are jeans holding me back, can I mute my coworker’s texts, and more

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

1. Are jeans holding me back?

I work in marketing at a small IT company where the vibe is extremely casual. This is a quote from our CEO about the dress code: “If you can wear it on the street and not get arrested, it’s okay to wear it to work.”

I typically dress typically business casual and on occasion will wear jeans. My husband thinks my casual wardrobe is limiting my potential and that I won’t get paid what I deserve unless I dress the part. While I agree with him that appearance is important, my office culture is way more casual than what he’s used to in his very corporate environment. Can I still be taken seriously in jeans?

Yep, at many companies. In fact, at some companies you’d look really off if you showed up in a suit. There’s no longer a universal rule that you need to dress up; it depends on the field, the geographic area, and the company.

If you’re unsure, you can look at what people are wearing in the positions you’d like to get promoted into one day. But frankly, even if none of them wear jeans, you still might be fine. Some places really don’t give a crap about how business-y your workwear is. You’re far better positioned to assess that than your husband is, since you’re the one who’s working there and knows the culture. It sounds like he’s coming from more traditional environments where his statement would be reliable, and that he doesn’t realize there are offices that truly don’t care. Whether or not your office is one of them is something you’re better equipped to assess than he is!

2. Can I mute my coworker’s texts?

I have an incompetent coworker. She and I were hired in the same week, about six months ago. As much as I try to convince myself to feel neutrally toward her, I dislike her. I know that I dislike her for a mix of personal reasons (personality differences) and concrete reasons (she screamed at me in the workplace when I wouldn’t take company time to do free work for her personal side business).

She texts me daily asking me how to do basic tasks like how to look up customer information in a database we both use daily, how to open a new tab in an internet browser, “What is Excel?” etc. The rest of the office will use texts for short yes/no questions, but her questions are much more involved. They’re “how” and “why” questions. However, when she is texting me, she is at her desk and has access to a binder full of documents that covers about 80% of her questions.

For the first few months, I answered her questions promptly and thoroughly, but she continues to text me with questions I answered weeks ago. I truly do not believe that she texts me because she is interested in learning how to do her job better. I’m not her boss, nor does my job description require me to provide training to anyone else. I want to limit my contact with her as much as possible. Is it wrong or unprofessional of me to mute her texts from this point forward?

I want to say yes, but if you just mute them, you risk missing something that will look bad for you to ignore. It would be better to address the problem with her first, before you start ignoring things. Say something like, “I’ve gotten busy and won’t be able to answer questions like this anymore. Most of what you’ve asked me is in the training binder, so please start checking there.” You could add, “I’m not going to be looking at my phone much anymore so please don’t keep texting questions; it’s likely I won’t see them.”

Then you’ll have warned her and can more safely mute her messages. But I would check periodically to see if she keeps sending you things. If she does, you’d need to say something like, “I just saw you sent me a lot of texts with work questions last week. Like I said, I can’t keep answering questions and I won’t see your texts, so please don’t keep texting.”

If that doesn’t solve it, loop your boss in so she knows what’s going on — because you don’t want her to hear from your coworker that you’re being unhelpful and ignoring messages without having any context for it.

Read an update to this letter

3. Accomplishing grad school homework without annoying working professionals

I am in a masters program geared towards launching people into a specific industry. It’s very much a practical, professionally focused program. It is not uncommon for professors to ask us to find working professionals in the field to interview as part of homework assignments. I work full-time and have been at the other end of students approaching me asking me for their time. I know that when you work at a job where you already have more than you can accomplish in a day, taking time out of your busy day to talk to a student isn’t high on your priority list. These assignments have been incredibly valuable to me as a student, but I get why they are annoying for the people who have to make time to be interviewed.

Do you have any suggestions of how best to approach professionals for these assignments in a way that is professional, courteous, and respectful of their time? I know it’s important to send thank-you notes but are there other things I and other students can do to make the experience better for professionals giving us their time? (P.S. I plan on pushing back in course evaluations and other avenues of feedback to faculty about how often faculty are including this in assignments. I know of at least three courses where students have had to interview professionals at different organizations. Eventually, we run out of people willing to talk to us.)

Make it as easy as possible to schedule (be really flexible with when you’re willing to be available), offer to come to them or talk over the phone, be profusely appreciative of their time, make sure the thank-you note isn’t perfunctory but instead includes real details about how they were helpful — and then contact them again down the road to let them know how their advice helped you, even if it’s a few years later. That last step can be particularly meaningful, and too few people do it.

But also, feel appreciative but not guilty. These are professionals who are capable of saying no if they don’t have time in their schedules, and they’re probably helping because they get some fulfillment out of doing it. (Of course, it’s a lot less fulfilling when people don’t do the things in the first paragraph, but you’re on top of that.) It’s okay not to feel bad about it, as long as you’re openly appreciative of their help.

4. We have bad online reviews because of our office manager

I just started working at a new job in a small business the specializes in dental care for children. I started the job under the impression that I would be taking over as practice manager, but the current manager has made comments suggesting she does not intend to leave any time soon, and has refused to really show me much about the job I’m supposed to be taking over.

All of that nonsense aside, the current manager is very hard nosed about much of the practice policies. She is stubborn about scheduling and operates under a one-strike policy with new customers. I understand that if a person doesn’t show up for an appointment, the doctors do not get paid, and that there are a limited number of appointments available for new patients per day, but she approaches these situations completely without grace or understanding.

Recently, she spoke to a mother who missed an appointment and was in tears about it. There was an available appointment the next day, but she didn’t offer it to the crying mother, and it would have gone unfilled had I not given it to the mom when she called back. Did I do the right thing, or should I have not undermined her?

The real reason I’m writing is because our office has horrible reviews that only deal with the front office staff and in particular the office manager. I’d like to eventually be able to comment as the office manager on the public reviews, but has too much time passed? I really want to bring the ratings up, as the doctors are wonderful, compassionate people who know what they are doing.

If the office manager leaves and you take over that position, at that point you could certainly respond, even if it’s been a while, to explain that there have been staffing changes and the person they had the bad experience with has been replaced and better customer service is now a high priority. (I don’t think that will bring the ratings up though; it’ll just appear as a response to a comment.) But while she’s still there and mistreating customers, you can’t do that in good faith. The reality is, right now those reviews are true, as frustrating as that might be. It would be disingenuous to try to convince people that they aren’t.

The bigger issue is that the business has a rude office manager who’s alienating patients and your doctors haven’t resolved it. The even bigger issue (for you) is that you took the job with the understanding that you’d be promoted into her job and she’s now suggesting she doesn’t intend to leave. I would put a premium on clarifying that — because otherwise a year from now you could still be in your current job, working for a practice that mistreats patients. (There’s some advice on that here.)

5. Someone is over-watering my plants

Help! I have some succulents that live in a common space in my office – the staff lounge – because I don’t have any windows in my personal office space. A kind, anonymous person who probably thinks they are doing me a favor is watering them, but I fear they are being overwatered. Last time I went to water them, one of the planters already had standing water in their pot (a definite no-no for succulents), and the other’s soil was completely saturated. And I noticed lately they are not doing too well.

It could be anyone watering them. No one has told me that they are doing it and they may not even realize they belong to me, as lots of people keep their plants in our staff lounge to get sunlight. There’s a slight chance that it’s the coworker who watered my plants when I was away at a staff retreat a few weeks ago, but she knows that I’m back and let me know she watered them after the fact. I haven’t asked her if she’s still watering them.

I’ve been nervous to bring this up because I don’t want to sound ungrateful … but I also don’t want my plants to die. What’s the kindest way to ask for someone not to water my plants for me? Leave a post-it note on the plant? (Is that too passive aggressive?) Send an office-wide email? If it matters, there are about 30 people in the office.

It’s not ungrateful to bring this up! Someone is trying to do something nice and almost certainly would appreciate knowing that they’re inadvertently causing harm instead.

Since you don’t know who it is, a note makes sense and isn’t passive-aggressive. Try leaving a friendly note that says something like, “Hi! We’re suffering from over-watering, so please don’t keep watering us!” If that doesn’t work, try checking with the most likely suspects directly (“hey, have you by chance been watering the plants in the lounge?”), starting with the person who was watering them while you were out since she might think she’s doing you a favor by continuing it. (In fact, I’d probably start with her right now before trying the note.)

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I think your husband is off. There are certainly industries where you’re expected to “dress for success” (meaning, in business formal). In those industries, looking at what higher ups wear might not be as helpful, because sometimes the benefit of being high up in the hierarchy is that you can set your own wardrobe.

    But if you’re at a workplace where everyone wears jeans on the day-to-day, insisting on a more formal wardrobe is going to look off. If you need to quickly dress up your jeans, I’m a big fan of nice tops, as well as having well-tailored blazers or appropriate cardigans on hand. And then just make sure your jeans are tailored. I’m sure you look great and appropriate.

    1. Woodswoman*

      After checking in with the HR director to make sure I was appropriately dressed for my first day in my current job, I showed up in my standard business casual attire. A senior manager routinely comes to work in shorts and flip-flops, and he’s not out of the norm for how people dress. I’m making the highest salary of my career at this place, and our attire clearly makes no difference.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      At my current place of work, C-suite folks regularly wear jeans – usually with button down shirts or a nice pullover but jeans nonetheless. Definitely look to what the higher-ups are wearing. If they aren’t wearing jeans, then I wouldn’t.

      1. Colleen*

        Thank you! I asked the first question about jeans. My higher-ups (all two of them one being CEO) have only ever worn jeans!

    3. Lilo*

      I work in a casual office and there is a guy who wears a suit a lot. It is part of his whole clearly ambitious persona and it does hardcore rub the wrong way. If he had the skills to back it up, maybe, but he is so busy on the surface stuff he’s neglected to actually be that good at his job and his general competitive demeanor doesn’t work in our environment. Some of it could be BEC at this point, his insistence on formality wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t part of the whole package. He’s gotten some temp work details, but none of the bigger promotions. Meanwhile, the person who was promoted the fastest dresses casual, she’s a lot nicer to fellow employees and better at the job.

      1. Colleen*

        Great perspective! (I asked the question.) I agree with you that work quality and personality go a whole lot farther than wardrobe!

      2. Cochrane*

        That guy you describe is clearly taking the “dress for the job you want” advice. While not entirely in the “bad gumption advice” territory, it does encourage a cargo cult copying of a trait of successful people in hopes that will rub off on them.

        Old Man Jenkins: “Lets see, who’s gonna be my next Vice President? Hmmm, you’re dressed like a transient, you’re dressed like a trollop, bring me that clever fellow who frequents the haberdasher with his flashy duds!”

    4. Glowcat*

      In my workplace people (seniors and director included) always show up in jeans&t-shirt or even sport suits and then immediately put on their slippers or those fluffy, woolen socks. I love blazers, nice tops and nice dresses, but I’m always struggling to tone then down and in the end I rarely wear them because I would stick out like a white crow. Unless you’re dealing with customers, I guess the problem is sticking out, not the specific kind of clothes you are wearing.
      OP, if you have a good relationship with your boss or some senior you could directly ask them.

      1. Secretary*

        Glowcat says something so key here though which is that if you dress too nice for your office culture it can become a thing.
        I work somewhere where my casual attire is dressy. I wear gym clothes to work most days, I’ve never worked in an office where that made sense like it does where I work now.

    5. Gen*

      You can definitely dress up nice if you make it deliberately part of your persona rather than looking like it’s part of some better-than-thou message. Working in a call centre where some staff showed up in what looked like PJs and management were frequently in sweatpants we had one woman in middle management who looked like she’d walked off the set of Sex in the City or something- designer suits, contouring before it was a common thing, immaculate hair. It definitely made her stand out and there was always an initial wariness that maybe she didn’t take the job seriously. It was a super high stress environment with a lot of burn out so some people would resent her perceived oasis of calm. But she’d explain it as part of her armour against the horrors of the job and was incredibly organised in every other part of her life. She had the capital as a great employee for it to just be part of who she was. Most people who showed up in suit and tie just to usually looked more frazzled by the end of the day than the average staff member and since we were customer facing there was no benefit to the extra effort- management didn’t appreciate it.

      Similarly I worked at an art based tech startup (from home) and was advised to play up an arty casual look when I was at company meetings after showing up in plain black trousers and a turquoise shirt- it wasn’t interesting enough to fit in. No one in a normal business suit has ever gotten a job there, though there is a guy who dresses like a relaxed Hannibal Lecter

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Similarly I worked at an art based tech startup (from home) and was advised to play up an arty casual look when I was at company meetings after showing up in plain black trousers and a turquoise shirt- it wasn’t interesting enough to fit in.

        Ha! I have a colleague whose wife is a graphic designer, and she came to visit him one day after she finished a job interview. Another coworker was horrified to see she’d worn black slacks and a bright silk shirt, and said she’d never get job in that get-up. I don’t think he believed me when I said this was probably pretty conservative for the job she was interviewing for. Which she did get.

        1. Mephyle*

          And this is illustrative for the OP’s situation. Just as in OP’s case, again we have a spouse who works in a different type of business environment and so is not familiar with the norms of his wife’s environment.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It was the second coworker who thought she was dressed inappropriately, not her husband. But yeah, someone who isn’t in that field who thinks their knowledge is global.

      2. Boo Hoo*

        So her dressing nice means she didn’t take her job seriously but sweatpants does? I don’t care if people do think that they are wrong. That is insanely ridiculous.

        1. JustaTech*

          And welcome to the impossible world of women’s clothing!

          In one lab where I worked there was a younger woman who dressed very well, and some people did take her less seriously (initially) because she seemed to be putting “too much” thought into her appearance (and therefore wasn’t thinking about science? I dunno.).

          I don’t know where it comes from, and I try really hard to fight my own perceptions, but in the sciences there can be an interpretation that people who dress well go into other fields where appearance matters (like sales or business) as opposed to people who can’t be bothered, who go into the sciences where appearance matters less. (ie, you’re dressed for safety or wearing a lab coat or out in the field covered in mud, so who cares.)

        2. pleaset*

          It’s also worth considering race here. If I dressed like Mark Zuckerburg when I was younger I’d be more likely to get shot. And far more likely to mistaken for a janitor.

          And regarding the guy in a suit when everyone else is casual mentioned further down. That’s probably not ideal unless he’s a very high performer. BUT I think it’s no big deal – and maybe even a good idea in a lot of circumstances – to dress at the top level of the range in the workplace. I think people – especially strangers to the office – will tend to take you more seriously in that case.

