I don’t want to be the office baker, interviewer was put off by how often I called in sick, and more

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

1. I make delicious baked goods and my office knows it

I was a baker for 10 years before I started my current corporate job. I would bring cookies or cupcakes for my team members’ birthdays or other office events. It got around that I made very good baked goods and now I am constantly being asked to make things to bring to work. In the last few weeks, I have been asked to make cookies three times, cupcakes twice, and a peanut butter pie. While I know how to make all these things and can probably do it a little more efficiently than others based on my previous experience, it takes up my time and money. I don’t want to come off as a jerk or lie to people about why I can’t make something, but it is becoming a problem. To make matters worse, one of our new coworkers feels we should have parties for any reason — birthdays, anniversaries, because it’s Tuesday, etc. She just assumes I will bring some food for her parties. I don’t know how to tell everyone I have to scale back without causing problems. If you have any suggestions it would help.

You do not have to be the office baker just because you’re good at it! It’s 100% okay to set whatever boundaries you like here so that you’re only baking when you feel like doing it, if at all.

Some things you can say:

* “Oh, I only do it occasionally or it takes the joy out of it.”
* “I don’t have time to bake right now, but (store) has delicious cupcakes.”
* “It takes a lot of time and money so I only do it a few times a year.”
* “I do it sometimes for my team, but it takes a lot of time so I can’t do it office-wide.”
* “Oh, no thanks! I’m taking a break from baking.”

Some people in your shoes find it easier to stop bringing in baked goods entirely, finding that it’s easier to just say “I don’t bake much anymore” and leave it there. But if you’re willing to be reasonably assertive and use the sorts of lines above, you should find that you can continue doing it when you feel like it while shutting down the times you don’t want to. (But if that’s going to make you feel rude or uncomfortable, you’re probably better off stopping altogether.)

2. How do I remind the person training me to follow up on things she needs to show me?

I recently started a new job, and at about three months in, I am feeling pretty confident with my work. I am an assistant for a team, but this is a new role they created out of a need for more support. I am slowly taking on more projects as I am getting more comfortable, and the associate who is overseeing my work is assigning me work that she used to handle. I have been receiving requests directly from the team with her cc’d, and she will usually follow up those requests with an email saying, “I will show you how to handle this this afternoon, tomorrow, later this week, etc.”

The only thing is, sometimes she forgets to follow up. Normally, I will reply to her email a day or two later (depending on when it needs to be done) just saying “Hi, just wanted to circle back to this if you have time today.” I feel pushy following up more than once, but I also know these projects need to get done. I also know that she is very busy (hence why they brought me on in the first place) so I don’t want to be a nuisance by having her stop working to help train me. How do I follow up with her to help me in a timely manner without being seen as pushy (or worse, helpless!!)?

I’d probably stop with the email follow-ups, since it doesn’t sound like those are working. Instead, you might need to drop by her office in-person or schedule some time with her. In general, if one method isn’t working, try a different one. Some people forget about emails but will be very responsive if you call or drop by or put time on their calendars, and other people have entirely different preferences.

The best way to find out, though, is to ask her! Say something like, “What’s the best way for me to get time with you when you’ve said you need to show me how to handle a new task? Should I just pop by your office, schedule a meeting on your calendar, have a standing meeting time once or twice a week to go over whatever has accumulated, or something else? I know you’re busy, so I want to do whatever will work best for you.”

3. Interviewer was put off by how many times I called in sick at my last job

I had an interview in a small town for a manufacturer for electronics. Overall, felt like the interview went well, and they had three openings that I might qualify for. They informed me that they need to speak with those departments to see if I would be a good fit. That was a week ago.

But one thing was very odd: they asked me how many times I called in at my last job, a call center. I said was there two years and called in five times, and they demanded to know why. I told them it was headaches. At all my other jobs, I hardly ever called in (usually due to major weather if I did). They were really stuck on and seemed offended by the calling in due to headaches. Should I have lied? Did I really call in a lot for two years? I have know many people who have called in WAY more and it was considered acceptable.

Five times in two years? An average of two and a half days per year? No, that’s not a lot. In fact, it’s on the low side! They’re being weird, and it’s a worrisome sign about how they handle sick days and what kind of bizarre expectations they have around sickness and attendance.

4. My employee is upset that I interrupted his non-work conversation

I have an employee who informed my boss he wants to go to HR because I interrupted his conversation twice today for work-related reasons. I hurt his feelings and he feels disrespected. If it had been a work-related conversation, I probably would have responded differently. Can he go to HR to complain that I have disrespected him by interrupting his non-work-related conversation?

He can go to HR to complain about anything he wants, no matter how ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean that HR will take those complaints seriously. If they’re even halfway sensible, they should explain to him that you’re allowed to interrupt his non-work-related conversations (or even his work-related conversations, for that matter), and that this isn’t something to escalate to them. I hope that your boss explained that to him as well.

More broadly, what’s going on with this employee? This isn’t the kind of thing that normally comes up with good employees or when there’s a good manager/employee relationship, so I’d take this as a flag that something’s going on there that needs your attention.

5. When job postings list physical requirements I can’t do

I’ve been looking at job postings for admin positions at the local large university (in the U.S.). The postings are fantastically detailed so that it’s easy to figure out if they are the type of work I’d like to do. However, one detail they always included gives me pause: the list of the job’s physical demands.

Generally, the list includes the number of hours spent sitting or standing, how many hours you’d have to be looking at a computer, and how much weight you’d be expected to lift. Unfortunately for me, this last is where the difficulty lies. You see, after an injury years ago, I was told that I would never be able to lift more than 10 pounds without hurting myself and these job postings have lift requirements that start at 30 pounds. I’ve seen a few that state 50 pounds!

I’ve worked office positions most of my life and I’ve always been able to manage all parts of the job. When I’ve had to lift something heavy, I’d find someone else to do that part (usually just changing the water dispenser jug or moving a case of copier paper). So I feel reasonably sure that I could manage whatever this new job might require. But, since they list the requirement explicitly, am I applying in bad faith? If I should happen to get hired for this role, are they still required to discuss accommodations with me even though they said up-front that this was a requirement? It would be different if I were looking for roles that traditionally move heavy things all day (like a furniture mover or a package delivery person) — of course I wouldn’t apply to those! — but this is a standard office set-up. I have trouble believing they move heavy things on a regular basis.

Should I apply? And, if so, should I say anything about my lifting restriction?

Sometimes those lists are just boilerplate that they’re plugging into a bunch of different jobs, or someone stuck a number in there without thinking it through or verifying that it’s a core requirement of the job. And that’s the piece that matters legally: the question of whether it’s an essential component of the job. If it’s a task you might have to do occasionally and someone else could easily handle it for you without much disruption, the law will not consider that an essential part of the job, despite what the job description has listed, and thus the employer would still need to accommodate you.

If you could read the job posting and reasonably come away thinking that lifting is not a core requirement of the job (but more likely to be something like occasionally lifting a case of copier paper), then yes, go ahead and apply. If you get an offer, at that point you can say something like, “I noticed the job description mentioned that this person might need to lift 50 pounds and I was curious what that refers to.”

There is a chance that it’ll turn out it’s an essential part of the job and they’ll be annoyed that you didn’t raise it earlier, but that’s pretty unlikely if you’ve gotten all the way to the offer stage without it ever coming up. Generally if something is truly an essential piece of the job, it’s going to be at least touched on earlier in the discussion … but if you’re worried, you can always pose that question in the interview itself.

{ 415 comments… read them below }

  1. TL -

    OP3, that must be a really fun conversation starter – I’m pretty clueless sometimes and would not have gotten at what they were saying

    Them: How many times did you call in sick?
    Me: Probably 5 times or so; I didn’t really track it.
    Them: Why?
    Me:….I was sick….
    Them: With what?
    Me:…An illness?
    Them: What kind of illness?
    Me:…it varied?

    There just must be so many golden conversations that come from this question!

    1. Just Employed Here

      I’ve started doing this (albeit at my current job, so it’s whole lot different than at a job interview):

      – Oh, you were ill? What was it?
      – An illness.

      Or even worse, when my hubby, who works at the same office, is ill:

      – What’s wrong with DH?
      – Does it matter?
      – Huh? I mean… isn’t he on sick leave today?
      – Yup.

      I’m sure some of my (various) colleagues I had the latter exchange with last time he was ill thought I was getting a divorce or something, since I sounded so callous about poor DH’s wellbeing. X-) I did have a chat with them later that day to explain that I couldn’t really comment on another person’s health, and that we dwe didn’t yet know when he’d be well enough to return to work anyway. (Which is I guess where these questions stem from, although they come out quite differently.)

      1. Tau

        Which is I guess where these questions stem from, although they come out quite differently.

        IDK, I find this one difficult because I think there’s also a level of “are you OK? is it anything serious?” that’s natural in people who are on a friendly basis. I struggled to deal with this when I was out sick a lot this summer for a vaguely TMI health issue – I knew I didn’t have to tell people, but at the same time I didn’t particularly care if they knew the details and I could tell my colleagues were getting increasinbly worried. At some point I realised my last sick note had been written by the “Center for blood- and cancer-based illnesses” (very rough translation) and that it would probably be kind to let my boss know that I did not, in fact, have cancer.

        Completely different story in an interview, of course. It’s hard to spin that one any other way than “have you been sick infrequently enough for good enough reasons to deserve our consideration.”

        1. Just Employed Here

          Yeah, I guess it might actually be about 1/3 concern, 1/3 nosiness, and 1/3 actual practical concern about specific tasks getting done. :-)

          Or 100% just how we’ve always talked here; we’re a friendly bunch and have all worked here for a long time.

          But I want to get away from the “What does she have?” jargon for simple one-day colds exactly because I don’t want more complex, embarrassing, or worrying stuff, where you don’t want to get into it, to become even more of a big deal than they naturally already are.

          (I cringe when I remember my own fascination with and discussions about a colleague’s exotic and unusual illness he picked up on an international trip a couple of years ago. We were all very curious! And he didn’t mind talking about it. I think…)

          1. A_lurker

            This has always been my preferred approach to illness questions. It’s nobody’s business beyond when I will or won’t be available. Unfortunately in my current (retail) work part of the sickness process is filling out a form with your manager giving details of what you were sick with and I never know how much detail they want or are entitled to. The questions seem to be relatively invasive compared to my housemate’s desk job which she seems to just email saying “I won’t be in today” with no other explanation or paperwork needed. Not really sure which of these approaches is closer to the norm and that is frustrating in itself.

            1. Cindy Featherbottom

              I think part of the reason that retail is a bit more curious about the “why” is because people take advantage…a lot. People will call out and claim an illness purely because they dont want to be there so managers feel like they have to ask to suss out the ones who are lying. Even in the health care setting that I’m in now, we’ve had a coworker call out A LOT lately and is always extremely vague about her ‘illness’…and I say ‘illness’ because its become so frequent lately that no one believes she is actually sick anymore. To be fair, it truly is no one elses business if someone is ill, but if its a constant problem (not that this applies to OP at all) and puts the team in a bad spot on a regular basis then people are going to be curious and want to know whats going on.

              1. Queen Esmerelda

                At a previous health care job, the institution came out with a much more strict unexcused absence/consequence policy (and while it was more strict, you had to have more than 6 absences a year before any action was started), which lead all the way up to termination. One employee, who tended to be “ill” quite a lot, looked upset when it was explained when termination would occur. “But what if you’re really sick?” she asked. Um, maybe don’t call in when you’re not sick so you don’t get in this situation?

                1. Quickbeam

                  Yes that. as a nurse, I know if I call in, I’m screwing someone else who will have to work a double shift. In my career I saw a lot of fake sick calls from people who were really covering day care shortfalls. My hospital had in house day care for staff including sick child day care. it really never worked, people just wanted to stay home.

              2. mcr-red

                I had a boss that never seemed to believe you were sick. If you tried to call in the night before, you weren’t sick (as in, oh hey I’m in the bathroom puking my guts up, I won’t be in tomorrow. Oh, you may be perfectly fine tomorrow.) If you tried to have a spouse call in for you, you weren’t sick (hey my spouse is in the bathroom puking their guts up, they won’t be in today. You’re lying for them.) If you called in and got him and not his voicemail, he would argue that you were fine enough to come in. So everyone used to try to time it so it would be right before he walked in the door, so you’d get his voicemail. If you were sick more than two days in a row, you had to have a doctor’s note. Which meant people would be out sick two days, come back in the third day, and spread the germs.

                All of this to say, I had one coworker who called off every Monday like clockwork. Because he was still hungover from partying all weekend. NOTHING EVER HAPPENED TO HIM.

              3. NotAnotherManager!

                Honestly, I don’t have a ton of sympathy with most retail employers. A lot of them keep people just under hours to be part-time and don’t offer paid sick leave, so I’m sure a lot of people just figure, well, I’m just not going to get paid, and I can live with that. I think if retail is looking for more dedicated employees, the industry as a whole could do a lot more to demonstrate dedicate to their employees first. It seems that there is this undercurrent in retail management that their employees should be grateful for the job and expect them to be available at odd hours, last minute, and without benefits.

                There’s certainly an argument to be made for keeping commitments and showing up for shifts, but I can also understand why this particular issue is pervasive in retail.

                1. Bunny Girl

                  When I worked in food service, I thought their sick policy was ridiculous. Especially since we were, you know, handling people’s food. At one place I worked, no matter how sick you were, you had to show up unless you got someone to cover your shift. Spoiler alert, everyone hated it there and no one wanted to cover for anyone. We had people showing up with strep, the flu, norovirus, everything you can think of, because the manager wouldn’t let anyone call out. I once called in because I had a 103 degree fever and couldn’t even stop coughing long enough to make the phone call. My manager was still like, well are you sure there’s really no way you could come in? Dude… That’s so far against health code.

                2. Tessa Ryan

                  Bunny Girl, 100% I feel you there.

                  I was a waitress at a steakhouse a few years ago and got a terrible head and chest cold (the kind where coughing constantly and blowing your nose every 5 minutes was just going to happen.) I was feverish and had to go into work because I couldn’t find anyone to cover for me. I told my manager at the beginning of the shift that I was worried about handling food, and he responded that if I was going home early or planning to call in sick, I’d need a doctors note by my next shift or I’d be written up. Halfway through my shift, people had been complaining about me (rightfully so), and I just felt what I was doing was not very safe or sanitary, so I drove to a walk-in clinic, and paid like $80 with my crap insurance at the time for a doctor to literally tell me I had a bad cold and should go home and sleep. I was fortunate to be able to quit a few weeks later, but that sick policy was INSANE.

              4. ToS

                For larger employers (more than 15 = ADA, more than 50 = FMLA) there is coverage for disability (ADA) or serious health conditions (FMLA, which can overlap with disability) – so THAT is what happens when it’s something serious. In both cases there is some limited disclosure to HR, not the supervisor

            2. Humble Schoolmarm

              It’s so funny how this varies between industries. I don’t get any vacation days other than school breaks but we do get fairly generous sick time. Most principals are very clear that they just want to know that you won’t be in as early as you can and that giving them the wrong details (like explicitly saying you need a mental health day) will generate all kinds of intrusive paperwork. (And, adds the union, please, please, please stay off social media).

          2. Ain't nobody's bizness

            I have a coworker currently on extended medical leave. Her prognosis was serious to begin with and she’s recently been told she is terminally ill. How do I know this? Because at each monthly all-staff meeting her health status is an agenda item. Why? Because, as our CEO tearfully explained as he announced the terminal prognosis, *we’re a family*! (Of course, when queried about the possibly of instituting a sick leave donation process, the the answer was unequivocably no. Because nothing says family like capricious HR rules.)

        2. Lulu

          Tau, I had to laugh, because when I was undergoing various diagnostic tests that lead to a cancer diagnosis, I blurted out to my boss (who asked if everything was okay, with my frequent need to run to the clinic) “Don’t worry, I’m not pregnant!”

          I was… a little stressed. And she was very kind and not trying to pry, but just being a concerned human who also wasn’t that great at dealing with this kind of thing. But also, it was really awkward to be going through that stuff in a small office where people definitely talked, and at some point I just gave up my medical privacy because when you are stressed and sick it can be easier to just give in. This is where a more effective manager definitely could have helped.

      2. Thursday Next

        Wouldn’t it have the effect of preserving your/your spouse’s privacy, and of addressing your coworker’s sense of concern, to say something like, “oh, it was one of those 24-hour things—I’m fine now,” or “It’s not terribly serious, I’m sure DH will be up and about soon”?

        Sometimes people are being nosy, but other times, they want to make sure you’re okay, and/or figure out the impact of an absence to their workflow. I think excessively terse answers beg more questions than they forestall, and could make the terse answerer seem rude.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar

      Argh. I used to work for someone who thought sick days were for the weak or goof-offs, and she interrogated anyone who called in sick. Simply being ill wasn’t good enough, she needed to know HOW SICK we were.

      In my next job I overshared the first time I called in sick – nasty flu bug, and I wanted my new boss to know I wasn’t goofing off. She told me she didn’t need the details, and being sick was not an issue: ‘We have sick days for a reason, take care of yourself!’ My only obligation was to let her know when I would be out. Because adults do that.

      OP, this company is not behaving like most professional companies do, please proceed with caution. If at all.

      1. Bend & Snap

        This is a secondhand story, so may not actually be true, but heard a coworker went into gory details of lady business with a skeptical male boss. “IT’S A BLOODY MASSACRE, TONY.”

        1. whingedrinking

          My students are all learners of English, and I think my favourite phrase any of them has coined to try to explain why they can’t come to class is “woman month time”.

        2. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo

          My hand to God, my best friend once told her Very Skeptical 20-something male boss to please put her on hold and Google endometriosis if he really wanted to know why she was calling out for the second day in a row.

          She came back to a “feel better soon” card and a bar of expensive chocolate on her desk and he never gave her grief over it again.

      2. Oxford Comma

        I have overshared for skeptical bosses too. Because really? You want to know the details of my bowel movements? I can do that. I won’t enjoy it, but I can.

        In college, I worked as a telemarketer for some survey firm. I came down with a really bad case of strep. Got the demanded for doctor’s note. Was told if I got sick, with or without a doctor’s note, they would let me go. They were shocked when I quit.

        OP: this is a red flag about this company. Treat it as such.

        1. Paquita

          I actually left work today because of ‘bowel’ issues. Just told boss I didn’t feel good. That is all she needed to know.
          I think I have undiagnosed IBS-D. Those on here who have this, or Crohn’s, or other similiar things: Would y’all be willing to share tips on dealing with this on the weekend thread?

