how to respond to “sorry I’m late” when it’s a problem, coworker gets extra time off, and more

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

1. How to respond to “Sorry I’m late” when it inconvenienced you

Recently, I had a meeting scheduled at two colleagues’ request to help them work through some challenges in an area where I have more expertise. They were about 10 minutes late, with no notice that they were running behind. When the first person arrived they said, “Sorry I’m late, my previous meeting ran a bit over.” Normally I would respond with something like “No problem, let’s get started!” but in this instance it was a bit of a problem — I was was behind deadline on another project, so that was about 10 minutes of my day I really didn’t want to waste. I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t an untrue, disingenuous deflection. I sort of froze without saying anything, which I suppose got the point across but I immediately regretted it — I think it came across VERY stony and is out of keeping with how we usually work together or my org’s culture.

Can you think of something I could have said that would be collegial but not excuse the lateness? Or should I have just said “No problem” as usual and moved on?

If it’s a one-time thing, you’re better off letting it go. Sometimes meetings do run over and there might not have been anything they could do about that. It sucks when it happens on a day when you’re in a time crunch, but there’s no point in explaining that it inconvenienced you if it just happened once and it was out of their control (and would likely come across as rather … uncollegial if you tried).

If it’s a pattern, though, then it’s reasonable to say something like, “I’m in a bit of a time crunch today, so let’s jump in right away” — which, if they’re being at all thoughtful, will get your point across. Even better, if it’s a pattern it’s smart to say to the person ahead of time, when the meeting is first being scheduled, “I’m going to have a hard stop that day because my schedule is packed so can we be sure to start right at 1:00?”

2. My coworker is getting much more vacation time than the rest of us

I work for a small construction company — a family-owned business. One of my colleagues, I’ll call her Mary, has recently booked a two-week vacation abroad.

Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this at all. However, in this case I think it is not fair. Every year our company closes for three weeks, so every employee gets three weeks of compulsory leave, with the addition of being allowed to take a day of leave here and there where it is required for personal affairs. We do not have other vacation time.

My issue is that Mary purposefully booked her two-week vacation a month before we close for the year, where she could easily have booked it to coincide with our end of year leave. That means she gets five weeks total vacation time, while the rest of us only get three. I think this is extremely unfair, and yet her leave time has been approved. Not to mention while she is away, the rest of us will have to do her work in addition to our own. Mary has only been working here just over a year, and sadly she is also the manipulative, brown nosing and gossiping kind of person, making it difficult to confront her.

I’m not sure how to address this issue in a way that would not cause a lot of tension in the office, because Mary is central to a lot of the office politics. Any ideas?

You shouldn’t confront Mary at all, because there’s nothing wrong with Mary negotiating for this if she wants to. If it’s unfair or causes a work coverage issue, that’s something to talk to your manager about, not Mary. Taking issue with Mary over it would be like taking issue with her for getting a raise or negotiating a four-day work week. She’s allowed to advocate for herself! (In fact, since you said she’s only been there a year, she may even have negotiated this as part of her initial offer, as a condition of accepting the job.)

The message I’d take from this is that it’s actually possible to negotiate more vacation time for yourself than you thought, and you should try to do the same. That’s actually good news — and frankly, the problem is more with how other people are being treated (not allowed any vacation time other than the December closure) and less with Mary working out a better deal. (Of course, Mary’s extra two weeks may be unpaid, and if so, you’d have to decide if you wanted unpaid vacation time — not everyone does.)

Now, if you try to get the same thing for yourself and are denied, at that point you’d have standing to ask why it’s being allowed in some cases and not in others … although even then, they may have a legitimate reason … or who knows, maybe it’s actually medical leave — there are lots of details here we don’t know.

3. Spouses at fundraising events

I am the CEO of a small but well-known local nonprofit. Because of my work relationships with grantors or corporate sponsors, I sometimes am invited to help fill sponsored tables at other nonprofit events/galas. This is seen as good for my organization and is meant as a networking opportunity. This is part of my job, and I would not attend these evening and weekend events otherwise.

My spouse feels left out and that it is not right for them to invite just me and not add a plus one. I’m pretty sure that this is a work invitation and not meant as a social occasion. What are the norms for these kinds of invitations for nonprofits?

It varies — it’s clearly a work event more than a social one (in that you’re being invited because of your job), but sometimes spouses are invited along to these types of dinner events too. But it’s not a faux pas if they aren’t because ultimately, as you noted, you’re there to represent your organization and to network.

4. Going back to work after a breast reduction

I’m having a medically necessary breast reduction in early December, and I’m hoping you might have some advice on what to say if my coworkers ask about it when I return. I’ve already told my bosses that I’ll be missing 10 days of work starting on [date] for “a relatively minor, pre-scheduled surgery.” I haven’t elaborated, and they haven’t asked me to because everyone (blessedly) understands that it’s quite frankly none of their business.

That said, when I return, there will be a pretty obvious change in my physical appearance. For reference, I’m currently a 38K in UK sizing or 38N in U.S. sizing, and I’m going down to about a 38C, so I don’t think it’s reasonable to just bet on no one noticing.

My inclination is to just wear lots of loose clothing and scarves for the week that I’ll be back in the office between my return and when the office closes for the year (we’re closed Dec. 23 through Jan. 2 every year), and blame it on weight loss when I get back.

I’m very excited for the surgery because it will likely improve my quality of life significantly, but I’m not excited about getting questions at work about a part of my body with which I have a pretty fraught relationship. In my personal life, I’ve been relatively open about the surgery and my excitement about it, but I’m not interested in having those conversations at work.

I’ve considered telling a trusted coworker who could make sure the news gets around the office in a friendly but firmly No Questions way, but not sure if that would put her in a strange position. How can I either prevent these questions or kindly but firmly shut them down when they come?

Unless you have a very boundary-challenged office, it’s actually pretty unlikely that anyone is going to ask you about the state of your breasts. They may notice and they may wonder, but typically colleagues don’t ask about each other’s boobs unless they are extremely rude and intrusive. For that same reason, you should not ask a coworker to spread the news — people are likely to feel odd being the recipient of that information at work. In general at work, there’s supposed to be a polite fiction that we are not noticing or thinking about coworker’s breasts, no matter how obvious a change might be.

If someone does ask, though, blaming it on weight loss is a good idea (and technically it’ll be true that you lost some weight; you don’t need to specify that it all came from one place).

5. Getting feedback from coworkers before promoting an employee

I am managing a small team of 10 people. I also have an employee (let’s call him Alex) who we hired to help me back when the company was just a start-up and it was only the two of us in this department. He is a really good worker. We are considering hiring some more people and I want to promote Alex to a supervisor of the team. As luck will have it, our administrative assistant is going an a two-week leave and I will be taking over a lot of her tasks and wanted to leave Alex to supervise and support the team in that time. Do you think it’s okay to ask the other people in the team for feedback on him as a supervisor? Also, is it okay to tell them that I’m considering promoting him?

Definitely ask for feedback on Alex before you promote him — you want to find out if, for example, he behaved like a tyrant or couldn’t explain assignments clearly or so forth.

But don’t say right off the bat that it’s because you’re considering promoting him — because ideally he should be able to save some face if you decide not to do it. Instead, ask more casually — “How did things go with Alex managing the team these last two weeks? Did you get everything you needed?” If you don’t hear any real flags, you could ask, “If we were to give him managerial authority more formally, would you have any concerns about that?” or even “Are there any areas you think he’d need support with, transitioning into a role like that?” Or at that point you could be more forthright about it — but I’d wait until you hear some initial feedback first (and, of course, have confirmed with Alex that he’d want that role).

{ 316 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    When I had my breast reduction I was worried about the same thing. I had to wear bandages and padding under a loose bra and had some swelling, so by the time I was back to normal clothes it had been a few weeks since my return to work. YMMV as there are different types of procedures so you may not have the bandages/swelling.
    No one ever asked me about it–too intrusive for even the nosiedt–but a few people did ask my work bestie (who knew where I’d been). We’d agreed she’d just say she had no clue.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I haven’t been through reduction surgery, but I would be shocked if anyone said anything about it directly to OP. Any time I’ve had a coworker or friend go through this surgery, everyone knew that observations/questions were simply Not Done.

      (Also, congrats, OP, and here’s to a speedy recovery!)

      1. JokeyJules*

        yeah, I cant ever imagine an instance in my life where i would say to a coworker, “hey, are your boobs significantly smaller than i remember?”
        even typing that felt weird.
        and ditto, congratulations and well wishes!

        1. NaoNao*

          I think it’s more that the question would be “Wow, you look great! Have you lost weight? What’s different?” or “Wow, you look trim! What’s different? Have you been working out?” Very, very few people would directly ask about the reduced bustline, but because one’s bustline contributes a *ton* to the overall perception of size, it’s likely going to be pretty noticeable that she’s now much trimmer, and most people will (in a well intention-ed way) want to compliment that.

          1. GlitsyGus*

            Yeah, I’m thinking if anything questions will be in the, “Is there something different? New haircut?” variety. People are shockingly bad at noticing exactly what has changed about a person if it isn’t pointed out.

      2. kehr*

        If OP has coworkers who don’t understand this, I would imagine a simple, “I’d rather not discuss my breasts at work, thanks,” would suffice.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Absolutely – return that awkward to sender! (How would anyone think they should ask a coworker about their boobs, like…does not compute.)

        2. Red 5*

          I also would be a fan of the (I think) Captain Awkward advice for situations like this: just reply “that’s a weird question to ask” and don’t answer it.

        3. NewMom*

          Early in my pregnancy, I had someone say, “You really look like you’ve lost a lot of weight but I swear your boobs are bigger. What is this magical diet?”
          I just blinked a few times and walked away. I genuinely didn’t know how to respond–and feeling terrible (related to the weight-loss–I was thin to start and really didn’t have 15lbs to lose). So I just decided to let it be really awkward.

          1. Gumby*

            I mean, I can sometimes guess someone is pregnant from boob growth before they start showing any sort of baby bump but I would NEVER say anything about it.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            IME these are people who assume the goal of every woman is to be thin with big boobs.
            I also struggle with being thin, I’ve lost 8 pounds this year and starting to wonder if I’m going to waste away.
            I’ve told this story before… I once had a yuppie I had just been introduced to ask me “how do you stay so thin?” I answered “you start with abusive parents in a fundamentalist area, which makes a bad childhood with PTS. You work hard to overcome that and finally get a good job, then your PTS gets triggered and you have a sudden weight loss which I haven’t been able to gain back.”
            She was speechless.

    2. HannahS*

      Even if people can tell, and figure out that you’re not telling the whole truth, it doesn’t really change anything. I knew a girl in high school who very obviously got a nose job and told a completely unbelievable lie and…well, that’s the whole story. Those of us that were not jerks nodded and didn’t speak of it. Those who were jerks probably gossiped behind her back. But that’s also what would have happened if she’d said “I got a nose job over March Break,” too. So tell whatever you’re comfortable with; as Alison says, people shouldn’t be asking or speculating about your breasts anyway.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Whenever I’ve encountered the sort of fairly extreme breast reduction OP 4 is describing? I’ve generally said to myself, “Oh! I guess that time off was a breast reduction. All righty then. Rock on, girlfriend.”

      …and gotten on with life.

      Not saying that that one or two of the clueless type might not ask or comment, but most people hopefully will make the leap and move on.

    4. aa*

      I think this may be a cultural thing. I live in Spain, and here people would definitely say something after such an extreme physical change – not in a sexual way, but just because it’s so obvious. Most people would put it in a positive way – e.g. “Hey, you look great! Did you get a reduction?” – but it would be mentioned, because it’s such a visible thing (and Spaniards are not particularly good at letting things go unmentioned).

      The same thing goes for weight loss, for example. There’s no way people are not going to bring it up here. And it’s not generally seen as intrusive.

      1. Ae*

        Same here. I live in another country in the Mediterranean, and it would totally be commented on (in a nice way, as in: oh my days, you must be feeling so much better now!). It would almost definitely not be seen as intrusive.

      2. TardyTardis*

        In Brazil, people would ask you who the doctor was and tell you about all the people who had the same surgery with him.

    5. PhyllisB*

      I had a friend who had breast reduction surgery, and if I hadn’t known ahead of time, it wouldn’t have been obvious to me. (She had a major reduction like you’re planning.) She just looked like she had lost some weight.
      You may get some comments about your weight loss; which ideally you wouldn’t get that either in an office setting, but people sometimes do ask questions like this. If you are asked if you lost weight, just say yes and keep on going.

      1. Red 5*

        Same, several of my friends have had reductions for medical reasons and the only difference I ever noticed was that they were happier and more confident.

        I could be in a major minority here, but since I’ve had several friends who’ve been open about getting breast reductions and the medical reasons why, even if I noticed a co-worker had one (and I’m oblivious to that kind of thing usually) I would just think to myself “well, I hope she’s feeling better now, I know that kind of surgery can alleviate a lot of pain.”

        If I knew they’d had surgery, I might ask how recovery is going and if I can help. That’s about it.

    6. kaberett*

      I’m in the UK, I’m trans, and I just had time off for gender affirmation surgery. I was approximately a D-cup (having not worn a bra in years); I’m now flat-chested. Nobody’s said anything.

      I really think it’ll be fine. <3

      1. Soft Gray*

        I also wanted to come say this. I had my breasts removed with male contouring, so I went from about an F to flat. I actually still identify as female but had a lot of dysphoria about my breasts. I was a grad student working with very social justice oriented professors, and no one said anything. Actually, the really shocking thing is my extended family hasn’t said anything, which means they haven’t noticed because they’re quite nosy and conservative. And they saw me in a bathing suit multiple times before and since then. I honestly think people just see what they want to see. If they don’t know to scrutize your chest, they really might not notice at all.

        The best part is that everyone I work in my current and future industry jobs will never have seen me pre-surgery.

    7. kitryan*

      I’ve also had a reduction and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Some people knew and some didn’t and no one made any intrusive comments. For those who didn’t know I told them basically the same thing OP plans to – minor surgery, without getting much more specific, and gave my post surgery activity limits as it was relevant.
      There were some non specific comments like ‘you look good’ or ‘have you lost weight’ and depending on the relationship I either told them about the reduction or just said thank you.

