s a) also Japanese and b) higher in the social hierarchy. So foreigners, younger people/subordinates at work and of course women get treated with much less politeness a lot. Not by everyone, but some of my Japanese friends have been shocked when I told them what people say to me, and others – young women, of course – say they’ve been told similar things.

                2. Minocho*

                  Yes, they are a culture where politeness is a very important consideration – not that they need to be polite. The more politeness/heirarchy/social convention is emphasized…the more it (or the lack thereof) can be weaponized in a social context.

                3. MatKnifeNinja*

                  I stayed in rural Japan for two months. I’ve got hair like an Old English Sheep dog, and at the time was dyed really red.

                  People were FOREVER touch my hair. WTH? It got old really fast.

                  If you’ve done every turn of polite with this nit wit, you may have to go, “You need to shut up about my hair.” (Mine would have profanity in it. I’m tacky.) I don’t care where she is from, obviously more than one person has told her DON’T DO THIS.

                  Kira may need the verbal 2 x 4 upside the head to really *get it*.

                  It’s not amusing, charming, or a bonding moment. If Kira thinks people are “touchy”, I’d fire up it up to the highers up next time she offers advise so.

                4. Quinley*

                  This thread has been incredibly insightful!

                  My dream job is to teach in Japan, and this was something I was a bit concerned about. I’m African-American and wear my hair natural; my curl pattern is somewhere between a 3c and 4a (here’s a chart for reference: I remember one of my close friends in college (Caucasian male) had a big frizzy honey-blonde afro when he went as an exchange student to Japan, and he told me about this time he was standing in the park, and this group of students standing a few feet away from him were huddled in their group before shoving one of them toward him to ask if they could touch his hair. After he said yes, he was swarmed by like 8 kids.

                5. Minocho*

                  I taught English for 2 years as part of the JET Programme. I loved it, but it was stressful at times. Most of the people I met were lovely. But in a country where 98% of the people there are Japanese, if you look different, you will stand out like a sore thumb, especially outside of the large cities. I literally caused cars to swerve (and was hit on my bike once by one swerving car) simply by being seen and freaking the locals out.

        2. Cat Herder*

          Yes, and asking a Black woman if her hair is real — omg, THAT really has to be reined in. If Kira doesn’t understand why, someone (her manager) needs to explain it and squash it right now.

          1. Dust Bunny*


            OMG I missed that on the first read. Holy cow.

            Yeah, somebody needs to have a sit-down with Kira.

          2. Decima Dewey*

            Kira is being rude about at least two people’s hair. It has to stop.

            FWIW my previous BEC boss used to tell me that my hair was the way she always wanted hers to be (I was the only white person on staff). Another staffer suggested I dye it blonde. Hey, if you want to have blonde hair, go ahead. Leave me out of it.

            As for the World’s Greatest Dad mug, ick.

      2. OP #4*

        I love this wording “It’s really inappropriate to comment on my or anyone else’s hair that way.”! I will definitely add this to my arsenal to use next time she comments :)

        1. Rey*

          I think I’m late to the party, but I wanted to add that your situation also has an added layer because it’s your coworker. As so many commenters have pointed out, us curly girls are used to experiencing this kind of weirdness about our hair and you could handle it differently if it was a friend saying this (because you choose your friends) or a stranger (because you can walk away). Kira needs to stop obsessing with physical traits at work, because physical traits have nothing to do with work. You were hired because you are an awesome llama groomer, not because you have curly hair. Do you have any tall coworkers? Does she comment on that everyday? What about someone with lots of freckles? Any commentary on physical attributes just doesn’t belong in the workplace, and her obsession highlights her own lack of emotional intelligence.

          1. OP #4*

            She’s definitely just a nosy person in general. I think it’s just her way of making conversation, but there are ways to make conversation without offending somebody!

            For instance, today she called me over to an empty desk near her to show me all the stuff that had been left in it by the previous occupant. She has a weird way of communicating haha.

          2. Green*

            Yes — completely different boundary with friends or family, and those relationship boundaries are more individualized. I’m much more likely to discuss my hair woes or skin issues or weight loss or whatever with a friend vs. colleague and particularly close friends vs. other friends.

            At work you don’t introduce unnecessary comments about people’s appearance and bodily characteristics unless someone is walking around with their skirt tucked into their underwear on accident. It is OK to set boundaries at work for what you don’t want to discuss. I usually do it with a face-saving “out” the first time, but you’re fine at responding bluntly to very rude comments immediately or escalating your directness as the behavior continues.

        2. boo bot*

          The other thing about this is, if Kira happens to be a good and well-meaning but clueless person, telling her that she’s being incredibly rude actually is a huge favor to her.

          It’s like pointing out someone accidentally took your purse instead of their own or something. If they didn’t mean to, they’ll be mortified. If they did mean to… then at least you get your wallet back.

        3. AnnaBananna*

          It’s really inappropriate to comment on my or anyone else’s BODY that way. It’s incredibly unprofessional.” Pull the unprofessional card when she says you’re ‘touchy’.

          Ay. What a %&^$.

      3. Erin*

        I have curly hair I wear below my shoulders. With thick curly hair I find it easier to have long than I do short. I wear it in a braid so it doesn’t get tangled. But occasionally I’ll wear it down. I’ve only received compliments about it, since I’ve been out of high school. Actually it helps me stand out in a good way. Customers have forgotten my name but discribed my hair. I used to get immature comments from classmates that I should straighten my hair. It was irritating then as it would be now. As long as your hair isn’t unsanitary or going to get caught in machinery it shouldn’t be brought up.

        1. J.*


          Also, I don’t know where OP lives, but where I am the summer is a humid, swampy mess and even all my best tricks for reining in frizz are hopeless at this time of year. Even my braids are fuzzy and try to escape their hold. So beyond being rude, it’s just straight up wrong.

        2. feministbookworm*

          I have very thick, very curly hair, and people LOVE to ask me why I don’t straighten it. Sometimes I say because I have a huge head and my hair makes it look normal sized. Other times I tell the story about how, in high school, some friends thought it’d be fun to see what I looked like with straight hair. Three of them, each with their own flat irons, worked for an hour and a half before giving up. I’m not a morning person in the best of circumstances, but I’m certainly not waking up at 3 am to attempt something that makes me look stupid.

          1. many bells down*

            See, mine is curly (somewhere between a 3A and B) but it’s actually quite fine. Without the curl I have zero volume and look like a drowned rat. One of the many reasons I never straighten it.

          2. AnnaBananna*

            Seriously? Where are all these curly hair haters coming from? As someone who was born and raised with stick thin hair, of which had a sudden and catastrophic change of heart and decided – on its own – to change to wavy/curly two years ago – I still can’t believe someone would assume that a curly haired person always wants to have straight. That said, as the previously mentioned straight haired person, I always wanted curly…until I had it. Now I totally want my old straight hair again.

          3. Quinley*

            Auuugh the “Why don’t you straightennnn iiiiitttt????” or “When you gonna blow it out! I can’t wait to see you blow it out!” line of questioning. Potential racial/gender implications/assumptions of this question aside (I’m a black woman, so depending on who’s asking, those questions can slip down the slope REAL fast), the logistics of Getting My Hair Done is a nightmare on its own.

            When I was in high school it was easier because my mom either did it for me, or booked the beauty shop appointment and paid for it, but once I stopped doing it in college, I almost never went back (I straighten it MAYBE once a year). For me, straightening my hair is expensive and time consuming, and when you’re low-maintenance and low-money, these questions get really irritating. Even more so since I’ve had more than one white person touch it AFTER getting it done, only to say, “Wow! you’re hair feels like a white person’s now!”

            *To the tune of Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair”*: Don’t touchormakeverbalmicroaggressionsabout my haaaaiiiirrrr

            1. Karyn*

              “Even more so since I’ve had more than one white person touch it AFTER getting it done, only to say, “Wow! you’re hair feels like a white person’s now!”


      4. Annoyed*

        Exactly. Additionally commenting on women’s appearance in general is problematic because of the history (and current practice!) of women being judged/valued for their looks.

        Different culture? Ok, got it. We aren’t in that culture therefore it is incumbent upon Kira to learn to behave accordingly in this culture because this is the one in which she lives.

        1. Observer*

          Different culture is not the issue here. What Kira is doing goes against the conventions of pretty much any culture. Of course, in some cases people know (or think) that they can cross those lines with people of lower status. But if Kira thinks that her *coworkers* are lower status, that’s a HUGE problem.

          Also, I don’t think that that’s what is going on, because her reaction to the other woman was not “who does she think she is” (reacting to perception of status) but “she’s SO touchy” which means that she thinks (or claims to think) that it’s just generally ok.

        2. AnnaBananna*


          I feel like this is the first time someone’s brought this up so far in the thread (tho I might have missed it). That said, we’re assuming her culture is valiently trying to fight that stereotype. Are they? I have no idea.

      5. media monkey*

        curly hair = unprofessional is so annoying. i’m not prepared to spend an extra hour every day to straighten my hair (it’s shortish in a bob but super thick) in a dampish climate where it will frizz any time it rains (a lot).

        an old colleague of mine was interviewing for a new job as a high level EA. She has Goan heritage and shoulder length curly hair. a recruiter she met with asked her at her interview what she intended to do with her hair for interviews and called her several times before every interview to ask her if she has straightened her hair. ridiculous (and especially pernicious when Kira is doing this to women with Afro hair who already face discrimination on multiple fronts and now they have to worry about their natrucal hair FFS).

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Boundary stompers will always get upset when you draw completely appropriate boundaries.

      So let her get upset.

      It’s to her benefit to draw healthy boundaries, even if it upsets her.

    3. Ozma the Grouch*

      Argh… I’ve dealt with my fair share of Kiras. Curly hair girls unite! This is ALL ON HER. And yes, she’s exactly the kind of girl who will find offense or outrage with anyone who dares point out that they are in the wrong. Don’t stand for it. Let her wallow in her dramatic BS until she realizes she can’t manipulate you anymore.

      1. stephistication1*

        Maybe she’s jealous? I know I’m reaching but when someone focuses on something that much, they either really hate it or secretly love/fascinated by it.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, I’d be curious just for curiosity’s sake – inexplicable (to me) behaviour endlessly fascinates me – but I don’t think it has anything to do with how OP should proceed.

        1. Washi*

          SignalLost is right that it doesn’t really matter, but I’ve come across this mainly from much older white women who believe that curly hair is inherently unprofessional. I had a boss in her 70s who would pet my coworker’s curly hair to try to smooth it down, and she would give me the stinkeye every time I said “I think Jenna’s hair looks fine the way it is!”

          All this to say that Kira is probably very convinced that there is a Right Way to Hair, and Alison is right that the OP should focus on the results they want (no more comments) rather than try to make sure she is not offended.

          1. Erin*

            I hate people touching me, especially my hair. Nothing else flips my bitch switch quicker. It probably stems from having very curly hair and being shy as a small child. I just realized this. It’s terrifying having strangers as a small child touch you.

            1. Shark Whisperer*

              I have the exact same issue because I have bright red hair and adults would take it upon themselves to touch it when I was a small child. We have some older volunteers at work who still think its ok to touch stranger’s children and nothing makes me want to scream more.

              1. Frozen Ginger*

                Same. When I was a kid I used to hide under my mom’s shirt any time I saw an old lady because I was afraid she’d come up to me to talk about my hair.

            2. aebhel*

              I loathe people touching my hair. The only one who can get away with it on a regular basis is my daughter, and that’s because (1) she’s 4 and (2) it’s our trade-off for her letting me brush her hair before school, since she has the exact same sensory issue.

              If an adult who’s a relative stranger tried it, I would probably smack their hand away, manager or no. That’s so wildly inappropriate.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              My hair is super straight but I keep it very long, and people apparently feel they can pull on it or play with it or “honk” it when I have it in a bun. The world would be a better place if people kept their hands to themselves in general.

              1. General Ginger*

                I’ll be honest, it has never previously occurred to me that someone might view a bun of hair as something to touch and/or make sound effects about. WHAT? How do people come up with this crap to do? Just leave others’ hair alone, FFS.

                1. Ev*

                  I’ve had people – grown adults, almost all dudes (not that that matters, necessarily) – tug on my hair when it’s braided and yell “Ding-dong!” as though my braid is the pull for a doorbell.

                  Some folks never grow out of a childish lack of impulse control.

                2. Anonycat*

                  I didn’t really know my hair was curly (as opposed to just frizzy) until I was 40. When I do my wash day correctly now, I’ll get some decent waves/curls… and one perfect ringlet on my right side. At first, I spent about three weeks bouncing it and saying “sproing!” at *my own hair.*

                  (But not at work. Much.)

          2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            Grrrr, that would infuriate me. I have always desperately wanted curly hair (I know, grass is always greener) and think it’s really a shame that so many women have been pressured into straightening theirs.

          3. Queen of the File*

            I’ve had it from young coworkers who have been told that professional=tidy=straight hair. I had an argument (a polite one!) with a coworker who made a comment about our wavy-haired boss along the lines of “it would help if she ran a brush through her hair in the morning” and I was like “uh… I would love for you to see what her hair would look like if she actually did that!” She eventually came around that frizz-free curls would be acceptable but like, I just wanted to trade my easily-broken-superfine-curly hair with her gorgeous thick shiny straight hair for a few mornings and let her see exactly what the options were. Spoiler: flat iron it for one day of shiny straight locks followed by 3 months of growing out broken frizzy flyaways around your face, or condition/product it as best you can and hope it isn’t at all damp outside.

        2. sap*

          I identify with curly hear jealousy. I love making ringlets go boing! I have to admit that I dated a guy for 2 years, and the main initial attraction was opportunity to pull on his long ringlets without being inappropriate.

          I also would NEVER ask to touch a coworker’s curly hair, or just touch it, or comment on it beyond “your haircut looks nice today.” Its the lack of boundaries, not any jealousy, that’s making her behave this way.

      2. RJ the Newbie*

        United! I had a Kira at my old place and tried to be nice about her lack of boundaries until the day I just reached my limit. She kept making comments on my hair and how she could never wear it that way and endless questioning of whether or not it was my natural color (I’m a redhead). I told her that her comments were out of place and inappropriate and she lost all interest in me. What a pity!

        1. blackcat*

          Also a redhead. The only intense line of questioning about my hair that didn’t piss me off came from a five year old. He was across the aisle from me on a long flight. His mom (with similar color hair) was sleeping. FWIW, the exchange was happening in Spanish, which I speak kinda okay but not all that well. So I wasn’t sure if I was understanding right at first.
          He kept asking if my hair was “real.” I was confused and asked what he meant. Not having the word for “wig” I showed him that my hair didn’t move when I pulled on it. But that’s not what he meant! Eventually I asked why he was asking. He responded: “My moms hair comes from a bottle. I used to think she killed animals in the bathroom.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud really hard once I understood.

          1. Minocho*

            Yeah, the “is it real” questions get a little annoying. I actually add a deeper copper colored lowlights to my hair to keep it from oranging up too much. I want stay a redhead, not inch toward strawberry blonde. :)

            I have developed a cool white skunk stripe on my right part. It’s cool. I’ve decided I’m Rogue (from the X-Men) and this is a sign of my incipient mutant powers.


              Concur. I’m a natural auburn but I artistically enhance the color to cover the whites (why on earth would they be called grays?) and to leak more visual personality. Something about red hair that makes people comment! No one seems to care when brunettes go blonde!

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            “My moms hair comes from a bottle. I used to think she killed animals in the bathroom.”

            BWAHAHAHA! Coffee all over the mobile.

            You have so made my day with your comment.

          3. Specialk9*

            “My moms hair comes from a bottle. I used to think she killed animals in the bathroom.”

            That’s hysterical. Especially imagining you parsing that conversation in another language.

    4. Be Positive*

      Honestly I’d call her out on it. Draw it out to force her why it’s such a focus.

      Or if I had the energy, go passive aggressive. So, why are you so interested in my hair? Why do you imply it’s a mess? But you suggested a stylist so you are implying it’s terrible. Why do you think your hair is better then mine?