      3. Colleen*

        I was the person who asked the question by the way :-)
        Thank you for this perspective. Appearance CAN say a lot about your personality, work ethic, and certainly how serious you take yourself and your job! I love that this woman at the call center really played it up for the office! Such a funny visual. My CEO says regarding workplace attire: “If you can wear it on the street and not get arrested, it’s okay to wear in the office”. I think I’m doing okay with the occasional jeans and nice blouse or sweater! Thanks for your comment.

    6. Al who is that Al*

      Absolutely, dress to make yourself feel comfortable and roughly in line with everyone else, that’s all. I need to wear a suit and tie with customers as I handle their financial systems and if you were an MD and an FD of a multi-million pound turnover company would you like the guy who arranging your Financials systems and reports to turn up in jeans and an old sweatshirt ? But back at the office it’s much more casual.

    7. NYWeasel*

      Our company (global, corporate, around 15K employees) is VERY laid back about dress code. I regularly see VPs in t-shirts, jeans, etc. Otoh, there are also people who like to dress up a little bit, and the sales team tends to favor suits. I tend to use an 80-20 rule, where I occasionally dress up nicer, but usually rock the comfortable business casual. I figure it accomplishes three things:
      1. My superiors know that I can dress up if a situation calls for it
      2. If I ever want to go out on an interview, I won’t have to worry that people will know right away by my outfit
      3. It keeps my wardrobe somewhat up to date in case I need to attend a professional event

        1. sharkBite*

          Yep. I am dressed up M-T-W and casually flame out for the balance of week. I’m ready for interviews if they come up without calling attention to myself.

          1. Hey Nonny Anon*

            When I was leaving my last company, I purposely dressed up on random days when I was visibly in the office all day so that it wasn’t jarring to see me more “business” than “business casual” on days when I had an interview.

      1. Colleen*

        Thank you for this perspective! (I was the one who asked question #1) You are spot on! It absolutely is good to keep a full range of clothing and styles for various occasions and to mix it up frequently. I’m probably more like 80/20 the opposite; wearing mostly business casual with the occasional dress-down jeans day. In my husbands defense, he’s never worked in a creative field, for a startup, or as an entrepreneur; 3 arenas where I’ve spent my entire career! I love your #2 by the way – so true and so smart of you!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The other alternative is to stow a dressier outfit at the office. When I worked at a business casual office, I always had an extra suit in my office (and suit jacket) in case I had to appear in court at a moment’s notice.

    8. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      The way your CEO worded the dress code sounds like he is particularly concerned that everyone feel comfortable in the clothes they wear to work, and he really wants to encourage the culture of casual dress. I think your husband is absolutely wrong – and if you notice that most people around you are wearing jeans every day, then I would even go over to wearing jeans more often. You don’t want to be that one guy in a suite and tie every day when everyone else is wearing jeans and hoodies.

    9. Sara without an H*

      Yes, there’s really a wide range of jeans looks. Fit and condition make all the difference, and you can dress them up or down.

      I also like the idea of occasionally dressing up a little bit — “Oh, it’s spring and I really wanted to wear this new dress.” If you demonstrate that you have a range of looks available, it will be easier to come in dressed up without triggering speculation that you have an interview elsewhere.

    10. CupcakeCounter*

      This exactly – dark wash jeans look more professional than a lighter rinse as well. I love the look of a dark wash skinny jean with knee high boots, a white button down, and blazer. Very pulled together.

      1. Aveline*

        Yes’m but would forewarn that a lot of people -both men and women – need to make sure the skinny jean fits properly.

        It’s much easier to find that look and pull it off if you are a 20 year old with a straight body that if you are a curvy 40 year old.

        I have a male friend who is 20 and skinny. He can rock that look. I can’t. The skinny jeans don’t usually fit well on hourglass’s figures unless they are pretty stretchy and tight. Then they show everything…and cameltoe isn’t appropriate in an office.

        So OP also needs to know her body and whether the jeans she is choosing are professional looking.

        What works on one body doesn’t necessarily work on another.

        There is no universal correct way to wear jeans.

        Though, there may be some incorrect ways: light wash, camel toe, rides down when you bend over….

        1. epi*

          I don’t think we need to comment on people’s ages and bodies to determine who should get to wear a nearly universal item of clothing.

          Professional clothes should fit, be in good condition, and fit in with the tone of the office. Flattery is in the eye of the beholder. However, skinny jeans have been trendy for women of all body types for an unusually long time. It isn’t correct to say that only thin people can wear the most popular jean shape.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I personally dislike skinny jeans and refuse to wear them. I prefer dark wash or black jeans, boot cut. And I love the curvy fit jeans from Eddie Bauer – they cut the waistband a size smaller than the hips, which means I don’t have as much of a gap at the waist as I do with many other types of jeans.

          2. Aveline*

            I wasn’t trying to suggest only certain types of people should wear certain types of clothes.

            It was a direct response to a post about what looks professional.

            Sorry if it came off as body snarkign or body policing. The intent was quite the opposite.

            The intent was to push back on what I perceived to be too restrictive in defining a professional look.

            My apologies for not thinking through the implications of what I was syaing and how it would come across.

            1. epi*

              No problem, I’m sorry if I misunderstood you!

              I think fit issues are tricky. Everyone agrees the clothes you wear to work should fit, but different people have different standards (and knowledge) about what that means. It’s easy to get into talking about personal stuff like people’s bodies or style, from this standard that seems pretty neutral and basic.

              For things like this, I think the best solution is to ask someone you trust outside of work whether stuff really looks appropriate on you– someone who will tell you the truth and has a relationship to you that makes those sorts of comments OK.

        2. ThankYouRoman*

          Lmao I’ve worn skinny jeans for a decade or more. I’ve never had a cameltoe and I’m an hourglass figure.

          Everyone is different. Plus size boutiques exist now. We can find the jeans that fit right. Fifteen years ago you may have had a point because you had to deal with very limited choices for heavier body types.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m an hourglass shape, not in my 20s, and wear skinny jeans! Usually with boots (easier to fit inside my boot than if I have to modify a boot-cut leg). My mom can also rock the jeans despite her curvy figure. It’s really about finding jeans that fit appropriately. For me, the low-rise trend of the early 00s was a nightmare.

          The most important part is to have well-tailored jeans (dark rinse preferred) that fit you appropriately. It’s the same as watching out for button-down shirts that might gape across your cleavage. As long as you know your body and how your clothes fit, you should be fine. What will look less kempt is if everything is oversized and disheveled or ill-fitting.

          1. Kat*

            second/third this! I’m in my 40s, hourglass, and seriously SHORT and I have jeans that fit and look good with work outfits. My only regret is that we only get to wear them on Fridays (well, nobody’s checking so I could probably get away with it, but I’m TRYING to be GOOD. LOL) I just…don’t think a man should be mansplaining (jeansplaining?) his wife’s office culture to her. :/

    11. Aveline*

      DH has worked as. C-level officer at several companies: At one he wore Italian suits. At another he wore khakis and polos. Currently his cohort wears business casual to smart blue jeans and long sleeved collared shirts.

      There are no universal rules anymore.

      Husband is misinformed.

      Two rules on jeans: They need to be well-made jeans, but need not be expensive. They need to fit well (not too loose and not too tight).

      If LW is in jeans, but dressed smartly, that’s well within current cultural norms at many places.

    12. Hallowflame*

      OP#1, it sounds like you’re making some good wardrobe choices for your office. If the rest of the office is in jeans and t-shirts, and you’re taking it up just a notch with slacks, you’re probably creating a professional image in the context of your office without raising any eyebrows.
      My company’s corporate offices has no official dress code. When I get in the elevator in the morning, I see everything from t-shirts and sneakers to sheath dresses and stilettos. When I started, I kept to a classic business casual format (blouse, sweater, slacks, heels/flats). As I had a chance to observe the female managers on my floor and in my department, I was able to adjust my work-wear rotation to include jeans a couple of times a week and sneakers on Fridays.

    13. Aveline*

      Tailored jeans: if LW can afford it, invest in a couple of pairs of custom made jeans. They are comfortable and look great.

    14. Kyrielle*

      Depends on the office. I showed up to my current job in business casual – it’s what I owned, and also, I dislike wearing most jeans as they aren’t comfortable for me.

      This is an office where one of the managers needed, as a manager, to dress up by wearing a polo or button-down shirt with his jeans, instead of a t-shirt. One of the individual contributors came in wearing cargo shorts and t-shirts normally.

      My business casual doesn’t entirely fit. And the first week or so I just shrugged and said it was comfortable and what I had. And now no one looks at me twice. I’ve seen other women who are always in dresses/skirts (but not necessarily formal ones – club wear wouldn’t fly, but casual does). The unofficial dress code here is at most a little tighter than OP1’s office, maybe not that – but dressing more business-y can be a personal quirk. (That said, I’ve also been known to show up in nice slacks and a t-shirt, usually with a geeky pun or picture.)

      1. Czhorat*

        ABsolutely; like everything else, this is organization-dependent.

        I had a second interview once scheduled for a Friday. I was, of course, in my best suit and lucky necktie. The interviewer – the same guy whose name was on the letterhead – was wearing jeans. He sheepishly told me that it was casual Friday, we had our interview, and it went fine. Once hired there I dressed for the day and the situation. Meeting with a highly conservative client? Jacket and tie. Quiet day in the office? Jeans and a sport shirt.

        Some places that works, some are jacket and tie everyday, some are jeans everyday. The key is that you should stand out for your work, not your dress; it’s best to fit in to the general style and tone of the organization.

    15. Lawgurl06*

      It really does depend on the company and the industry. My father-in-law was hired a few years ago by one of the major tech companies in Silicon Valley and was called into his bosses office after his second week and told he was dressing to nice for the culture and it was scaring the other employees (LOL). This company has a very casual approach so this can go the other way if you aren’t paying attention to what the office culture is.

    16. iglwif*

      ^ All of this.

      Also, if you’re in a jeans-are-totally-fine office environment, suddenly switching to suits or something is likely to make people wonder if you’ve got an interview, which if you’re happy in your job is probably not something you want!

      When I started my very first full-time office job, 20+ years ago, my grandmother z”l kindly took me shopping for Appropriate Work Attire and a briefcase. I showed up to the office in very nice, conservative suits, blazers, etc. … and everybody else, including the VPs except when a board meeting loomed, was wearing business casual at the very most. (My department was in the same building as the warehouse and manufacturing plant, so no matter how the front office staff dressed, there were always going to be folks wandering around in jeans and sweats.) Over time, I relaxed and learned to enjoy working in a place where my co-workers were not judging my wardrobe :P

      I like to think that grandma would have enjoyed seeing my teenager rocking my navy suit at mock trials last year :D

      1. KC without the sunshine band*

        I work in a business where basic jeans attire are not acceptable at my level, but those below my level can wear them. I have found that if I dress down towards more casual I am treated more like “one of them”. I do this when I want to do more team focused efforts. I found early on that if I tend toward the more professional end (even just adding a blazer to an otherwise lower key outfit) I get treated with more respect and less argument. Obviously there’s a time for this too.

        Maybe it’s because I’m a woman in a very male dominated industry, but I find how I dress absolutely affects how I’m perceived and treated, even by people who see me monthly. I would suggest trying different levels of dress based on what you are trying to achieve in that setting.

        1. iglwif*

          Well, *now* I work (a) at a different place, where literally the only time anyone dresses up is for conferences and off-site meetings with customers/prospects, and (b) from home, so nobody will ever know if I’m working in my pyjamas (I’m not, but I *am* working in sweats and a t-shirt!).

      2. SusanIvanova*

        When I flew out to Silicon Valley in 1992 for an interview as a Mac dev, my mom insisted I needed a suit/skirt outfit. Everyone I interviewed with said “you do know you don’t need to wear suits, right?”

        Oh, I knew. Even then Steve Jobs was already known for his ripped jeans and turtlenecks. But as mom advice goes, it could’ve been worse – at least there was no gumption involved.

    17. Peachkins*

      Yes, I agree completely with Princess. I think your husband is wrong, but if you’re concerned about the jeans being too casual, there are easy ways to dress them up. That’s pretty much what we do where I work since we’re not allowed athletic shoes, jeans with tears/rips in them, or graphic t-shirts. Everyone can still be comfortable, but we still look put-together. And for what it’s worth, our director- the highest ranking person at our office- wears jeans all the time.

    18. HailRobonia*

      My Big Boss (who is in many ways a trainwreck) won’t hire someone who interviews in a suit and tie. It’s not because he wants us to be casual (he’s a control freak in many ways); word has it that he is threatened by other men who are too professional.

    19. Amber Rose*

      It depends on department as well. Most of our staff wear whatever they want, but the sales people definitely dress a little more formally. We don’t make them do it, but it’s part of being successful in that role.

      I was auditing a company last year, and as part of that process I asked if they had a dress code I should follow. I was assured most of the workers actually show up in PJ’s and I shouldn’t worry about it aside from the usual kit. They really did. I’ve never seen so many guys in pajamas in one place.

    20. Colleen*

      Thank you! I asked the question and it is very helpful to hear I’m not completely off-base. I will always dress up if the occasion calls for it (networking event, business meeting, etc.) but for my day-to-day work, it is simply not necessary to over dress!

    21. Kathleen_A*

      I would just caution the OP that she needs to make sure that there is no *unwritten* dress code for managers above a certain level or would-be managers. There isn’t always one, but sometimes there is. We definitely have one around here. I don’t care because I don’t actually want to be promoted, but if I did care about promotions, I ought not wear my “McCoy’s Exotic Animal Veterinary Clinic – Get your tribble spayed or neutered!” T-shirt on Fridays, and this is the case even though wearing a T-shirt on Fridays that advocates responsible tribble ownership is fine according to the official dress code.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I expect not! The t-shirt might still be available somewhere. I got mine at ThinkGeek. I kind of crack myself up every time I wear it.

    22. Random Commenter*

      I also work in a very relaxed company (tech). My partner has also made a few comments about how I dress to work, because sometimes (e.g. when I miscalculate laundry days) I’ve worn jeans and t-shirts with silly phrases. He’s appalled. I’ve told him that in my first week I saw a manager with a James Franco shirt. He’s in disbelief. He says he’d still come into work in a suit at least at first.

      That said even my normal outfit of black slacks and sleeveless button-down shirts is still more formal than a lot of people here wear. I think a lot depends on your personality. I try to be as approachable as possible and I’ve made comments about how I don’t even own that many informal clothes because in my former jobs there were stricter dress codes. If you are going to dress more formally than average, make sure you don’t look like it’s because you’re arrogant or competitive.