      More specifically for the surgery, buy lots of the post surgery bras that they should offer that are soft cotton with front closures. At least back when I had my procedure they were so cheap (especially compared to buying large size bras), very comfortable, and the only kind you can wear post surgery, so having lots of changes is really nice.
      Also, doing all the standard post surgery prep is a good idea, along with making sure everything you’ll need is in the safe zone between your waist and shoulders so you don’t have to bend/lift/stretch for as long as you need.
      Best wishes to the OP and I hope they’re as happy with the results as I was!

      1. SeluciaV*

        All good advice!

        When I had my surgery (about the same scope as yours) I was pretty candid about it with everyone because I was so excited for the change and the physical relief. But even being as open as I was, virtually no one asked me about it. And those that did were mostly women who wanted to understand the procedure because they’d thought about doing it themselves.

        I did get a few comments about “looking good” or the semi-puzzled “did you lose weight or something?” because they could tell something was different but couldn’t put their finger on what that might be. But it was pretty mild and not problematic for me at all.

        Having the surgery was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I hope yours goes really well! Good luck!

      2. ArchDigger*

        I wasn’t sure where the best place would be to post this, so I’m picking here. I had a reduction a little over 4 years ago – no one said anything about it, though I can look at before and after pictures and definitely notice the difference. One thing I wanted to mention – the OP is about the same size I was pre-reduction (I was roughly a 36JJ/K European, though I was never professionally sized at that point). I told my surgeon that I would like to be down to a C cup. What I found out (or was told) after the surgery is that how much can be taken out really depends on the person. In my case, he said they took out as much as they could without risking losing my nipples. That ended up with me being still about a 36H. It is a big difference, especially given that I can now use sports bras without suffocating. But I wish I had been better informed beforehand that I couldn’t really request a specific size – I think it mostly gave them an idea of how much I would be ok with taking them out. It is certainly possible things have changed or you have a better (?) surgeon, but I just wanted to let you know since it was the one bit of disappointment for me once I was recovered. Good luck and hope you have a speedy recovery!

    8. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Best of luck with the surgery, OP! It sounds like you’re pretty well prepared. You note that your bosses at least understand not to ask about something which is “none of their business,” so hopefully that means you’re in a corporate culture where people don’t ask nosy questions.

      (What came immediately to mind while reading your post was “OMG Karen, you can’t just ask someone why they’re a 38C!”)

    9. CommanderBanana*

      I had a breast augmentation and nose job at a previous job (not at the same time). The only people who said anything about it were people I considered friends who had legit questions and/or were considering surgery themselves. The nose job also included major sinus surgery, but I had no problem telling people I had a rhinoplasty along with basically getting the inside structure of my nose removed.

      I really don’t think anyone will ask what happened, even if they do notice. I don’t think anyone asked me flat-out if I had gotten implants (pretty noticeable, I went from an A to a DD, but on my frame they don’t look unreasonable) but I don’t care if people know that I’ve had elective surgery.

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        I worked with a lady who got implants, and was obviously quite pleased with them. I think if anything, she was slightly disappointed that no one commented on her enhanced figure! :)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I love mine! My top and bottom half were two dress sizes apart before so now I can buy dresses and have them fit properly. A DD sounds so big when you say it, but I’ve got a small band size and I’m tall and broad-shouldered so it doesn’t look out of proportion.

          I honestly don’t care if people know I’ve had elective surgery. People act like elective surgery is this big shameful thing, but who cares? I had to have the rhinoplasty done after massive sinus surgery and having my entire septum removed, but I wouldn’t have a problem telling people I’d had a nose job just for cosmetic reasons (and I had been considering one anyway before I found out how messed up the inside of my nose was because of a bad nose break in a fall).

      2. azvlr*

        Flat out. . .I see what you did there.

        A reduction was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my life. I was able to do mine over summer break as a teacher, but the darn things were rock hard and perky for long time afterwards that I don’t think people connected the dots. They thought I had lost weight.

        If you are comfortable sharing, I urge you share the information with people. Not necessarily your co-workers, but larger-breasted family and friends may be interested in your experience. I ended up showing my boobs to my 70-year old step mother who was considering it. Sadly, she thinks she’s too old and the expense is not worth it. I cannot disagree more. It was life-changing for me.

    10. ch77*

      #4 – completely agree. I had a breast reduction about 3 years ago. I worked in an office that frequently crossed boundaries, and no one commented on it. Or rather, there were some people who knew I was doing it so they asked, but no one else made a comment. And it was a major one, like the one you are having done.
      Below someone mentions post-surgical bras – yes, agree 100%, I got 4 I think – stretchy, front close, mostly just cotton and elastic.. Also, you will need tons of gauze/gauze pads (I found mine at a medical supply store) for weeks for the incision spots. And one final word of warning, I was exhausted until at least week 4. I was back at my office job (predominately sendentary) by 14 days post op, but at some point I took another half day off and just slept. So be kind to yourself while you heal up. Oh, and if you aren’t a natural back sleeper, it can help to get a big foam wedge pillow to stop yourself from rolling over. I’m a side sleeper and when it finally arrived via Prime it was a gamechanger
      CONGRATS, you will love the final result

    11. TootsNYC*

      My sister-in-law TOLD ME that she was going to have breast-reduction surgery.

      When I saw her next, I didn’t notice anything, and I didn’t comment. She mentioned that she was a little hurt I didn’t say anything. I replied, “This is how you have always looked to me, in my mental picture of you!”

      I had to go back to an older family photo, specifically LOOKING for the difference, to see it.

  2. Troutwaxer*

    #5 – You should also ask Alex himself what he thought of being in charge. What did he do right? What did he do wrong? Did he do a good job of deploying his workers so they were effective? What would he do differently next time? Etc.

    My second instance of being in charge was very different than my first because I asked myself those questions.

    1. Jasnah*

      This is a good point. You may hear some information from Alex that will shed light on what you hear from everyone else. Also I think being trusted with responsibility and then reflecting on it may impact how he acts in the office regardless of whether you promote him–he may approach issues or coworkers in a different manner after a taste of leadership, reflection and feedback.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Please also discuss the role with Alex *BEFORE* putting him in charge to learn what training would be helpful.

      Too many companies assume that self-motivated reliable employees will be good at scheduling & managing tasks for other people as well as themselves. Let Alex shadow you for a normal week. Make sure he knows the normal workflow, a few workarounds for bad days, and especially workarounds that you have previously ruled out because they caused secondary problems.

      Let him be prepared instead of floundering on his own.

      1. Jenn*

        Yeah the “management training” I got before starting was utterly useless. It was all personality types and learning styles and utterly useless. The formal training in stuff I did need to know, like time and attendance policies or who to contact for X, came months after I had started, by which I had already tracked down the info on my own.

      2. Kyrielle*

        And make sure he wants it! A prior boss of mine tried to promote me to a team leader role. But I liked being an individual contributor, and didn’t want the role. The fact that he’d planned on it and others were aware made it much more awkward than it had to be. (And yet, doing a lot of the same things for a week or two while he was extra-busy wouldn’t have bothered me. I just wouldn’t want that to be my job on the regular.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          you can ask him if he’s interested in a more managerial role in his career, without actually saying you’re considering him for that sort of role “for reals.”

          This is a good opportunity for him to try it out, and a great way for you to contribute to his overall career growth, both in your company and out, and get him ready-er for any opportunities that might come up. Those are all true.

          And you don’t have to make any statements that might commit you if you later decide you don’t want to or can’t promote him.

        2. char*

          Seconded. I got promoted to a lead role even though I didn’t want it and had said so. I also never got any training in being a lead. Surprise surprise, it turns out I’m terrible at supervising people and I now dread going to work even though I used to love my job. Ugh…

    3. all the candycorn*

      Yes, and also, some people are going to push back on Alex for no fault of his own. Are they jealous? Resentful? Irritated to be reporting to a peer? Giving him a hard time like he’s a substitute teacher who “can’t do anything about it?” Not understanding why Alex is the in-charge person this go round? Testing boundaries or hazing him? Deliberately giving him a hard time due to other background conflict, ex: “I don’t like Alex because he’s boss’s pet and he always gets his way and he makes a flavor of coffee I don’t like in the communal coffeepot.”

  3. Someone Else*

    #4 the loose clothing when you return is probably a good idea anyway, just for comfort purposes. Or so I’m told by friends and family who’ve had this type of surgery.

    1. Kat in VA*

      I’ve had the opposite of a reduction and yes, loose clothing is a must for a while. Flowing tops and things that button down in the front ( you don’t really want to pull things over your head).

  4. Greg NY*

    #1: Would the strategy be any different if the meeting was at your request (and they were late for it) rather than at their request? It’s not nice to hold someone up either way, but it seems even more rude if you were depending on them rather than the other way around. At least you can continue to do your work while you wait, if you needed the meeting before proceeding with something, at least that project would grind to a halt.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Strategy would be the same. But I’d argue it’s actually slightly ruder if they asked for your time and then were late, versus the other way around (assuming they’re both peers and the late person isn’t senior to the OP).

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Definitely ruder. They asked for the meeting because they needed OP’s help!

        OP, I think you would also have been in your rights to tell them, “no big deal, but I need to be done at 1 PM even though we’re starting late” (and if they can’t get all the info they want from you in that time, they need to deal with that).

        Or to send an email after 5-10 minutes saying “I don’t see you guys, so I assume this time doesn’t work any more. I’m on deadline so I’m going to get back to the XYZ project now.”

        1. straws*

          I’d agree with the first phrasing, if it’s not a pattern. I’ve definitely responded to “Sorry I’m late” with a breezy “That’s ok, but I still need to end at 1, so let’s get started!”

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yep, since they need your help, and they were late, it’s just a natural consequence that they now get 45 minutes of your help instead of an hour. That’s karma.

          2. OP 1*

            I think this is a perfect approach, thank you! I was more annoyed at being put out—I had dropped what I was doing on time to meet with them, and they had not—but it’s not a big deal occasionally and the only purpose of expressing it more explicitly as annoyance would be to satisfy that pettiness, which doesn’t benefit anyone!

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      You can’t always work while you wait – at least work on the important thing you want to do. There are plenty of projects I would not want to dive into while expecting someone to walk into the meeting at any minute.

      1. Birch*

        On the other hand, if OP doesn’t know how to spend 10 extra minutes they didn’t think they’d have, I’d argue that OP isn’t as busy as they think they are. Even just checking the calendar, making notes to self, replying to short flagged emails, etc. It’s not really lost project time since OP would have been in the meeting anyway. Just end at the agreed upon time and if the others actually needed the full hour (in most situations it’s totally possible to speed things up and save 10 minutes), it’s on them to figure out how to make up for it.

        1. AdminX2*

          That presumes a particular working style and fluidity- which may not work for this person at all. Some people take mental time to prep for a meeting on a particular topic and can’t easily veer around and be productive like that.
          It’s more a frustration that, had the OP known, they could have accounted for ahead of time.
          My culture is more “of course all meetings start 10 minutes late because everyone is always in meetings and never leaves breaks to get around” so we know to expected it. I think it’s wasteful, so I get where the OP is coming from.

          1. BF50*

            Yep. At my previous job, I had a desktop computer and could not access email from my phone.

            If someone was late to a meeting, I could jot down notes, but I could not reply to emails, check my calendar, do anything else. It seems almost archaic now, but I only left that job 3 years ago and I imagine that many, if not most of their employees still work that way. In my department of aprox 20, including upper management, one step down from the C suite, only one person had a laptop and could work from home, but it was so old and slow that it took her ages to do anything and was basically not worth it.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Some people at my company have laptops, but some don’t, and the culture is not that most people bring laptops to meetings. I generally bring a notepad to meetings, but not a computer. When people are late, I might read through work email on my phone, but I’m just as likely to browse AAM or the Internet.

              (The culture is that meetings always start late, because the meeting before ran late, and the meeting before that. I’ve come to meetings ten minutes late and been the first person there.)

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Uh, no, I’d argue OP is as busy as they think they are, as we’re supposed to take OP at her word. Also, if OP is very busy with this one project, flagging/replying to emails on an unrelated topic isn’t going to help.

          1. Birch*

            Then wait 10 minutes doing nothing and consider the meeting rescheduled–that time is not lost, anyway, since it was supposed to have been spent in that meeting. OP is not taking responsibility for their own time. Working professionals should be able to manage 10 minutes here and there since it’s just a fact of life that humans are not robots and cannot stick to perfect schedules.

            1. OP 1*

              Whoa! I feel like you’re misrepresenting my letter, or perhaps I didn’t state the issue as clearly as I might have? I understand that it’s not the end of the world, but was looking for language to use because I didn’t want to disingenuously say “no problem” when it was, in fact, an inconvenience.

        3. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

          Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to comment on how busy or not busy OP is, but ultimately, it seems like this is something to let go, for several reasons:
          1) If your meeting is getting out 10 minutes late, chances are you don’t know that until maybe 5 minutes before the time it was *supposed* to get out, which means there’s just a 15 minute window where they could have notified OP. And they probably spent literally every minute of that thinking “ok, we’re wrapping up, no point in sending a notification, we’ll be there in just a couple minutes”
          2) 10 minutes is… just not that much? I mean, it’s real time, sure, but at least in DC, I feel like there’s a strong general culture that you’re not even really late unless it’s 15 minutes or more.
          3) Ultimately, it seems OP was just miffed that they weren’t more apologetic about it. Which I get, especially in the moment when you’re frustrated, but they apologized, and there’s literally nothing more they could really be expected to do. Well, I mean, maybe if there’s a quick way (like Slack or IM or text or something) that they could notify in the future, like “running late, be there in a few mins” but that also wouldn’t really change anything?