      I did both methods before and it got too uncomfortable for them

      1. Rach*

        I agree. I think once OP turns the focus back on Kira then the questions and comments will stop. It’s disappointing when people act like Kira and can’t read verbal cues to stop their questions and comments. I can’t believe it’s a the point where Kira is running up to OP at the start of the day to comment -she seems really full on and bizarre.

      2. Queen Esmerelda*

        Many years ago I had someone focus on an aspect of my appearance like Kira has. I got this person to stop by performing the same behavior on them. Ask me about my hair? I’m going to ask about your makeup. She caught on real quick and my problem ended.

    5. Lynn Marie*

      Just to say, responding directly does not equal being rude. Keep a neutral, calm tone and smile or not as seems appropriate. How she takes it is up to her–but be prepared to sustain your neutral, calm directness throughout whatever her response may be. Don’t let her response escalate your response.

    6. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

      I used straighten my naturally curly hair every so often, just for something different. One c0-worker, without fail, would comment, “It looks SO much better that way, you should straighten it more often!” Always rubbed me the wrong way. I never straighten it anymore…I decided I didn’t look like myself with straight hair.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars*

        I always get that when I straighten my hair, too! Now the only time I wear it straight is when I get my hair cut & my stylist does it because I am way too lazy to do it myself.

      2. EPLawyer*

        what is it with people thinking curly haired people want it straight? I have curly hair. I love my curls. Period. People always say “Oh you should straighten it.” I flat out say I don’t want to. They say “Oh you should just try it once, you’ll like.” To which my response is “I said no.” Seriously. It’s MY HAIR. I clearly don’t want to straighten it as I wear it curly. Leave me alone.

        As for Kira, she is just a worst version of this. She just cannot understand how someone with curly hair wants it that way. So you have to be direct. No long explanation about discrimination. Just “I am done discussing my hair with you.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

        1. Murphy*

          I find lots of curly haired people want their hair straight and plenty of straight haired people want it curly. The grass is always greener!

          But I agree, people should stop commenting so much on other people’s hair. It’s your hair. Do what you want.

          1. Gdub*

            I have stick straight hair that is very fashionable now, but I spent the ’80s crimping it, perming it, rolling it on hot rollers, spraying it with hairspray. I dream of a world where we could all just be happy with our damn hair. Or our beautiful bald heads!

        2. Observer*

          I agree that this is not the time for a discussion of discrimination. If she won’t back off, HR can have that conversations.

        3. Artemesia*

          When I was young ‘naturally curly hair’ was considered the ideal; people got perms to have curly hair. Styles change. But annoying people are forever.

      3. OP #4*

        Oh believe me, I get that ALL the time if I do something different with my hair. I like it straight, but it’s not “me”, and I love the uniqueness that my curly hair gives me. Those kinds of comments really rub me the wrong way too.

      4. Breda*

        I sometimes let the stylist straighten it after I get my hair cut, because I don’t like the way she dries it curly, and oh god I look EXACTLY like my mom that way. It’s really unnerving! But also yeah, the curls are apparently intrinsic to my sense of self.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        I don’t dislike my hair straight, but it takes at least an hour to do (not counting drying after I wash it, and I usually don’t use a dryer), and I have so many other things I’d like to be doing with my day than standing in the bathroom with a flat iron. I get the “oh, it looks so nice!” comments every time, and I’m like, oh, thanks, I guess my normal hair sucks? But to be fair, I almost never wear my hair down when it’s curly. I got teased a lot in school for having big hair, and the slightest bit of volume freaks me out.

      6. Dev*

        I have very curly hair that I generally wear natural but do straighten on occasion for fun. I have people comment on it both ways: “I like it better curly”/”I like it better straight”. Whatever, people suck, I do what I want with it.

        BUT. One time I met a guy at a bar and my hair was straightened. We exchanged numbers but I lived out of state so it was a couple months before I saw him again in person. When we did finally go on a date, my hair was curly, and he essentially told me that it was “false advertising” for me to straighten my hair and meet people with it straightened. Wish I would have walked out right then and there.

        1. sap*

          Ugh. I hate these guys. They simultaneously believe self-care is “false advertising” and that women should always look and dress the way they like. They’re so gross.

      7. Merci Dee*

        I have naturally curly hair, and used to wear it down past my shoulders when I was in my 20s. I went to the salon once time for the express purpose of getting it blown out and heat straightened, just to see how it looked. It took the stylist about 2 hours to wash, blow it straighter, and then flat-iron it, and it cost about $50 to do. It looked pretty nice at first, but within 2 hours it had started to seriously poof because of the humidity. So I re-washed my hair, combed my regular styling products through, and was back to curly about 3 hours after I left the salon. “Oh, with the moisture-repelling products I put on your hair, it should stay nice and straight for at least 2 days . . . .” Hahahahahahaha!!

        One nice styling trick I did pick up, though . . . I would pull back the main mass of my hair with those zig-zag hair bands so that the curls could fall down my back, and then I would only blow dry and flat-iron my bangs so they would do that side-sweep thing over one eye that was so popular back in the late-90s and early-aughts. It was a pretty cool contrast, with just my bangs being straight, but everything else being curly. Now it kind of makes me wish I let my hair grow longer than 6 – 8 inches, just so I could try that out again.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d view it as a communication style thing: You have tried all the signals that this topic is closed that normal people pick up on, and she isn’t registering them as “Stop commenting on my hair.” So you are going to have to calmly and explicitly say “Stop commenting on my hair.”

    8. Nita*

      For situations like this I like the “What’s your job?” response. As in “What’s your job?” “Typing our llama statistics, why?” “Great, why don’t you leave my hair alone and get a head start on those numbers?” All with a big smile!

    9. Beth Anne*

      I remember my first job everyone I worked with had perfect straight non frizzy hair and I had super frizzy, super curly hair. My boss would always complain my hair was messy looking which is what curly hair basically is. I ended up straightening it often b/c of it. But that same boss also told me I needed to wear makeup and a slew of other issues.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, it sounds like this may be about more than PTO for you. It sounds like you dislike your manager (which could be fair!), but I’m a little worried that it may be skewing how you see his PTO decisions. Perhaps he’s waffley and anxious/paranoid and frustrating and demoralizing to work with, or maybe he wants to be overly prepared or consider a broader picture than what the team is able to see. Or maybe he’s a mix. Basically, he could be awesome or he could suck, but that shouldn’t change your approach.

    It’s not really a boundary-violation to deny PTO because you may need an employee to be available to provide coverage. And it’s not really a thing to “refuse” to accept a PTO denial. Typically that “refusal” is a resignation. I agree with Alison that the best you can do is make a hard sell, but if you wallow in how much you dislike your manager, it’s only going to nurse resentment.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      > “refuse”

      Well, one may decide to embrace the freedom of taking an unpaid day off. I’ll be doing just that toward the end of the month, because my temp contract allows for no PTO, but some family are coming to visit.

      Not everybody can take unpaid sandwiches, though, so everybody’s mileage may vary. But I want to put it out there that some events or visits or whatever can be worth the loss of a day’s pay and the cost of some office capital.

        1. snowglobe*

          Yeah, if the objection is that the boss might need the LW on that day, then an unpaid day would probably also be denied. You can push back and ask the boss to reconsider, but you can’t just refuse, without risking your job.

      1. Lemon Bars*

        The manager believes he needs her in the office, so he most likely isn’t going to approve leave of any kind. The places I have worked would not have approved an unpaid day when the person had PTO.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        But it isn’t about the money with this boss, it’s about the coverage. So paid or unpaid makes no difference.

        OP, this is a perfect place to use a sick day. You can even give warning ahead of time by not feeling well starting about 3pm. Have a headache, talk about how tired you are even though you got a good night’s sleep, and then call in sick the next morning.

        I know there are people here and elsewhere who dislike the ethics of this behavior. I can’t disagree about that but I also disagree with the approach this boss takes, and I feel strongly that unreasonable people in positions of power prevent others from behaving reasonably.

  5. nnn*

    For #5, if setting your own deadlines doesn’t work or your co-workers aren’t going to be able to meet your deadlines for whatever reason, it’s also perfectly reasonable to ask them to call or text you when it’s ready if it’s after 9 pm (or whatever time is reasonable), so you can go about your life and get an audible alert rather than having to sit by the computer. Depending on how quickly you wake up, this might even allow you to take a nap while you wait.

    (Actually, depending on how your space is set up, a nice loud email alert might also be an effective engineering solution.)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would be tempted to tell everyone if I don’t get comments by [DEADLINE TIME], they won’t be incorporated. Then follow through with it.

      Usually telling people to call you is a good way to discourage procrastinating on feedback, but every now and again there’s going to be someone who thinks it’s ok to call at 1 a.m. I would be comfortable just cutting that person off at 9 p.m. the previous night.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Exactly this. The deadline is 6pm or COB

        Make sure you work this out with your lead ahead of time. When they send you late work (and they will) kindly reject the input and cc your manager.

        This thing self corrects fairly quickly.

        As they say “failure to plan on your part is not an emergency on my part.”

        1. Someone Else*

          I also think this OP might need to just reframe the context for herself a little. Flexible hours do not equal flexible deadlines, and it’s not a given that any given deadline always be “end of the day X date”. Her concern seemed to be if she imposed an earlier in the day deadline she’d be impinging her coworkers ability to flex, but that’s not true. When multiple people have hands on something it’s totally reasonable that if the presentation is being delivered…or the widget is going into production…or whatever it may be…at 9AM Thursday, then deadline for changes on that thing cannot possibly be midnight, or 3am or whathaveyou. Her coworkers can still work at 3am if they want, but this particular task needs to be done before then because it takes other people time to do their own part. It sounded like OP’s own day normally ends at 4pm, so depending on much time she needs with the stuff, the deadline might need to be 2pm or noon. Has nothing to do with coworker’s flex time. If a coworker who needs to give feedback normally doesn’t start working until noon, well then they need to do their part the day before. Simple as that. Set deadlines in advance with times, not just dates. Then everyone knows how much time they have and no one is leaving anyone else hanging.

            1. sap*

              Yep, I think this is important.

              If you know someone is working flex time and will be working from 8p-11p or something, and you need their work by 5, if you tell them “end of the day” they could reasonably hear “end of your workday,” so if you need it to be clear that it’s by close of business, or whatever time you need it by.

              People with flexible schedules can absolutely turn in projects by a time that isn’t the end of their workday, then move onto something else. But they do know what the actual deadline is (because a lot of times, when a boss says “end of the day” it’s because they want to do their part the next day, and it doesn’t matter if it comes in at 5pm or 9pm as long as it comes in that day).

          1. Artemesia*

            If the thing is due the next day and you have to incorporate final changes and review it then the day before is too late for a deadline. The deadline has to be at least the penultimate day so you have the day to incorporate the final changes. I’d work with your manager to set better deadlines. And in no case would I be accepting changes past 5 or so on the day before. Flex time does not mean deadlines are flexible.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        Yup, you’re a team lead, OP. Lead your team! Give them a reasonable deadline, and hold them to it.

        1. Ender*

          Yes. I’ve worked in a workplace with very flexible hours like OP describes and it’s really really common for someone to say “I need this by x time”. Don’t leave it till the morning of the day to say I need it by x tonight. But if you say it even a few days or a week before people should have enough time to adjust their interpretation of their own deadline and adjust their own schedule accordingly.

          In fact, depending on how the work is planned it may even be better to tell people the deadline is a day or two in advance from the beginning of the project – that’s pretty common too.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Coming here to echo this- make sure you tell people well in advance what your timeframe is. Don’t spring it on them the day it’s due, but if you start explaining deadlines at the beginning or a week out from crunch time, that gives folks time to adjust.

        2. Nita*

          Agreed. Our office has very flexible hours for report writing. However – it’s completely unnecessary for OP, or anyone else, to lose flexibility in their own life by waiting for feedback at random hours. It’s simple (I hope) to set a hard deadline, with time for the feedback built in.

          For example, if a report is due on Friday and needs to be printed, that means you need the text ready to go on Friday morning. If you know your teammate can turn around their feedback in one day, make sure the project is ready for their review on Tuesday or Wednesday and that they’re aware they need to respond by close of business Thursday. And make sure they know why it needs to be done by that time. If they’re normally doing most of their work at night, build in extra time in case you need some back-and-forth with them, so you’re not sitting by your laptop at 12 AM on Thursday, hoping they will come online real soon.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        Whether OP can get away with doing this depends on how much capital she has in the office. If the people responsible for approvals are more highly valued than she is, unfortunately she’s likely to be told to suck it up and wait.

        This sort of thing happens a lot in advertising. About 8-10 years ago the industry shifted over from routing projects for approval on paper, with physically handwritten notes and requiring every approver to stay in the office until the project was declared clean (or routed to whatever point was decided necessary for the evening), to electronic routing, in which sign-offs and commenting happens in Adobe Acrobat. And for sure, the sort of situation OP describes happens, which is incredibly frustrating for the person at the end of the line waiting.

        Some things that help, although I think the problem will never go away entirely (especially as long as some of the people who need to give approvals are senior enough that they can say “this is when I can look at it; deal with it):
        * Project manager sends out an update around 4-5 PM of projects that need to be reviewed that evening, including where they currently are in the process and who needs to be ready to work on it that evening
        * All reviewers need to remain in the office until the project is cleared. Not everyone’s favorite, but this is how it works most of the time at agencies I’ve worked at, actually. Unless the project is very close to complete/perfect, it helps a lot to have everyone in one place so that comments can be discussed in person rather than sending things around in circles multiple times because someone didn’t explain her comment clearly. (Almost nobody is as clear in giving written direction as she thinks she is!)
        * When a job is going to route after hours and people reviewing it are allowed to go home, everyone meets while still in the office and agrees on a cutoff time past which either a reviewer has to forgo giving comments, or else the last person in the line does not need to hang out waiting to make the changes. (That is, in OP’s situation, OP would not just *declare* “all comments need to be in by 8 PM,” but rather everyone hashes out “all comments need to be in by 8 PM.”) In theory, this should work because the reviewers feel they had input into the decision of cutoff time, and they can see face-to-face the person whose life they’ll be making miserable if they’re late. In practice, trying to do this almost always results in a flood of protests — “What do you mean, a cutoff time?”

        I’d say more on this but I have to get to the office!

        1. nonymous*

          If there is no political capital for pushing back on higher ups, OP should explore having an earlier deadline for junior staff. So items A, B, C belonging to junior staff should be due Thurs COB with the special unicorn staff being allowed to submit until X hrs before deadline. My direct supervisor always changes his mind after the fact so I have learned to leave space so that I’m not working on stuff immediately after his first round of comments. If he has additional changes I have been perfecting my nonchalant delivery of “Of course, we’ll update that on the next cycle”. Usually, he just wants me to keep track of whatever new idea he just had, not that the change needs to be immediate, so ymmv.

          This would allow OP all day Fri to address the first wave without stress, and then she can just plan on checking in at that Deadline – X hrs to process the final few. The key about this strategy is to set an expectation “We have N docs outstanding, so it will take me X1 = (N * Y) hours to do final QC and push changes. If we can reduce the number outstanding to 1/2 N and X2 = 1/2 X1” and then leverage the high-value leaders to demand that the lower level staff meet the earlier deadline.

          If OP truly has absolutely no authority in this scenario I would recommend just assuming that all the edits will come in pretty close to deadline and adjust work schedule accordingly. So, if 9:30P QC is the expectation, deadline days are about OP flexing a morning to sleep in. That would be a convo that she only needs to have with her own manager. Just don’t spring it as a last minute thing – ideally OP would bring it up just after she had experienced the previous cycle as a process improvement.

      4. Cat Herder*

        +a thousand.

        In fact, whether you’re at home or at the office, be clear that the deadline for comments is X and follow through. Follow through includes saying, “I;m sorry, but your comments weren’t in by the deadline” or “I’m sorry, we took input from the staff at the meeting two weeks ago and it is too late to consider any changes now” when, inevitably, someone gets their panties in a bunch about not being able to make changes after the last minute.

      5. Genny*

        I’ve found it’s also helpful to explain what happens when they don’t get their pieces in time. We all know theoretically it means some is working late, but hearing the specifics might more effectively change the way people approach the project/deadlines.

        For example: I didn’t get the last piece until midnight and was up until 3am to pull everything together. This has happened on the last 5 rollouts, so going forward, I need team A to get their stuff to team B by 4pm, team B to get their stuff to team C by 6pm, and team C to get their stuff to me by 8pm. Does that work for all of you? Do we need to adjust any of the deadlines? (adjust timelines accordingly).

      6. GlitsyGus*

        Yes. If the deadline is 8am Friday morning, and I need to do a final review before it’s considered “finished,” the deadline to have it to me is 4pm Thursday so I can then review it by 6pm and have everything ready for kickoff the next morning.

        We have the same kind of setup at my office, plus the added bonus of offices in multiple time zones. It is generally understood that the last person on the chain tells everyone when the final documents are needed so they can get their piece done as well. It couldn’t hurt to let your manager know you’ll be implementing this if you think you’ll get a lot of push back. I can’t see your manager not wanting to back you up on trying to make sure your team reaches their deadlines on time.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Asking for a call or text after a certain time is a reasonable compromise. I’ve been doing project work for almost 20 years at 4 different companies. It’s a given that the work ebbs and flows based on where you are in the project timeline. The closer you are to the launch date, the longer the hours get. At the same time, people have things to do and lives to live, and it’s not realistic to expect people to be chained to their laptops 24/7. So sending a text or calling is a good place to meet in the middle.

      On the flip side, after you go live, things calm down as you get into a maintenance/support mode, the hours taper off, and you may even have some slow days or weeks until the next project starts ramping up.

      This is of course assuming that you work for managers who treat people like adults and trust them to get their work done and meet their deadlines and realize that it all evens out in the end.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s not a reasonable compromise though. A late delivery reduces the time that the OP has to review it and increases schedule pressure.

        Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. The OP shouldn’t lose sleep because someone pushed off their work and had a late delivery.

      2. Antilles*

        I completely disagree. “Feel free to do your work at 10:00 pm and just text me” is NOT a reasonable compromise.
        First off, the text might mean that I don’t need to sit by my laptop for hours on end, but it doesn’t actually address the real issues at play.
        Besides, from a project perspective, having reviews happen at the absolute last minute is a really, really bad idea. Someone reviewing stuff late in the night probably won’t be fully on the ball and might miss things. If the review finds an issue, there’s no time to fix it. What happens if there’s a power outage or similar technological issue? Etc, etc.
        If OP’s company operates in a way that reviews routinely happen the night before the project is due, there’s something seriously wrong with the workflow.

      3. Ann Furthermore*

        Again, I’ve been doing project work for almost 20 years and this is how it always works out. You can plan down to the minutest detail and I guarantee you that something unexpected will happen. Your choices are to freak out because things aren’t going according to plan, or figure out a way to deal with it in the moment and then take the lessons learned and apply them to the next project.

        It is a reasonable compromise to acknowledge and accept that in the week or 2 leading up to a project launch date you’re going to be working longer hours, that will require some late nights. That’s just how it is and no amount of planning is going to make it otherwise. After the project launches you can slow down, take a breath, ease up, leave a couple hours early on Friday, take a long lunch, whatever. It all evens out in the end.

        I have no problem with this because I do work that is challenging, rewarding, that I’m well compensated for that allows me to provide for my family and let us live in a nice home where we don’t want for very much. If that means that I’ve got some late nights here and there a few times a year, I’m okay with that.

        If someone isn’t satisfied with that trade-off, that’s fine. But it does mean that project work may not be the right fit for them.

        And again, this is all with the caveat that your managers will ease up when things slow down in return for the longer hours put in when the pressure is on. And the OP indicated that s/he does work in this type of environment. If that is not the case, then everything I said doesn’t apply.

        1. Antilles*

          I think the key for OP is to really evaluate her own industry and company to decide if they ARE in an industry where it’s part of the deal or not.
          Is the issue that clients ask for last minute changes so there’s no way for others to realistically prepare their stuff before the last night? It sounds like your industry operates this way, in which case, you should figure out ways to at least make it as smooth as possible (e.g., texting/calling as you suggested).
          Or is the issue that the employees could easily have things done a day earlier, but are choosing to use their flexibility on hours to leave at 3 pm and finish the report late at night when it would be much better if they stayed till 5 pm so OP could review it at a more normal hour? If that’s the issue, then OP should really be focusing more on setting deadline and pushing people so she doesn’t need to be scrambling last minute.
          From OP’s post, I don’t really know which is closer to the truth; I think that needs to be part of her answer.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          Yes, the unexpected happens. Which is why OP needs staff input in a timely manner, and has to have most of the ducks in a row when something goes unexpectedly pearshape.

          OP should be able to get a good night’s sleep the night before a project goes live. Right now, she’s kept awake worrying. Not good.

        3. Engineer Girl*

          I’ve also done very large scale project management from teams located all over the world. There will, on occasion, be slip ups and emergencies. A text is OK under those conditions.
          That said, I expect my team members to act professionally and honor deadlines just like me. There are always a few people that think they can slack off on deadlines. They are the reason we have firm deadlines x days before delivery.
          While launches are intense and extremely detail oriented they do not have to be chaotic.

        4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          I’ve worked on various sizes of IT projects for 20 years and if the deadlines are this loose, that’s a sign of poor project management not how projects typically run. Might be the case for you, but not across the industry.

    3. snowglobe*

      I’m surprised that Alison didn’t suggest talking to the manager. The LW seemed concerned that the perks might be eliminated if she brought this up with the manager, but if this is how the company operates, I’d say that’s very unlikely. Simply explaining to the boss the situation and asking for advice shouldn’t lead to the loss of privileges (if the manager is reasonable), and the boss may be able to provide guidance in how to get the team to agree to meet earlier deadlines, etc.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        I would also definitely loop in the boss! It’s entirely reasonable to set this sort of deadline, but anytime you change the status quo to be more restrictive (however reasonable it is!) there could be some grumbling. Combine that with the fact that these are peers not reports… I’d want my butt covered for any “who does she think she is giving me work directives” type responses.

        Most people will be reasonable, but we’ve seen from other letters how upset people can get when their (perceived in this case) perks get taken away (even if it’s only in very isolated instances like this case).

      2. WellRed*

        I am unclear on what the perks are. The OP states she gets to be in the office from 8 to 4 and then…hang around at home until who knows when afraid to fall asleep.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          The perk is the flexibility. She gets to come in a 8am and leave at 4pm, rather than 9am/5pm (for example) and that they (the office as a whole) are allowed to leave the office at 5pm, and finish up their work from home at 9pm.

          I think that she’s afraid (not sure if this is a reasonable fear or not) that if she says “Hey can you help me set a hard deadline expectation of 5pm?” to her boss then her might go overboard in their response and say “what!? work’s not getting done!? I trusted you guys! That’s it, no flexibility for anyone!”. Obviously that’s mostly me making fun of the over reaction, but depending on office culture it could be a legit concern.

        2. Midlife Tattoos*

          This ^ OP is working a full day at the office and then going home and working more. That doesn’t seem like a perk to me; it sounds more like being on-call 24/7.

        3. Nita*

          It sounds like others are getting the perks, and OP is getting the problems. Flexibility is great as long as there is recognition of external deadlines… and it sounds like this is not happening. Either OP’s teammates are not aware of the deadlines, or there is just not enough communication about how much lead time is needed between their feedback and the projects actually wrapping up.

      3. CM*

        Yes. It seems totally reasonable to get the manager to declare that the deadline for feedback is 6 p.m. Unless the OP has some evidence that this would cause the manager to rethink the flexible hours policy, it seems unlikely that would happen.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve been (gently) pushing a more junior coworker to set deadlines that seem padded because our tasks can often take longer than they might seem at first glance. I’ve been telling her it’s not padding, it’s an honest estimation based on what feels like a worst-case estimation, which turns out to be right more often then not!

      In the same way, I think OP #5 has to give herself plenty of time to QA the project materials based on a worst-case scenario, because otherwise they’ll wind up staying up all night or missing deadlines at least occasionally, and probably fairly regularly IME.

      I’d suggest sending one or two reminder emails the day of the deadline that everything needs to be submitted for QA by COB (or whatever deadline she chooses) or it may not make it into the final product, at least for the next few projects, until her coworkers get used to the earlier internal deadlines.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh, and I forgot to say, because you need to plan for a worst-case scenario, don’t be afraid to ask for a deadline of 3pm — it depends on your coworkers, but in most workplaces (even relatively healthy, functional ones) you’re also factoring in that people will often miss that deadline, so if you say 3pm you will probably have everything you need by 4pm.

        Of course, if you can work on each submission individually, then having some of them handed in late won’t matter, as those will just be the ones you do last, but if you need all the parts in order to do any real work, then I’d push the deadline back even further.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Amen. Never trust anyone. Always assume worst-case. It’s how I survived as a project manager.

      2. Yorick*

        Yeah, I’d actually make the deadline for feedback at least two days before the real deadline. That way they could still send it at 11pm and you would still have a full day to incorporate the feedback.

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          This. I run into this all the time. We have class materials that have to be ready to go pretty much first thing Monday morning and the instructors are making changes this week (I hate this but it happens all the time). I was talking with one of them about it and she was automatically calculating that she had until Friday noon to get the work done and freaking out over the short amount of time. When I reminded her of my scheduled day off Friday (which is on my Outlook calendar and has been for weeks, which is visible to her), she literally said, “I didn’t even think about your schedule!”
          I kindly readjusted the deadline to Thursday at noon. They can of course make their own copies if they wait until Friday, but I have a feeling I will have the draft by Thursday at noon, instead :)

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        That coworker needs to learn the truth of “under-promise and over-deliver”. Nobody is ever mad that something is ready ahead of time!

    5. Emily K*

      Agreed, this is so common for group projects that get passed through a chain this way.

      Shoot, when my project group has a post mortem review scheduled for 10am, the person running the meeting, who combines all our slides into one deck and distributes the agenda, asks for our slides no later than 3pm the day before the 10am meeting. He’s not anyone’s boss, but it’s perfectly reasonable that he wants to have time to do his part without having to stay late or come in super early. Just because the meeting (hard deadline) isn’t til the next day doesn’t mean the final approver/organizer doesn’t need it sooner.

  6. Observer*

    #1 Your instinct on the gift is right on. This is absolutely NOT a good idea. Even if *Bob* would never sue, it sets a tone that a lot of people would be uncomfortable with and which could be interpreted as stereotyping people of a certain age.

  7. sacados*

    Ugh,why do people get so weird about curly hair?! Even when it’s not rude/insensitive, it always seems to become A Thing.
    I’m also someone with naturally quite curly hair and I typically wear it that way. But every so often (really just a few times a year cause it takes forever) I get the urge to straighten my hair for a few days just for the hell of it. Cue the endless litany of “Oh my gosh, you look so cute!” “It’s so different!” “It looks great, you should keep your hair straight all the time!”
    All of which are certainly very nice things to be told, but it does make you feel a bit like a zoo animal after a while.

    1. many bells down*

      I never straighten mine because I’m laaaaaaazy as heck. I teach mostly Chinese students and they’re pretty fascinated by it. But they’re like … 10 years old so I don’t care if they want to talk about my wild hair.

        1. Ladyphoenix*

          I have a straightener and a hair dryer… but I don’t use them. I am either, rushing out the door, or both.

          My hair stylist compliments me because my hair grows out SUPER quickly.

        2. Pebbles*

          I have long, straight hair, but would still like to be on team lazy! I wash, brush, and go. Don’t own a hair dryer or a curling iron.

      1. WS*

        +1, when I lived in Japan I had long, curly, light brown to blonde hair. Kids were fascinated. That’s fine, they’re kids. Adults waited until they got to know me before asking questions (though I did once have an elderly lady reach over the back of a train seat and fondle my ponytail!)

    2. stephistication1*

      I personally think the “oh you look so nice like that” are backhanded compliments.

        1. sunshyne84*

          I got this too recently. Straightened my hair and put on makeup. Everyone was so nice all of a sudden.

      1. PB*

        Ugh, yes. Whether it’s about hair style, make-up, or weight loss, the implication can be, “You looked bad before. Congratulations on not looking bad today!” I don’t think this is true 100% of the time. Sometimes, people just feel compelled to comment on a change, but yeah. It’s not a great feeling.

      2. [insert witty username here]*

        I understand the reasoning here, but I think most of those compliments are meant to genuinely be compliments (no back handing).

        Presumably, someone does something different (straightens their naturally curly hair, wears more/different makeup, wears a more daring piece of fashion) on purpose to be different and because they like it. A coworker/friend/whatever notices the change and compliments them on it. Liking one thing does not mean they don’t like the other.

        The people that take it to an extreme might be backhanding (“you should do that all the time! you look so much better!”), but just a straight “I like your hair today!” I think is often genuine.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yep, I’m not going to tell someone every single day that I like their hair, even if I do, because that would be weird, but if they do something different and I like it, I will.

        2. neverjaunty*

          They’re likely meant to be compliments, but that doesn’t necessarily make them compliments (or appropriate).

        3. Breda*

          Agreed. I think it’s often just “I am acknowledging that you put effort in to do something different!”

          1. Decima Dewey*

            My parents would make a big deal of it when I’d set my hair. It was meant as a compliment and affectionate teasing, but it made me promise myself not to set my hair again for a loong time afterward. You’d think they’d catch on.

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            I have gotten so many compliments on really skanky straw hats. I wear them against the sun, and sometimes they get shabby before I can replace them. When someone compliements a crappy hat — well, I finally figured out it was their way of saying “I notice you are wearing a hat, which is unusual”.

      3. glasses*

        *takes glasses off* chorus of “wow, you look so different without glasses!” err…is that good or bad!?

        1. General Ginger*

          I never know how to respond to these, either. You don’t say, my face looks different without a large plastic frame on top. Thank you, Captain Obvious. I’m definitely not going to stop wearing the thing that allows me to, you know, see, just because you prefer no-glasses look.

      4. Positive Reframer*

        Or you could choose to interpret it as “you put in effort into your appearance and I appreciate the increase of beauty I’m exposed to because of your effort.” (I literally think this thing but rarely make a comment) I mean if you didn’t think it made an improvement why would you bother? Why be incensed that others feel the same way?

        1. biobotb*

          But that’s how people are interpreting it–that the person making the comments thinks they’re more attractive (or have “increased their beauty,” per your phrasing) with the new style. Which could only be possible if they were somehow less attractive with their old style, which is what the comments imply (and which is included in your “reframing”). But no, people don’t always do something because it’s “increasing” their beauty; sometimes they just want a change. Sometimes two things are equally good, just different, and people want to experience both.

    3. Ozma the Grouch*

      It bothers me as well because I love my natural hair. I had it professionally styled for a big work event (it’s naturally curly) and the stylist straightened it/did a blow-out which I’d never done before. I got home and my partner looked at me and was all “I know it’s you, but you just don’t look like yourself.” I get to the event and everyone kept gushing about how *beautiful* I looked that night, they just didn’t know I was capable of looking that way. It was creepy. It was like they didn’t realize that I was decent to look at until I had straight hair, makeup, and heels on. Thank the gods my partner was there in the morning to love me after the shower brought my curls back to life <3

    4. Miso*

      I don’t understand this at all…
      I love curly hair! I’d kill to have natural curls!

      Honestly, I fully expected you’d say everyone is “Oh, why did you straighten your hair, it looks way better the other way!”, because that’s what I’d probably think… (Note: Think, not say. And obviously you can do whatever the hell you want with your hair, no matter what anyone else prefers.)

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I think whenever someone makes a notable change to their appearance, they’re likely to attract compliments, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that people *prefer* the change, per se.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yes – I work with someone who has naturally thick curly hair which she wears at shoulder length. She’ll wear it curly for a couple of months, then get bored with it and wear it straightened for a couple of months.
          Every time she changes it, because it’s a longish time before changes, I re-notice how nice her hair is and tend to compliment her on it – but I do make sure to be clear that it’s always nice, I’m just noticing it more because of the change.

          1. J.*

            I like using the modfiers “especially” or “particularly” a lot when giving compliments like that because it helps soften the connotation. Like, “Your hair looks particularly nice today,” suggests that your hair always looks nice but it looks especially nice on that day.

