my clothes are too dressy for my new job, will anyone deal with my awful boss, and more

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

1. My clothes are too dressy for my new job

In the last year, I have started a different job where the general attire around the office is much more business casual than my previous position. I don’t have a lot of money, but I had built up a small professional wardrobe that I feel is too fancy for the culture of my new workplace.

My wardrobe has a combination of pencil skirts, suit pants, blazers, and silk tops. People in my office wear more dark denim and button downs, or black pants with put together tops, but less dressy than what I wear. Other clothing I own is much too casual (i.e., shorts, sweats, and tank tops) or has holes or wear in it. I can’t really afford to replace things at this point, but I am worried about being overdressed. I I feel like I am standing out in a way that makes me not fit in with the workplace culture, but since I can’t afford to replace it, I don’t know what to do.

I am assuming it is better to err on the side of too fancy than too casual, but I mostly just wish I had the ability to finance a wardrobe that was in between. Since I don’t at this time, what is your suggestion? Should I say anything about it? Or just keep being overdressed and hope it’s okay until I figure something out?

Well … if you were showing up every day in a three-piece suit while everyone else was in jeans and button-downs, that would be one thing. But a pencil skirt and a silk top isn’t as much of a disparity with what it sounds like others are wearing. It’s definitely a notch or two more formal, yes, but not weirdly so.

That said, can you buy a couple of inexpensive items to dress down the rest of your wardrobe? A couple of cotton tops and one or two pairs of non-suit pants could make it a lot easier to bring your outfits down in formality, and could be paired with the stuff you already have. Sometimes “can’t afford to replace it” means “I can’t afford to buy really nice stuff” but doesn’t preclude a trip to Old Navy or getting a few $7 shirts from thredUP, and if that’s the case I think that’s your best bet. But other times, it means “I literally cannot afford that $7 shirt,” in which case these suggestions won’t work for you and I’d just dress down your current stuff to whatever extent you can and don’t worry too much about it. It’s very likely that you just look like someone who likes dressing a bit more nicely.

And if anyone ever comments on you always being dressed up, it’s fine to say, “Yeah, my old job was much dressier so I’m used to it, but I’m looking forward to buying some new stuff at some point.”

2. Is my organization likely to deal with my awful director?

My supervisor has been reported to HR three different sets of times by several people on our team, including myself. Each time HR has been very helpful and his boss, our executive director, has spoken to him about his behavior. He has not improved. His behavior gets better for a time but he always backslides. There have been changes in his behavior, but it’s still pretty bad. He no longer yells at us or uses a mean tone, but he also no longer does any work at all and gives us the silent treatment. He shows off our work to other managers and makes it sound as if he’s helping even though he’s actually making everything worse and harder to do.

My question is — is my faith in the system misplaced? I’ve spoken up and reported him even though he’s proven to be vindictive in the hopes that things would improve. But it’s been nine months since the first instance and I’m wondering if documenting someone in preparation to fire them takes this much time or if it’s a sign that management is valuing keeping him and working with him over the people in the department.

Background/other info — I work for an organization with about 50 employees. We have an executive director, six directors who supervise the various departments. One department is big and has three managers under their director, and the rest of us are staff. My supervisor is a director with six staff that report directly to him.

It’s good that they talked to him about his behavior and apparently were stern enough about it that he got better for a time and has stopped yelling and changed his tone. It’s not good that he no longer does any work at all and is giving you the silent treatment. Does HR and your ED know about those things? Have you gone back and said, “Here’s what’s happening now”? If you haven’t, you should. They’ve shown you that they’ll take feedback seriously, and you may just need to provide more of it.

But if they do know what’s going on now and they’ve known for a while, then that’s not promising. It’s possible that they are indeed working on a longer-term plan, but there’s no reason it should take this long. It’s also possible that they’ve done as much as they’re willing to do to address it, and that they’re satisfied with “no longer yells.” It’s hard to say without knowing more. But if your sense is that you’re highly valued and have some standing there, one option is to say something like, “Things are still quite bad on our team. Can you give me a sense of whether it’s being addressed behind the scenes, or whether things are likely remain more or less where they are now?” They won’t necessarily give you a direct answer to that, but you’re likely to get some sense of whether this is still something they’re actively concerned about and willing to intervene on.

3. Executive wants me to repay him now for expenses that haven’t come through yet

About a month ago, two colleagues and I planned a team building event that involved a pub crawl (very much in line with my company’s “work hard, play hard” culture). My manager, a C-level executive, gave us all cash to pay for drinks. In total, I paid about $150 for cocktails for eight staff members.

After the event was over, my manager asked that we expense those drinks to him and then reimburse him the cash he had given us. The logic, which does makes sense to me, is that he would otherwise need to submit receipts to his boss (the CEO) for scrutinizing. Our CEO agreed to the budget for the team building event, but he’s been known to change his mind on reimbursements last minute if he thinks the spending is too lavish, so my boss wants to avoid the risk that nothing would get expensed in the end.

The problem I’m facing is this: our accounting team is notorious for taking weeks to process expenses, and because of my 60-hour-a-week schedule I just managed to submit my expenses last week (four weeks after the event). My manager, however, wants his $150 now. Rather than wait for me to receive the expenses back in my account before transferring them to him, he has asked me to reimburse him now and absorb the deficit on my end until such a time as the accounting department processes my expenses. This is what the other two people who organized the event with me have apparently already done with their expenses.

Here’s the thing: Aside from the fact that the money was never actually mine to begin with (he gave it to me to pay for drinks for the team and then asked me to expense them), I simply don’t have the money to absorb these costs so close to the holidays. I have talked to him before about a raise and he said we could first discuss it next March, so he knows money is tight for me. I also know he takes home six times what I earn (I’m responsible for the payroll). I just feel a little uncomfortable with the request, and I’m wondering what I can say to him to make it clear that it’s not an option for me, a junior employee, to spot a CXO for money he gave the entire team that I offered to reimburse on his behalf. Any ideas on what I could say?

So he fronted the money, then decided he wants it back immediately and so you’ll have to front the money instead, even though you never agreed to do that? At best, that’s an incredibly thoughtless move. Why does his desire to get his money back faster trump your desire not to float your own money to make that happen? This isn’t that different from if he’d gone on a business trip, paid for his hotel, and then come back and told you, “Hey, give me $200 to cover what I paid for my hotel until Accounting comes through with my reimbursement.”

Anyway, say this: “I can’t float the money; my budget is too tight right now. But I’ve submitted for your reimbursement and hopefully it’ll come through soon.”

And if he keeps pushing: “Sorry for the confusion here. I can’t afford to front $150 right now, even though it’ll get reimbursed eventually. I’m not in a financial position to be able to do that.”

Also, your manager is being a bit of an ass here.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. What to say when someone mistakes me for my predecessor

I’d appreciate your advice on a small networking problem. I’m a young woman working in a very male-dominated field (as in I’m the only woman in my job in the nearest five counties). I “inherited” my position from another young woman, Lucinda, who moved out of state. Lucinda shared a few physical characteristics with me like race and hair length but otherwise looked and sounded very different. Every so often, I’ll run into someone from Lucinda’s network who mistakes me for her. I’m not assuming anything … they’ll actually greet me by her name and ask questions about things from her life. This doesn’t happen to my male coworkers.

Lucinda is highly skilled and had/has a great reputation in our region, so it’s definitely not insulting to be compared to her! The problem is I’d like to network with these people, and I don’t know how to correct them without making things awkward. How do I tell them they’ve got the wrong gal?

“Oh, it’s actually Cordelia! Lucinda is the person who used to have my job.”

Since they’re people you want to network with, say it warmly and cheerfully. Some of them will probably be embarrassed, so if you’re matter-of-fact about it, it’ll smooth it over faster.

Also, if you and Lucinda are a different race from most of the people who are doing this, I don’t want to ignore that there’s likely a racial element here, which adds another dimension to it. I don’t think it changes the advice, but it didn’t feel right answering it without acknowledging that.

5. I’m training my replacement and he won’t stop hovering

I am starting a new job next month, and part of what I have been asked to do before I leave is help train my replacement. I like teaching, so I don’t mind training, even though it takes a significant amount of time. Tasks I can do in an hour take three. The problem is that my new coworker is constantly following me and asking questions, and I do not have time for that. I tell him the tasks we are going to work on that day and tell him what time that will be. Then I try to do other tasks so I can get my work done and leave on time (I am exempt and expected to stay until the work is done). He will find me and keep asking questions. I have told him that I do not have time to train him right then and am on a tight schedule and he doesn’t seem to understand. I am more than happy to answer questions while I am training him, but it is extremely disruptive when he expects me to be on call for training all day long.

After I repeatedly tell him that I do not have time to answer his questions, he will simply lurk watching me over my shoulder and sometimes getting too close for my comfort. It is getting to the point where I feel creeped out every time I see him and I am afraid that is going to affect how well I train him because all I want to do is stay as far away as possible. Is this normal? How can I politely tell him to back off? I have tried reiterating the time we are going to meet for training and say that I will come and find him, but he doesn’t leave.

Nope, it’s not normal. The problem here isn’t so much that he’s around too much and asking questions (although that’s not ideal); it’s that you have directly told him that you don’t have time to talk to him then and he’s not leaving. That’s bizarre.

Have you been really, really direct? Sometimes people say “I told him X” and then it turns out they they sort of hinted as X without saying it outright. And there’s a difference between “I don’t have time to talk right now because I’m on a tight schedule” and “I cannot speak with you right now and I need you to leave my office.” Most people will respect the first one, but other people will need to hear the second one before they get it.

So if you haven’t yet been really direct, say this the next time it happens: “I cannot talk with you right now. I need to focus without interruption. We can talk at our next training meeting, which is at 4:00 today. You should assume I’m not free to speak until then.”

If he doesn’t leave when you say that, then you say: “Please go back to your desk now since I need to return to this work.” That might feel weirdly heavy-handed to say to a peer, but you’re training him; you actually have some authority to give him direction. (And frankly, even if you didn’t, it’s okay to tell someone they need to leave when they’re bothering you.)

If that doesn’t work, then he’s being outrageously inappropriate, and you can respond accordingly: “I asked you to leave so I can work and you’re still here. I really need you to leave my office now.” That might feel rude, but it’s not. It’s a reasonable response to incredibly rude behavior by him.

If that doesn’t do the trick, then you’re dealing with someone whose behavior is alarming enough that you’d need to tell your boss what’s going on. (You may even want to do that one step earlier.)

{ 546 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #1. To the extent you are able to put together even one more casual outfit and wear it once a week or so, that helps. It makes you seem like you understand the dress code and just feel like being more dressed up, rather than oblivious or arrogant about it.

    1. Artemesia*

      That one pair of well fitting jeans paired with the silk tops or even the suit tops goes a long way to moving it to business casual. And a knit top rather than nice blouse moves that skirt down quickly. Thrift shops often have items for very little that can mix with what you have as well.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I was going to day thrift stores can be our best friend when trying to put together a wardrobe quickly with little money.

        1. nnn*

          I’m so jealous of people for whom thrift stores still work that way! In my area, they worked that way in the 90s, but somehow in the last 10 years or so, instead of regular second-hand stores, all we have is designer consignment stores, where they sell a tiny, carefully-curated collection of last year’s designer clothes for $1000 instead of the original retail price of $2000.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            The thrift stores in my area cost almost as much as new. (And they’re just thrift stores, not consignment!) So I could pay a dollar or two more for an actual new T-shirt from Target instead of a visibly-used one.

            1. Kelly L.*

              The Goodwills near me are BONKERS about Target. I get that they receive a lot of unsold stock from Target. But the managers, or whoever, seem to be under the impression that the Target merch is the absolute best stuff in the store. I have had employees tell me in hushed tones, while hunting around for a marked-up price, “I think this might be a few dollars more–it’s from Target.” I have found designer and 50s vintage stuff there for the standard price, but Target? Nope, that’ll be extra.

            2. LJay*

              In my experience they tend to mark everything of one type to the same general price range.

              So Walmart t-shirt that was originally $5, still $5.
              Target t-shirt that was originally $8, now $5.
              Designer t-shirt that was originally $50, now $6.

            3. Yay commenting on AAM!*

              Yup, all of the thrift shops I’ve been in charge the same price for used clothes as Target, Old Navy, H&M do for new clothes. Plus the used clothes are seldom “nice” clothes for which that price would be a bargain, they’re mostly low end brands or have significant wear and tear (stains, pilling, fading, shrinking.) The worst were the printed t-shirts: old staff shirts, swag shirts, race shirts, school event shirts, $5 when Michael’s routinely sells brand new ones for $3.

            4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

              Yep, here too. Which I wouldn’t mind if the clothing was higher quality, but I’m not paying $10-15 for a used shirt from Forever 21. I feel like everything has become fast fashion and trying to find something of decent quality second-hand is increasingly difficult.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I was a thrift-store shopper ever since my teens, until my favorite resale store phased out it’s clothes. For several years I had no luck in resale or vintage. I just couldn’t find what I needed there.
            I ended up buying skirts and button-downs from LL Bean. If you catch the sales, they can be fairly inexpensive. Orvis has them also.
            The best thrift stores are ones with a good variety of good quality clothes that have been checked for damage or stains. This year such a store moved closer to my work, and I’m loving the shopping! Especially since retail has such poor quality and variety, I’m reminded thrift store shopping is much more fun! A huge variety of styles and colors all in one store, excellent quality, I missed it so much!

          3. many bells down*

            I’m lucky with that, because I live near some really wealthy neighborhoods and people will drop off the craziest designer stuff at the Value Village. Last year I got a lambswool and cashmere overcoat for $25!!

          4. Clorinda*

            Thredup is an online thrift store and it’s the BEST. I’ve bought all my work clothes there for the last two years.

          5. Flash Bristow*

            Yeah, I remember when I bought stuff at my local charity shop for work interviews. I was a regular medium size so quite easy to buy for. All I could get was a horrid cheap plastic fake turquoise shiny shirt, and a green stiff skirt. Not bad enough to clash, but close.

            I probably looked so bad that they gave me a pass! Luckily I had the skills…

        2. PersonalJeebus*

          My favorite local thrift store has $5 bag day every other Friday, where you can buy as many clothing items as you want for $5, as long as they fit in a shopping bag (like a large tote).

          When I lived in Brooklyn, the Goodwill had certain days where clothes were discounted, or there was a tiny flat price–like all pants are $5, all shirts are $3, etc.

          So check your thrift stores for specials like that.

      2. Op#1*

        Yeah, I know about thrift shops, it’s where I’ve gotten the dressier stuff I do have. Unfortunately I can’t purchase anything at the moment.

        1. Sandy*

          Clothing swaps!

          Get a bunch of similarly-sized friends together. Everybody brings a bag of clothes they don’t want/don’t fit anymore, everybody leaves with some new stuff. Anything leftover gets dropped off at the charity shop.

          I’ve done a number of them with friends and it can be so much fun! No money changes hands.

          1. KC without the sunshine band*

            This x1000! I used to hold a clothes swap for 5 or so friends. We always ended up with a practically new wardrobe by the end of it. Look it up on line for how to organization. Super easy and free! It would make a great holiday party!

          2. Dragoning*

            Do people really have this many IRL friends anymore? I have only a handful, most of them are the wrong gender-presentation, and I’m not the same size ans any of them.

            1. Alli525*

              I think that maybe matters less than you think! Clothing swaps are a great way to get rid of things that don’t fit anymore, so even though you’re not the same size NOW, old stuff might fit.

              Might I suggest joining a Facebook group of similar-minded people of your same gender? I am part of a women’s group in my city, and we do clothing swaps, book clubs, monthly meet-ups for drinks, even singles mixers occasionally. So much of my clothing has come from those ladies, and they’re an amazing emotional support system too.

              1. DreamingInPurple*

                These are both great ideas if they work, but if I’m a drastically different size than the other folks in your group I wouldn’t count on them having a stash of clothes in my size, and if their preferred gender presentation is different from mine then we aren’t that likely to have much in common style-wise.

            2. Ceiswyn*

              My group of RL friends gets together for clothes swaps every quarter or so. And size matters a lot less than you might think; people change sizes, so that f’r’ex when I was losing weight I picked up clothes from people who’d decided to accept that they’d never again get into the smaller end of their wardrobe. Plus fit differs a lot between body shapes, and people can also end up with clothes that are entirely wrong for them via various routes (parental gifts etc).

              Thus I was recently able to pick up half of a very good professional wardrobe (Ted Baker? Karen Millen? DON’T MIND IF I DO) from a friend who’s on maternity leave; that’s a long-term loan, to give me a chance to build up my own professional wardrobe before she needs everything back.

              1. Dragoning*

                No, I’m legitimately tiny–I have size 00P pants that are too large. No one else I know skews even close to that size.

                1. SignalLost*

                  You have the same problem I do. I’m 6’4″ and curvy. I am considering sternly the tallest woman who has ever worked wherever. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for a lot of people.

                2. Let's Get Some Shoes*

                  “size matters a lot less than you might think”

                  If your friend group consists of person A who used to be a 2 and is now a 00, B who was a 10 and is now a 4, and C who was a 20 and is now a 14, there is just no quarter here.

                  I did do a clothing swap recently anyway. Some of A’s larger 2s did fit B and some of B’s larger 10s did fit C, but A still ends up with nothing. If you’re the A in this scenario, it isn’t gonna help you at all. (or alternately, if everyone is at the top of their size range, C is going to end up with nothing)

                3. Tina*

                  I feel your pain. Pants are my main problem since I’ve learned how to alter shirts. I can only wear size 000 from J Crew. And they stopped making 000 (R). I haven’t found any other professional brands that fit me. Vanity sizing is rampant!

                4. Miss Wels*

                  I weigh 170 lbs and wear a D cup yet still fit into size “small” tops. Like thanks for trying to give me an ego boost, designers, but absolutely no one is fooled into thinking I’m actually small.

            3. a heather*

              The women in my office arranged a swap last year; everyone brought what they didn’t want, arranged it by size, and then everyone went through and picked out whatever they wanted to take home with them. The rest was donated.

              Our office isn’t that big, under 100 people total, but we still had a ton of stuff to swap and donate. People even brought in some kid’s clothes for other parents to grab. It was great, and not too much work on any one person.

            4. AKchic*

              I started a clothing closet for women and their families. It comes in handy. People will clean out their closets and bring me what they don’t need and it will go to the next person who does need it. Someone loses weight? They can come get “new” clothes. If they want, they can “trade” their old clothes. Someone gains weight and needs to go up a size? Same concept. Someone leaves an abusive situation and needs clothes quick? We’re here with clothes for everyone who got out, plus toys, furniture, household goods (whatever we can scrounge up).

              Meetup and facebook groups for your area would be the best place to start for clothing swap and pay-it-forward groups.

          3. Anono-Mice*

            Check facebook as well for either Marketplace cheap/free clothes or the clothing swaps (usually under the events section). You may not know the people you’re trading clothes with but it’s that time of year everyone is tight on cash so there’s usually an increase in the swaps.

            Churches and pubs tend to run them the most, a few of them if you don’t have clothes to swap you bring in a can of non-perishable food in exchange for an item (the ones I went to were 1 for 1).

          4. Op#1*

            Clothing swaps are a great idea! I am quite sure who I would swap with at this time, but in theory I really like the idea. Thank you!

        2. Washi*

          Are you in a place with an active Freecycle? If you are a relatively standard size, you might get lucky and find a few folks who would be happy to give you some t-shirts. (I’ve seen other clothes on Freecycle too, but t-shirts come to mind as something that’s easier to find a decent fit.)

          1. CM*

            Buy Nothing or Craigslist are other potential sources of clothes. You may not find what you’re looking for right away, but people are always cleaning out closets and giving away clothes.

          2. Half-Caf Latte*

            My town has a very active buy nothing group, and people are often happy to help with specific requests. Search the book of faces for “buy nothing” and your town.

            These are generally hyper-local, ours recently went through a “sprout” to become even more local, which has two benefits: people seem more willing to give to neighbors, even ones they haven’t met, over total strangers from the internet; and you aren’t schleping all over the place, you can detour 5ish minutes on your way home and pick stuff up.

        3. PB*

          If you have anything you can sell right now, Poshmark can be a great tool. You can sell something you’re not going to wear anymore, and then use the money to buy something new.

          Also, I’ll agree with Alison. While it does sound like you’re more dressed up than the rest of your office, it’s only by a little. If you were coming to work in suits or evening dress, that would be a problem, but just dressing a notch or two closer to business is fine. Most people probably won’t notice (or, if they do, they won’t care too much).

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Poshmark is amazing. I am pretty active with some local organizations, some of which have black-tie events as fundraisers. I would never be able to afford tickets to each event AND a $300 outfit, but I have used Poshmark to buy some amazing gowns for anywhere from $20 to $60. I search specifically for gowns from David’s Bridal since their sizing is consistent and a lot of their bridesmaid dresses are suitable for formal events. Then all I have to do is ask my MIL to hem the bottom of each gown to account for my vertically challenged stature.

          2. Aitch Arr*

            I will add my recommendation for Poshmark. I’ve been buying and selling there for 4 years.

            There’s a specific style of Loft corduroy pants that fit me perfectly and are versatile for work and casual. They stopped making them a couple of years ago, so I’ve been able to find them easily on Posh.

        4. SarahKay*

          Is Freecycle a thing in your area? If so, you could used the ‘wanted’ section to ask for ladies t-shirts in your size. If I saw an ask like that on Freecycle I’d jump at donating. Otherwise stuff goes to charity shops, and if they don’t sell it there’s a risk it ends up in landfill; I’d rather just be sure my unwanted stuff was being used.
          I find that a t-shirt is quite a good way to dress-down a smart skirt. For reference, I’m in an office that is definitely trending to the casual end of business-casual (most of the men wear jeans and button-down shirts) but I love my pencil skirts. Sometimes, the hell with it, I go all-out smart and wear them with a smart blouse, other days (esp. in summer) I dress them down with a t-shirt, and even with my smartest skirts it brings the overall look much more towards casual.

        5. Lily Rowan*

          Even though people are giving you all kinds of suggestions, I just want to reiterate that you are fine and don’t need to worry about it in the short term. Over time, sure — get those nice jeans and whatever, but for now, what Alison says is right on.

          1. Sally*

            I agree with this. My company is “wear what you want,” so it’s a little different, but women wear anything from jeans with a plaid shirt to leggings with a long top to what I wear, which is a nice, work-appropriate dress with pantyhose and boots (it’s cold). Like you, when I started this job a couple of months ago, I didn’t have anything between work clothes and really casual clothes, AND I had gained 15 pounds over the summer when I wasn’t looking. :) Fortunately, I got a big jump in salary, so I was able to get a couple of dresses at a thrift store (where I do most of my shopping anyway), and I also finally had to go to Marshalls in order to get some weather-appropriate and work-appropriate dresses because I was starting to feel really sh*tty about not having anything to wear that wasn’t too tight. I assume people think that I like dressing this way, but I’m always a little overdressed compared to everyone else, and it has to be OK because that’s how I like to dress. I hope this is helpful.

          2. Justme, The OG*

            Agree. I tend to dress a little nicer than my coworkers because I came from an office that was on the fancier side of business casual. It really doesn’t matter that I’m wearing dress pants and they’re usually in jeans.

          3. HarperC*

            I agree. It’s most likely not an issue at all. I have been in that position before and it took me quite a while to adjust my wardrobe, but it was fine. Going from casual to more dressy is probably more of an issue.

        6. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

          I’d say that as long as you ditch the blazers you’ll be fine. I’m often dressed more formally than my colleagues (not by a lot, but today is a black sheath dress and blazer while colleagues will be in slacks and a tunic). When I want to dress it down I throw on colourful tights, ankle boots, and ditch the blazer. Bada-bing, bada-boom, I’m more business casual.

          1. peachie*

            This is what I was thinking–depending on the kinds of tops you have, sometimes just removing a blazer makes all the difference.

            Blazers can also help in the other direction if you do eventually have some sort of jeans/pants that might not be the most formal but are still in good enough shape for work–throwing a blazer on top does wonders.

            Finally, I’d consider what shoes you might have, as that can make a huge difference too. Ankle boots skew less formal than pumps and can bring your outfit down to a more-casual-but-still-professional level. Nice sneakers can do the same–I like wearing something like ‘skinny’ work-y trousers, a tuxedo blazer, and leather sneakers. (I love blazers but sometimes have to tone it down in the same way.)

          2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

            Untucking a blouse, if that works, can make an outfit instantly more casual. Also try breaking matching outfits into separates to tone down the dressiness.

        7. theletter*

          TGH, I wouldn’t sweat it so much. You really are better off overdressed than underdressed, especially if you work with clients, lead meetings, or support upper management.

        8. KitKat100000*

          OP #1:
          As a woman in a casual workplace, here are my suggestions:
          1. Wear flats – they dress down any outfit!
          2. Put on some funky jewelry to lighten up an outfit that may otherwise be viewed as more formal.
          3. Roll up the sleeves on your blazers.
          4. Wear a blazer with jeans, flats (boots, booties, slides, ballet flats, etc.), and a silk top.
          5. Pair a casual top with a pencil skirt and jeans – I love the look of a retro band t-shirt with a pencil skirt and flats.
          6. Do you have cardigans that you can wear instead of blazers? Those are usually seen as more casual.
          7. Wear your most casual outfits on Fridays!

          I used to work in business casual offices and I absolutely despised buying clothes for work because it felt like a waste of money when I wanted to (a) pay off my student loans; and (b) spend clothing money to buy fun outfits for the weekends – so I completely understand wanting to make what you have work for your new job. Remember that we are often so much more aware of our own clothing than others are and that people are going to care more about the work you do than what you wear!

      3. Ruth (UK)*

        Yes, I was going to suggest charity shops (The same thing as a thrift shop I believe but we use a different term).

        I buy almost all my clothes from charity shops with a few odd items from places like tk maxx (tj maxx I think for Americans).

        I had the opposite problem a year ago, starting a job with a smart casual dress code after always working places with uniforms (eg. Retail). I only had really casual clothes though luckily there are a lot of charity shops in my city.

        1. lurker*

          Now imagining the research study demonstrating that while American shoppers respond to the letter J, British shoppers somehow respond to the letter K…

          1. Admin of Sys*

            I really wanted that to be true – I had a great theory how it was the other way around and TJ was more casual than TK in the US. But apparently it was to avoid confusion with TJHughes, a Vritish retailer.

          2. Sayit*

            Oh I know this one! It actually had nothing to do with that funny enough. Some guy had the copyright to TJ Maxx in Europe and wanted an absurd amount of money for it and they didn’t want to pay it and TK Maxx just sounded the best out of the other letters. So unfortunately, no absurd consumer testing.

            1. Sally*

              I noticed something like this in the U.S. too. In Seattle (in the late ’80s/early ’90s) Payless ShoeSource was called Volume ShoeSource. It was changed to Payless in 1994. I assume they used Volume in Seattle because there was already a Payless store – I think it was a drugstore.

              1. AKchic*

                Yep. There was a Payless Drugs. We had one in Alaska. Kind of a one-stop-shop. Everything from hip waders and fishing licenses to kids toys and dog food to groceries. It was a Safeway competitor. Or a Long’s Drugs competitor.
                Ironically, the Payless Drugs was in the biggest mall in the state, and there is now a Payless Shoe store in that mall (but Old Navy, and GAP are in the actual location of the store). Long’s Drugs was in the strip mall across the street (there is now a PetSmart and a car part store in the there now).

                My memory is weird. I should not be allowed to remember things. I go off on tangents. I’m like an old person trapped in a 30-something body.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Be careful with TJ Maxx. The one near my work moved to a shiny new building 1/2 block down. I have bought, ahem, undergarments there in the past for less than $20. After they moved to the new building, these same garments are over $40. Nice try, TJM!

      4. Mary*

        One pair of slightly flatter shoes or heavier boots might also go a long way towards dressing it down. If your suit trousers and pencil skirts are Smart with formal pumps, they’re almost certainly more Business Caszj with flat loafers or ankle-boots, or even smart-ish trainers. Do you have anything like that?

        1. Anonymous Penguin*

          I’m imagining, like, a blazer plus graphic t-shirt, pencil skirt, tights, and stompy boots. Or open button-down over tank plus dress pants plus loafers. If you have big/fun jewelry now’s a good time to break it out too! Do your silk tops look more casual if you leave them untucked or layer them with a cardigan rather than a blazer?

          1. SignalLost*

            I was going to suggest big jewelry too. Anything costumey dresses a nice outfit right down. But, OP, I know we’re giving you lots of suggestions (I have THOUGHTS about clothing) but honestly, you’re fine. People almost certainly don’t notice the level of discrepancy you’re describing. It sounds like you’re about a half to a whole step above the rest of the org, not 3 steps, which people would notice.

            1. peachie*

              Yes, this. If you’re really worried, you might be able to ask your manager if you’re dressing appropriately for the office vibe, but in all likelihood, you’re noticing this much more than anyone else will.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes. And I’ll chime in with the reminder that not all thrift shops are alike — there are three branches of one particular chain within my commute. They have drastically different stock on a regular basis. The one in HoityToitySuburb gets nearly new clothing including office wear and designer duds … but WorkingClassSuburb ~6 miles away always has a fascinating array of vintage housewares & costume jewelry.

      6. Yikes Dude*

        A person who works as a culture manager at a start-up in a more traditional industry once told me that she gives the same advice to people who previously worked in more informal and more formal offices: Take what you used to wear and dress half of it up or down. Wear blouses and blazers with jeans, wear a neat long sleeve t with your pencil skirts. I’ve also personally found that colored accessories can take a blouse/pencil skirt outfit to a place where you look polished but not uptight.

      7. Chinookwind*

        I have run into this problem too, OP #1. I moved from a city based head office where I got to wear dresses and heels to a more rural, industrial based job where jeans are the norm partially because they can stand up to the work environment. I gaze longingly at my nice dresses but know that some would be unsafe if I had to go on the shop floor while others would make me look out of place.

        I got around this by first investing in my first 2 pairs of new jeans in 5 years, scoping out sales for button down shirts that fit my chest (not an easy thing) and resigning myself to my dresses for hot summer days and church on Sunday. It has taken 6 months to go beyond a rotation of all the 4 shirts/sweaters that I own that were acceptable for work and only able to do that due to a gift card for my birthday.

        The plus side to working int his type of environment, though, is no one noticed when I wore the same thing twice in a week. It was quite liberating.

        1. KitKat100000*

          My step-grandmother had a similar issue with button down dress shirts back in the day – the gaping can be horrendously embarrassing for large chests and hard to deal with! She used to sew her shirts together so that they would lay flat – sewn high enough to stop the gaping and leaving only the top with the last couple buttons un-sewn! I don’t do the sewing technique, but instead (in an emergency) will safety pin the inside of the shirt to an (old) bra.

        2. Temperance*

          Button downs are the freaking devil. Like men, sure, enjoy them, but they are not made for women with any kind of curves whatsoever.

      8. MCMonkeyBean*

        Every so often JCPenney has a $10 off of a purchase of $10 or more coupon. I’ve picked up a lot of my business casual tops for like $1-$5 if I time it right! And I bet OP could grab a few casual items to mix and match with their dressy wardrobe for pretty darn cheap on black Friday if they want to go that route.

    2. Mrs Pitts*

      Think about your jewelry too. If you can tone down that it can take you from dressy to professional.

      1. