my boss pushes me to take vacation days I don’t have, my coworker uses lolspeak, and more

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

1. My boss pushes me to take more vacation days — but I don’t have them

I’ve been at my current job for almost two years now. My boss really stresses the importance of having vacations from work, which is great. I get 10 days of vacation each year (this is my first job out of undergrad so I’m not certain whether this is a good amount or not). I’m not certain how many days my boss technically gets, although it seems like it’s basically as many as she wants, since she’s been with this organization for over 30 years and is the director. She always takes at least three weeks during the summer, plus single days throughout the rest of the year that probably add up to at least two additional weeks.

Both summers that I’ve worked here now, I’ve ended up taking five or six days of vacation to see family — which is half of my vacation time for the full year! Yet when I request days off, my boss always says, “That’s all the time you’re taking off this summer? Don’t you want to take off more time and enjoy your summer?!” Then she’ll continue to make comments about the important of time away from work to recharge. Honestly, it drives me bonkers. Obviously I’d love to be able to take longer vacations in the summer, but I really don’t want to use up all my time off at once! I guess she doesn’t remember how much time off I get? I never know how to respond to these comments and they really annoy and frustrate me. Is there a way to get my boss to stop pushing me to use time off I don’t have and gently remind her of what my actual PTO is? Or do I just let this go? (I have other issues with my boss so it’s possible I’m just hypersensitive to her annoying behavior.)

Yeah, it’s likely that she’s not thinking about how little time off you get, because she gets a lot more. The next time she makes one of these comments, it would be fine to say, “I’d love to take more vacation this summer, but that’s actually half my time off for the entire year and I want to keep some in reserve.” If the comments keep happening after that, you could always respond, “Hey, give me more time off and I’ll gladly use it!”

To your question about whether this is a good amount of vacation or not: Two weeks of vacation is the bare minimum considered acceptable. It’s not considered outrageous — it’s actually the average amount of vacation time in the U.S. — but better jobs and better companies will offer more, so as you move along in your career, look for companies that offer more.

2. My coworker uses lolspeak in work emails

In the last few weeks, a manager I don’t report to directly but have to work, with has been using lolspeak (oh hai! I can haz cheeseburgr? kthxbai) to an excessive degree. We are work friends and it’s funny/cute when we can have a mental break and act silly. But lately she has been using it not just for a sentence or two, but for full conversations on IM to the point where I need to ask her to repeat what she is saying because I truly don’t understand.

Now she has been using this language to make requests about work and it’s making it very unclear to know when she’s joking or actually wants me to do something. Her job is also more technical than mine, so it’s very hard to understand the concepts she’s trying to relay.

I’m at a point now where I don’t want to talk to her at all because of this and I just can’t do that. How do I ask her stop without ruining both work and personal relationships?

I feel vaguely ill just from reading about this.

All you can do is be direct: “Can you stop doing the lolspeak when it’s work-related? I don’t understand it much of the time, which I know is not your intent.” If you feel awkward about saying that, that’s on her — she’s the one doing something really odd in a work context. And there’s no way to hint about this; you need to just come out and say it.

If it happens after that, just reply, “I don’t know what this means. Can you say it normally?”

3. Should I go over my boss’s head to be able to keep this poster up?

I posted this poster in my cubicle at work and someone complained about it to the manager. It doesn’t contain any profanity and it doesn’t single out anyone by name. As far as I know there is no rule against posting a picture like this, but my manager told me to take it down. I do not agree and I am considering going over his head about it. What do you think?

This really, really doesn’t rise to the level of something you should go over his head about. You have a limited amount of capital at work — especially when it comes to going over your manager’s head — and it doesn’t make sense to spend it on this. Save that for weightier things. If I were your boss’s boss and you came to me about this, I’d seriously question your priorities in escalating this (especially because the cartoon reads as political, and it’s reasonable for your boss to tell you not to post political digs at work).

Mentally roll your eyes and take down the poster.

4. Dressing butch in a job interview

I have identified throughout my life as a butch lesbian, although now I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I think I might actually be a transgender man. Job interviews have always been really hard for me because I have no idea what to wear. I want to dress in a way that is comfortable for me and matches my gender identity, but I also realize that most people assume I’m a woman and expect me to be dressed in a feminine way. In the past I’ve worn a women’s blazer, a men’s button down shirt, and men’s slacks and shoes. During the workday, I tend to wear button down shirts, sweaters, or polo shirts, with slacks — basic male business casual attire. I do have a really nice men’s suit that I had custom tailored a couple of years ago. It is very conservative and looks really good on me. I feel much better in it than I do in my usual interview attire, which sort of feels like being a boy in a dress, even though I know that’s not the way it looks, it’s just my own gender dysphoria taking over.

I have a job interview at my current office for a supervisor position in a couple of weeks. The interview committee is made up of higher ranking people from our regional office, most who know me already, though not well. Would it be wrong for me to wear my really good looking, conservative, custom tailored suit to the interview? I know I’ll look great and feel great and if I were perceived as male it would be considered extremely appropriate. I asked a coworker that I trust, who is straight and cisgender, and she thinks it would be fine and that people would expect it of me.

I also don’t know if it makes a difference but I’m also a classic “baby face butch,” meaning that even though I’m in my mid thirties I’m often perceived as being much younger because of my height and the fact that I tend to wear men’s clothes. Sometimes I come off as “boy hitting puberty late” rather than “competent adult” although I’ve learned how to compensate for that through nonverbal cues an body language. Not sure if the suit would help or hurt in that area. What’s your take on this?

Wear the custom tailored suit! It sounds awesome. It’s appropriate interview wear, and you’re confident in it.

5. We have a new “no podcasts” rule at work

I’ve been working at my office job for just under a year. Our small office (about 10 people) has a fairly relaxed atmosphere, and three of us tend to use headphones while working, especially when our loud, ancient AC is turned on. In my case, I have been listening to podcasts since I started working. Out of nowhere, I was told today that there is a new “no podcast” rule now, but listening to music is still okay.

From a logistical stand point, I don’t know how our supervisors would know what a person is listening to if they are wearing headphones, but that isn’t really my main issue. Since I’m the only one in our office who listens to podcasts, this rule seems to be targeted only at me, and I don’t know why. I just got a raise earlier month, and I haven’t received any indications that my work has been sub-par.

To be clear, I’m okay with not listening to anything at all at work. I’m concerned about how this rule seems to be only directed at me as if I’m doing something wrong. Like I’m a time-out, but no one told me what I did. I’m not sure really how to approach the issue.

I wouldn’t assume it’s definitely directed at you or that you did anything wrong, but it’s reasonable to ask your boss about it. You could say, “As far as I know, I’m the only one here who listens to podcasts during the day, so I’m concerned that I’ve somehow triggered this new rule and that someone has concerns about my work or my focus. Are there any worries about my performance?” If she tells you no, it’s reasonable to ask, “Can I ask then what’s behind this new rule?”

But yeah, I don’t know how they’d know what you’re listening to if you don’t tell them.

{ 652 comments… read them below }

  1. Thankful for AAM*

    OP#3, I am guessing they see the poster are political and it is offending someone. I agree with AAM that you will have to roll your eyes and take it down.

    But I would sure like to have lots of sheep and wolves posters, notepads, and any other item I could find displayed prominently on my desk!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Or a sloth pencil pouch? ;)

      OP#3, I agree with Alison and others—this is not a hill to die on, and this is not how you want to use your political capital. It truly is not worth going over your boss’s head when the call your boss made is relatively reasonable (even if you disagree with his reasoning). Doing so will make you look like you don’t know how to distinguish between big, work-related issues that require you to notify higher ups, versus small, non-work-related issues that are within the discretion of your manager. You don’t want to be That Employee who goes to their grandboss for issues that have no bearing on your work ability/productivity, and use up others’ valuable and limited time.

    2. Snark*

      Yeah, outside political-adjacent fields, it’s generally just a good idea to keep your politics under your hat at work. It’s a funny poster, but we all know what it’s talking about, and its topic is rightly inciting significant division and debate in the country right now – and that’s all just not for work. Keep your cube decorations pleasantly neutral and express your political self in a forum where it’s appropriate and appreciated.

        1. Forking great username*

          Several people beating around the bush here, so I’m hoping it’s okay to just come out and say it – the wolf is supposed to be Trump.

      1. Thlayli*

        I’m not even American and I could tell in about a microsecond who it’s about. It’s a pretty blatant political poster.

        OP keep your politics out of the workplace. If you are allowed to have political posters up then so would be the people on the “other side” which is something you don’t seem to have considered. If you get permission to leave it up it will escalate to a poster war. Do you want to work in a workplace covered in divisive posters?

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’m American and I *agree* with the general sentiment of the poster (although I think it’s mean-spirited and simplistic) and I don’t think it’s a great idea to have something like this at work.

          I don’t expect people to leave all of their personality at home but I think the general expectation is that you do edit yourself some. I have a pierced nasal septum and multiple ear piercings but I leave my big earrings and nose ring at home because they weird some people out. It’s not a big deal.

        2. Susana*

          I’m an American whose job involves politics and I didn’t see the poster as “political” – at least, not in the sense of being directed at any politician in particular. To me, it was a comment on ALL those ads/posters of smiling candidates whose cheerfulness betrays how their plans might affect you. But maybe I’ve been around politics so long I don’t see anything as personal anymore…

          1. Observer*

            Google it – it was completely intended as a political cartoon.

            Yes, it also generalizes well and my first reaction was the one you have. But, knowing the New Yorker, it’s not surprising that there is more to it than that.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it works both ways, which is one thing that makes it a good cartoon. But it’s political, and you should generally avoid arguing at work about the precise flavor of the political shade being thrown by your decor.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      If it helps at all, I laughed at the cartoon.

      But I agree with others. If you make a stink about this, you will be known as the girl / guy who was ridiculous to his / her superiors about a cartoon that someone else found offensive, not as a gracious colleague and an expert at your job (even if you are a rock star). The latter are way more important.

      I was asked a couple of years ago to move from my nice private office to a cubicle in the middle of the call center, where I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t happy about it, but as I said to my boss, “No, it’s not ideal and I’m not thrilled, but I’d rather be known for being good at my job even under not-ideal circumstances than whining about my workspace.” (Note: I ended up being able to work from home as much as I wanted, partly because I sucked up and took the new workspace.)

      You don’t have to have happy about taking the poster down. Roll your eyes hard. But it is worth risking your reputation at work?

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        But save rolling your eyes for yourself or friends. Please, don’t do that in front of your boss.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        I get it, I really do. It just seems like the bosses get to screw up, even if it affects subordinates negatively, but bringing that up is seen as ‘unprofessional’.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Uh, yeah, a good number of the managers at my work voted for the wolf in this cartoon. I break out in cold sweat just thinking about what could happen if I were to hang this poster up. And honestly, picture a coworker displaying a poster from the opposite pov. Would you enjoy walking past it every day as you go about your workday? As much as I disagree with the views of the person that complained, those are their views and they want to be able to do their work without having those views being challenged – I also understand it that they are not flaunting those views – I would return the favor.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        This. The more I think about it, the more I’m not even on board with the eye rolling. Maybe the person who complained has the thinnest of skin, yes. Maybe they’re looking out for you, though! They could be thinking “she might not realize that there are people who are going to like or respect her less if they notice this, even if they don’t say something.”

        1. Delphine*

          I doubt it–you don’t complain to a manager if you want to look out for a person. You pull them aside and offer advice directly.

      2. Smithy*

        In addition to all of this, I think that insisting that this cartoon isn’t political/doesn’t technically break with office policy places you in an adversarial position with your manager and/or HR. And at work, I just fail to see how that’s a win.

        Also, while I think most of us commenting on this from the political perspective – I think that ultimately the cartoon is referring to a group of people as sheep/stupid/following their doom. And be that for political, religious, or other reasons – it is mean spirited. And making your manager, HR, or your boss’s boss explain that to you, I just fail to see that as a place worth spending work capital.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed. OP, I think it’s worth contemplating what this cartoon means to you and how you can express that in other ways.

          Do you want to show that you are concerned about oppression of people of color? Maybe you can speak up when you hear your coworkers making prejudiced remarks.

          Are you concerned about the affect of the administration on women? Maybe you can support other women in your organization when you can see that they are not being taken seriously.

          Do you want to encourage people to think more critically? Maybe you can make a point of speaking up when you think things are going off the rails, and also admit when you have made a mistake yourself.

          Putting up a political cartoon is not the only way (and definitely not the most productive way) that you can stand up for what you believe in.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            You can do more, even if you don’t like typical activist activities.
            You can post on social media, write articles and get them published, subscribe to activist meetups and organizations so you know what opportunities are out there. If you belong to a religion, see if they have any groups or activities for you. Be creative, then spread the word as far and wide as possible.
            All outside of work, of course! :)

      3. AKchic*

        100% this.
        Very few of my colleagues voted against the so-called wolf. Those that did certainly aren’t saying so because of all of the loudly pontificating and back-slapping wolf-sycophants.

        The few of us who didn’t vote for it are giving each other meaningful glances across the table and trying not to explode or file grievances for the toxic environment that can sometimes be made.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘As far as I know there is no rule against posting a picture like this, but my manager told me to take it down.’

      There doesn’t have to be a policy against a specific action or behavior for it to be a bad idea at work. Putting this up at work is a Bad Idea. See, the poster doesn’t have to specifically spell out a message to deliver one, and this one does.

      OP, I’m chiming in with everyone who agrees with Alison’s advice, and offered their own. If you have to roll your eyes so hard you can see what you’re thinking, do it, but don’t fight your boss on this one, please. It’s not worth it!

    6. toomanybooks*

      Yup. It would come off as a bit facetious to say you don’t know why you have to take it down/it isn’t against any rules/it isn’t inappropriate, even if you really aren’t familiar enough with office etiquette (or this office’s particular etiquette). It’s inappropriate for the office for other reasons than “adult content” like swears or nudity – it’s because it’s political. I’m very anti-Trump and think the only ethical thing to do is oppose him, but I agree that it isn’t a good idea to display a political cartoon in your office. (Also, I’m so exhausted and upset by Trump that I generally don’t like any reminder of him if I can help it.)

  2. Thursday Next*

    LW #3 Perhaps some coworkers are finding the poster objectionable as a political metaphor? At any rate, it doesn’t matter. I agree that the poster is not worth further escalation; you would come off as overly invested in a small thing if you pursued it. Would you want to antagonize your immediate supervisor over this?

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I saw the cartoon when it was originally published. I got the message and laughed. So I also like the cartoon. But OP, you should in no way fight this. Why?

      1. Your bosses have the right to dictate what can be put up on an office wall. They cannot do it for reasons that are discriminatory, but they can have arbitrary rules. If bosses says “no photos on the wall for anyone”, that may be petty, but they can do that.
      2. A co-worker may have understood the context of the cartoon and taken offense. Your boss may have understood the context of the cartoon and taken offense. Your boss may NOT have understood the context of the cartoon and still taken offense–because he or she may have seen it as a commentary on his or her leadership. I don’t know if any of these are accurate, but it any one of these points is correct, your complaint to your grandboss would come across as tone-deaf and worsen your situation.
      3. Consider the relationship between your boss and grandboss. Did your grandboss hire your boss? Have they worked together for a long time? Do they have a strong working relationship? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, bear in mind that your grandboss is likely to support your boss. Perhaps very strongly.

      I know what it feels like to be told something by your boss that sounds petty and ridiculous. But pick your battles for significant topics. Fighting this carries a high likelihood you will be worse off.

  3. sap*

    #5, for how they know, if you’re streaming the podcasts through your computer or the company wifi rather than downloading it, they may be aware that way. If you’re streaming through the wifi on a personal phone or something, they may not know it’s you specifically, they may just have noticed the traffic, which could have triggered the rule.

    But if you’re planning to go around this rule (not clear from your letter), download it onto a device offsite.

    1. sap*

      To be clear I’m not advocating violating the rule. You should follow workplace rules, even if they’re stupid, if they’re not seriously harming you. But if you’re going to do it, don’t do it over the company wifi or on the company device.

    2. LadyL*

      Would this tell the company who specifically was streaming it? Because if not, that would explain why no one has directly said anything to OP5. Like the boss sees all the podcast streaming, has some opinions about the distracting nature of talking vs. music, and makes a blanket rule in response, not realizing that the person listening is actually a high performer and the podcasts aren’t causing problems for you.

      1. Dram*

        I think it shows up as a device IP number, or whatever the term is (this is how my company blocks people who use their devices to stream over our wifi).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. This is how my prior employer figured out which of us was using Spotify. We were allowed to listen to music, but not to stream for Reasons (some of which were valid). Someone in IT was always monitoring traffic to determine if there were spikes or higher usage for certain IP addresses, which would indicate someone was streaming media.

          1. Overeducated*

            This is so interesting. I am curious about thr valid reasons for not streaming. I sometimes stream music on Pandora over my work computer when I’m doing a lot of repetitive work but curious if this is an issue from a network perspective. (Just because i havent been told not to yet doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be concerned…?)

            1. Antilles*

              I would guess that it’s just a blanket ban on streaming – not specifically targeted at Spotify, but ALL streaming, because of some mix of the following reasons:
              1.) Security concerns for the IT team
              2.) Bandwidth usage
              3.) People watching video and not doing their jobs
              In other words, more targeted at streaming via Youtube or Netflix, but written in a way to ban all streaming period.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Mostly 1 & 2 for us (it uses gobs of bandwidth, which can overload our server and cause problems for people who need constant, reliable access to do their jobs).

              2. Kelsi*

                Yup. At my job it’s about bandwidth. Everyone would be streaming stuff on the agency wifi and suddenly all the websites we need to do actual work are loading slow as molasses. So the rule is actually “if you want to stream, use your data plan and not the wifi.”

              1. BF50*

                That is why my last joy banned streaming. Too many people on Pandora listening to music all day slowed down the network to a significant extent. You were allowed to stream on your phone, but you were not allowed to connect your phone to wifi so you had to use data. They also asked people to volunteer to make their itunes library sharable, so basically you could listen to IT’s itunes.

                I do not know why they would ban podcasts but not music streaming.

                Maybe management tried listening to a podcast at work and found it too distracting to concentrate, so rather than trust employees to have enough sense to turn off something that lowered their productivity, they just banned it.

                1. Amethystmoon*

                  Perhaps someone was listening to a political broadcast, and they thought they had the volume turned down but their earbuds were crappy, so co-worker overheard it and got offended?

                  IMHO, unless #5 is streaming with a company login rather than using data, or downloading the podcasts, or #5 is one of those people who listen with the volume way up, thinking their coworkers can’t hear it but they actually can, I don’t see how they’re going to know. Is this company going to hire the podcast police now, to walk around and pop someone’s earbud in their ear, to hear what they are listening to? And if company has that much money to spend, surely they are far better things to spend it on than podcast police.

                  But sadly, I guess we live in a world in which we can’t act like adults are adults.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                When I first started at my job my employer banned internet radio because of the bandwidth use.
                I’m lucky to have my own office, and I’m on my second boombox with some of my favorite CDs. Convenient and no network problems. They’re so familiar, which is very helpful for keeping me awake without being distracting.
                I suppose if OP and others have playlists they could listen to those? Or do those stream also? Anyway, for cube dwellers a boombox + headphones would probably work. I suppose radio if you don’t have CDs? Or you could buy CDs at one of the used record stores…

                1. TardyTardis*

                  Given on the arrangement of the cube, a standard corded headphone may make listening to a boombox awkward–you may need an extender (I did if I was going to listen to music and check invoices at the same time, because of how everything was shaped. Listening to music and working on the keyboard was pretty much impossible unless I used my teeny MP3 player instead of the boombox).

              3. chickaletta*

                I realized this when I got banned from my company’s wi-fi for a couple weeks. They must have blocked the IP on my phone. It came back, thank goodness, but I learned my lesson. Now I download all my podcasts at home in the morning before I leave,and I rarely stream music, maybe for an hour or two each week. But I would die without podcasts with my current job which is very mundane and repetitive.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              When I worked at a small company whose business involved sending and receiving large volumes of data, we all received an email that streaming at work on the company network was grounds for immediate termination; for the exact reason that it slowed the network down and interfered with the company’s business. I’ve got to say I agree with that.

              1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

                My office is laughably slow at lunch time. People trying to work through lunch get less done because of the bandwidth usage of people streaming. And most streaming sites are blocked!

            3. Mrs_Helm*

              I’m in IT, and streaming uses a lot of bandwidth. I was in an office once where we started having very slow speeds around lunchtime every day. Because several people were eating at their desk and streaming various things/watching youtube/news videos, etc. We pay a lot for that bandwidth, and people need it for WORK things. Non-work things, especially things that require a continual connection, should be done using your data plan.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Are your streamers also the people who call and complain that their computer is slow, and then you show up and they’re eating all their bandwidth and processing power steaming? I love those people.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                Are your streamers also the people who call and complain that their computer is slow, and then you show up and they’re eating all their bandwidth and processing power streaming? I love those people.

            4. A Non E. Mouse*

              Just another geek chiming in: streaming is awful on a network. Just terrible. It will eat up every bit of bandwidth it can grab to try to maintain the integrity of what you are streaming.

              Double-bad: I have to prioritize video traffic for legitimate business use, so streaming video will take priority even if it’s just someone catching up on their shows.

              Please just don’t!

            5. Annie Moose*

              Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it until someone brings up the topic. Streaming is very normal and I don’t see any reason for you to stop doing it personally if you don’t know that it’s legitimately causing a problem at your work.

              At OldJob, when high bandwidth was needed for one reason or another, they’d send out an email to everyone asking them not to stream and temporarily blocking streaming sites for a few hours (which I would always forget about until I tried to go to Pandora!)–the rest of the time it was a non-issue.

            1. Jaid_Diah*

              I don’t have unlimited data, but Virgin Mobile gives me Pandora and iHeart Radio for free. I’m pretty sure the other big companies do the same.

          2. GlitsyGus*

            We had the same rule put in place in my office. Basically, people were turning on Pandora, YouTube or Spotify then leaving their desks and forgetting to turn it off. It created a huge spike in the downstream traffic and caused some issues with folks actually trying to get work done and notifications from our provider that we were starting to use more data (or something… I don’t totally understand how the contract is set up) than our contract allowed. After IT asking everyone several times to be sure to turn off streaming sites when leaving their desks and having people still forget they finally just said “no more streaming,” and blocked the sites. It was a This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things moment.

            I think if you are streaming through your work computer it could be using more bandwidth than music and that may be the source of the rule. Ask, and if that’s the case download whatever you want to listen to and bring it in that way if that’s acceptable.

        2. JM60*

          This is why I never connect to my employer’s wifi with my personal phone. Even if what I’m consuming should be safe for the workplace, I want to keep my personal use of the internet personal, and off of my employer’s ISP and routers.

          BTW, they can see the MAC address of the device, which is unique to the device and doesn’t change, unless you’re using a special device to spoof MAC addresses.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Are you seriously telling me I changed my phone’s name to VIRUS.EXE and then it doesn’t even show up where someone can see it and wonder what’s going on? Ugh…

      2. Thlayli*

        It depends on the system I think whether they would see automatically or not. But they would be able to find out easily enough. It’s always best to assume that literally everything you do on a work computer is being read by your IT department or might be in the future.

      3. BookishMiss*

        My company requires us to set up a login to access the WiFi, so I assume our IT department can pinpoint who is doing what at all times.

        My last place had a single login/password for all employees, and my fun job doesn’t require a login, so it does vary by workplace.

      4. Jady*

        It depends on their setup and on the device(s) being used.

        If OP is using her work laptop with her work login on the corporate network, then yes they would know who it is.

        However, if OP were using her personal phone, or on a guest/visitor network, they may not, or it would be a lot more work to identify the user.

        My job has that kind of IT setup. People aren’t allowed to have personal devices on the corporate network, but can on the guest one since it doesn’t get used often. But it’s still necessary for when we do have guests in the office, so they don’t allow bandwidth hogging behavior.

        1. Paquita*

          We have a ‘guest’ network that is open. The ‘official’ one is secured. If you don’t need it for work you can’t log in. I stream Pandora, Spotify, and sometimes Youtube. It buffers once in a while but so what? I’m not going to complain about the guest wifi because to me it is a perk.

    3. Persimmons*

      This was my first guess — the LW is eating up bandwidth. I can’t imagine why they would otherwise single out one type of audio.

      My IT department sends out a nastygram when too many people are on YouTube or similar services. (To be fair, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to be doing that, but the normal load is accounted for.)

      LW, I’d clarify from the perspective of the use of company resources. If you’re listening to something downloaded on a personal device, does it matter what it is? It’s possible that this directive was handed down to your manager without an explanation as to why.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Aside from the bandwidth issue, I can multitask with music more easily than a podcast. I can’t read, comprehend, and write one thing while listening & comprehending a completely different topic, but music doesn’t cause the same problem. The OP said their work quality was fine, but it could be that the management team recognizes that podcast-listening could be distracting.

        1. SystemsLady*

          I’m the exact opposite, and OP might be the same (that my work can often be very dry, repetitive, and technical at times I put on podcasts might contribute to this). Just because some people work that way isn’t a reason to implement a policy that works that way for all.

          1. Emily K*

            Agreed. Don’t worry admit whether something might have a tendency to be distracting. Take action only when you see evidence that someone is in fact distracted and performance is suffering.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          When I’m working with words, I find music with words just as distracting as NPR. Wordless music is fine, and if I am working with numbers then words are fine in the background.

          Just because it’s the way one person’s multitasking goes doesn’t make it a good idea as a blanket ban for everyone.

        3. Teapot librarian*

          This is obviously something that varies from person to person; I discovered quite by accident that while I have an unfortunate tendency to eavesdrop in public places, I can “listen” to certain podcasts without taking in any of the content, but with the background noise keeping me focused. (In case anyone is curious, it’s Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History that I have heard is wonderful, but which I’ve turned to for lovely background listening.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            do you remember part of it?

            Poor Malcolm, to be “the boring voice that’s as good as white noise”!

          2. Hangry*

            Late, but I have this exact response to Revisionist History. It’s basically become my white-noise-when-I-need-to-focus.

        4. Clorinda*

          OP can listen to text without streaming a podcast. Download and save it ahead of time on her own device. Go old school with books on tape from the library (really CD, I know). But first, she needs to find out: does someone higher up have a bee in their bonnet about people listening to text when they’re working, or is just about the bandwidth?