        2. Someone Else*

          I think often when someone changes their appearance, it attracts comments not because the commenter actually has especially strong feelings one way or another, but because some people when they see a difference feel the need to comment on it, and if they’re indifferent it’s likely to come out as a compliment because most people don’t jump to insults.
          I mean, I’m sure some are genuine compliments, and some are genuine backhand, (and some people are just assholes), but a decent chunk are probably also people who don’t even realize it in the moment, but they don’t actually care one way or the other, but their instinct is to say something so they just do.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yes, I am a child of the 80s. I remember when we were all getting perms, or at least braiding our hair wet, because curly was obviously better.

    5. Boo*

      Omg dude, I so relate – I have curly hair and I keep it that way because I like it and I’m lazy, but once I got it straightened (by accident, my hairdresser misheard “great” for “straight”, lol!) and so many of my colleagues lost their damn minds. I had two women repeatedly tell me “it looks so much better, you should keep it that way” even after I nicely explained I have neither the time, inclination or skills to do it myself every damn day “oh you could do it the night before!” Haha, no, I spend an ungodly amount of my day commuting and when I get home I want to chill for an hour before going to bed and doing it all again, and why am I having to justify this? I also had one creepy email from a guy who passed me in the corridor and then decided to tell me over email how “lovely” I looked.

      It was SO WEIRD. I have no idea why people get so invested in what other people do with their hair. I unfortunately have no answers for OP, as I dealt with it by never coming into work with straight hair again, and fortunately none of my coworkers have brought it up since.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        > “do it the night before”

        LOL the way that sleep flattens my curls is half the reason I have to get a shower every morning. Sleeping on my hair is not a substitute for an actual ironing or blowing out.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Oh, if only. That would be so wonderful.

          No, my (naturally wavy/curly) hair will simply assume the shape of the pillow, regardless of whether I straightened it the day before or not.

      2. Indie*

        How hard is it to say “You look nice with your hair like that” instead of “You look SO MUCH BETTER than, you know, BEFORE” or “Now that you know what true beauty feels like, I am sure you dont want to backslide into your slovenly natural state”.

        1. Boo*

          Right? I know they were trying to be complimentary, but honestly how often can a person repeat “you look so much better like that” before hearing themselves and how insulting it is? I like most of my colleagues, and I’m generally pretty easy going but honestly I was quite offended!

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yep. My hairdresser flat-irons mine when I go in for my routine trim, so he can see if it’s even (my waves can hide many sins), and I always get a ton of comments about it, if I don’t put it back up after my appointment. I’m not sure if it’s the straightening itself or just that so few people have actually seen it down.

      4. OP #4*

        It takes WAY too much time to go through the whole blowdry/straightening process. Even if I put a few curling iron curls in my hair, I have to straighten it first or else it becomes the poof of doom.

        Also I love people who say “why not just go to bed and braid it damp and you’ll get some nice beachy waves!” LOL no. That’s not how curly hair works.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yeah, if I go to bed with my hair damp in braids, I wake up with . . . damp hair in braids. When I take out the braids, it’s just damp, curly hair. I have experimented before to see how long it would take to completely dry while in braids, and it was days.

          1. Libervermis*

            This curly/wavy-haired person is so impressed by your dedication to that experiment! And now I have evidence for my general sense that my wet hair needs to be free or it’ll take even more of forever to dry.

            1. Indie*

              I think I am similar to you both in terms of drying time. I use a hood dryer to survive the winter

          2. Birch*

            To be fair, that’s not how any hair works. I’ve long since realized that all the “lazy hair hacks” tips rely on massive amounts of hairspray.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “nice beachy waves” – what I would get is half dead, limp, still damp-feeling hair with weird zigzags from the braids.

          I can shower in the morning and let it dry on its own to become a mop of wavy or curly hair (depending on whether I touch it with a comb or not), or I can shower in the morning and then spend 30 to 40 minutes blow-drying and ironing it straight. There is no getting ready the night before that has me looking decent the next day. (And on work days or any day where I have actual things I have to do other than stand in the bathroom dealing with hair, we go with option 1)

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            If I get someone who knows what they’re doing (i.e. not me) to straighten my hair, it can survive sleeping on with some combing and gel in the morning for a day or two until it gets wet. If I try to do it myself, it takes forever and only looks presentable for a few hours before it’s back to it’s nightmare high school state of thick, fuzzy and only straight-ish.

        3. sb*

          I have frizzy/wavy butt-length hair and the braid thing *actually works* on my hair but argh anyone who comments on hair choices is the worst.

          I got a lot of “when are you going to cut it” for years with the implication that long hair isn’t professional + isn’t appropriate on a woman over X age (X varied by commenter). I’m old enough and it’s greying enough now that people seem to have given up (or possibly it’s just that I’m senior enough at the company that it’s clearly not hurting my career), and now I just get the occasional “whoa!” when I take it down from someone who hadn’t realized the length contained in my usual bun. And the usual creeps if I have it down on public transit.

          1. Birch*

            Just passing by to say that super long grey hair is my FAVORITE and I can’t wait to go grey and turn into the elegantly aging hippie I’ve always been inside but which people get weird about if you’re 29. Your hair sounds awesome. :)

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            I have thin, flat butt-length hair, and I use the braid thing to get some frizz and life into it. And, like Birch, I’m happy with a hippy look, and often wear it in braids after it’s been combed out too. Grey braids are great.

            I really like and recommend the Micah Bournes song/poem “Normal Hair”.

    6. Indie*

      This is exactly what I came here to say! The frizz police start on you in high school. After that, most adults (Kira) know it’s rude to be direct but that doesn’t stop the back handed compliments on your frizz free days. People practically drool on the mirror shine of a flat ironed head. Look folks, I don’t care what look Unilever is pushing in their adverts, my hair will never be silky without serious heat damage and sore arms, because it’s not silk – it’s cashmere. You can’t wear good quality cashmere without raising a bit of nap frizz occasionally and it’s just the label that comes with genuine waves and curls. My surname is the Gaelic word for ‘curly’ but it’s a family trait only displayed by myself and the men; most of my female relatives pour hours into straightening their hair because of this nonsense.

      1. SarahKay*

        That is the most fabulous description of curly hair I’ve ever heard!
        I think I may steal it, although my (naturally curly) hair is clearly so absurdly fine and thin that I can really only wear it short and no-one ever suggests straightening it.

        1. Indie*

          Whereas mine is so ahem, sturdy, you could stuff a mattress with it and not need springs. And yet; common ground :D

          1. J.*

            I once had a colleague tell me (after describing how she leaves her dog’s hair on the porch for birds to make nests with) that my hair would probably be really nice for building nests. I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment, the way she got a little babbly after it came out, but it’s the weirdest comment I’ve ever received about my hair.

            1. Rosemary*

              Haha oh man I totally see how that’s off putting, but I think in the end I’d be pleased that apparently my hair has such practical applications and is apparently weather-resistant? Now I have visions of bird A jealously admiring bird B’s nest incorporating your hair, and bird B going snobbily “Oh, yes, it’s J. you know.” like some people get all snobby about brands. Something something “we only want what’s best for the eggs, of course.”

      2. PB*

        The frizz police start on you in high school.

        I wish they’d waited until high school! I’ve been getting pressure most of my life, mostly from well-meaning relatives, to keep my hair short to make it more “manageable.” I’m now very proud to be a 36-year-old with long, curly auburn hair, because screw being anyone other than who I am.

    7. alice*

      Could it be that you get the ” you look so cute!” comments just because there’s something different? For example, I have (straight) hair that I always wear up. The couple of times a year that I wear it down, I get comments like that. It’s so rare when it happens, and my hair is pretty long, so I take it that people are just noticing that I did something different, not that hair down is cuter or prettier than hair up. I’d say it’s the same with your situation.

      My mother has naturally curly hair and always wears it down. Occasionally, when she puts it up or does anything other than let it air dry, she gets comments like that too.

      1. Indie*

        No not really! You’ll have to take my word as to the tone. I am someone who likes to switch up my look a lot and I am familiar with the ‘wow that’s different!’ tone of a genuine fellow fashion/beauty lover. There’re certainly people who like the sleek look as an alternative rather than a preference (including myself). I am not talking about them.

        It’s hard to explain if you don’t have curly hair, but you’re made to feel untidy and lazy by a vocal minority if you don’t conform to sleekness. There’s a certain type of person, very conformist in their general appearance and attitude who makes a certain type of ‘oh how shall we fix you’ face, infuses their voice with sympathy if you tell them straight hair is a lot of work for you, is very encouraging that you should make time for it, acts as though youve made a personal breakthrough when you wear it straight…and says things like ‘so much better’ and ‘wow making an effort today’.

        That’s just acquaintance level of politeness. If you get a closer relationship (on the curly girl forums, it tends to be mother in laws) they will tell it to you straight that naturally curly hair is messy, untidy, uncivilized and that it looks dull and unhealthy and that it’s probably dirty too.

        I realise this is difficult to believe.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yikes, just reading about someone being rude enough to say “wow, making an effort today” to you makes me furious.
          I’m now very grateful that my workplace is 95% middle-aged men who might just about spot it if I dyed my hair dead black (from it’s natural auburn) but otherwise are mostly oblivious to any change less than that.

        2. JeanB in NC*

          I was about to take a drink when I read that “wow, making an effort today” and I had to stop so I could roll my eyes so hard I sprained them.

          1. Indie*

            I spent a good half hour persuading myself that she just misspoke before I gave up. It doesn’t happen often enough to give you an armour, but it’s A Thing, so it just takes you by surprise periodically.

        3. That Would be a Good Band Name*

          I feel this so hard. That second paragraph is such a great way of putting into words something that happens over and over again. I have a few people in my life that do not get it. I just got a suggestion of something I could “do for my hair” a couple of days ago and, no. People need to just stop.

        4. Jennifer Thneed*

          I believe it. My hair is only wavy. I can do a decent early-mid-60’s slight flip if it’s cut right (without using curlers, I mean). The whole “frizz” thing isn’t an issue for me. But I still remember the time my grandmother commented how it was so nice that my hair was curly because it didn’t really show if I didn’t brush it. Or something like that.

          I was only a kid, and that was weird. I didn’t have any vocabulary for it then, but I certainly knew it was weird and that clearly I was supposed to be feeling bad about something. (I didn’t feel bad.)

    8. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I have a mild obsession with red hair because I will never have it. If they seem receptive I may say once, “Your hair is a lovely colour.” I then leave the person alone and admire it from afar. My daughter has curly hair and stopped straightening it on work days because it caused such a distraction.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        My best friend in high school had a really unusual shade of red hair that was incredibly long and thick. As someone with mousy brown, baby fine hair that was fairly short I was insanely jealous. I remember she got it cut really short (think 1920’s bob) and my asshole mouth damn near shouted “what the hell did you do to your hair?!?!?” across campus. It hurt her and I felt awful pretty much as soon as the words left my mouth but it was a real shock – she had 2 feet of hair missing!
        My current bestie has very curly hair and the one time I’ve seen it straightened I told her to go fix that shit – absolutely none of us liked it because it just wasn’t her (she hated it too which I could tell by her face).
        Mine gets wavy if the length, humidity, and my hormones are just right…so about 2 times a year

        1. blackcat*

          One of things my childhood bestie and I bonded over was hair. I had super long (like hip length) hair that is naturally deep red but sunbleached blonde on top (this was also in an era when dramatic highlights were “in” so a lot of people assumed I dyed it. Whenever someone would ask where I got my highlights done, I’d point up at the sun. Confused the heck out of people). Her hair was a similar length and a very dramatic blonde/platinum blonde. We were the girls with the hair.

          The last time my hair was super long was for her wedding, because she wanted new “the girls with the hair” pictures. The week after her wedding I chopped it all off and donated it, because grown up Blackcat does not have time for super long hair.

    9. OP #4*

      Thank you all for the nice comments about curly hair! It makes me feel like I’m not such a zoo animal/oddity after all.

      1. obleighvious*

        I’ve got curly hair, and I’m always surprised when people ask me if it’s real. It is, but I’m thinking “if it wasn’t, the whole point is to fool you into thinking it IS, so why would I answer that?”

        Also, because I’m lazy, I wear it short (easier to comb through) and I have had hairdressers REFUSE to cut it. Or cut it SO RELUCTANTLY I have to go to someone else to get it as short as I want. It’s crazy. They’re like “your hair is too beautiful to cut!” and I’m like “but it’s like wearing an extra wool hat on my head in the summer! I need it short so I don’t overheat! You have no idea what it is like, just cut it how I say! Aaargh”

        1. Thany*

          I get asked if my hair is real too! Most of the time they think it’s a perm and not my natural curl.

          And I understand about the hair cut. I wear mine relatively short (think chin length), but they get nervous cutting it that short because of how the curls creep up a extra inch shorter than you intended. I don’t mind, but it leads to lots of hairstylists not cutting as short as I want.

  8. I coulda been a lawyer*

    OP5, please tell your coworkers in advance if you change the way the deadline works for a project. They are obviously used to the deadline being the end of *their* Thursday for example. If you want to make it the end of *my* Thursday that’s perfectly reasonable but if I don’t know I’ve lost 5 hours on deadline day a few days in advance that could be a problem. It may take them a few projects to adjust. I really like the “call me when you send it” suggestion too.

    1. Anon today*

      If possible, adding a buffer day could work really well. If I get the project to you by the end of my Wednesday then you defiantly have it by the end of your Thursday.

      1. Emily K*

        I always set morning deadlines for this reason. “COB” is kind of meaningless in a flexible office environment. Why do I need something by 5pm if I’m not going to do anything with it until the next morning?

        If I myself need to do a final review and submit it somewhere external that has a calendar day deadline, I will ask for it no later than 3pm that calendar day to give me a couple hours to review without needing to staying late. If I just need to have it ready for me to start working/reviewing when I arrive in the morning in which case I really don’t care whether they finish it at 4p, 8p, or 4a. I just say, “I need this available to me on Monday morning,” and they can decide if they want to work late on a Friday to meet an “end of day” deadline or if they’d rather go home at 3 and do a bit of work from home over the weekend.

    2. J.*

      Agreed. I work with folks across a couple of different time zones, and we always try to lay out by X time in zone 1/Y time in zone 2 deadlines when something needs to be finished so that the people a few hours behind us can plan ahead for that. It’s the same concept.

  9. Pam*

    With #2, what annoys me is the opposite- when I send an email, and get a call. I emailed to get the answer, not your dodge of the day.

    1. Delta Delta*

      If I respond with a call it’s often for a reason. I drive a lot. Sometimes if I’m in a parking lot I can read and absorb an email but don’t have time to write back before I leave. That person gets a phone call. For me, I find it’s the only way I can stay on top of things, depending on the day.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Wait, you make phone calls while you’re driving? At my company, we’re not allowed to do that, even if it is hands-free. Safety is a super high priority.

    2. Life is good*

      In my old toxic job, people would often call back to answer a simple question. I (and others in the place) suspected they “didn’t want to put it in writing”. There was a lot of finger pointing by higher ups if you made an honest mistake.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Thisthisthis!! I’ve had a manager who would only call, never email (and he was at a different site with a time difference). It was 100% a plausible deniability thing because he would tell us each different things.

        1. Antilles*

          I’ve had a lot of success dealing with that sort of issue by just taking the initiative myself to just ‘confirm’ via email. The easiest way to do it is just casually mention it right at the end of the call. “That’s great, I’m glad we could sort that out. I’ll go ahead and summarize our conversation in an email afterwards to make sure we’re both on the same page.”
          This works surprisingly well, as long as you make sure to (a) don’t phrase it as a question, just a statement and (b) use a polite and casual tone – essentially your voice should sound like it’s a totally natural and reasonable thing to do ‘of course this makes sense to make sure we’re on the same page’.

          1. RockyRoad*

            This sounds like a good idea! I’ve never done it before and just had two questions:

            If you forget to mention that you’re going to send them a summary e-mail at the end of the call, is it okay to still send it?

            Is the summary e-mail still valid even if they don’t reply to let you know the contents were correct? (I’m wondering what would happen if there was an issue where the summary e-mail would show you didn’t do anything wrong, but the other person claimed to have never seen it or that the information in the e-mail was incorrect.)