          If it were a case that they showed up a half hour late and thus couldn’t even resolve what they needed to talk to OP about and OP had lost that project time, that would warrant this level of miffed-ness. But 10 minutes? Honestly I just assume everything involving more than 2 people will start 10 minutes late anyway. Makes my life happier. :)

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            I understand people being a few minutes late, but if they were FIFTEEN minutes late I would have already canceled the meeting. That’s a lot of someone else’s time to waste. While I have a laptop and can work from anywhere, how productive can anyone really be when they’re expecting someone to walk in at any second?

            I’ve combated the inevitable “prior meeting running over” issue somewhat by starting meetings five minutes after the hour. That gives everyone a kind of passing period, like we used to have in school. Instead of breathlessly sputtering apologies as they sprint in four minutes late, they have a few minutes to use the bathroom, get coffee, open their laptop, and actually be in the headspace of this new meeting at 10:05 when it convenes.

          2. Jasnah*

            This is very much a cultural thing. In the country where I live, if you’re on-time then you’re late… but at one company I worked at, they’d routinely start meetings late if internal-only, or you had to be there super-early if it was with a client. Either way I think it’s respectful to keep things on time as much as possible.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          This assumes that OP wasn’t asked to go down to THEIR work area, and that her work requires a setup in her own area.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Strategy should be the same. This is a business situation, and they are providing information, so you simply provide information back.

      Don’t spend so much time worry about how is rude to whom, and spend energy instead on what comes next, and how to achieve the company’s goals.

      “I can’t run late from this meeting, so let’s move right along.”

  5. phira*

    #4: Multiple people I know who’ve had breast reductions have all said the same thing: virtually no one could tell that they’d gotten a breast reduction, and instead most people just seemed to think they’d lost weight more generally. In one case, the person who had one was someone I knew very well and saw very frequently and I knew she was having one … and afterwards, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. (There was a difference for her! It’s not like she only went down a cup size or two.) So it’s likely people won’t notice that your breasts are considerably smaller, and if they do notice any changes in your body, they’ll think you just lost some weight.

    Good luck with the surgery!

    1. Anon55*

      My husband is a plastic surgeon and most of his patients get, “Wow you’ve lost weight!” as well. If not being able to lift anything should come up, “I had back surgery” is a great cover and also kinda true!

      Best of luck to the OP and happy healing!

    2. Loose Seal*

      This was true for my reduction. I went from an H-cup in U.S. sizing down to a C-cup. No one that didn’t know I was having this surgery noticed at all. A couple of people thought I looked different but they both asked me if I had changed my hair while I was on “vacation.” (I hadn’t.)

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Good luck in your surgery. Mine was in 2004 and I still say it was the best thing I have ever done.

      1. Caroline*

        Maybe OP could also get her hair cut to add to the likelihood that people will attribute the change to that?

          1. Red Lines with Wine*

            She shouldn’t *have* to, but if she needs a haircut anyway, this is a great opportunity to do so, especially if she’s worried about people noticing, gossiping etc. She’s wearing scarves to cover her chest; getting a haircut isn’t that much different as it’s drawing the eyes elsewhere.

          2. CheeryO*

            It’s classic, good advice for people who are worried about their plastic surgery being noticeable. People usually think, “Hmm, something looks different,” not “WOW, look at [that nose/those boobs/whatever],” and a haircut or color is a surefire way to distract people. No one is saying OP has to do anything, but she’s clearly at least a little concerned, so let’s not attack people for trying to help.

    3. Audrey Puffins*

      I think this ties into the nose job conversation a few posts ago, where someone mentioned that people have an image of you that’s not necessarily exactly the same as your exact physical appearance, and having surgery may just make you look more like their image of you.

      I had a reduction myself years ago; people who didn’t know about it would occasionally look at me slightly quizzically like they were trying to work out if I’d lost weight or not, and that was honestly the biggest reaction I received. (People who did know about it unfortunately did gossip among themselves so I can really strongly recommend NOT having this surgery in your late teens/early twenties unless you want to be at a friend’s wedding and have all the boys think it’s appropriate to come up to you and start in-depth conversations about your breasts.)

    4. Jenn*

      I have had a couple friends get breast reductions to help with back pain and my experience is the most notable change is the posture difference. People might assume she got back surgery.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      That’s what I thought. That if people commented they would probably say something like “hey, you lost weight!” Even if they could tell that you got a reduction, where I live it’s not the sort of thing anyone would point out. You’re going to look different and people are going to notice, but they either won’t realize *what* exactly is different or if they do, they are unlikely to say anything about it. And even if they do notice, they probably won’t care.

    6. CommanderBanana*

      Yep, a colleague of mine got a lift and a reduction, and it just looked like she’d lost weight. She wasn’t a large person but was really top-heavy so she just looked thinner overall.

  6. KatieKate*

    #4–loose button front tops will save your life! At least for me, lifting my arms for a month post surgery was tough so make life easy on yourself and don’t plan on pulling shirts over your head for a while
    (Ironically, this advice was given to me presurgery by a coworker because I work in an office with few boundaries and I had a few coworkers who had also done he surgery and had all sorts of advice.)
    I will say, if you currently do the “large chest shoulder slump” that’s a habit that takes a while to break, so odds are you won’t be showing off your new size under clothes as much as you think. Best of luck on the surgery!!

    1. OP4*

      I had not even thought of button-front tops! I own very few of them for obvious fit reasons, but I’ll have to pick up a few before surgery.

      1. Dance-y Reagan*

        I highly recommend thrifting for this. I buy a lot of buttondowns that I promptly ruin (required to wear business clothing in a messy production environment) and it’s a lot less painful when you’re paying five bucks a pop. White ones in particular are easy to find secondhand, because they’re often used as catering/server uniforms.

      2. CTAtty*

        Yes, definitely agree with the recommendation for button front tops. You won’t want to be pulling anything over your head (and depending on where your drains are placed you may not be able to). I had a breast reduction on a Thursday, Friday was a holiday, and I took the whole next week off. When I went back to work nobody said anything, even if they did notice. When I put in for the time off I said I was having surgery for my back (which was true, the upper back pain was my main motivator). Nobody questioned that before or after. Quite honestly, with the swelling it takes a bit to see the full results so it probably won’t be entirely apparent until you get back from your holiday break anyway, and even then you can honestly say you lost some weight! I was amazed when the doctor told me they took just over 2 lbs total of breast tissue out.

        Also agree with others who say it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself! I went from a 36DD to a 36B and it was life changing.

      3. TardyTardis*

        And be sure to work on your range of motion (now my stepmother carried this a little far–she sat and worked with her bowling ball the first week she came from a mastectomy, but she sure got it all back a lot faster than anybody thought she would). It won’t be fun, but it’s important.

  7. Greg NY*

    #2: It is unfair that the rest of you have to do her work while she’s gone. But instead of bemoaning that, use it as an opportunity to take more time off yourself. Unless it’s medical tourism, it’s not medical leave, it’s a vacation, so if she gets that, it is a very reasonable thing to ask for the same. She will have to return the favor for others who take time off, whether it’s for additional vacation or a medical issue. And if there is disparate treatment given to you once you have a discussion with the person who approved her vacation, you will have found out something very useful about your organization.

    Also, don’t be that person that frowns on additional time off. 3 weeks for an entire year is a pittance, especially when you don’t have a choice of month or season. To enjoy meaningful vacations and time to recharge, you need a bare minimum of 4 weeks off per year, preferably 5 or 6. Don’t try to rationalize America’s vacation problem. You should be looking to broaden everyone’s time off, not reduce hers.

    1. Sami*

      Mary could be just telling her coworkers that she’s vacationing abroad, when in reality she IS having surgery or some kind of medical treatment.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I suspect that Mary is the OP’s BEC, and I think OP is focusing on the wrong problem. The problem is not that Mary is taking additional leave (the basis for her leave won’t change the calculus) or that Mary is forcing others to do her work. As Greg NY notes, doing your coworkers’ work, or having some responsibility for coverage, is really normal in offices where people use their benefits package to take vacation (or other) leave.

      Mary’s situation gives OP an opening to renegotiate their own vacation leave, and the ability to reopen paid leave seems like a net plus. Instead of being upset at Mary, follow’s Alison’s advice and attempt to negotiate additional leave for times when construction season is slow. I suspect it helped that Mary’s leave precedes the mandatory close, because it’s probably already a slow time, business-wise.

      1. EM*

        Mary is not forcing coworkers to do her work, the company is. If Mary takes approved time off it’s up to the company to cover for her- not Mary to arrange her own cover. In no way should OP “confront” Mary about her time off, it’s definately none of her business. (I once did this as a new grad. I was feeling heroic/acting the martyr by not taking time off while my peer took a full allotment. I made a crack about her always being on leave, and she looked me in the eyes and said “I’m entitled to”. I still feel embarrassed thinking about it to this day)

        1. Psyche*

          Exactly. The company approve the leave. If this creates too much work, ask the company for a temp. If the inequity is what is causing hard feelings, ask the company to approve additional time for you was well. A one time trip in the first year seems like it could have been planned before she started the job and been negotiated as unpaid time off. Unless she has also taken a high number of days off previous to this, I would not really worry about it unless it happens again. If it is a workload issue be sure to make that clear to your boss so that they know in case anyone else wants an extended vacation to take that into account.

        2. Smarty Boots*

          Yeah, I had a co-worker complain to me about “doing all of your work while you’re out of the office so much, I wish I could get that much time off” — 1. she was not in fact picking up that much of my work, 2. I had covered her ass frequently in the past, and 3. as I told her, I’m not kicking back and having fun, I’m taking my kid to chemo WHICH SHE KNEW. (You can be sure I did not do one thing extra for her from that day forward, only what I was strictly required to do. )

          Point being, OP should not say word one to Mary about her being out nor about having to cover for her. Talk to your manager, OP.

          1. HannaSpanna*

            I can only imagine how badly I would have lost my temper if this had happened to me.
            I really hope your child is better/responding well to treatment Smarty Boots.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I literally gasped—this is such garbage/sewer person behavior. I cannot believe your coworker had the audacity to say she wished she could “get that much time off” knowing you were taking your child to chemo (I can believe it, but I’m aghast). Although I could never think of this in the moment, I would be so tempted to say, “I would gladly take less leave if it meant my child was cancer-free, you monster.”

            (Sending you and your child warm thoughts.)

          3. Indigo a la mode*

            As I read “I’m not kicking back and having fun,” my inner hulk surged up to say “having fun is a totally valid reason for leave!!!”…and then I finished the sentence and was even more appalled.

            I hope your kiddo is doing better and that you’re doing okay yourself.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I would have been VERY hard pressed not to reply to that comment with something inappropriate. Kudos to you for holding your tongue and simply changing future behavior.

        3. What’s with Today, today?*

          A lot of companies require you to find your own cover. I work a 5 a.m. – 1 p.m. on air radio stint, and am the only person in the office from 5-8:30 a.m., when I go on vacation I have to find someone to cover that morning shift. It’s much more difficult for me to find coverage than the afternoon guy, when several other people are already in office during his shift anyway. In fact, I can’t send in my time off request unless the coverage is already figured out and noted on the request form. The responsibility to find coverage is mine.

            1. What’s with Today, today?*

              I’ve been in the industry for two decades, at large stations, the networks and now small market. It’s been that way across the board.

              1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

                Yeah, it’s a crappy industry norm then. It exists in retail and service industries too. It’s the company’s responsibility to find coverage, and it’s unfortunate that they’ve fobbed that off on you.

                1. doreen*

                  I understand that it’s not always easy to find your own coverage , but I have to say, it seems like the employer can’t win. It seems like for every person who says it’s the companies responsibility to find coverage there’s another one who says work schedules should be fixed and not changed.

          1. Erin W*

            I had a job like this–a customer service job where weekend shifts only had one person on shift at a time, and I worked Saturday afternoon/evening. Never again! If I wanted to ever take that day off (to attend friends’ weddings, visit my parents out of town, etc.) I had to email around to all the other associates and ask who wanted to give up their Saturday. Strangely, no one ever did, regardless of what crap shifts of theirs I offered to cover in return.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              While management scratches their heads going, “why do we have such high turnover in the Sat. evening shift?” *eyeroll*

            2. Michaela Westen*

              BTW, here are some possible solutions off the top of my head:
              1. Rotate the Sat. evening and other unpopular shifts so associates only had to cover them once or twice a month
              2. Hire another part-timer and alternate the Sat. eve. shift
              3. Help associates work it out when something urgent comes up and they have to change their shift.

        4. Turquoisecow*

          Your coworker is my hero. I wish I had the guts to stand up for myself like that, instead of feeling guilty for taking a half-day. I did take all my leave, but I felt bad about it and I shouldn’t have.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I also had another thought. Does Mary have a role in business development?
        A company with a slow period shutdown might well pay someone to pound the pavement for new contracts while everyone else is taking a mandatory vacation.

      3. Sara without an H*

        Yeah, I also got a definite sense of BEC here. If Mary’s leave creates workload issues, then OP can legitimately discuss that with management. If OP wants more vacation time, she can certainly try to negotiate for more. That Mary is a “manipulative, brown nosing and gossiping kind of person” (Tentative translation: Has better people skills than OP?) is irrelevant.

      4. Nicelutherangirl*

        I had to Google “BEC”. That will make me snicker all day long. Thank you, Princess CBH!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s my pleasure! :) It’s one of my all-time favorite some e-cards, and if I could get away with printing it out and hanging it in my office, I would.

          1. sometimeswhy*

            I recently learned that you can also call it “outsized response to microstimuli” which is super handy when you’re using it *AT WORK*.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m in a company where “battery eliminator circuit” is a thing and Urban Dictionary is behind the firewall….I had to ask a co-worker. LMAO.

      5. TheBeetsMotel*

        I had a co-worker at an old retail job who tried to get in my face about the fact that I was getting more hours than she was, and why was her request for hours brushed off when mine was approved?

        I had to tell her that, not being the manager, I couldn’t answer that, but I certainly wasn’t NOT going to ask because my co-worker might have feels about it.