        5. TootsNYC*

          that was my thought! I work with words, and I cannot even listen to music with lyrics!

          I work really well w/ Bach, though. Goldbert Variations for the win!

    4. angstymcjoe*

      I’m LW5. I download all my podcasts from home so I can listen to them on my commute without taking up my data. I don’t stream them at work, though I believe my coworker streams music through Spotify.

      1. Dwight*

        If that’s the case, I suspect that it’s that people are being distracted by podcasts, and not by music.

      2. Miss H*

        Is it possible you don’t realize that you react to your podcasts, and that is the issue? Someone who might just nod along with music might laugh or make little comments when listening to a podcast. “Oh, that’s so true.” “How clever!”

        1. angstymcjoe*

          I don’t, I listen to the “white noise” pods for work, since they case into the background, and keep the more interesting ones I actually want to hear every detail of for my commute or at home.

          Though my supervisor is kind of the way you describe. Like grunting or making little comments to try and get us to ask him what going on, ha ha.

          I think I will just go to my manager and ask her about her thoughts on my performance and ask about the reasoning behind the rule.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Does management know you’re not streaming them? They might be assuming you are.

        1. angstymcjoe*

          I’m not sure if the majority of our office management has the technical prowess to know streaming vs downloaded, especially since some of my coworkers are using Spotify for music.

          Additionally, our office is at a university, so all faculty, staff and students get access to the free campus wifi. We don’t really have to worry about bandwidth usage at our office since we are on the campus network.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            They can track use of the campus network and see what you’re doing.
            My employer has a free guest wifi and we’ve been encouraged to use it… but I won’t, because who knows what they’re tracking and why?
            I do my personal stuff on my work PC at lunch though.

      4. RobotWithHumanHair*

        I’m the same as you; all my podcasts get downloaded to my phone and aren’t using up any of my office’s bandwidth. Curious why they’d have a problem with you listening to them in that fashion.

        Plus, if someone’s streaming via Spotify, there are podcasts on there in addition to music. How are they going to know if someone’s streaming music or a podcast? This just seems arbitrary to me.

        1. angstymcjoe*

          It is kind of arbitrary, though I’m not really concerned so much about what I get to listen to so much as the possible implications about my work performance. Without being told a reason for a rule or feedback about my performance, it’s difficult to tell if I’m reading too much into the rule or if there is a problem.

      5. chickaletta*

        Ah. Well, the only other thing I can think of (and it’s because I know other people in my office and even myself do it), is that we occasionally laugh or mumble under our breaths in response to the podcast. (Seriously, sometimes I can’t help letting out a long “what now” sigh when I hear what’s about to be reported on UpFirst…) But other than that, I can’t imagine how anyone would know or care.

    5. Peter the Bubblehead*

      My first thought was that it could be less to do with content (podcast) than the simple fact it is being streamed.

      My job allows people to listen to whatever they want, but not to stream audio or video over the company LAN, due to it slowing the bitrate should anyone do it.

      OP, do your co-workers listen to CD’s or music saved on their hard drives? Or do they stream music from radio station websites? If the former, that could be the reason your podcasts are being banned. If the latter, then either something else is causing this issue OR someone higher up doesn’t know streaming radio causes the same slowing of data that a streaming podcast would.

    6. Lars*

      I was actually wondering if maybe someone was caught listening to a podcast with objectionable material (like an InfoWars type deal, or even something like The Bugle, where heavy curse words are dropped every few seconds) that could cause issues with other coworkers if their headphones were unplugged. I’m wondering if OP is unaware of someone else maybe listening to something that might have been more cause for alarm than their podcasts.

    7. Suzy Q*

      I don’t know how anyone can pay attention to a podcast and do (good) work at the same time.

      1. angstymcjoe*

        My work is primarily image editing, like cropping, adjusting colors, etc. I don’t do much in the way of a analytical writing/reading while I’m at my job. Most of my podcasts aren’t narrative or story driven and are simply there to fade into the background while I’m photoshopping. I save the interesting podcasts for home or my commute so I can actually pay full attention and laugh at the jokes.

        I’ve never received feedback indicating there was a problem with my work performance. My main concern is that I’ve been listening to podcasts since I started working and it’s only a problem now. I don’t know if I should be concerned if there is a problem that my manager should be discussing with me directly, or if I’m being paranoid in thinking this might be about my performance.

    8. toomanybooks*

      Also if you’re planning to go around the rule, you could not only download the episodes at home, but maybe even rename the files in itunes so they look like song titles? Lol
      I would also be wondering if maybe people could hear your podcasts through your headphones – do you ever press play and then give it a second before putting your headphones on to make sure the podcast isn’t audible through them? I’m always paranoid about this. Or maybe people can see what podcasts you’re listening to and find them offensive somehow? Are the podcasts you listen to relatively safe for work? That might be somehow impacting things…??

      It’s possible that the person in charge made this decision under the illusion that people can’t concentrate as well while listening to podcasts (where it’s all talking and you have to sort of follow a conversational or narrative thread) as they can while listening to music (which may be more recognized, at least by this person, as something that’s acceptable/easy to have in the background). I agree with Allison’s advice of raising the issue and asking why the decision was made, though. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t listen to podcasts while I work anymore!

      1. toomanybooks*

        I just saw your follow up comments! So some of my comment isn’t really valid here. :)

    9. Jojo*

      Company computera are monitored. So is their wifi. They can even read your email on your,company computer plus see any websites you view from work. Company property is just that, the companies.

  4. Gaia*

    OP 3 – the poster is from a New Yorker cartoon from April of 2016. It is definitely political in nature. I’m guessing someone in your workplace took offense. Even if they haven’t, you should really take it down. Many people who see this will recognize it immediately as political and that really isn’t going to fly in a lot of offices.

    1. Triple Anon*

      It’s annoying because if you took it out of context, it could be about so many different politicians and other kinds of leaders from different times and places. But since we know when it was published, it’s easy to guess what it’s about. So I can see why it’s considered too politically divisive for a workplace.

      1. Liz T*

        Even if we didn’t know when it was published, we know when it is posted on this cubicle: now, in 2018. The context is pretty clear.

        Whoever complained about it is ridiculous, but LW loses absolutely nothing by taking it down.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m not sure I’d classify whoever complained about it as ridiculous, tbh – I am about as far as you can get from being any kind of supporter of That f****** Man, but making it clear that you think your coworkers are sheep who voted for a wolf is, to put it mildly, not conducive to a respectful working relationship. Think what you like about them in private – gods know I do – but I definitely understand why someone would feel attacked by the posting of what is, in context, a very targeted ridicule of those who voted for That Man.

          1. Lissa*

            I agree with this comment. I think it’s particularly a problem because the poster is about supporters, not just the “wolf”… I would really hate to see something up like that that implied such about my own views.

          2. PlainJane*

            This. I’m also a big fan of keeping politics out of the workplace (unless your workplace is directly involved in politics in some way). I love this poster, but I wouldn’t love walking past a, “Build the Wall,” poster or similar every day, and I wouldn’t love the arguments and divisiveness that would almost certainly happen in a politicized workplace. I go to work to focus on work. I have plenty of other places and times to get my political fix.

      2. pleaset*

        Worth noting that that cartoon is not as much a diss of the politician as of his followers. It’s about them at least as much as it’s about him.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Which is why it’s inappropriate for the workplace. You don’t know how your coworkers voted. It’s not helping build a mutually respectful workplace to make sure anyone who voted for that candidate knows you think they’re an idiot.

          1. pleaset*

            You’re right about it being inappropriate for most workplaces.

            But I have to laugh reading the phrase “mutually respectful” in any relationship to his supporters. His campaign was launched with explicit lack of respect toward Mexicans.

            Perhaps a better phrase would be a “workplace where political conflict and contempt are hidden in the interest of getting the work done.”

            1. Jadelyn*

              You know, it’s funny. I almost added a note about that in my post, because I just *knew* someone was going to come by to nitpick the use of the word “respect” in a discussion that touches on current politics, even when that word was not used to refer to respecting someone’s politics.

              So, since it’s now happened, I guess I’ll do that now. I’m not talking about respect in the sense of “why can’t the two sides respect each other?!?!” and “what happened to civility?!?!” – that drives me up the wall as much as anyone, since that kind of respect absolutely needs to be mutual and I’m not going to offer respect to someone whose starting position is blatant disrespect (and, y’know, outright violence) for so many other groups. And of course his campaign’s disrespect goes far, FAR beyond just Mexicans – disabled people and women are two other major groups that immediately jump to mind, which that campaign was reprehensibly disrespectful of.

              I’m talking, very specifically and explicitly, about respecting someone *as a coworker* and being able to work with them without bitterness or hostility. Not about respecting their political opinions or voting choices. It’s called compartmentalization, and it’s something we all do all the time, so I didn’t expect it would be too much to expect that it be understood that a reference to a mutually respectful workplace was, in fact, referring to respecting to coworkers as coworkers within a workplace context regardless of other factors.

              Unless you can afford to jump ship every time you find out someone you work with voted for the current regime, or hold out for a job where you know for certain that everyone voted the same way you did, you’re going to have to work alongside people whose politics you hate, sometimes. That’s a fact of life and always has been. The idea of “hiding political conflict in interest of getting the work done” is just…normal? That’s how workplaces function. It’s not unique to the current regime or current political climate. I didn’t think I needed to stipulate on something so utterly commonplace and widely understood.

      3. Observer*

        Even out of context it can be taken as offensive. Calling people sheep is offensive, and it’s meant to be so.

        The OP clearly knows it – Trying to claim that it’s ok because it doesn’t name anyone specifically is a clear admission that it is a dig at someone.

      4. Triple Anon*

        I think it could be taken as general social commentary. I could imagine hanging up a picture like that without realizing how it would come across (specific person and their followers). Meaning that I think it’s a good cartoon with a broadly relevant message. But in this current political climate, yes, it does seem to target supporters of one politician, so I can see why OP was asked to take it down.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Waaaaay back when I took Russian in college, we translated a poem (Paper Soldier) and then the professor gave us a multiple choice quiz as to the underlying meaning. Most of the class went with a standard AP English option about the human condition. The professor then explained that if you asked a group of Russian intellectuals they would have gone straight at (d), a very specific political critique rooted in a very specific time and group, which no one in the class had chosen.

          1. Triple Anon*

            I just learned from these comments that it was a reference to a campaign slogan (though not a very original one). So now I get that it is calling that person’s supporters sheep. Without that context, I think it’s a good critique of how we respond to public figures – getting caught up in a herd mentality, focusing on one thing to love or hate, and losing sight of the bigger picture.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      I saw it as typically in power vs not reality and did not see it in any other light. It’s probably a stretch to assume most people will take offense. Also the no politics at work is not a universal sentiment either.

      1. Gaia*

        To be clear it isn’t “no politics at work” it is “too politically divisive.” Which is, of course, still not universal but it is pretty common – especially these days.

      2. Washi*

        I agree that the cartoon has broader implications, but if you had to take one guess about which specific politician this might refer to, you would have a person in mind right?

        To me, the line isn’t “no politics in the office” because everything is political, in the “the personal is political sense.” Like, it’s important to advocate for things like treating women and POC fairly, which might be political but is also appropriate and necessary in the workplace. But I feel very strongly about trying to keep talk about specific parties/politicians out of the workplace, since it’s so rarely productive in the work context and can end up just causing tension without any positive results.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Sorry but no. This cartoon is blatantly and objectively about Trump. It is a political cartoon. It is probably not a good thing to hang on the wall in your office if you don’t work in a political field.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          It’s only about Trump because it’s 2018 and Trump is president. Similar cartoons have been drawn about just about every leader, I would imagine.

          1. Gaia*

            No. It is about Trump because it was published in april 2016 and has the caption “he tells it like it is” which might as well have been a slogan for his campaign. The only way this would more obviously be about Trump is if the wolf was wearing a red MAGA hat.

          2. Holly*

            No, it’s really about Trump and his supporters who often are quoted saying they like him because “he tells it how it is.” It’s a New Yorker cartoon from 2016 I believe explicitly referencing Trump.

          3. Emily K*

            It’s not only about Trump – it’s also about anyone who has ever espoused the “tells it like it is” line. And it is calling those people sheep. There’s a reason the cartoonist didn’t choose a lion and antelopes or some predator and prey.

            Assuming there’s anyone in the office who had expressed as preference for straight talkers/not-a-politicians in politics, this is a pretty blatant insult.

            That’s why it’s reading as aggressively divisive even though it could have a broad meaning – because it’s not just targeting a politician, it’s also insulting voters and supporters by calling them sheep over their choice of candidate.

          4. Susana*

            Totally agree, Trout. It seemed more to me a knock on anyone (mostly politicians, but not anyone in particular) who promises you one thing and does another, whether it’s a used car salesman or a pyramid scheme operator. I do think it’s directed more at candidates, but not a certain one. It’s honestly too subtle for being a specific attack on him.

            1. ket*

              I disagree, actually. The wolf tells it like it is and says exactly what he’s going to do (trade war, war on women’s reproductive rights, wall, etc.) and then does it. It’s not about being two-faced, to me, but instead about people voting against their own interests because they find it attractive.

              1. Lissa*

                Yeah I think it’s specifically not about being two-faced at all, which makes it more about the supporters than the politician.

                1. Marion Ravenwood*

                  Yep. The implication isn’t just ‘Mr Wolf is bad’; it’s ‘people who voted for Mr Wolf are idiots’. I’m not a Mr Wolf voter, but if I was then I certainly wouldn’t like a reminder that a particular colleague thinks I’m dumb because of how I voted to be on display.

          5. Clare*

            I disagree, it is very clearly about Trump in particular. It is a reference to the response that many of his supporters had during the campaign when presented with negative information about Trump or his policies and ideas. It is not about all politicians or leaders in general.

          6. Genny*

            But the cartoon was published in 2016 when it became clear that Trump was going to win the GOP nomination. It’s poking fun at the “Of course I don’t agree with everything he says, but at least he tells it like it is” crowd who used that to justify their support. You can’t strip the context away from the cartoon. Of course other cartoons have been published poking fun at politicians for similar things (there’s nothing new under the sun after all), but this one is very specifically about Trump.

          7. Genny*

            You can’t strip the context away from the cartoon. It’s not a cartoon about a generic politician, it was published in April 2016 when it became clear that Trump was going to win the GOP nomination. It’s poking fun at the “I don’t agree with everything he says, but at least he tells it like it is” crowd who used that to justify their support. Similar cartoons may have been drawn about other leaders, and it would be equally inappropriate to hang them in your office if it meant bringing controversial politics into the office.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              But you can’t strip it from the larger context. Realtalk, “telling it like it is”, Trust me, etc. has long been a staple of politics. I think another interpretation of the comic is that Trump is just another politician.

          8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Except this cartoon has a specific history, and that history is rooted in the 2016 election. I’m sure it’s applicable to other politicians, but unlike other generalized political cartoons, the artist intentionally sought to comment on Trump.

            Long story short: I’m pro limiting anything that brings Trump into discussion at work. In my experience, it’s very draining.

          9. Observer*

            Actually, this was WAS specifically drawn about Trump.

            But EITHER way, it still doesn’t belong on the office wall. If the boss is telling them to take it down, they need to deal with it and take it down.

          1. Emily K*

            Yes, this is much more succinct than what I spilled a lot of words on above! You don’t insult coworkers at work. There is not much other than a veneer of artistic expression separating this poster from a sign in your that dispenses with metaphor and just says, “Trump voters are sheep.” And unless you know 100% that nobody in your office is a Trump voter, that means you are insulting someone you work with, at work, by calling them sheep.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      I agree. I agree with the sentiment of the poster but I’d feel weird seeing it at work; feels kind of like subtle broadcasting/baiting. I wouldn’t want to see conservative political cartoons at work so this is only fair.

      1. Bea*

        I immediately found it baiting. Which is why I would have told them to take it down as well.

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        Baiting is a great term. OP, do you really want random weirdos swinging by your desk to argue/loudly agree with you about politics? The people who want to talk about politics at work are never the folks you want to talk to.

    4. Orbit*

      I’ll start by saying I’m not an American and I personally wouldn’t care if you had the poster up, but… i think it’s a little disingenuous to claim that because it doesn’t name anyone that it’s ok to put up.

      The U.S. political landscape is far to fraught right now to not know that you’re going to offend someone with something like this.

      1. Gaia*

        Exactly. If this hadn’t been created in the last two years and didn’t include the caption “he tells it like it is” (which, to be fair, I’m not sure if that is on the poster, but it is definitely on the cartoon) it would be different. But it isn’t. And while I agree with the point the poster is making, and I generally am fine with politics being discussed at work, even when I disagree with the opinion being shared, this poster is way over the line for me.

        1. LadyL*

          It is surprising reading the consensus of this poster being particularly divisive because I thought it was quite mild. Always interesting to see where one differs from the norm I guess.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree that it’s mild, but I also think it’s divisive (and a bit condescending) for the current political climate.

            OP may have had a different outcome in a different geographic area, but I’m not surprised that a coworker read the poster as a comment on a particular 2016 presidential candidate. Beyond the candidate, there’s a bit of condescension in the way the poster depicts people who voted for that candidate. Taken together, those elements could easily stir up people’s feelings—regardless whether they agree/disagree with the poster—in a way that undermines being able to work together.

            1. Quahoghedgehog*

              Once again PCBH summed up how I feel in a much better way than I could. I get the point of the poster and probably share some political views with OP but even i don’t really want to see this at work. I’d like to just focus on my work and go home – I’m bombarded by politics everywhere else, so it is uncomfortable and distracting to navigate it at work as well.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                +1 I don’t need to be reminded of this topic at work.

                Also it wouldn’t make me think well of OP. My impression would be that this is a person who is aggressive enough about politics to post a condescending comic about it. I would feel pressured to perform my values carefully, lest OP mistake me for one of THEM/not being X enough.

                It’s like if someone had a poster on their door that said “All dogs go to heaven, wonder where cats go?” I’m a dog person but jeez if you lead with that, what happens when I want to (lovingly) complain about dog hair getting everywhere? Would a cat owner feel comfortable knocking on their door? Just seems like it’s inviting trouble unnecessarily.

                1. Girl friday*

                  Yep, that’s a good analogy. There are probably lots of cat and dog lovers out there, and they don’t feel free to post that kind of thing themselves, so they have a problem with it. That makes sense.

            2. LadyL*

              I think my surprise is party because we talked about politics pretty openly at my last job, so I’m used to a different environment. It was hard not to bring politics into work in 2016- after the election a group of us (including my boss) kept gathering to cry/support each other, and we ended up having an optional all-staff meeting for people to talk about their feelings & what we could do about it.

              So yeah, definitely not a non-political environment.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                It is very easy to talk about politics openly at work when everyone’s on the same side…

                1. Mobuy*

                  Exactly. Or when you assume everyone is on the same side, which leads to marginalization and exclusion when some people are not.

                2. LadyL*

                  In our case we had many people who were legitimately afraid for their future due to the rhetoric of the winning candidate. It wasn’t just talking about politics, it was really more people expressing fears about their safety and their families safety. I do t want to derail the thread any further and I don’t want to get into another “nazis in the museum” type of debate, but I’m just saying that I don’t think it helps to pretend 2016 had the same rules as other elections. It wasn’t just a “man my candidate lost” it was a “am I safe in this country? Are our visitors safe at our institution? Is there anything we can do to feel safer?” It’s harder to keep politics at home when a candidate has made the politics deeply personal, I guess is my point.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  ^ And I completely understand that. Which does not change the fact that several people, who are in the positions of power, openly expressed support for the winning candidate before the election. So, at my workplace, November 9 was really quiet. Any support that was offered happened quietly over IM/texts/FB messages. I consider what happened a national tragedy, which was yet another reason why we were all quiet about it – no one was willing to risk their job on top of the awful thing that had just taken place. Got to give the winning side at least some credit, they weren’t openly cheering and breaking out the champagne in the office, either (like I feared they might do).

                4. blackcat*


                  I talked about it at work because I am at a university that takes steps to protect undocumented students. I think the “What do we do now to protect the population we serve?” conversation is decidedly different than other “political” conversations at work. It’s directly work relevant.

                5. Washi*

                  Right. When there are people in positions of power who voted for the “wolf” in 2016, I would rather even my colleagues who agree with me did not start a partisan debate in the office. I absolutely speak up when someone expresses an opinion I disagree with on a particular issue (women’s rights, immigration, etc) but I’d really rather not get into an argument about whom I voted for at work.

                  Basically, I see a lot of value about expressing my views about the issues themselves, but I’ve never found bringing specific parties/politicians into it very helpful at work specifically. Especially since I am far left of both parties and don’t really want to be pulled into defending one politician over another when it’s so much more complex than that for me.

                6. pleaset*

                  “It wasn’t just talking about politics, it was really more people expressing fears about their safety and their families safety”


                  We’re at a different level now. Five or 15 years ago we could complain about a Bush or an Obama or Clinton, but it was nothing like now. People might claim that X was going to lead us into a war or Y was going to take our guns, but it’s not at the same level or widespread personal threat that is happening now. NOT talking about politics is really talking about politics.

                  I get that workplaces don’t allow talking about politics, but being able to think of politics as an abstract thing is a sign of privilege.

                  PS – Nazi’s should be marginalized. Just have to say that. They should be excluded.

                7. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “I get that workplaces don’t allow talking about politics, but being able to think of politics as an abstract thing is a sign of privilege.”

                  Pleaset, you know what I consider privilege? Being able to risk alienating your boss and losing your job over differences in values and politics. There is no privilege to my position on this – politics isn’t abstract for me, it is “oh my god, I hope my son is able to be insured for the rest of the year so that he can live,” because my son is a medically fragile kid, so certain political issues feel horribly life-threatening to my family because my son depends on medical services and insurance options that are at risk because of the current government. But I still need to buy groceries, even though my boss and some of our clients voted for the wolf and actively support some of the healthcare policies that are making me so desperately anxious and scared for my son’s life.
                  But I need a job because I need to be able to feed my kids and pay my bills. Keeping politics out of the workspace keeps temperatures down in the office so that we can all still work together. And I can stay employed and feed my family.

                  It feels a lot less like privilege to me, and more like survival.

                8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  ^ This.

                  I grew up under a totalitarian regime. Survival is an accurate term for that.

                  I am also pretty sure that no one on this thread advocated being quiet if a specific coworker is being targeted in the workplace by another specific coworker and it is related to today’s political situation. Of course if that happens, we’ve got to do the right thing by speaking up and offering our protection, defense, legal counsel or whatever we are capable of offering. If none of that is happening in our workplace and we are sitting around talking about the news, as terrifying as they are, that’s still an abstract discussion within a group of like-minded people, sorry.

            3. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Thank you for this eloquent response. Things can be challenging at work just because of business noise and activity. I want my workplace to be as non-polarizing as possible and prefer not to see political messaging – even if I agree with the position.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Out of its context, it could be read as mild and subtle. The problem is, this is not out of its context. We are still under the regime of the specific politician about whom this cartoon was drawn and published.

            This is the kind of thing that has juuuuuust enough plausible deniability that people will try to claim it wasn’t about anyone in particular, but anyone who’s even remotely paying attention to politics knows otherwise.

          3. BaaRamEwe*

            It’s going to get really interesting when criminal charges are filed higher up the food chain. I can’t imagine a resignation/impeachment/indictments *not* being discussed at work, which will definitely spook the flock.

        2. JamieS*

          I don’t think it’s relevant when it was published. A person could use a cartoon from a century ago to make a comment on a current issue and people would still understand the message being conveyed and the intent behind the cartoon.

          1. Archie Goodwin*

            You’re reminding me of the fact that during the 2004 election cycle (I was in college at the time) I went around wearing an “Our Boys in Blue, We Vote for Hayes” replica button.

            The only message behind it being, “Yes, I vote, and you can probably guess who I vote for, if you know me. But this is how I feel about wearing my politics on my sleeve. :-)”

            Actually, I should probably dig that thing out for 2020…

          2. boo bot*

            I actually think in this case that it is. People will always be able to interpret it as being relevant, but it was in fact written for this particular moment, and so it hits a little closer to the bone than it might at another time.

            Ten or twenty years from now, I think it might come off as “ugh, politics,” but right now it’s pretty clear where it’s directed.

            1. JamieS*

              We have no way of knowing how people are going to feel about politics 10-20 years from now. Regardless that wasn’t my point. I was saying if someone posted something like that today it wouldn’t matter if the cartoon was originally written yesterday or 150 years ago because people would still view it as a comment on the current political climate.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect we’d feel it were more “fair game” had it not been published in the context of the current administration and the 2016 election. For example, V for Vendetta (the graphic novel) was certainly political, but it was written in response to Thatcher. It held the same eerie relevance when it was adapted into a movie during the W era, even though the original novel had nothing to do with GWB.

        In general, I think it can help to eschew posters that appear partisan. I love “political” posters and have several up in my office, but they are all about political issues that relate to the work our office does. None of them could be read as metaphors or signs of support/protest regarding specific candidates or political parties.

        1. B*

          Meh, they really bent the movie to make it try to seem more topical/current (and IMHO, many of the changes took away from the power of the original story, but oh well)

      3. Observer*

        i think it’s a little disingenuous to claim that because it doesn’t name anyone that it’s ok to put up.

        You are much kinder than I am about that. It assumes that the people who are looking at the posted either agree with you or are too stupid to understand it.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for identifying the source! I’ve linked directly to it in the letter now — I realized that by just copying the graphic here, I was probably violating their copyright.

    6. MissGirl*

      Knowing the source makes the objection make more sense. I thought it was a Far Side comic and heartily approve all Far Side comics at work. If it was meant politically in nature and with this politically divisive time, I’d take it down. Save your work capital for something else.

    7. Snark*

      I don’t think anybody even necessarily took offense – it’s just that in 2018, that’s a live wire, and a hornet’s nest one needn’t throw rocks at in a workplace. Pro or con, people are going to feel strongly about it, which is why it’s a hard nope for work.

    8. lapgiraffe*

      I’m curious if it’s actually the size and not the content, which speaks a little more to intention. Specifically, if OP had cut this out of their New Yorker (or it came from a page a day calendar, which I know is out there because my bestie has had one at work each year for at least a decade now, and he always saves a small stash of his faves for me) and thumb tacked it next to some pictures and sticky notes and it was just a funny haha for the OP to enjoy, versus getting a poster size (which I’m assuming to be 24×36) in order to project the opinion beyond the immediacy of their space, thus looking much more political in nature.

