updates from letter writers (the nude sauna, the aggressive dog, and more)

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. When going to a nude sauna with coworkers, what do I do about nipple piercings?

I wanted to send in an update about the company-sponsored nude sauna trip while having nipple piercings (hell of a sentence to start things on).

As I both suspected and hoped would happen, nobody said anything, if they even noticed them – some people took their glasses off, after all, and couldn’t see clearly. We all followed the normal etiquette of pretending to have clothes on, and I learned that at least one of my coworkers has a tattoo. There were separate areas for men and women, to any readers who were curious.

For what it’s worth, while meetings earlier in the day were mandatory, any nudity was 100% opt-in, and there was no stigma if you decided to decline. Despite this, my company is international, and many people enthusiastically participate in this aspect of the culture, myself included. This isn’t even my first time experiencing a nude sauna with coworkers, but it was my first time doing so since getting the piercings. At the risk of oversharing, part of why I like to keep them private is that I got them largely for sexual reasons, which I don’t want to share with colleagues, for obvious reasons – if I were asked, my plan was to say something about how I liked how they looked. But in the end, because of others’ reactions (or lack thereof) I feel like I was able to keep them, for all intents and purposes, hidden.

I know these sorts of activities aren’t for everyone, but it’s just a matter of cultural difference, and I appreciate that most people in the comments section understood and respected that, and gave helpful suggestions. I have no idea where else, or who else, I could’ve asked this question, so thanks again!

2. My coworker brings her aggressive dog to work

I have quite the update for you. I updated briefly in the comments of one of your posts a couple weeks ago, but I thought I’d send an official update. In my mini-update, I had stated that they decided no dogs would be allowed in the new building, and the employee was laid off for performance issues. All was well.

When you posted my story about the coworker who lied about her agressive dog, I noticed a few people in the comments warning me about this workplace. They said that they felt this might not be a very professional or well-run organization. I told them that their hesitation was appreciated yet luckily incorrect. I mentioned that other than the dog issue, there was nothing else happening that was a problem. I gushed about how amazing this job was, and how even though “like a family” is usually a red flag, in this case it was green. Well, commenter s… you were painfully right. What started as a simple dog story has wildly escalated. Buckle up.

It first started with the random drug tests that occurred whenever someone questioned a policy or procedure. Then came the CEO trying to pay off a woman going through spousal abuse (to get her to quit rather than lay her off, which he wanted to do instead of giving her time off to handle her life). After the dog fiasco and other situations, the CEO came to meet the team and gave an all-inspiring speech about how wonderful this team is while peppering in passive-aggressive hints that anyone that is negative in any way will be fired. He’s used this speech multiple other times, even at our grand opening (look at this amazing facility! The town loves us! We’re so successful! You’re lucky to have jobs here! Don’t like it? Go to one of these other companies that I’m about to loudly insult! We know those companies were hostile work environments too, so you’re stuck with us!).

Then came the rumors. A supervisor spread a rumor that a low-level employee was doing hard drugs, and that she was doing them at work. HR did nothing, and concluded their investigation with “it was just a rumor.” I think the low-level employee is filing a restraining order against the supervisor as we speak.

I wound up quitting two days ago. It’s been fun, but… when in doubt, listen to Alison and her readers. I’ve definitely learned that lesson.

3. How do I withdraw my application over low salary without burning a bridge? (#3 at the link)

My letter was fairly low-stakes but I have a small update. I withdrew my application and used the language you suggested to give context to the hiring manager. Next time I saw my own manager, he brought it up first (the hiring manager had passed my note along) and thanked me for being honest about my reason. Withdrawing hasn’t had any negative impact on my part-time job since then. And, my manager recently told me that whole situation has sparked some internal conversations about compensation and benefits and how the company can better attract and retain qualified hires! Hopefully they will be able to make some changes and maybe I can apply again in the future. Thanks for your help!

4. Is it ethical to accept volunteer help at my local business?

I just wanted to thank you for your excellent advice and provide a small update.

I was so shocked and surprised to learn that what I had been doing was illegal, and extremely embarrassed that as a business owner I didn’t know that. You’ll be happy to know that I immediately stopped accepting volunteer help and explained to all involved why this was the case.

To be perfectly clear, accepting help from volunteers was never intended to be “the new normal” but rather an emergency bandaid, to give me time to get my feet back under me. Since writing my first letter, I’ve taken on a new business partner who will receive more shares in the business based on sweat equity. To put it bluntly, in three months we’ll either be out of business or out of the weeds, and either way the situation will be resolved. Right now things are tense but manageable. There is a good chance the business will survive and thrive. More importantly, thanks to you and the commenters, it can be done in an ethical way that respects sensible and fair labor laws.

On a personal level, while I am obviously still reeling and not having a great time of it, my immigration status is being sorted out and according to my lawyer, there is little to no chance I’ll be deported. I am working hard to get my life back on track. Progress is slow, but there is progress, and I am beyond grateful for all the help I’ve received and continue to receive, including yours.

{ 49 comments… read them below }

  1. Four lights*

    OP 4: I’m glad to hear things are in the process of being resolved. Thank you for the update. Best of luck to you.

  2. Cassandra*

    OP1, OP3: Glad that worked out!

    OP2: My eyes are the size of saucers. I wish you all the best finding a job that isn’t full of evil bees.

    OP4: I’m rooting for you, your new business partner, and your business! I’m so glad the immigration issues are turning out well for you.

    1. Letter Writer #2*

      I got hired at a place three days later. Slightly less pay and it’s a temporary contract, but it’ll hold me over till I get something new. It’s a regular office, not a startup, and is already professional and drama-free. I bounce back fast!

  3. Hills to Die on*

    Thank you all for your updates – I love hearing how things turn out (especially when it works out positively)!

  4. Stormfeather*

    Yay updates! Thanks to Alison for gathering these, and thanks always to posters who come back to update!

    (I really hope the end-of-year windup will include a ton of updates, like last year!)

  5. Nerdling*

    Good luck, #4! I know how hard the gaming store life can be, and I shudder to imagine going through it dealing with a loss such as yours (I’m so sorry). I hope you have a successful holiday season to pull you back into the black.

  6. Murphy*

    #2: Wow. I somehow missed your original letter, so I got to experience the entire roller coaster all at once today. Glad you’re out of there!

    #4: Good luck to you!

  7. Scout Finch*

    I’m not even a gamer, but I want to go buy something at LW #4’s store, just to support her!

    1. Lance*

      Speaking as a gamer myself, I wish shops like this were more common and well-known! (unless I’m somehow just oblivious… which is possible, I confess) Good luck with the business!

    2. Minocho*

      I go out of my way to buy from my FLGS when I can for this reason. I’ll buy from the online stores when I need something really niche, but it’s nice to feel like I can support the local community a bit too.

      Good luck, LW#4!!!!

    3. Anon Anon Anon*

      Me too! Non-gamer here, but I’m the sort of person who you’d expect to be a gamer, if that makes sense? I don’t know why I’m not a gamer. I just got into other things instead.

      There are a lot of friendly looking little gaming stores in my city. I wonder if one of them is LW’s!

      Anyway, I’m happy to hear a mostly positive update from her. Supporting her store in spirit.

  8. Lucille2*

    #2 – I’ve learned that when a company spends a lot of energy telling their employees how lucky they are to work there because it’s so amazing, is usually the opposite. When I first started at LastJob, the bosses gave a whole presentation at a department-wide offsite about how the grass isn’t greener, this place is like family, yadda yadda nonsense that kind of gave me a bad feeling. Needless to say, I didn’t feel bad about leaving LastJob. In fact, almost a year later and I’m still carrying all the angst around that place gave me.

    1. Wednesday of this week*

      Yes. If a company is so great to work for, their employees know it. There’s no need to push that message. It’s like insisting “we offer standard market pay rates” despite continuously losing out on hires because they’re offered better pay elsewhere.

      At my last job, my 2 closest colleagues and I all left around the same time. Our toxic boss kept warning us about being lured away by other employers (who were better respected…and offered better pay…) and saying that she knew people who’d made similar moves and regretted it. We are all far happier in our new jobs.

      1. designbot*

        I think it may be a “if you have to tell me, you’re not telling the truth” sort of thing!

    2. ThankYouRoman*


      If you’re cramming “we’re awesome!” “you’re lucky to be here!” down employees throats it’s because you fail at being a good employer.

      I get to decide if you’re awesome, bro.

      1. London Calling*

        I take the view that if a company is awesome and I am lucky to be there it should be obvious in a variety of ways without the need to beat the staff over the head with telling them so.

    3. MostCake*

      I just left toxic teapot factory, which the owner regularly touts as the BEST teapot factory you will ever work for! Well, maybe it is one of the better in terms of windows and swank, but otherwise it’s a mire of drudgery, a swamp of despair, and a film noir of gas lighting, anxiety and insecurity. It’s a shit hole! I’m feeling 1000 pounds lighter and getting glimpses of normality again being away.

      … The shit I have put up with to keep myself afloat! Seriously, I am so thrilled about the new +employee+ economy. The deck has been stacked against me for so long but now there are options, and the sun is shining, and the birds are a singin’.

    4. Cactus*

      Yep. I once worked at a place that had been on the local “Great Places to Work” list a few years before I started. They still had the poster for it up in the back hallway, but they had gone through multiple changes in management in the intervening years, and if they were truly a great place to work in 200X, they were…not…in 201X. Hence why I am always REALLY iffy whenever anyone managerial claims that their business is AMAZING. (My current boss told me when offering me the job that “the work might sometimes be boring and we have a lot of strong personalities on the team.” Refreshingly honest!)

  9. The Grammarian*

    #4–I’m glad you’re getting things together, and #1, it’s awesome that you got to experience the sauna in peace.

  10. Bostonian*

    I really liked the #3 update! Thanks for sharing; I’m glad to hear that your feedback may have sparked a change.

  11. RJ the Newbie*

    First of all, I love reading updates.
    #1 – I’m so glad you had good, non-judgemental sauna bonding time
    #2 – Wow. Just wow. What an awful place. The terribleness just seemed to snowball.

  12. Observer*

    #2, I hope you had something lined up. If not, I hope you find something really soon. That went from “not well managed” to “Totally nuts” pretty quickly.

  13. Bea*

    OMG I’m glad you gtfo #2

    I just had flashbacks to the scumbag I worked for at one point. Only he knew he couldn’t pull random testing or everyone would be donezo. It’s also not in the employee handbook whomp whomp whomp instead he just fired whimsically when someone got on his bad side. I left before he could get the pleasure.

    #4 You’ve got us all rooting for you. Praying these next 3 months get you out of the weeds and your holiday season has record sales.

  14. uranus wars*

    #1 I laughed out loud at your first sentence – and outright snorted at your follow up commentary. Glad the naked-sauna/nipple piercing wasn’t an issue and it sounds like you enjoyed it, always a bonus for anything work-related and mandatory, but especially naked sauna-ing!

  15. knitcrazybooknut*

    #4 – If this helps, my local community has started something called Small Business Saturday. It falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with an eye toward refocusing Black Friday shoppers toward local alternatives.

    I know you’re probably far too busy to start such an endeavor, but you might use something similar in your advertising for the holidays. Best Wishes to you.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Not to “well actually” you but Small Business Saturday is a national “holiday,” started by American Express. I support it! But it’s not a grassroots sort of thing. :)

    2. kristinyc*

      My community (a neighborhood in Queens NY) has a fun Small Business Saturday retail crawl – participating companies get put on a little map postcard, and people who buy things at them get a stamp on their card. If you get a certain number of stamps, you get entered into a raffle for a gift basket with prizes from all of the stores! I’ve participated every year, and 2 years ago I won the raffle! It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to support local businesses.

      1. Chinookwind*

        My hometown does something similar for December to encourage people to shop local rather than go the city or on-line. They also co-ordinate late night and Sunday openings for that period (Sundays are usually quiet for business, so most independents close rather than pay to be open for one customer) as well as any special in-store events. Downtown ends up bustling for that month.

  16. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, you know that saying about how pets look like their owners? Well, they act like them too.

      1. ElspethGC*

        I was going to say “Same”, but then I realised my cat is a stereotypical tortie with everything that comes along with it – introverted, contact only on her terms, enjoys attention but tires of it quickly without warning. I relate far too much to this personality type.

        I too am a tortoiseshell cat, apparently.

      2. Red Reader*

        Hah. My husband and I were discussing the other day how funny it is that I am a dog person who is more cat-like in my behaviors, while he is a cat person who is more dog-like in his. Then we realized that it makes sense that the cat person is attracted to a cat-like person and the dog person is attracted to a dog-like person. All is right with the world again.

      3. Hope*

        *Thinks about her own cats, especially the one that’s 11 years old*

        …yeah, this is truer than I’d really like to admit.

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      My dog does share a lot of my personality traits. I fully acknowledge this. I live with a little furry mirror.

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