        People sometimes get mad at the wrong person, and often that person is someone on the same “level” as them, so they make a side-by-side comparison and come up with all kinda of reasons why it’s not fair and why Other Person doesn’t deserve the breaks they’re apparently getting. That approach is one that produces (often misdirected) resentment, and NOTHING ELSE. Why waste resources seething at Mary, when you could channel them into negotiating your own kickass vacation?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is so true and so thoughtful. I find folks often feel powerless, so they start resenting their peers. Oftentimes what they want is the same benefit, and the only way to do that is to take it up with the hierarchy.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Unless it’s medical tourism, it’s not medical leave

      These aren’t mutually exclusive. The tourism part just means someone is travelling for treatment, not that it can’t be covered under medical leave. The implication in the term “medical tourism” is that it’s only ever elective treatment. But again just because treatment is elective doesn’t mean it can’t be covered under medical leave.

      1. Lexicat*

        You’re actually in agreement with the sentence you quoted. To rephrase Greg, if it’s medical tourism, it’s medical leave, otherwise it’s vacation.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m glad Alison mentioned the possibilities that Mary negotiated the vacation ahead of time and that it might be unpaid — because 20 years ago when I started at this company, that’s exactly what I did. I’d bought tickets before getting laid off, let alone before getting a job offer. NewJob asked when I could start, I said “That depends on how you’d like to handle my already scheduled trip to see ElderlyRelatives in DistantState.” I gave them the details, they pointed out I wouldn’t have vacation time yet, I said I could take it as unpaid leave as long as it wouldn’t interfere with health insurance coverage, and they agreed. I started a week after getting the job offer (see: laid off), worked 5 weeks, and headed off to Albuquerque for 2 weeks. Unpaid — but insured in case I had an accident or got sick.
      I did however make sure to tell my new co-workers it was unpaid time — simply so I didn’t start off on the wrong foot.

      It’s also possible Mary-the-new-employee negotiated extra vacation time because she came from a job that had more. Maybe she had seniority at her old job and 6 weeks vacation per year — if she negotiated 5 weeks vacation time that may be what it took for your hiring managers to get her on board.

    5. MLB*

      Actually it’s not unfair that they have to do her work while she’s gone. The work isn’t going to wait for 3 weeks while she’s out. Like Alison said, there could be a number of reasons for this time off being allowed, but it’s none of LW’s business of the why. If she has a major issue with it, or the amount of extra work she has to do because of it is overwhelming, she needs to take it up with her manager, and figure out what works for everyone.

    6. Cheryl Blossom*

      It is unfair that the rest of you have to do her work while she’s gone.

      …Is it, though? In my experience, that’s just how coverage when people are gone works. It’s the same thing whether people are out sick, on vacation, travelling for work: the work in the office still has to get done.

      1. Genny*

        I think the idea is since she’s getting extra time, it’s not all coming out in the wash. If everyone in the office takes the same amount of leave, everyone in the office is doing the same amount of “extra” work covering for each other, which is “fair”. If someone in the office takes off more time than everyone else, than people are covering for that person more than that person is covering for them, which isn’t “fair”. It’s all hypothetical though because that assumes everyone takes the same amount of leave, everyone can and is equally covering jobs when people are away, and that each person works at the same level so that everyone is covering the same workloads/difficulties.

    7. Working Mom Having It All*

      Isn’t others covering for the person on vacation fairly standard? It’s hard to think of a situation where someone would take vacation and just hit pause on every single thing that needed doing during that time. Especially since, at least for every job I’ve ever had, over the course of a week there are going to be new things that come up which the vacationer couldn’t possibly have anticipated, which will likely need to be delegated elsewhere unless they’re low priority.

      When it’s the coworkers’ turns to have their vacations, Mary will cover for them. That’s… how vacation works. On the other hand, the fact that Mary is doing this when previous company culture is not to be out of the office ever complicates things. But clearly the solution is for everyone to advocate for themselves rather than penalize someone for doing that.

      By this logic, nobody could ever use their paid vacation time because it might inconvenience someone else.

      1. LJay*

        But none of the rest of them have real vacations right now. They all take the same 3 week period off when the company is shut down and no work is done by anyone during that time. Then they don’t get any chunks of time off otherwise.

  8. Greg NY*

    #3: My experience has been that spouses have tried to find any excuse NOT to go to these events, so it’s odd to think that yours really wants to go and feels slighted when they aren’t invited. I don’t understand, at all, why any spouse should be at any work event that is not primarily social, and why yours thinks they should be.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assume because these are dinner events, and so they feel more social in nature to him. (He’s wrong about that, but I’d assume that’s where he’s coming from.)

      1. Lunita*

        I work at a nonprofit as well. In my industry spouses almost never come to events, and there are quite a few dinners and happy hour events that occur throughout the year. I can really only recall meeting a significant other once or twice, and only person who regularly brought their wife to these things. I don’t think my husband has ever felt excluded and I wouldn’t invite him because the point is usually to network.

        1. SignalLost*

          I worked at a non-profit for three years and never met anyone’s partner at any event. Our president was in the same position as the OP, though probably more often if she’s describing these invites as occasional, and he never brought his spouse. I don’t think the staff of l any of the orgs we worked most closely with brought spouses, especially in a sponsored-table situation. That said, we also worked with angel investors and venture capitalists and business people across a spectrum of professions, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to bring spouses. I think the president of our board may have brought his to our biggest wingding. But staff never brought spouses, and certainly not to another org’s event. At a sponsored table, you’d be taking a seat away from someone the table sponsor wants to network with. And sitting at separate tables would eliminate the social aspect of spending time with your spouse.

          1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

            Yeah, I think the fact that these are sponsored tables is the important thing. If Sponsor Company A bought a 10 seat table to support the org, it’s up to them to decide what to do with those 10 seats. It would certainly be polite to extend plus-ones, but if you’ve only got 10 seats, and your company folks are filling 6 of them, you can invite 4 people you’d like to network with, or you can invite 2 of them and give them plus-ones, and that’s a big difference. Either is a perfectly defensible choice.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I think OP’s spouse might be misunderstanding the role of these dinners. I don’t think dinners/galas should be held to the “a spouse should not be at any work event that is not primarily social” rule, but I do think it might be a helpful way for OP to reframe for their spouse what these events are about.

        I’ve certainly been to work events/dinners where spouses/partners were included (usually only if you buy the seat, however, and not if your seat is donated to you/your org), and others where it would look really off for a partner/spouse to be there. At events where your seat is donated or you’re representing your org, a lot of time is spent networking and doing job-related promotion. If I also had to entertain my partner, it would be terribly distracting and make me less effective.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          I agree that these are Work events. Also, aren’t these things $25-$5000 a plate? They are giving a spot to OP as a business expense, giving away two or more is not financially sound.

          1. EPLawyer*

            It seems they bought a table then need to fill it out. Which is weird that spouses are not invited because those tables are even numbered. Unless the organization is only bringing an odd number of people, they need to add people evenly so there is not an empty seat.

            These things might be work events, but they are still somewhat social. It is also taking time away from family to have her attend. It would be nice to include the spouse ocassionaly.

            1. AdAgencyChick*

              I am occasionally invited to these things, never with a spouse. The agency does buy an even number of seats, but they always try to fill those seats with other agency employees. My agency is paying for seats for networking and recruiting purposes in the case of industry awards, and to a lesser extent in the case of charity galas (the charities are always related to the type of work we do in some way). TPTB would consider a seat for a spouse to be a waste of money, I think.

              1. SignalLost*

                Agree. My partner is wonderful, but unless you care deeply about an obscure niche industry, he’s not got the same value I do in networking, since I can speak generally and specifically on industries in my region, international relations with my region, and political efforts here. I also have many useful contacts. I’m the value in my couple for networking purposes.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Same—this is how it works whenever I’m invited to occupy a seat at a table purchased by my NPO or corporate sponsors.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              But why must those people be spouses? Maybe the organization wants to bring in multiple “work” people to fill the table. Maybe there was only one spot open.

              1. SignalLost*

                One person dropping out at the last minute is only noteworthy when you actually get a heads up. We budgeted 10% no-shows for paid events and 30% for unpaid.

            3. AdminX2*

              It may be helpful to remember a fair number of us are SINGLE and still may want to go to social fundraisers and events. So, having an odd number really is common.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              So I’ve been to law galas where I had a seat because of a sponsor, and in that case, if we didn’t have enough employees to fill the table we were allowed to bring spouses/partners. When I purchase my own ticket to an event (e.g., the Unity Bar dinner), I also pay for my partner. But when I worked for NPOs, if the NPO bought the ticket, I never brought a partner/spouse. It was clear that the NPO purchased the table so employees would network (and more employees attending = more networking, hopefully), and that’s harder to do if you’re making sure your partner isn’t abandoned or bored during the event.

      3. JR*

        I work in philanthropy and often go to these events for work (usually when my company was an event sponsor) and have only occasionally brought my husband. We were trying to engage as many relevant employees as possible, so we wanted to use all of the seats for work purposes. On the other hand, my husband works at a law firm and, when his firm buys tables, spouses are very often invited. So it think it is partly to do with work culture and partly to do with the specific person’s role. At my husband’s firm, their purpose in buying the table is to provide support to the nonprofit, with a secondary goal of sending some employees to a nice, enjoyable event, so it is almost entirely social for the employees and they have more fun with spouses. In my role, I’m there for work and am trying to make strategic use of the seats, so I’d generally only invite spouses if I couldn’t fill the table. All that said, these events are parties, they’re definitely social and it isn’t at all weird when spouses are present. Personally, I enjoy them! I don’t think it’s strange at all the OP’s partner wants to go, but in her particular circumstances, 1) having a partner there would potentially inhibit her ability to do her job well and 2) it’s not at all weird for the organizations giving her a ticket to invite her without her spouse – they are trying to make strategic use of their tickets, too, and since the invitation is in a work capacity there’s nothing rude about leaving out the spouse.

        1. Washi*

          Yes, I think it depends on who is being “wooed.” Usually if you work at a nonprofit, you are doing the wooing, and having a spouse there would not further that goal, especially if a ticket would need to be purchased for them. It’s only if the OP were the one being wooed that I would expect an invitation to be extended to the spouse as well.

          1. Lance*

            That’s actually a pretty good point to consider. Especially in OP’s case, they’re filling the seats to benefit their company/build relations with companies they are seeking support from, not the other way around; I don’t think a spouse would actually be helpful in either of those roles (granted, I could be wrong, and there could be exceptions, but that’s how I see it in general).

      4. Smarty Boots*

        Or the events may be very frequent and the spouse wants to spend time with the OP in the evening or on the weekend.

      5. Le Sigh*

        I don’t find it that odd that the spouse might like to go (though mine usually passes since crowded parties aren’t his thing). In my nonprofit space it’s not a given that spouses/SOs come (though they can certainly buy a table or a ticket), but they semi-often do. Some work in adjacent or similar fields and know people at the event; some want to see the cool speaker; some just like to get to know others in the field for their own business reasons; some people legit see these things as social and fun, etc. Other times if we need to fill the room, the event person invites spouses.

        But I think the spouse should get upset the LW doesn’t get a +1. This isn’t a wedding, it’s a business thing.

      6. Close Bracket*

        There is no gender in the question and answer, but here you use “him,” and it seems like you are referring to the spouse. Is the CEO a woman? Bc this is a *very* gendered thing in relationships, where men tend to be more often put out by their wife doing a work thing without them than the other way around.

    2. Jenn*

      I have also learned that sometimes the spouse is invited but in a weird way, expected to engage in the networking for spouse or company. Either entertain the client or the client’s spouse or similar. I am good at talking to strangers so I have managed it fine in the past, but I can see finding it hard, and it isn’t exactly a relaxing activity.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I started to type “one of my…” and then realized that the ability to easily chat with a dozen strange table mates actually applies to both of my in-laws. It’s just that one of them is the fundraiser spouse of a consultant and fits exactly into your example, while the other is a professor doing zero networking on own or spouse’s behalf, he’s just sociable.

    3. Mynona*

      I work at an arts nonprofit and used to do fundraising. Getting a +1 really depends on the organization and event. At my current employer, only the spouse of the seniormost staff host attends. If you are invited by another org to their event, the invite will specify “and guest” or it won’t. It is safe to reassure your spouse that it is normal for her not to be invited.

    4. GRA*

      I also work at a non-profit – while staff are given complimentary tickets to events, if significant others attend, too, those are always paid tickets. I’ve never seen a SO comped at any event. If the OPs spouse insists on attending these events, maybe try framing it that they can attend, but the OP will need to purchase them a ticket for $XXX.

    5. Bea*

      Some spouses dislike that after working all week for hours away from each other, they’re dragged away for an evening to have these dinners. It may be just that the OPs spouse isn’t happy with the setup and it’s their way of wanting to at least spend some time in the others presence.

      Or if the spouse is viewing this through a lense of “all my company functions include spouses”, it feels odd to them to be excluded.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I mean I do feel a little lonely and left out when my husband has dinner meetings or conferences in the evening and I’m home alone, but I also don’t want to join him. I don’t know anyone there, and they’re all going to be talking about work anyway. He’s in tech and I’m not, so I won’t understand most of what they’re talking about anyway! If we’re going out socially with his industry friends and they talk work, they might dumb it down a bit for me, or explain what they’re talking about, but I wouldn’t expect that at a work event. I would just be sitting there alone and bored, especially because often after the dinner is over they spend a lot more time sitting around and talking.

      No thanks!

    7. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Mr. Gumption would sell his soul at a discount to avoid my work related dinners. The food is generally meh, he isn’t so interested in the nitty gritty of my industry, etc.

    8. LaurAxe*

      I would say even if the CEO gets two tickets, they still shouldn’t be bringing their spouse. These type of events are networking driven, and it would make a lot more sense for the CEO to bring another person from their organization to build relationships etc than their spouse. It’s a professional development opportunity for other staff.

  9. Kat A.*

    #2: You have no standing to confront Mary about this. It’s not your call, and it’s not your business. It will only create conflict and is unlikely to get you what you want.