      Related, having a poster of anything that isn’t framed in a cubicle strikes me as a bit unprofessional anyway, like I’m picturing college dorm room not adult work environment. I’m sure it all depends on the particular Office culture and industry, but I can’t help but think that the size is reading loud.

      1. CMart*

        That’s a really good point– the “poster” aspect really could have impacted how big of a deal having that cartoon displayed is.

        If the OP really did mean “poster”, like you said a large size (even an 8.5×11 would be pretty predominant) that sends a much more aggressive message than a page from a daily desk calendar. It’s not just a whimsical decoration to make you smile at that point, it’s an invitation and provocation.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        +1 on this. I missed the word “poster” originally. It reinforces my view that this is NOT the hill OP should die on.

  5. Holly*

    # 3 it’s pretty clear that the cartoon is a dig at supporters of Donald Trump. It doesn’t spell it out, but that’s what it is. I think it’s ridiculous your manager is making you take it down (and for someone to complain) since its mild but if I was a manager I wouldn’t want to be in the business of trying to explain to someone why you can have that up but they can’t have their “Hillary for Prison” or “X group are stupid snowflakes” sign up or something more obviously political or offensive

    1. WS*

      Yes – if they have a “no politics at work” policy, which is damn sensible, this would fall under it. Letting people argue over whether something is “mild” or not is a gateway to drama and claims of discrimination.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        My place has a zero politics rule when it escalated from a similar comic (mild) to a 8×10 color print out meme saying “MAGA! Taking our country back from the undeserving and the unwanted.”

        Honestly, you don’t want that sh*t storm brewing at work. It’s a distraction no one needs or wants.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yes, agree with you both, that’s exactly the reason why I object to OP3’s poster – because it would open the door to posters like this one. (shudders) With half the people in any given office (myself included) having reason to believe that they are the ones the poster refers to as “the undeserving and the unwanted”, I can only imagine how that went down.

        2. LadyL*

          Forgive me if this ventures too off-topic, but I’m not sure I agree. I think the poster you described is racist and echos white nationalistic views, and goes beyond politics. Part of me feels like what people are saying on this topic is we can’t have reasonable discussions/displays of politics because one particular group of people have brought something unacceptable into their politics. I think an office could very easily ban a poster that refers to immigrants as “unwanted and unwashed” while still allowing a plain MAGA sign or the New Yorker cartoon in question. I’m not sure I think it’s a good idea to treat all of these political expressions as equal.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            I completely agree that not all political expressions are created equal – there is political expression, and then there is white racism/nationalism barely dressed up as “normal politics.” But I can’t imagine a workplace wanting to have to wade into that. It would no doubt anger people who find it unfair (and those people are not necessarily going to be swayed by a discussion of how x and y political expression is find, but z, yours, is not), rile people up, cause general strife all around and generally be a massive distraction from actual work. If Jane and Joe from accounting are arguing over which posters are okay to hang up at work, they are not, you know, actually doing any accounting.

          2. Holly*

            I get what you’re saying – and agree in most contexts – but this is the work place. “we can’t have reasonable discussions/displays of politics because one particular group of people have brought something unacceptable into their politics” … AT WORK. It makes sense in that context. Managers want to be doing work not getting into a politics debate about what is acceptable and what isn’t. And a lot of politically active people don’t want that brought into a workplace.

          3. MatKnifeNinja*

            My office took the view point work is to hustle and make as much money as humanly possible. They didn’t want to be the judge and jury of what was offensive.

            The MAGA meme was not from the stereotypical white supremacist. It was a naturalized citizen from a South American country, who has real issues with people crossing the border illegally. This person campaigned for Trump. *shrug*

            Not everyone who voted for Trump was a white person making $30K/year shopping at Walmart and living in a fly over state. Where I live, the area has people of all nationalities and backgrounds. The area is affluent (I’m not). They had no problems pulling the lever for the GOP. It came down to immigration and pouring more money into social programs that are considered rat holes.

            Just because a person is an affluent POC doesn’t mean they give an sh*t about helping out people in Detroit, St. Louis or an other inner city. Campaigning door to door really opened my eyes to that.

          4. Totally Minnie*

            I would agree with this stance on a lot of issues that come up in an office, like dress code or workplace kitchen rules. We’ve all had the frustration of Admin trying to deal with the one person violating the policy by tightening the rules for everyone.

            But political topics feel so very different to me. Sure, Bob from accounting might get mad because his boss told him he can’t microwave his fish in the breakroom. But he’d go straight up ballistic if his boss accused him of being racist, which is what he would probably take away from a discussion where he’s asked to take down the “unwashed and unwanted” poster. There are too many mines in this field, and it’s just kinder to all involved to keep political posters and memes out of the workplace.

      2. Holly*

        Yeah rather than ridiculous I think I meant more “petty” for someone to complain to the manager about it but at the end of the day it is political and there are good reasons for a no politics rule

        1. Decima Dewey*

          We don’t know why the complainer complained. I can see the manager telling OP to take down the poster because they can imagine dueling posters all over the department. For example, if a librarian put up a FREE MUMIA poster over her desk in the workroom, someone who objected might put up a poster of Frank Rizzo.

          FWIW because I work for the City of Philadelphia, there are rules against political activity on the job that I must follow.

          1. Holly*

            It’s a pretty clear dig at Trump supporters so I can imagine someone getting offended. But you’re right, it could have been for any reason.

  6. LadyL*

    #3 I know Allison is totally right about this not being worth fighting over, but if I were you I would be completely enraged by this so I definitely feel ya on this one. I’m sorry somebody in your office didn’t appreciate the message.

    #5 is the rule just no podcasts or does it include any kind of talk radio? Because if you can’t listen to a podcast but you *can* listen to something like NPR on the radio that would be bizarre. Please write back, I’m quite curious about why your office has this ban.

    1. Gaia*

      You’re sorry that someone didn’t appreciate being openly mocked by a coworker?

      You can disagree with someone’s politics and still have a civil working relationship with them. You really can’t have that if you’re openly calling them a sheep and implying they’re too stupid to see what is in front of them.

      1. LadyL*

        I’m sorry that OP had to take down a decoration that she liked and felt something towards. I have no idea what the issue is with me expressing sympathy about OP being annoyed.

        I’ll be honest and say that I have a hard time being civil with people who view me and my loved ones as less human than they are, and subsequently work to bring about policies and regimes that will directly harm my loved ones and I (which is something specific to this administration and not something I had felt about previous administrations I disagreed with). I’m not particularly uncivil with anyone I meet in life, but I will admit that I struggle to worry about the feelings of people who don’t care at all about mine. One of the many reasons I don’t work in a traditional office environment, and would probably do very poorly there. Like I said in my post: it’s not worth the fight, just sucks for OP.

        1. Gaia*

          No, sorry, that isn’t what you said. You said “I’m sorry somebody in your office didn’t appreciate the message.” The message is mockery. Deserved or not in your political opinion, that doesn’t change what it is.

          I won’t get too political because we’ve been asked not to, but I will say that I’m about as liberal as they come and I’m certainly no fan of his but I also recognize that there is as fairly large subset of his base that do not agree with his most vile statements but voted for him for other (often, economic) reasons. This cartoon is attacking this group and things like this further alienate this group which doesn’t help anyone except the wolf.

  7. Daria Grace*

    OP#5, your managers likely don’t know you’re the only person listening to podcasts. Its plausible they assume everyone in the office is listening to podcasts at least some of the time.

    As for why they are making the ruling, if your work requires high attention to detail, it is reasonable they’d be concerned that following the storyline of a podcast is going to distract you from your work in ways music does not.

    1. Thlayli*

      Agreed. I’m not saying this is the case for OP but there’s no way I personally could concentrate on my job while listening to a podcast. I find it difficult to concentrate even with songs with words so I often listen to music without words when I need to concentrate. My favourite bands for concentration are “God is an Astronaut” or “Marconi Union”.

      OP I’m sure you personally can concentrate while listening to podcasts, or else you wouldn’t be doing it, but lots of people couldn’t. This explains the rule. If you want to challenge it you will probably need to explain / prove that you personally can concentrate while listening to a podcast. You can prove this by pointing to your track record and clarifying that you were listening to podcasts often while doing such awesome work.

    2. MicroManagered*

      That seems so subjective though. One person may find music distracting but not podcasts, or vice versa. I’m with OP5: No headphones, I could understand. Headphones are ok, but policing what’s played over them? B. AN. AN. AS.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Exactly. It’s subjective both to the person’s individual brain wiring for what’s distracting and not, and to the type of work being done.

        No office audio, but you can wear headphones, seems like the perfect solution to this.

      2. Jojo*

        The office WiFi is use by all employees on a computer at work. Podcasts eat a lot of bandwidth. They slow down the network.

    3. Oryx*

      Agreed. I used to listen to a ton of audiobooks at work because my tasks didn’t require a high attention to detail. But when I switched teams to a job that required a lot of writing, I found audiobooks far too distracting, as well as podcasts, so now I just listen to music that can easily become background noise.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Same. I’m a designer and if I’m working with images, audiobooks are fine. If I’m working with copy, then I have two senses competing with each other with different words. Doesn’t work very well.

    4. Amelia*

      That’s very interesting. I listen to podcasts at work because it’s *less* distracting for me than music. I am very able to pay half-attention to talking (so I choose lighter fare, that I can still follow while working), but when I am playing music I am Listening To Music and I can’t concentrate at all–unless I’m doing a truly mindless work task.

      1. Birch*

        SAME. People have such weird assumptions about what is and isn’t distracting, as if everyone is exactly the same. Lots of people prefer cafe type settings or having tv/radio in the background as it helps create a sort of noise barrier to make little repetitive noises (like coworkers!) less annoying than they would be in quiet.

      2. Tardigrade*

        I actually download movies on my ipad and watch/listen to them (with headphones) while I do certain types of work, and it makes me far more productive than music does.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          For some reason, tv and movies are less distracting for me than audiobooks and podcasts. With the latter, I feel like I have to be listening to follow along. I can do those when I’m doing design work, but not if I’m writing or trying to problem-solve. The former I can tune out pretty easily and with the visual, I can glance back and get the gist of what I missed.

          1. Emily K*

            I even practice multitasking while watching TV at home in the evenings when for some reason I am compelled both to browse on my phone and watch TV simultaneously.

        2. KarenK*

          One of my clients is the same way. If she really needs to concentrate, she puts a movie on in the background that she’s seen several times. It keeps her focused.

          Everyone is different. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but not at work when I’m trying to work. Too distracting.

          1. BF50*

            When I work from home, I always have something on because the silence is distracting. Which is a very weird thing I discovered about myself while working from home. I do fine if some random sitcom is playing in the background but sitting in silence, I get restless and unfocused.

    5. Strawmeatloaf*

      I really wish they would go on a case-by-case basis for this stuff. If someone is making a ton of mistakes/their work is slow, then I can understand them going up to that person and telling them that they’re distracted and need to switch it to something less distracting or turning it off all together.

      I listen to music at work, but I don’t listen to music with actual singing in it. Movie or video game soundtracks are what I usually listen to and since they don’t have lyrics to follow, it’s quite a bit easier for me. But I know that’s not the case for everyone.

    6. sam*

      This was the thing I was going to note – I am an obsessive podcast listener, but listening to podcasts definitely has a different effect on how I do work while listening than listening to music. If I get really into a particular story, I’ll find myself essentially “zoning out” to listen to the podcast and not concentrating on the other things I’m doing as well. So I generally don’t listen to them at work to avoid that sort of thing.

      (But even personally, I can’t, say, read a book and listen to a podcast at the same time – whereas I can listen to music and read without any issue).

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      As someone who finds music with words exactly as distracting as NPR when I’m trying to work with words, and the two both equally fine when I’m working with numbers, I think it’s extremely unreasonable to take one person’s particular auditory/work style and apply it blanket-like to everyone. Everyone is on headphones! That’s supposed to neatly sidestep any question about the sounds that help Bjorn focus being distracting to Benji.

    8. Tuxedo Cat*

      It seems like an odd line to draw… I would find music with words distracting, as well as podcasts. I have colleagues who find certain genres of music distracting, and I have colleagues who prefer to work while listening to music from those genres.

    9. Bea*

      Then they’re wrong. I’m rarely following a storyline that closely. I’ve always had an easier time of having voices and stories as my background noise. I listen to books frequently and prefer tv documentaries that I can do other things while listening to.

      I had a report with huge attention issues and they were told they had to stop listening to music due to the error rate.

      I am certain it’s a bandwidth issue over this kind of strange conclusion.

    10. angstymcjoe*

      I’m #5. I suppose I can understand that logic, but I’ve been listening to podcasts since I started this job last year and have received mostly positive feedback and a raise, and no comments regarding any poor quality in my work. This really came out of nowhere to me. If there is a perception that the quality of my work has somehow taken a dive, I’d prefer management or my supervisor discuss it with me so maybe we can find the underlying issue and why they are linking it to podcasts.

  8. Dram*

    #5 I work at a much larger place, and they will cut off your ability to access wifi if you are livestreaming podcasts (of any kind) or YouTube, and I think Netflix too. It’s not just blocked but your phone or whatever will be blocked from being able to use wifi. We do have computer access to streaming sites that conceivably could be work related. And I will say, it is always abrupt and offensive when they suddenly block someone — I listened to news programming while working, you feel like you’ve been singled out and done something wrong. It doesn’t even make sense to offer it as a perk for your own devices if they actually don’t want any streaming at all. Whatever. (So they prefer to kill morale and alienate good workers one person at a time I guess.) But I am guessing this is more what’s going on, and they probably aren’t judging or interested in the content you are streaming, just that you are doing it at all (if you are in fact streaming).

    1. SystemsLady*

      That stinks, since with Red YouTube can be used for music or podcast-esque streaming (though you miss out on the visual content).

      Bandwidth and general use wise, though, blocking YouTube makes a lot of sense. I’m somewhat aware of the technology and I’m not sure how podcasts really take up that much bandwidth, unless the office in question has really bad or metered Internet.

      1. mistressfluffybutt*

        Podcasts are going to really depend on how its delivered. Is it downloaded and then played locally? One small spike and then nothing. Streaming takes a lot of bandwidth. Voice, video and streaming are usually given top priority because they can not handle delay the same way data can. An email can have a bunch of packets sent out of order and re-assembled later and be intelligible. If that happens on a phone call or while streaming a podcast you get what’s called “jitter” the packets are just dropped and it doesn’t make any sense.

    2. angstymcjoe*

      I’m #5. All of my podcasts are downloaded from my home though. I do that so I can listen on my commute without using up data.

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, definitely wear your suit—it’s an equal opportunity piece of clothing (all my early suits were pantsuits; I switched because I found out I genuinely prefer how I look in dress suits).

    Feeling confident is half the battle in an interview. This may be my Bay Area bias, but on one of my first law hiring panels (I was an interviewer), one of our top three candidates wore a men’s suit and dressed with an overall “male” aesthetic. We loved her, and she looked sharp, put together and confident. She wore “men’s style” clothing every day she worked for us, and I think it improved how we saw her because she was so much more confident than if she dressed in “women’s” attire.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Seconding this! Not to mention if they do have a problem with you wearing men’s clothing in an interview would likely mean they wouldn’t want you to wear thema while working, which might make you miserable.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Thirding this. An office fixated on whether your gender clothing presentation is “correct” is going to be a huge bag of no eventually anyway.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      +1 I also wear pants suits and have worked with women who do. I know two women who also had short hair and wore pants suits, but they often wore heels. One woman in my office often wears long and flowy pants and she has short hair–this is totally a thing you can do and if it fits you and you feel good, go for it!

      If you’re interested, one episode of Queer Eye featured a trans man who got fitted for a suit by a company that specializes in gender-free/fluid formal wear. I don’t remember the name of the company but they talked about how they tailor suits to minimize curves and he looked GREAT. Maybe that is something you can look into!

    3. MK*

      Honestly, I am doubt everyone would be able to tell the diference between an actual men’s suit and a women’s suit in the “andogynous” style; I personally wouldn’t.

      1. Thlayli*

        Yup. I bought a couple of pairs of men’s jeans the other day and asked my husband to guess which is men’s and which is not. He got it wrong. I have also worn a pantsuit to almost every interview ever and I can’t imagine there’s a big difference with wearing a men’s suit tailored to your body.

        Added to this is that it’s an Internal interview and so they have mostly seen the way you typically dress at work. They’d probably be much more taken aback if you suddenly showed up in women’s clothing than if you wore your super-suit. Wear and enjoy!

        1. schnauzerfan*

          I have a male friend who likes the way a certain brand of women’s jeans fits. He’s been buying them for years. Imagine his dismay when his favorites did away with pockets. Welcome to my world!

          1. Thlayli*

            Haha the whole reason I went there is coz I saw on Pinterest that men’s skinny jeans have pockets! So I thought I’d try them. And they do! Big giant pockets! Never going back.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          It matters not one whit, but men’s suits are typically higher waisted, fully lined, with better buttons and findings, and made out of more durable fabric.

          So wearing a men’s suit, even a suit tailored to one’s body, will feel very different in weight and fit than wearing a women’s suit, no matter how fine and expensive that women’s suit was.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I came to write, A suit is a suit is a suit. And a nice suit, that’s all you need. Honestly, OP, don’t over think it.

      3. Falling Diphthong*


        Reading this I kept thinking of Sara Ramirez’s character on Madam Secretary. (Who to me reads as a woman who likes mens-wear inspired styles, though I think the intent might have been nonbinary.) She looks office appropriate, seamlessly fitting in next to Elizabeth’s pantsuits and pencil skirts and Daisy’s uniform of dresses. It doesn’t read as off-the-rack menswear, which I don’t think would work on her shape.

      4. blackcat*

        Particularly because it is custom-tailored!

        It likely doesn’t read as strongly “male” as the poster things. More likely it reads as well-fitting! I definitely have at least one suit that has lapels that look like a “mens” suit, but otherwise it is cut to fit women. I like it largely because by mimicking the more standard mens cut, it doesn’t go in and out of style.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I have a butch female colleague who wears men’s suits, and the suits do read as masculine—in part because of her haircut, shoes, and general bearing. But that is fine! She looks great and like she is comfortable in her own skin.

          Your gender identity is not unprofessional. I agree with the consensus here: wear the suit and feel good about it.

      5. annejumps*

        And the “menswear” and androgynous look has been a thing for… forty years? At least. Someone objecting to a candidate wearing a well-made suit would be a bullet dodged.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        To me the giveaway is the tie. When I see a woman in a mans-style suit *and* a tie, I think one of two things:
        1. Transgender
        2. Upscale server uniform.
        So I think if OP wants to give a masculine message, wear the tie. If s/he wants to make it more androgynous, don’t wear a tie. Or if wearing a tie or not would make a difference in the way s/he feels, do whatever feels best! :)

        1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          A narrow tie tends to read as more androgynous with a suit in my opinion. If you want a tie, you could wear a wider one for a more “male” look and a narrower tie for a more “androgynous” look. (I say androgynous rather than feminine because ties don’t really have a feminine aesthetic.)

    4. Bonky*

      Present in your interview as yourself! It’s a good way to find an organisation that you’ll be happy working in, too – who the hell would want to work for anyone who was sniffy about it?

      One of my very best workers is a butch lesbian with a lot of piercings and tattoos, who came to interview dressed smartly, but as herself. She rocks; she’s a wonderful teapot engineer, and her confidence is great for the rest of the team too. Good luck with the job!

    5. Engineer Woman*

      Chiming in to agree that you should wear your tailored suit! It sounds completely appropriate and it’s important you feel comfortable. The specifics about style of dress shouldn’t matter to a company that cares more about substance – of course, not to the point of accepting sloppy or way-too-casual attire.

      My work dress-up (interviews, seeing clients/customers, meetings with the “big boss”) is pantsuits – I just prefer pants to skirts.

    6. policygeek*

      Straight cisgender hiring manager here: one of the factors I am considering when interviewing internal candidates, especially for more senior positions, is do they take the interview process seriously? Does it appear they carry themselves as a senior professional? A suit – especially a tailored suit — says yes and yes to these questions. Plus, it just sounds awesome. Wear it in good health and good luck!

    7. iglwif*

      Absolutely! If you own clothing that makes you feel self-confident and comfortable in your body, and if it’s also “office appropriate” (what could be more office appropriate than a suit?), then that isn’t just something you CAN wear for an interview, it’s the thing you SHOULD wear!

      Go on and rock that interview :D

    8. corinne*

      Wear your suit! I’ve interviewed lots of people wearing all kinds of clothes and I like to see people looking confident, regardless of the “intended gender” of the clothing. Wear what makes you feel confident!

    9. HappySnoopy*

      Echoing Alison and others.

      As a Cisgender female who is self conscious about my legs so hates skirts, Id be wearing a pantsuit too…and am jealous of your custom tailoring.

      You will look professional and feel confident. Thats a big part of interviewing well. Good luck!

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I agree. I really dislike wearing skirts and I’m also Cisgender. I’ve interviewed for my past 5 jobs wearing a pantsuit. Also, if the company you interview at has a weird thing about women not wearing dresses or skirts, then you know they aren’t for you.

    10. Jadelyn*

      Honestly, just go look up female celebrities wearing suits on the red carpet. Janelle Monae comes to mind – she can ROCK a suit, and make it look as femme or masculine as she wants it to. Suits are 100% equal opportunity, especially if you’ve got one that’s been specifically tailored to fit you perfectly. Wear the suit, OP!

    11. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m going to come back and read all the comments, but I have to say this first:

      PCBH: I have always liked your comments, and I didn’t realize you were in my geo area. It makes me think again about those AAM meet-ups I’ve been contemplating. And I’ve been having questions about workclothes also, and I suspect that you’ll understand my questions.

      Back to the job hunt for now, but I’ll be back.

      1. General Ginger*

        @Jennifer Thneed (this is OT, so Alison, please delete as needed), not sure if your name still deliberately links to the vocal fry register wiki page from the other day’s discussion, or accidentally!

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Thank you! No, it was accidental. If you put anything into that field, it stays there in future comments unless you remember to take it out. Which totally works when people are linking to their own blog or whatever, which I never am. I inevitably forget to take it out until *after* I post the next (irrelevant) thing.

    12. Gatomon*

      Confidence really is key. It goes such a long way when being interviewed. You will always look better wearing what you feel confident in vs what people think you should wear.

      OP#4, if you feel more comfortable wearing men’s clothing and/or dressing in a masculine style, do it. If you intend to dress masculinely if you get the position, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to suddenly run to the feminine side of the clothing store just for the interview, right? You want the company to choose you because of who you are, not who you think they want for the job.

    13. Jennifer Thneed*

      So, maybe Princess CB Hammock can help me figure out where to buy pants? Or anyone else reading here? This is extra amusing because I tried to ask about this stuff in the Friday Open Thread, and I didn’t word it well. And I included that I don’t want to wear synthetics (because of the look, not the feel), and everyone focussed on telling me that cotton and linen exist and at least one kind person talked to me about skirts.

      So. To your average straight person, I read as butch because I am SUPER not-girly. To your average lesbian who is aware of butch/femme stuff, I read as androgynous. Which is how I feel, so good.

      I often work in jeans and a (long-sleeved, plain or striped but no words or pictures) t-shirt and I need to up my workclothes game. Can I wear khaki (or its equivalent)? It seems to me that cotton pants rumple and look pretty casual, but maybe I’m wrong? Are there levels of khaki’s, or some with nice sturdy fabric? (And is there a better term for that type of pants? They’re often not khaki-colored.)

      I’d been thinking I wanted wool slacks because of how they look, but is there something I’m unaware of? I mean, there’s *lots* I’m unaware of, but is there some new type of fabric being used? Is there such a thing as plain slacks for women that look like men’s slacks? I’d rather not pay for tailoring because $$ but I do have hips and a waist. Do I just need to get a suit and get over myself? (Can I get a suit for under $200 that’s not made of polyester?) And would I feel comfortable in a blazer if it fit me properly? I never feel good in them but I can’t tell if it’s them or me. I prefer to wear cardigans, but again: I feel I need to up my workwear game.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        (Hit Enter too soon.)
        And thank you to everyone who had and has suggestions for me!

      2. Mad Baggins*

        I got my non-denim pants at Uniqlo. I don’t know what they’re made of, so can’t help you if they’re synthetic, but they’re simple, fit well, come in basic colors, and in winter they sell insulated ones for warmth. There are all kinds of khaki-adjacent (non-denim, non-suit) trousers/pants out there, with varying levels of care required. The men’s and women’s sections both carry them, I think the only difference is the fit so if you prefer a looser fit you could try the men’s section. Also my Uniqlo has basic blazers made of softer fabric (not that silky suit material), it might be a good transition piece between cardigans and proper blazers.

        It sounds like you have a good idea of the look you’re going for and just need more information. I don’t usually recommend the black hole of social media, but Pinterest and Polyvore might be a good place where you can see what clothing/fashion is out there from the comfort of your bed.

        1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          Check out the second hand scene in your city/town. Second hand shops tend to have a wide variety of colours, fabrics, and fashions. 95% of my clothes and 10% of my shoes are second hand.
          You could take a page out of OP4’s book and get a suit custom tailored. If money is a concern note that all wool suits need to be dry-cleaned. Wait for your favourite menswear store to have a sale and buy a suit then. A new suit should come with free tailoring as no one (of any gender) can buy a suit off the rack and have it fit properly.
          Best of luck!

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Oh, I’m all about thrifting, and I love the fact that by buying used, I’m not trapped into whatever the current look is. But it’s true that I didn’t think about the higher-end second hand shops.

            I can handle dry-cleaning costs. I know I wouldn’t need to get it cleaned each time I wear it, and besides it’s an ongoing small expense. I’m trying to avoid sticker-shock at the purchase end of things.

            Well, my wife and I talked this over last night so I’m starting to feel some clarity. A little, anyway. :)

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          I so have a prejudice against synthetics, but for this, it’s just about the looks. I’ll totally wear synthetics if the look is good. But on one shopping trip I looked some women’s slacks and they were made of some gross silky fabric and they *draped*. I want to wear pants, not girl-pants.