      All in all I think OP is right in how she’s been dressing, and agree with other commenters that looking too formal is going to be off.

    23. Major Kira is my hero*

      OP #1, I can share an additional point of anecdate that matches with your sense of your workplace and with PCBH! My husband works in a job like yours. During his first month, he routinely wore a button-down with a tie and dressy pants (like, suit-adjacent). He quickly scaled back to khakis and polos because that’s what basically all the guys, including the C-level, wear on a daily basis. If he kept “dressing up” like he had been, it would have looked like he was weirdly out of sync.

      It can be much more useful to think about dressing in a way that’s well-calibrated than “dressing up.” Good luck! Rock those jeans!

    24. Sandman*

      Agreed – and I was totally your husband at one point. I’ve generally worked in government or law offices, where dress codes have been between business casual and suits every day. He’s an engineer and his dress code has drifted from khakis and polos to jeans every day. At first I was appalled and sure that this was career-limiting on his part, but nope – just a different culture. It took me a while to believe he really knew what he was talking about (very much my bad) because it was so far from my own experience.

    25. TardyTardis*

      Before he passed on, our Beloved Founder at ExJob would show up in blue jeans, work shirt and cowboy boots, surrounded by a modest entourage of Suits. He often did this as other managers started talking about a dress code. ExJob did not pay enough, in my estimation, to be able to enforce same on the people it was meant for.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I agree with Alison, and I want to emphasize that you should make it as easy as possible to schedule (i.e., work around the interviewer’s schedule, not yours), and offer to come to them or do the interview over the phone. The number of times people ask to meet with me and then tell me they’re busy is maddening. If I’m doing you a favor, don’t fail to propose times and then tell me you’re too busy—it comes across super inconsiderate.

    1. chi type*

      #3 is a total Pay It Forward situation. They probably had to do something similar in grad school and someday you may be approached to do the same. Remember that and be generous when the time comes.

      1. Mary*

        Yes, and if I was convening the course that OP #3 is taking, I’d be trying to use the alumni networks of the course better. One or two of those assignments could be better served with a speed networking event or an alumni panel. It’s great to get people to organise some of their own informational interviews because it’s a useful skill, but it’s not the only way to get students to learn industry-specific information.

    2. thankful for AAM*

      OP #3, if it is an LIS program, consider joining a group like the Facebook page “library think tank.” There are over 30,000 members and it is very common to find requests there for interviewees and that is a deep pool to draw from. Of course, it means remote interviewing and your professors need to be open to that.

      Other professions may have a particular social media channel that is used in this way too.

      1. EPLawyer*

        This is great advice. A large pool of contacts means no one person gets stuck too much, unless they CHOOSE to accept all requests.

        I also second the Pay It Forward. Someday it will be your turn to be interviewed. Be as gracious as possible.

      2. roisin54*

        I also agree with this. My library is really big and fairly prominent in this part of the country, and we get tons of requests for interviews from LIS students. We also get a decent amount of students just walking in and asking the first librarian they see for an interview (just, don’t do that.) So going to a resource like a “library think tank” would be great for us if only so that we don’t get every LIS student in the city (and there are a lot of them) coming to us for their interview assignments.

        1. Delightful Daisy*

          I get the requests via email. The student sends me the questionnaire, I fill it out and send it back and done. I’m not sure this is meeting the goal of the assignment but it works easily for me. I think I kept the last one I filled out to make it easier when I get the next request.

    3. Ali G*

      I would add – don’t give them work to do! I can’t count the number of times students at my former workplace would email saying they were doing a research project and go on to ask 8-10 extremely detailed and technical questions that would have taken me hours to reply to. Instead they got pointed to some website where they could get some raw data and do the work themselves.

    4. LKW*

      Yup, I’m happy to support a co-worker but my unspoken expectations are:
      1. Schedule around my schedule – don’t ask me to change my meetings or personal time unless there’s extenuating circumstances
      2. Don’t be late, don’t assume I can extend the scheduled time
      3. Be prepared. Don’t look for your files and spend 5 minutes getting ready and then expect additional time at the end of our scheduled time. The meeting should have a clear purpose. If you can’t tell me or you’re kind of flailing around trying to find an angle, I’m going to be peeved. If possible to send the materials ahead of time -great. If not, ok. Either way, don’t assume I’ve read them. At the start give me a brief review of what you’re doing, how I can help and what specifically you need from me, I don’t know what you know.

  3. Bee Eye Ill*

    OP#1 – I work in IT and have worked for large companies and small ones. For me, the dress code for IT workers has always been an issue. Some employers want us in shirts and ties while we crawl under desks, carry around filthy desktops, run cables, etc. Others allow jeans and t-shirts to get the dirty work done. It’s hard to do both because you don’t really know what kind of tech situations may arise from day to day. I once had to buy knee pads to crawl under a series of interconnected trailers (temp offices after a hurricane) to run a bunch of cable.

    What you really have to look out for are the kind of people who ONLY care about appearance. It’s amazing how performance takes a back seat to simply looking good, but it’s an unfortunate truth. If anything, keep a change of clothes on hand for meetings and such, or dress more nicely but keeps some jeans on hand for the dirty work.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Also IT… after more than a few years, I’m now taking dress codes that don’t let IT folk (at least) wear jeans as a minor red flag … does this place value style over substance?

      (So far, there has been a really high correlation between less than good practice and dress code rules.)

      1. Dance-y Reagan*

        The first paragraph is background info/how Bee Eye Ill relates to the topic. The second paragraph is the universal theme that applies to LW. This isn’t that hard.

      2. Colleen*

        Yes! I work in marketing. My workplace attire is far and above more “business” than my IT tech colleagues- even on days when I wear jeans!

    2. ElspethGC*

      “Some employers want us in shirts and ties while we crawl under desks, carry around filthy desktops, run cables, etc.”

      Not IT, but a similar “you need to look good even if it’s completely inappropriate” – my mum works in childcare, and used to work in a pre-school attached to a school. The head was incredibly old-school and insisted that the ‘uniform’ for female staff members was skirts and blouses. Including the people working in the pre-school. Yes, because skirts are *definitely* the most practical option for the women that spend most of the day chasing around three- and four-year-olds on their hands and knees. She even tried to insist on heels, apparently, but got shut down on that point. But this was in the 80s, and the head-teacher was probably in her own 80s at this point, so that was the generation she came from.

  4. Sabine the Very Mean*

    A note should do it for #5. “Hi! We’re succulent plants and don’t need much water! When in doubt, ask Lucrecia (OP)”.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      A lighthearted note ‘from the plant’ on the plant pot was my first thought too. Something that’s not overly serious but still gets the message across.

      1. Clorinda*

        It’s not at all passive aggressive to put a sticky note on a popsicle stick: “I like to keep my feet dry! Please don’t water me. Thanks.”

    2. Aaron*

      You might also download a photometer app for your phone (humans are bad at judging light levels) and put them under an incandescent desk lamp in your office, if they need a bit of time to recover. Mine are surviving the winter under one. The heat from the bulb also helps dry them out.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        After having so many plants die, I found a plant multi-sensor (Mi Flora – light, moisture, fertilizer) and was amazed at just how little light I got relative to what the plant needed.

        One plant light later, my orchids have survived a whole year basking under their 3000 lumens and getting their water when they need it.

          1. Delightful Daisy*

            I once had wooden flowers, wooden that say, wilt in my yard. Yup. Blackest thumb around lol

      2. epi*

        My plants are actually really happy living under the under-cabinet light in my windowless office. The two leafy plants have put on new growth, and the hobbit jade is slower to grow but definitely not suffering. I tried this on the advice of an employee at the nursery where I bought them and have been pleasantly surprised.

        It might be worth trying to bring them back to the office and just offer them bright artificial light. Plus then the OP could enjoy the plants throughout the day where they spend the most time.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I thought the point of succulents was that they don’t need a lot of natural sunlight? And honestly if someone put plants in a communal space I would assume they now belonged to the community and not to one specific person. And at my office, the janitorial staff actually waters the plants.

          1. Trinity Beeper*

            Plants don’t really differentiate whether the light is natural or from a bulb, as long as the light has the right spectrum. But succulents do need a ton of light, actually – much more than most houseplants. When they don’t get enough light, they get really stretched out looking.

            1. OP#5*

              Yes! That’s exactly what was happening with my succulents when they were in my windowless office. Very leggy. But it’s good to know that I could just get a lamp with the right spectrum bulb. I thought it had to be real daylight!

    3. Olive or Avocado Oil*

      Take the plant home, most likely there are many people watering it and no one reads notes. There is a reason most breakrooms do not have real plants.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I say take them home for awhile to let them recover. Once they are looking better whoever is watering them will have hopefully gotten out of the habit. Then you can bring them back and add notes to the pots saying “Please don’t water me – I am being taken care of” or some such. That will hopefully prevent any issue with someone watering them without really looking or thinking about what they are doing.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, on the note, I would definitely say something like “please don’t water me” not “we don’t need much water” which might lead well-meaning people to continue watering just a little, and still overwater the plant.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        We had one plant in the lobby that everyone thought was fake, right up until the person who was watering it left the company.

        We were all amazed when it started to die. I took it into my office after that. I’d like to say that one is still alive, but it was looking a little sickly about a year later, then one day I came back from a work trip to find that it had been replaced.

        I think a small note with humor could work. I’d put it on a Popsicle stick or use a small garden stake and say something like “Please don’t water. OP5 will take care of it” I think it needs to be clear that someone is watering it, otherwise people will do the ‘surely that doesn’t mean me” thing and ignore the sign.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Yes – absolutely indicate that someone is taking care of the water. If it only says “Please don’t water me” people might think that means no one is watering it, or it is being over watered but still needs some water, or some other hair brained idea. Make sure people know someone is aware of and taking care of the plant.

        2. Cardamom*

          We had an opposite scenario. One of my colleagues brought in a spiffy looking potted succulent, which he’d received as a gift. He said he didn’t know much about plants so was looking for advice on how to care for it. My green-thumb colleagues jumped in with lots of advice for how to water it, etc. Meanwhile, having no experience with houseplants, I had no suggestions, but was the only one who realized it was a fake and didn’t need any water at all!

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I had to do this with my office fish once.

      He was being overfed by the night cleaner (who was a lovely woman). I essentially put a little sign up that said something like… “Who knew fish could beg? Don’t believe him when he tries to convince you that he’s starving!”

      At another office, someone killed my jade plant. The poor thing thrived on my benign neglect. I would dump the remnants of a glass of water in the pot whenever I happened to think about it (which wasn’t that often). I started working in multiple locations and when I came back it was dead from over watering :( I wish I had a chance to put a note on it.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I bet part of the problem is that the sadder the plants look, the more people think “oh, it needs water” then they add to the problem and it looks even sadder. People want to be helpful and only have one default with helping a plant feel better.

        1. OP#5*

          I think this is exactly the problem. Some succulents just look raggedy as they grow (old leaves shriveled on the bottom) but it’s natural and not a bad sign at all. But I have had people remark on them before – maybe they diagnosed the problem as too little water when that was not necessarily the case at all.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        It’s a good thing dogs don’t live at offices: I had a friend looking after my dog. I’d left enough food for two weeks. Several days in she said she was running out of food, because she fed my cocker spaniel every time she got the puppy-dog eyes. Cockers *excel* at the puppy-dog eyes.

    5. Arya Snark*

      I was the plant caretaker at my old job. The door to our office was across the hall from the door the the gym and no matter how many notes I put on the plant by our door or how I phrased them, people still felt compelled to dump the remnants of their water bottle in it. The only thing that got the over-watering to stop was to remove it from the hall entirely.

    6. Plant Mom*

      I have this problem with a violet. I put a sign on it to “please not water” and it is being ignored.

    7. TootsNYC*

      instead of a note, I’d make a plant-care tag / spike and put it in them, in front of the plant, where it can’t be missed.

      And maybe I’d even make a blank schedule for Monday to Friday, and laminate it, and write the date w/ a china marker / wax pencil, so people can see that you are checking on the plant regularly and not just ignoring it.

      Stake a claim, mark your territory.

    8. irritable vowel*

      I guess I’m not sure why one would want to have a plant at work that couldn’t even be in their office space? If it’s in the staff lounge, it’s not really “your” plant, as you’re finding. Maybe just take it home, where you can enjoy it more?

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Yes I am with this – if you are worried take it home. But if you were planning to share the plant as a nice gesture – then maybe the note makes sense. I would roll my eyes at a cutesy note (but I am in the minority clearly)- but doing what someone above said about a plant care guide would be a good idea.

    9. OP#5*

      OP#5 here! Sorry for the late reply – a big work deadlines interfered with my daily “Ask a Manager” time. But thank you, Alison, for your advice and for reassuring me that leaving a note is not too passive aggressive. :) I really think this sign idea is super cute.

      As an update, I actually did something that I think no one suggested (although I’m still reading through all the helpful comments). I went to check on the plants last week and discovered several of leaves of my succulents were falling off, and the pot was still wet! So I went into emergency mode and relocated the plants to my supervisor’s windowsill and she has agreed to benignly neglect them. :) I’m traveling this week, but when I get back, I’m going to give serious thought to moving them into my desk during the week (so I can enjoy them!) and then borrowing someone’s windowsill on weekends so they can soak up the sunlight. One of my new coworkers already does this, and her plants actually seem to be surviving just fine.

      Oh, and my plants have to stay at work because I have two small cats who like to munch on plants. This is especially not good because one of my plants is an aloe and those are poisonous to cats!

      Thanks for the advice, all!

  5. nnn*

    In the specific case of a note left on the plant, I wouldn’t lead with “Thank you to whoever has been watering us”, just in case someone doesn’t read the whole note.

    A note on the plant would do better to lead with “Please do not water!” You could temper it by writing something cute-ish in the plant’s “voice” (e.g. “Please do not water me! I’m a succulent, so [whatever information is relevant]”)

    In communicating with your colleagues either in person or in a general email, you could phrase it as expressing appreciation that they care about your plants and are trying to help you out, as opposed to thanking you for watering them.

    If you do send out a general office message, perhaps it might help to write it with the assumption that multiple people have been so kind and diligent as to water your plants that the poor plants are just overwhelmed! That way, instead of “You, plant-watering culprit, are doing a bad thing!”, it’s “With multiple awesome, thoughtful people each individually doing something considerate and well-intentioned, there’s a negative outcome that no one could have anticipated!”