    You also don’t know that she could have scheduled this during the company’s closure. There are so many reasons she chose to take time off at the time she selected. It could be for a wedding, family reunion, or a big family vacation where other people’s work schedules had to be take into account. It could be for an event occurring where she’s traveling to, or maybe it’s the only time her spouse/friend/companion could get off of work. It could be the earliest chance to travel with (or go to see) an elderly parent or grandparent for what may be the last time. And, as Alison stated, it could be medical.

    It’s really none of your business.

    For all you know, she may have negotiated a lower salary for more time off. No matter though. It’s been approved by the higher-ups and is not something you have a say in.

    If more help is needed covering her job, suggest a temp.

    1. SS Express*

      If the three-week closure is over the Christmas/New Year period, it’s likely also much cheaper for Mary to travel outside of that.

    2. JamieS*

      Since Mary started just over a year ago it’s also possible she’d started booking the vacation before she was even hired so wouldn’t have even known about the 3 week closure since she didn’t work there at the time. Regardless OP definitely needs to shift their perspective from focusing on Mary to focusing on management. Even if this was something totally unreasonable (I dont think this is) it’d still be on management for approving it not the employee.

    3. Jenn*

      I also find begrudging vacation because “I have to cover” a bit bean count-y and ultimately toxic attitude. I have covered for vacations, when a coworker had a bad flu, and maternity and paternity leaves. And have had my own various leaves covered. Everyone is generally happier if you treat this as a “today you, tomorrow me” thing. 2 weeks is really a minor amount of time to cover work, particularly if it is divided over multiple people and complaining would 100% make OP look petty.

      1. Dankar*

        I was actually just thinking that as I scrolled through the comments. A lot of times, we have letter writers and commenters who seem to take umbrage at the fact that they’re covering for vacationing coworkers. It’s odd to me.

        I’m in a two-person department that turns to a ghost town in the summer (my supervisor is out of the office for at least a month and my coworker drops down to part-time), and it’s never occurred to me that covering for them is anything other than an expected job duty. I don’t take a lot of time off during the summer, but I do schedule my long-ish vacations abroad in the winter. It’s a tit for tat sort of arrangement.

      2. Psyche*

        It really depends on how much work you have originally and how much you have to cover. I recently covered for a coworker and it resulted in 10 hour days with no overtime and putting a lot of my projects on the back burner. It sucked. I don’t blame the coworker, but I would not have been able to keep it up for two weeks.

        1. Lance*

          At that point, would there be any way to go to your manager/some similar person to discuss the workload and priorities in the coworker’s absence? (unless, of course, you did, and that was the result anyway)

          1. Jenn*

            Yeah that’s a management issue, though. I volunteered to cover a paternity leave for a month and my manager checked in constantly. When there was a flood of stuff on one of his files, another three people were assigned to help out. That is how you manage.

      3. Yorick*

        I would agree with you for most jobs. But at this job, they rarely have to cover someone else’s work for a long period because everyone gets the same 3 weeks off.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, I’ve seen several comments pointing out that OP shouldn’t be annoyed since work coverage is tit for tat, but that doesn’t really apply to her here since she doesn’t get any time off except during the closure. I can see why she’d be miffed about it when it’s not a normal thing in her workplace.

          Still, good opportunity to bring it up with management and clarify whether you can have more time off yourself.

          1. bonkerballs*

            Surely people call out sick or go on medical and bereavement leave and people have to cover for them then.

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Also, OP write that Mary started around a year ago. She could’ve had these reservations before that and confirmed she’d be gone for two weeks before she was hired.

    5. What’s with Today, today?*

      It’s wrong, but this would cause some serious problems at my work. We have two employees who get very upset when someone else gets something more/better than them. This goes so far as making snide comments about the cars some of us drive and the vacation destinations we have. I even got comments about maternity leave (I’m the only employee who can still physically have a baby) Getting two more weeks of perceived extra vacation would be enough to cause a mini-war.

      1. Sara without an H*

        It only causes serious problems because your manager has abdicated.

        (Based on your other comments, it sounds as though you work in a really lousy place. Are you sure you want to stay there?)

  10. Shelby*

    I was worried about questions after my breast reduction, but no one ever noticed (or said anything about it). In the weeks after I returned to work, the compression bra I was in was a bit bulky and there’s so much swelling anyway, it didn’t look all that different. It’s not as night and day different as one thinks because of all the swelling – even for someone going from a K to a C. I wore loose tops and infinity scarves for awhile. The swelling went down slowly and as I started wearing normal and lighter clothes again, preople just got accustomed to it. To this day, I haven’t told most of my family (including one sister who used to tease me about my chest size). If she noticed, she definately would have said something.

    1. Anonysand*

      Although not a personal experience, my mom had a similar size reduction last summer and her experience was the same. We worked in the same department at the time and literally no one at work said a thing. Her swelling went down so gradually that it wasn’t a sudden change. Her life did improve almost immediately (yay no more neck pain!) and I think the weight loss explanation would be just fine if someone did get too curious.

  11. Vladimir*

    3. As others I would hope your colleagues would not comment.

    But I must say this question reminded me of something that happened 15 years ago and which signifies how backwards on some things my country is. Back then MP who was also secretary for education had breast reduction and other MPs publicly commented on it. Really, I cringed when I read it in the papers. But sadly generally attitudes to things like sexuall harassment are very bad here, especially among older generation.

  12. Observer*

    #2 As others have pointed out, you absolutely have no idea of whether she could have booked this vacation at a different time, much less that she could have “easily” done so. There are many reasons why people wouldn’t discuss the details even with people they are collegial with. When they know that the people around them despise them, that’s all the more reason to not discuss things.

    It’s also totally not your business how much vacation Mary gets. If it means you get overloaded, that’s something that management needs to deal with, not Mary. And if you want to have more vacation, that’s also something that’s for management to deal with. Mary has not reneged on any obligations to you, nor is she doing something outrageous or unreasonable.

    1. J.*

      Agreed. Also, at least where I live it’s pretty common for people to have family obligations at the end of December, and that kind of traveling or absence from work is not the same thing as vacation. If I want to take a trip for a week or two to somewhere fun and/or relaxing, it’s not something I could easily book for the end of the year, when I have to travel to visit my family and the in-laws in two different cities on/around the holidays.

    2. kittymommy*

      Yeah I was a little confused at the assumption that it could have been easily done at another time, because, no that’s not true. If others are involved in the vacation or it’s for a particular event then that isn’t easily done. Rather than seeing this as an issue, the LW needs to use it as an opening for the company to re-think their leave policy. This could end up being a very good thing.

    3. HS Teacher*

      Yes, I agree with Alison on this one for sure. OP’s company needs to address its draconian time off policy. I don’t even know how they can be competitive if you can’t take time off except during shutdown! I know I’m coming from a teacher perspective, but even in corporate America I didn’t hear about anything like that!

  13. Poppyseed*

    #1 In this situation it would be better to reschedule the meeting, ahead of it taking place (I don’t mean in response to them being late). If you’re up against it on an important deadline, focus on that – it doesn’t sound like this was so urgent and if you’re so up against it that the loss of ten minutes is going to really annoy you, then why not reprioritise and just put the meeting off?

    1. Washi*

      I don’t think the OP necessarily needed to put the meeting off entirely, but in this situation I’ve sometimes been upfront when the meeting is scheduled and said something like Alison suggests” just a heads up that this is a really busy day for me, so I will need to leave right on the dot of 12:30″ even if lateness isn’t a pattern. That means that if someone is late, they have consciously decided that the other thing was a bigger priority (which is fine) and I don’t feel any obligation to stay later (which is then fine with them.)

      1. Queen of the File*

        This is a good approach. Sometimes the encroaching meeting *is* a bigger priority (or is really out of your control).

        I work in a place where meetings chaired by some individuals tend to run late–and most of the time it is not possible for us lower-ranking folk to leave or be seen texting before the meeting is over. We have all learned to block our calendars for an extra fifteen minutes past the end of these scheduled meetings to (mostly!!) avoid being late to the next one.

      2. PBH*

        She clearly was SOOOO busy that 10 mins was a problem so she should have rescheduled. She seems like one that gets annoyed too easily though.

        1. Holly*

          Let’s be kind to letter writers and not make broader assumptions about them. That said, I agree that confronting a colleague over being ten minutes late where it isn’t a larger pattern would seem out of touch and combative.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Sometimes 10 minutes means the difference between making your deadline and not.
          It shouldn’t – but sometimes we run late when we’re first made aware of a project because of *other* people mucking up their tasks&scheduling. Here my group is currently under the gun because someone in another group didn’t realize that once manuals are created they have to go through a multi-day outside-agency review process before the new product can be introduced.
          (I get to eat & comment here because I’m waiting for someone to get back to me with their in-house review so I can do the next set of markups and still submit to the agency by end of day today. Ten minutes? I’m not laughing it off today like I would most days.)

        3. Jasnah*

          Ten minutes of sitting and waiting is a lot if it becomes a pattern. If the meeting then runs ten minutes late, that could mean OP can’t go to the bathroom or get a drink before the next meeting. If OP can’t get work done in those ten minutes of waiting, it’s a long time to sit there! You ever wait for a bus that was ten minutes late?

      3. Beatrice*

        With people who are chronically late, I’ve also said something like, “Hey, my schedule is really tight for today and I have a deadline, and I know your meetings run over sometimes, so I’m going to keep working at my desk and let you come get me when you’re ready to meet.” I had a pair of project managers who worked out together at lunch and were forever getting back 5-15 minutes late for 1 pm meetings, and after a while it became an understanding and they encouraged other people to do the same (we had work materials that became available over the lunch hour and 1 pm meetings to review were very, very common). I didn’t get upset about it or give them any grief, I just figured out a way to make it work for me without wasting my time, and everyone was OK with it.

        1. Beatrice*

          *after a while, it became an understanding that they’d need to collect me when they were ready for a belated 1 pm meeting, and they encouraged other people to work at their desks instead of waiting for them in a conference room.

        2. Indigo a la mode*

          Smart! Still not all that considerate on their part, but a great solution to not disrupt your day more than you have to.

  14. Jenn*

    I think this is also a “pick your battles thing”. I get that ten minutes cam be annoying, but it is a lot more understandable than a larger amount of time. I have also been in the position of being unexpectedly held up with someone you can’t rush or duck out on like the super grand boss or a more sensitive client.

    If it’s a pattern or you truly need to reschedule, yes, say something. But if it’s a one time thing and a minor delay, try to pick your battles, because you could end up looking overly rigid with a coworker.

    1. cat socks*

      I agree. Some days I have back to back conference calls and I’m perpetually running late. I’ll try to instant message the host of the next meeting to let them know I’m running a few minutes late.

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    Very glad of comment that Mary has done nothing wrong! If there is an issue with holidays generally, then talk to management – but asking for, and getting, time off is not doing anything untoward.

  16. DrTheLiz*

    #1: in terms of a script, “things happen” or even “things happen, I understand” is a lot more neutral than “it’s okay” or “I don’t mind” without beig weirdly stonewalling. Hop that helps :)

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yes, you need something socially acceptable. It’s not that it really is okay or not a problem. It’s just one those little social white lies we all tell to keep things moving smoothly. As you noted, not responding seemed non-collegial. It’s okay means I heard you, not that it really is okay.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I think you can also take the opportunity to be clear about how you would like them to handle it if it comes up again – e.g. “I understand that things happen, however, if this comes up again I’d really appreciate it if you could call or ping me a message to say you’re running late, if at all possible” (or whatever you would like them to do)
      Or, if that’s not likely to be practical, let them know how you will handle it (e.g. I understand, things happen. Just so you know, if it happens again, I may have to cancel if you are more than x minutes late, and rearrange, because [reasons]” – for instance, if you usually wouldn’t be able to over run at the other end o the meeting and know that what they need is likely to take up the whole of the time originally allocated. or “I understand, stuff happens. But just so you know, I do have an appointment so won’t be able to overrun the time we originally booked for this meeting” (and that is OK even if the appointment is that you have to leave on time!)

      1. Psyche*

        I think that is overkill if it only happened once. I would probably say that the second time. The first time going with “That’s ok” or “Things happen” followed by “Unfortunately, my schedule is tight today so we will have to end by X. Lets jump right in and try to get as much of this done as possible” could be a gentler way to convey that it actually is inconvenient and to minimize the impact on the rest of their day.

    3. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Yeah, I was just thinking about how we really need a standardized social script for not accepting an apology that *doesn’t* set the relationship on fire. These are good suggestions, though!

      1. Jadelyn*

        As an aside, “Thank you” is a perfectly acceptable response to an apology that does not convey forgiveness. I use that if I’m still upset or the person hasn’t done anything to clean up their mess yet – forgiveness comes after those things, but I want to acknowledge their apology and I do appreciate that they tried to apologize.

        You also learn a lot about people by how they react to that response. It tends to be one of two ways – either they’re a little startled (if they haven’t had someone respond that way before) but then they get it for what it is and they accept that, or they pout because you didn’t immediately forgive them. Which, imo, is really valuable info to have about someone.

    4. dawbs*

      Yeah, it’s amazing how “it’s ok” is the default… even when we knowe is not ok.

      I work with kids and I’ve had to work hard toi get rid of “its ok”. Bbecause a kid’s tearful apology after stealing something NEEDS compassion and acknowledgement, but not to be told that stealing is ok. Acknowledge (and possibly accept) but don’t affirm.

      I’ve used “thank you for the apology” (which isn’t as awkward as it sounds) ot just “thank you” and moving on. Acknowledge, don’t say it’s ok. Even ‘I understand’ is “soft” by not affirmative.

      (Man, can we make adults watch “Daniel tiger’s neighborhood”? It would solve so much. The late person would knowe, in song form, that ‘saying im sorry is the first step’ and fixing it is the second. )

    5. irritable vowel*

      I sometimes will say “thank you” when someone apologizes for keeping me waiting, rather than “it’s okay.”

  17. Blue Bird Yellow*

    OP#2, I agree with Allison. Mary’s time off could actually be a blessing in disguise for you. There’s a precedent now, which should make any vacation negotiations on your part a lot easier!