          Thank you for the suggestion — I’ll check out Uniqlo.

      3. Another androgynous lesbian*

        Hi! I think I may occupy a similar-ish place on the gender spectrum (I don’t really think of myself as butch but I do get called sir a lot) and I buy almost all of my clothes from the men’s section.

        I primarily shop at Uniqlo, but have also had good luck at Muji and Topman for pants. What tends to work for me is the skinniest fit they carry, a size or two up from what I would wear in women’s pants. You’ll probably need to suck it up and pay to get your pants hemmed, which isn’t too expensive and makes you look less like you’re wearing your dad’s clothes.

        If you get a suit, you’ll definitely need to get it tailored, even cisgender men do. Mine is from Topman. Their clothes are extremely low quality for the price, but they have decent looking suits in the $250-350 range. What I learned from the experience of buying a men’s suit is that suits are shockingly expensive! No wonder dudes will buy one and wear it to all formal occasions in their life.

        Anyway, good luck in your quest! I know from experience that figuring out what works for your body can be extremely arduous (I had to go to a ton of stores and try on every style and occasionally deal with a rude sales associate), but I feel much better now that I dress in a way that’s consistent with my gender identity.

    14. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      You: I do have a really nice men’s suit that I had custom tailored–
      Me: Wear this!!!

      A well-fitting suit looks professional on everyone, regardless of gender identity. Wear the suit and feel good about it. :)

    15. Aerin*

      I’m a butchy femme (don’t do much hair/makeup normally, equally comfortable in pants or skirts, evening wear is full femme) and I think I’ve always worn slacks to interviews. I could never afford a proper suit and they were just easier to mix and match. I actually own several pairs of men’s trousers because for a while they fit better, and they have much better pockets.

      Honestly, I think women everywhere on the butch/femme spectrum should wear suits and tuxes. When they’re tailored well they just look fantastic. Although that could be just me, since I’ve recently discovered I have A Thing for high-femme women in men’s suits.

  10. Gaia*

    OP 4 – wear the suit! The thing is, interview attire should be appropriate AND something that makes you feel confident. If it is one, but not the other, it will only distract.

  11. Junior Dev*

    #4 ‘Sometimes I come off as “boy hitting puberty late” rather than “competent adult” although I’ve learned how to compensate for that through nonverbal cues an body language.’

    I have a similar problem! I’m an overweight woman i (leading to baby face) in my late 20s and I like to wear my hair short and don’t usually wear makeup and I think a lot of people initially see me as a young man or teen boy, especially when I don’t wear a dress or skirt.

    Wondering, what are these verbal and body language cues?

    1. Thlayli*

      I’d like to know too. I look really young (a couple of years ago when I was in my mid-30s I got asked if my mam and dad were home when I opened the door!) and a previous boss told me to try to have more “gravitas” at work. Another boss told me I dress too young. Luckily in my current job I have a uniform so that’s not a factor. I would love to know more about non-verbal cues to display my age.

      1. Forever Young*

        I’m 30, probably look about 21-22, so I totally understand people thinking you are young. A few things:

        1) dress in slightly more formal clothing than everyone else. My office is business casual but I will often wear suiting dresses (no blazer, more natural make up to still look a bit more relaxed) that are a bit more structured and in muted colors (navy, black, gray). I like this look, but it can be a bummer to not wear certain silhouettes or colors because you look like a little kid.

        2) come in with an attitude of confidence. You are experienced, you are talented, you were hired because you are highly competent and will go far. Just keep reminding yourself of that (even on days you might not believe it)! Carry yourself with that attitude every day.
        3) Stand up straight, make eye contact when speaking with and to people, have a firm handshake, don’t say “um” and “like”.

        Finally, there are always people who will treat you like a kid, even if they know you aren’t. I’ve found several tall, female colleagues who have a subconscious bias against me because in their mind short + young face = child. There’s not much you can do about those people, but if you can get everyone around (and above) them to respect you and treat you like an adult, they become the minority and stick out to everyone else in their treatment of you (in a bad way), shooting themselves in the foot.

      2. Well Suited*

        OP 4 here. I think the key is to communicate that you are so confident and so unembarrassed about being mistaken as younger than you are that the other person decides not to challenge you on it anymore. Usually where I encounter this the most obviously is in in water cooler talks where someone will reference a movie that came out while I was in college, and make a statement about how I hadn’t been born yet. I will then say something like, “Oh yeah, I remember that one, I saw it during my first summer of graduate school.” I try to just conduct myself generally as being very confident and solid. I pay close attention during meetings, sit up straight, contribute only to move things along, and if someone makes some kind of reference to me being extremely young, I’ll usually say, “What a strange assumption to make,” and continue on. It doesn’t come up very often anymore. If you don’t do the thing where you realize that they did something embarrassing and then try to make them feel less embarrassed, they will continue to be embarrassed and won’t bring it up again. So I don’t smile, or laugh, or say, “It’s OK, it happens all the time.” I just react to it like I’m legitimately puzzled as to why anyone would say something like that. I also try to stay out of a lot of the social activities at work- planning birthday parties, kitchen drama, etc. People think of me as someone very serious about the actual work we are doing and the mission of our agency and that definitely gets me taken more seriously.

        I also realized recently that I need to up the ante on what I wear, especially when I’m going to regional meetings with people who know me less well. I used to do consulting in schools, so I needed to look put together but also wear clothes that I could move in. I once showed up to do an observation in a blue polo shirt and khaki pants, which also happened to be the school uniform. I actually had someone stop me and ask me for a hall pass. I was substitute teaching for a couple of years and this happened all the time there too. I don’t go into schools much anymore but when I do I try to dress up more so that I won’t be mistaken for a 14 year old on an unauthorized bathroom break.

        Big exception to the above suggestions about being serious and not putting people at ease is when I’m working with people on my caseload. I’m kind of a hybrid social worker/ state bureaucrat, and while I don’t often spend a lot of time with the people on my caseload, I have a lot of relative power over their lives and am often meeting in their home with them. So on days when I’m in the field I wear the polo shirts even if they make me look younger, because I think it must be very scary to have a formally dressed state employee show up to your home to help you with something, and if someone makes a reference to me being too young, I assume it’s because they don’t trust me and they’re worried about what will happen if I can’t do my job. I will usually give them a short description of my resume, without dates, because mid thirties still seems young for some folks- graduated from these schools, worked in these settings, have been with the state for four years. I usually say something like, “It’s a complicated system but I’ve learned a lot through the years. I’ll do my best to help you get through it, and if I need help I know where to go to find it.”

        Later on if I can tell that they’re obviously a big sports fan of some specific team, I’ll try to reference a really amazing play that happened about twenty years ago or longer. I have a ridiculously encyclopedic memory for sports. It can put people at ease to know that you both remember something like that.

        Thanks for the support- it’s really good to read the comments on here and realize I’m not the only one of whatever I am. :-)

        1. Ali G*

          You’re totally getting this job (in your new suit!) :)
          Another strategy I used a lot was to reference when I was born. So depending on the conversation I would say something like “Well I lived the 80’s” or “being in college in the 90’s will do that to you” or even “well I am not a Millennial so I have no idea what [insert latest internet thing] is.” (that’s not to rag on Millennials – I just need to separate my age from them because I don’t want to be seen as the 20-something cohort when I am almost 40).

          1. TNT*

            Ali G- Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, so if you’re almost 40 you either are one or are just grazing the edge.

        2. General Ginger*

          Oh, that sports thing is a really good suggestion. Definitely stealing that, thank you!

        3. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

          I wish I worked with more people like you. You sound like a great co-worker!! Good luck with the interview, I have a feeling you will knock it out of the park.

        4. Thlayli*

          Thanks – I do some of those things already I suppose (mentioning things that happened years ago for example).

          Good luck in your interview.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        I’m another one of those people who looks 12, but there’s been a significant drop-off in people assuming my age recently (you can tell they’re trying to work it out and then they give up.) I’ve been trying to clarify what it is, and I think it’s a sense of world-weariness and confidence combined with owning the fact that I look young and not being apologetic about it. I don’t try and dress older – I’ll just look like a 19 year old trying too hard to be taken seriously, which would defeat the point. And when people do try and peg me for a kid there’s a particular look that really does the trick. It’s hard to describe. Mildly amused, but with a pinch of pity.

        Only problem is that then everyone starts assuming you’re a millennia old vampire.

    2. Lizzy May*

      I can’t speak for body language, but how do you accessorize? I know backpacks are practical for people who commute but I would read that as younger than a nice cross-body bag. What quality of jacket do you wear? Are you wearing dress shoes or something more casual? And then, colors. Women have more leeway in terms of colors (the patriarchy is a ridiculous thing gendering colors but there it is) so if I saw someone in red or green or yellow, I’d be more likely to assume someone was a woman. Of course, some people don’t like to wear color and that’s fine too, but it’s a cue I personally look for.

  12. Phoenix Programmer*

    #1 I feel your annonyance. People who have been with orgs a long time not only tend to have the higher benefits from seniority, but often are even on completely different benefits systems that they were grandfathered into. Alison’s scripts are great! Just be matter of fact about your benefits.

    1. Graciosa*

      The interesting thing is that as you move up in your career – not just in one organization – your vacation is fairly likely to go up. Companies want to recruit higher level people who don’t want to give up their vacation, so there may be more vacation offered either by level or by negotiation, regardless of seniority.

      The downside is that at those higher levels you are more likely to be expected to be available on “vacation.”

      But I do feel for the OP – two weeks is pretty anemic.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Right, I don’t know why you need to be extra gentle or tiptoe around the topic like it’s a shame or a secret. “I don’t really have that choice. I only get 10 days total off a year, so if I want to take a day off at any other point in the year, this is all I can take.”

      Or just, “I’d love to, but I don’t accrue / have enough leave for that.”

      Or even, “You do know I only get 10 PTO days a year, right?” Said matter-of-factly, and with a neutral-to-pleasant expression, this is not snarky or rude, it’s just how it is.

      1. Thlayli*

        I would actually see the boss’s comments as an opportunity to ask for more vacation time!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yes, exactly! The organization’s policy as a whole is probably two weeks to newcomers, but OP’s boss clearly understands the value of time off and, to her credit, understands that it has value for her staff and not just herself. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the boss would be willing to negotiate with HR to get OP a better deal.

          1. OP1*

            We’re a very small organization (under 15 people) without any formal HR, and my boss is the director — so I’m pretty sure if she wanted to give me more days off she easily could. Last fall I did ask about additional time off because my family was planning a trip to visit my brother, who lives in a very far away country. I’d been thinking of just meeting my parents for the second week of the trip, since that was all the vacation time I had left, but my boss encouraged me to go on the whole trip. However, she didn’t offer me additional vacation days; I had to take a week unpaid. Worth it for this particular trip, but that’s certainly not something I can regularly afford to do.

            1. AdminX2*

              I think that gives you the PERFECT out to her comments. “I know, last year was great to take a long break, but I can’t afford an extra week without pay this year, you know how it goes.”

              I can see that might still be too direct, but do be assured the boss is the one making this awkward.

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              I don’t think that’s too direct at all. Again, said with a neutral-to-pleasant expression, “I can’t afford to take any time off unpaid” is not rude or snarky, it’s a fact. I mean, MOST people can’t do that.

            3. Nita*

              Wait, so… she knows about your vacation situation. She talks the talk, but she won’t walk the walk. Pretty pathetic, and I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I hope you can shut down her so-called encouragement of extra vacation by being very blunt, and/or find a better job.

      2. LarsTheRealGirl*

        Exactly this. Why is this something you’ve been skirting around, OP?

        I don’t even know what response I could come up with to questions like that other than “I don’t have any more days off.”

        1. EddieSherbert*

          +1 – I agree that letting her know you only have 10 days a year is a completely normal response (especially since she keeps bringing it up).

    3. MicroManagered*

      UGH In the way of higher-ups who are completely out of touch:

      This made me think of a Grandboss I used to have who, on a slow Friday afternoon, would go around and tell people “Why don’t you go ahead and get out of here?” I was in an hourly position, and one of only two hourly employees who reported up through her. She was used to thinking of everyone as salaried, so she’d say this and I’d be left not knowing if she was making me use two hours of vacation? Do I just get paid for two hours for free? My own boss eventually heard her do it and told me I wasn’t actually allowed to leave, which seemed unfair somehow. Talk about annoying!

      1. Triplestep*

        I have had bosses who do this and even when you’re salaried it’s annoying.

        I call this “Magnanimous Boss Syndrome”, when managers do things just because “people like bosses who do these things.” Bestowing the gift of time is one of these things. But since I’m an adult I am able to manage my own time, and since I’m salaried I am expected to do so. If I’m in the middle of something I’m not going to leave just yet, thanks anyway.

        Contrariwise, if it’s the Friday before a three-day weekend and I know traffic is going to be bad, I may just decide to leave a little early because I have have already worked forty hours by some time on Thursday typically.

        Either way, I want to be treated like a grown up.

        OP#1, my suspicion is that your boss is experiencing a combination of “Magnanimous Boss Syndrome”, and either forgetfulness over how much PTO you actually have, or guilt that she has so much more than you. I would simply tell her (as others have suggested) that you are saving it up. Or you could ask if she’s suggesting you be given more and open a conversation about increasing it.

        1. jackers*

          Huh. I never thought my employees would have been upset with me for offering to them to go home early. In my last management role, I had 4 salaried employees and about mid-afternoon on the day before a holiday break or long weekend I would almost always send out an email saying “If your workload allows, please feel free to start your break/holiday/time off early.”

          1. Triplestep*

            If they are expected to work whatever hours it takes to do their jobs and/or meet deadlines, wouldn’t it follow that they should also have some level of autonomy when it comes to leaving early before a break or long weekend?

            In your case, if you know ahead that you’re going to send that e-mail, I wonder why you don’t just make it a policy and let the adults who work for you decide if they even want to schlep into work that day? Maybe they want to work from home that morning, or take a half day of PTO. Why make a show of telling them “You may be excused”?

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              Agree with this. Getting to the office is a major effort for me. Doing all of the scrambling to get up, get out the door, and fight my way to work only to be randomly told to skip home shortly after is a lot of wasted work. I’ll take it, obviously, but I’d rather be told in advance so I can plan accordingly and efficiently.

            2. Emily K*

              My office has summer Fridays where we can all leave at 3. We are all salaried with flexible hours, but to me the difference of having it officially sanctioned by the boss is I don’t have to keep checking my email until 5 the way I would if I left early on a normal day, where my own workload might allow me to knock off early but my coworkers still need/expect me to be available until the end of business hours. If management says we can go home at 3, nobody will email me at 3 asking for something by 5 that I would have otherwise been obligated to stay and complete if the only reason I was going home was that I’d wrapped up my work for the day.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Schaudenfriday: the sudden feeling that you’re the only one who hasn’t gone home for the weekend yet.

          2. ContentWrangler*

            I don’t think anyone would be upset about that approach! That’s how management at my current job handles things. But I could see someone finding it irritating if it’s more of a random thing that happens from a manager wandering about and suggesting people leave early. They may not have the perspective to know if people are actually busy.

            1. Triplestep*

              I wouldn’t say that I am upset about the approach, but I don’t love it. It does not make me feel valued if I need to plan my own time day in and day out, but suddenly the Friday before a holiday or long weekend and I need to be “released” by the boss.

              My last boss said (when someone asked if he’d be letting us go early the Friday before a long weekend) “You’re all adults. I expect you to get your work done. If you want to knock off early, then knock off early.” This is more my speed!

              1. zora*

                I feel like the problem with Jackers’ approach is doing it one off on that day. I would recommend being up front about it at the beginning of the year/when a new person starts, that this is the policy for holidays/long weekends so they know before Friday morning that it’s a thing. Throwing it out at the last minute feels a little confusing about whether I’m really in charge of my own schedule, or I’m supposed to wait for permission to leave.

                Then the email that week is just reminding them: “A quick reminder, if you want to plan your week to leave early on Friday and get a jump start on your weekend, please do!”

              2. jackers*

                For clarity on why I felt like I had to “release them”, this was a team that was responsible for supporting a field sales team and would take a lot of ad hoc requests outside of standard work, so while there was flexibility in their roles and no timeclock to answer to, there was still an expectation to be available 8-5-ish on a regular basis regardless if they didn’t have anything urgent to work on. Any extreme fluctuations outside of that schedule (have to leave 2 hours early for appt, etc. type of stuff), I expected to be communicated to me just as an FYI type of thing – I was a “working manager” so I was typically the backup for any of them when they were out of the office. I’ve been with my company for almost 20 years and I do feel this is the cultural norm here so I’m hoping I hadn’t offended any of them.

                Your take on it is definitely never a perspective I considered, but I understand what you and the others are saying and appreciate the feedback. For a multitude of reasons I’ve decided management is not for me, so not an issue now, but if I ever get into leadership again, I will certainly reconsider my approach.

                1. Autumnheart*

                  I think you’re being reasonable. I also work on a team that does work that is very time-sensitive and directly customer-facing, and while we have flexibility around appointments and such, we also have core hours where it is expected that we’ll be available to handle things that come up. If it’s the afternoon before a holiday and we have everything pretty well buttoned up, then the director will tell us we’re allowed to knock off early. And of course if you have something critical that needs to be finished before you leave, then yeah, you gotta finish it. You can’t be like “Director said we could leave! Smell ya later!” and bail on it.

                  I know I’m trusted to be an adult and finish my work, but at the same time, things come up at the last minute and management needs to be able to count on people to be available for it. A formal communication is good for keeping everyone on the same page.

          3. CM*

            I think this is fine (although I understand why some commenters are annoyed by this) but only because you mention that all 4 of your employees are salaried. MicroManagered’s and OP#1’s bosses are both doing a similarly paternalistic “why don’t you go ahead and leave early / take more vacation” but they are oblivious to the fact that their employees CAN’T do that because they don’t have the privilege of being salaried/having plenty of PTO. It’s basically “let them eat cake” for lower-level employees.

    4. MLB*

      In my experience, 2 weeks to start is the norm. My current job is the only place that has given me more. Regardless, I’d be more pissed at the fact that her manager is seemingly clueless and unintentionally rubbing her lack of vacation in her face. Being her manager, she should know how much time off she gets. I wouldn’t beat around the bush when the manager mentions it again. Not that she has to be rude or combative with her response, but a simple “I’d love to take more time, but I only have 10 days a year” is sufficient”.

      1. Nita*

        Agreed. I don’t know how the manager would not have this info, but she definitely needs a reminder. Her behavior sounds incredibly annoying, to say the least.

    5. Ms. Meow*

      Yes, I agree. I was lucky that at my company we start with 3 weeks of vacation, but 4 of my 5 peers and my manager all have 30+ years at the company and the 6 weeks of vacation that comes with it. My go-to script is “I have to save my PTO for the holidays!” with a cheery smile. Even if it’s not 100% true, everyone understands it and usually lets it drop.

    6. Chaordic One*

      This is really annoying.

      An interesting variation of this is the boss, or sometimes the coworker, who makes inappropriate comments along the lines of, “You MUST visit Paris in the spring.” “You MUST visit such and such a spa and have their bodywrap! It’s too die for.” Just ridiculous things that I could never afford on my salary. I guess they really are clueless and out-of-touch.

      1. Bowl of Oranges*

        My boss does that and it drives me crazy. I really want to respond with “You know how much you pay me, right? With what money do you think I am going to do that?”

        It’s especially fun since he also gets annoyed any time the topic of raises come up–even if it’s just in general (and not actually someone asking for one, though he gets annoyed by that, too). It’s really fun sitting in meetings and listening him talk about how cost of living raises are BS, then hear him talk about his expensive vacations and how you really need to do this thing for vacation.

        1. AdminX2*

          Just adding to the vent! One job (small family business of course) I’d been doing the job of 2.5 people after the intern/sons gf left and the other worker scrammed with no notice for over 3 years, and doing it great. The boss and his wife bought brand new SUVs over the summer, then when I asked for a raise in the fall they talked about how it hadn’t been that great a year and would have to see. I was gone 6 months later.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My husband ran into this as a teen–the boss at an electric motor company told everyone that alas, there was no money for raises, and then the *next week* comes around with a brand new car for all the employees to slaver over. Some of the workers did not react well…(though they kept their gripes till the boss was gone, they weren’t stupid).

  13. Drago Cucina*

    OP #4, I agree, the tailored suit sounds amazing and appropriate. You’re just as likely to find me in a pencil skirt and twinset as slacks and black oxfords. I also have *very* short hair. I used to go to a barber because that was the only place that did it short enough. The point is that the professional look for women can be varied enough to be in your comfort zone.

    1. Well Suited*

      I appreciate the support! This felt like a much bigger deal than it evidently was. Glad I suspended my “don’t read the comments” policy.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I think that your overall thoughts/confusion/whatever about your body is making you way overthink the suit. The suit is fine. Good luck in being comfortable in your skin, however you get there.

      2. Clorinda*

        Your suit sounds perfect. I am cis female and have a couple of tailored men’s-wear styled women’s pantsuits and a co-worker once told me I looked like a professor/assassin. That androgynous style is professional and a little scary, which is absolutely what you want if you look younger than you want. Also, there’s no faking the confidence that comes from wearing clothes that make you feel like yourself.

        1. General Ginger*

          Clorinda, that sounds like the best compliment. And wholehearted agreement with your last line: it’s really such a great confidence boost to have a look that is completely you.

        2. Lora*

          At first I was gonna say, “wow, how do you look like an assassin? That sounds way cool!”

          Then I realized that if you ARE an assassin it’s probably best to remain inconspicuous, and I should stick to my middle aged nerd lady uniform if I want a lucrative career in smuggling, assassination and general evildoing.

          This is my new retirement / second career plan, I think.

        3. Drago Cucina*

          I want to look like an assassin. Perfect for meetings with elected officials and boards :-D

      3. Millennial in VT*

        Wear the suit. Being in the LGBTQ community, and identifying androgynous but femme-leaning, and having a friend who also is in the community and identifies as a butch lesbian I know how I dress brings me confidence but I also know my friend and how she dresses brings out the best in her. It helps her get into the professional mindset, to be herself, and in the particular line work she and I are involved in that is super important. It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought, and energy, on who you want to base your fashion sense off of and spent some time figuring out what’s right for your body and for you. The least important concern you should have is trying to be anyone other than yourself and the most important concern should be acing the interview with the skills and talent you obviously have.

      4. General Ginger*

        Well Suited, I think a suit tailored to you is always going to look a thousand times better than non-tailored options. Rock the suit!

        FWIW, when I was still very actively trying to figure out my gender stuff, I really overthought thinks like clothing and ‘traditional gendered activities’, including things I hadn’t really thought twice about wearing or doing before. Literally this track running in my head, “am I watching this Packers game right now because I actually do enjoy football, or am I somehow trying to perform extra masculinity and be on par with my guy friends, or is this some kind of #goals thing about the super fit, super masculine football players, or is it just an activity that’s fun to do with friends” for the entirety of a Sunday football game. So it’s possible you’re really focused on the validity of the suit because of your overall thoughts about gender presentation at the moment. Not trying to armchair diagnose, but maybe something to think about?

        1. Well Suited*

          Oh yeah, I’m sure that has something to do with it. There was a thing for a while in my office where people were wearing ties on Thursday. I forget why, but there were a couple of women who started doing it too, and even though I would be super happy to wear ties to work I just couldn’t do it because I was afraid that people would…know I was queer? Know I liked wearing ties? I don’t know, it just felt like something that would be different if I did it. Of course, it wouldn’t actually be different if I did it at all, because despite what my brain tells me, the world does not actually spend all of it’s spare time trying to figure me out. And thank god for that!

      5. Drago Cucina*

        I’m glad that you have received the support you needed. Thank you also for sharing ideas that are helpful. I’m going to blatantly steal some and share some of them with my son. When he shaves his beard he looks 16. At 28 he doesn’t find it amusing.

  14. Audenc*

    OP 4 – I’ll echo all those who say wear the suit! You’re in an environment where you’re already accepted as who you are, as confirmed by your coworker friend. Embrace that and don’t look back!

  15. Triple Anon*

    #4 is relevant to my interests. I’m still trying to figure out how to do gender expression in more formal or professional attire. I’m (hopefully) going to be doing some interviewing soon, and may return to a job where people dress in a more traditionally professional way. And I’m dreading the politics! There are always some people who are offended that I wear pants and no makeup. Then there are always a few women who try to indirectly suss out if I’m attracted to women, or assume that I am. I don’t know how to say, “I’m masculine on some days, more feminine on others, but often pretty androgynous, and I like men,” at work when no one’s directly asked me about it. That has led to some awkward situations. The point being that dressing as anything other than femme seems to raise questions for some people, and I want to get better at responding to that. A lot of the time, it seems well meaning. Just awkward at work.

    I’m strategizing to translate my casual style to a professional one – the same thing but more polished and formal. If only professional looking clothes were more gender neutral. I want some nice pants that look like a person of any gender could wear them. Same with shirts. Thankfully shoes are pretty easy. I wear mens shoes and have only gotten compliments on them.

    Anyway, I’ve done better in interviews when dressed in a more gender neutral way. I think it’s because I feel more comfortable and act more confident. When I try to go femme, I’m playing a role, and it’s a bit forced and uncomfortable, and I think people pick up on that. And I don’t answer the questions as well because I’m not as relaxed.

    I’m tired after a long work day and maybe not expressing this as well as I’d like, but hopefully the gist of it got across.

    1. Rosemary7391*

      People get offended when you wear trousers and no make up…? How strange. Despite being pretty girly in other aspects, I frequently turn up at work in trousers and never wear make up. Is this a specific culture you’re in or have I been utterly oblivious to this? Because I would say just wear what you’re comfortable in but I’m worried I’m missing something…

      1. GermanGirl*

        Yes, that struck me as odd as well. I almost never wear makeup, whether I wear slacks, pantsuit or a skirt. I haven’t gotten any comments on it yet.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Please check your clothes: are there darts anywhere? (Especially in a blazer.) Elastic? Wavy hems on the sleeves? There are SO many ways that women’s clothes are marked as “women’s” and you might not notice it if you’re not trying to avoid it. When you’re wearing pants do your ankles show? And what kind of shoes are you wearing? That’s usually the big “tell”. (Hairstyle is a biggie, too. Very very few women wear actual men’s hairstyles.)