      3. Michaela Westen

        If possible, I wouldn’t accept a job at this company. Their attitude indicates a draconian approach to sick time. There will be a lot of consequences, including that people who don’t feel they can take sick time will come to work sick and spread germs. They might not provide sick days at all – or they might on paper but refuse to honor them. If you’re sick “too often” (what, like more than one day/year?) you might get fired.
        If you came down with a serious illness or had to take time to care for a family member, you’d probably get fired. They really sound like a short-term job at best, until you find a better one – fingers crossed no one gets sick while you’re there!
        That they’re in a small town makes it worse – they don’t have as much competition for good employees, and that’s probably one of the reasons they get away with this.
        That they even *want* to get away with treating people like this is the real issue. :(

        1. Michaela Westen

          P.S. – I missed 7 days of work earlier this year because of a respiratory infection. I missed one day a few weeks ago because of a cold. I’m so lucky to have an employer who appreciates me, and this is one of the reasons I don’t leave!

      4. Jam Today

        I was sidelined with flu, followed by pneumonia, for two weeks. I was delerious for a few days with a temp of 103, followed by a couple of weeks of sleeping about 14-16 hours a day. At the end of it all, my boss berated me for missing meetings and put me on a PIP, using that as his excuse.

        1. Quackeen

          I will never understand bosses putting people on PIPs for things that aren’t performance-related. How can you give a PIP that essentially is “stop being sick”?

          1. Michaela Westen

            Or, is there legal protection? Maybe check the laws in your state or consult a lawyer?
            Either way, look for a supportive employer!

        2. Michaela Westen

          Did you keep going to work sick until you were seriously ill because of pressure from your employer? If so, then without that pressure you would have stayed home? And not gotten as sick?
          I’ve done that before too, but luckily didn’t get this sick!

      5. Cheryl Blossom

        My last employer started requiring anyone who took sick time to bring in doctor’s notes whenever they were sick because I was out sick regularly… with chronic migraines.

        I explained that it was completely impractical (and prohibitively expensive, even with my very good insurance!) for me to go to the doctor every time I have a migraine bad enough to call out sick, when it would be much better for me to take my meds and just stay in bed. I don’t think she believed me. Of course, she also kept trying to tell me that going gluten-free would cure my migraines…

        1. Michaela Westen

          I think there are cases where food reactivity caused migraines. However, it isn’t necessarily gluten. It can be anything, and has to be determined individually. Since the medical establishment mostly hasn’t accepted the link between food and migraines (sigh), the easiest way is to track diet and symptoms and look for patterns.

          1. batman

            I think the link between food and migraines is pretty well known, at least among doctors who deal with that stuff. I’ve found info about it on reputable websites and in books. There are some foods that seem to cause issues more than others, but the real issue is that no food affects everyone the same, so you can’t just say “don’t eat chocolate” or “don’t drink red wine” because each person has different triggers.

          2. Frea

            *waves* I get migraines from glutamates, aged cheeses, wines, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, etc. And part of the problem with them is that once you have one trigger, you’re susceptible to a lot of them. So occasionally my boss will ask what triggered a migraine (morbid curiosity) since I’ve explained to him all of the various food triggers, I’ll choose to make something up because this one was hormonal or stress-induced. Luckily his wife gets them, too, so he’s pretty lenient, but I have been counseled about taking too much sick time for them. Going to the doctor for a note for ever migraine just makes me cringe.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar

          I feel for you, Cheryl, I used to get debilitating migraines during menopause. I couldn’t even slowly turn my head in my cool, dark bedroom without waves of nausea and pain. Go to the doctor for a note? Why not ask me to climb Mt. Everest? Fortunately, my boss understood.

          Also, it’s true there are some food triggers for migraines, but I told well-meaning enthusiasts of various dietary trends that my doctor and I already figured those out and made a plan. People huffed away but rarely brought it up again.

      6. NotAnotherManager!

        I tell new employees at orientation that I do not need the gory details of illness or vacation time. It’s an offered benefit, and what I need to know is that they’ll not be in and what work needs to be handled in their absence.

        A number of years ago, I managed a team of all men, and, for reasons I’ve still not figured out, ALL of them felt compelled to overshare their medical maladies with me, including the specific details of a minor surgical procedure one had. None of them were people who would not have had exposure to professional norms before, either. The just felt compelled to share, and I ended up shutting down a lot of necessary details. JUST TAKE THE DAY OFF, DUDE.

      7. Weyrwoman

        I did the same, SheLooksFamiliar! Back when I worked retail the interrogation over “but are you REALLY sick?” was intense. So when I got shingles, like many other replies to this thread, I overshared like crap when my boss called me every day to ask when I was coming back, even after I managed to put the FMLA paperwork through. First job post-retail I overshared, and my boss was like “pls don’t, I don’t need to know this much about you”.

      8. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo

        At my last retail position I was a key-holder & frequently opened. I also have an extremely bad food sensitivity to nori seaweed. These two things are related in that I discovered that I had this food issue the first time I had sushi & it resulted in me calling my Grandboss at 6 AM from the bathroom in between bouts of ….well, let’s just say that I was very, very, very ill and leave it at that.

        It was a desperation phone call because none of my direct management team were answering their phones & I was due in to open the store at 7 AM. She spent the entire four hours she was in the store asking all my coworkers if they thought I was faking it, because she thought I was just hung over or still drunk.

        Bless my direct boss for pointing out to her that I’d called in sick exactly one time before – when my appendix had ruptured 8 months earlier – and that I don’t drink. I was grateful for her shutting down that course of conversation but it left me feeling extremely gun shy and like I needed to justify and over-explain every illness I had.

        My current job has a policy that more or less amounts to “we prefer that you contact us as soon as you know you’ll be out so that we can arrange coverage” but they actively discourage sharing illness related war stories. I like it so much more but it definitely took me working up some nerve when I had to call out the first time.

        OP that interviewer was being ridiculous. I can’t tell if you were interviewing with an individual or a panel and one person had the question, but regardless, their concern and apparent dismay was, again, ridiculous. Best case scenario is that this is an individual thing and not a company wide concern, but be aware that some bosses *are* like my former grandboss and that someone focusing on this (once again) ridiculous concern doesn’t bode well for their supervisory skills. I second what SheLooksFamiliar said and would urge you to proceed with caution!

    3. Becky

      I don’t think I would even be able to answer how many times I call in sick? I don’t keep a tally. My Sick/Vacation times is in a unified bucket so I know how much PTO I have left but I don’t always remember the specific reason I was off on a particular day.

      I do remember about a year ago I had the worse time sleeping one night, I was just tossing and turning and could not drop off even though I was dead tired. Finally about 7 AM I texted my boss saying I wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be coming in, then took a benadryl and finally fell asleep. My boss is great. I don’t abuse the flexability and he trusts me when I say I need a day off.

    4. RUKiddingMe

      I’m not overly secretive about my medical issues…I have a lot of them and because a few are invisible disabilities it is sometimes easier to just tell people “hey I have XYZ and yeah I look like I’m in pain because I am.” Plus I just don’t care if people know. That said, how dare they demand to know what someone’s medical issues are! I choose to tell or not because that’s my prerogative. Demanding to know? So much nope.

  2. Greg NY

    #4: Was the interruption polite? Saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I need to ask you something” is a lot better than butting in with something like “Did you do this thing I asked you to do” right in the middle of a conversation. Showing respect as a manager commands respect back in return from your employees. You need to set a good example if you aren’t already.

    That said, it’s ridiculous that this employee wants to go to HR over something that is easily solved. If I was this employee, I would’ve gone to the offending manager (you) and explained my concern. Only if I was unsuccessful at talking to you would I consider talking to your manager. I wouldn’t go to HR for something like this unless all other avenues failed and it was a dealbreaker for me. Personally, if you were unwilling to change after I spoke to you about it, I would be willing to understand that it’s your communication style and is nothing personal, and that I could get back to my non-work conversation right after you asked me your question (or I took care of what I needed to take care of). My feelings wouldn’t be hurt by this unless I was being singled out. So I think this employee is overreacting.

    1. Sam

      How would you have raised your concern to your manager in this situation, out of curiosity? I always assume that when it comes to personality issues / differences in style, particularly when they are this minor, I have to just defer to my manager.

      1. Graciosa

        I’m having an odd double reaction to this.

        On the one hand, I basically agree with you. I have always understood the same thing, and deferred to my managers wherever I reasonably could. That covers a very broad range of items, with the caveat that you don’t need to put up with actual abuse or any of the really crazy stuff we see from time to time here. There are limits, it’s just that the question above doesn’t even approach any of them.

        On the other hand, a good manager will see her job as adjusting to those personality quirks or differences in style for her team. I am the one thing I can always change. I have employees who want to tell me about projects in detail – every step – in order! – and others who just do it and never mention it again unless there’s an issue or a question.

        I sit there and listen and smile and make encouraging noises – because I am there to help them be their best, and if this is what they need from me, I’ll give it to them. I remember a previous question about a manager being asked by her team to bring in cookies (!?!) where my advice was to at least consider it because in a weird way giving people what they want is part of the job.

        But on this question, I would definitely be put off by an employee who thought they withhold performance – or take me to task somehow – for interrupting a non-work conversation with a work matter without whatever the employee believes is due deference.

        1. MK

          A team can have many members, while most people only have one manager; so, from a practical point of view alone, I would say the default is the employee should be the one who adjust instead of the manager tracking the various employees’ prefered style. Also, sometimes it’s not only a matter of style; generally speaking and within reason, the manager does have the priviledge to set the tome of the certain culture/atmosphere that they want for their workplace and the employees should adjust.

          There are some exceptions, of course. If a new manager is assigned to a long-standing team that has a set style of communication that works well, they should at least make an effort to accommodate this. If the manager is coming from a very formal country/region to a more casual one, the adjustment should be on them. And there are some fields that have their own culture and internal rules, of course.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            Agreed. In most cases I think it is on the employee to defer to and adjust to the manager. However the manager is not allowed (in my world) to be abusive.

            Interrupting a personal, non-work conversation in a normal manner to attend to work related things is not in and of itself disrespectful therefore I would need a lot more information about how and what was said by OP before I could really comment here.

            I think though that there are a lot of people who think that they are entitled to never be told what to do and fail to really see/understand hierarchy/chain of command/superior vs subordinate, etc.

            IME those people tend to be younger and it takes a while for them to get smacked down (figuratively of course) enough before they start to see things as they really are…that is to say who has authority/capital/juice and who does not.

            Note I’m not saying millennials…millennials are fine on the whole, plus they are getting up well into their 30s now anyway, so not really ‘kids’ anymore. Old people like me were once young and did the same type things/had the same attitudes.

      2. Greg NY

        I agree. This is minor. If this manager’s report interrupted their non-work conversation for a work-related matter, they shouldn’t make a big deal of it. If I was in that situation (thankfully I haven’t been yet), I’d just ask why they’re being so short with me or why they had a tone, was there something wrong. Since I wouldn’t have hurt feelings over something like this, I find it hard to relate to this employee.

        1. Sam.

          I realize there are a lot of details we don’t know here, but the employee was having a non-work chat while at work. Unless the OP was egregiously rude, the employee doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Questioning the manager like this would take some cheek and is likely to make things worse for them.

          1. The Other Dawn

            That’s what I’m thinking: employee doesn’t have a leg to stand on since it’s a non-work conversation. Even if it was work-related, it’s still the manager’s right to interrupt. Maybe in that case, if OP was extremely rude, the employee could say something, but otherwise, no.

            1. Czhorat

              The OP – and some here – made a bigger deal about this being a non-work discussion than I would. I have non-work chats all the time around the office; not to the detriment of doing my duties, but it’s normal for co-workers to catch up on family life, the big game yesterday, etc. Offices where this happens within reason are usually healthier.

              1. JB (not in Houston)

                I don’t think anyone is saying you shouldn’t have non-work conversations. The point is that when you are *at work,* a conversation that is work-related will always have precedence over one that is not work-related. You cannot reasonably get annoyed with your manager for interrupting a social conversation to talk to you about work when you are at work.

                1. Czhorat

                  True, but we should also treat eachother politely and respectfully, which includes the understanding that employees are not automatons and will interact with socially even when on the clock.

                  I agree that work takes precedence; I also see an interruption can be done either gently and respectfully or harshly and rudely. There’s also context we don’t know. Is this information which can be given in an email? Is it information the employee already has? Have you already assigned a job and are interrupting a conversation to bring it up again, well ahead of the deadline? If so, then I can see the perception that you’re interrupting for its own sake.

                  Work is work, but we should all be thoughtful as to how we redirect reports from a hopefully brief social break back to their jobs.

                2. Beatrice

                  I agree with you in essence, and I’ve interrupted my employees’ non-work conversations to redirect them to work matters more than once (I don’t care about a little chat, but sometimes it goes on too long, gets too loud/distracting, or there are work matters clearly being ignored.) I’d be incensed if anyone’s reaction was to escalate to HR instead of, you know, getting back to work.

                  I do think there are some personal conversations that are important enough to take precedence over more trivial work conversations, though. There are very few reasons why I’d knowingly interrupt an employee’s normal-length phone conversation about their sick child with a school or a doctor, for example. If that’s what the OP did, the employee’s reaction makes more sense.

                3. CMart

                  With the acknowledgement this is 100% veering off into “advice column fanfic”, there are plenty of reasons to get annoyed by your manager interrupting a social conversation at work about work-related matters– we just don’t have evidence either way from this letter that any of these factors were in play.

                  -Speaking to a superior in a networking kind of way (elevator chat with CEO comes to mind)
                  -Grabbing your lunch from the office fridge during what ostensibly would be a “break” even if you’re salaried
                  -The “work matter” was something already completed and the manager overlooked it
                  -The interruption was done in a way that made you look like you’re bad at your job (ie: being scolded), especially if a frustrated, scolding tone isn’t warranted

                  And especially if any combination of the above were in play. If my Director was chatting with me about our weekends and my manager stopped me mid-sentence about my trip to the arboretum to say “why are you chatting when you have work to do? You still haven’t sent me the TPS reports, this is the third time I’ve had to ask!” I would be upset, not merely annoyed. If I’d sent the TPS reports (or been in communication about the things holding them up) I would be mortified that I was just made to look like an irresponsible slacker.

                4. wittyrepartee

                  To me it depends. Are we talking about a conversation about something BIG? Someone below mentioned “discussing a child’s sickness with someone on the phone”. It doesn’t sound like that’s what happened- but there’s some things that should take precedence over a work conversation. Life happens, sometimes we can’t pause it for work.

                  However, outside of a few extreme cases, I agree with this sentiment.

              2. LQ

                Yes non-work chats happen, but you should assume that your nonwork chat can be interrupted with what you get paid to do more readily than work chats. Part of it being nonwork is that you should know that there is something else that takes precedent. If I’m nonwork chatting with a coworker and my boss or a coworker comes over we generally stop and find out if there is a work thing that needs to be addressed. (Or if the person just wants to get in on the nonwork chat which is fine.) You’re at work. Yes, you can have a water cooler chat but you need to know that what you are doing is not why you are there or what you are paid for.

                1. The Other Dawn

                  Right. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t get how an employee can legitimately complain to his boss’s boss and HR that the boss interrupted his non-work chat with a work-related question. I don’t care if my employees want to chat about the latest episode of whatever TV show they all watch. They do it all the time and I’m fine with it. But if I have a pressing work-related question, I’m going to interrupt so I can ask it. I won’t be rude about it, but I’ll still interrupt and ask.

                2. RUKiddingMe

                  Exactly. Social chat happens and by and large that’s fine. However work always takes precedence. This means that if there is work needing attention, at work, the social chat must stop and be tabled until a later time if necessary, full stop.

                  If it’s something big: sick child, spouse in a car wreck, parent just died, then the report needs to tell the manager that right in the moment and do whatever they need to do…which the manager should understand and actually help to facilitate because it’s the right thing to do. This doesn’t sound like that though, and I think if it was that OP would have mentioned it…maybe.

                  I mean ok we don’t have enough actual information, so I’m speculating, but the way I read it is that the report was chatting, the manager interrupted and the report thinks being interrupted in and of itself was disrespectful and now wants to whine to HR because the manager had the audacity to interrupt her conversation.

              3. Yorick

                I agree with this. Was the interruption about something that was urgent, or could it have waited 2 minutes for the employee to stop chatting with the guy he saw in the hallway? Sure, you CAN interrupt someone’s non-work related conversation at any time, but maybe sometimes you shouldn’t.

                That said, it’s a super silly thing to go to HR about. This is a “complain to your spouse or best friend” problem.

                1. CMart

                  Yeah, even if it was a rude interruption, I can’t see going to HR about it if it was a one-off thing.

                  But a pattern of disrespect, or if it was idk, a yelling kind of interruption (which would be outrageous, and it’s probably unlikely an OP who knows about AAM enough to write in would be the kind of manager who is screaming at their employees) might warrant escalation. But there’s nothing in #4’s letter to indicate it was anything even close to that.

    2. Graciosa

      Well, it kind of depends on what’s going on. I’m not going to apologize for interrupting the person authorized to use the fire extinguisher (yes, we have them) to grab it and put a fire out.

      But fundamentally, the person at work is there to work. My need for the PHB project outweighs any team member’s interest in discussing the latest Jack Ryan episode.

      I’m actually pretty polite in my interruptions, but I’m kind of put off by the idea that it’s offensive to expect someone at work to do their job – part of which is taking direction and responding to queries from their manager.

      I realize we both see the individual as overreacting, but not completely aligned if this is something you would actually consider taking to a manager’s manager. Any manager I’ve ever had would have explained (as Alison suggested above) that I am allowed to do this.

      Then I would have heard about it (not in a good way for the employee) the next time we were doing employee rankings to ask if this was a sign of other problems or just a single weird reaction to something totally normal.

      1. Greg NY

        I realized, re-reading what I wrote, that I should’ve clarified better. I wouldn’t go above my manager for something like this. But in general, more broadly, I would always talk to my manager first and would only take the next step if I didn’t get anywhere with them and it wasn’t something small such as this one. This is small potatoes to me because I’m indeed there primarily to work and that a large part of being at work is being on standby to answer questions or take care of something. The manager has the right to interrupt and should interrupt if it looks like more than a quick conversation, but because the LW mentioned hurt feelings, I had to consider whether or not the manager was being polite.

        1. Graciosa

          Fair enough – I don’t think good managers are generally trying to be rude! I’d want to know if something I had done had caused offense (although I would have a different reaction to that conversation if I thought it was prompted by either passive-aggressive manipulation or a misunderstanding of professional norms).