  18. Rectilinear Propagation*

    and they haven’t asked me to because everyone (blessedly) understands that it’s quite frankly none of their business

    LW4 – This sounds like you won’t have a problem. If they know enough not to ask for specifics about a surgery then they likely know enough not to question why you look different after having had surgery.

    sadly she is also the manipulative, brown nosing and gossiping kind of person…Mary is central to a lot of the office politics.

    LW2, I suspect the actual problem is that you’ve reached the “Chick Eating Crackers” stage with Mary; you dislike her to the point where anything she does annoys you. So in addition to Alison’s excellent advice, you may want to double check your reactions to Mary in the future. “Is this actually a problem or is Mary just eating crackers?” You might have missed an opportunity to get more vacation time just because the person who showed it was possible was someone you dislike.

    LW3, it makes sense to me that if they’re just asking you to fill an empty seat at a table that they can’t then add an additional chair so your wife can also attend. Have you tried explaining to your wife that it’s a logistics issue?

    That said, if she feels really strongly about it, you could ask someone if your wife could help fill a seat in the event there are 2 chairs empty at an event (assuming that asking isn’t committing a faux-pas).

    1. Close Bracket*

      LW#3- there is no gender in the question or answer. We don’t know if the spouse is a husband or a wife. We also don’t know whether the CEO is a husband or a wife.

  19. Story Nurse*

    #1: If someone offers me an apology that I feel is warranted, I thank them. This conveys my agreement that what they did was a problem and they’re right to apologize for it, doesn’t imply I’m ready to forgive it if I’m not, also doesn’t belabor the issue, is mannerly, and lets us move on to talking about other things. If the apology is insincere, treating it as though it’s sincere might lead the person to feel a little warranted shame. If it’s sincere, taking it seriously helps everyone feel better.

    In the case of someone being late to a meeting and saying “Sorry I’m late”, you could say, “Thank you, I appreciate that. Here’s the teapot report—I wanted to start by going over the figures on page 12.” Then the other person won’t feel put on the spot or obliged to apologize repeatedly or in more detail (which is awkward for everyone and also delays the meeting further!).

  20. Evergreen*

    #1: I would respond along the lines of ‘no worries, but I have another commitment at 12:30 so let’s jump in!’ or something. Ultimately you’ve agreed to spend that half hour or however long with them already: whether that’s 10 minutes of waiting and 20 of meeting actually doesn’t matter in the context of your deadline.

    1. Blue*

      My job involves a lot of one-on-one meetings, and this is typically how I handle it when the other person is late. That said, if someone shoots me a quick email letting me know they’re running late, I always make a point to thank them and tell them that I appreciate them letting me know.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That is what I was thinking. Warn them that you’re still going to have to leave at the end of the originally scheduled time because of your deadline — but because you want to be collegial, mention that they can call on you after your team makes its next milestone on ProjectX. (With rough timeline.)

  21. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#2: The question shouldn’t be, “Why is Mary getting so much more vacation and flexibility time than we get?” The question should be, “Why don’t we all get as much vacation time and flexibility as Mary does?”

    1. ACDC*

      I wrote this a comment further down too, but I had a coworker like this and I found out the disparity was coming from her telling the bosses she was going out of town/taking days off/etc. rather than asking if she could. I don’t think the bosses were used to that type of assertiveness so they kept saying yes. Whereas those like myself who continued to ask permission were almost always denied.

      It reminds me a lot of the thread from last week about asking permission for things from bosses vs. telling bosses you’re going to do something.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I learned a lot about assertiveness from my “mama bear”-type coworker at my first full-time position. She approaches most things with a “what are they going to do, fire me?” attitude–which is not always appropriate, but people do seem to respond pretty favorably to it if you’re a valuable employee. (I’ve adapted that attitude to be more “if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.”) I’ve gotten perks from standing desks to remote worktime this way, and my old boss even agreed to pay me for a two-day trip I took to join a huge health study, once I offered to write an article about the tech used in the study for my company to market.

        If you’ve got a reasonable boss, they understand that appointments and special occasions happen–after all, it’s highly doubtful they’re in the office every hour every day themselves.

  22. Czhorat*

    For op#1, the apology/acceptance is part communication and part social ritual to paper over a slightly awkward situation. They know there’s an impact, you know they know. If it isn’t a pattern, then if be gracious.

    We also need to remember that meetings have a hierarchy. I’d not be late for a meeting with clients to stay at a meeting with coworkers. A meeting with my boss trumps a meeting with peers. It’s possible that the place they for delayed was more important than you, and that they couldn’t have reasonably gotten there on time.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, thinking of it as a ritual may help. Assuming this isn’t a pattern and the coworker isn’t usually late, it may be easier to see the apology as a way of saying “Hello, fellow human! I want you to know that I am not being deliberately cavalier with your time.” And the acceptance, whether it’s phrased as “No problem!” or “Sure!” or “Thanks for letting me know” or whatever, translates to “thank you for acknowledging the delay, now this loop is closed and we can move on.”

      Obviously it’s different if it is a pattern, and in that case should be addressed. But as “help help I’m trapped in a meeting” sometimes happens to the best of us, often with grand bosses or clients or stakeholders who we can’t nope out on, closing that loop in a pleasant way is a great way to keep things moving along smoothly.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Eh…if someone is ten minutes late to a 3-hour marathon meeting, okay, it’s not as big a deal. But if someone is 10 minutes late to a half-hour meeting, that’s a full third of your time you’ve just lost if the other person had a hard-stop at the half hour mark; even for a standard hour-long meeting that’s 15% of the allotted meeting time gone. Up to 5 is understandable (imo) but past that you’re genuinely cutting into usable time for your average meeting.

  23. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    Congrats, OP #4. I had breast reduction over 10 years ago, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! I was a student when I did it, and I told my classmates, but I can’t imagine people commenting on it in a decent workplace.

    I say wear what you want–one of the best things about it is actually wearing clothes that fit all over, not just in one place or another.

    All the best for your surgery!

  24. Nonsensical*

    #1 – if it is more than 10 minutes, reschedule the meeting, consider IMing them or doing a 1:1 call later. I usually ping people on Jabber if it is more than 5 minutes. If they’re more senior to you – then suck it up, it is part of life. My boss is always 10 minutes late, I just anticipate it. On the other hand, I am always on time because it would look bad if I showed up 10 minutes late.

    Sometimes things happen. Learn the words hard stop and soft stop. Meetings run over time, I have 30 minute meetings go a hour and a hour meeting end early. I think you’re a little out of touch with office norms. Look at what that person’s schedule is like and how late they usually are.

    #2 – I really don’t like how you’re throwing in characteristics about the co worker as if they haven’t earned it. You should try to assume the best of other people. This isn’t about her personality, this is about your issues with not getting vacation time which is an issue with your boss.

  25. Squirrel*

    #4: I had (trans) top surgery that took me from a G to flat and did not get any comments whatsoever. People knew I was out on medical leave but I asked my boss not to say what it was exactly. So yeah, unless you are really close to someone at work, they aren’t going to comment.

    1. Withans*

      Yeah, this is also my experience with top surgery (C > flat). I’m super out and would happily supply people with all the gross medical details they like, if they asked – but no one’s said a word. Partly out of politeness, I’m sure, but also a lot of people just genuinely don’t seem to notice any difference.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I would guess that a lot of people mentally envision you as you actually are, and so getting top surgery didn’t even register because now you look even more like the way they mentally see you already.

  26. Vaca*

    #1, I don’t see why it would be socially inappropriate to say something. “Sorry, my last meeting ran over,”. “Hmm, I’m sorry to hear that. If we do this again I’d really appreciate it if you would be on time, even if you have to duck out of another meeting early.” That seems pretty direct without being complain-y. And fwiw the other meeting excuse is weak sauce. You go into that meeting saying I have a hard stop at x. And then at x you leave. If it’s a meeting with a boss or something where you don’t have control, you give a heads up and offer to reschedule the next meeting.

    1. Jenn*

      It depends. That’s a bit scold-y and I would be careful under what circumstances you use that. If they truly couldn’t help the last meeting running over, what are they supposed time at in response?

      1. PB*

        Right, and you can’t duck out of every meeting early. Regular staff meeting where you’re one of 15? Probably. One-on-one with your boss where you’re debriefing about major errors in a project? You’re stuck. It stinks for OP, but ultimately, we don’t know what meeting their coworkers were coming from.

        That said, I do think OP could have said something like, “I understand, but I definitely need to wrap up right at [end of scheduled time].”

        1. Jenn*

          I don’t think I would be that harsh. Maybe if one if my mentees was chronically late to our scheduled meetings, but that isn’t the circumstances of the letter.

          1. PB*

            I’d add padding words, but I don’t really see my wording as harsh. OP did need to wrap up on time that day to get back to work, and I think it’s fine to convey that to someone.

        2. all the candycorn*

          This reminds me of in middle school, when we changed classes as a class, and one teacher would keep the whole class late and then the next teacher would punish us for being late to her class. It’s not like a bunch of 11 year olds have any agency to fix that situation…

    2. Lexi Kate*

      Wow, unless you are pretty high up the food chain and a jerk I would never use this. Meetings run over and you can’t always leave early, things happen it was 10 minutes. I run 3 -5 meetings almost daily and would never respond like this to someone that is late especially when they let me know a meeting ran late.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I can only see using this script if you were multiple levels above the person you’re meeting with.

        If you budgeted 30 minutes for a meeting someone else requested and they are 10 minutes late, they are the only ones harmed because now they only have 20 minutes left. The OP wouldn’t have been able to do any work for those 30 mins either way, so as long as they still leave the meeting on time, they haven’t lost anything, and therefore no need to scold their colleagues like this.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Even if you are high up the food chain, you’ll be thought of as a jackass for saying something like this.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Yes – you might have the standing that allows you to get away with saying it, but you’re going to come off like the kind of pretentious jerk who thinks that their title makes them more important than literally anything else in anyone else’s life.

    3. Colette*

      The issue with this phrase is that you are assuming that your meeting is the most important thing they have to do – and there’s a 50/50 chance you’re wrong. I’ve been in meetings I was planning to leave half way through because of a conflict, but the meeting ended up going in a way I didn’t expect, and I had to stay. It’s rare, but it happens. Sometimes it is better to stay in the meeting and inconvenience a coworker because in the big picture, leaving would be cause bigger problems.

      And if the coworker told me I should have left the meeting, it would come across as naïve and presumptuous.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yup. It’s entirely possible that the meeting the coworker was at, was more important to the organization than the meeting with OP. It’s also possible that the coworker was with a higher-up who would not appreciate an interruption, even for “please excuse me for a moment while I let OP know I’ll be late to our 10:30 meeting.”

        That being said, OP doesn’t have to sit around waiting for late people for a meeting that’s been scheduled for their benefit. I’d do as another poster has suggested for any future such meetings: Have the meeting in OP’s office, or if she doesn’t have one, very close to her office so that the coworkers can go get her when they’re ready. They’re asking for help, so they should be willing to make the location convenient for OP. If this can’t be done, OP can give them whatever grace period is standard at that organization and then leave, and/or insist that the meeting end at the time it was scheduled to end, even if started late.

    4. La Revancha*

      I agree with the rest that this is rude and out of line. If someone said this to me I would think they are incredibly rude, unprofessional, and don’t have a good understanding of how businesses run. You have to be flexible even if that means rescheduling or finishing up what you need to discuss another time.

    5. Psyche*

      I think it is better to insist on keeping the end time. Since you scheduled X amount of time for the meeting, you aren’t really out any of that time so long as you don’t let the late start time lead to a late end time. If they are chronically late I would suggest changing the time so that the meeting starts half an hour later to avoid that problem.

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Oh good grief, don’t ever say this. It’s very hostile and will not end well for the OP.

      Meetings run late. Meetings end on time but people have to use the bathroom, get to the next meeting location, need to grab a drink of water, etc.

      There are a few ways to handle this kind of thing.

      1. Seriously if 10 minutes is going to make or break a project than you should reschedule for a better time.
      2. Send a note/leave a note for the person after a few min. “Went back to my desk… ping me when you get here and I’ll join”
      3. Accept this as something that’s normal and don’t let it bother you.
      4. After whatever your company’s normal time period is for lateness (my company is between 7-10 minutes) reschedule the meeting.

      If someone said what you suggest to me, it would not go over well. I may not say anything right then and there but you bet that I’m going to tell other people what an ‘interesting’ person you are.

      1. Czhorat*


        Either you have legit standing to be a priority – ie, are their boss – or not. If you are, you’re being a bad boss by throwing your weight around. If you aren’t, then you’re making demands which you are in no potion to make.

        EIther way, this is a bad, bad look.

    7. Foreign Octopus*

      I used something like this with two adult students who were constantly 20-30 minutes late to my group class but I wouldn’t have used this if it was the first time.

    8. Jadelyn*

      Hard disagree – I’d be super put off by a coworker acting like they’re trying to tell me how to manage my schedule, and it would have a definite chilling effect on my relationship with that person. I’m a grown ass adult, thanks, and I have more going on in my world than you see, so while I understand my lateness isn’t ideal and I am sorry for the effect it has on you, I also have to juggle my own priorities, like “the COO called me and I couldn’t exactly just hang up on her” or “a meeting for another project where I have a critical part ran over, and no, I’m not going to prioritize punctuality with you over having all the information on this project that I need in order to contribute successfully.”

      Like, sure, be upset all you want, but don’t tell another grown adult professional how to manage their schedule or how you expect them to handle meeting overrun – that’s just like 1000% none of your business.

    9. Matilda Jefferies*

      If we do this again I’d really appreciate it if you would be on time, even if you have to duck out of another meeting early.

      Clearly, you don’t work in my office! That would never fly here, or anywhere else that I’ve worked. Meetings sometimes run over, and most of the time you have no way of knowing what someone else’s schedule and priorities are. The other person prioritized the meeting they were in over the meeting with OP, probably because it was the best decision they could make at the time. It was inconvenient for the OP, but it’s certainly not “weak sauce” – it’s just how things go in the workplace sometimes.