          Example: I don’t much care which side my shirt buttons on, and I actively like darts in my shirts because boobs, but I won’t wear a wavy-sleeve-hem shirt outside the house. (Disclaimer was bc I have some seasonal pajamas where the top has that.) It’s really really hard to find patterned fabrics that aren’t flowered, but I do get sick of solids. I was in heaven for a year or two when stripes were really fashionable. I tend to wear very plain shoes (shout-out to Shoes For Crews) and won’t wear heels or ballet flats or really anything with no padding between me and the pavement, and that knocks out about 95% of all women’s shoes.

      2. restingbutchface*

        There is a difference between wearing pants and dressing butch or androgenous. A straight, femme, cis girl in pants and no make up looks like, well, a girl in pants and no make up. When I wear a suit and no makeup I look butch or like a slightly femme boy and there is a huge difference in reaction, trust me.

        1. notanon*

          I am a straight cis woman with very short hair and I never wear makeup. When I wear (women’s! boot cut!) jeans, flip flops, and a tshirt to the supermarket, it is disturbing the number of over-the-hill white men who sneer at me, tell me in no uncertain terms that my “kind” doesn’t belong in public, and swear at me. Small town conservative midwest US at its finest.

          1. restingbutchface*

            That sucks, I’m sorry the homophobia is leaking on to you. And there’s no response for you without just shouting I LOVE MEN and then *you’ll* look like the strange one.

            1. Gaia*

              I’m not gonna lie…I kind of want to see that happen, though. Not that I want anyone subjected to such gross and inexcusable behavior. But I’d love to see the look on the creep’s face…

        2. Sylvan*

          +1. I’ve gotten very different reactions to looking “butch” and to wearing “menswear-inspired” clothes. I’ve seen it happen with others, too.

          Tangentially, whether you wear your hair short or long also makes a difference.

      3. Thlayli*

        Yeah that’s really weird. I could count on one hand the times I’ve worn a skirt or dress to work in my life, and I only wear makeup when I have a presentation or interview. I can’t imagine anyone being offended by that.

        This must be in an unusually traditional area or industry?

        1. Triple Anon*

          No, not at all. I’ve gotten it in different industries in different parts of the country, and often from people who don’t identify as conservative.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Homo- and trans-phobia is pretty pernicious and I’ve seen it crop up in all kinds of places in the U.S., both rural south and big northern cities. I’m straight and cis woman, but there is a real difference between me skipping make up and wearing pants and someone who looks butch or androgynous. And yeah, some people like the jackass in the grocery store is looking for the chance to be openly homophobic, but I’ve also been startled by the phobia I’ve heard out of the mouths of people you think are uh, “allies.” Gender norms are pervasive.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Sorry, I should clarify — there is a real difference in the sense of how people react to how I look and present in pants and no makeup and how someone who is butch or androgynous. There shouldn’t be, but I’ve witnessed it–basically, it comes down to I’m not wearing makeup but I still fit into someone’s idea of being feminine. Once you veer outside of that, people can be awful about it.

          2. Triple Anon*

            I’ve noticed that people’s politics and actual comfort levels with things in real life are two separate things. Sometimes they go together, but sometimes they don’t.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s strange to me, but there are definitely subcultures scattered around where X that is banal in many places is striking and worthy of comment.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        I’ve often worn pants to work and I almost *never* wear makeup. Very occasional lip gloss, at most. I used to wear eyeshadow but my allergies meant I was rubbing my eyes frequently enough it was all gone by lunchtime, so I gave up. I’ve gotten more comfortable with wearing skirts and dresses lately, but many women in my office wear pants.

        I’ve never worked anywhere that was exceptionally formal in dress code, though. Maybe it’s different in more formal offices.

        1. Triple Anon*

          This has happened to me in more casual offices. But it mostly came from individuals who had rigid ideas about gender. The kind of people who think women should do certain kinds of jobs because that’s what they’re good at and vice versa, that any middle ground comes from people trying to do “unnatural” things “because of feminism,” or whatever. I’m sure we’ve all met people like that. Or at least the more recent incidents were along those lines.

          1. Triple Anon*

            PS – I’ve lived in liberal and conservative areas, urban and rural. I get this everywhere, but it does seem to come from individuals with certain attitudes, regardless of who they vote for, what if any religion they practice, etc.

      6. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        *shrug*. Depends on the industry and the role. In my industry – if the job ad has “polished” as a job requirement (there are only specific types of roles or departments that are likely to have this), what that really means is that heels, visible (though tasteful) makeup, purposefully coiffed hair (whatever your texture – it better look like effort had been put into it) and designer (or clothes that could be mistaken for designer) are not hard requirements per se, but would probably be used as “culture mismatch” if not participated in.

        I don’t agree with it, by any means, but it’s pretty widespread/common.

      7. Jennifer Thneed*

        Take a look at women’s pants, even “work” pants but especially dress pants. These days, they are almost always very slender at the ankle, which is something that men’s pants NEVER do except when skinny jeans are in.

    2. restingbutchface*

      Your post makes perfect sense to me. I’d say dress in a way that makes you feel powerful and genuine but let’s be real, you and I know that not everyone will be thrilled to see you dressing as you want to.

      I wouldn’t and don’t take questions on my outfit or presentation. It’s rude and after a couple of knock backs people learn manners.

      Nobody should have to announce their sexuality but again, real world. If it’s from a gay woman, she probably just wants to see if you’re an ally. There is a real need not to be the only one, whatever that “one” is. Doesn’t need to be awkward, just do what I do to avoid the need to come out in a big public drama. “Oh, my girlfriend said that movie was great”. “Yeah? My ex girlfriend went to school near there”. But, uh, with the genders reversed obviously. Sure, you could be bi and still get some attention, but unless it crosses the line into bad behaviour or you feel harassed, what’s so bad with people thinking you might be queer?

      Whenever I am freaking out about not fitting in (a regular occurrence) I ask myself if I want to live my life on my terms or if I want to live a life that prioritises other people’s need to be comfortable over my need to be authentic.

      Be you, be prepared and don’t feel bad about shutting down intrusive conversations.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Also, your experience is my experience and I know it happens, so don’t get detailed by anyone insinuating that it isn’t a real problem for people outside the gender binary because they wear pants. It’s not about skirts or pants. It’s about people judging you as Not Normal and clothing is just one way to do that. Sadly for the judgey judges, that attitude is on the wrong side of history.

        1. Triple Anon*

          Yes, I think they comment on the clothes because it’s easier, but it’s really about being outside the binary overall. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding that. The comments tend to be about how I don’t share their values, like I must be acting masculine because of my politics or other views on things, not because it’s just who I am.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          Yeah, I think there’s a real difference between low-effort femme (no makeup, jeans, ponytail, etc) and butch. The former has plausible deniability. You’re still “normal”, you just haven’t invested the extra time into your presentation. The latter is, at least at some level, a political statement. If you’re presenting as butch, you’re saying that you don’t fit into the social category labeled “girl” – and you’re not only at peace with this, you want others to know about it, so they don’t bother trying to stuff you in that box.

          Some people do take this personally. They’ve built their lives around gender roles, so you should too. (Don’t wanna, don’t have to, so there. But if you think that’s not political…there are a lot of people who would like to know what rock you’ve been living under, so they can move in with you.)

          1. Triple Anon*

            Well, it’s about as political as everything else in life, but it’s not a choice. When I said it wasn’t political, I meant that I didn’t become this way after going to college and learning about feminism, which is what a lot of people seem to think. I started out as a masculine kid. I had femininity forced on me. It was really hard. I spent a lot of my childhood playing a role and not getting to do many things that I enjoyed. It felt really oppressive. I just shut down and wouldn’t talk to people because I got so much hate (mostly at home) for being masculine. After I moved out, I slowly went back to being myself. I had to ease into it, testing the waters to see what would result in loss of employment or worse situations and what would be ok. But I learned that I really can’t fake anything. When I work in restaurants, I always end up in the kitchen with the dudes because I do well in that environment, doing that kind of work. I’m a terrible front of the house person. Which isn’t to say that those jobs have to be gendered . . . This is a thorny subject. It’s hard to discuss it without rehashing gender stereotypes, and I don’t want to do that at all! Anyway, going with the flow and being yourself is political in that some would say you should play a traditional role instead. In that light, it’s a choice. But it’s more like not owning a car because you don’t like cars and just prefer to walk or bike – politically relevant, and political in the eyes of others, but motivated by your personality and not your politics.

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              I was a masculine kid too, and that part wasn’t a choice. I wish there was a better vocabulary to talk about this, but there’s definitely a “masculine”, competitive, task-focused style and a “feminine”, relationship-oriented style. While most people, including me, can switch if they need to, the feminine style always felt like writing with the wrong hand – I was clumsy and awkward, but when I could switch back to at least neutral mode, I was suddenly fine.

              What was (partly) a choice is deciding I was okay with this, rather than treating it as a defect I needed to fix. I’ve recognized my social defects before, and fixed them. (For instance, I used to be really bad at recognizing facial expressions. Now I’m not. There were flashcards involved.) I could’ve gotten better at femininity, at least somewhat. Instead, I adopted the well-understood signals for “my default social style is masculine” – a men’s haircut works wonders in that regard. People take one look at me and switch to a masculine or neutral style, which goes a long way towards reducing the number of awkward misunderstandings in my life.

              (I say it was partly a choice, because I’m aware that I’m privileged as hell on this one. I’m from the coastal tech bubble, where this is all normal and understood.)

              For me, the political part of this…if I really thought that gender roles were an important part of the social order, I would have tried a lot harder. Instead, I think it’s absurd to inspect a baby’s genitals and then decide what personality and interests they’re supposed to have, and I think we’d all be better off with less of that. So I take more than a little joy in being visibly different, especially in contexts where it’s clear that I’m thriving anyway (e.g. giving seminars in my field…or hanging out with the red-state family). This wasn’t my original intent; you can blame this part on college and feminism. But I’ve gotten decidedly less willing to femme for convenience, because I’ve got representing to do.

              1. Triple Anon*

                It is a challenging thing to talk about. Because I didn’t match my assigned gender, I always thought something was a little off about the whole gender thing – that the idea of girls being this and boys being that was fundamentally inaccurate. I don’t think I could have believed in traditional gender roles. I have tried, but it’s hard because it’s so contrary to my experiences. So, on a personal level, in application to my own life, is doesn’t seem very political. It’s just the way I am. I can’t fake being good at multitasking and bad and bad at navigation, for example. But it is a political topic these days. It’s a weird situation to be in – things you can’t change about yourself being considered political or radical or whatever the perception is. I’m not really comfortable with that. I just want to say, “This is just how I am. Like my hair color. Don’t assume that I have certain politics or read certain books because of this.”

    3. B*

      I’ve worn pants and no makeup most all of my professional life. Almost no one’s made a stink about it; I guess one supervisor encouraged me to “wear more fun things” (I think she meant femmie boots, lower cut tops, more sexy stuff; she was a woman and I guess thought my button down mens style shirts were too conservative?). FWIW I’m in medicine and that supervisor was a doc on one of many, many rotations; I sort of checked in with a (male) classmate and they were just like “what no, why did she tell you to dress different?”
      Frankly the work place has no business knowing/asking who you want to date unless maybe it’s someone thinking of asking you out at an after-work social hour*
      *fraught with peril but potentially acceptable

      If other people are being weird about it, return weird to sender if they say anything. I know that’s actually easier to say on the internet than do in the moment, but FYI as long as you are well groomed and look sharp, it’s really weird for people to get snarky you don’t conform to a particular gender aesthetic, and your private life is no business of theirs.

    4. Gaia*

      I’m a cis female and I get the reactions your getting to this comment, but I stopped and thought about it.

      I wear pants almost exclusively. I’ve probably worn a skirt or dress to work less than 10 times in 15 years. I rarely wear makeup. No one has ever commented so at first it seemed so strange that you encounter it often. But, then I thought about it more. No, I don’t wear make-up, but I do have “traditionally female” styled hair. Yes, I wear pants, but they are fitted and my tops are fitted women’s tops.

      I’m sorry you experience this. I’m sorry my first reaction was to question your experience. Thank you for sharing this, it is important to hear and understand.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Agree. I often don’t wear makeup. But I have long hair. I wear pants that are women’s pants, and often wear them with strappy sandals with bows on them. I look feminine. No one gives me side-eye when I wear pants, because I always look feminine.

        But liken it to men’s commands to women to smile more. That’s a thing we all recognize happens, right? That women are expected for some reason to just… smile at random people all the time. For that to be a thing that happens so frequently (and oh my god it does), plenty of people must have an expectation that we should perform our gender in certain ways. For those of us who just present more feminine (even without makeup) surely we can imagine that some people’s reactions would scale up fast and get hostile when they see someone not performing gender “correctly” in ways they view as more serious.

      2. Triple Anon*

        Yeah, this conversation is eye opening for me. I appreciate people weighing in about their own experiences. I think this must have to do with being outside the binary overall. I probably get comments about the pants and no makeup because those are the easiest things to talk about.

        1. Gaia*

          I agree. I think it is easy for us who fall into the “standard binary” expectation to think that because we aren’t challenged for doing thing X or doing thing Y that no one will be. But you’re right, if you are outside of the binary in other ways, I imagine this is much more likely to get called out and the mouth breathers that think this is appropriate are also the type that will go for the “low hanging fruit” of makeup and clothes.

    5. TardyTardis*

      That is really strange, I wore slacks and oxfords (no heels for my oddly-shaped feet, thank you) and no makeup at work for over a decade–but then, my ExJob was in a semi-rural area where the woman with the shortest haircut was National President of the Cattlewoman’s Association, and our work social level was low enough that we felt the bosses should be happy we came to work in clothes (though in winter, *lots* of clothes). Plus, the Big Boss would cruise through the office in his blue jeans, short sleeve shirt and cowboy boots whenever management talked about dress codes.

  16. Tim Tam Girl*

    #2: Alison, does it change the dynamic at all that the lolspeaker is a manager? I know the LW said that she doen’t report to this manager, but in most of my past workplaces it would have been considered inappropriate to be that blunt in an e-mail to a superior that I didn’t know well enough to speak casually to – and I didn’t work in particularly strict hierarchies or formal/’traditional’ industries.

    Would it at least be advisable for the LW to give their manager a heads-up that this is going on, in case there’s blow-back from the lolspeaking manager?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, in this case she says they’re friends and joke around on their breaks together, so it’s fine for her to just be to the point about it. But if they weren’t friends and the coworker was above her in the hierarchy, then yeah, that does change the language I’d use. In that case, just something like, “I have trouble understanding lolspeak! Can you translate this for me?”

      (Of course, it would even weirder for her to be doing lolspeak with someone she wasn’t friends with!)

    2. Spooky*

      What’s really weird about it to me is that all the lolspeak mentioned here is ancient – most lolspeakers were trying to be cool and trendy, but “ohai” when the way of the dinosaur over a decade ago. At least update your memes, dude.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that made me laugh. (Although I do still say O HAI to my cat, but I am an old!)

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Hey, I’m an old too, and I use that (with a specific set of friends) AND I have my own pun about it that amuses me no end. I like to write “Ojai”, which is a town in California and it’s pronounced exactly the same.

    3. MLB*

      That would drive me up a freaking wall if I had to deal with someone who sent me IMs like that, and since I have no filter, I’d probably end up saying something that would get me a talkin to :-) I can’t stand it when people post things like that on social media either. But I’m old. #getoffmylawn

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I also have some trouble parsing text-speak into English, which is weird to me because I don’t have any sort of linguistic or reading issues that I’m aware of. My brain just can’t seem to wrap itself around “CU 2nite” meaning “See you tonight!” I have to have my husband read my mother’s text messages aloud to me sometimes because damned if I can make heads or tails of them reading them to myself.

      2. TardyTardis*

        You should see my husband and I trying to translate emojis. Endless fun for the aging!

  17. blargity blarg*

    #4: Dress for the job you want — as the person you are! Best wishes as you navigate both the interview and your gender expression. Lots of people have your back and we are cheering YOU on. <3

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Absolutely this!!!!!

      I am a cis-gender woman but I despise women’s suits and makeup, I always feel like a fake in interviews because that’s not how I present myself on a daily basis. I’ve gone through tons of interviews over the years like this and netted two offers out of 30+ interviews. Last round of interviewing I said forget that I’m dressing how I feel comfortable and would present myself every day. I know I interviewed better than I ever have before. 3 interviews 2 offers. Some of that is Alison’s excellent advice but I would like to believe that feeling like I wasn’t faking it helped a lot too.

      1. Well Suited*

        Thanks! I appreciate the support and knowing that I’m not the only one coming up against this!

      2. Lily Rowan*

        YES. I don’t know that “clothes make the [person],” but starting off feeling like you’re in someone else’s costume is not the way to present your best self. And if the person interviewing you has an issue with what you’re wearing for the interview, you can be sure they’ll have an issue with what you’re wearing to work every day, and you know you don’t want to work for that person!

      3. Jen RO*

        I’m also a cis woman and I just don’t feel comfortable in a skirt (in my case, it’s because I am extremely self-conscious about my legs). So… I just don’t wear skirts. No one has ever commented on it.

  18. Violet Fox*

    #4 Wear the suit! Custom tailored suits are amazing! Rock on and we are all cheering for you!

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Most places I have worked have some sort of holiday/time off system, where you log in and request which days you want to take off. Normally, the Boss has access (since they have to approve the request) and it will show how many days you have left. Perhaps this boss doesn’t use this kind of programme?

    1. LQ*

      My boss can technically do that. But I don’t know that he’s ever done that. He just trusts that I’ll manage my own time off. (That said he bugged me a bit this summer to take more time off, but that was because I hadn’t taken any time at all in the last year.) I think lots of bosses would do the same, not look to see the number of days off.

    2. MLB*

      Regardless, her manager should be aware of how much time she gets each year. I think he needs to be brought down to reality because he’s unintentionally rubbing his amount of vacation time in her face by mentioning it all the time.

    1. Taryn*

      That was my thought! OP 5 is sure they’re the only one who listens to podcasts, but then is confused as to how management would know they listen to podcasts.

      1. angstymcjoe*

        I’m #5. I only meant that theoretically i could switch between music or podcasts anytime, so how could anyone know which I’m listening to unless they come over and taken my headphones off and check. The logistics of the rule don’t add up to me.

    2. fogharty*

      Perhaps some other employees are listening to podcasts… perhaps some very inappropriate ones. Easier for management to issue a blanket ban than say, for example, no one should listen to the “My Favorite Nazis” podcast.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        If that’s the rationale, there is plenty of music with objectionable lyrics. It seems really weird for them to police the content of what people are listening to, so long as it’s not audible to other people.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          It depends on how you’re listening to them. I’m kind of intrigued by the number of comments that assume the LW must be streaming podcasts, because I pretty much universally download them to my phone and listen that way, just to save data and so the feed doesn’t randomly cut off if I’m listening while on a walk. Unless someone looked at my playlist they’d have no way to tell what I’m listening to.

          1. How to Deal with Tone*

            I also always download my podcasts before listening, but I think the large number of comments assuming and/or asking about streaming are doing so because if it were being streamed on the company’s network, that’s a very good reason for the company to care and notice that podcasts are being listened to. The rule with no context if it came out of nowhere as LW suggested makes me want to think of a logical reason for it coming about. The streaming angle is one of only two logical reasons I can come up with. Of course, the rule could have not-logical origins too, but I think that’s where the streaming discussion is coming from.

    3. angstymcjoe*

      I’m #5. So there are 3 of us in the office that use headphones while working. I work with image editing, while the other two work with text editing. From our conversations, I know that they prefer music while editing text, for concentration. I listen almost exclusively to podcasts, since my work is not as text focused.

      I suppose I can’t claim that the others never listen to podcasts, but I think we have very strong preferences due to the nature of our tasks.

  20. Not Australian*

    #4: No advice, but the outfit sounds awesome and so do you. Good luck with the interview – and please let us know how you get on!

    1. Triple Anon*

      That’s a great article. I like her advice about dressing the way you feel most comfortable. It’s not like when you were a kid and your parents forced you to dress up for special occasions and you didn’t have much say in what to wear. I used to think of it that way “Agh, I have to wear a skirt because that’s what they want!”). I’ve been reframing it as a more polished and dressed up way to express myself – same person, nicer clothes, ignore the GENDER signs in the stores, wear what you want (within reason for the job you want). Dress in a way that makes you feel relaxed and confident.

  21. Maddie*

    If you go over your boss’s head over this poster, he will have negative feelings about you your entire career. Take it down and don’t complain about it to anyone. It’s inconsequential in the long run.

    1. Anne (with an “e”)*

      +1 Additionally, if the OP does, indeed, choose to escalate this, not only will the immediate boss look disfavorably at the OP, there is a strong possibility that the boss’ boss won’t approve of the OP’s stance either. Just because OP escalates, there is no guarantee that the escalation will be successful for the OP. Then, the OP would have spent capital on two levels of bosses.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        In boss’s position, this would make me truly concerned about an employee’s judgment. Spending capital like that should be reserved for seriously serious issues.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I keep thinking “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Which always strikes me as tear-your-hair-out level frustrating when people use it to justify staying with a person, rather than a poster.

          I like The New Yorker, and the cartoon. Cube decor is not a place to spend a dime of capital, much less escalate.

  22. Maddie*

    Ear buds and head phones are not silent. It’s generally not hard to differentiate between music and words.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      That’s true actually, judging by the teenagers on my bus to work. I could practically sing along. Well, rap along. And then I wouldn’t because children might hear the swearing and misogyny!

    2. Alton*

      They’re pretty silent if you keep the volume at a reasonable level. If you can’t hear anything coming out of them if you take them off and hold them half an arm’s length away or so, chances are others won’t be able to hear anything when you have them on. I was always taught to use that test toake sure the volume isn’t dangerously loud.

      1. Strawmeatloaf*

        Yep. When I wear headphones on an ipod or for my computer I at most go up to level 3 on them of about 15. I can even put my headphones down (I can’t wear earbuds) and not hear anything coming out of them from less than a foot away.

        1. Strawmeatloaf*

          *would like to say though that most of the time I listen to the music at level one and then go into the music’s settings and put that down to half of the full volume. I don’t know why but music is so loud!

      2. Lily*

        I do this too, to make sure that my husband isn’t going to complain when he’s trying to fall asleep earlier than me. And so people on the bus can’t tell I’m relistening to My Dad Wrote a P*rno.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      While I think this is generally true, maybe less true if people are donning headphones in response to a loud clanking air conditioner.

        1. angstymcjoe*

          Yeah, our building is over 100 years old. We are probably lucky to have any AC at all!

    4. angstymcjoe*

      I suppose that could be part of it. I do hear my coworkers’ music occasionally. I just don’t understand how banning pods would fix a loud audio issue. Plus, we are a very small office that works well together, so I have a hard time imagining such broadreaching rule rather than just telling someone to turn it down.

  23. AnecdotalEvidenceRUs*

    @ OP 4 I worked with a butch-lesbian, that sounds similar in appearance to you, for about 8 years. Certainly every workplace is different, and this is anecdotal evidence (the worst kind, I’m sure), but she has consistently dressed in traditionally masculine attire, collared shirts, men’s dress shoes, short hair etc. and I have watched her regularly be promoted over the years. The level of her attire has evolved a bit as she’s been promoted, but always in traditional men’s clothes. I don’t think anyone ever cared what she wore and if they did it doesn’t seem to have affected her career progression. She’s always dressed professionally and most importantly she is good at her job; smart, on top of her shit and easy to work with. Be confident in your skills and abilities to sell yourself, it sounds like the suit you intend to wear fits well and matches the level of professionalism that the role requires. I hope you nail the interview.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think anyone ever cared what she wore.

      I think a lot of places, they care that you are 1) decently covered 2) in a level of formality appropriate to the situation. And women have a lot more flexibility in clothing–including ways to go wrong since there are more options than “off the rack grey man’s suit,” but also that the line between “a menswear inspired pantsuit, like Hepburn” and “a man’s suit” isn’t stark.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Thankyou, Anecdotal! Two thoughts:

      (1) please don’t hyphenate “butch lesbian”. It’s not a compound word, it’s a noun with an adjective and they indicate a preference in dressing style and personal style. (There are also “femme lesbians” and “gender-neutral lesbians”. Most lesbians just refer to themselves as “lesbians”, for what it’s worth.) So, just like with chocolate cake, you don’t say chocolate-cake.

      And (2) I promise you that people have cared what she was wearing. They may not have been vocal about it, but they did. As Falling Dipthong says, the actual important part is just being covered, but you know that people talk about other people’s clothing choices, complimentary or otherwise.

      (I hope you were able to take this in the spirit in which I mean it. I hope very much that I’m not coming across badly. What I hope I’m doing is sharing some knowledge about my world with someone outside of it — which I don’t actually get to do very much! So thank you for the opportunity.)

    3. Michaela Westen*

      I once had a job where I didn’t think anyone cared what I wore. I experimented with ultra-feminine vintage shoes, elaborate vintage eyeglasses, pretty colors and pink or sparkly jewelry because that’s what I like.
      No one ever said anything about my clothes, but I was treated so unfairly it’s still upsetting 14 years later. My good manager retired at the same time the creepy file clerk who was always trying to flirt transferred into my group. The new manager was a chauvinist who was too stupid to understand the work I was doing. When I asked for help with the clerk’s inappropriate behavior I was fired in spite of outstanding evaluations for the whole time I worked there. I’ve wondered ever since if I would have been treated better if I had dressed less feminine and flashy.
      I would like to wear my vintage glasses again but I don’t because my boss is so easily distracted… I’d *never* get him to focus! When I started this job I began wearing traditional button-down shirts and skirts in dark or neutral colors, and I think it’s made a difference. Sigh. Maybe one day I’ll be rich enough to pay for an extra set of lenses just to wear for social. :)

  24. Tuesday Next*

    OP1, it’s possible (but perhaps unlikely) that your boss or organisation is relaxed about the number of days you have officially vs the number you actually take, especially when it comes to a day here and a day there. I do know people whose managers are fine with them taking more time than they are officially owed. You definitely shouldn’t assume this but it’s worth trying to find out if it’s the case where you are.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I admit I’m sort of hoping Boss doesn’t really realise how few vacation days OP has and will go to bat for her to get more if she finds out. It’s a little pie-in-the-sky, but it would be nice!