            1. Antilles*

              1.) Yeah, it’s OK to just send it. Mentioning it upfront is more good manners than a requirement. Essentially, you just put that little wording about “making sure we’re on the same page” or “just wanting to summarize what we talked about earlier” or something similar in the email itself. This is mostly just so that they don’t wonder why you bothered to write it.
              2.) I mean, it’s still valid from the standpoint that it’s what you took away from the conversation. If they have a different interpretation (which certainly can happen), it pushes the ball in their court to reply back and go “actually, what I meant was…” and then you go from there. If they claim never to see the email at all, then there’s not much you can do there but it’s at least still a record on your side that you tried to verify things.

            2. Matilda Jefferies*

              I just want to add that this is a really common thing in lots of workplaces, even ones that have a culture of trust and where people don’t tend to blame each other for things. IME, pretty much any time a phone call goes longer than a couple of minutes, one person or the other will offer to summarize it in an email.

              So you’re okay to treat it as a perfectly normal thing to do – in most cases you can just send the email and go on about your day.

              1. Antilles*

                +1. Excellent clarification – this isn’t just a CYA ToxicJob thing.
                Even in well functioning workplaces, it often makes sense to send a quick email summary of long discussions just to verify everybody took away the same overall message.

              2. Emily K*

                Yes x 1000. I send email summaries after all conversations to confirm what we talked about, next steps, etc. I don’t have a very great working memory so unless I’m going to do the task(s) right away I need to write it down or I risk forgetting it, and I don’t process information as well auditorially as I do written language, so often when I go to write something down it will reveal that I missed a key detail in how the parts fit together. And it is not at all uncommon that months later we will be trying to remember a decision we made or why we made it, and having the paper trail helps save us a bunch of time.

                There are no trust issues in my workplace but I consider document everything in writing to be just a sensible and conscientious way of staying organized and making sure nothing falls through the cracks. There’s nothing hostile about sending a summary email – I never ask for permission to do it.

          2. AKchic*


            I keep a notebook in my purse, and one by my landlines. I take notes while on the phone. If the call is important, I follow-up with a written summary (email, text, IM, all depending on how I know the person) to confirm what we talked about. It’s a CYA method, and reinforces what you just talked about.

            Sometimes, it solidifies things. Other times, it allows the other person to review the notes and say “oh, wait, I have an idea/question/thought” and then can allow future brainstorming sessions.
            If they disagree with my note-taking skills, they can certainly say so, and amend my notes. Either way, it’s all in writing.

        2. sunshyne84*

          My manager does this too. Crazy part is she emails and dials my number at the same time! I’m like do you want me to answer your questions on the phone or respond to this email you haven’t even give me the chance to respond to? So aggravating!

      2. RockyRoad*

        In an old job, people would frequently tell me I gave them incorrect information or claim that they hadn’t told me to do x. It was great to be able to forward them e-mails showing that I’d actually told them [correct info], or someone else had given them [incorrect info] 20 e-mails in the chain before they sent it to me to ask about a totally unrelated topic, or they did indeed tell me to do x, so I was just following their instructions.

        I don’t trust people to “remember” things correctly when a client is mad at them for screwing up.

    3. Antilles*

      For me, it kind of depends on the situation. If you sent an email with a quick question, then yeah, it’s dumb that you called me just to say “Yeah, the Teapot Design Report is due on Friday”. But if your email is something that requires a discussion, it can absolutely make sense to respond with a call rather than going back and forth with a bunch of emails or risk misunderstanding along the line.
      Email and phone calls are both communication tools; each has specific things they’re useful for and specific things they aren’t. If the initial communication isn’t the proper medium for conveying the necessary information, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable to swap methods.
      (Unless of course there’s a specific reason why email would be better – time zones, in a meeting and can’t talk, etc)

      1. whistle*

        “Email and phone calls are both communication tools; each has specific things they’re useful for and specific things they aren’t.”
        This is, like, my motto! There is no one communication tool that replaces all the others. Phone is good for some things; email is good for others; IM is good for yet other things. Sometimes more than one communication tool can get the job done, and other times there is clearly one superior method. Thinking about which communication tool to use is just as important as thinking about what to say.

      2. LW2*

        LW here. This makes sense to me. I don’t mind the phone, but I hate unscheduled calls! If there’s something we need to talk through, let’s schedule a time to talk. Phone tag is way more annoying than an email thread.

    4. OtterB*

      I don’t often get voice mails – most of my contacts are by email anyway – and if I do, it’s often because I’m out of the office for the day or several days, not just momentarily away from my desk. I get an email from our phone system that a voice mail has been left for me and listen to it when I can. Often I can email back more easily than phone back, so if I can give a quick answer by email I will. I usually close those emails with something like, if you have any further questions I will be back in the office tomorrow (if I’m in a meeting) or for some people and some questions, add that I’m working from home that day and they can call my cell at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

    5. Emily K*

      It is so tough working with people who don’t share your communication style. I hate phone calls for most things – I just end up having to type what we talked about in an email anyway so that I don’t forget anything, and in my experience things do get forgotten, on both ends, way more often when the initial conversation happens by phone. Inevitably some detail that one party took for granted and so didn’t later include in the written follow up/summary is forgotten or misremembered by the other party who is less familiar with the process and didn’t take it for granted the same way. The phone call also usually takes 10 minutes when the email could have taken 3 on my end, because I’ll list steps A, B, C, then the other person tries to repeat them back but gets A partly wrong and I have to correct them, then they start over and when they get to B they’ve already forgotten what I told them about B, so then they start over again and it’s 3 or 4 repetitions before they can successfully repeat A, B, C back to me when I could have just written it down once and they could have reread it as many times as they needed to to comprehend it and refer back to later.

    6. Could be Anyone*

      I used to have to essentially poll a group of 30 or so people by e-mail every so often. Basically ‘here’s a question, please reply yes or no’ and one of those people would always call me to respond! To a yes or no question! It made me absolutely crazy. And it was more difficult to easily track the responses.

    7. Green*

      I convert calls, IMs and requests to meetings to e-mail exchanges all the time. In part because I can often give the answer or feedback efficiently by e-mail, allows me to prioritize based on what’s actually most urgent instead of who happens to be calling/pinging me, and it reduces the amount of time I spend in meetings overall, allowing me to do more work. Also maybe because I’m a Millennial. But if there’s no reason to coordinate our schedules or interrupt each other’s workflow, why would we?

    8. PizzaSquared*

      I’m thankful to have not had a desk phone at my job for many years (no one here does except sales people and support agents), and no one at my company except my boss and my boss’s boss have my cell phone number. Phone calls are virtually nonexistent, and it is wonderful!

  10. pcake*

    Poster number 4 – if it were me, I’d tell my coworker “I wear my hear this way because I like it”, and I’d use just a little emphasis on “like”. If she commented again after that, I’d simply tell her to please stop criticizing my hair.

    1. LNZ*

      I’ve found say “because I like it” in a slightly less than friendly tone, when faced with nitpick questions about appearances orhobby or what ever kills their argument.

    2. Ender*

      i agree with this. It seems like Kira is coming from the perspective of “well obviously no one could possibly WANT to look like that so I’m doing her a favour by recommending her a good stylist. OP telling her clearly “I actually LIKE my hair like this and I CHOOSE to wear it this way and I want you to stop commenting on it” might be the most effective way to end the conversation. Also may be good for Kira to understand that OP actually has different tastes to her.

      1. many bells down*

        Also, a “good stylist” and a “good stylist for curly hair” are reaaaaaalllly not the same thing. Between the two of us moving, my current stylist is now a good 40-minute drive from me, but I am never ever giving her up because it’s so HARD to find someone who really gets curly hair.

  11. Mark132*

    @lw3, one option if this is an extreme case is to not request the day in advance, but simply call in sick. It’s risky, but if your boss often denies important days off the risk may be worth it for 2-3 days a year.

  12. stephistication1*


    Ugh – I am AA with super long (right at my rear) and thick (each one about the size of the base of my thumb) locs. Someone is ALWAYS wanting to discuss them. Most of the comments are complementary but some are overwhelming:
    – the bread co worker that stops making sandwiches EVERYTIME to talk about how I maintaine them.
    – Ramdom stranger that want to photograph them.
    – The cashier that holds up a checkout line and waves all the other cashiers over to fawn over them.
    – The questions about how how I keep them so clean…I wash them.
    – The assumptions that I have to cut them if I no longer want them…nope, you can comb them down.
    – The shocked look when a stranger finds out I have a Sr. Technology role at a major company.
    – The questions about do I know where to buy good weed…no I don’t
    – The questions about if they are real. Yes
    – Questions about my ethnicity or religion
    – Men asking me to shake them or if they can pull them.
    – Questions about what they feel like. Hair.
    – Hairdressers offering their services.

    I could go on but some of us have what may seem like unique hair but like the OP it can be daunting. Compliememts are great but fielding questions, comments everyday is tiresome and can be awkward.

    I’m sorry OP. I feel for you and this hit a nerve for me.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all of those reactions to your appearance. I don’t know why people can’t just allow adult humans to decide on their own hair styles.

      OP4 – your hair sounds absolutely professional and Kira is 100% over the line with both you and your coworker. You would be absolutely justified in telling her that your hair is no longer a topic of office conversation. “I’m happy with my hair as it is and I will not be discussing this with you again.” She will inevitably try to push back on that statement, but that doesn’t mean she’s entitled to a response other than “I’ve already told you that I’m not discussing this with you.”

      1. LavaLamp*

        I’m a white girl with blond hair. It grows quickly so I usually let it be rather long and straight. The amount of times I’ve had people try to touch it to see if it’s extensions or ask me how long it takes to straighten is pretty intense. Anything out of the ordinary is up for discussion for some people I suppose. I’ve gotten the comments about leaving my hair down since I usually keep it pinned up and out of the way since people always wanna touch it and play with it and in one case decide to dump a vial of glitter over my head because it made me look like a fairy. This is a thing that happens I guess when you have something interesting and unique about your appearance. It shouldn’t but it does.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Dump. Glitter. On. You. What on earth. My reaction would have been swift, loud, and uncouth. Ugh.

          1. LavaLamp*

            It was a boy who had a crush on me in high school. We were working on an art project. I was mostly shocked it happened and didn’t know what to say because everyone was telling me it was pretty. It took weeks to stop leaving glitter everywhere. It was that extra fine stuff too. I think I ended up getting a new hair brush even.

        2. ChachkisGalore*

          Omg! Not exactly the same, but I went to a midweek concert recently and the people in the row behind me (it was stadium seating so they were behind and above) decided to throw glitter in the air. It amounted to them basically dumping a vial of glitter over one side of my face/head.

          I was mortified at work the next day and a few people didn’t really seem to get or believe my story, but I survived and the glitter eventually came out (took a solid couple of washings though)

      2. OP #4*

        I really like this wording too, Totally Minnie! I’ll make sure to remember that for next time.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Ugh, that sounds exhausting. Your hair sounds beautiful, though!

      What really gets me is that I have a seven year old and I’ve already taught her that you don’t comment on random strangers’ bodies/hair. If she can learn that, adults have no excuse!

    3. The Original K.*

      I’m Black with long (bra-strap-length) natural curly hair and I’ve gotten very good at cutting off comments, because I cut them right off.* And if you touch my hair without asking, you’re getting your hand swatted. I’m not an animal; you may not pet me.

      OP, a “Please stop asking about/commenting on my hair” or “I’m not going to talk about my hair” should do the trick. If she gets annoyed, let her be annoyed.

      *The only times I talk hair at work are when other Black women are talking about wearing their natural hair and want tips for transitioning. And there was one white woman at my old job who had adopted a Black daughter and she and her husband were great about learning how to do her hair and taking her to stylists who could handle it, but she would talk to me about products for her daughter and I was fine with that. (Her daughter had very different hair than mine so we couldn’t share products, but I didn’t mind talking about it with her.)

      1. Kat in VA*

        Why do people touch other people’s hair without permission? I have never understood that.

        When I was younger, my hair was waist-length and super straight, and people would *stroke* it, like I was a cat. Grocery store, DMV, movie theater line, wherever. The Hair Strokers™ could strike at any time.

        Younger Kat in VA wasn’t as strident as Older Kat in VA, so I would usually just turn with a startled look and get some variant of, “Your hair so silky / shiny / pretty / I just wanted to touch it”. Older women, younger guys – there wasn’t any age or gender lines.

        Yeah, that’s great, ever heard of “Look with your eyes, not your hands?”

        Now I am older and my hair is a bit past bra-strap length and people don’t touch it, but I get a lot of “When are you going to cut your hair off?” commentary instead – because I’m almost 50 and have the cardinal sin of long hair. Once I hit 45, I’m supposed to have a sensible, chin-length bob or something. I lopped off four inches because it was fried from swimming and a Florida vacation and people were CELEBRATING that I’d *finally* cut my hair. Oops, sorry, I’m planning on growing it back to my waist again, if it’ll cooperate!

        People and hair are weird.

        1. Queen of Cans and Jars*

          “Why do people touch other people’s hair without permission? I have never understood that.”

          I’ve never understood why people touch ANY part of another person without permission. It’s absolutely banana crackers to me that adult humans do not possess enough self control to keep their hands to themselves and refrain from touching people’s hair, pregnant bellies, faces, shoulders, whatever! Maybe it’s because I’m NOT a touchy person, but since I’ve been older than maybe 10 I have not instinctively reached out to touch someone who is not a family member or close friend.

        2. Baby Fishmouth*

          +1! As a child I had very fine, very straight, very blonde hair. I would have random strangers stroke my hair ALL THE TIME. Why on earth did/do people think it was okay to stroke a random child’s hair? They always said it was because it ‘looked so soft’. SMH.

          1. blackcat*

            I was so traumatized by strangers petting me as a child that from ages 3-7, I refused to go out in public without hats. My parents rolled with it and bought me a wide selection of hats for all occasions.

            I actually think part of why this is more likely to be inflicted on children and also Black women is that random folks just assume that children and Black women don’t have a right to personal space/autonomy. It isn’t conscious, but the fact that it happens to both WOC and children way more often than adult white women (let alone adult men) really makes me think that there’s something to it being a domineering/demeaning thing.

            1. Baby Fishmouth*

              Absolutely! And it’s a big part of the reason I think that all children should be taught the concept of consent. Yes, it is absolutely important in the teen years when it comes to sexual consent, but it’s not just that. It’s empowering young children to tell strange adults to Please Stop Touching My Hair. Not enough children are taught that they don’t have to be touched/hugged/etc. without their consent, and that can carry forward into adulthood.

        3. Pollygrammer*

          I don’t understand. I don’t want you to touch my hair. I don’t want your hair to touch me. (Looking at you, multiple women on the subway train).

          I generally wear a ponytail at work–because laziness–and I have a coworker who keeps telling me I should wear it down more because it looks soooo much better that way. And I used to have a coworker who would occasionally pull on my ponytail when he walked behind me.

          1. Jem*

            I had a male coworker pull my ponytail once. He made an inappropriate comment about ponytails being good in the bedroom/pulling on it during sex and he pulled my ponytail. Out of instinct (and maybe a little disgust), I slapped him. He never touched my hair (or talked about sexual preferences around me) again.

        4. Mr Clean's Evil Twin*

          You can even get this treatment if you don’t have any hair. I’ve been shaving my head for over a decade now, since genetics had it in for me and I decided at 25 that I would rather be bald than balding. I’ve lost count over the years on how many random strangers feel that it’s totally appropriate for them to come up and rub my bald head. I used to just growl or curse at them, but that wasn’t nearly as effective as turning their behavior around on them and rubbing their heads in response.

        5. Stan*

          I have long, curly hair that naturally lands somewhere between Merida from Brave and Bozo the Clown. I occasionally blow the dust off my curling iron and give myself sleek, even curls. Everyone touches it.


          Why can’t grown-ass adults cannot manage to keep their hands to themselves.

        6. Tuna Casserole*

          I get “Your hair is so long, WHEN are you going to cut it?” and “Women over 40 should ______.” I ignore the comments and change the subject. Up-thread someone mentioned turning the rude questions back on them. Might be fun to try that.

      2. OP #4*

        I love to talk techniques/products to people who are genuinely curious! I wish more people would ask me about how I do my hair, rather than comment on it like it’s some sort of alien thing.