    3. Traffic_Spiral

      I dunno, I’m not even sure it would require an apology. I mean, I’m thinking what I would want:

      Me: “Holy Sheeit, have you seen BBC’s Bodyguard?”
      Coworker 1: “With Richard Madden? Ooh, yes!”
      CW2 pops head into office: “Hi CW 1. Hey, Traffic, gotta minute for the kitten teapots?”
      Me: “Yeah, what do you need?”
      CW2: “We can’t get the whiskers to stop breaking.”
      Me: “Oh those whiskers! Maybe… sorry, CW1, I gotta…”
      CW1: “Right, see ya.”

      Like… it wouldn’t be an issue? I just assume that when I’m in the office people can ask me stuff – maybe knock on my office door first? Maybe there’s something here I’m missing.

      1. JSPA

        the topic of the non – work conversation is not mentioned. Football? Interrupt. Kid got cancer diagnosis / parent died? Show some humanity.

        1. Traffic_Spiral

          I think it’s reasonable to assume that if there were extreme extenuating circumstances, they would have been mentioned.

          1. Jesmlet

            To that point, if I were asking this question here, I think I would’ve mention how I interrupted in my original question because like it or not, it’s relevant. Obviously the employee is overreacting but that lack of detail does make me wonder if the interruption was more on the blunt side of things.

            1. Birch

              This is what I wonder too. Jumping in at a pause for breath is one thing, but I’d bristle too if I had just opened my mouth to say something and my boss jumped in with “Did you do what I asked yet?” It seems like some information is missing… did OP walk up and wait a beat to be acknowledged, or cut off the employee? Even interrupting with a “Hey, so about that teapot report..”–no apology needed, but announcing yourself in some way definitely is.

            2. batman

              I don’t think the fact that the OP didn’t mention how they interrupted in the letter means they didn’t do it politely. If I were in that situation, I wouldn’t mention it because it wouldn’t really matter. Complaining to HR about being interrupted by a manager is so out of the norm that it doesn’t matter unless the manager is being a jerk.

          2. wittyrepartee

            Yeah, I had this thought too. But it’s an important nuance that not everyone will necessarily get.

            Sometimes life happens and a manager needs to understand that it can’t be paused for work.

        2. Piggy Stardust

          This is where I stand with this. Just because the conversation isn’t “work-related” doesn’t mean that it isn’t a significant conversation and not just chit-chat.

          It’s also dependent on how the OP interrupted, and it’s plenty possible to be perceived as rude especially in front of other people. “Hey John, did you finish the X report yet?” is different than announcing, “John, why didn’t you finish the report I asked you to?” with an audience of your employee’s colleagues.

          The employee may have a point, if he truly believes he was treated disrespectfully.

          1. Colette

            Work isn’t really the place for significant conversations, though. Your coworkers haven’t signed up to be your therapist or your sounding board, and the business isn’t paying you to work through your personal issues.

            Now, if she just found out that he had a serious illness or someone died, that would be reasonable to explain to her manager when the interruption happened – but the default shouldn’t be that a manager can’t interrupt a personal conversation because it might be about something important.

            1. Yorick

              I know commenters on this board skew toward not having much personal warmth toward coworkers, but let’s remember that plenty of people would be happy to have significant conversations with their coworker.

              And the company isn’t really losing money when you chat with coworkers (even if it’s not a super short chat). Especially if you’re exempt.

              1. Colette

                You can have warm, personal conversations about things that aren’t really significant. I’m happy to hear about the project a coworker worked on over the weekend, or the movie they liked, or the trip they went on.

                I do not want to hear about whether they should divorce their spouse, or the intimate details of their medical treatment, or any other topics that obligate me to comfort them or take responsibility for their emotional needs. If someone they love dies, I’ll sympathize, but I still don’t want to hear about all of the emotional issues that kind of thing can dredge up.

                Ultimately it comes down to the fact that coworkers have fewer options to deal with oversharing in the workplace, and they shouldn’t have to deal with it.

                I agree personal conversations are fine (if they’re not oversharing), but … they’re not why you’re there, so if something comes up related to work, interrupting is always OK.

              2. LQ

                I feel really confused by this. Yes, you could be losing money when you chat with your coworkers. (I can’t be the only person who has just walked out of a retail shop because I wasn’t getting help and people were chatting.) You could be delaying work that needs to be done. You could be holding up other people who need work done. You’re at work. You’re not in therapy. Even if you are happy to have a significant conversation with your coworkers, you must understand that the reason that you are in that space at that time is not to talk to these people but to do the work you are being paid to do right? I would not randomly show up at my office building and talk to people (even the ones I really genuinely like) if I wasn’t paid to do that. And when my boss needs me to do my job…I do it.

                I can’t think of a time my boss had to vocally interject, when I see him coming we pause and see if there is something we need to do. Which means that his walking down our aisle (though admittedly you can usually tell the “I’ve got something for you” walk from the “I’m strolling around to chat” walk from the “I’m going to get lunch” walk) could be “interrupting”. It feels really strange to assume that the OP is rude, or interrupting conversations about children with cancer (which you’d have to eavesdrop to know which I assume you wouldn’t want, so again, just pause and do work), my boss probably does 1-3 “interruptions” a day to different people on the team. Sometimes to ongoing work, sometimes to conversations about work, sometimes to watercooler talk. Because work needs to get done.

                It’s work. You do work at work.

                1. shortbread

                  drives me BONKERS when I know where the bottlenecks are and I hear the bottlenecks talking extensively about their marriages, cars, working out, whatever. Go get a beer after work and talk about this stuff. CMON!

      2. Falling Diphthong

        That’s the conversation I’m picturing, so I’m puzzled by the employee’s reaction as well.

        If the manager is interrupting mid-sentence, then it seems a bit jarring, but also likely a communication style that will show up in many other ways, not just personal conversation. Otherwise, a normal social thing if you need an answer, in and out of work (“Your daughter’s school is calling” “You need to go to room 31 immediately” “Can you switch over to the Hopkins account; an order get messed up”) is to wait for someone to finish their sentence if the topic is casual, and a paragraph or two if more intense and complex. (With surface level chit chat being at one end of the scale, and a complicated back and forth about how to fix a programming bug at the other.) Expecting someone to hover humbly at the edges until you finish all details of your casual chitchat is a power play it doesn’t make sense to try on your boss.

        1. Prague

          I’ve had bosses who would intentionally but strategically interrupt. He would make judgment calls that personal chitchat had gone on long enough, and/or had been frequent enough that week to actively discourage people from transiting through if it wasn’t a work-related conversation.

          Done well and with understanding that some personal conversation is inevitable, the intentional interruptions kept the focus on work, disrupted the chatters with a legitimate work reason, and sent a message to the visitor that it was time to leave if they were making their social rounds. It was great for rescuing people, too, if they weren’t forceful enough in asking people to leave.

          I can see a ton of ways this could go wrong, of course. In this case, it worked because this boss was on top of knowing where the problems really were (employee Sansa will keep talking to the air after you walk away because she never shuts up, visitor Arya will follow you to the restroom to keep the conversation going, etc) and was also pretty good at balancing morale with work.

    4. Nervous Accountant

      Yeah no he can GTFOH w that “disrespected” bullshit. I have a relaxed friendly relationship w my manager but if he asks me to do something I will do it. I did that with my managers and boss and I would expect the same respect from those who report to me. I am also wondering if there is a gender thing at play here.

  3. Greg NY

    #3: Did this electronics manufacturer know your last job was at a call center? If so, knowing the absolutely draconian sick policies of a call center, asking you that question in the first place shows that either they are heartless or not calling in sick is super important. Even if they didn’t know it was a call center, they asked for a reason. I would absolutely not lie, because this question may determine whether you are the right fit for the position. Just like not exaggerating your experience and then finding out you are overwhelmed in the position, you don’t want to tell them you took off fewer days than you actually did and then be held to an expectation that you should take off the same or even less. This would be the case even if you did take off many days. But since you didn’t, I would have answered the question but then have asked why they were asking, whether coming in sick was important in the position or at the organization. Asking questions is essential and it helps to tell you if the position is the right fit for you.

    If they were offended by you calling in for headaches, they are out of touch with how debilitating some headaches can be (especially migraines). Professional employees call out sick when they need to, and they should be given the benefit of the doubt. I would be turned off by this interview if this happened to me.

    1. Observer

      If they were offended by you calling in for headaches, they are out of touch with how debilitating some headaches can be (especially migraines).

      Yes, well lots of people are utterly clueless about how debilitating a headache can be. Some people do seem to understand that a MIGRAINE is a problem, but “”just a headache”? No.

      So, I pretty much agree with you, but I probably would find a more serious sounding way to describe the issues that caused you to call out.

      1. Tau

        There may also be some idea in their heads that “headache” is code for “hangover”. Agreed it’s better to think of another explanation, although I also agree on the out-of-touchness on what a headache can be. (I get something that looks like relatively mild cluster headaches; trust me, when I feel like someone is repeatedly stabbing a needle into my eye, not much work is happening.)

        1. Jesmlet

          Honestly this is where my mind first went, but only because I have a coworker who does openly calls out because she’s hungover. That could possibly explain their reaction. Or, they’re just crazy about people taking time off in which case, you don’t want to be working here.

        2. LQ

          Yeah, but if the total number of times you’re so hungover you can’t go to work is about 2 a year? I guess at that point even if it is a hangover I’m going to shrug, alright… Assuming it wasn’t like the worst possible day of the year to not show up, which they didn’t ask about, and when I drank enough to get hungover 2/year it was always on days where if I called in sick the next day? Eh.

          1. Observer

            Yes, that wouldn’t be GREAT, but not exactly a huge major issue. It’s an odd assumption to make, if that’s where their mind is going, and I’d consider it an orange flag for the culture and / or management.

        3. batman

          Gah, people ALREADY don’t take migraines and headaches seriously enough, we don’t need people using “headache” as a code for “hangover.” Just say you’re “not feeling well.”

      2. Ego Chamber

        I pretty much agree with you, but I probably would find a more serious sounding way to describe the issues that caused you to call out.

        “My last job was at a call center that discouraged taking time off. Everyone worked from shared cubicles in an open floor plan with no assigned seats. As you can imagine, we all got sick pretty much all the time.” <— you mean like that?

      3. MK

        Many people not only think headaches are no big deal unless they are migraines, but they also have a very narrow definition of what a migraine is.

      4. Anon for this

        Migraine sufferer here. You would think most employers/co-workers would understand that a migraine is a problem. Turns out not always. I have been told:

        1. Why don’t you just take some Tylenol/aspirin/Excedrin?
        2. I get headaches too!
        3. Can’t you just push past the pain?
        4. A headache is nothing and I am weak for allowing this to keep me from working.
        5. I am faking.

        Fortunately, my current boss gets that migraines are horrible and severe, but I have found that a significant majority of people think migraines are just “bad headaches.”

        1. Cheryl Blossom

          Yeah, a lot of people don’t actually understand what migraines are! If I say I get migraines, they turn around and tell me about their headaches. Which, yes, are a pain, but are not the same thing!

        2. Jadelyn (OP1)

          I had *one* coworker at one job who ever tried that with me. I stared at him for a minute, then said “I mean, I *could* stay here, hiding my face from all light, flinching every time I hear someone talk, doing absolutely no productive work, and wait til it gets bad enough that I throw up on you, but I generally prefer to do that at home.” Like, I’ve learned from hard experience that if I wait too long to go home at the onset of a migraine, I 100% will have to pull over to throw up on the way home. Better to get home before I get to that point.

          And even if a headache isn’t a migraine, but is “just” a bad headache – if it’s bad enough to affect your ability to work, why would you not be okay to call out and go home to rest until it goes away? Even when I get non-migraine headaches, sometimes they respond to excedrin and sometimes they don’t. If it doesn’t, what’s the point of me sitting at my desk staring blearily at my monitor while my head is pounding? Might as well go home and stare at my own walls while my head pounds, without my employer paying me to be not working during that time. That’s what PTO is for.

          1. Jadelyn

            Oops…forgot to take the “OP1” out of my username after Friday. I am not, in fact, any of the OPs today.

        3. Michaela Westen

          The word migraine has been used incorrectly by the public for a long time, and this has diluted its meaning. As I understand it, a migraine is a specific set of symptoms which includes dilation of the blood vessels in the brain.
          There are other things that cause severe headaches, and the general public has been calling any severe headache a migraine for a long time now…
          I’ve had some very severe sinus/allergy headaches that prevented me from working. Also some have the cluster headaches mentioned above. A normal headache is nowhere near as bad as any of these.

        4. Nanani

          I get migraines too, and I didn’t know it was actually migraines for a significant number of years. I guess some people have headaches that don’t feel like this?

          Even if I tried to work while migraining the quality would be, less than stellar, let’s say.

        5. Thany

          I also suffer from migraines, but luckily I have had bosses who are familiar with them or have them. But I get frustrated when coworkers or family don’t understand that they are very different. There’s a video I found that gives a simple comparison to headaches and migraines that I linked in my username.

    2. Nita

      I’m not sure asking what OP called out for is even a good idea for the interviewer! For example, what if the answer reveals that OP has a disability or is pregnant? Then the company doing the interviewing opens themselves up to a possible discrimination lawsuit if they don’t hire OP. (Although, in OP’s shoes, I would consider not being hired there as a bullet dodged).

      1. Myrin

        I’m also wondering how effective that is in general because I honestly don’t remember what I called out for the three times I did in one of my part-time jobs. I think one was a cold and the other were gastro issues but damn if I remember the third one; and even the other two I could be mixing up with the one time I was ill during vacation. If someone asked me why I had called out, my only honest answer would be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. (I mean, the answer I’d probably give would be the gastro issues but that would just be guesswork on my part.)

    3. LCL

      Manufacturing is really a ‘person must be at their machine’ job. Probably the company has a really draconian policy for the floor workers, and rather than evaluating what is humane and making changes, they just decided harsh policy applies to all.

    1. Csn

      I wonder if the OP had said ‘migraine’ or something like that, it would’ve been taken more seriously. Sometimes employers think headaches are the excuse of a flaky employee.

      But the fact that is was paired with ‘5 times in 2 years’ is still weird. I’d be very wary of this employer.

      1. RJ the Newbie

        I’ve suffered from migraines my entire life and was in OP3s situation when I had an interview a few years back. I was asked about attendance and said that my only absences were due to migraines. The interview had the gall to ask me ‘are you sure they were migraines?’.

        Run away from this company, OPC3!

        1. Antilles

          The interview had the gall to ask me ‘are you sure they were migraines?’.
          What the actual eff. How did you even respond to that?

        2. many bells down

          I have migraines, and I also have these sinus headaches that last for two or three days at a constant low-level grinding pain. With the migraines I get an aura, so I have plenty of warning and can often cut them short before they get bad if I have the chance to take my medication and lies down for an hour.

          The sinus headaches I can’t do a thing about. Even Vicodin doesn’t touch them. I’d rather get the migraine; that doesn’t last as long.

          1. Michaela Westen

            I know you’re probably aware of this, but in case you’re not, some things to try:
            – See an allergist
            – A daily non-drowsy antihistamine or Nasacort spray or both. Both are over-the-counter.
            – Use an air purifier in your bedroom to filter the air
            – keep a food, activity/place and sympt0m diary and look for patterns of things that might cause the sinus headaches.
            I used to have terrible sinus headaches and after several years of doing these things I rarely have them anymore! I hope this helps! :)

        3. RUKiddingMe

          Ugh. Not to “oh look at my problem” you but I had someone ask me if I was sure I have Lupus. I mean … what? Fifteen different doctors seem to think so, so I’m gonna go with that.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Yeah, even if you don’t respect someone’s need to stay home with a headache, five times in two years is not alarming at ALL. And the fact they were alarmed by it is a red flag.

        1. RUKiddingMe

          In my younger and more vulnerable years I used to get migraines pretty often. Go to the ER and get some heavy duty medications type migraines. I haven’t had one in a number of years now (knock on wood!!!) but they are debilitating. I understand that cluster headaches can be similarly horrible. Logically how is someone in pain supposed to concentrate anyway? And, five times in two years? WTF anyway?

        1. District Cat

          Yup, a junior colleague at my office was railroaded out on made-up disciplinary charges because upper management decided her migraine-induced absences were made up/exaggerated. Fortunately, those managers are gone now, but their type is not uncommon.

    2. I woke up like this

      Am I the only one who thinks this question is wildly inappropriate in the first place, not just their response? It’s prying into folk’s medical history and neglects to take into consideration the culture of the previous work environment. Is this a standard question? I feel like HR would come bursting into a room if a candidate were asked this in an academic job search.

      1. LQ

        Nope! Super nope. It’s so weird and deeply inappropriate. It’s not even something that could be considered a casual getting to know you question. It’s just not good.

      2. Antilles

        You are not the only one; it is very inappropriate.
        And it’s *extra* weird because of the number of days OP takes off. If you were missing like 80 days a year, it might be understandable for the guy to go “whoa, that’s a lot” and ask about it…but 2-3 days a year? That’s actually well below the average! Like, enough so that if someone honestly said they only get sick for 2 days a year, my response would be more along the lines of “please tell me your secret”.

      3. Quickbeam

        I guess it depends upon the field. In nursing, your past attendance record at other jobs is a critical metric for hiring. I’ve had jobs ask my prior manager for documentation that I had not called in sick in 10 years; they didn’t believe her.

        1. Matilda Jefferies

          Sure, but if that were the case, OP wouldn’t likely have been surprised by the question when it popped up in the interview. And asking someone to remember how many sick days they’ve used, just off the top of their heads, isn’t an effective way of getting that info – how many people would actually know the answer to that question, especially in an interview setting?

          Asking for documentation from the previous job, absolutely, if it’s a critical metric for the current job and it’s disclosed (or well-known) ahead of time. But springing the question out of the blue during an interview? That’s weird and red flaggy, especially when combined with the further request for details. Then followed by saying her reasons weren’t good enough? I’d be noping the heck out of there, because none of that is appropriate.

      4. Guacamole Bob

        Very inappropriate! But also, do most people know off the top of their head how much sick time they’ve taken in a given year? I may be unusually lucky but I get a bunch of sick days each year that roll over, and now that I’ve been here a couple of years I’ve built up a balance and don’t think about it much. My answer is “A couple? I think? Way less than I’m given, and mostly I take it in chunks of a couple hours so I can take my kids to the dentist or go to other appointments. There was that day a few months ago that I stayed home with my son when he was sick. Did my wife and I split that day my daughter got that rash, or did I stay home all day? Oh, that reminds me, I need to schedule an eye exam.”

        My family has been pretty lucky on the sickness front recently (but oh god when the kids were tiny it was a nightmare), and I just don’t keep a running total.