      Alternatively, she may not have really considered how few vacation days ten is!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s what I was thinking, that the boss was opening the door for extra days. I’ve certainly had bosses like that. There’s no harm in saying something like, “I would love to take another long weekend, but I only have 4 days of vacation left in the year and I’d like to save them,” which opens the door for the boss to say it’s ok to take a random day.

    3. sam*

      but no matter how relaxed OP1’s immediate boss is, unless it’s a two-person shop, there’s probably some sort of HR system that tracks these things that doesn’t have actual flexibility.

      My boss could be the most generous person in the world, but at the end of the day, I still need to track my PTO in workday. and workday says I get XX days off!

      1. The Tin Man*

        sam even if there is an HR system the boss can still work around that. It depends on the field and especially if time is kept/billed but I know in my job I could just not show up and nothing would by default make it show up in Workday. Heck I requested a half-day off for PTO one time and my boss just said “Take it, you don’t have to use your vacation time.”

        1. Totally Minnie*

          It’s not always possible to work around things like this. We have an electronic time clock that staff use to sign in and out with, which reports all hours worked to HR and finance. As a supervisor, I do have the ability to edit my staff’s time cards, but I have to make a note in the tracking software detailing the reason for the edit. Unless I want to commit fraud against the government agency that employs me, I can’t let my staff take more paid time off than they have in their bank. I like and respect my staff, and I want them to have enough time off to do the things they need/want to do, but I’ve become accustomed to paychecks, and I’m not going to risk my own employment over a subordinate’s time off.

          1. The Tin Man*

            Yep, that’s exactly why I said “It depends on the field and especially if time is kept/billed” – I know it isn’t possible in some circumstances just like it is incredibly simple in other circumstances (like mine).

      2. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I work in the corporate HQ for a Fortune 500 company and we also use Workday… but no one monitors or tracks vacation time in any department in any capacity. If I want a day off, I put it on our team Google Calendar and that’s that. When someone quits, there’s usually some awkward conversations with HR about how many days were probably used so that they can properly pay out the unused remainder. Hell, I was on four weeks of grand jury duty a few months ago, leaving for 4ish hours a day to go downtown and sit in the courthouse, and to the best of my knowledge, no one in HR even knew about it because I most certainly didn’t tell them, and my bosses didn’t either (but in my defense, I came in early and stayed late every single day I had to serve). Even large companies can be extremely lax about vacation time. It’s not common, but maybe OP works at a similar place or has a boss who is willing to look the other way.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s the type of thing I used to do. When I was out on jury duty (serving 10-4 every day and couldn’t work from home at the time, so I wasn’t expected to come in), I don’t think HR ever knew. We got a centralized system but not until I had been there for about five years, and even then, people didn’t always input their days depending on their managers. This was a giant, global company.

          Come to think of it, I worked for a much smaller company after that and my boss wouldn’t even accept a vacation request for certain holidays. She just told me to take the days and not count it. It’s likely the LW’s boss feels the same way… or maybe not. :) But she can feel it out.

        2. neverjaunty*

          If they’re in a state like California that’s going to be a REALLY awkward conversation some day.

          1. SoCalHR*

            agree – all it takes is one not-happy person leaving who claims they have 3 weeks left and wants their money to make this type of thing end.

      3. Kj*

        My husband has had a few bosses that would tell him to take a day off and not record it. I’ve had bosses say the same thing, usually as a comp for time spent outside usual working hours they didn’t want to pay me overtime for (the nonprofit world is weird). So I suspect the boss can say that and get away with it. Unless the company is really small or OP has a position that interacts with others constantly, people might not even notice if boss said take a day and don’t record it as vacation. At my last job, I was rarely to never in the office due to the nature of the job. No one noticed what I did all day, as long as my work was done. Likewise, if my husband wasn’t at work, everyone would assume he was working from home.

        That said, the OP should tell the boss how few days they get and see if the boss will advocate for them to get more. Two weeks pretty weak for a job that requires a degree IMO.

        1. Starbuck*

          Wow, that sounds illegal (maybe), not just weird. If you were salaried, of course there’s no such thing as overtime- you work the hours they tell you to, over 40 or not, and there’s no legal requirement you get paid extra. But if you were hourly, there’s no such thing as comp time, even at a non-profit. I guess they could have you leave early/arrive later that same week to make sure you don’t go over 40…. but if you already went over 40 in a week and they gave you “”””comp time”””” for another instead of paying you properly, they were breaking the law and stealing from you.

          I know it can get weird at non-profits, I work at one- but you wouldn’t be doing them or yourself any favors by letting them get away with that kind of BS.

  25. Kay*

    Is it possible in OP1 that your boss thinks you should take additional unpaid leave? Obviously that’s not financially feasible for a lot of people but I know a lot of people who take some extra unpaid leave to extend their trips

    1. OP1*

      I did take unpaid time last year, but it was a pretty special circumstance (family trip to visit my brother on another continent), and definitely not at all feasible to do on a regular with what I make, plus I got the sense from my boss that she was only allowing it because it was a special circumstance.

      1. AdminX2*

        If the boss pushes again another option is the “Is there a change and I have more pto than I planned? I usually have things set well ahead but if there’s been a benefits change can you show me where?”
        You’ve already gotten great advice here, sorry you have to deal.

  26. RLJ*

    It is absolutely ridiculous to engage with someone who uses lolspeak when they are neither a prepubescent girl from 2003 or a cat.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My first thought was “Have you met this manager in person? Might they be a cat?”

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Or a whole host of tiny blue men, such that one operates the left knee and another operates the feet, and so forth? From the evidence I’ve read, this totally works.

  27. cncx*

    re OP3, i’m dealing with a coworker who proudly displays their rather extreme politics at work in my line of sight not theirs, and i really wish my office space would be politically neutral. I do think OP3’s particular cartoon is pretty harmless (especially compared to what i have to look at), but it is a slippery slope. i don’t think people should use their limited social capital at work in making politics a hill to die on. Also, regardless if the boss cares or doesn’t care, it can affect how your coworkers see and interact with you if their politics are different. I could have lived my whole life much happier not knowing my coworker’s politics. I get we live in weird political times, but it is ok to just want to get a paycheck and want the same from your coworkers. Real life is bad enough in this political climate…

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      During the election season, most of my coworkers were pretty quiet about their personal feelings. The ones that weren’t really colored my view of them. Even 2 years later, I think about comments that I heard, and it’s hard to look at them the same way. I’m sure if I made similar comments about my candidate, they would also have a different view of me. My own personal approach to politics in the office is to think of them as underwear – I know everyone wears them, but I think it’s better for everyone to keep them under their clothes.
      Standing up for what you believe in is an admirable thing, but putting up a poster in the cubicle is such a small hill to die on. If the OP feels very strongly about certain causes, they should save their capital for bigger issues where they can make an impact (advocate for a minority employee group, better healthcare, efforts to increase diversity in hiring, etc)

      1. Observer*

        Putting up this poster is not “standing up” for anything. If anything, it’s grandstanding.

        Others have given some pretty good examples of how the OP could stand up for their beliefs in the workplace.

  28. Jemima Bond*

    Re #5 I wonder if someone is of the opinion that podcasts (and maybe talk radio) take away more of your concentration in a way that music doesn’t? I mean, when I listen to Alison’s podcast for example, I’ll be thinking about the issues, comparing the situation to my own work environment, wondering what I’d say/do – I’m much more mentally invested than I would be in music, so I’d listen when driving my car or when doing a bit of a craft project that doesn’t require instructions. With music radio, I might occasionally wonder why the singer wants to “tell Wendy horse I’m done”* but generally it’s just background noise.
    This might depend on the nature of work though – if I had to enter numbers on a long spreadsheet I could take in a podcast, but if I was writing a coherent report I would end up not really hearing most of it.

    *apparently it was “ciao adios I’m done”

    LW#4 I think you’ve already got your solution with your custom tailored suit. The lesbians I know who favour a more butch style of dress, when requiring formal clothing, go for a nice suit and always look smart. I know most from a sports team and we had a black-tie dress code for a dinner and the most impeccable dinner suit was worn by a person born female but now identifying non binary; they were smarter than the men! I know at least some have had custom tailoring – you get the fit you want then, because either the more shaped “female” tailoring or the boxier “male” tailoring might not be quite the thing.
    As an idea in case you want to ring the changes when you get the job; several women from said sports team favoured a suit with a waistcoat [vest] instead of a jacket, like two-thirds of a three-piece suit. I thought that looked really good, with your preferred fit of formal shirt underneath.

    1. Well Suited*

      I was thinking of just going for the vest. It’s also been extremely hot here and that might be more comfortable anyway. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! Thanks for the support!

    2. I❤️Spreadsheets*

      I just wanted to say that I’m glad I’m not the only one who wondered why the singer want to “tell Wendy Horse I’m done”!

  29. GermanGirl*

    #1 I’d just asks her what I’d have to do to get more vacation days.

    #4 I’d definitely wear the suit.

  30. IrishEm*

    OP1 It might be worth addressing with your manager that you only have 10 days holidays (this does depend on how long you’ve been there, obviously) and next time boss comments maybe ask her when does holiday entitlement improve/increase. (Can she arrange for it to be part of your bonus scheme? Does holiday entitlement increase when you’re in your position for x amount of time?) Maybe take a look at your contract and see if there’s anything in it about pto increases.

    Mind you, I’m saying this from Ireland where I am entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid holidays (and all the public holidays off (9 extra Mondays per year)) and I know that a huge perk here is that with longevity in the business is that time off increases. I don’t think I could handle working with only 10 days off. I mean that I would if I had to, but I’d burn out so fast.

    1. Barbara*

      Same for me. I would totally burn out. But I live in the UK where we have 5.6 weeks and come from France where annual leave is quite high too. I can’t imagine how I would come under 5 weeks.

    2. KR*

      We manage because we have to make a living. Two weeks is fairly standard here in the US for full time work.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Two weeks vacation (excluding days like Christmas) for a non degree needing job is actually considered good where I live.

        The small manufacturing shops only give a week (5 paid days and includes the weekend-no pay) and it has to be taken in a week chunk.

        My SIL gets a glorious 10 days off and she’s been at her job for 7 years. Her’s is a job you need no degree to get into.

        Don’t get me started on working 36 hours a week with no benefits.

        I know more people who get no vacation and no sick time than get 5 weeks off, PTO and sick days.

        People who get 5 weeks off and any sick days are living in paradise.

      2. LH*

        Thank you. It’s really not necessary for people to comment on how much better they have it outside the US every time holiday pays comes up, we know.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      Not to snark, but:
      Yes, Europe Has It Better
      We get it. The US isn’t going to change. It sucks. We know.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’re all aware of that. It’s not actionable or constructive advice for the OP, and it’s exhausting to hear it come up every single time something related to vacation time is discussed, which is why I’ve asked in the past for it to be dropped.

          1. Beans*

            I actually think it’s worth raising awareness so that Americans don’t settle for this lack of workers rights and laws protecting them.

            1. KR*

              We’re not settling, we’re all doing our best. Sometimes you have to focus on getting food on the table.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              People reading here are plenty aware; it’s rather condescending to assume not. Plus, this isn’t the place for it, any more than this is the place to hijack a letter to raise awareness on any other political or social justice topic.

              In any case, please drop it unless it’s providing actionable advice for a letter writer.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          It’s also because Europe and other countries seem to have more of a sense of collectivism than the US does. The concept of rugged individualism is deeply steeped into the culture of the US, and, until the poisonous idea that people are poor because they’re lazy dies a quick and painful death, it is going to be very difficult to make any sort of movement on the workers’ rights front. Unions are dying out here, and recent court decisions continue to gut them of their power.

          A big part of the problem, too, is that there is no social safety net should people decide to not take crappy jobs. Your job is where you get your healthcare and how you pay your rent/utilities/grocery bill. The standard for getting public assistance on any of these fronts is insanely low, and many people who are on assistance are either elderly, disabled, or have children and are already working a job (or jobs) that doesn’t make ends meet.

          Sometimes you have to “settle” for surviving.

  31. Myrin*

    #2 made me die a little inside. Even though I’ve used “lol” itself maybe five times in my life when I felt it was extraordinarily fitting, I use plenty of other dumb linguistic concepts and actually think lolspeak can be pretty effective in some circumstances.

    However, at work, oh my god. Regarding actual work requests? OH MY GOD.

    I wonder what drives her to do this – why the recent change to an even more excessive use? Usually people amp up behaviour when they feel that it’s received positively but surely her boss and coworkers aren’t so charmed by i can haz moar paid leaf? that she’s now decided that this is a valid business strategy?

    In any case, I totally agree with Alison – point-blank honesty is the only key here!

    1. Thlayli*

      I suspect she started doing it as a joke. I have a work friend and we often use lolspeak on our work instant messenger (or Latin, or other languages) as a kind of mental break from work. It’s a kind of joke.

      If he started using it in work requests that would be really weird. But if he did that I would have definitely brought it up the first time he ever did it coz work is serious and it needs to be totally clear what is being asked for (and it might end up being forwarded to someone else as part of a work mail chain too).

      OP just ask her to knock off the lolspeak when making work requests. And if it’s getting tiresome in non-work stuff then tell her that too.

    2. Lynca*

      I’ve known some people my age (mid-30’s) that do this as kind of an ‘inside joke.’ So they wouldn’t do it to direct reports or management.

      But work requests in lolspeak? I would flat out state it’s not okay to do that because it’s unprofessional and way too casual for work requests.

    3. Yet Another Analyst*

      I wonder if it’s just rubbing off from other teams? I know in my tech-adjacent role in a pretty techy industry, I see enough lolspeak and gamerspeak that it’s generally not comment-worthy. Requests coming from friendly members of the more technical teams are often peppered with those sorts of terms – “O hai friends! I can haz mad leet alertz pleez? Deetz below. Kthnxbai!” (exaggerated somewhat for effect, but not that much). Requests from more distant coworkers, or from friendly folks on non-technical teams, will frequently have a “lol” or a smile – but a lot of those requests are made over Slack or a similar medium that kind of encourages that.

      Working with the technical teams, the language does start to rub off after a bit! Of course, understanding the source doesn’t help any if it’s still unclear what the manager’s asking for.

      1. Mrs_Helm*

        Yeah, I would frame it as “when you’re making work requests, let’s not use lolspeak…I want to be sure I understand the assignment clearly.” Also, perhaps some degree of “if I have to refer to the request in the future, I’m sure you don’t want me forwarding *that* to everyone, or having to reword it…”

    4. General Ginger*

      One of my coworkers verbally says “IMHO”. Pronounced essentially like ee-m-hoh. I caught myself doing it recently, and it’s been kind of hard to stop!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Do they know it’s actually an acronym? I mean, I still think it should ONLY be written, but they may not realize it’s not an Actual Word.

        1. General Ginger*

          He knows. I always wonder how often he runs into situations where people just plain don’t understand what he’s trying to say.

  32. Glomarization, Esq.*

    I’m a highly opinionated person, and I’m old and DGAF, but … still the closest I’ll come to talking politics with my clients (almost always) is, “Wow, taxes, amirite?”

    Unless I’m doing actual movement work, seriously, it’s better to leave my politics in a separate briefcase. And anyway, even then, we could end up talking politics for hours and not get our tasks done.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Exactly. In my industry, it’s OK to make general jokes about how poorly-designed laws that impact us are (don’t consider large/small employers, don’t allow for automation of specific tasks, etc). That’s political in the sense that it’s the government, but not candidate-specific.

      I’d never dive into “here’s my thoughts on this politician” at least partially because I exist within a power dynamic at work- people above me in the hierarchy might feel comfortable arguing. But what if my new employee disagrees and she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it? I’ve now made her feel unwelcome at work.

  33. Barbara*

    OP1 10 days is very low. Since she’s keen on giving you more days off ask her for more. This is an opportunity.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It doesn’t always work this way. I’d say it usually doesn’t work this way. No matter what anyone thinks of it, ten days is pretty standard vacation time in the US, especially for junior people, and companies don’t often give a lot of flexibility.

      I get it. Ten days is not a lot. And yes, it often isn’t great. And I’m not saying the OP shouldn’t explore her options, but there’s so much “that’s not enough! That’s really cheap!” in these comments that I don’t want the OP to feel like she should never have taken this job or something. For what it’s worth, I’ve taken senior positions that only gave me ten days of vacation, and it certainly sucked, but focusing on how much it sucked wasn’t productive.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Exactly. Ten days is pretty standard when starting out in a new job. It’s certainly more standard in the entry/lower level jobs vs. management/officers, etc. But definitely not unusual either in those higher level jobs. Does it suck? Of course it does. But you do what you have to do to pay bills and such.

      2. Allison*

        Last year my boss let me take a day off and not put it in as vacation. Now, this was probably because I was requesting to work from home that day so I could take care of someone getting a medical procedure (drop them off, drive them home, and get them something to eat because they’d been fasting), but still, if your boss is a high level executive, they probably have the power to let you do that if you don’t have a lot of official vacation days on the books. If OP’s boss wants them to take vacation days, this could be an option, just not one you can ask for.

      3. Sara*

        I agree. I’m wondering where all these people work that they have more than 10 days as a recent graduate. Our senior managers get more, but hourly and lower level salary employees have to wait 15 years to get more than two weeks. FTR – we are a very small business and while we only give 10 days paid, but we are very flexible regarding unpaid time off.

      4. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, for an entry-level position (which I assume this is, or close to it) two weeks seems really standard. I don’t want to say “be lucky you even have vacation time!” since advocating for healthier PTO policies is a worthy cause, but this isn’t an indication that the company is shortchanging you.

    2. MLB*

      10 days is typical in my experience, when vacation and sick leave are separated – I’ve only started off with more when they combine it into PTO. And most places I’ve worked only increase that time after 5 years at the company.

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Huh. I’ve worked in the financial sector for 20+ years, and the lowest I’ve ever started at was 14 days plus 3 sick days and 8-10 corporate holidays. Maybe it’s an industry thing, but I think of anything less than 15 days (3 weeks) as low for an office job. And yes, this is in the US.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Financial jobs might be different–don’t know exactly what your job is, but when you’re working as an accountant it’s considered best practice to take an entire week off at least once a year, so you usually get enough vacation to account for that.

        2. SoCalHR*

          Every industry is different. I started my career in insurance, and they give tons of days (because the job sucks). But after 15 years of work, I’m back at 2 weeks PTO because of an industry/field change. Not saying its awful, it is, but that’s just how things are in the US at some/most companies.

          1. Anonymity*

            I’m tangential to insurance. Started with one week of PTO (combined!) while accruing more at around the rate of 1.5 hours of PTO for every two weeks worked. The accrual rate goes up a bit every couple of years with the company.

  34. restingbutchface*

    #4 – I. Feel. You.

    During my recent round of job searching, I wore my custom tailored suit – for the record, I look damn sharp in it. I know I didn’t get at least one job because I read too butch but honestly, thank god because I’d rather find out that these are people I don’t want to work for *before* I start working there.

    If you’re super desperate, there’s no shame in passing just to get paid – I’ve done it, miserably – but this isn’t the case here.

    One thing I would recommend is making it easier for your interviewers. Well meaning people get stressed if they don’t know what pronouns to use and if they think they have you down as the “wrong” gender they might get worried. (Shout-out to the barista who nearly cried when they called me Sir and then I ordered in my girl voice.) If there is a low key way you can clarify your pronouns early on, they don’t have to worry about it.

    Good luck, you’re going to be awesome!

    1. LGC*

      1) I just wanted to say your username is AWESOME.

      2) I wonder if she even needs to clarify her pronouns in this case. It’s an internal offer, so I’m guessing they at least know her enough to know what gender she is. (The only thing that makes it a little shaky is that she says she thinks she might be trans in the letter, but for most of the letter she says she’s female.)

      Obviously, you’ve probably had more experience, and it can’t hurt to clarify it. But I think they already know.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Thank you!

        I wasn’t sure if these were people who had met OP before or just had discussions about them, in which case they will use the pronouns from that conversation. So the interviewers will know the gender they *think* OP is but honestly, people get so upset when they think they’ve got it “wrong”. Nightmare scenario is that one interviewer reads OP as female, one reads OP as male and the post interview discussion is focused on something entirely irrelevant to OP’s talents or skills because WE MUST LABEL. Urgh, I cringe at the thought.

        It makes me really sad to think about all the internal planning and counter planning and *effort* people outside the gender binary have to go through, especially for situations that are stressful enough for anyone, like interviews. I hope we are the last generation to jump through these mental hoops and we can all focus on things that matter.

        1. Well Suited*

          Pronoun clarity is weird for me, because I don’t actually prefer she/her/hers, but that’s what I use because I’m also not ready to come out yet. If someone ever asks me I’ll say she/her/hers mainly to move the conversation along and get it to stop centering on my gender identity, even though I don’t feel great about it. I think I know the people on this panel well enough that I’ll only bring it up if they ask. Good thing to keep in mind for future opportunities though!

          1. restingbutchface*

            Same, friend. I’ll leave the pronoun conversation for later, right now she will do. Kind of. :)

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Oh gawd, I had to smile and nod last week when a recruiter on the phone referred to my husband.

            I had that split-second conversation with myself when I ask “do I say something?” and then I made a face and let it pass. I had previously told the recruiter about fostering kittens and used “we” and so OF COURSE she assumed husband.

            I’m in this weird situation that my wife and I refer to as “so out that you forget to come out”. Where I live, probably you really can just look at me and know — and that’s good. But recruiters on the phone are often located very much NOT where I live. Usually I don’t small-talk with them so this kind of thing doesn’t come up, but I wanted to explain why I had missed a phone call (I was taking the kittens in for their teeny-tiny surgeries and the drop-off took longer than I’d expected). As it happened, the kittens helped us forge a personal connection, so that’s good, but still. Husband. Nope.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Presumptuous in other ways too. The “we” could have been you and your roommate, sister, brother, friend, parent… sigh. The recruiter should have clarified instead of assuming. *eyeroll*

          3. Cedrus Libani*

            I was also going to suggest picking a pronoun before walking in. It doesn’t have to be your final answer, but if they ask, you want to have an answer rather than a deer-in-headlights pause.

            FWIW, I interview in men’s clothes, and work in them too. However, I’m in Silicon Valley, where this merits about 0.001 batted eyelashes…

    2. Coffeelover*

      My tip for situations when you could pass as either gender is to wear small stud earrings. It’s a low key way to tip people over to the “female” side of the equation while letting you otherwise present how you would like.

      1. calonkat*

        I may have an odd circle of friends, but small studs are worn predominately by my MALE friends :p

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Do men still wear earrings in only one ear? If so, just wear in both. If not, hmmm….

  35. LGC*

    #1, your boss is probably absent minded.

    I’ve actually hit similar issues myself (we have THREE separate PTO plans – we changed our FT plan a few years ago, grandfathered old employees in, and a separate plan for PT employees). Just nicely remind her that you don’t have the time to take off (and honestly, if you want more time, consider lobbying for it!).

    #2, I’d be tempted to reply back with “I CAN HAS REQUEST IN ENGLISH PLZ?!” to everything she sends in lol speak. But then again, I have a trollish streak.

    #3, it’s…pretty obvious what the subject of that cartoon is. I mean, I agree with the sentiment behind the cartoon, and I think your coworker should have just let it go (because it’s not naming any politicians, especially not ones with distinctive hair styles), but going to your manager’s manager over something that’s rather reasonable is not a good look not the best idea.

    #4, you’ll look AWESOME in your suit. Plus, I think that especially for an internal hire, they’ll know you’re masculine presenting anyway. I don’t want to be dismissive of the challenges you face with your gender identity, but I don’t think it’ll be that much of a surprise to your interviewers – you’re already coming into work looking butch on the regular!

    #5, that is…weird. I’d definitely ask about the reasons behind the new rule. Also, do they know that you listen to podcasts?

    1. MLB*

      #1 – yeah I agree. I said in another comment that it would piss me off more because boss is clueless and unintentionally rubbing it in her face about how much vacation she doesn’t have and he does have.
      #2 – I have no patience for that nonsense, and I would have nipped that in the bud immediately. But now, I would just say “english please”. Unless you’re a pre-teen, that way of talking should be outlawed #getoffmylawn
      #3 – my rule of thumb is no politics at work. Definitely not a hill to die on.
      #5 – I thought it was odd, but after thinking about it, it kind of makes sense. If I’m listening to a podcast, I’m paying attention to it. If I’m listening to music, it’s more background noise. So I probably wouldn’t be as productive at work while listening to a podcast. Usually when I wear headphones at work it’s to drown out loud people or noises so I can concentrate and get something done. But I would still ask why to see what they have to say.

  36. Amy RR*

    OP5- Often, I can make out what ppl are listening to on headphones if the sound is turned up. We’re you listening to a political podcast? Maybe someone heard something offensive to them?

    1. angstymcjoe*

      Well, I listen to NPR in the morning, then move to other informative yet fades-well-in-to-the-background programs. I have listened to the NPR politics podcast and the local public radio politics podcast, though these programs are more an informative state of the current scene not a debate show. Additionally, we are an office at a notoriously liberal university and have discussed politics in the office and we all pretty much fall on the same side of political spectrum. I don’t think anything I listen to would bother anyone in my office if it was overheard.

  37. Banker chick*

    #1- is that 10 vacation days or 10 PTO days? Do you receive separate sick/personal days? Because if it is 10 days period, that is kinda cheap and you should be saving a few of the precious days in case you get sick or have personal business that comes up. I would be speaking up in that case.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      And if there are separate sick days, Boss might be amenable to calling a few “mental health days,” if she’s so convinced about the benefits of time off.

    2. LP*

      Is it really? I’m not OP, but I’ve been with the same company for several years and that’s our standard (1o days PTO). No one really tracks it but I didn’t realize it was so low.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It depends. 10 days (with no sick time) is sort of a standard entry level in the US and what I had at my first two jobs; my current company offers 10 days PTO + 5 days sick time for new hires, but is also glad to negotiate that up, so I have 15 PTO days (plus 2 floating holidays, I should note).

  38. Rae*

    #3. While the comic is mild, I can see it also doubling as commentary on a toxic workplace, annoying boss, misguided CEO, PIP recipient or other office drama.

    Why not simply print out the Maya Angelou quote, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” No pictures, just the quote.

    Same sentiment but without the political implications and “predatory” leadership connotations.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      The only issue is that might look like a passive aggressive jab. “So I can’t post this shady insult at political figures, so how about I post THIS one.