    1. Elder Dog*

      It maybe the cleaning crew watering plants, in which case a general office message won’t help. I’d go with notes on the plants starting with “PLEASE DO NOT WATER! This plant needs to be kept dry or it will die.”
      Many people who don’t know much about plants assume a plant with dry soil is being neglected, and a note like that might educate them. Of course some people will assume they know better and kill your plant anyway.

      Honestly I wouldn’t try to keep succulents at work where people are likely to over-water them.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Any note or email needs to specifically say who will water it.

        “Thanks for thinking of me, but OP knows how much water I need and will take care of it!”

      2. Noobtastic*

        How about a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West, with a speech bubble, saying, “I’m MELTING! I’m MELTING!” And then below that, a note saying that you are giving them the proper (small) amount of water for their species. Thanks for the help, but please stop.

  6. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: Do you know who is in charge of training them?

    If you do, I’d answer every question about how to do her job like this:

    ‘I already answered this question (a few times). If you’re still unclear about something, ask Fergus.’

    In general I try to be as politely unhelpful as possible. Genuine work questions (‘Did you finish the heat protection analysis for the new teapot design?’) I answer promptly and thoroughly.

    The goal is to politely annoy the other person into stopping.

    It works! It helps if you’re stubborn, though, if you do this.

    1. Artemesia*

      Good idea. I’d have the talk ‘I can’t do this anymore too busy, no time to respond to a lot of texts’.

      Then direct her to check the training notebook where most of the answers are ‘that is what I do when I am not sure’. And if you don’t find it, check with Fergus (whoever trained the two of you).

      Then NEVER give in. If she does engage you, direct her back to the notebook, every single time. Intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful kind so you need to stop it dead in its tracks. And good idea to CYA with your own supervisor.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah… for things in binder, a quick reply with “That should be in the binder.” Others can get “That was covered in training; check your notes/speak to Fergus.”

        But definitely consistency is the key!

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I wouldn’t even redirect every single time (but I wholeheartedly agree with you that OP should never provide an actual answer again). I’d answer about once every three to five texts with a redirect, and ignore the rest. I have a feeling someone as persistent as this person is going to challenge the redirects. (“I don’t know where to find that in the documentation, can’t you help me?”)

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I would try not to answer the texts at all, because that could encourage the coworker to send more texts. If possible, I would tell her in person to see the binder or the trainer.
          Ignore texts and wait till she asks in person, then redirect her, seems like the best way to shut this down.

      3. Ama*

        Yeah, I think it’s definitely time to go to your own supervisor about this. I had a new hire a few years ago who acted very similar (not texting, but the constant questions and needing me to walk her through basic computer skills that her references all swore she had) . She actually quit the very morning I was planning to have a serious conversation with her about needing her to work more independently. Afterwards I was talking to some coworkers who were training her on some other tasks and we discovered she was claiming to each of us that she hadn’t been trained on tasks the other coworkers had in fact trained her on. We’re still not sure whether she was just in over her head or actually trying to manipulate people into doing her work for her, but I wish I had compared notes with my coworkers ahead of time because I wouldn’t have allowed her to go even the short time she did before having a serious talk with her.

        1. Noobtastic*

          I was very concerned about the “What’s Excel?” question. Why is this woman working at a job that uses Excel, if she doesn’t even know what it is?

          IMO, it’s time to show these texts (I hope you saved them) to the boss, and let her know what co-worker is up to. “Either she needs to be trained or disciplined, because she’s either incompetent, or trying to make me look incompetent by distracting me, constantly, from doing my work.”

    2. Lilo*

      I had a peer coworker who did this, and so what I would do was go “Hmm… not sure. Pretty sure you should check [standard resource]” and “You should ask [his trainer]”.

      When I became a trainer, I could be much more explicit. “This is explicitly addressed in [standard resource]. I need you to learn to check the resources and get answers on your own before bringing me questions.” (Obviously you don’t say that to a new employee but a few months in they were expected to have gained more independence).

    3. Mookie*

      Yes, I’d use my phone’s quick-reply feature (if it exists) or download a message template app to create some customized responses for this particular co-worker:

      “Check the manual”
      “Google it”
      “Too busy to help you with that”
      “We previously covered that; search your texts”

      1. Muted my coworker*

        (I’m letter writer #2 ) I love the idea of editing quick reply to respond as easily as possible. I just want to be less accessible to this particular coworker when I’m not interacting with her in person because her texts tend to be extremely long.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I’ve had similar issues with coworkers leaning on asking me, rather than using other resources available to them, and I really didn’t have the time. So I worked with my boss to make “asking me” the less easy option.

          They’d come to me with a question (that I knew perfectly well was documented in the system), and instead of answering, I’d respond by asking if they had checked the notes. And when they’d say “well, no…” I’d say “ok, then please do that, and then let me know if anything needs clarification.” My boss was also willing to tell people to email me with questions, rather than stopping by my desk (because the nature of my work means I need to concentrate, and interruptions can cost me time I really don’t have).

          Just make sure you loop your boss in first, so if your coworker has the idea of going to Boss complaining about you not being helpful, Boss knows what’s happening and why (and ideally, supports you).

          It took time, but eventually, it helped.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Are you required to use your phone for business? If not, you could request that she email her requests. You can tell her, “oh, during the day I concentrate on work and don’t check texts very often. If you need something, email would work better.”

          (then after a week or so, discreetly block her number…)

          1. S-Mart*

            I don’t think OP2 can really block/mute her coworker. Texting (short) questions is apparently the norm for her office.
            Training the coworker to use other forms of communication is good, but blocking one coworker out of an otherwise-accepted method of communication is not a good look.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, but that doesn’t insulate her from displeasure from her manager if what she does with her phone screws up the workflow.

              2. S-Mart*

                1. We don’t actually know that. It might be her company’s phone.
                2. Assuming it’s her personal phone, she’s certainly entitled to do with it as she chooses, but I still maintain that freezing a coworker out of an accepted workflow (that you continue to use with everyone else) is a bad look.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  Wow, this is making me miss my old Nokia. While most of my co-workers were texting left and right, I was blithely humming along, oblivious to the e-chatter. It was lovely.

                  I eventually got a text-capable phone, and sometimes use it, but mostly I hate it.

            1. Mockingjay*

              Which is why I asked if phone usage is required. If texting is just a convenience between a few coworkers, then the OP could direct the coworker to email. Even if personal cell usage is the norm, I would still encourage using email. Email is better for long explanations and provides a record for retention. “Hey coworker, I sent you those instructions last Tuesday.”

              1. S-Mart*

                Fair point. I missed that your suggestion was predicated on if phone use wasn’t required.

                Though I do still think you can’t reasonably tell her “oh, during the day I concentrate on work and don’t check texts very often. If you need something, email would work better.” if you *do* check for and answer your coworker’s texts. I’d change it to something like “this is too long for texting, please email me instead.” (and still be willing to answer occasional short questions, if they do come through – no more/less than you’d do for other coworkers).

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      And OP #2, loop your manager in now – just a friendly ‘hey, NewHire has been texting me to ask how to do job stuff. I’ve run out of time, so I’m going to redirect her to the documentation more consistently. Just want to let you know in case she runs into any problems.’

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would loop in boss sooner rather than later. It can be as simple as “Lucinda keeps coming to me with questions, how do you want me to handle it given my current workload.”

        I would also mention to boss that she asked you to take work time for her side business. Don’t necessarily have to mention the yelling but if I were boss I would like to know about how focused my employees were on the job I was paying them to do.

        1. Muted my coworker*

          Oh, my boss knows about the yelling when I wouldn’t do free work for my coworker’s side business! That happened on my third day at work, and I told her immediately. I will loop my boss in about the excessive texting though.

          1. ThankYouRoman*

            It’s good they know about the fact there’s already tension.

            The frigging nerve of a person to yell at you and then clinging to you for basic knowledge. Argh.

          2. Kelsi*

            I’m side-eyeing the hell out of your boss for not getting rid of her then and there. Yelling at a coworker three days into their new job is pretty shitty behavior, but doing it because they want to basically steal man hours from the company you both work for is above and beyond!

            1. Kelsi*

              Sorry, I got a little muddled with my pronouns there. More properly:

              Yelling at a coworker three days into their new job is pretty shitty behavior, but doing it because you want to basically steal man hours from the company you both work for is above and beyond!

          3. Perse's Mom*

            I second other peoples’ suggestion to redirect her to email (your work email, not a personal email!) if your boss says you need to keep answering questions for her. Then you have an easy record of how many times she’s asked you X, Y, and Z and how many times you’ve answered each. And less chance of deleted texts or her trying to downplay how frequently she asks you for help.

            1. Noobtastic*

              And you can cc the boss on your replies. Especially the “I already answered this three times AND it’s in the guide” answers. Bonus points if you use bcc, so the boss knows, but the co-worker doesn’t know the boss knows, so the evil bee in me is relishing the idea of the look of oblivious confusion on her face when the boom falls, and she doesn’t know why, because how could the boss have even known?!


        2. Noobtastic*

          Yes! I’d forgotten the side-business thing, but that absolutely needs to be addressed. By the boss.

          Also, if you still have that “What’s Excel?” text, please show that to the boss! YIKES!

    5. Washi*

      I also have some coworkers who prefer to have their hands held through things rather than look them up themselves. I’ve found that even just waiting an hour before I come help them solves a good deal of the problems – their first choice might be having me explain everything, but usually their second choice is to figure it out themselves rather than waiting.

      That said, I’m in a role where I am supposed to help people with genuine problems (the ones they can’t just google themselves) but if the OP feels bad cutting off the help cold turkey, just delaying it might ease some of it.

      1. Muted my coworker*

        I genuinely suspect that she could handle these issues on her own, but she panic-texts me in a bid to hand off issues rather than dealing with them.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      All of the above is very good advice. Redirect her back to the manual and/or Fergus. Every. Single. Time. She’ll get bored of asking you when all roads lead to Rome, so to speak. And delay answering her for an hour or two. You have trained her to expect prompt, thorough responses to her dumb questions and now you need to re-train her or she will simply expect more of the same. She hasn’t had to actually learn anything because you’re being Siri for her. Stop that. You are not Siri. You are a polite but highly unhelpful brick wall with signs plastered all over you saying “check the manual” and “google it” and “ask Fergus”. And definitely loop your manager in. The last thing you need is a talking to about being helpful to colleagues, because you know if she goes whining to your boss, she’s not going to frame her own behavior as the problem.

      1. Lawgurl06*

        This is a really common problem. I found that if you continue to give in and provide the answers instead of instructing people on where to find the resources they will just continue to ask you over and over again. I’ve had to stop answering questions about PTO and our payroll system for our staff and managers because then they refuse to learn the policy and expect me to be available to do things for them that they need to be able to do themselves. I finally told one employee that unless she was given me her PTO it wasn’t mine to manage.

    7. Anon Anon Anon*

      I know how horrible this sounds, but I would start including the person in charge of training on replies, and give an understandable reason for it. “All the info on Excel is in Chapter 11. I’m including Stacy here so she can offer more advice.” This isn’t your problem, and someone else should be aware that it’s going on.

    8. TootsNYC*

      send her a book emoji every time she asks you a “training” type question.

      (Slack even has a Google emoji–send that one)

      Let her know you’re going to do this before you embark on this campaign: “You ask me a lot of questions that I know are in the documentation. I don’t have time to redo things that have already been put into the training binder, so when I know it’s there, I’m going to send you a book emoji to remind you to look there.”

      Or start by saying, “Have you looked in the book? {emoji}”
      And then just drop off the words and put “{emoji}?”

      But yes, be very unhelpful.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        And don’t forget the ever-popular! (Don’t do this for realz, though, you might get fired.)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oh, whoops, looks like someone already beat me to that just below and I only saw it after posting. Sorry about that!

  7. Free Meerkats*

    And if the Cow-orker in #2 can’t seem to stop asking, with your boss’s knowledge and permission, Let Me Google That For You links (example here, ) can make the point. It’s hugely passive aggressive, especially if you send the same link multiple times. But that may be the only way to get her to leave you alone.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Much as I love lmgtfy I would never ask my boss for permission to send someone a link like that — that’s not something I think you can ask without sounding petty and off-base. I’d you’re bringing your manager into it, handle it more maturely.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, the most I’ve done is when someone was bugging me to look at something that I didn’t know off the top of my head but was very easily google-able, I finally just went over to their computer, typed in “how to X in excel” and followed the directions on the first link. That person hasn’t asked me questions like that in a while though, so maybe it worked!

      2. Muted my coworker*

        I really want this coworker to get used to using google on her own, but I don’t think the link would get the message across. This is speculation on my part, but I suspect she is coming from a work background where she didn’t get to make a lot of decisions and management was always nearby, whereas the opposite is true at our current workplace.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If this is likely, then preface your future unhelpfulness by saying, “I want to encourage you to answer your own questions and solve your own problems. It will be so much more powerful when you do that. It’s always satisfying for me. Let me show you how to google for answers to these questions.”

          And then answer all such queries, “I’m sure you can find that if you look–good luck.”

      3. Antilles*

        Agreed. If I was the manager, I’d be really off-put at you for asking that or doing it. That sort of passive-aggressive snarky move is the kind of thing that most good managers really want to snuff out…and it’s entirely possible that the manager would be more irritated at you than the co-worker.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I hope that ‘cow-orker’ is an unfortunate typo and you didn’t intend to refer to a woman as a cow.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Cow-orker is actually a pretty common play on coworker and it doesn’t mean anybody’s a cow. (If it meant anything, it would mean she orks cows, not that she is a cow.)

    3. Lady Blerd*

      I wouldn’t send that link period. The chances of that being being well received are slim to very likely none.

      1. Psyche*

        Yeah, keep the high ground. It is less passive aggressive to tell someone that they can probably google it than it is to send that link.

    4. LQ*

      I think a LMGTFY link works with someone you have a good relationship with who will feel an appropriate level of shame and laughter. If you don’t already have a very good relationship I would definitely not do that. I have a coworker I really like, I’ve told her next time she needs to stop by with coffee or invite me out for coffee to tell me about how she solved it herself or I’ll LMGTFY her. She thinks I’m magic and just Know all these things off the top of my head so it was an ok way within our relationship to get her to stop. But I’d never do it to a coworker I didn’t like, they don’t deserve that joviality.

      Just a word to the boss that you’re going to redirect and then redirect and then stop.

    5. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’d go with something slightly less passive aggressive (although I do love the properly placed LMGTFY). OP should just start responding with “Have you tried googling that question?” or “Hmm not sure I’d have to google, why don’t you try that and skip the middle man”

      It gets the same msg across with less snark. Added bonus points because it will reinforce to the coworker that the OP is not a reliable source for information which should encourage the coworker to target someone else.