  27. La Revancha*

    #1 – if they were in another meeting it’s likely they had no way of getting in touch with you. It happens quite often in the large organization I work for. The other meeting goes over and you didn’t bring your lap top or phone to send a quick email.

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      Which is a different problem…it’s so rude to keep your meeting going late without checking in with everyone to see if they’re still okay on time. Being trapped in a meeting and not being able to let your next meeting know is the worst. If we’re coming up on time and still have things to discuss, I super appreciate when the leader says something like, “I want to be respectful of your time–is everyone okay to keep going or do we need to reconvene later?” That also gives people the option to say “We can keep going, but just let me email/text my next person to reschedule with them.” Then no one is tapping their feet nervously and watching the clock, no one’s waiting on someone without notice, and everyone comes off so much more considerate.

  28. The Other Dawn*

    #2 As others have said, it’s very possible that Mary booked and paid for her vacation before she started working at your company and can’t change it, so she negotiated more time off. I’m in the process of planning and booking a vacation that won’t happen for a little more than a year, and I know for a fact that I will be at a different company by then and will need to negotiate the vacation if I don’t get much that first year. There could also be so many other reasons why this time was approved for her. Either way, it’s not your business. Also, there’s no indication she does this all the time. She’s been there a little over a year, so it’s not as if this is a pattern of behavior from her.

    As for covering for Mary while she’s gone, isn’t that the way it works at most companies? Depending on the nature of the job, someone has to step in while people take their vacation time. Sure, some jobs are such that you can get it all done beforehand, or pick it back up when you get back, but there are lots of other jobs where that’s not possible; someone needs to be doing the work every day. If that’s not manageable for your office, then you need to speak to your manager and figure out how to best cover her time off.

    With both of these things, it’s not up to you to “confront” Mary. She advocated for herself and was rewarded. (There’s nothing in the letter that makes me think she somehow got this extra time off in a shady way.) And someone needs to cover her work while she’s gone, just like someone covers yours when you take a day or two off. You need to speak to your manager and make a business case for why you feel things are unfair and need to change.

    (Also, I think your characterization of her as “the manipulative, brown nosing and gossiping kind of person” is really coloring your view of her taking this vacation time and making you read way more into this than you otherwise would.)

    1. Psyche*

      While covering for coworkers is normal, I can see why it would be irritating if it isn’t reciprocal. No one else has the ability to take a long vacation so Mary never needs to cover for others. Shorter vacations are less likely to need coverage since often work can be pushed off a day or two but not a week or two. It can definitely add salt to the wound if not only do they not get a vacation, they get extra work. That said, the problem is not Mary, it is the company for not providing coverage and not allowing others to take longer vacations.

      1. Rainbow Roses*

        But we don’t know if the company never allows longer vacations.
        Maybe Mary is taking two weeks off unpaid and everyone can do the same, but they never thought to or want/need to.

        1. Psyche*

          True, but the OP believes that they do not allow it for others. They should clarify with management but that seems to be the source of the bitterness.

  29. BRR*

    #4 Like others have said, I think it’s unlikely someone is going to say something. If they do, you have a wide array of responses available from the polite “I’d rather not talk about my body at work, anyways how was your weekend?” to “Are you really asking about my breasts?”

  30. Sara without an H*

    OP#3: Can you get your spouse invited to one of these? Once he/she/ze has had a chance to experience the deadly dullness of being +1 at a fundraiser, you may find the problem solves itself.

    1. Mimi Me*

      Of course this might backfire. The event the spouse attends may be the one event all year where something exciting happens. My husband used to work as a DJ for a radio station and was always encouraging me to go to his events. I am an introvert so I never wanted to, but the first event I did agree to go to involved a very drunk woman taking her top off for tickets to a show. FYI: she did this without prompting and was immediately instructed to get dressed as it was a crowded restaurant. My poor husband (we were newly dating at the time) was so worried that I would think that all of his events were like this. I didn’t but he stopped pushing so hard for me to attend after that.

  31. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    My breast reduction surgery was the best thing I did for myself. No one noticed the difference. I was at a party several months later and it came up naturally in a conversation and several women asked for a look because they were considering the surgery. That’s not as weird as it sounds, I provided first hand details on the whole procedure. I was very pleased with the change. Good luck!

  32. AlleyCat74*

    LW4: I had reduction surgery secretly and worried about the same thing but not a single person said anything. I had also been losing weight before and after so comments were about my general smaller appearance. I timed mine with winter so I was always wearing a cardigan. Good luck with the surgery. It was life changing for me and I’m so happy.

  33. Lexi Kate*

    #3 I understand where you are coming from my husband works for a consulting firm that asks him if I want to come to all events and on business trips, and he is eager to include me. My job on the other hand no spouses ever come or are invited to dinners, events, and trips. My husband is so jealous when I go to events and I have let him know he can’t go and we are not getting him a ticket on our own because I don’t want to be that person. I don’t know what it stems from and we have had conversations before events that I am never going to bring him to my work stuff that my work stuff is actual work and no spouses come and that means he is not coming. Then when the day comes he gets huffy and wants to come anyway. I don’t have good advice just stand your ground and never mention if someone elses spouse ever comes.

    1. Sara without an H*

      You have my sympathy. Your husband may be a lovely person in general, but he’s being silly here.

  34. CupcakeCounter*

    When I joined my company I told them up front I had a vacation planned for X time and and was already booked and paid for. It was long enough after I started that it wasn’t glaring but I wouldn’t have enough PTO to cover it. They let me go a bit negative and all was fine. 5 years after that I knew that a vacation I wanted to take was going to be at a bad time for work. I started talking with my bosses about 18 months before the actual vacation to try to get things cleared. Another coworker took a “bucket list” vacation and was gone for over a month (he had more than enough PTO to cover it but the company prefers you take a max of 10 consecutive business days so he needed special permission) – they were planning for that for 2 years or so. Shit hit the fan about 2 days after he left on the trip but that wasn’t his fault. He did everything he could to prepare the team ahead of time.
    The point is you have no idea when this trip was planned or how she got the time off. You are just pissed you never tried it.

    Coworker had that surgery last year. I knew ahead of time so when she returned I was looking. Almost a year later I still can’t tell (but she can!!!).

  35. Imaginary Number*

    Do you have long hair?

    This might sound silly and slightly counter-intuitive, but my advice is to get a drastic haircut (if you have long hair) or do something else dramatic like dying it a completely different color.

    While (one would hope) that no coworkers would say something about your breasts, it wouldn’t be unusual for some oblivious but well-meaning person to say “you look different” or “something’s changed” without even realizing that what’s changed is your cup size.

    Because you’re right. People are going to notice such a significant change. But being able to say, “oh yeah, I cut/dyed my hair” gives you and them an easy way out of the awkwardness.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’d hoped it was for #1.

        “You were so late, I had time for a drastic haircut!”


        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I was thinking of the woman who would drastically change her appearance on her lunch hour.

      2. Dzhymm*

        Heh. I had a friend who had breast reduction surgery and she did just that; a major hairstyle change totally distracted from the “other” changes she’d made…

  36. Mimi Me*

    #4 – I’ve worked at two different companies where someone had this surgery done. Both times people noticed but not in the “Oh my goodness your breasts got smaller” way. Both times people commented it but it usually fell into either the “We missed you while you were out. Hope everything’s okay.” or “You look great! Did you lose weight / get a new haircut / do something different?” category. Only once was something said about the breasts themselves and that was by a regular customer who had some disabilities that went beyond manners. He blurted out that her “boobs were smaller. I like it!” and then moved on. Interestingly she had predicted that he would likely be the only person who would comment.

  37. Blue Eagle*

    #1 – There definitely is a difference depending on who the meeting is benefiting. If it benefits you, then you need to be understanding if others are late. However, if it benefits them, then they should take the responsibility to either be there on time or let you know if they are running late, particularly if you are in a time crunch yourself.
    I had a co-worker who would be late to meetings he scheduled where I would be providing the benefit to him. After this happening a couple of times, I told him to come get me at my workspace when he was on the way to the meeting. That way I could work till he was ready to show up. He complained it was out of his way, I responded that it made no sense for me to sit and wait for 10 minutes in a meeting room when I could be accomplishing something at my desk. He reluctantly agreed and this was the modus operandi for our next two years at that employer. Maybe this idea would work for you.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      This is a little weird tracking who’s benefit a meeting is for. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a meeting in that light. I figure the meeting is benefiting the company and therefore all of us.

      I had no idea that people thought this way. You weren’t the first to mention the ‘who benefits’ angle so it can’t be that uncommon, and I guess I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I find it interesting that people keep score on this type of thing.

      1. Birch*

        Sure, everyone benefits in a larger way, but on the small scale it’s mostly about who *needs* the meeting most. Whoever needs it most should be more flexible/responsible. If you’re Teapot Design Manager and I’m a Teapot Painter, and I need to ask your advice about a certain colour scheme, it’s up to me to schedule the meeting with you, make sure I get there on time and get the information I need, and to be flexible about your time, i.e. work around your boundaries. It’s not really about keeping score, it’s about knowing who is responsible for the transfer of information, and that’s usually the person who needs it.

  38. John Rohan*

    Regarding #2, does the LW know for sure this is vacation time? Mary could be taking leave without pay for two weeks, and in that case I don’t see anything unfair about it.

  39. FinallyCompelledtoRespond*

    I went from a US 40DD to a 38B. Everyone thought I lost a bunch of weight – that was it. You will need to wear a post-surgical bra for a while (or at least I did) that is vest-like – it zips up the front and in order to hid it, you may need to wear higher-necked clothing. It is by far the best thing I ever did for myself. I wish you the best of luck and a speedy recovery.

    1. Student*

      Wearing higher–necked clothing might be part of the solution to LW 4’s problem. I think a lot of us dress to downplay the chest, so just starting to wear higher necklines and button-down tops will make the change much less obvious.

      1. raktajino*

        Bonus, wearing a button-down top that actually buttons will likely be a novelty! This means it’ll be fun to wear for the first time since puberty, and it could work as an optical illusion about any change in breast size. Is my bust actually smaller, or is it just that you haven’t seen me in this style before?

  40. DustyJ*

    #4 “Typically colleagues don’t ask about each other’s boobs unless they are extremely rude and intrusive.”

    Every now and again, this blog gives me a clue-by-four about just how abnormal my 2nd-last workplace was.

  41. Susan B.*

    #4: The universal comeback if anyone brings it up: “Are you *really* commenting on my breasts???”

  42. Danners*

    The most you’re likely to get is a “did you lose weight?” and then you can say yes, because you did. Try not to stress! I didn’t have just a drastic change, but it’s funny what people won’t even notice.

  43. ACDC*

    OP #2, I went through this same thing, ironically, also at a family-owned construction business. A coworker got 2 weeks off about 6 weeks after starting to go abroad, and another coworker got 2 days off when hunting season started to go deer hunting. I asked for a personal day off because of some medical appointments and was told “Um, we don’t really do personal days here… That’s just not something we’ve ever done.” (how is 2 days off for hunting not a personal day(s)???)

    Anyways, I had to start adopting the strategy of “telling” more so than “asking” if that makes sense.

  44. Ashlee*

    OP #2- Please don’t “confront” Mary. As many others have pointed out, Mary could have negotiated this when she started or maybe her “vacation” plans are for something other than vacation or it could be unpaid time off.

    I also agree Mary is your BEC. Your statement “the manipulative, brown nosing and gossiping kind of person” is telling. Yes, I have annoying coworkers who do these kind of things but combine that with what you see as unfair time off and that’s why anything she does is going to irritate you.

    Let me ask a question: Have any of you or your coworkers ever actually asked for additional time off before the regular 3 week closing? Or do you just assume it will be a no? If it is actually unpaid time off, would you want unpaid time off?

    While she’s off, maybe you can try to find 1 or 2 positive things about Mary and concentrate on them. Trying to see her in a more positive light and releasing some of the negativity you feel about her may help improve your work life.

    1. Third username*

      I agree with all of this. OP, I think your feelings about Mary are making you more angry at her than you should be. (A totally human response that happens to all of us) Her vacation time really isn’t your business, but if you would like more time off you should certainly ask for it. I think it’s just the build up of working with a person that you find difficult that’s led you to your current feelings. Good luck!

    1. Seifer*

      I don’t think it’s a matter of principle, but a matter of following the policy. You can be unkind to unkind people, sure, but we’ve been asked to be kind here regardless.

    2. solar flare*

      I don’t think “a stick needs to be removed” qualifies as actionable or constructive criticism.

      1. solar flare*

        Alison – sorry, typed this reply well before you removed PBH’s comments and didn’t refresh the page. Feel free to delete mine as well if it’s inflammatory.

  45. Bea*

    She’s taking 2 weeks off, how do you know it’s not unpaid time? We had someone start and tell us they had a vacation planned for a week prior to earning any PTO. We happily accepted it but it was unpaid. So is it really that unfair? If it’s extra vacation that’s paid, inquire about how you can get in on the action.

  46. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: I am assuming this is a one-time event, so I am going to take a somewhat hard line on this and point out that your perspective is very self-centric. The attendees probably had no idea about your project that was behind schedule. Your colleagues will, at least occasionally, arrive late to meetings, and as long as it isn’t a persistent pattern, I consider it a non-issue and not a personal affront. Also keep in mind that there are individual job priorities, and there are company priorities. What if that other meeting that went over time (and caused the attendee to be late) was a higher company priority than your meeting or your behind-schedule project? 10 minutes is, in my opinion, a very minor inconvenience, so I think some further self-reflection on your feelings would be instructive. You asked AAM for a response that doesn’t excuse the tardiness and would presumably reflect that it’s not okay to show up late. Why is that important to you? What will that accomplish?

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      One more perspective, OP#1: You were willing to give up this certain amount of time to meet with and help your colleagues, regardless of your own projects. You can still end the meeting at the scheduled time, so what have you really lost? The attendees didn’t get that 10 minutes of your time/help because they showed up late, and you were willing to reserve that time for them.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I think this is one of the best comments on #1. I do agree that the OP sounded a little stressed, understandable if there is a project that’s behind schedule, and I think this is coloring the reaction. I know I get a bit hyper critical when under higher than normal stress.