        1. JHunz

          For real. Anyone who can name off the top of their head how much sick leave they’ve taken in the past few years either never gets sick, has a wonderful memory the power of which I envy, or has been working in an unhealthy environment that has forced them to closely track it.

          1. Guacamole Bob

            Randomly, I just found an email about a sick/work from home day I took a few months ago that I’d totally forgotten about. I can’t remember how much of the day I worked and how much I took as sick time, so I’m not sure what I’d do about that in an interview.

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            I’m struggling to recall whether I have taken any sick days in my current job, and I have only been working here since January. I’d find it very hard to give an annual average.

        2. Persimmons

          When I went to at an interview about eight years ago that was already full of red flags, one of the “casual” requests the interviewer made as he walked me to the door was an e-mailed screenshot from my current company’s time management system, to “verify” my attendance and reliability.

          The noise I made in response was a half-swallowed squawk of indignation/amusement/terror.

    3. Zennish

      This. If they’re letting their crazy show this much during the interview, it will be 1000 times worse once you’re actually an employee.

    4. I'm Not Phyllis

      They shouldn’t be asking people why they were sick though – it’s none of their business. I understand that LW answered them so there’s that, but that’s a question they shouldn’t have been asking in the first place because it allows people the space to debate severity (I know that’s not what you’re doing to be clear – that’s what the employer is doing). Not ok.

      1. wittyrepartee

        I feel like these people should be punished with detailed answers to the questions.

        “Well, there were two days in a row where I took off because of a combination of vomiting and diarrhea caused by some unfortunate shellfish. Then around 6 months after the fact, I had some AMAZING colored mucus…”

    5. MCL

      Not to mention that the reason the OP called in sick isn’t relevant, and that the answer might set up the interviewing company for a discrimination suit (if the OP’s illness would have revealed a disability).

  4. dragonzflame

    If I was #1 I’d be a little bit tempted to sabotage a few bakes – not obviously, but just enough to make them a bit ‘meh’. Things like ‘forgetting’ the eggs so the cake is stodgy, or overworking the scone dough, or using waaaay too much icing sugar in the buttercream.

    Of course, some people will be all ‘free food’ and not care, but I’m entertaining myself thinking of ways to make baked goods a little less good ;-)

    1. Magenta Sky

      I’d be more inclined to decide how often I’m willing to do baking for the office, and put up a sign-up sheet.

      That way, people asking would know, before they do, how ridiculously often people are asking.

      1. Just Employed Here

        I wouldn’t bake for colleagues on a first come (or signed up), first served basis.

        I’d like to be able to pick when and how I essentially do others a favour: do I have the time for it, what do I feel like making this time, is it my favourite colleague’s birthday, is it crappy weather outside and I want to do something fun but not be stuck with whole cake for just my own family, etc.?

        1. Skye

          I occasionally bake cookies on long weekends. And it always winds up being so much that I can’t eat them all myself, so to coworkers the extra cookies go! It’s a treat because the kind I make are pretty hard to find in a grocery store. Sometimes, though, there’s rumblings of ‘when will there be more?’, which is when I direct them to the google search for the cookie recipe. (There’s a few coworkers I’d be ok with making cookies for in exchange for money, but I generally don’t let that one be known because I don’t want everyone coming to me for that. Baking cookies is fun, but it’s also tiring, and it’s not my actual job either.)

          1. Just Employed Here

            I’ve literally just sent DH to the office we both work at with 80% of a cake-type thingee I baked yesterday since I have the day off today.

            We all just had a piece for dessert yesterday, I had a bit more at night, but there is no way we could have finished it at home. But I wanted to try out the recipe, the vultures at the office are always happy to finish it off, and now I know it’s a nice recipe to bake for a party or something where you want to feed a crowd.

            I wouldn’t dream of taking orders and baking for money. Unless it was my actual job or side gig, that is. I value my spare time way too much.

            1. Seriously?

              Yep. I would probably tell the coworkers that I don’t do requests since I just bake when the mood hits me and I make what I happen to have the ingredients for. Taking requests adds too much pressure and makes it not fun.

        2. Batty Twerp

          I’d be wary of going too far down the “is it my favourite colleague’s birthday?” route. If I bake a cake for John but not for Tom, that’s not going to sit well for team coherence.
          Sticking to just your immediate team (including Tom!) is a safer option if you’ve already set that precidence – otherwise, stop altogether.
          (Left over bakes from a long weekend / family event are probably fine too, but as pointed out, this can lead to “when is there more?”)

          1. Magenta Sky

            That’s the beauty of the sign up sheet. It’s not *you* making those decisions.

            (I didn’t say it was a good idea, just that I’d be more inclined to do that.)

      2. Zoe Karvounopsina

        I am happy to bake for the office, but make it clear that I do not take requests. (No, colleague. No, I cannot make this gluten free vegan cake also sugar free. Not when raisins are too much sugar for you.)

        Also, whenever anyone says “Zoe, are you going to…” or “Zoe, you should…” I mysteriously forget how to bake for a month. Weird, that.

        1. Prague

          Yeah, whining complaints all morning long, from multiple people, about not bringing in plates for the homemade cheesecake? Never baked for that office again.

      3. MCMonkeyBean

        I don’t think someone who is a professional baker should ever bake something for the office because someone asked. That’s something they used to get paid for!! And now they want her to do it for them for free? If she wants to bring in baked goods for her team on occasion then that is generous and they should just be thankful for what they get, not start demanding more.

        1. DaffyDuck

          +1 I think the baker needs to cut WAY down on baking for others in the office. Or she could start an official side gig and charge for her baking – I bet that would dry up 90% of the requests in a hurry.

          1. Sister Christian Anderson

            I actually started a baking subscription service at a previous office. People paid $40 and they received a baked good once a week for eight weeks. It covered my costs and let me try out a lot of new recipes.

      1. dragonzflame

        I was kidding. I wouldn’t have any compunctions about just saying no. The idea of ruining one’s own reputation just amused me.

      2. Annie Moose

        Unnecessary and would presumably lead to even more work for OP, who would have to devise various ways to ruin her own baking (and thus probably ruin a lot of her own enjoyment–who likes doing something they enjoy poorly?)

    2. Falling Diphthong

      That’s still effort and money. Only now expended to appear incompetent and disappointing, not the usual goal at work.

      Also, we are talking simple carbohydrates–people get very attached to them.

    3. Pebbles

      Friend and I were baking cookies and ran out of flour. We only had about half what we needed, so we substituted the rest with rum. The “cookies” were more like a brittle, but they were SO tasty! I don’t think that mistake would have gotten me out of baking for the office! ;)

    4. I'm Not Phyllis

      They’ll probably just think LW1 was having an off day or something. If they don’t want to do it, just say no. Alison’s scripts are great, but keep in mind that you don’t owe them an explanation.

    5. Nana

      Just read the most amazing response (in answer to a request for knit goods, but could apply anywhere: “Sex is like knitting. If I like you and you appreciate it, it’s free. Otherwise, you couldn’t pay me enough.”

      Not a particularly good answer in an office setting, but I do rather like it.

  5. Les G

    Ooh, I feel OP1’s pain so hard. I’m a pretty serious homebrewer, and while I’m happy to share the wealth, folks sometimes feel entitled to put in special orders that would cost me way too much time, energy, and dinero to fill. The slightly-evil yet oh-so-effective strategy I’ve hit upon is to miss aloud about how what would be really great is El Dorado…but I’d have to order them from Washington State and it would take eight days…but maybe Citra would do in a pinch…and come to think of it my hops guy could hook me up with a discount… By the time I’ve slid in the third obscure hops variety, the offender has normally nopetopused right on out of that conversation. You have my blessing to apply this technique with extreme prejudice any time someone tries to shake you down for your goods.

    1. Bryce

      I’ve found people don’t realize how much baking supplies cost. I’ve priced out the cookies I usually bake; it’s about $15 for a batch of ~30, and those are pretty simple cookies. In an office setting with the amount the OP’s getting bugged, I can easily see that being at least $100 a month.

      1. Doug Judy

        I’m an excellent baker too and it is very expensive. I recently did cupcakes for a wedding and I easily spent over $100 on ingredients. I only did it because both the bride and groom were very good friends of mine and I was happy to do it for them. When I’m asked by people to bake I used to just charge materials, but I have since learned I need to value my time and talent. Now if someone asks I say “Sure, I charge $4 per cupcake, $5 if you want them filled”. Usually they don’t place an order because they don’t want to pay that much.

        As far as baking at work, I would use the “If I do it too often I don’t enjoy it anymore, but next time I want to try something out, I’ll bring some leftovers” or blame a diet fad” I’m eating keto now so I don’t bake much anymore”

      2. Bunny Girl

        They really don’t. I bake and decorate cakes as a hobby, and for the most part I don’t mind doing stuff for friend’s birthdays. But earlier this year someone asked me to make a cheesecake and I was just like ughh…. Those cost right about $50 to make and are a two day process during what was already a busy time. I backed out of that one. I will sometimes make stuff for work when the mood hits me and I want to try out a recipe that I know won’t get eaten by my two person household. But I don’t really advertise or offer.

      3. Baby Fishmouth

        Yupp, I brought some s’mores cookie things into work, and my colleague tried to hire me to make them for her son’s birthday. I priced it out for her and it would be about $35 for a couple of batches – and she just looked at me like I was insane and told me “a cake from the grocery store only costs $12. I can’t pay more than that, that would be crazy”.

        I told her to buy the cake from the grocery store.

        1. Doug Judy

          I really don’t think people who don’t bake get why my stuff tastes better. It’s because I’ll pay for insanely expensive chocolate, spices, use fresh lemons, etc. I could never replicate what I do on a mass produced scale. There’s a reason a cake at the store is cheaper. And there’s a reason mine tastes better. If you want my quality, it’s going to cost more.

        2. Seriously?

          Yeah, how is what someone else charges for something relevant to how much it would cost you to make it? When asking for a favor, prices are not negotiable.

          1. Baby Fishmouth

            I did try to explain that the marshmallows and chocolate alone would cost more than $12, not to mention the graham cracker crumbs, flour, sugar, butter etc. to make the rest of it. She just kept saying ‘but it’s homemade!’. Homemade definitely means free to a lot of people.

              1. doreen

                Probably not – but what they really don’t understand is that the cake that costs me $20 just in ingredients is not the same cake she gets from the supermarket for $12. There’s a cheesecake I make that probably costs me $15-$20 just in ingredients for an 8 inch cake – the same size/style in a bakery is around $45.

                1. Ahhh!

                  Even if the ingredients were the same, it’s the nature of it that the grocery store pays less for them – they could literally buy them at cost from themselves, and they’re buying in bulk. Not to mention making in bulk, as well, so probably quicker/cheaper.

                  It just seems obvious to me, as a person who has gone to the grocery store and bought things to cook/bake at home.. if you told me how much ingredients cost, I’d believe you! I get a lot of people might never have baked anything, but this seems like common sense to anyone who has ever bought ingredients to make *anything* at home.

                  It sounds less like obliviousness and more just… entitled? They’re obviously aware it isn’t free, but just feel entitled to the coworker-bakers labor. Which is weird, because I wouldn’t expect a friend to bake me stuff for free. I’d be happy if they did, but to expect is too far. Much less a coworker.

                1. RUKiddingMe

                  Definitely. I don’t bake but I do make candy. I don’t honestly know where I learned to make it but I’m actually pretty good at it. It is however a lot more expensive for me to make it than it is for Russel Stover et al. I make it for holidays and give it as gifts to family and friends as I don’t really eat much of it at all but do enjoy the occasional candy making marathon.

            1. chocoholic

              Yep, same with knitted items. I recently knit something for my husband’s aunt, and she offered to pay me. I said that I would knit it, but I would not take money for it. I have been asked if I sell my knitting and I always say no; I give a lot away but I don’t sell them because nobody would pay a couple hundred $ for a pair of socks or something.

        3. DaffyDuck

          Yup, yup, yup. Most folks have no idea what it costs to make quality food and want it anything you make cheaper than WalMart.

        4. wittyrepartee

          And… why did you want to go with me rather than the grocery store?!

          My friend has done wedding cakes for friends, at cost of the ingredients. Apparently a friend of a friend wanted in, and then got upset when she was quoted $500 for the ingredients (for portions for ~75 people). They backed out, and my friend was left wondering whether they thought they’d find a better price elsewhere, or if they were just getting giant sheet cakes from Target…

      4. Loose Seal

        This is true of any craft, I’ve found. People are always asking me to knit them socks or a sweater. They say they’ll be happy to pay for the yarn. Then they are shocked to find that a sweater’s worth of yarn is around $200! And then I’d have to add in my time. I’ve never had anyone actually order a sweater after they hear the cost. Even my socks cost upwards of $20 a pair just for the yarn and that’s for just one color. If they want a design, it’d drive up the cost in a hurry.

        Once a pregnant co-worker told me I could make her a baby blanket as my shower gift. (Yes, she said it just like that. Not asking for one; telling me to do it.) After I got over my shock at her gall, I said I’d just probably go in with the rest of our office on a joint gift. I finally had to say that I only made baby blankets for blood relatives to get her to stop telling me to make her one.

        1. Baby Fishmouth

          Knitting is a much more expensive and time-consuming hobby than I thought it’d be (although I do love it)! I almost never make anything for anyone other than myself or my spouse because they have no appreciation for the time it takes, or the cost of yarn.

          1. many bells down

            Sewing too. I just helped a friend make a cosplay – which I usually do not do – and she says the ladies at Joann’s know her by name now, since she had to keep going back and buying more stuff. There was a lot of fiddly bits. I probably went through a dozen packages of bias tape.

            1. female peter gibbons

              Some of you might be interested in the Twitter account called For Exposure.
              It just copies and pastes requests made to artists and saying things like, “Please provide this art to me for free, because it will give you exposure.” When the artist responds with, “I will produce for you, however, each of my drawings cost $10” the response is usually something like “But I can draw this myself. You should be happy I want you to draw for me at all.”

              https://twitter.com/forexposure_txt

      5. Old Biddy

        Totally – I usually buy at Costco/in bulk and have many ingredients stocked at all times, so that helps, but it also makes me be oblivious to cost until I bake something different and realize how much the prices add up.

        1. Birch

          Yeah, I think this is where the obliviousness comes from–people who don’t bake from scratch usually have a box of baking soda and a bag of flour and sugar from 2 years ago in the back of their cabinet (or rightfully assume that regular bakers are also typically stocked), so whipping up one batch of cookies probably wouldn’t cost too much in the way of extra ingredients. But they’ve forgotten that they paid for those ingredients in the first place, regular bakers are buying new stock on a regular basis, plus the cost of specialty ingredients and the fact that you need so much more butter, cream, chocolate, cream cheese, sugar, eggs, marzipan, pistachios, etc etc. etc than you think!

      6. epi

        I agree. Occasional baking for fun or for special occasions feels like it is free because many people keep the basic ingredients around all the time. If you constantly bake for others, you will constantly go through those staples. You probably won’t be able to shop sales, either.

        In the OP’s place I would just say that. “There’s no way you could know this, but I have been getting so many requests from around the office that they really add up! I don’t have the time or money to honor them all, so I’ve decided to pull way back for a while.” It’s true and it lets the other person feel like you are on the same side and there was nothing unreasonable about their specific request.

      7. Evelyn

        Yeah. My aunt makes a fantastic pie that won a contest, so it’s now also made by a local bakery. Her version uses a lot of fresh raspberries (I think she grows them herself), whereas the store-bought version has cut back on the amount of raspberries they use in iterations for cost savings. Hers tastes a lot better (not that the bakery version is bad – it’s still quite delicious!), but it’s much more expensive for a baker to make, and making it the same way she does costs more than most people are willing to pay to buy a pie from a store.

    2. SigneL

      Yes, I’ve had people “request” things like my chocolate cake (the one that takes a pound of butter and 18 ounces of premium chocolate – there’s a reason it’s so good!). I mean, really? One office I worked in had a potluck for T-giving one year. I was assigned homemade bread for 50 people, which I made (seething all the while). One of the men was assigned a dessert and brought in a package of Oreos. Really.

      1. CarolynM

        At my last job, we signed up for what we wanted to bring for potlucks. The 2 other women in my department and I would THROW. DOWN. for potlucks. We all loved to cook and bake so it didn’t even matter that other people were contributing much less (bag of chips, cups, soda, etc.). Once, I brought in a simpler (yet still homemade and delicious) dish and I got a lot of heat how it wasn’t as fancy as my usual, how I should have done my usual, how they were so disappointed because they were looking forward to my usual, etc. I saw RED.

        So, for the next potluck, I signed up to bring in cups and soda. The woman taking the signups looked shocked, I guess I had my “try me!!!!” face on, so she just wrote it down. I relayed it to my coworkers … the one who usually brought in the whole roast pork loin then signed up to bring in chips and my other coworker whose cheesecake could make you weep brought in a box of store bought cookies after signing up for “cookies.” The organizer (who never actually contributed – “I organize it – that is MY contribution”) came over and tried to get us to change our signups – that no one else was volunteering to bring in the big dishes and were upset that the easy, thoughtless items were already taken care of. That was a big old NOPEx3 out of us! We expressed that it was our turn to give others a chance to shine! (spoiler alert – they didn’t. Turns out no one else was up for making substantial dishes and the things was basically a soda and store bought cookie party.

        Next holiday, everyone kicked in a few bucks and we got it catered instead. A lot of people complained that it was more expensive for them this way … when it was a fraction of the cost for us 3!

        1. esra

          1. Good for you three!
          2. I enjoyed this anecdote so much.

          I used to both organize and bring the nice, homemade things to potlucks at my work. Then the guys started constantly asking me when the next one was I was like, all you need to do is set a date and start a spreadsheet, you tell me? We haven’t had one since.

        2. Utoh!

          This is the exact reason why we have catered food at our work parties, the disparity between what people brought in was just too much. I was the cheesecake lady for a few years, and then I burned out, thankfully I have decent coworkers and no one complained to me about it. In fact, the food choices have become very healthy (read: bland), so no one even looks forward to the parties at all. Rather disappointing it’s gotten to that point.

        3. RegBarclay

          My last department had something that I thought worked well (from my POV anyway) – you could sign up to pay for the ingredients that someone who wanted to cook could cook for the potluck. So, for example, I’d pay for the ground beef someone else was cooking up for the tacos.

          Since I hate potlucks anyway (and am a bad cook) it was a win-win for me. Didn’t have to opt out entirely and be antisocial, but didn’t have to cook. On the other hand it only works for the people doing the cooking if their only objection is the cost, so it wouldn’t work for OP.

        4. 4th Axis

          This is amazing. Kudos to you three for sticking to your guns. It’s strange how entitled and …rude?… coworkers can be when it comes to food related favors.