        1. Anon today*

          Asking how you style your hair and telling you how they think you should style your hair are very different conversations.

    4. Lora*

      Okay, understand that 11/12 are simply “people are terrible especially about natural hair” and “stoners who don’t THINK they are racist,” but…hairdressers offering their services? That’s…something else. I dunno what, but something. I’m curious what they’re offering to do?

      One of my friends has braids and instead of covering the gray, she has it dyed bright red, purple, turquoise etc. every time she gets the braids re-done. It’s friggin AWESOME, and people tend to struggle with the notion that she is a robotics designer – even at work, they talk down to her and give her the crummier projects. I’d love to do my hair blue / violet, but I see the nonsense she goes through and naaaahhh I don’t want to deal with it.

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        At work, some of the ladies have the skinny braids that go from blonde to burgundy red. One lady has pink to red. I also noticed that gold tone metal coils wrapping the braids seem to be a thing now.

    5. OP #4*

      Thanks for the support :) I can’t believe some of the comments you’ve received! Especially the weed one, that’s terrible! One of my best friends is AA and the amount of times people stop her to try to pet her is insane. I don’t get why people think it’s ok to just touch another person without asking like that.

    6. Mockingjay*

      I don’t get why hair is such a focused topic at work, although I experienced this at ExToxicJob.

      I have premature, completely white hair. As in colorless, white fiber optic-looking strands by the time I was 40. It’s striking – you can see me from a far distance with the blinding white. I used to dye it but stopped about 4 years ago when the dye began to irritate my scalp. I didn’t choose this (it’s a combo of heredity and a marker for a chronic condition), but it is what is.

      As I grew out the color (keeping the same style), the new white color became the only topic of conversation with managers and coworkers. I got continuous compliments on my hair, never my work. If I was introduced to someone new, the conversation was never about what I did, just my hair, even when I attempted to redirect the conversation. If I met with the Grandboss, the first topic had to be my hair before we could move on to discuss project work. (Did I mention this was ExToxicJob?)

      It never occurred to Grandboss that if he had paid as much attention to my work as he did to my hair, I might have stayed with the company. (Naw, not there.)

  13. Namelesscommentator*

    OP4, a fellow white (according to most) curly/frizzy hair haver here.

    One thing I do is mention struggling with my hair and finding what works for me. I tend to say “my mom didn’t know how to deal with it so it was really bad in high school, luckily my freshman year roommate taught me what to do, and I finally got to be happy with it!”

    It tells people that they are the first to notice how /special/ my hair is, how unspecial their commentary is, and that I’m not looking for suggestions, and gives a personal amtecdote that doesn’t usually come across as passive aggressive (I tell it early in the conversation, before touching if at all possible).

    If that doesn’t get the memo across, or it gets weirdly racial (i tend to be okay with a Jew-fro reference or two, depending on delivery), I get more direct and just say “I like my hair and it’s honestly taken me a while to get there, so I’m not interested in anybody else’s opinion on it right now” I’ve never had to take it past there – but I’d escalate as needed if it doesn’t stop.

    1. many bells down*

      Oh yeah, my (stick-straight haired) mom always told me I needed to “brush it more”. Brushes would break off in my hair but I kept trying, and crying. Imagine my relief when I discovered I should never brush my hair again.

      1. Sandy*

        See, this was my motivation for asking my very curly-haired coworker about her hair. I have straighter-than-straight hair and my kid had pin-curls. I realized I had absolutely no idea how to handle curly hair.

        I hope I didn’t drive my coworker crazy! I tried to follow some ground rules:

        -ask her first if it’s okay to ask about her and explain why
        -respect her no if she says no
        -save up my questions to ask once or twice TOPS
        -don’t turn it into a “thing”
        -don’t keep mentioning it over and over again!

        I am still super-grateful to her for the advice she gave me.

        1. Indie*

          I think you’re fine. Most curlies love to pass on the knowledge, especially in regards to brushing. I.e. don’t go near any curls with one unless you want the hair to rise up and attack you.

          There’s a huge difference between genuine curiosity for a genuine purpose and people tilting their head to one side and asking if your hair is such a huge bother because it looks so….crazy.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, asking if you can ask someone for advice really is the opposite of giving unsolicited advice!

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, yeah, that’s way different. I’m always happy to educate people who don’t know how to handle their kids’ hair. It prevents them from making the mistakes my parents did!

        3. Anon today*

          Most people respond well to someone admiring them and wanting to find out how they do it, whether it is hair or something else.

    2. OP #4*

      I really like this approach! And it’s true too; I had no idea what to do with my hair until late highschool/early college, when I found some naturally curly hair care forums.

  14. Story Nurse*

    LW #5, you need to be able to say “Hi all, just a reminder that I work from 8 to 4. In order to make a 7 a.m. roll-out, I need your responses to feedback by 3 p.m. the day before” and make it stick. If that requires getting your manager’s backing, get your manager’s backing! Your manager is presumably the one setting the deadline, and should support you in doing what you need to do to make things happen by that deadline.

    My company supports flexible working hours; most people work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. but I usually get my work done at night. Every week I have to polish my department’s files and send them to my colleague D by noon on Thursday. I used to ask the people sending me files to get them to me by 11 a.m. Thursday and then scramble to get them put together for D by noon, struggling to think clearly because I’d just woken up. Then one week I sent out an email saying “I need files by 10 p.m. Wednesday because I have a Thursday lunch meeting”… and everyone got me files Wednesday night, and my whole life got better! So I formalized that files are due to me by 10 p.m. Wednesday, and now I can do my work at night and D is happy to have everything in early. The difference to my colleagues is minimal (they don’t want to have to do that last-minute work on Thursday morning either) and my boss is happy to support the schedule that works for me. Perhaps a trial run like that might be a useful thing for you to do, on your own initiative or with your manager’s approval. Just make sure you are giving people plenty of notice so they can adjust their own expectations and schedules.

    You might also want to look into whether it makes sense for a night owl to be the last person on the chain rather than a lark like you, just to minimize the inconvenience and stress for everyone.

    1. Lilian*

      Absolutely do this, it’s a completely reasonable thing to do in an environment where people have different working hours. I’m someone who finishes at 3pm when my colleagues finish at 8pm and we just always figure a schedule that works for all of us in advance, and everything turns out great.
      Just give reasonable notice and be matter of fact about your scheduling requirements.

      1. Anon today*

        Clear and open communication is key. It may be a good idea to suggest a deadline and ask if that works for them to make sure that there is not a genuine need for them to turn in the work later. If so, you can come up with a deadline that works for everyone. Also, if they are in on the conversation then they might feel more invested in the deadline instead of being resentful that it was imposed.

    2. lulu*

      Agree with this. Just because your office has flexible hours doesn’t mean you can’t have a deadline, the two are completely separate issues. Set a deadline for people to submit their comment to you, with at least a day of buffer, let them know in advance, remind them periodically of the deadline and let them know that they need to meet it for you to incorporate their comments. That’s basically your role as team lead.

  15. Mark132*

    @lw5 would it be possible to treat the while thing like a bus? As in you missed the bus ( deadline), and the next bus is coming around in three weeks. I’ve worked in environments where deadlines would push out for a struggling feature, but everyone else was ready to move on to the next sprint. It simply produced chaos and lower quality releases ( due to shortened QA cycles among other reasons) for us. I’ve had better luck holding the new feature for the next bus (release ).

  16. Lisa*

    OP#5 is a great example of how super-time-sensitive projects need deadlines and timelines to be set by the hour (with timezone!) not just the day. I worked for years at a huge global company where there was an official work schedule (8-5 M-F local time) but a “typical” work schedule varied greatly by department, country, and sometimes by role. I was leading a high-stakes, high-visibility project with a ton of moving parts and multiple teams involved, and a lot of time-sensitive handoffs. Due to scope creep, misestimation and thrash, we were all behind schedule. I was personally responsible for a mission-critical deliverable that the project schedule called for me to complete and deliver to another department by “end of week.” Well, in my department, “end of week” typically meant “8 am Monday morning” so even though I was horribly behind, I knew I could salvage the timeline by working the weekend.

    Thursday afternoon, I find out that the team waiting on my handoff interprets “end of week” as 5pm Friday, and in order to catch up on their own delayed schedule, they’ve scheduled contract workers to begin at 9 am Saturday – one time zone ahead of mine. I ended up staying up all night on Friday to finish, and handed off my work at 10 am my time, on Saturday. They complained about the lost two hours.

    Did I mention this was the weekend before Thanksgiving?

    It was a really hard way to learn that you’ve got to be crystal clear. “To stay on track, I will need to receive this from you no later than Tuesday at 5pm Pacific.”

    1. SarahKay*

      So much yes to all of this. I work with people all over Europe, and in the US, so I always push them to give me a time zone for deadlines – and make sure that I include them in any deadlines I’m sending out.
      And any time I get (or set) a deadline of COB Friday I make sure to check (or clarify) – do I have the weekend as well, or are you (deadline-setting ‘you’) planning to work on it over the weekend.
      There’s nothing worse than thinking I’m on track and suddenly discovering that no, I actually derailed an hour back and disaster is looming!

  17. wayward*

    As far as hair, I always wondered if people just wanted whatever they didn’t have. Mine is super-straight, which sucked back in the days of big hair. Now I guess people with curly hair feel like they need to straighten it.

    1. Indie*

      Women are just constantly fed an image of the impossible. Having straight-yet-voluminous hair is about as probable as having a slim-but-curvaceous figure. Its the same deal with curly-but-sleek. Yet those combinations are what gets pushed. My hair holds a curl for days, but in order to get the popular smooth curls look you see in magazines, I’d have to straighten my waves first before tongs or curlers because that’s the only way to eliminate frizz. So ironically, it would take me twice as long to get a socially approved curly look as it would for a straight haired person.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        For my hair, yeah, obtaining and keeping the smooth-curl look for an entire business day is time-consuming and expensive — and likely to fail, anyway, depending on the weather and humidity. Nothing like a nice, windy day to give me an uncontrolled blow-out on the way to the bus stop.

      2. Libervermis*

        +1 My hair is curly/wavy and the two times it’s been professionally styled because I was in a wedding party the stylist straightened it first, then curled it. I think my hair is lovely but it isn’t big smooth barrel curls, so even “curly” styles require giving me the “right” (naturally unattainable) curly hair first.

      3. aebhel*

        Honestly, I have thick, smooth, wavy hair like a shampoo commercial, and it’s still an enormous pain if I actually want to keep it out of my face, since it’s so heavy that pins and clips just slide out and ponytail holders give me a headache. I kept it buzzed off for years just for the convenience factor, and my God you should have seen the reactions when I first showed up with a crew cut; it was like I’d set a puppy on fire or something.

        People are just weirdly proprietary about women’s hair, ime. It’s gross.

      4. OP #4*

        That’s me too! To make it in those smooth curls, it takes me twice as long as it does to just make it straight.

      5. esra*

        I always think about the influencer in Parks and Rec:
        “Oh, I love your hair!”
        “Thank you. It’s genetic and unattainable.”

      6. media monkey*

        OMG this! and try to find any hair pictures for curly hair to take into the hairdressers! every hairdresser says “you’d need to straighten it first to get that look”. FFS

    2. Justme, The OG*

      Google “curly hair unprofessional” to see why a lot of women feel the need to straighten their hair. Not that they want what they don’t have, but because society is telling them to do it.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yep. I finally, at age 28, figured out that the best thing possible for my hair is to never let shampoo touch it again. But, of course, that means keeping it tied back 100% of the time at work. Because shiny, healthy hair is great – until people realize how I keep it that way. Then holy moly the comments…

            1. BookishMiss*

              Bahaha I have RBF so bad that my co-workers have blanket permission to tell me to fix my face if needed =)

        1. Les G*

          If it works so well, how would they know you don’t use shampoo? Just thank them for the compliment and say you’re blessed with hair you don’t need to do much to.

            1. Les G*

              Yeah, I got that. But the obvious solution is just to tell a version of the truth (that it’s natural, genetics, whatever).

              1. BookishMiss*

                Because I value honesty? Because if I can help someone feel awesome about how they look, why not? And largely because I’d get comments about my hair anyway, so I’d get comments either way.

                1. Indie*

                  Because the first rule of curly hair club is you don’t talk about curly hair club? Seriously though, keep sharing. People being too shy to reveal we dont shampoo or brush is one of the reasons its seen as abnormal; because the management is a mystery and you have loads of bushy haired Hermiones going to school.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Yep. I have the World’s Straightest Hair (there’s no coffee mug for this dubious designation). I have always wished it would hold a curl. It just won’t. My best friend as a kid had very curly hair. She wanted it straight.

      If I see an especially stylish cut or style or something I may compliment the person, but I’m not about to ask probing questions or treat the person like a museum exhibit.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I will challenge you to a straightest hair competition any day.

        My best friend has thick, wiry, curly hair. We used to joke that we should take a hair average so hers would be more manageable and mine would do something, anything.

        1. Pebbles*

          I’m in on this contest! In addition to the stick-straight hair, my hair is also baby fine. The only way I have ever been able to have it curly was with a perm or extra-extra-crispy with hair spray (and even then it went flat after a short amount of time!).

          1. Carlie*

            Mine too. My mom was floored recently when I mentioned how my grandma had made me sleep in curlers every time I slept over at her house for my entire childhood. She never had any idea because by lunchtime when she picked me up it had always totally flattened back out again.
            My son grew out his hair in high school and it turned out to be thick and curly, and we went through a few years of “brush/wash your hair” “No that will ruin it” arguments before I learned to shut up.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      For sure. I have thin hair that doesn’t do anything and I’m always jealous of people who can actually style their hair.

      1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

        This is me. Super fine, and sadly, thinning is weird spots. So it’s up in the ponytail or bun.
        It never fails that someone will ask why don’t I wear it down- because then you can see my weird bald spots.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Heh. I will always treasure my teenage daughter’s “… Huh. It really won’t do anything” when I agreed to let her try styling my hair more interestingly.

        Dave Barry (who is a dude, but with hair you can use to map a gravitational field) had a bit about that brief period in the 70s when it suddenly became cool to have very straight hair. Then it went away again. Really captured the confusion of why the culture briefly passes through a “Your natural hair/shape/etc is now the really COOL one!” phase, and then whisks back out of it again.

        1. Trig*

          “… Huh. It really won’t do anything”

          My university roommate’s exact reaction to trying to get my (fine, mostly straight, but with a dumb flip at the end that flips in the same direction for both sides) hair to hold a curl for a night out. Blowdrying, curling, hairspraying, the works. It was flat again within half an hour, with the added bonus of being kinda greasy from the hairspray.

          Poor girl just didn’t understand. She had about five times the thickness and length I did, and it was naturally wavy. She spent at least half an hour blow-drying and straightening her hair EVERY DAY. I boggled at this time commitment. She boggled at my “roll out of bed, wash hair, tousle with towel, walk out the door to class” routine.

      3. Eeyore's missing tail*

        That’s why I’m in pixie. Of, course, people will still find a reason to comment on it.

    5. Ender*

      When I was about seven I wanted red curly hair and freckles. Then I realised that everyone with red curly hair and freckles wanted straight brown hair and no freckles. I decided that maybe I used to have red curly hair and freckles and I got my wish but didn’t remember so I should just be happy with what I had.

      Which I think was pretty good for a seven year old.

    6. a1*

      I’d say it’s not so much wanting what they don’t have, just reactions to doing it different. I have thick straight hair, always have. Yet, when I curl it at all everyone, and I mean everyone, tells me I should curl it more often or get a perm. Friends, coworkers, etc.

  18. Audrey Puffins*

    Acceptable comments to make about people’s hair:

    – wow, your hair looks great!
    – hey, there’s a leaf stuck in your hair

    All other comments are verboten unless you are good friends with the hair-owner. And even these two suggested acceptable comments should be dished out carefully (for instance, effusively complimenting a change of hairstyle can imply that the former hairstyle was bad).