  8. Maria Lopez*

    #2- Make sure you TEXT your co-worker that you will not be answering questions anymore, as well as talking to her about it. You need to have a documentable communication that you know she looks at to CYA.

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Also save all of those old texts with her texting you simple questions over and over. Just in case she complains you can show your manager that you have answered these simple questions again and again.

    2. MLB*

      I don’t think that’s necessary. Unless LW was in charge of training the co-worker (which I’m guessing she wasn’t), it’s not her responsibility. It doesn’t matter how she’s asking the questions – texts, IMs, emails or asking in person – she’s been trained and has the answers at her fingertips. As long as she continues to answer her questions without directing her her on HOW to find them, she will continue to ask.

      I would make a point of speaking to her, point out that she’s asking the same questions over and over, let her know there’s a binder she can reference, and suggest writing things down when she asks so she can reference that next time. Stand firm and repeat. Co-worker won’t stop asking until you stop answering. If necessary, let your manager know what’s happening for CYA.

      1. Muted my coworker*

        Thank you! Also, I think the faster I start to redirect her and disengage, rather than “helping” her with every little thing, the smaller the problem will be.

        1. Fergus*

          she’s your co-worker who’s been there months, you owe her nothing, and even less than nothing after she yelled at you

        2. tink*

          Redirect her verbally AND in writing. That way you’ve said it out loud (where presumably other folks can hear you and back you up) AND in writing, so you’ve got a paper trail of saying “These questions are in the training manual, please refer to it.”

      2. Maria Lopez*

        You have no idea how devious and malicious some people can be, in addition to being outright liars. LW needs a documentable trail, not just the verbal. The coworker can turn this around to make it look like the LW was bothering HER.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          In case anyone doesn’t know, you can take screen shots of texts and email them to yourself.

  9. Maria Lopez*

    #4- You need to let your employers know, personally or anonymously, about the bad reviews online. In addition, patients need to know they can tell providers their concerns about any front office problems. Trust me, the providers don’t know what is going on out front. As long as collections are good and they have a reasonably full schedule, they think all is well.

    1. Sally*

      I hope this is true because yesrs ago I had a great doctor who had a miserable administrative staff. They were so unhelpful, and sometimes mean and unkind, that I had to stop going there. I like to think the doctor didn’t know what was going on. It was a long time ago, and I was too nervous and uncomfortable about it to bring it up with the doctor. These days, I would say something, but not everyone feels comfortable doing that, and in the OP’s case, it sounds like at least some of the patients don’t even get to see the doctors. The OP is in the best position to tell them. And the OP also needs to know what’s going on with her new job, so a conversation is really necessary.

      1. SigneL*

        Yes, I quit going to one ophthalmologist because his receptionist was so awful. He must have known, because sometimes he was standing next to her when she said nasty things!
        Conversely, the dentist I go to now has a wonderful staff – ALL of them. I told my dentist and also left a review online. It make a difference!

      2. Dance-y Reagan*

        I quit an eye doctor because his receptionist/clerk was such a massive witch. I thought maybe she just hated the job, but she ended up being a frequent customer at my second job and she was just as unpleasant there, so I suppose she was just a miserable human being.

      3. Maria Lopez*

        Good offices have feedback forms a patient can fill out while sitting in the waiting room, and the best run offices will have the forms go to the providers. A bad office manager can destroy a practice, while he/she provides excuses to the owners about what is wrong. That is why it is so important for the actual patients to tell the doctor, not the manager, what is wrong in addition to the manager.
        The doctors also really need to read the online reviews, because if they are older (not necessarily old, but over 40), they may not be that aware of how ubiquitous and important online review sites are.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        I spent five years looking for a gynecologist because the staffs were scarily incompetent or untrained.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      My dentist office was like this. His wife was the behind the scenes office manager so she wasn’t on site very often but she would be the one working with vendors and calling you if there was an insurance issue. A friend of mine worked for one of those medical/dental assistant training programs and she would be in charge of finding offices to place students for internships. She HATED calling my dentist because she had to work with the wife. He eventually found out (can’t remember how) and added another day of work so she could “retire”.

      1. Ashlee*

        The oral surgeon who removed my children’s wisdom teeth had a similar issue. The front office staff were not easy to work with but the surgeon was great. His father, another person and a really rude person who did the insurance and payments ran the front but, it was the only oral surgery office that was in-network so I really didn’t have a choice, unless I wanted to pay hundreds more.

        A few months after my youngest child’s surgery the rude insurance/payment person was caught embezzling and overcharging patients. She was fired and I was refunded a couple hundred dollars.

        P.S. I talked to the insurance company at length about this office and a few months after this they added another oral surgery practice to the list.

    3. HBee*

      I will absolutely do that. The current manager has been there a long time so she has a lot of control over how things are run. I’m the youngest in the office by about 25 years so I don’t have a lot of authority, but I am very close to one of the doctors (the one who hired me) so I can talk to him. The other doctors were supportive of me adding the mom to the next day schedule, though, so they’ll probably back me up. I appreciate your feedback!

      1. Mimmy*

        Please let us know how it goes! It’s a shame that this practice, with wonderful dentists, may be losing patients because of the front-office staff.

      2. Slartibartfast*

        Its sad but true that practitioners in the back of house often don’t know what front of house is doing. They went to a medical school, not a business school. They’re focused on providing care and many know nothing about personnel management. Document everything. Maybe keep a journal at home, just in case. You want to have specific examples of patterns of behavior, and keep your tone pleasant and neutral. Cite facts, avoid opinions. Just in case this ends up being a Queen Bee situation. You don’t want her to be able to spin this as “HBee is out to get me”. Dysfunctional people in small practices are often master manipulators. I also hope she’s not a relative of one of the practitioners. That’s a common and difficult complication.

    4. Boo Hoo*

      I agree. I had a great doctor with awful staff. I finally lost it when the nurse came into a packed waiting room and told me in front of everything my baby was dead and I would need surgery. I contacted the office manager. Sadly I don’t feel she cared much but my doctor sure did. I happened to see him at an airport and he rushed over to me to apologize. I still switched doctors because I couldn’t even walk in the office without crying I was so distraught but I was happy to know the message was received.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        That is just about the worst thing I can imagine. I’m so sorry, both for the loss of your child and the insensitive way it was handled.

      2. Kivrin*

        I’m so sorry to hear about your baby. That’s awful. I’m glad that you switched to a new doctor.

      3. Lurker Number N+1*

        oh my gosh! how terrible! what a terrible thing for her to do! so sorry you had to go through that and to be told that news in that way.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m in the process of switching vets because of a combo of the vet techs and the office staff. I don’t have a problem with the doctors, but both my cats have been (minorly) harmed by/due to the staff, and I won’t tolerate that. I’ve switched before as well. Staff make or break the office.

    6. MatKnifeNinja*

      Please let them know, and point out the reviews.

      I actively avoid care providers where the bulk of the reviews are about the horrific desk dragons. If it’s someone who I will see a limited amount of time (surgeon), and he’s a rock star, I will suck it up.

      Life is too short to fight with a person on an ego bender with delusions of grandeur. Some providers think any warm body who will work for cheap will do. Others have family members who have all the tact of wasps, but can’t do anything about it. Niece Buffy, from home country, needs a job. Biff just got out of (whatever), has no skills and this beats bottle picking. Those are the worse because the family dynamics. Oh and Mrs. Spiff, who work for the provider’s father for 30 years, and Junior takes over the practice. Can’t fire Mrs. Spiff even when she’s driving patients away.

      I’ve encountered variation of all of the above. I do let the providers know WHY I am leaving. I also leave a review so others don’t waste their time.

      Front desk help gets a lot of abuse. They are meeting people at their worse. I understand dealing with people, who are totally unreasonable is one thing. I’m not talking about someone having one bad day. It’s desk help that is so over the top miserable/incompetent.

      Remember, the providers may have told the deak dragon to do x, y and z, because they don’t want to personally handle the drama. The not showing up for an appointment, I know doctors who really hard core about that. So be careful that this desk dragon might have been hired because she is so prickly.

      I’d also ask what your where your job stands in taking over her role.

  10. Tau*

    OP1 – I’d be cautious about your husband’s advice, as dress codes can be very, very different across industries. In tech, I’ve found that the dress code gets turned on its head and you can get labelled as a cultural outsider/interloper and penalised if you dress up too much. I’m not sure how much of that may be present in a “small IT company”, and it may not affect the marketing team anyway, but still – be aware, and follow Alison’s advice of checking what the C-suite wears. If your CEO is running around in jeans, hoodie and a baseball cap, for instance, I’d actually worry that even business casual may verge on too formal.

    1. Artemesia*

      One of my kids works in high end software development and when he was interviewing told me that if he showed up in a jacket and tie, he would be unlikely to be seriously considered. Another works with a software client who will not allow consultants or employees to wear jeans — so while her office is casual and jeans are the norm, when working with that client no one can go out to the site in jeans. It is all very workplace specific and role specific. The guide is what do most people in the role you aspire to wear. Don’t take one slob in the sweats and t-shirt who gets away with it as the guide, but also don’t dress up much more formally than the norm. And with jeans it is possible to dress things up and down and it probably makes sense to do both.

      1. sum91*

        My husband is in the same kind of field. He wore jeans to his last interview – and got the job, which kind of blew my mind a little bit. That morning I tried to convince him to wear khakis, to no avail, and after it all worked out I learned to trust his knowledge of how he should dress for his field.

        I work in libraries, which can vary a lot in terms of day to day formality. I wear jeans all the time at my current workplace, but at the other similar library in town, they wouldn’t fly. I would never consider them for a job interview.

  11. mcbqe*

    OP1 – Dress code is usually very office-specific, no matter what the industry. I work in a smaller intellectual property law firm – full of shirts, ties, suits and heels, you’d think? Nope. We rarely have face-to-face contact with clients, so jeans are our standard daily uniform (well, except for one coworker who’s more a hippy-type clothes with big chunky Docs kind of gal). We only semi-dress-up if we have a direct client meeting that day (or those who live nearby can even duck home to get changed before a meeting). Last Friday my boss, our principal attorney, spent the whole day in the office in a T-shirt and shorts, ready to head off for his long weekend mini-break.

    I suspect you know better than your husband about the culture and dress code in YOUR workplace.

    1. Xarcady*

      Yes, in my office you can tell when people are having client meetings because they dress more on the business side of “business casual,” whereas the general office feel is much more the casual side of business casual. The CEO shows up most days in khakis and a button-down shirt, and I think he keeps a jacket and tie in his in case he suddenly needs them.

      The VP whose office is near my cube wears leggings and long sweaters and knee-high boots most of the winter and gauzy, flowy skirts and flipflops most of the summer. When I see her in a sheath dress and heels, it’s because clients are in the building.

    2. Lalaith*

      At my last company (in tech) I used to wonder if my boss (the owner) owned more than one button-down shirt… he seemed to always wear the same one to client meetings.

  12. TechWorker*

    RE: jeans at work I agree there are lots of companies where it’s not a problem. (I just got a promotion, I wear jeans, my manager wears jeans and at least one of our directors wears jeans). Saying that, most of the other directors wear suit trousers. It’s just about knowing your workplace – and I also reckon women have a bit more choice on scale – ie it’s not ‘jeans or suit’, there’s a tonne of smart casual options that are comfy but look just that bit smarter, if that’s what you want.

    1. TechWorker*

      Fun fact – my colleague dresses quite smart for our office, though still smart casual (pencil skirts, loafers, chiffon blouse type things), and when she went to another office with our (male, youngish) manager people consistently assumed she was the manager because he was in jeans. (That was in India where tech has a better gender split than here…).

        1. TechWorker*

          ? I meant in India there are more women in tech than where I live. I got the impression from proportions of comp sci students that this is a general thing, but if not, it’s certainly a thing in the company where I work.

  13. PrincessShrek*

    OP5 – I have a ZZ plant on my desk with a little note in it saying “Please don’t water me”. It’s not very hi-tech (I unfolded a paperclip to make the “leg” and sellotaped a postit on top and stuck that whole shebang in the soil) but it seems to have worked. When I go on holiday, kind coworkers offer to water my plant and I equally kindly say “thank you but you don’t need to do that”. 6 months on and it’s thriving so much I can barely see my coworkers.

  14. whingedrinking*

    This is something I’ve often wondered about and never quite understood – why the assumption that leaving a note is always a passive-aggressive option? Of course some people communicate badly using notes, but some people communicate badly face to face, too. I would assume that as long as you’re both direct and polite (“please don’t water this plant, it’s getting too much H20. Thanks, LW”) a note would be perfectly fine.

    1. Artemesia*

      At least don’t make it rhyme or be cutesy. And a plant watering note is likely to be unoffensive whereas those clean up the kitchen notes always seem to be. ‘Be sure to put the lid on the basket or the coffee pot will overflow’ is not likely to cause offense ‘you mother doesn’t work here, please clean up your own mess’ will always cause offense.

      1. Elaine*

        I always love those “Your mother doesn’t work here” notes. I’d think, you bet my mother doesn’t work here. If she did, she’d be kicking your fanny until you started cleaning up your mess.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s not. Somehow, people have confused being passive aggressive with leaving notes when you don’t know who you need to talk to.

    3. Smarty Boots*

      And the advantage of the note is that they see it every time and don’t forget. (Spouse, I’m looking at you hanging a raincoat on the hook with my necklaces!! Waaah!!)

    4. Elizabeth Proctor*

      PA notes are often finger-waggy things about things people know but still ignore (put your paper towel in the trash, clean your dishes, throw your old food away). I don’t think this is PA since it’s highly unlikely that the water-er knows these plants don’t need much water.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        “PA notes are often finger-waggy things about things people know but still ignore.” That still doesn’t a note passive-aggressive, though. A note that says “clean your dishes” is pretty direct, even if it’s something people already know they should be doing.

    5. Psyche*

      I think the problem is that notes often are passive aggressive so people become a little over sensitive. Signing the note makes it less passive aggressive since often the problem are anonymous notes so that someone can be confrontational without risking any blowback or notes that obviously are for one person in particular but are addressed to the group. I will often put notes on things like “Please leave this on. It is still in use.” because people tend to turn things off at work that they think were left on by mistake and I have no way of knowing who might be doing it.

    6. PB*

      Leaving a note *can* be passive aggressive. We’ve seen that here sometimes when someone leaves (or wants to leave) an anonymous note instead of confronting the person. However, there are cases, like this one, where leaving a note is the most practical option and neither passive nor aggressive.

  15. Airy*

    If I were LW2’s boss, assuming I didn’t suck, I’d want to know about those texts. If someone has been in the job for several months and is still asking questions like how to open a new browser tab, that’s someone I’d want to put on a PIP and watch like a cat at a mousehole. Also, is she still trying to work her side business in office hours/with work resources, and does the boss know about that?
    Remember that “tattling” is only when you tell an authority figure what someone else is doing out of a petty or childish desire to get them into trouble. When you report something dangerous, dishonest or persistently incompetent they’re doing, that’s actually being responsible.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Ditto. I mean– what is Excel??????

      Screenshot them and print those bishes out. Give to her boss. “I’m having a hard time getting my own work done with all of theses texts that Fartarina keeps sending me. Would you mind stepping in? The answers are all in her binder and anything she can’t find could, I’m sure, be answered by Ms. Training Guru.”

      1. Muted my coworker*

        She actually didn’t say “What is Excel?” She said “What were those little boxes you showed me the other day?” I had given her a 45 minute tutorial on how to use the search function and how to clear old info from a larger Excel sheet two days prior.

        1. LizB*

          Yowza. If your boss doesn’t know about this, I’d bring it up. As a manager, I would be extremely concerned if someone I hired to do a job requiring basic computer skills was asking coworkers about “those little boxes” as a way to try and find Excel.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Holy forking shirt. Talk to your boss about this yesterday.

          This is beyond “Jane is struggling with some of her job” and into “Jane is dangerously incompetent at even the most basic tasks related to her job.” Your boss needs to know this information asap.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        My least favorite coworker recently had a grump fest because I asked her to put a list of things in a spreadsheet. She hopped on the phone with someone, said, “I’m not a secretary”, and then asked the person to help her use Excel. It is going to be quite the learning curve since her reaction upon opening Excel was, “All I see is a bunch of letters, numbers and lines”

        To note: We asked about familiarity with MS Office during the interview. She flat out lied, apparently

        1. LizB*

          “All I see is a bunch of letters, numbers and lines”

          I needed a laugh this morning, so thank you for that!

        2. Wendy Ann*

          My predecessor lied about her MS Office skills. Claimed to have advanced skills but then panic-clicked for an hour trying to set up her outlook signature and had to be walked through step by step a double-sort in Excel (ie sort Column A a->z, then by column C a->z). It was a long 3 weeks before they let her go.

        3. Khlovia*

          I’ll see your spreadsheet incompetent co-irker and raise you a co-irker I had briefly whose résumé had all sorts of computer experience (I was told; never saw it myself); only–I had to teach her, repeatedly, how to click a mouse. No, it wasn’t because she had only worked with touchpads before; those hadn’t come in yet. Her attitude towards me, for the entire time our employments overlapped, was hostile, resentful, outraged. She hated having to work, period, and decided it was my fault. She was hired to help me with my workload after another co-worker quit. I had to spend so much time coaching her on the most basic of basics that I had to stay late, unpaid, to correct her mistakes and get my own work done. In the end, I was the one who had to quit because I couldn’t deal with the stress.

    2. Sara without an H*

      This. While I agree with Alison’s script in general, it sounds like it’s time to let the manager know. “I’ve been getting a lot of texts from Igorella about training issues. Unfortunately, my workload won’t let me respond in depth, so I’m referring her back to the Basic Training Docs Library. Is there anything else you’d like me to do?”

      And please — do not assume that the manager already knows and doesn’t care. Depending on the size of the office, there could be a lot the manager wouldn’t know unless somebody tipped them off.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. As a manager I’d absolutely want to know one of my people was still needing (a lot of) help with the basics and texting people all the time about it. Having someone who needs that much help after six months is a total time suck and either needs to be retrained or managed out–out of the company or into a different position that’s a better fit. And OP should definitely be looping in her manager about this.

    4. iglwif*


      It can be hard for a manager to detect this kind of issue, because you can bet that person is not bringing it up in her own one-on-ones! And if all those texts are going to OP2, the manager isn’t going to hear about them from any of their other reports.

      And as Alison notes, you don’t want to start off on the defensive with your manager because “What are all those little boxes?” got in there first with a complaint that you’re not a team player. “OP2 refuses to answer questions” can mean very different things depending on whether or not you know what the questions are…

      1. TootsNYC*

        as a manager, I often CAN’T see the things my folks are doing. I NEED this sort of feedback from other people.

      2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        I think that the coworker knows darn well that she is incompetent, that’s why she’s using text messages to ask a colleague questions instead of asking her manager or emailing thru the work email system. She probably doesn’t want to get caught out.

  16. The Other Katie*

    OP#1, your husband is off-base here. From my experience in IT-related start-ups, someone wearing a suit would be viewed either as a signal that they’re job-hunting and have an interview that day or, if the behaviour persists, that they have become The Man and can no longer be trusted. Keep wearing the jeans.

    OP#2: Personally, I’d be going to this person’s manager, who would be interested to know that an employee who apparently has some data-related responsibilities doesn’t know what Excel is.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Ha! So true about wearing a suit signaling interviewing! Of course, if you wear one everyday, people won’t have this assumption.

      People need to look at how their office dresses. If most people are in jeans and at most business casual and you are in business formal everyday, I would say that you are out of touch and not fitting into the culture – not a positive at all.

    2. anon right now*

      Re: OP#2, yeahhhh. If that employee is literally, seriously asking “What is Excel?” and it’s not just venting hyperbole on the part of OP, then the manager needs to know; if the coworker is wasting OP’s time by bugging them with questions like “What is Excel?” just to be obnoxious, the manager needs to know. And as others have suggested, the manager needs to know before the coworker starts some campaign of “I’m being ignored and no one is helping me!”

  17. LGC*

    I can hear loud cracker munching coming from LW2’s coworker.

    So, I’m not sure if LW2 has moved to replying with a polite RTFM, but…that’s one thing to consider! It sounds like for a while, their co-worker (or as Free Meerkats wrote, “cow-orker,” which I’m going to work into future comments) was getting instant and detailed responses to her inane questions. It’s actually something I’m working on – I’m trying to teach my team to use the materials I hand out and to not just default to asking me about basic questions.

    (And of course, don’t literally respond with “RTFM.” I mean – gently remind co-worker/cow-orker that she’s already been through this before.)

    The other more major thing is…whoo, that’s a lot of disdain for her. (I mean, it’s justified disdain. But I can tell LW2 really dislikes their coworker.) In that case, if possible…try to step back and see where the BEC part of it ends and the concrete part of it begins – that is, how annoying are her requests in general versus how annoyed are you by her continued existence? And what can you do to mitigate the non-emotional side of things?

        1. LGC*

          I’ve heard PEBCAK, but not PIBKAC! (Same thing, basically – “problem exists between chair and keyboard” vs. (I’m guessing) “problem in between keyboard and chair.”)

          (For the record, I’m not an IT guy, I just read a lot of tech sites with salty IT guys in the comments.)

    1. Czhorat*


      The LW somewhat created this by giving long detailed answers to start with. If advise against muting if text it’s a normal means of communication; you can’t drop out of party of your firm’s UC platform because you don’t like someone on it, and really shouldn’t block out mute.

      Better is to train the co-worker to stop. “Sorry, I can’t get to this now. I think the answer is in the fuscia binder they gave us when we started”. Enough of that and they’ll stop asking you.

      1. LGC*

        To be fair, it’s a really easy trap to slip into. And it’s actually sometimes more difficult to transition to teaching people to self-research – I like walking people through how to solve things the first time, just so I know they’ve done it before. (And that takes more time than just giving them the answer!)

        And that might be the crux of it – it might be easier in the moment for LW2 to just say “click the plus button at the top to open a new tab” every time she asks instead of telling the co-worker to look it up and possibly making sure she has a handle on it. I might be projecting a lot, but this really reads like LW2 is smart and wants to be helpful, and co-worker is suffering from learned helplessness.

        1. Czhorat*

          It is, and it’s something that comes from a good place.

          Giving long, detailed responses is usually from a place of wanting to help and share knowledge. This is a good trait which not only benefits the organization but you as an individual in building a reputation as both a team player and SME.

          There’s a line – which was clearly crossed here – between “helpful coworker” and “uncompensated tech support”. The challenge is in setting boundaries without going too far the other way and making people avoid reaching out for your help; that isn’t good either.

          1. TootsNYC*

            this is what “enabling” is. And it’s seductive because it seems helpful at first, but in the long run, it isn’t.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          It is easy to slip into. I find myself doing it too. I love teaching and sharing knowledge, but there are limits. Whenever I find myself in that trap, I either start up the Socratic method or I become a “did you check the manual?” broken record. There’s usually a burnout flare, where people will push back on you to try and get you to resume your role of “helpful answers person” but then they’ll either figure it out for themselves or bother someone else.

    2. Muted my coworker*

      I’m working on my dislike for my coworker. I don’t want to freeze her out in general, or make her feel uncomfortable. I just don’t want her to feel so comfortable coming to me for every minor issue she runs into. Basically, I need her to respect that I have work to get done just like she does.

      1. Fergus*

        Why do you care if she’s uncomfortable, she has already made you uncomfortable and continues to make you uncomfortable peppering you with questions you answered numerous times. Mute your cow-orker’s ass. LMAO

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        She’s not going to respect your boundaries until *you* respect your boundaries. You don’t have to like her. You have to be polite and act in a professional manner to her, but you don’t have to like her. Frankly anyone who screams at me on the third day of our acquaintance has lost the privilege of me liking them or going out of my way to help them. She WILL feel uncomfortable when you stop holding her hand. This is fine. She ought to feel uncomfortable. Discomfort will spur her to action. You remain as polite as ever, but provide no actual assistance. If coming to you is uncomfortable, she will stop. As it is, she is extremely comfortable has absolutely zero reason to respect your boundaries. It’s not your job to make her comfortable. Remember that.

      3. Parenthetically*

        This is a person who shouted at you and who daily wastes your time asking you how to do basic parts of her job, apparently multiple times. You are not obligated to like her. If anything, you don’t dislike her enough, IMO.

        “That’s in the manual/see my previous email/ask Boss. Can’t help you, too much on my plate.” ctrl+c, ctrl+v every single time she does it.

      4. LGC*

        Hey, LW2! So, I just want to say – since I didn’t say this in my initial comment – that I don’t think there’s anything wrong in the way you’re feeling. (You’re probably handling this better than I would if I were you.) You’re allowed to be annoyed by you coworker’s learned helplessness because it is annoying and inconveniencing you! (And as Dr. Pepper noted, you don’t have to learn how to like her.)

        And I think your impulse to preserve a professional relationship is smart, since…you’re still working with her, and it doesn’t seem like her incompetence and learned helplessness (phrases other commenters have used) is worth icing her out. You’re probably going to have to communicate (repeatedly) that you have your own job to do and that you’re busy, but after a while she’ll most likely get the message. Some people are dense, and they still need to be employed too.

        (The screaming is…whoo, I don’t know how I skimmed over that, but THAT is really bad. But it also seems like it’s something you’ve mostly moved on from, since you aren’t writing in about that. I wouldn’t ice her out over that incident, just because it’d look weird at this point, but that’s something you should NOT forget about.)

        @Fergus – nah, man. It’d feel good in the moment (and LW2 can mute them temporarily during high-pressure situations), but it’s not the best solution.

        @Dr. Pepper – I’m…kind of on the fence. You’re right that LW2 has no reason to make their coworker feel comfortable, and the problem is that she’s currently too comfortable and taking advantage of LW2. (And more broadly, LW2 doesn’t want to get into managing other people’s emotions any more than they already do.)

        On the other hand, I feel like letting her down gracefully – because there’s a real chance that the coworker isn’t necessarily a malicious jerk (even with the screaming incident) provides a chance for an easier exit. (And an alibi if she is a malicious jerk and gets huffy over not having a personal Google at her beck and call.)

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For what it’s worth, I WRITE manuals so RTFM is music to my ears.

      I had a co-worker who saved everything to his desktop so could never find anything– including the links to the SharePoint team room where we post & cross-index the PDFs he kept coming to request from me.
      I actually started going to his desk each time and making him look it up himself. He worked line-of-sight to his manager. ..he stopped repeatedly asking me pretty quickly after that.

  18. JayKay*

    About the plant watering: My co-worker taped a note to the side of her pots that says “Michelle will water me.” I thought that was a nice way to say it without sounding ungrateful or telling other people what to do.

  19. Bookworm*

    #1: Ask. I’ve been in places where it was perfectly acceptable for the firm partners to show up in shorts and Hawaiian shirts and then worked at a place just a few blocks over where jeans were not acceptable and “casual Fridays” meant men didn’t have to wear ties.

    This can vary from region to region and industry to industry and department to department. I’ve been chastised for not wearing a suit jacket on a humid 80+ day but now work at a place where it was previously acceptable to show up in shorts and t-shirts (we’ve moved to a new office and now we’ve moved up to a more standard business casual with no shorts or t-shirts).

    Asking really shouldn’t be an issue and your husband needs to understand you work there, not him!

  20. NYWeasel*

    OP#5: you should work with me because I don’t touch plants—I have an incurable black thumb!

    But seriously though, when my manager was out on leave, at least three people proudly announced to me that they’d taken it upon themselves to water her plant. I had to introduce them to each other so that they wouldn’t kill her plant through too much kindness!

  21. Rebecca*

    #2 – I agree with Alison’s advice, except I’d loop my manager in right now, before I started telling my coworker I couldn’t answer text questions any longer. If she is literally asking “what is Excel” and how to open a browser tab, let alone how to look up customer information, IMO this is way beyond she doesn’t want to learn. I think your manager needs to know this is going on, yesterday.

    I say this because I was tasked with training someone like this. She was given all the tools needed, one on one training for weeks and months on end, step by step guides, and me and my coworkers stopped answering her questions because she asked the same things over and over again. Well, guess what. She turned it around on us, saying we didn’t train her, we didn’t tell her X, Y, and Z, and she felt disrespected and unwelcome in the office, etc. Basically, we were turned into the bad guys. Since she told us “yes, I understand”, and “you do such a good job explaining these things” and “I get it – thanks!” we had no idea this was coming. She told our manager a completely different story, and since we never thought to bring it up, it looked bad for us. From then on, we documented both our training and her responses. It became apparent she was never going to get it. Finally, she quit. It took months, and only after nearly everyone in the office went to our manager to tell him how this was really going, and he started really looking at the situation.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Another good illustration about why you shouldn’t wait too long to brief the manager. I think that, if you’ve been specifically tasked with training a new employee, there needs to be regular benchmarking for that employee’s progress, and the manager needs to be informed of how they’re doing.