          When I first started at [current job], the “Office Darling” coordinated a small Thanksgiving pot-luck lunch for the admin group. She knew I liked to cook and that I cooked healthy food on a regular basis and, as such, had asked me to bring something homemade.

          Office Darling had several food allergies that I took into account when selecting something to make–a homemade, vegan, allergy-friendly butternut squash soup. Cobbling the soup together is definitely a labor of love (and money) and my very picky family devours it every year.

          When Office Darling saw the soup warming in the crock pot I had lugged from home and heard me use the word “vegan” as I described the contents of the crock pot, she stuck her nose up at it and flat-out refused to try a taste. The other admins followed suit.

          The kicker was that I put this down on the group sign-up sheet. Office Darling and crew had seen that I was going to make something that they would, apparently, refuse to eat. We had also discussed what everyone was bringing leading up to the pot-luck. There were multiple opportunities to tell me not to waste my time and money! No one said anything. I had a lot of soup leftovers for that week.

          I haven’t participated in any of the pot-lucks since then beyond throwing in a few bucks for soda or napkins.

          1. Evelyn

            Ugh, I’ve had that happen to me too! There’s a vegan pumpkin-cranberry bread I make sometimes for Thanksgiving/bring into work. I picked the recipe years ago to make it for my sister because she was vegan, but heaven forbid I tell people it’s vegan, or they won’t try it. If people try it without realizing that, it’s a crowd favorite. Go figure.

            1. 4th Axis

              That bread sounds amazing! I’ll bet it’s super moist :)

              Time and again, I am dumbfounded at how “vegan” is treated as a four-letter word. I’m willing to bet that most people haven’t really dipped their toe into anything truly vegan (beyond raw foods) and are instead playing on the trope that “no animal products = tastes like dirt.”

              Something tells me, though, that butternut squash was too exotic for that group, and the vegan designation compounded their refusal to try it out. Too bad I don’t cook things like make mac n’ cheese or chicken tenders…they may have preferred that instead! /snark

              1. whingedrinking

                That one seriously leaves me scratching my head. I’m not saying eating a varied vegan diet is easy, but…every bite that passes your lips *must* have animal products in it? A peanut butter and jam sandwich is vegan, for chrissakes.

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            That’s so strange. Like, I do usually put some kind of dairy in it when I make butternut squash soup, but it is not an essential ingredient in my book. I can’t imagine refusing to eat something that doesn’t have an ingredient that is not normally present just because that makes it vegan.

          3. Michaela Westen

            I’m actually encouraged to see here that people are resisting vegan. I’ve been concerned for several years that vegan diets are nutritionally inadequate.
            They were very rude and their resistance was misplaced, but I’m glad not everyone is jumping on the vegan bandwagon!

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Let’s not do that here, please. There’s plenty of evidence that vegan diets are healthy, but this is not the place to debate one diet versus another.

            2. 4th Axis

              Eh, in both cases, it appears that choices made by Evelyn and myself had less to do with pushing an agenda towards vegan food and was instead geared towards being considerate of the dietary requirements of others (allergies or otherwise). I’m not vegan but I can appreciate tasty food in any form! :)

              1. Michaela Westen

                Yes, I think they were very rude and entitled! I wouldn’t turn down a food just because it’s vegan… though I’d probably have to because of my allergies and stomach issues.

        5. Artemesia

          Love this. I was lucky in our work potlucks. The AA/staff organized and brought in salads or desserts, the senior managers like myself tried to bring the proteins. One manager would roast a chicken or pork loin, I usually just bought a giant bucket of fried chicken and one brought in a sliced ham. And the lowest paid minions brought the chips or whatever. It always worked out and those who were making more $ really did step up on the expensive things.

          The moment the whining starts, it is time to stop baking. And the moment it is assumed you will special order bake for everyone, is the time to get out of the baking business. ‘I love those cookies you make’ is as much pressure as should be allowed IMHO.

        6. chocoholic

          I used to work at a nursing home, and the management staff would do a “potluck” for the floor employees – we provided all of the food for a lunch for the staff for Thanksgiving. The director of nursing wanted pecan pies. She signed up for something else, and I went to costco and purchased pies. The pecan pies were very expensive and so I opted for something else. The day of the potluck came and she had a fit about no pecan pies. I was like “if you wanted them so bad, you could have brought them yourself.” Sheesh.

      2. Falling Diphthong

        Sign-up sheets make sense for categories, so you don’t wind up with 12 packs of rolls and no main dishes. Assigning specific foods, much less specific homemade foods, is way out of line for a pot-luck. The solution to bread for fifty can be packs of snowflake rolls or a stop by a decent bakery.

        1. PhylllisB

          Ha!! Ha!!! That reminds me of one year a church social group I was in had a Christmas potluck gathering. No one was assigned anything so on the day of the potluck out of 20 members, 12 brought green bean casserole. (I was one of them. I had never made one before so..) Luckily the hostess provided meat and wine. We had….green bean casserole. I guess my point is, don’t tell someone they have to provide a triple-layer fudge cake , but maybe have a sign-up sheet so someone can provide a meat, vegetable, dessert, ect. so you don’t have this happen.

        1. Autumnheart

          I’ve got a story about that. I make homemade ice cream and, if I say so myself, it’s really good, in large part because I use high-end ingredients.

          The then-director comes around with an idea for our yearly fundraiser, where people donate goods and services, and then they are auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. The director’s idea was to get all the office bakers to contribute something homemade. I enjoy making ice cream and it’s a fairly unusual contribution, so I said sure, I’d make some.

          I made 3 different kinds and bought containers for them to go in. I probably spent $60 on this project not to mention the 3 evenings it took to make the ice cream. I packaged it up and put it up for auction, and the then-director actually had the winning bid.

          But she never collected the ice cream. It was in the work freezer for most of the week, and I sent her repeated emails to remember to get it, to which there was no response. We have a company-wide rule where all refrigerators get cleaned out every Friday and I wanted to make sure I didn’t run afoul of it. Well, on Friday an email goes out and it turns out the then-director had taken another job outside the company and her last day was that actual day! And for whatever reason, I left work that day without checking the freezer, only to discover on Monday that the ice cream had been tossed out along with all the rest of the Friday leftovers.

          That really upset me. Why ask me specifically to do this, bid on it, and then literally let all my work get thrown in the trash? What a waste. Since then, I have a hard rule about only bringing homemade food when I personally want to do it–no requests. Baking and making ice cream are fun for me, and I aim to keep it that way and not make it into an obligation.

          1. motherofdragons

            How heartbreaking!! Ice cream gone to waste is crime enough, but all that effort you put into it just makes it so much worse :( I really feel for you (and am really craving ice cream now).

      3. RUKiddingMe

        Assigned homemade bread? For fifty? Oh hell no. I would have hit the bakery at the grocery store. That’s a ridiculous request/assignment.

    3. Kittymommy

      I love a cake as much as the next person (probably more to be honest) and the idea of an office baker sounds like pure heaven, but I cannot imagine the unabashed audacity to ask, and continue to ask, a colleague to bake for you! And with specific requests!
      However, now that I think about it, I do get requests at Christmas time for a specific cake, but it’s only at that time frame and usually because the first one was eaten by two people.

      1. AsItIs

        I might cheekily ask for recipes from the office baker, but would never place an “order”. I’ve done baking for the odd colleague (special occasion) and once or twice for the office, so I know how much it costs to make anything decent.

    4. Even Steven

      Shake you down for your goods! Oh, thank you for the chuckle.

      In a previous incarnation I was a a tailor. In LastJob I let that slip and was constantly hit up with requests to take in pants, do sewing repairs (what, do you think I have a sewing machine IN MY OFFICE?? Sigh), alterations, and once, memorably, tulle aisle runners for a colleague’s wedding. Heck to the no!! I said no to all with the standard, “Oh, I don’t sew professionally anymore, and anyway, my rates were really high.” And a grin. Movin’ on!

      A colleague at LastJob was roped into being the office baker (and given a birthday calendar by the CEO so she could KEEP TRACK of all required treats days – the nerve!). She endured it for about a year and then claimed an ongoing kitchen renovation prevented more production. The renovation was fictitious, but she got her weekends back.

      She and I both quit the company this summer. Over lunch last month we high-fived our escape and made a pact NEVER to admit to these skills in our next jobs. Freedom!

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Random person: “RUKidding used to do hair professionally, she could probably do it for you…”

        Me: “Are you kidding me? No, no she couldn’t do it. Ok actually she could, but she won’t. There’s a reason (many actually) that she used to do it.”

        Once I quit doing hair, there were three people whose hair I would continue to cut: my mom, my son, and my husband. My mom because she was my mom, husband because (see anecdote below) and my son because I cut his hair his entire life from the first one to the last one when he was on life support and I wanted a lock of hair to keep.

        Anecdote: My husband cuts his own hair with clippers. It’s pretty idiot proof, something he can do safely on his own. I showed him a couple times how to do it properly and he’s been going at it just fine for over a decade.

        That said he uses widely varying attachment lengths which leaves a definite demarcation between the layers of his hair which takes an experienced hand to blend. I do this for him because there’s no way he could really do it correctly, particularly in his blind spot areas.

        I don’t mind doing that. It takes me all of about three minutes. We did the hair cut dance yesterday and as I was blending it clipper over comb he said “man you do that so well, I could never get that down.” I replied, “yes I do but you have no idea how many haircuts had to die before I learned how to do it this “well.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Probably only amusing to me…

        Also heard in my house/life… “do you think you could “whip up” a batch of your (specialty) spaghetti sauce for my tomorrow?”

        —The sauce that takes almost a full week to make? Yeah no. Even if I was willing to make it, and was given enough time to do so, even excluding the cost of my time it’s a pretty expensive thing to make and kinda have to be in the right mood to make it. —

        1. Just Stoppin' By To Chat

          RUKiddingMe: Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry to hear that your son was on life support :(

    5. Becky

      I’m a pretty frequent home baker too, but I have literally never had anyone try and order something. A co-worker bakes a lot too. She will sometimes ask me “what should I make this weekend” and I give suggestions but I’ve never asked her out of the blue to make something for me.

      1. Autumnheart

        Same. Except for a story I described above, my coworkers are very appreciative, yet not at all demanding. If I bring something in, they’ll race over to eat it like piranha in the Amazon, but the closest they’ll come to an actual request is to tell me to let them know when I bring something in.

  6. Aphrodite

    OP #1, I would just be honest: “Nowadays I bake for my own pleasure only. So when I choose to bring something in it is because it is fun for me. I don’t bake on request because I don’t want to spend my time and money–and many people do not realize baking is both time intensive and expensive because of the ingredients–doing something that feels like a chore. That’s why there’s good bakeries!”

    1. BetsCounts

      Great phrasing Aphrodite. Also a quilter wrote in last month about a similar problem- there were a lot of insightful comments on that letter as well.

      1. a1

        I don’t see why this needs to be subtext, I’d say it outright. There’s nothing rude or confrontational here.

    2. Bagpuss

      I like Aphrodite’s wording. I also think a breezy “Oh, no thanks, you bring whatever you think works” would be fine.

      if you do get push back then maybe something like “I don’t really have the time to do loads of baking, and I find it takes the fun out of it to feel I am baking to order. I’m happy to bring in treats from time to time when the baking mood hits me, like anyone else, but I can’t take orders. Have you tried [name] bakery? I hear they do great cookies /. traybakes / whatever

    3. fogharty

      I used to make a killer chocolate chip cookie, so when I baked them I’d bring the extras into the office. And that started the requests.

      I pointed out how expensive sugar, butter, chocolate chips etc. was, and came in one day to find a collection jar had been set up specifically to fund future cookie ingredients. That actually worked, because enough was collected only a few months or so, thus reducing the number of baking sessions I had to do.

      1. Stephanie

        Yeah, same. I never really resolved it at that job. I just don’t bring in baked goods to work now unless for specific occasions (like a department picnic where they tell us to bring in sides or desserts).

      2. Emily

        It’s good that people were willing to pay you, but weird that no one asked you before setting up the collection!

    4. MLB

      I would just say “no”. I love to bake (have never done it professionally though) and I started baking cakes for people’s birthdays because I hate grocery store cakes. When I worked in a smaller office everyone got their own cake, and when I started in a larger office, I did it once a month. She needs to set boundaries because it sounds like she’s baking all the time to appease everyone and they’re taking advantage. A simple “No” said the next few times she’s asked will get them to eventually stop asking. Any “excuses” she makes up will simply provide the askers the opportunity to counter her reasoning. It’s not rude to say no, it’s rude of them to assume she will bake whenever they ask.

      1. Colette

        There are some situations where a simple “no” is appropriate. This isn’t one of them – it will come across as extremely abrupt, and will harm her relationship with her colleagues.

        That doesn’t mean she is obligated to bake whenever she’s asked to do so – Alison has given some scripts that clearly say no, but do it in a way that will preserve the relationship.

        1. Smithy

          What I think is best about AAM’s scripts is that they can work for more junior or senior colleagues. Provided the OP doesn’t work for a very flat and casual organization, it’s possible that some people asking could just receive a “no” whereas other more senior colleagues couldn’t. And so in addition to needing scripts where being more tactful is important it also saves the OP from being seen deferential to senior leadership but potentially rude or dismissive to junior staff/peers.

      2. Seriously?

        It is probably easiest to say “I don’t do requests” over and over. It is clear, concise and consistent without affecting her ability to bring in what she wants when she wants.

    5. beckysuz

      I love to bake. Really truly love it. I’m Italian and I show love with treats. My husband doesn’t like anything overly “rich” (what does that even mean?) and will not eat any of the extra fancy stuff I like to make. By extra fancy I mean even choc chip cookies with crushed homemade toffee in them(he’s a plain choc chip guy). I used to bring things into work because they wouldn’t get eaten at home and I went through a period of insomnia induced baking mania. At first it was fine, but very quickly it became a problem. A lot of generally lovely people became shockingly entitled. Everyone expected a birthday cake and it got out of hand. People would pout and get mad if I hadn’t made their “request”. It costs a LOT of money to make cakes and cookies with amazing ingredients and the best chocolate. It really took the joy out of baking when people did that. When I came back from maternity leave with my second child I never brought another cookie or cake again(except when a favorite manager left but she was amazing to me and I was happy to do it). I told everyone that I no longer had time to bake with the new baby. Sorry not sorry

      1. KRM

        I hate when people come to me (or other bakers in the department) with “requests” for their birthdays. Umm, we bake because we like baking, and it’s fun. Usually the only requests we take will be for 1-dietary restriction or 2-not making food they hate (as in, I make a killer banana bread, but one of my colleagues hates bananas, so I won’t make that for her birthday!). If you request something, especially if you’re demanding about it, you’ve just guaranteed that you’re NOT getting that.

  7. Not Australian

    #OP5: I’ve found some employers to be absurdly rigid about ‘their requirements’. I once applied for a job that required experience with [SoftwareX]. I said I didn’t have that experience but was happy to learn, thinking that they would probably reject me at the first stage. (I was desperate back then, I tried everything I could!) Instead they called me for an interview, part of which was a mandatory test on [SoftwareX]. I said again that I had never used [SoftwareX] but I was happy to learn it. I was told that was irrelevant; everyone had to take this test. Naturally, I took the test and failed it – and of course I didn’t get the job. I still wonder why they bothered – unless maybe they had a stellar internal candidate and were interviewing rank no-hopers just to meet a quota.

    1. SusanIvanova

      Bullet dodged there – someone who can say “I don’t have that experience but I can learn” means that when the Next Great Software comes along they won’t be causing IT headaches by expecting NGS to work the same as Old Stuff.

    2. YouGotThis!

      For OP #5: I did a lot of hiring at a large university where lifting was listed as a requirement for almost every job. Part of it is just being up front about ADA requirements for the job, and at a “student employment” level job, it’s very seldom a deal breaker. Note on your application, if you can, that it may be an issue, and for a good employee willing to do the job to the best of their ability, it’s never been a problem. Yes, boxes of copy paper are heavy, but there’s nothing wrong with needing to lift them one ream of paper at a time – you’ll be ok!

    3. ArtK

      Welcome to my job search. Decades of experience in software and I keep running in to [SoftwareX]. In a couple of cases, I was one of the people who developed the technology behind [SoftwareX], but apparently that doesn’t count, nor does my clear track record of picking up technologies very fast.

      Bonus points if the company wants 5 years of experience in [SoftwareX], but it’s only been in general use for 3.

      1. LQ

        Oh, I’ve seen the wants more experience in the software than is possible in the space-time that we exist within. I assume this means they also wants someone who can bend space-time to their whim.

        Someone here tried (unwittingly) to do that once. I laughed aloud, assuming it was a joke, and a funny one at that. When they were confused I pushed back hard and helped them rewrite what they were looking for. (Which actually didn’t include any of that software experience at all!)

        1. SusanIvanova

          I think it’s a translation error: the hiring manager says “highly skilled in SoftwareX”, HR thinks it takes at least 5 years to get to “highly skilled” and edits accordingly. While that might be true for quite a lot of things, it’s not true of software.

    4. Bea

      I come from a world heavy with software requirements. “I can learn it” is what my nightmares are made from. I’m sorry they wasted your time like that.

    5. Decima Dewey

      Circulation assistants in my library system are expected to unload bins of books and other items sent from branch to branch, and sometimes shelve heavy books. Our guards are expected to do custodial work and protect the staff and patrons. Their requirements to be able to lift X amount of weight does matter.

      The librarian job description does not stipulate any requirements to lift X amount of weight. The actual job is another matter.

  8. Tau

    For #3, I wonder if their reaction isn’t a matter of how often you called out but what you called out for. If they’re the sort of people who think you should drag yourself into work unless you’re at death’s doorstep, I can see how they’d view “headaches” as a frivolous reason.

    It’s not an OK line of inquiry, in any case, considering the probably effect on anyone with a chronic illness or other health condition that made them call out sick.

    1. Myrin

      That’s how I read it as well, although since OP seemed to have gotten the feeling the question was frequency-related, I wonder if their enquiries were phrased in a certain way which made it clear that they were put off by the number of absences, not the cause.

    2. MK

      That’s pretty much two sides of the same coin. Since humans get sick, thinking an employee should never call out is such an obviously unreasonable and frankly stupid stance that they need to justify it to themselves by asserting that most reasons for calling out are not valid.

    3. Seriously?

      I still think it is ridiculous. Even if it was a frivolous reason, it happened approximately once every 6 months. Not exactly a red flag for flakiness.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, the reason shouldn’t have to be “at death’s door” or even close. My boss has flat-out told me I can use a sick day if I just need a mental health day. My boss doesn’t care if I’m “legitimately” sick or not. Guess what—no one in our office abuses sick days, because we’re treated like adults.