      Ps: Need to read more of her stuff. She writes so elegantly.

    2. KayEss*

      I have an elegant typography poster of the Michelle Obama quote, “As women, we must stand up for ourselves. As women, we must stand up for each other. As women, we must stand up for justice for all.”

      Got away with hanging that one in my cube at a Catholic-affiliated workplace, and took immense satisfaction out of publicly displaying a statement of “I am NOT going to agree with you, so don’t even talk to me about whatever issues this makes you think of” without doing anything anyone could credibly complain about.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        That quote is beautiful and I want a tshirt.

        Me thinks it is also delivery. Political cartoons can be more… on point and direct than people think (Sheep = Stupid ignorant people that vote for Trump, Wolf = Trump).

        Quotes, especially “prettied up” quotes, have some more leeway. Maybe cause you can’t SEE the message behind it?

        Or maybe they just don’t like cartoons that insult people and OP has a Trump supporter in the office.

        I hate politics nowadays, it is so toxic and hateful.

        1. KayEss*

          Yeah, I think the New Yorker cartoon is a step too far, especially in the current climate. But there are ways to display what principles you are for (or against) without being overtly political or antagonistic.

          My offices have also always been pretty relaxed, however. I put up a lot of cartoons and comic strips, mostly poking fun at my field. (Marketing… a perennial favorite is the Dilbert strip where Dilbert is assigned on a rotational basis to the marketing department, which has a prominent sign at the entrance saying, “Marketing Department, Two Drink Minimum.”) I wouldn’t think twice about taking them down without a fight if someone thought they were too irreverent, but if someone wanted my Michelle Obama quote gone, we’d be having a conversation at minimum.

      2. Megan*

        I would not think twice about that quote appearing in any of the Catholic spaces I’ve worked in. You might not be giving the middle finger to your workplace that you think you are.

        1. KayEss*

          Perhaps not, as I wouldn’t choose to work somewhere that radically contradicted my values on a day-to-day basis. But it made me feel marginally better when upper management occasionally railed against Planned Parenthood. (After which I’d go make a donation.)

        2. Thlayli*

          Yeah I’m struggling to see how that quote is anti-catholic. Most Catholics I know would agree with it 100%.

          Perception is key. You may perceive Catholics as being anti-woman, but I assure you Catholics do not perceive themselves as anti-women.

          There are plenty of feminist Catholics about, so not even a Catholic misogynist would automatically assume feminism = anti-catholic.

          1. KayEss*

            First of all, spoilers: I’m Catholic–by choice, even–though I disagree strongly with the official positions on issues affecting women.

            I didn’t see it as an anti-Catholic statement, but as the sort of overt signal of personal and political feminism that, in my experience, strongly suggests that an individual is pro-choice. The workplace was quite liberal, and I had no problem (from a philosophical standpoint, the catastrophically bad management was another thing entirely) working there 95% of the time*, and was even proud of the stance they took on numerous other issues. But I found that it was nonetheless important for my peace of mind that I display some public flag that said, “this is a paycheck, not an identity.”

            * And the remaining 5% were all related to women’s issues, such as when shifting insurance regulations made me have to question whether or not my contraceptive pills would continue to be covered, as my workplace would have qualified for and likely taken advantage of a religious exemption.

            1. Thlayli*

              I really don’t see any relationship between that quote and being prochoice, and I doubt your coworkers did either.

    3. whistle*

      Yes, this is my question as well. OP, I really don’t think the best advice can be given without understanding your full paid time off package. If 10 days is really all you get (no holidays, no sick time, etc.), it’s time for a sit down talk with the boss about how the paid time off being offered does not allow you the time to decompress etc. , so if that’s a priority for your manager, she needs to spend some capital with the higher ups to make that a happen.

      On the other hand, if you get some paid holidays and some sick time on top of the 10 days, yeah, that’s standard in the US, and so I wouldn’t invest a lot of time advocating for more. Alison’s scripts for what to say to the boss are great. I’d personally go for a neutral “I don’t have the vacation hours to cover more time off, so I’ll get my summer fun in on the weekends.”

  39. Ladyphoenix*

    #3: Someone brought it up, but if certain prople saw your poster, they will wonder why they can’t have their “Hillary brhind bars” or “I have a b1tch at hone, I din’t need one in the office” (yes, I saw that drawn on a car. No, I didn’t not deface the car or scratched out the tires. Yes, it was tempting).

    I even saw “witch” burnings and “lynchings” against Hillary and Obama.

    I do not want that in my office or people brining it up. Nope nope

    1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      In a restaurant right before the election, I saw a man (probably in his 60’s) wearing a shirt that said “I Wish Hillary Had Married O.J.”. We were waiting to be seated and I walked out because I was so disgusted I lost my appetite.

  40. Mazzy*

    #5 grinds my gears not necessarily because of the OP but because of my experience with it. I’ve had this conversation a few times with those at or below my level. Some people truly believe they can focus on our non routine work tasks and listen to a podcast at the same time, but the people who don’t listen to podcasts are the more highly productive ones who are also the ones bringing the ideas to the table that work. I also see one of the podcasts listeners zoning out more often. I feel like there is a vibe on this site to accommodate employees above the level most employers do and to trust employees when they say they can concentrate with a podcast on, but I’m also more experienced and know that one can’t reach your potential and test your limits without actually testing them and pushing yourself and immersing yourself in our work topics. I don’t see how your brain can be bald concentrating on a podcast yet you think your brain is 100% focused on work.

    1. Nox*

      I think it depends on the person. Younger people are proven to be better multitaskers that’s why they can be on the phone while they watch TV or play a game.

      I personally require some sort of background noise to produce my best work. My favorite content to build complex reports to: air crash investigation documentaries.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        But studies have long shown that humans don’t truly multitask. They rapidly switch focus and attention between multiple things when claiming to multitask.

        Background noise can be calming and helpful in some situations, but if you’re actively listening to something, you’re taking attention and focus away from your main task.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          > They rapidly switch focus and attention between multiple things

          In fact, this is exactly what ACTUAL multi-tasking is. As in, what computers do. But they don’t need recovery time to switch, whereas human attention does.

          I like to listen to stories. I noticed that when I listened to stories while grocery shopping, I took easily twice as long to get the same amount of stuff because I was moving in slooow motion the whole time. Since I dislike grocery stores, I stopped doing that. I’d rather get out faster.

      2. AeroEngineer*

        Heh, that is exactly my favorite thing to listen to as well while working and building reports. Don’t know why, but air crash investigation documentaries in the background always makes me able to work so well.

    2. Barb*

      Yes, how can someone make the claim they listening to a podcast doesn’t affect their work, unless their work is completely mindless? I’m sure listening to podcasts during work is more enjoyable since podcasts are a form of entertainment, but listening to them is different from focusing on work.

      1. Phoenix*

        There are a lot of tasks in my job that don’t engage anywhere close to my whole focus, and I have some situational attention issues. If I’m listening to a podcast, I will get distracted for five seconds while paying attention to it and then get back to work. If I’m listening to music, I will get distracted for a whole lot longer. I don’t listen to podcasts when I’m doing work that successfully engages my full attention, but it helps me shortcut the distraction cycle significantly with less engaging work.

        My point is, sometimes it’s not a binary between “fully focused” and “distracted by podcast” – I’d never be fully focused on some of this work, podcast or not.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I’m the same way. In earlier jobs, I spent a significant amount of time combining different chemicals in a specific order at specific intervals. Not mindless enough that muscle memory could fully take over, but mindless enough that I’d get distracted. I was legitimately more productive if I was listening to podcasts to occupy the other 70% of my brainpower. I couldn’t listen to audiobooks, as sometimes I really did need to focus, and I’d lose the plot. However, the format of most podcasts – ramble about something for a minute or two, move on, repeat – lends itself well to paying 70% attention.

          If I actually need to think hard, though? Drone-y electronic music, or earplugs, also go away I’m busy.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Yeah, I noticed after getting my Adderall prescription that I suddenly don’t require music or background noise to focus anymore. Now when I concentrate the music seems to fall silent as I stop listening, while I used to be able to sing along and do spreadsheets at the same time. Like the two tracks in my brain have now merged! Personally I was always still distracted by podcasts, but I 100% believe that other people can listen to them and focus at the same time.

          2. Merci Dee*

            This is pretty much how Ritalin, Focalin, Quillivant, and a whole host of other medications prescribed for ADD/ADHD work. They’re all stimulants, but they work to focus the attention for those who need the medication because of differences in their brain chemistry. Coffee often has the same effect on those who are prescribed these medications for attention disorders. I have dealt with ADHD for my whole life, though I’ve never taken medication for it — but I can’t drink coffee while I’m at work, because it calms me down a little =too= much and actually makes me sleepy.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              I actually had the same problem you get with coffee when I started on Adderall–my doc was really concerned about the effect on my appetite since I’m at a low weight, so I started on a dose of only 5mg and it had me yawning all day! I mentioned it to the doc and she thought it was the weirdest thing ever, but when I said something to the pharmacist she was just like “Oh yeah, that can happen when your dose isn’t right” and told me to mention it if it kept happening on the higher dose. (It did not, thankfully). ADHD brains are hella weird.

              (Also wanna plug for pharmacists, they are great resources when it comes to your meds everyone!)

          3. Persimmons*

            …That is exactly what they do for people with ADD.

            As to how they do it, you’re asking a question that the world’s leading minds in biochemistry can’t answer with absolute certainty.

      2. tusky*

        Someone can make the claim because it’s true for them. It’s perplexing to me that you would assume every mind works the same way. I sometimes have a hard time focusing on mentally demanding but boring tasks because my mind wants to wander all over the place. Listening to certain kinds of podcasts can help me focus in those situations by giving my mind a little extra challenge that simultaneously curtails the wandering (I can effectively focus on two or three things–I can’t effectively focus on 700 things). (Also, “mindless” work is still work, and plenty of stereotypically “intellectual” jobs include routine tasks that are relatively “mindless,” so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be relevant to this discussion.)

    3. Jenna P*

      Uh, I listen to podcasts at work and do just fine. If I really need to concentrate I switch to music or turn it off for a bit. I have had stellar reviews all through my career. Can we also assume that people can figure out for themselves what works or not. If someone cannot do their best work while listening to something than their manager can point that out to them.

    4. BRR*

      While I’m someone who can’t do my harder work with podcasts, I know a lot of people who treat podcasts as background noise. Why not focus on results instead of dictating how people should be productive? Since everybody is productive utilizing different methods, why wouldn’t you just set the goals and let employees go about their day in the way they prefer? If someone is unproductive because they are listening to podcasts, I think it would go over better to say their output is too low versus dictating how they work.

      I’m also curious how you know what people are listening to? That probably comes off pretty antagonistic and I don’t mean it that way, I’m genuinely curious.

    5. Temperance*

      I use podcasts as background noise, in the same way that other people use music. I have a lot of boring, routine tasks, and podcasts make those more bearable.

      1. General Ginger*

        Same. There is some work that I need quiet for, some work where I can do non-vocal music — and there is some work where a nice even background voice talking about some cool science things or weird cryptid things or whathaveyou is just perfect.

    6. Birch*

      As others have said, just because it doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for anyone. Also, the concentration thing is really a red herring because some people intentionally don’t pay attention to podcasts but use them as noise. I like to use them so I’m not distracted by the door slamming in the drafty hallway or the people having a loud conversation in the next office over, and if I wanted to pay attention to the content, I’ll listen to it again later. It’s just about the type of noise that works for an individual person. Another point: you can’t focus 100% on work for 8 hours straight. That’s not how brains work. Brains need different types of stimulation.

      1. Mazzy*

        I didn’t say it doesn’t work for me, I said it doesn’t work for other people but they don’t want to admit it

        1. Birch*

          It’s not really up to you to decide that’s true of everyone though. You can’t really know for sure that’s the reason for performance issues, and even if it is, that doesn’t mean it causes performance issues in everyone that does it.

        2. General Ginger*

          Mazzy, that’s really not true. I have some tasks at work that are extremely repetitive, and require me to have other stimuli to actually be able to focus on these tasks. I’m also not neurotypical, which might be a factor, or not — but regardless, a nice, even background voice talking about this or that is exactly the thing I need to actually do these tasks without zoning out and then suddenly realizing 20 minutes have passed without me doing a dang thing.

    7. Bea*

      It depends on the task.

      If I’m drafting a procedure or reconciling, I can do that around anything. Including a tv show or coworkers talking about something right next to me.

      If I’m proofing or learning anything, background noise needs to be limited. However I easily learn via spoken word so I can listen and have my nose in my phone playing Candy Crush if it’s a webinar kind of thing.

      Everyone is vastly different. If you see someone in particular struggling, that’s a “them” thing. They need to be told their performance is lacking and they need to improve. Don’t draw conclusions as to why and make blanket rules.

    8. Katniss*

      At my last job, I listened to podcasts 90% of the time. 7 hours plus of podcasts a day.

      I was the most productive person on my team.

    9. Mike C.*

      You’re just making a bunch of gut level reactions without gathering any data in a systematic manner.

      Also, you end your post with a massive argument from ignorance fallacy.

    10. dramalama*

      I mostly use podcasts for when my work is so dull-data-entry-repetitive that I need something to keep my brain engaged, otherwise it just goes completely out to lunch. I’ve snapped to and discovered I’ve just been staring at an empty field for 15 minutes. I use an old true crime podcast where I’ve listened to just about every episode 3-4 times so that it’s engaging but not absorbing.

      But you’re obviously describing different circumstances. I’m not trying to “test my limits” and “push myself”, I’m trying to get through the boring part of my job without drooling on my keyboard.

    11. Abby*

      To provide one perspective, listening to a podcast (or when I’m studying, even a TV show) helps me because it gets rid of distractions that would normally bother me, like my own random thoughts or my coworkers talking or that other task I could be doing or whatever.

    12. Lily*

      She states elsewhere that her job is mostly image editing. I can’t multitask at all when working with words or numbers, but something purely visual is an entirely different story.

    13. Koala dreams*

      That’s kind of a moot point, though, since the choice isn’t “quiet” and “listening to podcast/music”, it’s “listening to loud AC” and “listening to podcast/music”. I’m one of those people who work best in quiet, but since our office is shared I don’t have that option, and music or ear-buds is the second best option. On good days I could do without, but on bad days I couldn’t get anything done without something in my ears. So even though the correlation is there, it doesn’t go in the way you would expect.

      As for how the brain works, most people have a great ability to focus their listening. Otherwise things like cocktail parties or loud AC in workplaces wouldn’t exist.

  41. Ladyphoenix*

    #1: I git 10 vacay days and…. seperate sick days (in MD, they changed it so it builds up overtime so I don’t have an exact number).

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      I should also add that workers can get a week of vacay after working for 3 months, and you get more vacay days the longer you work there.

      1. Merci Dee*

        This is how my current employer handles vacation days, too. You get 2 weeks your first year after your 90 day probationary period (pro-rated if you start during the middle of the year). Then, on January 1 after your anniversary, you get an additional day for each year you’re employed.

        For example:

        I started here in May 2010, and my 90 day probation ended in August. So that first year, I had 4 days of vacation. On January 1, 2011, I had a full 10 days of vacation. My first anniversary was in May, so on January 1, 2012, I had 11 days of vacation, etc. When January 1 of 2018 rolled around, I had 17 days of vacation because of the 7 anniversaries that I had completed when the year started.

        We don’t really have “sick” days here — we have 3 days that are deemed for “personal” use. You can use those however you want, for sick or whatever. So with those days added in, I had a total of 20 days that I could take off during the year. This doesn’t count the various holidays we receive each year (8 or 9, I can’t remember which), and the week+ between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day when the facility shuts down for routine machinery maintenance. Depending on how the calendar falls, we get between 9 and 13 days for that year-end break.

  42. RockyRoad*

    My employer allows 5 vacation days for your first year, and then 10 vacation days a year for your 2nd through 4th years. I never really understood why employees would only get one week for their first year. Would one more week really hurt the business?

    1. BRR*

      The argument I’ve always heard from the business side is they quantify the lost output from those days. But I’ve never heard businesses consider the loss of productivity from employees that are more worn out from no vacation, employees that are less happy due to no time off, and what I would guess is more turnover, which costs $$$, from employees not wanting to stay at a company with so little time off.

      1. RockyRoad*

        So the thinking is someone won’t get as much work done their first year since they’re new, so they get less time off to make up for it?

        Good point that less vacation makes employees worn out/less efficient, less happy, and more likely to leave, which ultimately costs more than additional vacation time would have!

        1. BRR*

          Sorry, I misread the question. I’ve heard in general, whether first year employee or otherwise, businesses say they can’t give more time off because they lose X in output.

    2. Judy (since 2010)*

      Several of the companies I’ve worked for prorate the 10 vacation days based on start date for the first year. If your start date is before April 1, you get 10 days, before July 1, you get 7.5 days, before Oct 1 you get 5 days, after Oct 1, you get 2.5 days.

      These were companies with the full vacation the first day of the year, and “use or lose” policies.

    3. Xarcady*

      I interviewed at a company where you got no PTO your first year. (You did get 3 paid sick days.) Their theory was that you earned your PTO one year and got to take it the next. So Year 1=0 days. Year 2=5 days. Year 3=6 days. You added one day of PTO a year until you reached 10 days off in Year 7. You stayed at 10 PTO days until your 10th year, when you again started to “earn” one more day each year, until you reached 15 days of PTO, which was the maximum. Except for the CEO and other high level staff, who could apparently take time off whenever they wanted.

      I felt lucky I got a job offer from another company and didn’t have to deal with that.

      1. General Ginger*

        That’s crappy, and, unfortunately, not uncommon. I had a job with a very similar structure, nothing the first year, and then going up to 5 at year 2, and 10 at year 5. My ex’s most recent job did a weird prorating thing where if you started before July, you’d get whatever their starting vacation was, and if you started after July, you’d get nothing that first year.

      2. Heather Fg*

        I had a similar job, but you didn’t get the 3 sick days until the January 1 AFTER your start date. So you got 0 days your first year, 3 your first full year, and 5 the next year.

        In the end I’m thankful—I needed that kick in the ass to get out of the line of work I was in, quit and go to grad school!

  43. Q without U*

    #4 – No one in my office would care a whit if you came in dressed in your best suit. That being said, one of my coworkers is weirdly critical of candidate’s ties (too short, too skinny, weirdly knotted … idek), so if you’re going to wear a tie, make sure it’s a good one!

    1. virago*

      Great point! A clip-on tie, for example, would totally undercut the “I’ve got my act together” message that Well-Suited (OP #4) is aiming for. (Though I bet that Well-Suited is also Well-Cravated, too.)

  44. TIFF*

    #5 – I would flat out ask why podcasts are not allowed but music is… I suspect that it may be considered distracting as you are actively listening to a conversation vs listening to background music. But if you have a radio you are also listening to announcements and news between songs.

    To particularly ban podcasts mean something triggered this, it isn’t just a coincidence. I would guess that someone can hear what you are listening to and took offence – perhaps a coworker who thinks you are too distracted.

    It could even be that you made a minor mistake and management jumped the gun assuming it was tied to your podcasts.

    1. angstymcjoe*

      That was my worry as well. If there was a substantial mistake that I made, I haven’t been informed. I am going to go in and ask my manager. I think there might be even deeper issues at play.

      1. Allison*

        Would love you hear an update from you if you get one! I think this rule sounds weird and pointless.

      2. Observer*

        Do speak to your boss. It’s quite possible that it’s not a BIG mistake that you made just a lower quality or speed that they are concerned about, as well.

        It would be interesting to hear what your boss has to say.

        1. angstymcjoe*

          Funny thing is the the raise I received was performance-based and for helping our office stay on track. I’ll have to see how my manager clarifies her reasoning.

  45. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I suppose it depends on the kind of work you do, but I find podcasts/audiobooks/talk radio/anything talking to be distracting while I work. I also sometimes find music with lyrics in English to be sort of distracting, because I find that I end up straining to listen for lyrics (I’m a champion at mis-hearing lyrics because I never really understand them anyway). I recognize that everybody is different – some people can listen and work, some people can’t. Maybe the issue, as others have mentioned, is with streaming and/or use of bandwidth. If that’s the case, it doesn’t seem like it would hurt if people listened to podcasts they’d already downloaded off-site on their personal devices.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        While true, Mike C., if the bosses have a certain mindset they’ve settled on, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been in too many places where individuality, even in minor, inconsequential things, is not welcomed.

        Hell, in the office where I work (for four more days, hallelujah!), I’m the guy who was the ONLY one asked to either change his ringtone or silence his phone, even though everyone else’s is at full blast, and mine is regularly at 20-25% volume. Plus, my default ringtone is the Axel F theme from Beverly Hills Cop, and others in the office have much more jarring ringtones.

        But in the end, I put my phone on vibrate, and recognized that this is a symptom of something else going on in the office….. and proceeded from there.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        Delta Delta literally said “I recognize that everybody is different”. So why did you feel the need to “correct” them like that?

  46. The Tin Man*

    OP 3 I’m a bit cantankerous today to I hope this doesn’t come across too strong.

    I agree with that political cartoon you posted 100% but it is more than a bit disingenuous to say “it doesn’t single out anyone by name.” You didn’t put this up in 2014, you put it up now. If I were your boss I think my eyes would roll out of my skull if I asked someone to take this down (which would be despite my personal politics but in the interest of preserving office cohesiveness) and they responded in a way that implies that people wouldn’t get that this is a Trump reference.

    As to your actual question, absolutely do not go above your boss’ head for all the reasons Alison said. And, as others have said, do you want to open the door to others posting political cartoons (or just direct campaign materials) that show political views contrary to your own? I am completely sure I work with some Trump supporters but I work better with them not knowing for sure, or not knowing who they are. I just know they are there.

  47. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP4: unless you’re absolutely desperate for pay, dress as you would like! I am another butch person here. I’d rather just be me. I don’t feel comfortable being out with my they/them pronouns at work, so the least I can do is not force myself into clothes that just don’t work for me.

    Relatedly, I am getting my first binder tonight! I have lost weight but am a 38G cup size so I hope being able to bind will make me feel better. But I don’t know about if a binder is okay to wear at work or the etiquette around it.

    1. anonish4this*

      I’m a similar bra size and I don’t technically wear a binder to work but I do frequently wear a type of sports bra that has a similar effect. (Shoutout to the Frog Bra!) If any of my coworkers have noticed that my boobs are pretty dramatically different sizes on different days, they have not had the bad manners to mention it.

      1. Well Suited*

        OP here. I did the frog bra for years, then they stopped making it and I switched to binders. However binders gave me really bad nerve damage through my shoulders and as soon as the frog bra came out again I went back to it. If anyone has ever noticed they have definitely never said anything to me about it. This is where being fat in general works in my favor.

        Good luck with binding! My advice is to stop if it’s hurting you because it can take a long time to heal from that.

    2. General Ginger*

      Good luck with your binder! FWIW, I am a big dude with a very big chest, so binding flat isn’t really possible for me (but it did make a pretty big difference in terms of dysphoria) — which absolutely none of my coworkers noticed. A friend of mine has been binding on and off at their office for about a year, probably 2-3 days a week, and nobody’s said anything. They asked their cube mate what she thought, if it was appropriate, and cube mate apparently had not noticed at all, even though my friend is able to bind almost completely flat.

    3. galatea*

      the nice thing about binding is that, generally speaking, nobody at work is going to be boorish enough to loudly exclaim SO WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR TITS

      I switch between a binder and a sports bra at work — I’m sure people have noticed, and it can be scary the first few times, but for me, at least, it’s been unremarkable.

    4. Rat in the Sugar*

      I’ve gone to work bound up completely flat, but I also have nonexistent boobs anyways so I’m not sure anyone noticed. I actually posted an unbound picture in a crossdressing subreddit and got people asking how I did my chest since it apparently looked really good…I would have been devastated as a teenager but now I’m delighted, heh! It’s not the most helpful advice, but I can at least say that no one seems to care if you have boobs or not, and as others pointed out it’s not like people can just come out and say “Where did they go?!” It’s so taboo to think about or discuss others’ underwear that I don’t think you even have to worry much about any unconscious bias either. I would say go for it as long as you’re comfortable. :)

    5. restingbutchface*

      Hey, good for you!

      I started binding a few years back and shockingly, people did comment but in a did-you-lose-weight way, which is also gross but I didn’t anticipate. So maybe have a response for that, maybe something smarter than my usual, “what? Me? Huh?’ clueless stare.

      If you haven’t bound all day before maybe take another option in your bag, just in case you need a break at some point. I wish I’d done that my first summer :(

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I actually wondered that. Is hip hop or Gregorian chant okay, but podcasts about those genres not?

      1. Mike C.*

        I meant literal music podcasts. Stuff like Above & Beyond Group Therapy, Future Sound of Egypt, that sort of thing.

  48. Allison*

    #3 I’m a pretty political person, in my personal life, but I keep it to myself at work. Not because I’m afraid of getting in trouble for my beliefs, and not because I’m afraid of “offending” others, but I know that public displays of one’s politics can make others uncomfortable, whether they agree with the sentiment or not. It’s just better to keep that stuff out of your cube, and while you can discuss politics at work, you need to be careful about the how/when/where. If someone tells you to knock it off, you knock it off.

  49. Database Developer Dude*

    #1 – Remind your boss that you don’t have the PTO balance and can’t go negative. Tell your boss if they want you to take more vacation, they need to let you earn more.

    #2 – If the conversation is a work-related conversation, reply back with “could you use regular language for this please? I’m having a hard time understanding what you mean, and need to do that in order to more efficiently”.

    #3 – Take the poster down. Seriously. It’s obvious what it’s about. In the office I currently work at (for four more days, hallelujah!) we’ve got a “no politics in the office” rule. The government lead is a die-hard Trump supporter, and likes to talk about any nonwhite immigrants in a very disparaging manner. That would engender a like response, and no one would be able to get any work done.

    #4 – you can be true to yourself and still be dressed professionally. Any workplace that objects to that…well, they’re telling you something you need to know about the culture.

    #5 – Definitely ask the question as to the why behind the rule. If you get pushback on getting an explanation, well, that’s something you need to know. What kind of work do you do anyway? Also, check with your cell phone carrier about how much unlimited data plans are and whether or not you can afford them. An unlimited data plan means you’re using YOUR internet, not theirs, so they have less legal recourse on whatever you listen to.