      And I strongly recommend organizing training around a schedule: 1) this is what the employee needs to be able to do in two weeks; 2) one month; 3) three months; 4) able to work independently. Yes, it’s more work, but investing the time to define what a competent employee should be able to do by a specific point will head off a lot of training issues.

      I learned this the hard way after 30 years in academic libraries. Trust me.

      1. Rebecca*

        Yes, exactly! And we thought we were doing this. Our manager gave us a checklist to follow. We were following said checklist. Employee said she understood the checklist. Except she didn’t or didn’t want to or something, so when manager asked her why she did X, Y, or Z incorrectly, she turned it around and stated we didn’t tell her what to do, or we didn’t explain, or whatever…and we had, but she told us a completely different story. What a wake up call. I actually set up meetings with my manager, trainee, and myself and we went over things step by step, right down the line, so she couldn’t say I didn’t cover something critical. It was ridiculous. It was a frustrating lesson to learn, but moving forward, any touch bases will be with all parties involved.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      There was a version of this at one of my old jobs too. I was there as a temp, a new temp was hired, one of the permanent staff was *trying* to train this woman (with me also doing some of the training), but never quite succeeded. This was a fairly basic clerical job, the rest of us were trained up in a week or two. 6 weeks in, this woman still needed her hand held the whole time and was missing huge things. I remember she was supposed to locate a person’s name on a scanned document. She kept say she couldn’t spot it. The name was written across the centre of the document, so large I could read it from my own desk. Apart from the work issues, this woman was… strange, and I’m guessing had some sort of developmental and/or mental health issue. Manager was too nice a guy, didn’t want to have to let someone go, and kept wanting to give her more time to catch on. He finally gave up about 6 weeks in, when she still wasn’t even grasping the basics and Colleague was basically threatening to riot. My guess is, apart from her other apparent issues, this woman felt obliged to accept the job for whatever reason and didn’t really want to be working there. (Also, all subsequent temps were interviewed – before, they were just being placed by agencies after reviewing their resumes).

  22. Susie Q*

    #4: I understand that missing a doctor’s appointment costs the doctor money. But I’m tired of doctor offices having insane policies like you must cancel or reschedule in 72 hours (and weekends don’t count). Sometimes shit happen. I recently left a practice because I canceled an appointment 24 hours before the appointment because my mom was rushed into emergency surgery and my dad was out of the country. And the practice still charged me a $75 fee.

    I should get a discount when I’m forced to wait 30+ minutes after the time my appointment was supposed to start.

    1. Narise*

      My Step mother was at an appointment at the end of the day. She sat there in a gown waiting. Finally she pulled the door open and couldn’t see anyone. She got dressed and walked around and everyone had left and forgotten she was waiting!! Cleaning staff let her out. Next visit she told the doctor she wasn’t waiting longer than 10 minutes ever again. That and the threat to report him gave her the best and quickest appointments on record for over a year.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Mine wasn’t as bad, but yes, I was forgotten about at an appt once. Sat in the exam room for about an hour (I think I fell asleep for some of that time as I was sick). Finally stuck my head out the door and caught a passing receptionist. She was shocked I was still there, she came back 5 minutes later dragging a doctor with her who looked really confused and in an exasperated voice explained my doctor had left and didn’t bother to tell anyone. So she rounded up another one to see me.

        After she left and I was having my prescription written out, I asked the replacement doc “So ahhh… how much trouble is the other guy in?” He chuckled and said “Umm… let’s just say he’s going to be very diligent from here on out reporting his comings and goings… you noticed I didn’t argue with her as she walked me in to see you”

        1. Ashlee*

          I realize doctors are human and can make mistakes but it just boggles my mind that they can forget they have a patient and leave!

          1. TootsNYC*

            I got left in the X-ray room in the middle of the night when I took my “I think it’s broken” foot to the E.R.

        2. Slartibartfast*

          Now THAT is front office staff done right!

          I have been forgotten twice, once was a quick 11:50 wart treatment. Receptionist had checked the sign in sheet a few minutes before my arrival, saw nobody listed and sent the doctor to lunch. Second time, orthopedic doctor had gotten called to an emergency at the hospital. I had a baby at home, so being alone in a quiet place I fell asleep. They found me about 90 minutes later, cleaning the room. First doctor blew me off, second doctor (orthopedic) was quite apologetic and made it right.

        3. Incognito for this*

          My “doctor” filled out my Short Term Disability form for the wrong surgery, then said he didn’t even know I was having a knee replaced! This genius is also a professor at our largest University. After filling out a Disabled placard form, discussing my Personal Directive at length and which prescriptions I should stop before the surgery, two days earlier. And charging me $50 for the privilege. When I complained to the receptionist, she said I should pay them another $50 to get a different doctor to fill in the forms properly. 0-0

    2. Rebecca*

      Totally agree. I’m a non exempt worker, and unless I use 4 hours PTO time, I lose money for every minute I sit in a doctor’s office waiting for my appointment. If I can’t get the very first appointment slot of the day, and even then I’m not guaranteed a long wait, I call before I leave work and ask how far behind they’re running. I’ve gotten pushback from the staff, but I’m blunt – if you’re running an hour behind, I’ll be there at 2:45 for my 2 PM appointment. I don’t get paid to sit in your waiting room.

      1. TechWorker*

        I’ve previously had ‘the first’ appointment of the day and they’ve still been over an hour late, which is quite an achievement :D

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          My ob/gyn was like that on some days. He was an awesome guy though.

          You all are making me love my doctor’s office. I rarely wait more than 5 minutes. If you’re there and they have an open cubicle, you’re in it and the doctor is usually in there within 15 minutes. Their policy is to see you as soon as possible after you check in, no matter if you’re early or late. So go to the bathroom BEFORE you check in! They love it when I schedule my kids with back to back well kid appointments because they’re do both of them in 1 room simultaneously and usually gain a few minutes back into the schedule by the double up. My kids are about to hit the age where this won’t work anymore though.

    3. PhyllisB*

      Susie, it may be too late to do anything now, but on one visit to my grand-son’s pediatrician, the office manager tried to bill me for a cancelled appointment. The ironic thing is, THEY were the ones who called and cancelled it!! I protested, and told them I was asked to re-schedule (weather was bad that day tornado warnings.) She looked at me really suspiciously and asked me who was the person who called. Luckily I remembered her name and told her. I also reminded her the reason it was cancelled. She looked it up and grudgingly said she would forgive it “this time.” When we got back to see the doctor I told him about it, and he was very apologetic and he assured me that he had to approve all cancellation charges and in over twenty years of practice he had only approved two. Bottom line: Talk to your doctor and explain the circumstances. You might get a refund.

      1. HBee*

        That is ridiculous. Our office doesn’t charge for that, thank goodness. I’m glad you didn’t let that slide!

      2. Mimmy*

        So the office manager charges late fees even without the doctor’s approval?! Not cool! Good for you in getting that cleared up. Very important to make note of staffs’ names!

        1. Parenthetically*

          I’m getting to a place where I don’t either. My husband had to get an immigration physical from one of just a handful of doctors around the city, and we, no joke, ended up having to BRING OUR IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY to the office to get them to redo the paperwork they’d effed up, delaying our immigration process. The front desk person was aggressively, horribly, gleefully rude to everyone in the waiting room, and then when our attorney showed up, suddenly she’s just as sweet as pie, calling us “hon” and asking if there’s anything else she can do to speed things along… unbelievable.

      3. Hey Nonny Anon*

        When my father-in-law died, I had to reschedule an appointment with my daughter’s psychiatrist because it was during a time when we needed to be at the funeral home. The receptionist tried to tell me that I’d be charged the $110 fee for cancelling less than 48 hours in advance (he passed away on Sunday morning, I called Monday mid-day to cancel the Tuesday afternoon appointment, since I didn’t know the funeral home/service schedule until then). I burst into tears on the phone, but composed myself later enough to send an email to the billing office, copying the doctor, noting the reason for the late cancellation and reminding them of the need for compassion for their patient, who was dealing with the loss of a grandparent for the first time.

        I didn’t get charged the last cancellation fee.

    4. HBee*

      I totally understand that. Luckily, our office doesn’t charge for missed or cancelled appointments unless a person has missed like 4 in a row. The policy is that if a patient misses his/her first appointment, we either schedule it for 6 months out or have the patient call on a day he/she can come in to see if there are any cancellations or appointments available. The thing is the manager is totally not understanding of the unique situations. Twice I’ve gotten people who missed an appointment in the next day because there were openings and the patients were very apologetic. I could tell they weren’t being lazy about coming in and they both came in the next day on time. I know you have to set a standard, but a little grace goes a long way.

    5. Jaybeetee*

      I got a new GP over the summer, and while the dude isn’t perfect, one thing he’s done that I really appreciate is he told me I could come in during his Monday night clinic hours instead of setting an appointment, as that’s far easier on my work schedule. The office is near my home but not my work, and going out there for a mid-day appointment was a royal pain, especially if he was running behind. Of course the clinic hours can be a gamble, but so far I’ve never waited more than about 20 minutes, and I don’t mind the wait so much when I’m not missing work for it!

    6. Cardamom*

      I can see cancellation fees for repeat offenders. But to not give a one-time pass is absurd. Half the time a missed appointment would simply mean that the doctor simply gets to be back on schedule instead of running late all day.

      And I’ve also run into troubles with trying to cancel, and they fail to actually cancel the appointment even though you called ahead. Offices need to get their acts together before playing judge/jury with these late fines.

  23. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I have the same problem with my husband. He does shift work and is hourly non-exempt (security), and must be on-time to work, otherwise people don’t get to go home. I’m salaried exempt and I’m in an office in a job that’s non-customer-facing. He can’t wrap his head around the fact that I can show up to work somewhere between 7 am and 9 am, then delay my lunch hour until 4 pm and then hit the company gym, and my boss doesn’t care. I can also just tell my boss, “Hey, I’m taking a few days off” and it’s fine, while he has to schedule weeks ahead of time and provide a reason when taking personal time. Anytime we start discussing how things work at my job vs. his, he implies that I’m going to get fired, or it might hold me back somehow. It drives me batty, but I try to keep in mind that it’s just a difference in office norms from one company and industry to another (no matter how many times I have to explain it to him). It’s not that either of us is wrong or slacking off, it’s just the nature of our jobs. He does shift work and always has, and I don’t.

  24. Rusty Shackelford*

    Who are these people who text their coworkers with questions? You mean, on your cell phone? Who does that? Why do your coworkers even have your phone number? Is it a BYOP office?

    1. Plain Jane*

      Maybe they are each other’s backups. I always ask coworkers I backup to text me if they are sick because I can’t always rely on my boss to let me know.

    2. Works in IT*

      My coworkers are both salaried and expected to be available 24/7 unless they’re on vacation. So if something happens and they’re the subject manager expert on whatever it is, they’re going to be texted if they’re out walking their dog. This would be reduced if HR would be so kind as to approve someone else in our department to have access to their systems, but no, they only trust the person who used to be in their department to have access. So she gets called back whenever she needs to do something.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I am salaried and my cell phone number, along with my desk number, are literally in the signature line of my email as well as being on my business cards.

        However, I also have the cell phone of all my executives and their directors, so…turnabout is fair play? :)

    3. Mimmy*

      I work in a state-run voc rehab training facility, which has three floors. My supervisor is often running around to different areas of the building, and she specifically said I could text her if I had a question (I usually keep it to quick, time-sensitive questions; otherwise, I just wait till I get time to see her in person). I have also texted my co-instructor if she’s in a different part of the building.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        My supervisor and I have each other’s cell numbers, and will text if needed. But I don’t share numbers with coworkers unless we become friends, or we’re traveling and need to coordinate things. I can’t imagine texting a coworker who’s sitting in the same office. But then, I’m OLD.

    4. Czhorat*

      Instant messaging is increasingly part of a UC plan; most companies use S4B, Teams, Slack, Jabber, or similar. Cell-phone texting is a sub-optimal but workable solution — especially with many cell providers (and Android messaging) having web portals to allow access to SMS via desktop.

    5. TooTiredToThink*

      I was wondering the same thing. If they are at computers; why aren’t they using an IM service? It would be so much faster to type on a computer keyboard than it is to type on the phone. All though there have been some good reasons mentioned in the comments. It still seems odd to me, but because I’m picturing a standard office environment.

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      We text in my office, but most coworkers are not located in the same state much less building. Most times it’s used for urgent/critical messages when you aren’t sure where the person is or if they are even with their laptop.

      In general the order of usage is … Email > IM (or) IM > Email > Phone Call > Text

      It would very much be out of the norm to use text like the OP is describing. It’s not used here for minor work things.

  25. WillowSunstar*

    Poster #2, I had that co-worker for 3 years and ultimately, he was a large part of why I left that job. Even after 2 and a half years, he was still IMing me questions that were already documented and what he should know. Example: Our shared e-mail account was He asked me literally what namexyz was, I kid you not, and he was not joking.

    You can try telling co-worker sorry, you are busy and cannot respond until you are done with your task. You can try asking co-worker to meet with you for half an hour a day and answer all questions at that time. It won’t work. Going to the boss probably won’t work, because my boss protected my incompetent co-worker, no matter how many screen-shots I took. If another few months go by and it looks like nothing is going to change, you should probably start your job search. It’s that or put up with the headaches and fear of taking vacation time that having an incompetent co-worker causes.

  26. epi*

    OP3, in some fields this is ok and expected more than others. For example in my field most people do a practicum on their way to their masters so many community professionals pay it forward this way or otherwise choose to keep in contact with programs and students. As long as you are observing good etiquette and scheduling and keeping your meetings, you individually are probably fine.

    Your program could consider doing other things to reduce the burden on professionals in the community, besides just requiring less of this. First, your program should be aware of how many professors are requiring this and about how many interview requests are going out. This affects the perception of the school and its students, so someone should know how it looks overall. The school should also be doing its part to manage relationships with professionals, make this worthwhile to do every year, and orient students to not mess it up, just as it would with internship sites. Finally, if you are in a field where many professionals like and expect to do this, they are probably also giving other talks at your school. Instructors could make sure those are well attended and appreciated, by letting some students attend a relevant career talk instead and commit to asking a couple of questions.

    I think handing it this way will be more persuasive to your program than suggesting ending a valuable assignment. It is in their best interests to help you do these interviews right.

    1. Smarty Boots*

      Yes, a panel is a great way to do this, and the professionals on the panel will likely enjoy talking to each other, too.

    2. Yorick*

      When I was in college we had to do this for one class (the assignment was less about professionals in the field and more about communication skills). The professor had several people who agreed to do it and she then assigned them to us. I don’t remember if she assigned them randomly or what.

  27. Lily in NYC*

    Regarding asking for informational interviews, I noticed that Alison mentioned that these are all professionals who are capable of saying no. That’s not always the case! For example, our C-level executives get a ridiculous amount of requests for their time and they will often say no, but then expect an executive vice president or senior vice president to do the interview instead. My boss is an SVP and can’t say no to this type of request because it really comes from our boss, not the requestee. So please keep that in mind…

  28. High Score!*

    OP2, if it were me, I’d just start forwarding her texts to her manager. I’d probably preface it with “I’ve answered this question for Lucinda 6 times already, perhaps some more training would be in order?”

      1. WillowSunstar*

        That doesn’t always work, though. If incompetent co-worker is being protected by management, that may actually backfire and make it look like you just don’t like him/her.

  29. Ellen*

    OP #3, I’d add that one of the most important things you can do in these requests is ASK, rather than assuming the person will answer your questions. I get these requests occasionally, and sometimes they’re just emails with a long list of questions and a deadline.

    I’ve also had people ask for confidential company information in these emails. Yikes.

    1. Smarty Boots*

      Yes, a polite request is not an imposition at all.

      And please allow plenty of lead time. When I get a request like this with “my write up is due on Friday, can we meet right away?” I want to say, Lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part. I don’t say it, but I sure want to!

    2. TootsNYC*

      You might also indicate the type of questions, so that they know you’re going to have something interesting and advanced to ask.

    3. Alison gives the best advice.*

      Agree. The long list of questions with a deadline is inappropriate and when this has happened to me, invariably the questions are so broad that it would take hours and hours to answer them.

  30. MLB*

    LW2 – you need to nip this in the bud immediately. There is no excuse for someone asking the same questions over and over when there is documentation to reference. At my last job, I created and maintained our KBAs (knowledge base articles). When someone on the hep desk would ask me a question, my first response was “What does the KBA say?” It let them know that BEFORE they come to me, they need to actually read the KBA and follow the steps. Eventually they all got the message and only came to me for clarification or something that wasn’t covered.

    It doesn’t matter how she’s contacting you (text, IM, email, etc.), so ignoring/muting her texts won’t solve the problem. The bottom line is that you’re enabling her by continually answering the same things over and over. When she asks, make suggestions (check the documentation, use google, etc.) about how she can find the answer herself. And say something along the lines of “I would suggest writing it down so you can find the answer next time”. Rinse and repeat. Then I would loop in your manager in case she starts whining that you won’t be a team player and help her. I’m all about helping people help themselves. I am not your personal help desk.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Again, this may not work. It depends on if the co-worker is being protected or not. In my case, the co-worker was protected and anything I said to the manager fell on deaf ears. Any feedback I gave to co-worker was automatically argued and disagreed with, even if I tried the sandwich approach. It didn’t matter. He didn’t want to learn how to do his job well. He just wanted the paycheck that came with it.

  31. pleaset*

    With apologies if this has already been said, but there is a huge range in jeans. The key thing for a typical business casual environment is fit and style – they have to fit well and should (in general) but dark wash in good condition. Very faded, light colors, roughness, etc are not good.

  32. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    OP 2: I haven’t seen this addressed yet (apologies if I missed something), but does your and/or her boss know about her *yelling at you* for *not helping her with her side-hustle*? Because they should. Yelling at coworkers is bad. Asking coworkers to assist with your side-hustle on company time is bad. Combining the two is horrible.

    They also need to know she is not picking up on basic work skills and is wasting your time with repeated requests.

  33. Non-profiteer*

    OP #3: I had to interview 3 industry professionals for a big paper in grad school (thankfully this was basically the only time I had to do it). That paper and experience was resoundingly successful, and here are my tips for making it so:
    1 – ask people through a connection or contact if possible. I had my internship supervisor do the email introductions
    2 – pick an interesting topic for the paper or project if possible – something the person will be intrigued by and interested in participating in
    3 – if it’s allowed, give them the option of an email interview. I actually got great quotes from a back-and-forth over email. Of course some people would rather give you 30 mins on the phone than sit and type out answers, but others would rather write
    4 – ask them as much as you can about their accomplishments, what they are proud of, etc. The most fun thing about these interviews is the chance to brag while also helping out a student.
    5 – thank you notes, of course. But also if at all possible, send them the final product. Each of my interviewees said they really enjoyed reading my paper and thinking about the topic from an academic angle – even though it was 30 pages.

    I went on to work with 2 out of 3 of my interviewees and I definitely started off on the right foot with them given this experience. In fact, with one of them I used the “I’m just an eager kid, really interested in your work!” stereotype to my advantage long past when that was actually true. (because she was difficult to work with and obsessed with protecting her turf. That’s a whole ‘nother post in itself…)

  34. Shark Whisperer*

    OP 3: I get tons of interview requests from students. Most of the time, I am happy to do them! In your initial email, these things are things I would be soooo grateful for
    1. Let me know how you found me. There many times I wonder if the student wants to interview specifically because of my job title/ work of mine, or just picked a random name on the website. (It’s fine if its just a random name on the website, but then I know it’s not specifically about my niche)
    2. Don’t email lots of people in the same department. I don’t know about other places, but we tend to route student requests to whoever has the time, is the most interested, so a) we always know when someone has sent the exact same email to three people, b) you would have gotten the same person anyway if you had sent one versus three
    3. If you know, let me know how long an interview might take and what your deadline is so I know right away if it’ll fit into my schedule.

  35. Michaela Westen*

    OP#1, assuming you’re a woman, I think it’s important to err on the side of dressing up. I was once fired because a creepy file clerk wouldn’t leave me alone, even though I had done excellent work and always had outstanding evaluations. It was blatant chauvinism. I thought no one cared what I wore so I had fun with vintage shoes and accessories, sparkly jewelry, ultra-feminine clothes. I’ve wondered ever since if I would have been treated better if I dressed more businesslike.
    7 years later I got the best job I’ve ever had and decided to wear button-down blouses with business casual skirts, and I’ve been treated much better than ever before. All to say IME what you wear does matter. Even if the people around you don’t realize they’re drawing conclusions, they probably are, and unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid chauvinists. I don’t wear bright colors, sparkly jewelry or accessories to work. It’s already hard enough to keep my boss focused.
    If everyone in your office wears jeans it’s probably ok for you if they are nice-looking and -fitting, clean, and not tattered or very faded. I would not be the only person or the only woman wearing jeans. I would look at what my peers wear and take it up one notch, subtly, in colors that aren’t bright or flashy.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      …orrrrrr the OP could get a rep for being a stuck-up snob who thinks she’s better than her colleagues and can’t read a room, WHILE concurrently reinforcing the sexism inherent in the system…

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I don’t think the suggestion was to wear matronly clothing, it was to be conscious of what others are wearing. And that if others are wearing jeans then it’s ok to wear them as well.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          No, the suggestion was to fancy it up a notch from what her coworkers are wearing. And yeah, that’ll get her noticed, but possibly not in the way Michaela Westen is suggesting.

        2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          The problem in this case being, given the tone of the office described in the letter, she’s very likely to be fancier than her boss were she to do that, while *still* reinforcing the sexism. I’m particularly irked about that last bit, and sore with hearing suggestions that basically amount to “yes, the system is sexist…let’s play that game!”

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I agree with the advice given.

            If the advice is to dress a notch above her coworkers that is sound advice. That may mean anything from instead of wearing casual shoes, wearing dress shoes. Or instead of a cotton shirt she wears a blouse with her jeans or wearing a casual jacket over a t-shirt. What it doesn’t mean is if your CEO and executive team wears jeans and t-shirts you are showing up in a full suit with pantyhose.

            I can understand your frustration with the example given, but I think that you are taking that frustration out on very normal and solid advice.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, this is what I mean. Thanks!
              Sexism is a reality we have to deal with to survive. It sucks, but that’s the world we live in. If we can afford to lose our jobs over it we can refuse to deal with it. Most of us can’t afford to lose our jobs, so we have to deal.

              1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                And I could 100% see your point IF she were in a conservative office where such things were expected. But the fact that she’s not and you’re essentially telling her to play the game anyway, the game her own boss specifically told her not to play? Naw…

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  My point is, my colleagues at my old job apparently drew subconscious conclusions about the way I dressed, and hers will too. I didn’t want to believe it or act on it either, but it’s true. I had read/heard about “dressing for success” and dressing conservatively and I didn’t want to play that game either.
                  I wanted my employer(s) to see and value me as a person, but many simply draw conclusions from appearance and don’t go any farther.
                  Clothes and presentability do matter both at work and in personal life. It has an affect on both the person who’s wearing it, and the people around. When I started making an effort with clothes and style it made a substantial difference.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        It’s also not a woman’s job to fix it at the cost of her career either. Sometimes the best way to fight it is to get yourself in a position to affect changes.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        This did not help when I was fired in spite of my excellent work and outstanding evaluations. Do we want to make a living, or confrontational statements while we starve, is what it comes down to.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          It sounds like your bad situation was the result of a bad situation, though, not the result of what you were wearing. It bums me out to think you really believe this was about what you were doing wrong (sounds like nothing) and not what others around you were doing wrong (actual bad things!!!).

          1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

            This. Do it; get fired. Don’t do it; get fired. If that’s the choice, I say stop playing the game and call them out on their bull while you wear whatever is both at the correct professional level and comfortable.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, it was a bad situation. I’ll never know for sure whether if I had dressed more businesslike I would have been treated better.
            All I know is my original manager was a woman who had worked her way up from an entry-level job, so I didn’t think the company was chauvinist. She retired and was replaced by a middle-aged white man who didn’t understand the technical work I was doing. He also didn’t see any need to make an effort to understand. He drew conclusions about me from what he saw. The man I had worked next to and supported didn’t help, all these men decided I was in the wrong. :( I recently looked at the company on GlassDoor and it’s still very chauvinist and prejudiced. One day it will catch up with them.
            When I got my current job, a much better opportunity than I had ever had, I made an effort to have a more businesslike style and I’ve been treated much better. At first I still went too far with colors and sparkle, but I toned it down when I realized how distracting it is. For me as well – I’ve had experiences where I’m so distracted by a colleague’s beautiful jewelry it’s hard to focus on our conversation.
            Of course it helps that this is a much less chauvinist and much more work-focused environment and my boss is patient and makes an effort to understand both the work and his employees. I think my business style helps too, and I’m sure toning down the sparkle helps.

  36. Anon For This One*

    #2 – Would this be different if the person were senior to you and at a much higher pay grade? I ask because I was in that situation once.

  37. Frinkfrink*

    OP#5 — The mystery plant-waterer in my office turned out to be a member of the cleaning staff. (In my case, it was much appreciated, since I was out longer than I expected and hadn’t made arrangements!)

  38. Kathy*

    I have a basement office and I purchased an LED grow light from Amazon for $15 and a lamp timer for $5. Perhaps a set-up like this could allow you to keep your succulents in your own space.

  39. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    LW 2: Off topic and no advice (OK, advice, CYA and loop in your manager, this person is a leech). Is this a work phone? Do others text coworkers who are sitting near them? This seems so weird.

  40. Sue Wilson*

    #2: when she asks you a question say, “where have you looked already”. And then tell her to check the place it would be found, if she hasn’t checked the relevant place. If she mentions something you know covers it, I would say “i think it’s in there check again”. If she says that it’s not in there, “well that’s where I learned to do it. If your still having trouble check with [manager].

  41. Essess*

    If you’re worried about whether you will be taken seriously in what you are wearing, just look around you and see what the people in the next higher position (or two) are wearing. If they are also in jeans, there’s no issue. If they are all wearing slightly more polished outfits, consider updating your wardrobe to that level of attire. It all varies from workplace to workplace so just look to see what the respected members of the workplace are wearing.

  42. Observer*

    OP 1, I haven’t read all of the responses, but I have looked at all of your comments to make sure I’m not missing something.

    Given what you are saying, you’re husband’s insistence that jeans might be holding you back seems rather odd. Have you been passed over for a promotion or pay raise that either of you think you should have gotten? Have there been ANY comments about your appearance or clothing? Based on your comments, it sounds like you dress in a feminine fashion – any possible double standards going on?

  43. Jennifer*

    Regarding #2

    I have two rules about this kind of stuff. I am more than happy to help someone in the workplace and I understand that each workplace is different, so there will always be ‘how’ and ‘why’ and ‘where’ questions when someone starts a job and this could indeed last for months on end.

    First rule is that if the information is available for them to help themselves without my answer, I direct them to where they can locate that information, rather than answering the question directly. Worded something like ‘This is something that is covered in X procedure, on X drive, in X folder. If you have any questions after reading the procedure, let me know!’

    Second rule is I never answer the same question more than once. If I send an email or a text with instructions on how to do something (and I always try and send via email,) I will resend the previous email when asked again twice, and a third time I will politely let them know I’ve already answered this question, please search your emails.

    I am happy to help, but I want to help in ways that allow people to grow independently, rather than dependently. I don’t have time for handholding or babysitting.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t think jeans at work would “hold you back” but that being said you can still wear jeans and look more polished wearing them. Think darker washes or trouser cut denim. Add a crisp shirt or a blazer, or heels, etc.
    Check out the show What Not To Wear as they always styled office casual well.

  45. Yay commenting on AAM!*


    OP says her husband is concerned that her clothes will hold her back. A few commenters indicate, too, that their husbands/dads think that their clothing/work schedule will hold them back, simply because it is different than their own.

    Men: Stop mansplaining women’s jobs to them *when you do not work in their field.*

  46. Alison gives the best advice.*

    #3 I have been at the receiving end of this request many times. I am happy to do it except when the student asks me questions they could find the answer to with a quick Google search or when the questions show lack of prior research or knowledge about the topics about which they are interviewing me. In these situations I truly do regret having said yes no matter how effusive their thanks are afterward.

  47. KittyMeow*

    #2 is your coworker an MLM hun? Asking cause: “concrete reasons (she screamed at me in the workplace when I wouldn’t take company time to do free work for her personal side business).” sounds like she asked you to post some stupid ad on your social media for her her MLM pyramid scheme rip off… uh, I mean small business.

  48. Michelle*

    Regarding the question about the plants, I think the fact that they are in a common area makes it a little more tricky than if they were in the person’s office. If there are plant care restrictions that must be adhered to, I think the person should either move the plants to their office or leave them at home.

Comments are closed.