    4. MissDisplaced

      At some places, it’s like a badge of honor to never use sick days. The fact they asked about this during an interview is a red flag to me.

  9. Lexi Kate

    #5 with an admin position you should definitely check during the interview about the weight lifting requirements. With the constant need to trim administration costs we no longer pay companies to restock the office. Now our admins stock paper and supplies for the floors, and purchase and stock the kitchen. So being able to lift and carry a box of copier paper or a case of water around the office is a requirement of the day to day.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

      I might even ask before applying, if there is a contact information in the ad. Also I think if they only give the weight you’ll need to lift but not how often you need to do it, it’s not sufficient information. The absolute maximum weight you are able to lift once and the weight you can comfortably lift repeatedly during the day are very much two different things!

      1. Ego Chamber

        I bet any money there’s no contact information in the ad, and the company wouldn’t be happy with someone who called their public number with questions about the position.

        Whenever I’ve seen lifting requirements on job ads, they always say “multiple times per day” or “frequently able to lift etc,” and I’ve never had an admin, customer service, or retail job where the lifting requirement was an accurate representation of the job duties. Anytime I’ve had to move stock or supplies, it’s either been something manageable (like a box of copy paper or a stack of books), or there was a cart/dolly to use for transport (I still had to be able to lift things onto it, but that’s a lot different than carrying 3 jugs of water to refill the coolers in the break rooms on the upper floors).

        1. Justme, The OG

          OP said it’s a University. There’s generally contact information for University HR at minimum.

          1. Mary

            If the LW is in the UK, there will almost certainly be contact information in the ad and it is absolutely OK to phone or email and ask.

        2. MK

          But things that would be manageable for the average person are not actually manageable for the OP. I work in a courthouse; not an environment that one would imagine requires heavy lifting. But the assistants lift and occasionally carry heavy stacks of files, books, etc. several times a day; there is no way someone who can’t lift more that 10 pounds could do the job.

    2. Lanon

      These days even the software developer positions in our office require us to lift at least 25KG without wincing. Not completly regularly, but the bosses do screen for it and someone who can’t will be rejected.

        1. Lanon

          Pretty sure some places also do this to get around building wheelchair access into things.

          Don’t need wheelchair access if every office position requires 4h+ standing a day and heavy lifting of stock over 25KG

          1. Umvue

            That’s exactly what I think when I see physical requirements listed for an office job: this office is trying to avoid hiring people with disabilities.

      1. Washi

        Is this normal? A lot of my office jobs have had the lifting boilerplate, but it’s never been a true requirement. It would be a problem if absolutely no one in the office could lift anything heavy, but it’s never come to that.

      2. Annie Moose

        What are your software developers doing that require lifting that much weight?? I’ve been a software developer for several years, and the heaviest thing I’ve been called upon to lift is my laptop…

        1. SusanIvanova

          All my company requires is the ability to get code into a computer, and there’s at least one quadriplegic guy who’s got the setup to allow exactly that.

        2. Teapot Tester

          I was wondering the same thing (QA here, not developer, but same reasoning stands). We’ve moved desks on occasion so may have to move a desktop computer or monitors, but that’s not something that’s done on a daily, or even monthly, basis. In our old office we had a water cooler and the jug needed to be replaced on occasion but anyone could do it, so someone with a weight lifting restriction could easily find someone else to do it.

      3. J.B.

        That sounds potentially discriminatory. I’ve seen job positions that seemed to suggest “no girls allowed”.

    3. Guacamole Bob

      Also whether the position involves a bit of event management. When I was an admin my small nonprofit did a lot of schlepping for events – boxes of tablecloths and handouts and nametags and flip charts and all that. In some cases it would have been no big deal to have someone on the team who had to stick only to the lightweight stuff, but on some teams or in some roles it’s a core part of the job. Same with catering set up and break down – lots of admins deal with setting up the coffee, replenishing other beverages, and cleaning up after catered lunches, and that stuff can be heavier than OP can manage.

      Definitely apply, but ask about it early.

      1. Dankar

        Exactly this. I’m in higher ed administration and I am constantly carrying brochures, promo materials, decorations, tables/chairs around for on-campus events. Generally, I think that the lifting requirements on administrative positions pretty accurately represent what you’ll need to be doing, at least in higher ed postings.

        For the university where I’m adjuncting, they actually made all faculty record how much we lift, sit/stand, AND look at a screen each semester. They use that info for the job postings, so I wouldn’t assume it’s just boilerplate or random numbers.

        1. Candy

          Yeah, I work in a university and I can only speak for my university but these job descriptions are thoroughly thought through – they’re not just copy/pasting numbers into each description without anyone thinking about it.

          I recently went through a job re-evaluation and in writing an updated job description had to list all these things (number of hours spent sitting or standing, how many hours spent looking at a computer, how much weight you’d be lifting, etc) and more. My supervisor and I went through every minutiae of my day — how long do you spend sitting at your computer? how long do you spend liaising with university staff? with non-university staff? how often does book delivery come? how many totes do you lift while sending or receiving the daily delivery? how often are you exposed to unpleasant smells (yes, really), etc etc.

          A university’s job description will not only state how much weight you’d be lifting fairly accurately, but they’ll also state how often you’ll be doing it. That’s the part the OP might want to pay attention to. If they’re lifting a box of paper once a year, maybe it’s not such a big deal. But if it’s once a week or once a month, they might want to reconsider if they want the job

      2. Sarah N

        This was my thought. I’m at a university, and our admin assistant handles all the mail for our office (including packages), carries around boxes of copy paper (which I am pretty sure are >10 pounds), and schleps food/boxes of supplies/beverages/etc. for numerous meetings and events. And, the only other people really around to deal with this stuff in her place are professors, all of whom have super inconsistent schedules and are not reliably in the office — often she will be the only person really “in” the office at a given time. So, it definitely might be totally fine, but if it’s in the job description, I think I’d ask earlier rather than later in the interview process.

    4. My Thoughts

      I’d ask. I was not told/nor was in in my actual job description that I’d be expected to lift, and now I deal w/resentment that I cannot do most of the things you’ve listed. So I think it might be in your best interest to suss it out beforeheand.

  10. sheworkshardforthemoney

    #1 I would go for the ” Because of other commitments, I don’t have the time for baking for others right now.”
    Stay away from the cost or people will be giving you $10 to cover $40 worth of ingredients and will expect something that will wow their socks off.
    As for the co-worker who wants baked goods from you because it’s Tuesday, give her the names of several good local bakeries, especially independent ones.

    1. Bagpuss

      Or even “One of the reasons I no longer bake for a living is that I found all the joy went out of it when it was done to order, so now I only bake when the mood strikes me, I don’t take orders “

    2. Antilles

      Stay away from the cost or people will be giving you $10 to cover $40 worth of ingredients and will expect something that will wow their socks off.
      And then if you try to tell them the actual cost, they won’t believe it in the slightest. Because their vague experience of “making cookies” using the tube of premade chocolate chip dough or “buying cookies” made en masse by the grocery store has led them to believe that $10 is plenty for some cookies; the idea that it really costs $40 of ingredients is going to sound completely unbelievable because they have a totally different frame of reference as to ‘what cookies cost’.

      1. boop the first

        I’m not convinced that people disbelieving the cost would be an issue… No is no. If they argue, they can go on a grocery shopping trip and see how they feel about scaling a recipe by the time they get home. People love being challenged.

        1. KRM

          I might say that–“I’m happy to do this if you purchase the ingredients. This is a list of how much of everything you’d need for the batch size you want”. I suspect that once they’re in the grocery store looking at the prices, that would be the end of that.

          1. DaffyDuck

            Naw – there are folks who will bring you the 2-year-old flour from the back of their pantry, margarine instead of butter, and the greasy, cheap, fake chocolate from the discount bin. Then they will complain because it doesn’t taste like your usual cookies. Better to send them a link to the online recipe.

          2. AJ

            I have done that, and told them exactly where to buy the products, many of which were not available at “local” supermarkets but only at higher-end stores. (I don’t use waxed lemon zest in cheesecake!) It worked. The response was “maybe another time”. :D

      2. sheworkshardforthemoney

        I did catering for a year and know how to cost ingredients. Good baking costs money. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep a skillset undercover. I don’t cater anymore but still get requests to make baked goods. The LW needs to nip this in the bud.

      3. I'm Not Phyllis

        Yep! These are the folks that don’t want to shell out the money to buy stuff from a bakery. I wouldn’t mention the money.

  11. Grand Mouse

    #1- Wow I see the coworkers as pretty entitled. They are demanding free things from you outside your work hours.

    #3 feels weird. I can’t see complaining about my boss unless it was egregious and I can’t imagine complaining about interrupting chit chat to do my job. The only case I could see it being a problem would be if you were extremely rude. Otherwise it just sounds like he doesn’t want to do his job and is bordering on insubordinate.

  12. professor

    #5 there seems to be a pattern of just throwing in the need to lift x pounds into jobs where there…isn’t. like seriously, professor jobs. I don’t think I’ve ever had to lift anything more than a book, but there that requirement sits. I think it is actually (sometimes) a nasty attempt to discourage people with ability issues from applying so the employer doesn’t have to deal with ADA issues…

    1. Anon21

      Agreed. The fact that these postings are listing all kinds of physical requirements, including time spent sitting and standing and time spent starting at a computer monitor, suggests that they are trying to screen out candidates with specific physical limitations and preempt accommodation requests that they would be legally obliged to consider. Slimy!

      1. Washi

        I mean, it’s reasonable if it’s a genuine requirement of the job. For my office jobs, it was a true requirement to be able to be on the computer for long periods of time, and someone who could neither sit nor stand, or use a monitor for a workday probably wouldn’t be a good fit. But I agree that when the requirement language becomes boilerplate without considering the true requirements of the job, it does seem like it would preemptively discourage people with disabilities like the OP from applying, which is slimy.

    2. Rosemary7391

      My experience is UK based, but I imagine the US has similar? I do some work with hiring at our church. If we have a “genuine occupational requirement” that the person in the role needs to be a Christian we can hire for that, but not otherwise. And you can’t just tack a bit on to the job description if it isn’t true. I imagine similar would apply to disability – you can’t just add on a line in the job description to avoid hiring people with certain disabilities.

      1. GingerHR

        There would also probably be a requirement to make accommodations. Clearly, if a job requires going up a ladder, and you can’t for some reason, there may be no possible accommodations. But for lifting things? That’s what trollies etc are for. And co-workers! 50lb is quite a lot to lift in a safe fashion by yourself.

        Another thought for OP5 – I was told several years ago that I shouldn’t lift more than 10kg due to a wonky back. The medical professionals use lots more words than that, but the outcome’s the same! I’ve been working over the last year with a PT who specialises in injury rehab, and whilst I’ll never be a power lifter, I can lift quite a lot more and my back is less likely to give out. It’s obviously only a personal anecdote and may have no bearing on your situation, but could be worth considering. None of this negates that fact that they shouldn’t put 50lb requirements if it’s not actually necessary.

      2. peachie

        This is what I was thinking–I’ve seen that requirement on most of the office/admin jobs I’ve had. While I personally can do whatever lifting is stated in the job requirement, I can’t think of a single time it was a core part of my job that couldn’t be worked around. For example, I did a decent amount of conference-running, which involves lots of schlepping around A/V equipment, papers, conference materials, etc. I generally just carried things on my own because I could, but there were always carts available, and the hotel/venue staff were easily reachable and could do any of the moving-stuff-around that was necessary; it was part of their job description. (Especially as simply wearing [formal] conference-appropriate attire can limit lifting ability as well.) And for more general in-the-office work, there were certainly times I had to do mailings, which involved some lifting/transporting of materials. But even there, the total time spent lifting things was negligible, and I think it would have been feasible to ask colleagues (or have management ask colleagues) to spent literally 5 seconds lifting a box onto a table, which is maybe 1% of the time/work that actually needs to be done to accomplish the task. If that weren’t an option, I would think even “this employee has to carry things in smaller batches” would absolutely be a reasonable accommodation.

        I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that for most of these jobs, you really can’t say that lifting copier paper is an “essential job function.” (I’m sure there are exceptions, but in those cases, I’d expect that the specific lifting duties would be mentioned in the job outline.) If an employee sustained an injury while in that role (outside of work), I would think that this would be a situation where the employer would have to provide a reasonable accommodation (though, again, not a lawyer). I’m uncomfortable with the notion that this is a legitimate reason to not hire someone with a minor (in the context of the role) disability in a world where disabled people already face a lot of discrimination.

        Going back to the OP–I’d apply for the job. If they do hire you and rescind the offer, you can decide where to go from there.

    3. NotVeryActiveHere

      I think this might be a way to get male applicants – since a lot of (otherwise healthy) women don’t know how much they actually are able to lift. Lifting is different outside gym conditions, which are made to isolate single muscles, whereas in a normal situation, you just lift with your knees, thighs and back.

      1. Myrin

        Why are men more likely to know how much they’re actually able to lift?

        (And apart from that, I’d assume that if a job ad made it seem like it really is important to know how much exactly one is able to lift, when in doubt, one would probably try it out before anyway.)

        1. Julia

          Idk about you, but my (German) mother always tells me that women shouldn’t life heavy things. (For some reason, heavy children that aren’t mine are never a problem…) I’ve had men at work take heavy things from me because “a lady shouldn’t carry heavy things”, and I know some women who refuse to life anything heavier than their purse (so not even my purse lol).

          1. Myrin

            That’s thankfully not the case for me at all (neither with my family nor with strangers; admittedly, even though I’m small, I look like someone who is pretty strong and can lift a lot – both things that are true -, so my experience would probably be different if I looked differently; I’m also usually the first to rush in and carry the heavy thing so people don’t get much of a chance to tell me to not do it).

            However, I still don’t get how that translates to men knowing how much they’re able to lift – unless NVAH talks about experience? Like, with a situation like you describe, a woman who never gets the chance to lift anything might not know how much she can lift? That still doesn’t translate to actual kg/pound measurement, though (like, I can usually gauge just by looking at any given thing whether I can carry it or not but it’s still hard to guess how much it actually weighs).

            And wouldn’t mentioning gym conditions and how they differ from actual real-life heavy lifting contradict that, since most of the people doing weightlifting training in gyms are men (at least in my experience from working at a gym), so wouldn’t it be harder for them to accurately gauge how much they’re able to lift in “normal situations”?

            I don’t want to hugely derail here since I don’t think “screening for men” is the purpose of these ads anyway but I feel like I’m reading the comment wrong and I’m trying to wrap my head around it still.

            1. NotVeryActiveHere

              What Rosemary said – men are more likely to think they can, I think – but this is a very broad generalization.

          2. Teapot librarian

            I’ve also had men at work take heavy things from me because I’m female. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to be the one climbing ladders and dragging boxes around, but that’s more because I’m the boss and it’s not an efficient use of my time. (Also, I’m lazy and out of shape, but I CAN do it.) Boors.

            1. Nanani

              Back when I still worked in an office, I had women and men (pretty much always my parent’s age or older) insist that I shouldn’t lift/move things (like, sliding my desk once a year or less, a box of printer paper, that sort of thing) and would try to flag down a young male colleague to do the thing.

              I usually would have finished the thing before they got him and apologized for their wasting his time.

          3. CarolynM

            You reminded me of something that happened at my office. I work with a sweetheart of a guy – we get along great, but sometimes he comes out with some … interesting ideas! English is not his first language and he translates for his mom when she goes to the doctor, etc. He saw me changing the water jug and cried out like he was trying to prevent me from running into traffic! He took it from me and told me that I should always ask him to do it, because “ladies should not lift heavy things – it hurts them!”

            The look of genuine concern and me having no idea about how lifting heavy things could hurt a lady specifically, I had to follow up!

            “Whaddya mean it hurts ladies to lift heavy things?”
            “Oh! Their inside lady parts can fall out! The doctor told my mother never to lift heavy things!” – he looked so worried!

            To my credit, I reacted with “Aha!” instead of “hahhahahaha!” and went on to explain that the doctor was probably referring to a specific medical condition his 85 year old mother who had given birth to 5 children was experiencing, but that most women who do not have any specific issues do not have to worry about their lady parts falling out when they lift heavy things.

            He looked skeptical, so I mentioned women weightlifters, moms who lift toddlers, etc. and he brightened up and I finally convinced him. But he still prefers to do the heavy lifting. ;)

            Bonus: We have also had to have the conversation that he needs to stop telling our coworkers that I give him these “magic pills” that make him feel so much better. Ibuprofen – I give him ibuprofen when he asks! LOL A coworker who knows and loves us both came giggling into my office asking me what I was “holding” … and in response to my quizzical face explained that this guy was making me sound like a drug dealer!

            1. Lily

              Yeah, my parents have the same ideas though they are generally pretty educated people, especially about health. “Women shouldn’t lift heavy stuff!” I guess it’s some antiquated medical knowledge as in, yes, there is some amount of heavy lifting that is too much for everybody, and yes, for bodies with uteruses, it will damage the pelvic floor which can result in a prolapse of the uterus, but for bodies without uteruses it will more likely damage the abdominal wall and lead to hernias.

              My parents regularly try to stop me from lifting things (like 20 lb, not like 60 and more) and try to get e.g. my male friends to do it for me. Sadly they didn’t stop it when Dad and BF both got hernias around the same time. :D

              1. Mad Baggins

                LOL I love that. Everyone is always so concerned that poor little ladies will damage their babymaker, forgetting that anything that will damage a woman’s body will certainly damage a man’s!

          4. Bea

            An older lady told me she couldn’t lift some boxes because “her bottom will fall out”, something I’ve been told is linked to having kids? Idk. I haven’t given birth nor know much about the side effects. My mom lifts heavy things all day even into her 60s and with a short stature.

            1. AnotherAlison

              Some women have a prolapsed uterus. My grandmother had this. She also birthed 6 babies. My mother had a prolapsed bladder. Obviously, not all women have these issues, but it really is a thing. I only have 2 kids, one c-section, one not, and both before I was 30, so I’m hoping all my stuff will stay put.

        2. caryatis

          It’s not that men *know* how much they can lift; it’s that they are more likely to *assume* that lifting x pounds won’t be a problem. Women typically make the opposite mistake, and assume they are weaker than they are.

          1. Gloucesterina

            Do I get extra employability points if the load is shrieking and flailing?
            But seriously, this sounds like boilerplate for an administrative position, and OP should apply to whichever positions interest them.

          2. Teapot Tester

            My 11 year old 90 lbs and I can still carry him. Not for long or very far, but I can do it.

            Now, the 125 lb 15-year-old, not so much, but he’s also a good 6″ taller than me.