    1. Chameleon*

      So for #3, you have a “no politics in the office” rule except for that guy, who gets to spew hateful politics all over?

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        My PM’s gotten him to agree to not talk politics in the office. There’s a lot more that’s jacked up about this office, but this is the person who is In Charge ™, so there’s no real recourse if he decided to be obstinant.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s not even politics at that point. It’s straight up racism, and should be addressed as such.

  50. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

    I’m rather surprised that people think two weeks (10 days) PTO isn’t a lot. For someone under two years, that’s pretty standard. I work government and we’re given 3.014 hours annual and 3.46 hours sick per pay period–that equals right around two weeks annual. It doesn’t go up until you’ve been there five years. I’ve worked several government positions and all were similar. Same with the non government jobs. Until you hit five years or more, two weeks annual was usually the maximum.

    1. peachie*

      Yeah, but there’s a difference between “this is not unusual” and “this is enough to take time off the way the boss is suggesting.”

      (I also think that two weeks of vacation SHOULDN’T be the norm, but I’ll save that rant for another day.)

    2. Amethystmoon*

      I have 3 weeks and struggle normally to use them. Not everyone can afford to go somewhere on vacation, and my only option is to stay with family. Sometimes, you want to be able to do the things you like to do without having to give in to others.

  51. Database Developer Dude*

    I think “not a lot” and “standard” are two separate and distinct things when it comes to PTO.

  52. Afiendishthingy*

    #2, in addition to being annoying and unprofessional, does your coworker live in 2007??

  53. LSP*

    OP #4 – You know who I pictured as I read your letter? Lea DeLaria, who always looks amazing in a tailored suit! I mean, check this out:×988.jpg

    Confidence is one of the best things to wear to an interview, and if that suit makes you confident, it will help you much more than if you try to dress in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable from the start. Granted, I’m a cis female, but I am often not my most comfortable in skirts and dresses, so I wear pant suits when interviewing, and wear low heels.

    Best of luck!

    1. WillyNilly*

      I was picturing Boo too. I love her look (and I am a cis, straight woman)! I think she is just such a great modern style icon: she is helping redefine what a sharp dressed woman looks like by expanding options.

  54. Kate R*

    OP #1 – If you can tolerate it, I would just keep repeating, “Well I only get 10 days off for the year!” Most likely you’re boss doesn’t realize how few days you get, and maybe she can do something about it! I learned recently that in the early 2000’s, an fresh grad employee at my company told the CEO our benefits package was “sub-par”. He said, “She was right, but I couldn’t believe she said it!” I wouldn’t recommend being that blunt, but I think our benefits package is actually pretty alright, which I believe we owe to her pointing this out. Don’t be afraid to point it out! Just don’t be rude about it either.

  55. Goya de la Mancha*

    #4 – a custom tailored suit is going to look BOSS on your body no matter what gender it’s targeted for.

  56. WillyNilly*

    #4 Wear your suit and rock that promotion!

    I think you can/should wear it to any interview, but especially an internal interview – these folks already know, accept, and respect you as you are. And your style sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  57. Cucumberzucchini*

    I own a small business and it’s challenging for us to offer more generous time off policies. I would definitely like to but especially in our line of work where it’s billable hours it’s costing real money and there’s still work to that has to get done by certain deadlines. We’re not big enough where there are duplicate people per specialized role for coverage and you can’t really bring in a temp either, that’s just not possible. We try to be flexible as possible though. I do want my staff to take time off and disconnect. I want to take time off too, but it’s very hard as the owner to do so. I would absolutely find two weeks a year off of true disconnection an amazing luxury. I realize I chose this situation (to an extent) but the idea of taking off four weeks or more a year seems unbelievable to me. In no job I’ve ever had would that be possible from a workflow perspective. Maybe it’s just the industry I’m in.

    1. About Vacation*

      I know what you mean, and yet in Europe somehow they do it. 4 weeks is required by law, and the company I worked for added 2 additional weeks. So, they had 6 weeks total plus paid holidays at our EMEA divisions. Us poor US suckers only received 3 weeks + holidays.
      Fair? No. Plus sometimes we had to cover for those coworkers.

  58. Susana*

    I thought that NYer cartoon was hilarious. Reminds me of a poster on the wall of the jury room when I was on a jury. It had a dog at the defense table, and a jury box full of cats (all in suits). And it said, “everyone should have a jury of their peers.”
    I don’t see how the cartoon is offensive – I’ve been getting so many completely inappropriate pitches (with 2-3 “circling back” follow ups!) from PR folks that I want to email them back that NYer cartoon where the guy is behind his desk, on the phone, and saying, “no, Tuesday’s out. How about never? Does never work for you?”

    But Alison’s right – not worth spending capital on at work. Maybe instead, post the NYer cartoon where there’s a dog, in glasses and on the phone, sitting behind a desk on someone’s front lawn, and the speaking character in the cartoon is on the phone indoors and saying, “Bob, your dog is doing his business on my lawn again.” Though I guess some people would be offended by that, too….

    1. Genny*

      The poster is very specifically poking fun at a certain sub-group of Trump supporters (the ones who aren’t all in on his policies, but admire him for telling it like it is). I think it’s a clever cartoon that shows the absurdity of that position, but it’s definitely political and thus shouldn’t be in the office. The cartoons you mentioned aren’t political. The first is reinforcing the importance of a democratic norm. The second is poking fun at common work problems. The third is a play on words.

  59. peachie*

    OP2: I generally bristle when people get overly-pretentious about language, grammar, syntax, etc.–it usually comes off as elitist and show-offy, and there are often classist/racist undertones.* That said, I find lolspeak specifically super grating and cringe-y. I personally wouldn’t die on that hill, but I would find it really annoying.

    * Also generational ones, in the The Internet Is Ruining Kids These Days sense. I’m very good at using “correct” grammar when I feel it’s appropriate, but when I text, my use of language is totally different. For me, that’s because texting/messaging feels more like talking than letter writing, and using capitalization/punctuation/emoji/etc. does a lot to convey tone and inflection. Linking a relevant article by Gretchen McColloch I pulled up in my name. (If you find it interesting, her site has links to all the articles she’s written.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I read that Kids These Days don’t use periods in their texts. And I went back and looked at the chains of texts with my children, and it was true! But I hadn’t noticed until then, because the meaning of their texts was perfectly clear without a period. My daughter explained it as a sort of foot stamp at the end of a sentence–she didn’t read mine that way, but if one of her peers had always used periods at the end of one-sentence texts it would have stood out.

      Last week (on a different site) someone complained about a millennial having too many items in the 12 items or less lane. Because that is definitely something that was ne’er seen before the millennials hove over the horizon, their generation never took 13 items through that line…

  60. dramalama*

    #5: Just to project, a few times I’ve worked in group settings (and I mean serious group, like we’re all at the same long table working) I’ve been teased for little noises I make. I’m totally unconscious of it, and at first I accused people of making it up, but they swore up and down that I make little noises of agreement (little ‘hms’ and ‘huhs’). And this is just me letting my mind wander while I’m doing busy work with my hands, I’d imagine it’s even worse when I’m listening to a podcast. I wonder if you have a coworker who is silently being driven mad by your own hm-ing and huh-ing when you’re listening to something and complained; even though you’re completely unaware you’re doing it.

    1. angstymcjoe*

      If that’s the case, I’d rather be told about it so I could work on the problem. Plus, my supervisor is a hmm-er while he works, and he doesn’t listen to anything! It’s part of why I listen to things on my headphones.

  61. Aurora Leigh*

    I’m curious about the 10 days being average.

    Where I work, I get 5 vacation days plus we start the year with 28 hours “discretionary time” and accrue an additional 4 hours each month. So that’s 9 extra days. And we get all the major holidays off. But there’s no sick time.

    I’d have to be here 5 years to get 10 vacation days. It’s seems nice to me, but I was stringing together part-time jobs for so long that the idea of getting paid for time not working is still a novelty.

    1. fposte*

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who receive paid vacation are likely to have 10-14 days of vacation after one year; the number goes up as length of service gets longer.

      So it does sound like you’re below the average.

  62. McWhadden*

    #1 Honestly, your boss probably has no clue how many vacation days you earn if her’s is significantly different. Maybe as a manager she should know. But it’s probably just not something she’s thought about.

    #3 I love that cartoon but it is a political cartoon. It’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    #5 People just get the impression that if you are listening to something like a podcast or an audiobook you aren’t paying attention.

    1. McWhadden*

      And I know that that impression is not true for a lot of people re: #5. But it doesn’t change the impression that you aren’t paying attention to work if you are listening to something substantive. Sometimes perception matters more than facts to bosses.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      #5 – If I have earbuds in or headphones on, I’m NOT paying attention… to the general office noise, because they’re noisy and distracting and I’m trying to actually get work done!

  63. Michaela Westen*

    #1, that would really annoy me. Summer is my least comfortable season. The heat and bright sun can easily make me sick. Mold and ragweed allergies are factors also.
    I would not choose to take vacation in midsummer!
    My best vacations have been when I had a big social event to go to. I don’t care for traveling and if I’m not with my friends I’d just as soon be at work.
    Your boss is pushy and assuming everyone likes what she likes.

  64. WorkLady*

    OP#5 – I once had an employee who listened to podcasts as she worked, and also had trouble with errors and clear thinking. She believed that she was able to do analytical work while listening to podcasts; I think she overestimated her ability to do so. (Much like most people overestimate their ability to successfully multi-task.) This is what came to my mind when I read your post. I have absolutely no idea if that’s what your bosses are thinking – I think it’s much more likely that they are concerned about streaming bandwidth. I just wanted to add a thought because you said you were curious about possible motivations.
    That said, I would never address this problem in this way. It requires a direct conversation with the employee and an explanation for any policy being implemented. If it’s due to work quality, then a 1-on-1 with the employee addressing those quality concerns. If it’s due to wifi bandwidth concerns, a company-wide message explaining the policy. Either way, your employer muffed this one.

    1. TK*

      I agree with all your points – podcasts are likely distracting and not conducive to good work. But any concern like that should be directly addressed with the employee.

  65. Aitch Arr*

    Re: Letter #3

    My favorite cartoon of all times is a Dilbert cartoon where Catbert is asking Alice if she killed another co-worker. She admits that she did. Catbert then consults the Employee Handbook and decides that since she did not discriminate, harass, steal, or take drugs, he has to give her an award for her cost-saving idea.

    For obvious reasons, that cartoon lives on my refrigerator at home rather than anywhere in my office.

  66. JM60*

    Re: 1

    Does your employer also give you other paid days off, such as holidays? People often only look at vacation, but forget to consider other days off too. I only get 15 days PTO per yer. However, my employer has 12 pre-planned holidays that they will give everyone off for, which almost doubles my total paid time off for non-medical reasons from 15 to 27 days per year.

  67. always in email jail*

    Re: PTO
    It’s also helpful to get an idea of the work culture when looking at PTO offered. My current job has horrendous PTO (you start with nothing, earn 3 hours a pay period, and you’re not allowed to accumulate more than 80 at a time) BUT since we’re all FLSA-exempt (and truly should be) there’s no requirement to use leave for doctor’s appointments, a lot of flexibility regarding teleworking, etc. which is in stark contrast to my previous job that had generous PTO (yay government!) but required you to use leave even for .5 hours missed, regardless of FLSA status.
    While I wish we were allowed to accumulate more than 80 hours, it is helpful to not have to use the leave I DO have all the time just to get my teeth cleaned etc.

  68. Aeryn Sun*

    #3 I’m suddenly glad no one’s complained about my Smash the Patriarchy sign I have up at my desk!

  69. Observer*

    #3 – You’ve gotten some really good feedback.

    I just want to highlight a couple of issues that I don’t think were covered.

    Firstly is the “can they do that” and rules lawyering attitude. Now, I obviously don’t know you, so I could be reading you all wrong, but you really come off as nit picking “the rules” to get away with something that you really know is iffy. Even if you were technically correct, it’s generally a really bad way to build effective relationships and to get stuff done. Especially since, your boss and their boss most definitely CAN “do that”. They can tell you to take down a poster for any reason or no reason. As long as that reason is not tied to illegal discrimination, they have full rights to do this and lots of other things.

    Secondly, and again I understand that I could be misreading, your argument comes of as extremely contemptuous of your coworkers. The argument it sounds like you are making is that since you have not named names, the people you are mocking won’t get offended because they are too stupid to realize what you are doing. Either that or you think that people are “not allowed” to be offended unless you EXPLICITLY insult them, or maybe that you think that they are “too sensitive”. That’s a really bad image to project.

  70. Beth Anne*

    LW #1 – Depending on your relationship I would tell her well I only get 10 days a year but if you have some you aren’t using I would be glad to use them. My guess though is since she’s been there for 30 years she probably gets close to 6 weeks a year and I’m sure she even has some rolled over. But I do know in some jobs you can donate time off to other people….my friends husband has done that b/c he accumulates a lot of time off.

  71. MsChandandlerBong*

    My lack of vacation time is going to be the reason I leave my company in the near future. I only get 10 days of PTO. No paid holidays, no sick time, no personal time. I haven’t taken any vacation this year, but my PTO is gone because I was in the hospital for three work days and had to use the other seven for medical and dental appointments. If I want to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I have to use a PTO day for it. I get no pay for Christmas, New Year’s, or anything else. Just 10 days total for the entire year.

  72. Essess*

    I did a quick scan through the comments but I don’t see anyone else having the same issue I do when coworkers listen to podcasts… When I need to approach a co-worker who has headphones in to ask questions, I try to strain to hear what they are listening to. If it is music, I know I can safely interrupt. If I hear words talking, then I assume they are on a conference call or training session and should not be interrupted and I end up going back to my desk to either send an email (causing delays if I needed something time-sensitive) or waiting and trying to approach later (which would again cause me to leave because I would think they are still occupied by work).

    If your office has frequent conference calls or online training, the people listening to podcasts are giving a false impression of being occupied by work and are not approachable.

    1. Essess*

      To clarify, I strain to hear as I approach since normally there is some sound bleed out of headphones. I don’t stick my head up against their headphones. I reread my comment and it sounded invasive. :-D

  73. TK*

    OP#5: I’m surprised that you feel you’re able to complete your work adequately while listening to podcasts. Audiobooks and podcasts are pretty high-attention activities, since they tell a story or try to argue a point. If I were your manager, I would worry that you’re spending more of your mental energy on listening than on your job tasks.

    If it’s a job with a lot of downtime, podcasts could fill in gaps in your job duties. But if you’re actually learning from a podcast or digesting an audiobook while you are working, I would guess that you’re not doing as well as you think you are at your tasks.

    My husband’s a software engineer, and one of his direct reports started listening to podcasts while coding. His output (lines of code per day, especially good/non-buggy code) went down quite a bit during that time. Luckily he himself realized that and went back to music only. Music (especially non-lyrical) can still be distracting to some people, but it’s easier to perceive as low-attention background noise.

    1. angstymcjoe*

      My job is primarily image editing like cropping, fixing color distortions, etc. I don’t write much at my job unless I’m filling out a form to order an image.

      Further, the podcasts that I listen to tend to be ones I am ok with fading into the background. I save the more narrative/interesting ones for my commute or when I’m home because I actually want to pay attention to those.

      My manager and supervisor have not mentioned any problems with the quality of my work or any noteworthy mistakes I’ve made. I feel it would be reasonable to be informed of any problems with my performance rather be blindsided by a new office rule.

  74. Lily*

    I feel bad for poor OP 5, who has posted extensively in the comments to clarify and seems to be getting mostly overlooked while others keep repeating the same points.

    OP has clarified that

    1) she downloads all her podcasts (so she isn’t streaming)

    2) her work is mostly visual-based (image editing), therefore she truly is capable of having podcasts as background noise (despite some other commenters saying they never could, or assuming her work is analytical or word-based)

    3) she’s absolutely fine with not listening to podcasts anymore; she’s just concerned that her work isn’t up to snuff in some way, and the company isn’t telling her directly. She’s not asking how to get around the podcast rule so much as she’s asking how to ask her boss if there’s an issue with her work.

    OP, I would go to your boss and just ask—“I noticed we have a new no podcast rule, which I’m totally fine with! I just also know I’m the only one who listens to podcasts, and now I’m worried that my work has been lacking in some way that I haven’t been aware of. Could you clarify for me?”

    1. TK*

      Even image-based work takes strong attention to detail that I just don’t believe can be achieved when one is focused on a podcast. Our brains don’t really have separate processing of words & images – we can only process so much of anything at once, and her work may be suffering without her noticing. It’s at least worthwhile for her to ask her manager directly if this is the case.

      1. KR*

        I think that was lilys point – OP is looking for ways to ask her manager if it is affecting her work

      2. FRC*

        I disagree with this. I mean, it may work that way for some people, but it’s the polar opposite of my experience. If I’m doing something that requires writing/math/logical arguments/etc., it’s much better for me to have complete silence for working, but if I’m working solely in images, it genuinely doesn’t slow me down at all to have on audio books or podcasts the way it would if I were doing anything else. I don’t know if your brain actually processes words and images separately, but it certainly feels like the part of my brain listening is completely separate from the part controlling what my eyes or fingers are doing. I think it’s the same as how you can do athletic activities and listen to podcasts without tripping over your own feet– different parts of your brain are required for different skills and using one doesn’t distract from the other. I actually go a lot faster listening to podcasts or audio books when I’m working with images, because if I don’t use them I’ll be constantly bouncing a leg or tapping a hand, getting up to pace every hour, and having to drag my mind back on track every five minutes because I keep getting distracted. When I’m also listening to something, I can just plug in and work for six hours without even noticing the time passing. It’s the perfect level of stimulation for my brain.

        There’s probably some people who have different experiences. If you say you can’t work on images while listening to something or you know other people who can’t I believe you (although if you’ve never tried it and are just assuming it’s just the case for all detail-based work then I encourage you to actually sit down and see if you find the same things distracting working with images as working with words or numbers). I just don’t think your assumption is universally true.

    2. angstymcjoe*

      Thank you <3 I will be going to my manager this week to ask about my performance, particularly as it relates to this rule. I'll hopefully have an update soon.

  75. Manager Mary*

    OP 1, despite doing payroll for my department, I don’t have access to the information about how much sick time/vacation time my employees have available. I mean, it isn’t a secret; I could call and get the info, but I can’t access it directly from my end. It is definitely possible that your boss just has no idea where you are on your vacation days. I certainly don’t keep in the back of my mind “Brendatha has taken 3.25 PTO days this year, and they accrue at a rate of .833 per month, so that means she must have…”

    Fingers crossed after shooting down her comments with Alison’s scripts a few times, she’ll get the hint that you are at work because you need to be at work and pipe down.

    1. Observer*

      If you are the person who supervises someone and has to approve their leave, you SHOULD have a good idea of how much time that person gets and how much time they have coming. In this case it’s “OP gets 10 days a year, and I’ve just approved 5 days, so…” Not that complicated.

      1. whistle*

        I disagree. I approve leave for my direct reports, but my approval is based on coverage needs for my department, e.g. if Fergus already has that week off, and I can’t approve Wakeen’s request. I have no idea if the employee requesting leave has enough pto available, and I make that clear to them, so that they do not think my approval of their leave is also saying that they have pto available. The pto balance is on their check stub – they can look there or check with hr if they are unsure.

        However, I do have a general idea of how much pto each person gets per year, so I would not be so clueless as to tease an employee for “only” requesting a week off in the summer when that person gets two weeks vacation per year.

        1. Observer*

          Well, that’s the thing. The issue here is not that the supervisor does not know exactly how much PTO OP has accrued at this moment, but that they don’t seem to understand the relationship between a request and the general pool. So, it wouldn’t be shocking if the manager didn’t realize that OP only has 7.5 days left vs 8.25. But how do you not realize that 5 days is half of the OP’s full complement, used up or not?

  76. Not a Mere Device*


    “As far as I know there is no rule against posting a picture like this, but my manager told me to take it down.”

    That’s unlikely to work as an argument, because there’s very unlikely to be a rule saying they have to let you display posters of political cartoons either. Which makes it one of the very, very long list of things to which the answer to “can they do that?” is “as long as they don’t do it in a discriminatory way”: if (say) only the women at your office, or only the white people, or only the Christians were allowed to display political cartoons, you could push against that.
    They almost certainly can enforce a policy of “no political cartoons” or “no posters,” because it’s neutral in the legal sense, even if the policy was introduced yesterday.

  77. Happy Pirate*

    I listen to a lot of podcasts at work and they help add interest to the day when I’m doing fairly low mental-effort tasks. But when I have to do more thinky analysis work I always find I need to switch to music, as someone talking in my earholes can be a serious distraction. Maybe this is the reasoning behind the no podcasts rule?

  78. About Vacation*

    Actually, 5 days is the bare minimum, and at some places you may have to work there an entire year to get it!

    10 is more the norm, but again you may only get 5 days at 6 months, and the other 5 at the 1 year mark accrued. This is my current situation and it kind of stinks as I had 20 days at my previous job.
    On my last job search, I found that many companies will no longer negotiate vacation time, no matter what level you’re at professionally. I was told by at least 4-5 places I interviewed at that EVERY new employee only gets 10 days, and sometimes never more with increasing years of service. These were all very large corporations, not small businesses too. What gives with that? It’s really stingy!

    This used to be much more negotiable!

    1. Kate H*

      This is how my current employer is. We get plenty of unpaid leave, as long as we clear it two weeks ahead of time (exceptions for emergencies) but then you’re losing out on pay and have to pay extra for insurance. Paid leave is five days after one year, ten days after two, and then I think you get fifteen after five. The real kicker is our parent company has a much more generous paid leave plan, but our vice president refuses to extend it to us.

  79. PersonalJeebus*

    OP4, I mean this fondly, and all the Jedi hugs/back slaps for you, but: You’re way overthinking this! Even for women who aren’t butch lesbians, male-typical business attire is usually considered gender-neutral and appropriate for all genders–or that’s been my experience (and my butch wife’s experience) in every workplace. I realize YMMV in some industries or regions, but since you ran this by a coworker and she said it would be not only fine but expected in your case, you have my permission to stop worrying.

    I’ll save for another day my rant on how feminine business attire should *also* be considered gender-neutral.

    Go forth and do you.

  80. The Doctor*

    OP #1…

    The boss is clearly rubbing it in your face. She gets more PTO than you do and she won’t let you forget it.

    Since you’ve already been there for almost two years, go ahead and start the job hunt.

  81. nnn*

    Depending on personalities, an option for #1 would be to turn it into a discussion of whether/when/how more vacation time will be available.

    Boss: “That’s all the time you’re taking off this summer? Don’t you want to take off more time and enjoy your summer?!”
    You: “I’d love to and wish I had the vacation time to do so! Speaking of, how many years of service is it normally for employees getting more vacation time?”

    When the boss goes on about how important it is to take time off to recharge, you can nod and agree and say “I can’t wait until I have the vacation time to do that!”

    Then, if you get a good performance review and are discussing a raise, you can also bring up a vacation time from the point of view of “building on our previous discussions of the importance of recharging…”

    You have to watch tone with this approach. You don’t want even a glimmer of “Ha ha! I found a logical flaw in your comments about vacations! I tricked you into conceding that I should have more vacation!” You want your tone to be “I would like to live by your very wise advice, and perhaps in your wisdom you can make it possible for me to do so.”

  82. doreen*

    Depends on the situation. If the OP is the only employee, then sure, the supervisor ought to know how much vacation she gets per year. If there are 20 employees, earning different amounts of vacation based on years of service, who might have worked at a different location for 15 years before starting to work for this supervisor, then that’s a different story.

    I still wouldn’t tease anyone for only taking a week in the summer- that’s a separate issue. Not only does the teasing seem somewhat inappropriate- but I get a little more time off than the OP’s boss and I only take a week and a few single days in the summer. It seems like OP’s boss assumes everyone likes to take most of their vacation in the summer like she does.

    1. OP1*

      Some additional background: our organization is very small (under 15 people total, although my boss is only the direct manager to 3) and my boss is the director, which means she pretty much handles all HR matters. Also, she has high school-age kids, so I can kind of see how she’d default to thinking that everyone takes their vacation in the summer, since that’s what she’s been doing for so long.

  83. Anon For This*

    While I agree that OP#3 should not go to the boss’s boss over this, I have to say that it is mild, to me.

    After all, they could have out up a poster with the Adrian Bott quote:

    “I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.”

    1. Observer*

      That’s like saying that slapping someone is ok because it’s mild in comparison to beating them black and blue.

      In this context, it doesn’t matter if it’s mild or not – it’s an insult, it’s intended as an insult and the boss is being perfectly reasonable to have the OP take it down.

  84. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#4: You may have misunderstood the expectations of other people. Who really expects you to dress in a feminine way? In my opinion, dressing in a professional manner, or in a business-casual manner, does not require feminine clothing or feminine accessories. I am a woman, and I do not wear dresses, skirts, pantyhose, heels or make-up (because all that stuff is the Devil’s Work… ha!). For an interview, I would wear a pantsuit, or dress slacks and a blazer. Should I feel strange about this? Heck no. Neither should you. Wear your tailored suit. Good luck with interview, OP!

  85. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: Oh, how annoying. Sure, you should speak up. And it’s not a question of being gentle–just be factual in your response and remind her of how much vacation you actually have. There is nothing wrong with that. You are your own best advocate, and you should speak up for yourself (politely, of course).

  86. GoForIt*

    OP #4: If the people who are interviewing you know you, as you say, they might find it a little odd for you to come to an interview dressed in a distinctly feminine fashion when you usually go more masculine in your presentation. The clash between your appearance then and your usual appearance that’s more familiar to them might be jarring. Be your authentic self. If they treat you in a professionally courteous manner, that bodes well for how they’ll treat you in the role, if you get the job. If they treat you poorly or do something like ask you to dress in a more feminine fashion, it’s a big-ass red flag.

    I have a friend who’s a transmasculine genderqueer person, who dresses very femme. A slight beard and a dress are almost always elements of their appearance. They recently interviewed for a job and were offered it, but then after accepting, they were told that they could not wear dresses. The clothing guidelines in the employee handbook did NOT say anything about this (and in fact said something like “dresses and skirts must be modest and professional.”). The company was basically screwing with them. I hope that kind of bullshit does not happen to you!

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