      It’s very easy to get the mindset of “OMG don’t they understand what I’m trying to get done here!” Why yes I’ve said that before :)

      The biggest thing is to be able to recognize this and make adjustments for it. Such as “Hey Wakeen, I know we had that meeting scheduled today, but I have to be honest, I really need that time to get project x under control. Can we reschedule for next week?” Or if that’s not possible for reasons, then it’s sometimes as simple as a quick perception check. Inner voice: “Wait.. it’s not fair of me to be annoyed at Wakeen, he has no clue what I’m working on right now and he’s not trying to make things difficult for me”

      Honestly this is one of the hardest and most valuable skills I’ve had to learn over the years.

    3. LCL*

      Ah, I think OP did fine. She was able to bite her tongue, she was just looking for a nicer true response. I would say to OP it is OK to tell polite social lies in business. Such as ‘no problem, I will be glad to do that for you, etc.’ I’m curious about the company culture-are employees expected to be truthful and share their feelings about everything? Or is this just OPs outlook?

      There’s late and late. Certain workgroups here have a culture of always being late to meetings. Even meetings they scheduled, in one of their meeting rooms in their office, while the people from remote sites are there on time and waiting…

  47. voyager1*

    #5: I an in disagreement with AAM about asking the team if you should promote Alex. It sounds like you have worked with him a long time, you also admit you have a chance to do a trial run of him in charge while you cover for your admin. Put him in charge for that time, and if he does well then promote him if not then don’t.

    To me polling the team just at seems really bad on your part. If I had a manager do that I would question his/her ability at her job, and think he/she was more interested in being liked then doing a good job managing.

    Sorry if all that is harsh but those are my thoughts.

    1. voyager1*

      One other point, if you poll the team and one person is a strong outlier, do you discount that opinion… especially if it is different then your own opinions.

      A lot of managers really struggle with people having a negative justified opinion of a teammate when they the manager really likes said teammate or thinks highly of them. I could go on and on about that but it is many times the root of much perceived and or actual favoritism.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I think the approach to the whole situation is odd and premature. Why promote someone to supervisor simply because they are a “good worker” in their current role, which I assume is non-supervisory? Has Alex demonstrated any hint of supervisory or managerial skills or is there some reason to believe he would be good at that? It sounds like Alex has not previously had any opportunity to demonstrate his competency in this area. But now, here is the opportunity. So let Alex supervisor during the brief period and see what happens. Then give him *more* opportunities, even minor ones, to demonstrate this competency. THEN consider whether he would be good in a supervisor role. You can ask Alex about these experiences. You can *very casually* ask the other team members how it went during these experiences, but in no event should you even hint at promotion to the team members. I disagree with AAM about asking team members the pointed questions. I’ve never seen promotions vetted in such an obvious way with direct reports. (It seems a bit too close to asking permission.)

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Managees often have a significantly different vantage point on a manager than the manager’s boss does. It’s good practice for managers of managers to stay in touch with people two levels down about how that manager is doing. They should ask for feedback periodically even after the person is in the position. Otherwise you can miss major problems (or even just major areas where that manager needs support).

      1. solar flare*

        yeah, that’s just a source of really valuable data that it makes no sense to overlook or eschew; even if you end up making a different decision than the team would want, you still want to hear what they think!

      2. voyager1*

        That is true, but when it is linked to a promotion it looks like the manager is looking for permission instead of managing.

        Also asking people for feedback on their manager is asking for a lot of trust on the part of the employees giving the feedback. They have to trust what is said won’t be used against them.

        Unfortunately part of promoting people into management is taking the leap of faith that they can do the job, nobody is born with the experience.

        1. bonkerballs*

          I don’t think it looks like permission at all. It looks like exactly what it is: eliciting feedback and input before making a major decision.

  48. StressedButOkay*

    OP2, I feel as though there are two issues here. The first is that you’re stung that Mary’s been given all this extra leave but it’s compounded by the second – in that it’s clear you don’t like Mary very much from how she acts. If this was another coworker who you did like, would you be feeling as bitter towards them?

    I was in a situation that was kind of like this a while ago – someone newer than I am asked for something that I hadn’t realized I could ask for! I got upset first at the person, though didn’t say anything to them, but then after talking to friends/family, realized, hey, if new guy could ask for X than I could ask for X! And I did and I got it.

    Sometimes we don’t think we can ask for things until someone else does and gets it. You can either be unhappy with your coworker or use it to your advantage.

    1. jm*

      After several successful years with my company, I was able to keep my full-time benefits while working more of a part-time schedule. This had never been approved before for people in my job classification. I did take a pay cut, but having more time at home is 100% worth it right now. So many of my co-workers were openly ugly about my schedule change (our work doesn’t overlap so me being in the office less doesn’t create extra work for them). However, instead of complaining and being resentful, the savviest of my co-workers realized that they could also ask for this schedule change, and have been approved as well!
      So OP2, take StressedButOkay’s excellent advice — you can be unhappy, or you can figure out how your co-worker managed to get 2 extra weeks of leave (Was it unpaid? Sick/medical? Or is she straight-up going to Cancun and getting extra PTO?) and try to get you some, too.

  49. Not quite so big of me*

    I was in this exact situation a year ago: 5 pounds off my chest, reduction from 36J to 36D. I ended up somehow losing weight in my face and neck after everything settled, and looked like I lost a lot more weight than I had.

    No one asked about the breasts, but I had a couple of people ask if I had lost weight, and I just said yes, thanks for noticing. Topic changed.

  50. OP4*

    Thanks, Alison and all the commenters for the well-wishes! I think I probably am over-thinking this a bit. There will definitely be gossip about it (that’s just the nature of my workplace — big, close-knit, gossipy team that spends a lot of time together outside of work), but I doubt anyone will actually ask me about it. If they do, I’ll just go with a surprised “That seems like a pretty inappropriate question.”

    As an aside, I don’t actually know anyone who has had this surgery, so it’s been great to hear from commenters who have!

    1. she was a fast machine*

      Definitely check out some of the online support groups because from all I’ve heard it can be a process to adjust to and every little bit helps. The ones I know of are all on reddit and facebook because that’s where the A Bra That Fits community spawns but I’m sure there is one on whatever your social media site of choice is.

      This stranger on the internet is very happy for you!

  51. Equestrian Attorney*

    #1: I mean, if I got mad every time my meetings were 10 minutes late, I would constantly be on the verge of rage around here. 30 minutes late? Yeah, give a heads up. Otherwise, things happen. You can definitely say what others have suggested, ie “that’s fine but I have a firm commitment at 11:30 so let’s jump right in”.
    #2: It does seem like your feelings for Mary are clouding your judgement, and this is something you bring up with your manager, not your colleague. Ask your manager or HR about the vacation policy and whether it has changed. If coverage for Mary causes undue hardship to you, talk about that. Under no circumstances can you “confront” Mary about benefits she has negotiated for herself and is entitled to. And while fairness is important, absolute equality is not a thing in more workplaces – there are several reasons why someone might be paid more, have work-from-home rights, or better benefits than others.

  52. she was a fast machine*

    I’m so happy for you OP4! Breast reduction is my dream right now (36K myself in UK sizes) but I’ve been advised to wait until after I have any children. Definitely stick to the simple weight loss explanation but be sure to check with r/abrathatfits and r/reduction for tips from others who have done it and might have more colorful suggestions if you need them.

  53. OxfordComma*

    OP#2: As others are pointing out, there’s a lot you don’t know: Mary could be on unpaid leave or Mary could have negotiated this time off. A trip abroad suggests that it’s a significant trip and there may be lots of reasons why Mary needs to take the trip at this particular time. In any case, it’s none of your business. There are times when you need to keep your head down and your eyes on your own work, and this sounds like it’s one of them. One of my coworkers negotiated working remotely for a few days a week for a limited period of time and another person here is having fits because “it’s not fair.” It did not go well for her when she tried to take it up with management.

    1. Observer*

      It did not go well for her when she tried to take it up with management.

      OP, this is an important point. Everyone who is saying “talk to management” is NOT saying that you should get management to rescind her vacation or otherwise penalize her, or to complain about why she got this time off! They *ARE* saying that you talk to management about the specific impacts on you, and ask if you could do something similar (and what it would take to make it happen.) That’s it! Nothing else.

  54. Here for the comments*

    I had a reduction during Christmas break my Freshman year of college. I got a few questions (drunk college kids don’t have much of a filter), but most actually did think I lost weight.

    For what it’s worth, reductions are way more common than most people think. Once I decided to have mine done, almost everyone I talked to mention someone they knew that did it…or came in with “OMG I had mine done 5 years ago and LOVE it!!!”

  55. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I tutor/mentor outside of my ‘day job’ and while I understand that people are sometimes late, I make sure that doesn’t affect the rest of my day. For example, if someone is due at 1pm, but they arrive at 1.10pm, which is really common, I’ll say ‘OK, but I still need to end by 2pm’, so MY next appointment doesn’t run late, and so on.

  56. Where’s my coffee?*

    I had a breast reduction. I’m a smallish person so it was noticeable. Most people didn’t say anything because most people aren’t idiots. Two women asked, but in a nice way, and I was upfront about it—really no need to be embarrassed. Also, it was the best decision I’ve ever made

  57. BigSigh*

    #1, I had something similar happen to me recently and I, too, froze and didn’t know what to say.

    In my situation I was the client. The person wanted to have a phone call, we had an appointment schedule and then she just … never called. I called her office, was routed to her assistance who excused it by saying they were “really busy with clients” that day. Umm, I’M A CLIENT. We reschedule for later that day at which time she again didn’t call!! She ended up calling me out of the blue about 45 minutes later and apologized on the phone (a very dismissive “Sorry for running late and missing that call earlier). I was so angry I couldn’t think of what to say to convey that without being wildly unprofessional, so I went with silence.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Sounds like you made the right choice, under the circumstances!

      OP, I’m in the camp that it’s okay to be a bit less than truthful in cases like this. There’s nothing wrong with saying “That’s okay,” when it isn’t, especially if it doesn’t happen often (or if the person is significantly higher than you on the org chart.) It doesn’t literally mean that you’re okay with being kept waiting – it’s just a form of social lubricant that allows you to accept their apology and get moving on the meeting.

  58. Anon for the right reason*

    I had a reduction 15 years ago. Though I had a home transcription business at the time, my only issues were that they had to remove drains and surgical staples at 7 days, I couldn’t reach over my head for a few days (i.e. washing my hair, getting something off a high shelf, etc.), and was advised not to lift more than 5 lbs for a month. By Day 10, I had no pain or incision tightness at all and I was able to continue wearing the really comfortable and supportive surgical bra they give you in the hospital while life got back to normal. Best of luck to you and your healing. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself, health-wise.

  59. Not Another Anonymous Commenter*

    OP #1 whenever I get an “I’m sorry” and I don’t want to respond with “It’s ok” — because it’s legitimately not ok and I don’t want to let the other person off the hook — I usually try to respond with something like “I appreciate the apology” or “Thank you for apologizing, I appreciate it.” Just be careful your words come out as genuine and not snide or nasty-sounding.

    Because most people will expect you to either brush off the apology completely or say something like “No need to apologize!” But by directly acknowledging their apology and saying you appreciate it shows you wanted and/or expected an apology because you believe they were in the wrong. I’ve seen people go from a blithe “So sorry!” to being genuinely apologetic before when I use one of those lines because I’m telling the other person I’m not going to brush aside the fact that they messed up. Acknowledging without dismissing is how you want to respond. Keep in mind you shouldn’t respond this way every single time because then you become a hard-ass that no one wants to deal with. Save it for when you’re genuinely inconvenienced or experience an issue.

    1. solar flare*

      ^ seconded, it’s a polite and gracious way of saying “you definitely did mess up but we’re okay for now”

  60. JM60*


    It’s funny for me to see this today, because I’m about to have a (male) breast reduction, as well as a couple other plastic surgeries, tomorrow!

    For what it’s worth, my coworkers know that my leave is medical, because I briefly stated that I’ll be gone for ‘medical leave’ so that they would understand why I don’t yet have an exact return date. None of them have asked for details about the procedures. I don’t expect any of them to be asking for details of the surgery after my return either, and I don’t plan on sharing those details. However, my changes might be less obvious than the OPs though (because clothes already hide what will be removed very well), so it may not be exactly the same situation.

  61. hsm121*

    For #3 –
    Congrats! My breast reduction was the best thing I ever did. I found when I got back to work that people didn’t really mention it too much (except for some closer “work friends” and even those were polite – “did you lose weight?”). I just said, yup! and we moved on. I will caution that I thought I’d be back after 10 days and did need the two weeks. Weird things cause sudden pain and honestly, sitting up at a desk for that long is a little painful in the beginning, so you might want to find a way to lay down a few minutes every hour or so at work.

  62. HRM*

    #4 – YMMV and it’s not the same exact situation but I had a breast augmentation done while working at my previous company. My coworkers were frankly pretty unprofessional there so many people DID ask me if I had gotten implants. I chose to be matter of fact about it. “Yep, I did! Anyway, getting back to my reports…” It was pretty quick and painless for me that way and after I affirmed it everyone just went back to their business.

  63. Armchair Expert*

    #OP4: one point no-one else has raised yet, and may not be your experience but FWIW – my mother had a breast reduction in her forties. She was a fairly senior manager, so spoke to lots and lots of people every day.

    She said that nobody asked her if she’d had one, BUT she spent the first week feeling like everyone, especially men, was staring at her weirdly. And then it clicked that it was because they were making eye contact, instead of talking to her breasts. Not that they ever were deliberately, but it’s a thing that happens if you’re large breasted, and we kind of don’t notice it after a while…until it stops.

    So just a thing to be aware of if it happens to you!

  64. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m just absolutely stunned that #4 is a thing. I wouldn’t even THINK of asking a co-worker about her boobs even if she INVITED questions about it, because it’s one of those situations that’s firmly None Of My Business ™ and needs to stay that way.

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