        1. Working Hypothesis

          My friend once called his infant son the best progressive weight-training program he’d ever had. :D

      2. Earthwalker

        This. Just after laws were passed to assure that employers didn’t discriminate against women, and they still insisted on doing it anyway, the recruiting agency I worked for used “must be able to lift heavy objects” when the employer wanted a man for the job, and “perky” when the employer insisted on a good looking woman. But, as previous posters have said, the job description wording may have gone unreviewed for so long that no one remembers why that specification was put there. I’d go for it and see if the interviewer mentions it.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.

      It’s kind of the opposite problem. Employer puts in no lifting requirements, 6 months into a job someone has to move a ladder or a box of copier paper, and employee says, “Oh, no, wait, you never told me there was a lifting requirement for this job!”

      1. On Fire

        OldJob has someone doing a specific task that includes being able to move some fairly heavy items. When I worked there, my job description included the “able to lift” line, but I don’t know if it still does. Anyway, the current person was hired without any of these tasks being considered, and on one occasion some coworkers had to make a 150+ mike round trip to do this task for her – the task itself took about 10 minutes, but the trip took a few hours! She can never do this task without help – and it happens a few times a month, but the 150 mile trip was the biggest occasion.
        So yes, OP5, find out early how often and to what extent this is part of the job. That’s valuable information for you in deciding whether you want to pursue this job.

    5. Phoenix Programmer

      I was coming here to say the same. My job has a requirement to be able to lift 50lbs (around 20kg for metric folks) and I doubt I have ever had to lift more than 2lbs in the entire 5 years I’ve worked here.

    6. Gloucesterina

      Yes, it could easily have these chilling effects. It’s also super weird because if a worker isn’t able to lift loads of X lbs, would ADA even need to be invoked? It’s not something like needing an interpreter or a notetaker or a particular type of desk chair, wherein the employer would need to pay for the accommodation.

    7. Nita

      Yeah. I saw this all the time when applying for part-time jobs in college. Most of them didn’t actually involve lifting anything heavier than a couple books, or a small stack of dishes – all of which is well under 10 pounds. Still a good idea to check when applying, just in case the job does involve hauling around a lot of copier paper or heavy boxes, but it’s just as likely to be boilerplate language.

    8. Anonymous Educator

      A lot of IT positions are like this, even if your day-to-day doesn’t involve moving all-in-one desktops around. I would definitely apply anyway, and maybe during the first phone screen bring up the lifting requirements and ask how essential those are to the job.

    9. crinkly spine

      I’m a disabled person on a job hunt for longer than I’d like to think about and I’m 100% confident this is the intention–a way to simultaneously screen out those dang inconvenient cripples like me and still put “EEOC” at the end of the ad. It is on ALL ads these days, no matter how desk-y the job seems to actually be, and EVERY time I’ve actually reached the interview stage and politely requested clarification on what the lifting and bending (or whatever) would actually entail, I’ve gotten the kind of reactions that make me pretty sure that single question is enough to keep them from calling me back.
      It’s screwed up and it’s really depressing. I’ve come around to the idea of just not even asking during the interview process (my disabilities are invisible, so aside from some stiffness in my movements, they probably wouldn’t know) but I can’t imagine that asking for ADA-required accommodations afterward would make me popular either (in fact, it got me fired from an internship once).
      It is so disheartening to scroll down a job I could do handily, a job where I know I’d be an asset to a company, and find that “must regularly lift and carry 25 lbs” sitting there at the end.

      1. Umvue

        I’m really sorry for your experience — your interpretation is distressingly plausible to me. I hope you find something good soon.

  13. Jen S. 2.0

    I feel for OP1. That’s frustrating. But please be aware that it’s not rude or mean or wrong or cruel or unreasonable to say no. It’s only rude to say no rudely.

    OP1’s phrasing made it sound like she thought it would be a HUGE problem if she ever declined to bake; that declining to bake would make everyone hate or resent her.

    You definitely need to adjust people’s expectations — people ask you to bake because they assume you want and like to do so, and because you’ve done it in the past — but if people need to get a cake from Costco instead of from you, not only will they live, but it won’t affect their feelings about you.

    It wouldn’t even be a blip on my radar if someone said, “I won’t have time to bake for the event on Friday. Would you mind picking up treats from the store, or making them yourself?” I’d say okay and wouldn’t give it another thought.

    1. Blue

      I would drop the “would you mind…” part. Because there are people who are rude enough to mind and either get upset that she’s not willing to bake or insist that she’s responsible for an alternative. She’s better of not making it a question, unfortunately.

      1. neverjaunty

        It’s social softening language. If they say “yes I mind!” then it doesn’t actually matter because she’s already said no.

  14. MissMia

    OP 5,
    I find the lifting a lot in retail. There is one grocer that is ALWAYS holding job fairs in my area because they are quickly expanding into our area. They let their cashiers sit and pay well so it’s a good job retail wise. Except they expect every person working for them to be able to lift 50 lbs. I’m a littler person (right at the height of 4’9″ to qualify as a person with dwarfism) and I’ve gone a few times to the job fairs. Although I’m perfectly qualified to run a register and other store functions, I can’t get passed the first hand in my application because I can’t lift 50 lbs. That’s all the ask when you turn in your application, if you can lift it. It took me three times going to the job fairs to realize I wasn’t going to get to the next round because 50 lbs is about half of what I weigh.

  15. Katherine Bruce

    #3 I’m wondering if the company thought it was a really sneaky and clever way of finding out about the OP’s family situation while not asking the questions that they knew they couldn’t ask. For instance, someone might say ‘oh, I was looking after my child’ – bingo, you know they’ve got kids and might have more so would need time off for that later, or ‘I sometime get headaches’ translates to ‘I get migraines all the time and will constantly call in sick without warning as a result’. ‘I was caring for my partner/mother/aunt’s dog’ can be understood as ‘I’m a carer and might take more time off in future’. I bet they paid no real attention to the number of days and instead just focused on the reason.

    1. Ren

      Years ago I was asked a similar question in a job interview. I took it (and I take the OP’s situation the same way): It’s an employer extremely preoccupied with any days taken off/ call outs. Not to do with fishing for extenuating circumstances or chronic conditions. Just very resistant to accepting that any employee might ever call out, period. (This was in a service type job.) Alison is very correct that this is a flag.

  16. nnn

    #1: In addition to the other, more direct strategies that others have suggested, it wouldn’t hurt to mention (when it comes up naturally in conversation – like if you and your co-workers ever fall into a conversation about jobs you’ve had in the past) how you’re SOOOOOO glad you aren’t a baker any more! Baking is just so [stuff you dislike about baking]!

  17. Delta Delta

    #1 – There’s likely an assumption by the coworkers that you’d enjoy baking something. And while you probably do, it’s not part of the job and shouldn’t be an expectation. I was the office baker at one point (although, never was a professional baker – I just like doing it), and it became a drag. It felt like an obligation after a while. It also became increasingly hard to do because then it turned into special orders, and then people complaining about saturated fat, and all other manner of things that felt rude. I stopped doing it and eventually just said it was getting to be too much. People were disappointed but got over it.

    1. Workerbee

      It is a shame how normalized it can become to “use” someone as your personal whatever–chef, IT helpdesk, etc.–and then make demand upon demand of how that person should conduct their expertise on your behalf. And then to have the gall to be disappointed (or worse) when their demands aren’t met!

      OP #1, please feel no compunction about saying “No.”

    2. Candybeans

      I ran into this at my job, when coworkers learned I love to bake: a few of them would casually drop “we should do something for Jane’s birthday- Candybeans, you can bring cupcakes” I felt fine saying no thanks (even though it definitely offended at least one of them) but I think they saw it as a favor they were doing for me. Candybeans loves to bake, we can give her a chance to shine, and *incidentally* we don’t have to plan or do any shopping. Win/win!

      Some people definitely think that their asking you to use your talents, even if it’s a lot of work, is flattering.

  18. Hey Katms, over here

    LW 3, RUN.
    Asking about your sick time and CRITICIZING it? Not normal, not indicative of a healthy workplace. What if you do get the job and call in, are you going to hear “I hope this isn’t a pattern.” Or, “this is not you call center job, we are…”

    1. Czhorat

      Even if it were a pattern of absences, this love of questioning comes dangerously close to unlawful discrimination based on disability. It’s a red flag however you look at it

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)

      Or they won’t accept sick time requests unless you’re visibly injured or incapacitated to get out your bed. (Which is not a measure of illness, something a lot of employers need to learn)

  19. Czhorat

    For OP#4, are you sure that how you interrupted couldn’t be taken as rude or abrupt? If two employees are having a “water cooler chat” and you speak over one of them to give an order – especially a non-urgent one – that does feel rude and disrespectful. Yes, they are in the office to work, but healthy offices have at least a somewhat friendly atmosphere. There’s nothing wrong with waiting for a pause I. The conversation, saying “excuse me”, and then leaving to let them wrap up (within reason) before getting on with the task.

    If you did wait for a break and excuse yourself then your employee might have unreasonable expectation. Even so, everyone can hopefully get along with some gentle adjustments.

    1. CMart

      These were the questions running through my head too.

      I don’t mean to be uncharitable to OP4 but the way the question was written had me wondering about the details of the interruptions. They say that if the conversation had been work related they would have approached it differently, but I’m not really seeing how “Hey–sorry–for the Spout Report did you make sure the curvature was updated to the new specs from the meeting this morning?” would be handled differently between work vs. non-work chat.

      Perhaps the employee is being incredibly sensitive and unreasonable. We do see that all the time in letters here! But something about the wording of the question pinged my “this feels like a rules-lawyering kind of situation to excuse oneself from bad behavior” radar. Being technically correct doesn’t always mean you’re the good guy in a situation.

  20. moving right along

    And that’s the piece that matters legally: the question of whether it’s an essential component of the job. If it’s a task you might have to do occasionally and someone else could easily handle it for you without much disruption, the law will not consider that an essential part of the job, despite what the job description has listed, and thus the employer would still need to accommodate you.

    God, I just burst into tears. I got denied an accommodation for something that someone else could definitely do without any disruption, and has nothing to do with what I actually do but my boss added on because he’s vindicative, and I know the accommodation was denied because my boss told HR it was essential to my job. And every time I bring it up, my boss tells me, well, it’s in your job description. Because he put it there.

    Anyway, Letter Writer, I wish you more luck than I had.

    1. Observer

      Your HR sounds incompetent. They should be asking him to explain why this is an essential part of the job. Courts do give a lot of deference to the employer, but they HAVE been known to cut through the malarky on more than one occasion.

  21. Icontroltherobots

    OP #1 – I am also the office baker. I’ve had some similar experiences, and Allison is right, you have to set boundaries. Once I’ve made it clear that the baked goods are on my schedule only, people have backed down. I also adjectivally refuse to take “requests”.

    So say no, to the cookies, cupcakes, cakes whatever. Bring in stuff only if you want to and saying “I’m busy” is okay! Saying “I don’t take requests” is also okay!

  22. CupcakeCounter

    #1
    I’m also the office baker and I let them “requester” know how much that pie, cupcakes, etc… will cost THEM. Not my costs but a “Sure I’ll make 2 dozen cupcakes for your team – that will be $30 please.”
    And if you don’t want to do it just say Sorry, I won’t be able to do that and walk away. No explanation needed. They want a favor from you and you have the right to say no.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis

      We had someone at my old job who had a side business baking cupcakes. We always paid her for them … there was never any question of her bringing them in for free (and they were well worth the cost!). Also, when she didn’t have time and/or didn’t want to she’d say no … so you still have to get comfortable with that.

    2. DiscoTechie

      One our admin folks is part time and going to culinary school. She drops off her classwork in the break room for feedback and to share the wealth/calories. We set up a tip jar and some little note cards for people to write any thoughts on it. We all felt like we could definitely subsidize and support her schooling for the amount of amazing treats she makes. We’ve have a few office functions and she’s been hired to make cupcakes at her going rate. As far as I know no one has made far reaching requests and mostly treat the goodies like the treats they are. Sigh, I don’t think she has a pastry class this semester so the treats have been fewer in between.

  23. pleaset

    “if you don’t want to do it just say Sorry, I won’t be able to do that and walk away. No explanation needed. ”

    This.

    This is a basic life skill. OP1: practice it on small things in low-pressure environments, and then you’ll get better at it.

    1. AMPG

      Work is hardly a “low-pressure” environment, though. There’s a real risk of the OP alienating coworkers or superiors by being too abrupt. That’s why scripts with softening language are useful.

  24. Competent Commenter

    Op #5, I really appreciated you asking this question. I work at a very large public university, and this language does show up in our boiler plate job postings. I’ve tried reaching our central HR department to ask them to stop doing this, and to request that when jobs are being posted, the people working on them have to opt in to including the language about lifting requirements when it actually is necessary, rather than needing to remove it when it is not, which they don’t bother to do because they don’t understand how needless and discriminatory it is.

    I have occasionally been made to feel like I’m fussing over nothing and so your letter, and some of that comments that I’ve seen here, have really helped me feel more comfortable pushing on this and I’m going to raise this issue again..

    I encourage you to apply for these jobs when lifting really does not seem to be a relevant to the core duties, and then asking about it if you’re receiving a job offer. At that point you can ask about reasonable accommodation.

    We just hired an incredible writer, and I had already removed the lifting requirement from the job posting and job description, but if she had brought up that she can’t lift more than a few pounds, which in her case actually is true because of an injury, I would’ve still hired her.

    And realistically, when I hire someone for a desk job they do not need to be able to lift a lot of weight. The physical descriptions for my job are basically the same as that for my new writer, and as an older person and a rather small person, no one expects me to lift anything heavy, even though I can and sometimes do. It would be ridiculous for them to be discouraging me from lifting things just because of how I look, while excluding my writer from consideration for her job because she actually can’t lift things, if that makes any sense.

    1. crinkly spine

      Thank you so much for your efforts; as someone who absolutely does feel they’re being shooed away when they see those requirements, it makes a huge difference to know that someone on the other side understands. And makes me feel like there might actually be light at the end of the tunnel for my job search even if I can’t lift and carry things.

    2. AnotherLibrarian

      Yeah, I agree with Competent Commenter. I would apply for the job anyway and then see how it goes. This is usually boiler plate language at the Universities where I have worked.

  25. tink

    OP1: I kinda got that reputation at my partner’s last job, and I put my foot down and said I’d bake the thing they wanted for their holiday office party ONLY. If you don’t mind baking once or twice a year, maybe a firm “I don’t have the time or extra funds to bake for the office on a regular basis, but I don’t mind making something for X or Y events.”

  26. Bea

    They put the weight lifting in the job description for workers comp reasons more than it being required.

    If you didn’t see it, if you stain yourself lifting copy paper, the underwriter blows a gasket. This makes sure they’re paying enough in premiums on the off chance someone hurts themselves. It’s proof you were within the scope of the job.

    As a heavy lifting admin of yesteryear, I’m still always told to seek assistance when I see fit. As I’ve gotten older or when muy back went out for awhile I just casually ask for help and it’s no biggie.

  27. LSP

    OP#5 – I agree with Alison that these requirements are likely boilerplate, but if you have a disability that would prohibit you from what I have to assume would be a minor part of the job, they would likely be able to accommodate that pretty easily (and are required by law to do so).

    The thinking among many employment lawyers I work with is that these types of requirements are often discriminatory against people with disabilities, and while certainly some jobs require heavy lifting, many jobs that have this listed in the requirements do so without any understanding that this will keep otherwise well-qualified people from even applying. If you otherwise qualify for these positions, apply, and you can ask about this requirement during the interview process. My guess is that 9 times out of 10, you’ll find it’s not an essential part of the job.

    Good luck!

  28. Environmental Compliance

    #3 – Yeah, hard no. It’s super, super odd that they dug so deep into it and then were so dismissive. Being the person I am (and today super grumpy because of the pain), they would have gotten an in-depth discussion of my endometriosis combined with IBS. Hey, you asked!

    #5 – I see the weight requirements all the time in job ads! I always thought they were totally boilerplate. In current job, it listed that I had to be able to lift up to 50lbs. Is there any actual job reason I’d need to? Nope. Not even close. I don’t think there’s any harm in asking just to make sure.

    1. SKA

      Re: OP5, this has been my experience as well. I saw it in all kinds of listings (for desk jobs), especially when I was right out of college 10 years ago. I believe it was on both the listings for my first job out of college (2008) and my most recent job (since 2015), and lifting has most definitely not been an actual requirement. I did sometimes change the water jug at job #1, and in job #2 I sometimes (1-2x per year) move boxes out of a closet to be shipped to conventions. But both of those have been things I could easily ask someone else to do if needed.

  29. stirring up trouble

    #4 – I hate to read too much into this, but by chance are you female and your employee male? Because this is the kind of BS I’ve seen from male employees who resented female bosses, and felt the need to establish some kind of weird dominance. Either way, it’s probably not the first weirdness you’ve seen from him.
    I don’t mind my employees having personal conversations on the clock, as long as work is getting done, but I have an absolute right to interrupt and ask about work. Whining about hurt feelings is bizarre.

    1. It's me

      yeah this seems so bizarre to me. If I am talking to my coworkers and my boss drops by, I assume she is here to tell me something and I can stop my conversation to talk to her and then resume once she gets what she needs. Ultimately she is my boss so I don’t understand the hurt feelings over her needing information from me at a time that is convenient for her.

    2. Observer

      I think that this is a good question. But I also don’t think that it’s really a useful question. The better question – which would cover this situation as well – is whether this is part of a pattern of behavior. Because this really IS odd behavior.

  30. DC Cliche

    As a fellow Office Baker ( run a baking side hustle that evolved from the stress of a past job), I will also add, “I’m happy to, but any commissioned goods cost X to cover my ingredients and time. If that’s a problem, my favorite bakery in town is Y.” I actually used this quite a lot at my old job, and it either led to them paying me (great) or realizing that the group party was unnecessary (also great). If my skill was cutting hair or knitting nobody would expect me to cut their hair or knit their blankets for free; particularly when male coworkers made the request it was a great, subtle reminder about Nonpromotable Tasks And Their Division within the office.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I think the problem with that response is that the OP doesn’t want to bake as much for the company. And it sounds as if the company does want the OP to bake quite often, so if the OP says “any commissioned goods cost X to cover my ingredients and time,” the company may feel as long as they pay X, they have the right to demand as much baking from the OP as they’d like.

    2. Essess

      Oh trust me… they DO expect knitting for free, and demands for free seamstress/tailoring work after I was caught in the ladies room by an entitled co-worker when I was taking up the hem of a bridesmaid gown for an awesome coworker (who was paying me a LOT of money to have me do that job for her). The entitled coworker *informed* me that she would be bringing in her pants and skirts to have me work on over my lunches for free for her. That was shut down in a split second by me!