    1. Persimmons*

      I (jokingly) complimented a very curly colleague on her arm strength the day she came in with straightened hair. It made my triceps ache just imagining how long she spent holding a flat iron in the air, given how much tight curly hair she had.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I will take one (1) question about my dye job (galaxy colors in a wide stripe on the left side, in otherwise dark brown/black hair which if left down is past my butt, done at home with bleach and various home-dyes–I use Sparks brand) because it’s SUPER freaking unusual and worth comment, but after that I’ll deflect. I’m at work to work, not to talk about my hair.

      1. OP #4*

        Dye jobs are a whole different story – I have dyed blonde/platinum/grey/purple hair (it’s a hard color to describe), and I of course have to get it retouched every few weeks. It never fails that someone will ask me the day after “wow, changed your color again??” I’m like…no, it’s just what I have to do every 6 weeks unless I want crazy roots.

    3. Trek*

      And just to add if they have a bug in their hair point it out. I sat in a meeting for 20 minutes with a lady bug in my hair because no one knew how to address it with people on the phone. They thought I might scream or something if they said I had a bug in my hair.

  19. Mommy MD*

    Only a kid gets a World’s Greatest Dad mug for their father. Not coworkers. Ever. Boundaries are being crossed and being a father is an emotionally charged thing. Maybe Bob has lost a child, did not have a good relationship with his own dad, or has a problematic relationship with his kids. That mug could backfire a whole lot of ways.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          It is.

          And…”Dad” is not that different from “Daddy” and there’s only one context for adults using that term for somebody who isn’t related to them.

          1. Observer*

            That’s just not true. I’m not saying that this is really great workplace behavior, but talk about giant leaps!

    1. Ender*

      When I read the letter it seems like the “dad” thing is an in-joke Bob has with all the interns, not just the one organising the mug. So it seems doubtful he would he really offended by it, as it seems to be a joke he is participating in.

      It makes no sense to include people outside of he group in the joke, but I think all the interns giving him a mug probably wouldn’t offend him. I personally would think it was a bit silly but I don’t think it’s inherently offensive or discriminatory.

      OP and anyone else who is not an intern should definitely not be involved though – that would make it super weird and uncomfortable.

      1. Work Aint Family (OP1)*

        OP1 here,

        I would say that Bob likes attempts to make a personal connection with a lot of the younger professionals and interns, but the “Dad and Son” dynamic is unique to this specific intern. I also think the intern might be a little blinded that this is a unique connection that he has with Bob and it is not seen widely across the department. I am planning to call him in today to talk about it and give an update to AAM.

        Someone made a great point that the intern is undermining himself by being seen as a “Kid” to Bob. Depending on how the conversation goes, I may bring that up as well.

        1. Ender*

          Oh wow that is really weird that he wants to include other people in that then.

          You could point out to him that getting everyone else involved would be akin to asking his cousins and aunties and uncles to participate in giving his actual father a “best dad” mug.

          Though somehow since he’s really latched onto the dynamic, I doubt his own Dad would be getting a mug. I suspect there are serious daddy issues there.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          I really look forward to your update, I’m so curious :)

          And kudos to you for addressing it! Your intern is really going to benefit from getting some insight into how this might appear to people.

    2. WellRed*

      No need to get onto all sorts of background possibilities. It’s weird and no less inappropriate than calling someone mom at work. Which I believe was a recent letter.

    3. McWhadden*

      Bob is in on it and calls the intern “son” so there isn’t any hidden past that could make this devastating or anything. He, personally, doesn’t mind at least where this intern is concerned.

      Still shouldn’t happen though.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      It’s a little strange for sure, but both Bob and the intern seem to be equally in on the joke, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal–certainly no reason to worry about lawsuits or anything like that. I do agree that the intern should just give the gift himself though, not from the whole team

    5. Observer*

      If it’s an organized office wide thing, yes. As a personal item? No. Keep in mind that Bob is in on the joke and actively participates. If that were not the case, I would be totally with you, but not here.

  20. Ladysplainer*

    I also have unique hair – includes a curly texture. When coworkers bitch about it, I cite the non-WASP part of my heritage responsible and ask point blank (loudly and around others) if they find non-WASPs ugly or are simply uncomfortable being around “ethnic” people. I’ve offered to walk them to HR to discuss.
    I’ve also sent a follow-up email reiterating my concerns and cc’d HR/management.
    Works like a charm.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I… how do they bitch about it? Like, I can not think of a single way to complain about someone else’s hair (unless it is shedding in my tea or something).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seriously. The most I’ve done is ask my husband to change places with me at a dance performance. (The person in front of me was tall to start with, and had exuberant high and wide gelled hair–but it wasn’t like she was going to alter it mid-outing for the people seated behind her.)

      2. Whaow*

        As a black woman, I’ve heard it all.

        Afro : “isn’t your hair a bit messy for the office? Maybe you could brush it.” “That’s an ~interesting~ way to wear your hair. That’s so ~bold~ of you.”

        Dreadlocks : “Can you even clean those?” ,”they look like snakes!”, and not so subtle expressions of disgust. I can tell that you assume I’m going to smell bad because of my hair, Melissa. Yes, your reluctance to interact with me is visible.

        Braids : not so much bad comments, but that’s when people want to touch. Same with loose/ringlet curls.

        Straightened/Long/Permed : “you look so much better like this! Way more suitable than your other looks.” ;-} but also “is that like…a weave? Is that really your hair?”

    2. Kat in VA*

      I can’t understand anyone making a comment about someone else’s hair other than to say, “Hey, your hair is really beautiful!” and leave it at that. Which I’ve done, several times, always received with a “Thank you” or “Thanks” and not a whole lot more. Bitching about someone’s hair seems like the height of rude to me.

    3. Trek*

      Talk about over kill. If someone ever said anything like that to me I would never trust them the same way again because in the back of my mind I would know that they are looking for a reason to involve HR. How does someone bitch about someone’s hair?

      1. Observer*

        Wait, you understand how ridiculous to bitch about someone’s hair, but you think that someone who actually DOES something about it is “looking for reasons to involve HR”? Like, they are “too touchy”?

    4. Pebbles*

      “I’ve offered to walk them to HR to discuss.”

      I love this. Sucks that you need to use it though.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #5 – This feels like a solveable problem. You’re the team lead. Meet with your management and explain you need to establish X deadline for these particular projects and why. I’d also add that it’s not effective to receive 14 drafts with edits 20 minutes before it goes live, or whatever can be said that’s true and can back up the point that quality may suffer with last minute crunch.

    Then meet with the team and establish that the deadline will now change and that it’s firm and it’s for reasons supported by management. It’ll probably hit bumps in the road a couple times but would likely even itself out.

  22. Lilian*

    OP 4
    I might be off here, but I’ve been living in intercultural/multicultural settings for my whole life, and it sounds like it really might be a cultural thing. (Kira sounds like my Eastern European friends and relatives – is she from around there by any chance? The amount of unsolicited advice that is considered normal in some of those cultures would totally overwhelm people from other cultures)
    If it’s a cultural difference thing, she might genuinely not even suspect that she is being rude and violating boundaries. If she hasn’t been living in the US for too long and is open to learning about your culture, a gentle explanation along the lines of “actually in the US, especially in a workplace, discussing someone’s looks and giving suggestions/unsolicited advice is considered rude and boundary crossing, just wanted to let you know. And of course I know you mean well but I’m happy with my hair and really don’t want your help, thank you” might help. She might still be surprised, but she probably won’t be upset.

    1. Les G*

      It’s common in lots of cultures to make unsolicited comments about folks’ appearances. When I visited my wife’s family in her home country (not in Eastern Europe) multiple family members asked her point blank why she wouldn’t try to marry someone taller, more handsome, etc. I don’t know that it’s helpful for the OP to try to speculate on why Kira does this, and it might come off as condescending or xenophobic to try to teach her about US norms.

      1. Lilian*

        Of course you would need to make sure to not come across as patronizing, but if it’s a cultural thing it might be helpful to give context to why you want the person to stop giving you unsolicited advice. I might be biased because I personally find it helpful when people point out when I am performing a cultural faux pas, it helps future interactions as well.

        1. Indie*

          This is what I don’t understand. If Kira comes from a culture where unsolicited advice is Ok, you’d think she’d appreciate the ‘we don’t do that’ advice from the PoC colleague.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I don’t think it’s condescending or xenophobic to say “that’s not how things work here”. The whole When in Rome thing.

        1. Belle of the Midwest*

          The times that I have been out of line whether it was a comment on someone’s hair, or an utterance that I didn’t realize came across as racist, I have appreciated knowing that it came across wrong. and every time that I have been educated, it’s been with kindness, tact, and the assumption that I had meant no harm. Kira needs to hear that she’s out of line and I would rather she be told now before it costs her in terms of a possible promotion or work assignment she wants.

      3. Sue No-Name*

        I feel like this perspective conflates good-faith efforts and bad-faith efforts to inform a person of cultural norms. The former, which the OP could do, is a kind and well-intentioned approach to clarify the social expectation around commenting upon or criticizing appearance in the US. The latter, which is definitely condescending and xenophobic, would be something like shouting at a person with an accent “we speak English here!” There is a huge difference and it’s important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

        1. Les G*

          I didn’t say OP would be condescending or xenophobic if she tried the cultural line. I said she might come off that way. It’s an important distinction.

          1. Ender*

            You can say anything in a condescending way though. It’s up to OP to make sure she doesn’t say it in a condescending way. If you’re going to just not say anything ever that could possibly come across as condescending then you’re really restricting your own ability to communicate. It’s entirely possible to tell the hair-commenter “in this country its actually considered really rude to comment on people’s appearance” without being condescending. It’s of course possible to say it in a condescending way too. Telling the OP just not to say it at all just in case she comes across as condescending is not very helpful. In my experience it’s much more about tone than anything else, which is hard to convey in text.

            1. Ender*

              Another thought – Kira is either being intentionally rude, or she is unaware she is being rude. The fact that she is offering what she apparently sees as “help” (eg I can give you the number of a good stylist) implies she is unaware that it is rude. Add this to the fact that she is from another country, and that there are tonnes of countries where this would not be considered rude, and it really seems that on he balance of probability it’s a cultural difference rather than her intentionally trying to upset OP. So kindly explaining to her about the cultural difference would be the best thing to do for Kira, and it has the best chance of success for OP also.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Oh, don’t assume that people don’t try to hide rudeness by “offering help”. Offering unsolicited advice on hair, diets, whatever is very, very, often an attempt at sneaking in criticism on one’s appearance.

                1. Ender*

                  I’ve never seen that in my experience. Seen it in movies like “mean girls” but never in real life.

                  Do you think she doesn’t have a stylist to recommend or doesn’t believe her stylist would improve OPs hair? I think it’s far more likely she genuinely wants to help but just doesn’t realise how it’s coming across.

                  If op actually tells her to stop commenting on her hair, and she continues, then I think it would be fair to assume malicious intent. But up till now it seems like OP hasn’t actually told her to stop, so I don’t think it’s reasonable to jump straight to “she must be trying to be intentionally hurtful”.

                2. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @Ender, read some more advice columns. Especially read letters from people who get lots of criticism from relatives or in-laws. This is apparently a common thing among hateful people. (Captain Awkward has lots of good columns on this kind of thing.)

                  > I think it’s far more likely she genuinely wants to help but just doesn’t realise how it’s coming across.

                  I actually agree with you, in this case, but the other thing absolutely happens.

      4. Lora*

        “why she wouldn’t try to marry someone taller, more handsome,”

        My family said similar things and they’re all American rednecks, although it was more focused on why didn’t I marry someone with a better career.

        It’s not that American women don’t EVER touch each others hair / makeup, but we generally do it only after work, with close friends, after many glasses of wine, when we’re trying to figure out an updo or going to Sephora, sort of thing. I’m good at doing intricate braids and sometimes do them for my friends if they have an event; also, most hairdressers do cuts and color, perms, but don’t really do up-dos, so you’re on your own figuring out buns and things, and that’s when you get together with women friends to try new gadgets and pins and whatnot.

        After work. With dear friends. Not at work.

    2. Observer*

      Come on. She’s been put on notice already. And her reaction was that “people are too touchy”.

      Also, there is a huge difference between unsolicited advice to (extended) family members and / or people lower on the ladder than you. But, when it’s a non-family peer, it’s a different thing.

  23. TIFF*

    #5: This is your coworkers taking advantage of a perk. What would happen if you left at 5 pm and were unable to get online all evening? What if something happens with them snd they aren’t able to finish?

    If a deadline is Friday morning, everyone needs to be done by the end of the workday on Thursday. They should not be leaving if their time sensitive work is not done, taking it home is inappropriate.

    You need to talk to your manager ASAP and put it all on the table. Make it clear you can’t work on last minute stuff after work and push to have an earlier deadline set for the other staff. Also make sure it is clear who is at fault if a project is late because Bob didn’t email you until 11pm and you were asleep.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      This is good advice – if you try talking to them first and it doesn’t work. In this case, it seems like OP needs to try to set expectations on their own first, then escalate if needed.

      1. bonkerballs*

        Yeah, how does OP’s team know there’s an issue with the way things are being done if they’re not told. I don’t think this is anyone taking advantage in a negative sense – it’s people doing what the system allows. I would likely find it to be a huge overreaction if my team lead went to management to tell them we’re taking advantage of them and pointing fingers about blame all without ever telling me there was a problem. And it would seriously cloud my opinion of their reasonableness.

  24. Icontroltherobots*

    OP #5 I work in an industry where flexibility and long hours are very normal. I’m usually proactive in asking when something is due – by 5 pm by 12 am ect and plan accordingly. It’s very okay when assigning deadlines to say “I need this by 6pm so that I have time to review, Fergus needs this finalized by 8am”

    You can also send follow up emails at 6pm asking for a status updated or just in general. Don’t stay up all night logged in, just ask your teammates when they’ll be sending the work over.

  25. Anononon*

    The supervisor in a department I work with gets called Mom by several of her staff. It’s super weird, especially because she’s younger than them, and like fifteen years younger than the one who does it the most. I’m 99% sure that she doesn’t mind, but I wish she did and would put a stop to it. (She’s a very blunt person who has no issue with telling people to cut out nonsense.)

  26. The Doctor*

    During the early 1990s, one department of my company routinely canceled people’s previously approved PTO (sometimes during their overseas vacations) based on the “possibility” that all hands “might” be needed on deck.

    Meanwhile, the department head wondered why people kept leaving and morale was so low.

  27. adam807*

    What about answering an email with a voicemail? If I wanted to talk to you, I’d’ve called in the first place! HUGE pet peeve, and disrespectful of my time because I have to stop what I’m doing to answer the phone, or play phone tag. (I get that sometimes there’s something sensitive that people don’t want to put in writing, but that’s rare.)

      1. OhNo*

        True, but it’s still possible to send am email to say that and set up a time. I’ve certainly sent my fair share of “That’s a complicated process that’s difficult if not impossible to explain in an email. Do you have time to talk on the phone today?”

      2. uranus wars*

        Usually if I can’t get what I need through an email though I first reply by saying “this is something I really need to have a conversation about, when’s the best time today for me to call you?” I don’t just pick up the phone. Mainly because I hate it when people do that to me.

    1. Holly*

      But what if refusing to talk on the phone is disrespectful of the other person’s time? I’ll call in response to an e-mail if I already know it would be a huge waste of MY time to limit the conversation to an email chain when I need more of a person to person discussion. I’m sure this has a lot to do with office culture – as an attorney, it’s definitely expected that I use the phone.

      1. Someone Else*

        In that example I’d say it’s on you to respond to the email with “this is better suited to a call, when are you available?” and then set up the call. Don’t just receive the email and call back as a first step, unless it’s super time sensitive and you need to tell them immediately to avoid some sort of disaster.

    2. adam807*

      Agreed with everyone who said use email to set up a call. I also just rarely find the phone faster or more efficient than email. Things are clear in writing! (Usually.) I don’t mind if someone calls me out of the blue (well, I often do, but it’s part of my job so I cope), it’s the not taking the lead of the person who initiated the conversation that I object to.

  28. MuseumChick*

    OP#4 I suggest the following script.

    Rude Coworker: “OMG Hair!!!”
    You: “I’m not sure if you realize this but over the past X weeks you have been talking about my hair a lot. It’s coming off as a bit obsessive and offensive. I need you to stop.”
    Rude Coworker: “Wow people are so touchy these days!”
    You: “If that’s how you want to feel. I still need you to stop.”

    Then if she brings it up again

    You: “We talked about this remember. The topic of hair is closed with me.”

    Then if she brings it up again you need to loop in a manager/HR.

    1. Lily*

      I’ve made good experiences with “You keep talking about my [hair/face/diet/whatever]. Why are you so obsessed with it? Is it that interesting to you?” Shuts them up pretty quickly.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Side note: I love how people complain about other people complaining. Like, I got annoyed with you for something and you responded by . . . getting annoyed. So get off your high horse already.

  29. Bookworm*

    #3: I am sympathetic. In my very first job in retail (so obviously really different from your situation!) I faced similar circumstances. He was a lot more passive aggressive about it, like buying pizza so I (who just happened to be most experienced person in our dept. for that day) wouldn’t actually leave the floor. He’d wheedle other supervisors and managers to work the weekends with him and/or basically hide by going to reorganize our merchandise and not be available for us when we had angry customers.

    Because he was a supervisor the best I could do was assert my rights as best I could: saying I was allowed my 15 minute break, that X was a supervisor issue, etc. He was not at all supervisor-y material but that wasn’t within my control and firmly but gently stating what I was obliged to have was the best I could do. I hope it works out better for you.

  30. Workfromhome*

    #2 Unless its someone above me in our organization pretty much anyone who leaves a voicemail that doesn’t specifically say “I’d like to have a phone meeting/discuss x [project thing or ask you a number of questions about X” Is likely getting an email resp9onse from me.
    My pet peeve is the “Hey its Joe please give me a call”. If you want a call let me know what its about (the rare time its sensitive you can simp0ly say Its something that would be best discussed on the phone). I’ve had so many bad experiences with calling and getting roped into some big thing only to give a 2 word answer or something that has 0 to do with me I’ve developed my own process. Those voice mails to please call will get an email saying “Hi got your voicemail I’m busy in meetings today but if you let me know what you need I’ll have it looked into and either have someone get you the help you need or arrange a time for us to have a call.”

    I’d say more than 90% of the time I get back either:
    A-Don’t bother I figured it out myself or asked Bob who solved my issue.
    B-I need the email address for the XXX (or something really simple)which I reply to with a quick email.
    C-I need something complicated here are all the details. In which case I can either look it up and email them back or pass it off to someone else as I have all the details.

    It seems to be both a generational thing (I’m 50 and I find a lot of people of the same age or older insist on using the phone or region al thing. People in certain areas just seem to love talking on the phone vs email.

    1. whistle*

      Yes to all of this! If you called me and took the time to leave a voicemail, my god, please leave some content in the voicemail so I can prioritize my return call/email appropriately. It’s like sending an email with no subject line. I do the exact same thing you do – send an email with a (sometimes made up) reason I can’t call and request some info.

  31. Ranon*

    #5- I work in an industry where most people work fairly typical business hours and I still set time of day deadlines! It’s very normal for me to say “I need x the morning of date/ by noon on date/ by the end of the day on date.” The only time I don’t set a time of day deadline is when I plan on spending more than one day after receiving everything on assembly/ coordination/ what have you and therefore have flexibility in my schedule to be more vague with the structure I set out for others. But if you don’t have flexibility in the deadlines yourself you don’t need to spend all night at your computer so other people can have it.

  32. SigneL*

    I have very short hair (shoulder injury means I can’t blow it dry). I wish I had a nickel for all the times people have told me I should grow it out, or asked me why my husband lets me wear it short (WHAT?). It’s like I’m deliberately offending people, having a pixie.

      1. SigneL*

        I know! Who are these people? Do men really say, I won’t let you cut your hair short? Apparently, some do. (I’m trying to imagine what I would say if my husband said, “I won’t LET you…..” Yeah, nope.

        1. Rando*

          I had a pixie cut for a few years and the number of times I was asked what my husband thought about it was baffling. No one has ever made a similar comment about any other fashion/grooming decision I have made.

          1. Observer*

            That’s baffling, and rude. But it’s totally different that “your husband LETS”. That’s just insanity.

        2. Roja*

          Apparently. I’ve gotten similar comments just from cutting my hair from mid-back to shoulders. It’s MY hair–although I do take my husband’s thoughts into consideration, it’s still MINE.

          I feel for OP. I’m only a redhead, which doesn’t get quite as many comments as some other hair types, but I’ve still gotten my fair share of comments on it, especially when I was little. People can be so weird and inconsiderate.

        3. Star Nursery*

          He doesn’t let you?!?? That comment was rude and wrong. There is nothing wrong with a pixie hair cut and WOw. I think my mind is boggling.

          I am (currently) keeping my hair a little longer to past my shoulders because my husband begs and pleads with me not to cut it. He likes it this length but of course it’s my choice to do what I want. And, key part, I don’t mind right now doing this hair length. But if I cared and did want it different, than tough, it’s my head and all the work to style and care for it and ultimately my decision.

    1. Dankar*

      I will never understand the people who think it’s the man’s decision whether my hair is short or long. Hell no! It gets hot in the summer, and I’m not going to suffer because…what? My partner is going to forget that I’m female if I don’t have long, flowing hair?

      My sister-in-law once told me that she doesn’t often cut her hair short because my brother doesn’t like it, and even that seemed like too much to me. But when she does, it’s not like she asks him for permission!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I take my wife’s opinion on my hair into consideration because she looks at me a ton more than I do. But that’s it. I trust her to tell me when something doesn’t flatter me and aside from that it’s my own dang head! (For the record, I tend to like it shorter than she prefers. But it’s always short. It’s just a matter of whether my haircutter pulls out the clippers or sticks with the scissors.)

    2. ExcelJedi*

      Fun story: in the 80’s, my dad tried to tell my mom never to cut her hair short, because he liked long hair on women. The next day she came home with a pixie.

      Not the best relationship, but she was an A+ role model for two daughters.

    3. many bells down*

      My husband’s hair is longer than mine now, and has been for several years. Does he miss when my hair was down to my butt? Yes he does. Is he smart enough not to comment on that fact more than once? Yes, yes he is.

  33. SigneL*

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone else has said this, but the intern in #1 needs to understand that he is undermining himself by playing the role of “kid” to Bob. I personally would have a word with Bob. Bob probably thinks he’s doing the intern a favor, when he needs to help intern learn about boundaries at work.

    1. Rando*

      I agree that it’s another good point to bring up – that even though intern and Bob aren’t peers in the hierarchy, they are still both professionals in the workplace and should be treated as such.

  34. Sara without an H*

    Regarding OP#4: OK, I admit — I’m officially an old person. I’m also from an ethnic group that’s notoriously cold and closed off. (We like it that way!) But there’s one piece of office etiquette I will defend to the death: Do not make personal comments to co-workers.

    If you start with the idea that it is OK to compliment people’s bodies (“What a great hair cut!”), you also imply that it’s OK to criticize them (“Putting on a little weight, aren’t you?”). And eventually you wind up dealing with people like Kira.

    So, OP#4, you should feel guiltless about shutting this down. Several earlier commenters have offered good scripts. Think of yourself as striking a blow for workplace professionalism.

  35. Linzava*


    OK, I’m about to get preachy on this one. In the US, commenting on someone’s curly hair as unprofessional is rooted in racism. The reason I’m bringing this up is because so many people still don’t realize how serious this issue is. There is an entire movement based on this problem, it’s called the natural hair movement.

    I won’t go into all the details and reasons for this, too much to type in a comment section, but please, everyone, especially the curly hairs, look it up.

    It’s important to remember, that we white women with curly hair are only being given a taste of what really goes on. What is annoying to us can be career ending to a black woman. We are not victims of racism, we are having racism used against us in the hopes that we are racist enough to change our appearance.

    I’m sorry for going so heavy, the curly hair is unprofessional really needs to be addressed in a way that every workplace understands how serious this is.

    1. ExcelJedi*


      White supremacy is about not only keeping white people above those of other races, but keeping white people in line when we start to fight or question that very system, thus protecting it. Applying a light touch to white people who don’t conform does double duty to (a) try to get those people to conform and (b) create an illusion that it’s not as bad as the full experience.

      It’s super important to talk about this.

    2. Indie*

      I have noticed that the people who would comment to me, a white curly haired person, tend to have other… issues. Either with women or race. I think it’s really important to nip that shit in the bud, because they will go even further with a black person who wears natural styles. For example I’ve never had my hair stroked, something that happens to a black friend constantly.

    3. Holly*

      I completely agree that the experience of curly haired white women is different than curly/kinky haired black women. But I also want to add that Jewish women (white and of color) experience negative comments about their curly hair rooted in antisemitism – it may impact these women differently, but certainly is an “othering”/looking “ethnic” is unprofessional.

      1. Linzava*

        Yes, absolutely. Racism and antisemitism run deep in our historical roots. We have to call it out when we see it, no matter how innocent it looks so everyone is educated. Knowledge is the strongest weapon against fear and hate.

        Thank you for bringing this perspective, I didn’t realize this was an issue of antisemitism as well.

  36. Mouse Princess*

    OP1 – When I oversaw a group of students at my job at a college, they gifted me a “World’s Okayest Mom” mug. Which was insulting both because of it calling me mom and calling me mediocre. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and at the time I was only 2-3 years older than them, so the lines were definitely blurred. That was a good sign for me to leave the job. I wasn’t setting the right tone with them, and it wasn’t right for me.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      :( Those kind of gifts, you really have to know the person. Even then, it’s a bit of a gamble.

      1. Mouse Princess*

        And they were so happy with it and really thought I would get a kick out of it. I threw it away after I quit. Managing people in your early twenties is hard…especially when your employees are also in their early twenties.

    2. Bob Loblaw*

      I received a “World’s Okayest Boss” mug from a direct report once. I took it in good humor, but the gift giver tried to play it off like it was from my whole team, which was clearly not true. I’m not sure there is a right way to receive such a gift. Mine also didn’t survive after I left that job.

  37. Quickbeam*

    #4 I have very long hair in the religious tradition of my family. It is not dyed or treated. I wear it down but if it is in the way for work I put it up. People have endless suggestions bout cutting, dying and treating my hair. I respond with: “I don’t wish to discuss my hair at work”. I don’t allow people to touch my hair either. I find that being very firm and direct makes the problem go away.

  38. Russian in Texas*

    You would be pretty if you tanned your legs”.
    Was legit said to me by a coworker before. She had no filter whatsoever.

    1. Delta Delta*

      So much fun could be had with this. I’m just enough of a jerk that I’d use gallons of self-tanner on my legs, or wear stockings in increasingly tan shades and ask every day “am I pretty now?”

      Not recommended.

      1. Russian in Texas*

        LOL. I like the idea. I would’t do it, because my glow-in the dark legs turn orange from even the lightest Gergens self-tanning lotion. But the idea is fun.

  39. Dust Bunny*

    LW3: Can you talk to the rest of your team and all of you collectively reassure your boss that they can cover this without you? With advance notice, most competent teams can handle events even if not all of them can be there.

    LW4: This is ridiculous. I would tell Kira point-blank that her comments are rude and she needs to cut it out, like, last week. People like this keep going because nobody wants to speak up and hurt their feelings but sometimes they don’t get the message unless it stings a little. You’re white, but otherwise this is skirting racism territory, but even if it weren’t it is none of her [blankety-blank] business and she needs to stuff it.

    LW5: Dude, give them a cut-off time. Flexibility is nice but the fact is that you have a team and there will have to be some compromise. You can’t accommodate everyone’s favorite hours to the extreme. Just tell them you need material by X:00 in order to have your part done by tomorrow/next week/whenever. And stick to it–if you knock yourself out to finish it every time they submit something late, you’ll only train them that your deadlines are meaningless.

  40. Delta Delta*

    Timely: I was just in a court hearing with a client I haven’t seen in a few months. The first words out of his mouth were, “oh my gosh your hair looks so good today!” I said thank you and that was it. I didn’t think it looked terribly different than usual except it wasn’t in a bun. In any case, it was a genuine compliment and it was nice.

  41. CM*

    OP#2, I think it’s fine to respond to a call with an email. I have trouble seeing how somebody could see that as rude. I think most people won’t care. Some people might be a little annoyed, but it’s a communication preference, not about being polite or impolite.

    For certain people that you work with closely or want to maintain an especially good relationship with, you could check in with them and say, “Hey, I usually email replies when someone leaves me a voicemail, but would you prefer that I call you back instead?”

  42. Elle Kay*

    LW#5 I totally agree with and understand your frustration but I would just like to point out that it’s very likely your team doesn’t think of 10:30pm as “late”. As I started reading I was assuming that the work was coming in at midnight or later. If people go home and eat dinner from, say 7-8pm and then sit down to work 2ish hours later isn’t that late. And some of your team might be people that go to bed at 11 or midnight!

    I also work 8-4 and I have one co-worker who regularly mentions having been up till midnight! I couldn’t do it but some people can.

    I’m not saying this to imply that you can’t fix it; you can and should, and setting project deadlines for final revisions (etc) is definitely within your wheelhouse as a Project Leader *but* I want to emphasize that your team is (likely) not intentionally inconveniencing you. And, if you don’t tell them that this is a problem for you, how are they supposed to know?

  43. Betsy S*

    OP#3 – you might be able to strengthen your case by making sure that other people on your team are prepped to cover the event. Then you can ask and say “I’ve reviewed the event with Sansa and Arya and they are available and ready to handle X, Y, Z” Optionally if it feels appropriate you can mention that they have your number and you’ll be available for questions.

  44. Former Team Lead*

    #5 – I’ve worked in a similar operation. People could take their work home with them and finish up their piece of the project before the team lead had to deploy everyone else’s code which also meant reaching out to anyone who’s had code errors to fix. This was a weekly occurrence. Having a deadline and enforcing it is key. Expect that people will try to push the deadline. It’s not personal, they just don’t always estimate the time they need effectively or there is a stakeholder somewhere who is changing requirements at the 11th hour. Also, it doesn’t hurt to let them know how much time your part takes after everyone else has completed their tasks. People are generally pretty reasonable. If you enforce the deadline, even if it is to protect your personal time, they will respect it. And it is definitely ok to protect your personal time.

  45. Karyn*

    OMG, OP 4. I feel your pain. I work part time for a cosmetics company (black and white theme, y’all can probably figure it out) and there are CLIENTS who will come in going, “OMG your (short, faux-hawked) hair is awesome!” and then TOUCH IT. I don’t know why they’ve decided that’s okay, other than that I’m in a service position so obviously that negates my personal space. That said, I’ve found that a “Oh, please don’t touch, it takes me FOREVER to get it to look like I just rolled out of bed!” usually backs them off. In your case, you can be more direct, because you’re a coworker, not an employee-to-client, but also remember that even if Kira gets huffy and won’t speak to you much, at least she’s not commenting on your hair anymore! :)

  46. Anonyneed a name*

    Yeah, for the last OP (#5), just be clear about your deadlines. If someone tells me something is due August 24, I assume that actually means August 24 at 11:59pm (or in some cases, August 25 at 7am). It’s not unusual to say “I need this by noon on August 24 in order to meet our deadlines” or “I need this by end of business day/5pm to submit”. Even end of day without a time may be ambiguous because it again implies they can send it the last minute of the day (which then would mean you must be submitting it the following day, and 7pm or 10pm should be fine). But add times and you’re golden. This is common in my organization (both the flexibility and the deadlines) and that’s just always how it’s handled and it works great.

  47. Jennifer Thneed*

    Regarding OP#4, there was a similar letter in the last fews months that I thought was here, but nobody else mentioned it, so maybe it was actually in Captain Awkward?

    Anyway, very similar letter writer, a white woman with huge fluffy hair, but she was getting shit on by colleagues who thought it was unprofessional for curly hair to even exist. It led to a LOT of conversation from people of all ethnicities and (curly) hair types, and I was shocked at the number of white people who got comments (as children or adults) that if they just brushed their hair more, the curliness would go away.

    And because it’s all Feminism 101 over there, there was also a lot of discussion of the inherent racism in the idea that curly hair is unprofessional or automatically messy. Really good stuff and I’ll try to find the article and link it in a comment here.

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