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, I don’t think there’s any skill that’s safe from “You can do that? Do that for me for free!”

        Knowledgeable about tech? You’re suddenly everyone’s go-to tech support, even for personal devices not owned by the company. Have any kind of medical training? You’re suddenly the real-person alternative to WebMD or actually visiting a doctor and paying a co-pay.

    3. Gotta be anon

      I’m a knitter and can confirm that I have never been asked to knit completely for free (unless you count the baby shower in which folks drew attention to the fact that I’d bought a gift from the registry instead of making the baby blanket everyone expected to see), but I have had massively underpriced demands for my work. I’m sorry, but looking at the luxury fiber lace scarf I made for myself and saying “I want one of those in black to give to my sister as a gift. I’ll give you $15.” is not appropriate. (I take that back; I’m not sorry.)

  31. Dust Bunny

    LW5, they may have you lifting file boxes, which absolutely can weigh more than 30 pounds. I’m an assistant in an historical archive and my two basic job requirements were a BA in something and the ability to lift and carry 50 pounds repeatedly up and down stairs. In my case, it’s a real requirement, even though my job is technically an “office assistant” or clerical position.

    1. Dust Bunny

      And, no, there wasn’t any accommodation. I was pretty much the accommodation for the older ladies who were my superiors already. Somebody in this department has to be able to lift that kind of weight.

      1. Decima Dewey

        If you need an accommodation for the lifting part, it could lead to resentment from coworkers who end up having to lift binx, heavy volumes, etc. more often than if you did your share.

    2. AnotherLibrarian

      I work in the same sort of environment and lifting heavy things is a requirement of my job. However, I also know from my hiring experiences that the lifting requirement is usually boilerplate language added to every job posting we do at this University. So… I think it’s safe to err on the side of assuming it is not a requirement.

    3. Bea

      Anything that deals in records management or archives could require lifting for sure. I held a temp job long ago that was all archiving medical records, I couldn’t have gotten by if I didn’t have the ability to lift 30-50lbs regularly. At least enough to hoist them onto a cart, no stairs thankfully.

      This reminds me that I still lift more than previously thought over the years.

  32. Sick

    If you’re concerned about your employees calling out sick too frequently, do what my company does. Offer a set number of paid sick days, promise to pay out any unused sick time at the end of the year, and offer an additional $1000 bonus to any employees who don’t use any of their sick days for the year. We get plenty of PTO (around 3 months total), so unless I’m really too ill to work I shoot for that bonus. We have generous time off, so there’s no need to misuse sick time, and if I manage to make it all year without calling in sick, I get an extra $2,500 in my paycheck. If you as an employer see a value in ensuring that your employees never call in sick then put your money where your mouth is.

    1. Colette

      That’s a terrible policy. It penalizes people with health issues that require time off, and it encourages people without chronic illnesses to come to work and get everyone else sick.

    2. Birch

      I don’t understand how this system makes sense… it’s not really fair to reward people for something they have no control over, essentially punishing those who do have to call in sick. And it encourages people to come in sick to get the bonus rather than stay home, hurting productivity and potentially sabotaging everyone else’s bid for the bonus if something contagious gets spread around. It sounds like this system only really works in a situation where a lot of people call out sick when they’re not really sick, which seems like a symptom of a larger culture problem within the company…. Am I missing something here?

      1. Ahhh!

        No, you’re not. The only “great” part about this system is that some people who don’t use their sick leave will get paid, and that benefits the people getting paid. The rest of it is bad. Otherwise it penalizes those with chronic illnesses and those who you know – get sick occasionally! It also encourages sick employees to come to work when they should stay home.

    3. McWhadden

      So, the jerk who comes in with the flu and gets everyone sick is rewarded while those who did the right thing and took the time are penalized?

  33. Wendy Ann

    The last interview I went to didn’t ask about my own sick days, but instead asked how many sick days did I think were too many to use in a year. I’m like, well if you give us 10 use-them-or-lose-them sick days to use, then up to 10?

  34. Kara

    OP #1

    I’ve definitely been there! I’m the “office baker” and my specialty is cheesecakes… definitely more expensive (and time consuming) than your average batch of cookies, or even cupcakes. When we had a larger team I was being asked to make a cheesecake for birthdays, major deadlines, etc. Our team is smaller now, but for awhile I kind of had to cut back and limit it to just a few times per year. I also made sure that I counted that financial contribution as part of my donation to whatever gift was supplied for the occasion.

    I really love to bake, and don’t mind the contribution, but I definitely saw a point where I was bearing a bigger part of the financial component (and time commitment) of the celebration by always providing the baked goods.

  35. Kermissa

    I am type 1 diabetic. I can’t get better in one day when a virus runs through the office. I generally need 3. I had been trying to keep sick days to Friday or Monday for this reason, until I learned my employer tracks those days differently. It’s ridiculous and I have switched to Tues to Thursday recoveries so that my file is not flagged. Don’t be petty. Be mindful that the chronically ill need to work.

  36. mark132

    @LW4, one of the challenges with some peoples non-work conversation is that it NEVER stops. I had one coworker who was talking to her mom on the phone, and I checked back every 15 minutes or so for over an hour before, I was so frustrated that I just interrupted her. And she was a bit irritated about it.

  37. Wendy Ann

    I’m in a similar situation to OP5, except I don’t know what I can’t do until I try to do it. I have tendinitis in one of my shoulders. It’s under control now but when it flares up I can barely lift my arm above shoulder height. Thing is, I don’t always know what will set it off. Should I be avoiding jobs if I know there’s chance I may not be able to do some of the physical requirements at some point in the future? Or is this more of a “anyone can hurt their themselves and not be able to work” situation and I should go for them anyway?

    I interviewed with a company where you rotated through about half a dozen different positions for a week at a time. I know without a doubt during a flare up I would not have been able to do Position A, but could have done all the others. I’ve always wondered if I should have withdrawn, but it would have only been a problem if I had had a flare in the specific week I was doing that duty.

    1. CheeryO

      I wouldn’t worry too much. I have similar shoulder issues, and I’m supposed to be able to lift 50 pounds per my job description. I’ve had to move mildly heavy things occasionally (file boxes, big sets of plans, random stuff in the field), but there’s been nothing in four years that I couldn’t have had someone help me with if needed. I’d assume boilerplate and ask in the interview how often those situations actually come up.

  38. Kisses

    This reminded me of my dad. He always warned me that if I called out, even once, I would get fired or passed over for a promotion. Of course, as a migraine sufferer with anxiety, I’ve learned to avoid most of his work advice (he’s quite authoritarian)
    Call out when you need to. Health and sanity are important. I’ve always been hourly without benefits, so I know not everyone has this option and I commiserate.

  39. WillyNilly

    I spent about 12 years as an admin assistant, across 3 jobs. In all three I was in charge of the supply room/cabinet, and therefore [an at minimum] weekly task was carrying a case, or two, or if it was quarterly report time 3 or 4 cases, of copy paper from the pile of boxes at the door where UPS left them, to the supply area. This was definitely part of the job.

    If I were injured or something, I’m sure I could have found help once in a while, but I don’t know it would have been feasible to always have someone else do it.

    In one of these jobs I was one of two assistants for the dept, and we split this duty. While yes I am physically able to do it, I would not have considered it minor at all if suddenly I was assigned 100% of the lifting and the other assistant did none – manual labor is often viewed as ‘lesser’ and I would have been keenly aware of the image it was sending, that I was a junior assistant to the other person’s higher rank (which was not the case). Plus, it’s just unpleasant work in office attire.

    I do think OP 5 should ask about it, because clearly its boilerplate language for some job listings, but do be aware it really might be a requirement and “accommodation” in this case would mean someone else has to take on the lifting.

    1. OP #5

      I suppose I see your point but what am I supposed to do for work when the jobs I have done all my life are suddenly cut off for me due to circumstances beyond my control?

      Believe me, it’s no fun having to ask someone to do things for me; I even have to do it at home where there are lots of things that need lifting or moving. I guess I’ve been thinking that the person who is able to lift what I can’t would consider themselves fortunate that they aren’t disabled. I never thought they’d be secretly resenting me.

      So if the hiring manager says the lifting is no big deal, there’ll always be someone who can help out, I won’t be able to consider the topic closed? I’ll always have to worry about my co-workers stewing in their resentment?

      1. Tema

        WillyNilly, I think OP #5 is right on about asking what she should do with the information you’ve described. I would hope that co-workers would be understanding of another’s disabilities, and I don’t think everyone thinks of things the way you describe. After all, co-workers often balance out each other’s abilities and skills, whether that be physical limitations, computer savvy or anything else.

        OP#5, I hope you don’t worry about co-workers resenting you, though perhaps this comment does suggest your life may be easier if you explain why you need assistance to your co-workers. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to explain your medical conditions, but if you explain your own frustration with the situation, it may help smooth things over with your new co-workers. But do know that many of us wouldn’t be even a tiny bit annoyed about a new co-worker who can’t lift heavy things when those needs arise. Good luck with your job search!

        1. WillyNilly

          Well, plenty of folks have posted that while the weight lifting requirements are in their employers job listings, they are just boilerplate and not reflective of the actual job.
          So I think the take away is, ask. If the employer says “yes there is some lifting, such as weekly supply deliveries” or “well one of your duties would be changing the water jug in the water cooler about twice a month” (or whatever) bear that in mind. If they say “huh? Oh, yeah they just put that in the ad, really it’s nothing to worry about, lifting pretty much consists of loading a ream of paper into the copier,” then there you go.

        2. WillyNilly

          “But do know that many of us wouldn’t be even a tiny bit annoyed about a new co-worker who can’t lift heavy things when those needs arise.”

          I think too, it bears fleshing out – I would never have issue with occasionally helping someone out (“when those needs arise”). What I am talking about is *routine* and *regular* job duties. Not once in a while issues, but everytime issues.
          Plenty of office jobs only have occasional lifting; Some have regular lifting. I am simply pointing out that both situations are common but they are not the same.

      2. doreen

        It’s going to depend a great deal on the specific circumstances- how often does something have to be lifted , how many people are in the same position , does it make sense to reassign tasks to you instead of your coworkers etc? It’s one thing if there are only two admins and so much lifting of copier paper, boxes of files and so on that your coworker ends up spending 50% of their time lifting because you can’t. It’s another situation entirely if there are 10 admins and the only lifting to be done is changing the water cooler bottle once or twice a month.

      3. McWhadden

        There are always those people who harbor resentments. But they are in the minority. Most people would not hold something you have no control over against you. Don’t let it phase you.

      4. Bagpuss

        I’m not sure about ‘stewing in their resentment’ but I think it can be helpful if you feel comfortable letting colleagues know that there is a medical reason, as there’s a risk otherwise that they might be left under the impression that you are simply avoiding doing it.
        I have a permanent issue with my shoulder which means I can’t lift or carry heavy items – for instance, I physically can’t replace a full bottle for the water cooler, or lift boxes of copier paper.
        I do mention *why* I can’t do it, as I think people are mostly less likely to feel any resentment if they understand the situation.

  40. Rusty Shackelford

    Would it be too much of a sidetrack if I asked how people feel about interrupting coworkers having non-work conversations when you’re not the boss? How long should I stand at their desk waiting for them to pause what is obviously a non-work conversation? I tend to go away and come back later, but I’m always vaguely resentful. I mean, if your job is literally to do X for me, and I can’t ask you to do X because you’re on a personal call, it feels like I should be able to say “excuse me, I need you to do X.” But I don’t.

    1. Still Here

      Think about it this way:

      I you walk into a store and go over the counter: What would you do if the the store employees just stood there chattering away about their weekend while you are right there? You’d expect them to shelve the conversation until they had looked after you, the customer. IMHO, things should work the same way for internal customers. So: if their personal chatter is getting in the way of you getting work that you are all being paid to do, interrupting them is 100% reasonable. (Of course there are those people with whom it is better to just suck it up and wait….. )

  41. aebhel

    Re: #1, what is with all of these people who assume that anyone who brings in baked goods wants to do it as a full-time unpaid side-job? We have a couple of wonderful bakers at my place of employment, and when they bring in cookies or pie or something, it’s appreciated like the treat it is, not turned into an entitlement. I wouldn’t blame the OP at all if she wants to stop bringing in baked goods entirely, but she’s definitely well within her rights to push back on the expectation that she’ll be spending her time and money to cater any and all office events. Good grief.

    Re: #5, it’s my experience that jobs that actually require the ability to lift a particular amount of weight are pretty obvious about it from the get-go. Although currently we have a page at my library who can’t (and was never able to) lift more than 10 pounds, which means that she essentially can’t do like 75% of her job, which is kind of frustrating. So I agree with Allison–verify at the interview what that’s about. If it’s not an essential part of the job, it’s not likely that anyone will even notice if you need to ask for help. A lot of these things are just c/ped from other listings without much thought.

  42. Joe in Frederick

    LW#5: I spent a year+ searching for a replacement me, a bioinformatician who could build and haul servers around the world, for the military. It was indeed an odd job description:

    Computational Biologist:
    Degrees in Bioinformatics and experience in Next-Gen Sequencing
    US Citizen with the ability to obtain a security clearance
    Must be able to lift 75 lbs unassisted and 150 lbs with accommodation

    Unless it’s mighty specific, it’s probably boilerplate they just add to descriptions.

  43. Justin

    I had a coworker, who, as a hobby, liked to salvage wood from fallen trees and make things out of the wood. We all knew this, and occasionally he would mention something he had made and someone would occasionally say “Wow, cool project, I should have you make me a sometime!” And one time he made a gift for everyone on the team and it was super nice! But I don’t think anyone on the team would have ever expected him to make a bunch of custom wood household objects. I see expecting baked goods from a skilled baker as being the same idea. It’s nice if that person wants to make some baked treats, but there should be no expectation, nor should there be a constant stream of requests.

  44. McWhadden

    A lot of jobs in places with an elaborate bureaucracy (local government, universities, places with unions) include anything that could possibly come up in the job, within reason, in their job descriptions. Because if you suddenly have to have someone lift some boxes one day you don’t want them to grieve it as duties beyond their job description. It’s possible that lifting is an occasional thing (and with a reasonable accommodation you could get around) but hardly crucial to the job.
    For some places the job description has real implications in employment law. Although that’s not usually the case for at will, a university is exactly the sort of place that could be the case.

  45. CanCan

    OP5: As long as the application isn’t forcing you to answer Yes to the question of “Can you lift x lbs?” in order to continue, you’re fine. Lots of people apply to jobs where they don’t meet all the requirements. It’s up to the employer to check that you meet those requirements that they consider essential (or waive some of them if nobody meets all criteria!). I wouldn’t even mention it at the interview.

  46. Erin

    #1 – This reminds me of my sister-in-law, who is a phenomenal baker. I feel like for every family social gathering she’s expected to bake something and I feel frustrated on her behalf. Good luck with this! Don’t feel guilty – it’s your time and money.

  47. Harriet2

    OP1: I’ve taken to saying that one might be amazing at stripping but that doesn’t mean one has to do it as a job.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with stripping! It just seems to get a laugh rather than a shocked gasp, like when I used “assassin” instead)

  48. Avatre

    @ OP #3: I once got yelled at by a manager because I dared to call in sick for the second day in a row. I shut off my phone, went to sleep, and later that evening turned the phone back on and had a message from THE FREAKING STORE DIRECTOR checking on me because my manager had apparently complained to him. These were the only two days I called in sick in the entire three years I worked there.

    It was a grocery store bakery. I handled food, and was calling in because I had a really bad cold, complete with fever and prodigious sneezing, and probably couldn’t have stayed on my feet for eight hours anyway. Lucky for me, I’d gone to urgent care on my day off and did in fact have a doctor’s note. SHEESH.

    Long story short: this was one of many reasons I nearly quit to get away from that manager, and she was only around for about six (horrible) months. If a place makes a fuss about sick days before they’ve even hired you, RUN.

  49. Anonymeece

    OP #5:

    We have one of those boiler-plate “ability to lift” things for our office positions, and we actually had someone ask and were able to tell them, “Yeah, that’s not really applicable to this job.” There are very few times that you would be expected to lift things, and when there are, usually someone else is happy to help if you are unable to.

    Unless it’s something that’s physically demanding – groundskeeper, facilities – then apply!

  50. PhylllisB

    Yeah, I hear you. My church does Wednesday dinners with a different cooking team each week. I was asked to join one, but I have to work some Wednesdays, and the ones I don’t I usually use the day to catch up on things around the house. So I foolishly offered to make a dessert every week because there’s never enough, and a sugar-free one because there are people with diabetes, ect. (I used to do one regular and one sugar-free, now it’s just one sugar-free.) Well, some weeks I just don’t feel like doing it, have a busy day, worked that day, ect. so I would buy something pre-made. Well, you would have thought the world came to an end. They wouldn’t eat it, and tell me I had let them down. This is sugar-free desserts. If I bring in a purchased regular dessert no problem. What I’m saying is, it takes the joy out of it. But I think of it as my ministry and do it anyway. And most of the time I do enjoy it. But in a work situation? Where they’re making special requests? Umm….no.

  51. Triple Anon

    #1 – Just throwing this out there for consideration. You could continue baking but use it to negotiate a raise or reduced hours doing other work. Document the frequency, time and cost to you. Show those stats to your boss. Be really nice and friendly yet straight-forward. Ask what the options are: no more baking vs a raise to cover your time etc is reduced hours in the office so you can go home and bake. Then you could choose what works best for you.

    #5 – I would apply for the jobs unless it’s really obviously going to be a big deal. Then if you get an interview, ask about it then. That way you can have a conversation about it in the context of discussing what you would bring to the role and what the job would be like overall. And I think those kinds of things go better face to face.

    1. Colette

      Unless you’re a baker, you can’t put baking on a resume. The approach you suggest would hurt the OP in the long run, since she’d be spending less time doing work that will help her in her career.

      1. Triple Anon

        I wasn’t trying to suggest any one approach – just pointing out that the situation gives her some leverage and possibly multiple options. As for the option you mentioned, I don’t think it would be a big deal to, say, leave two hours early one day each week and bake instead of doing a more mundane task that wouldn’t look impressive on a resume. That would appeal to some people, and it hypothetically could to OP at some point even if she wouldn’t want to go that route now. I didn’t mean to suggest anything that could affect her career either way. Just minor things in the salary/benefits type of category.

  52. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#2: I am in this situation as well, but on the other side, as the trainer. I ask my trainee to schedule meetings to go over specific matters, so that we have dedicated and uninterrupted time to train. Works great.

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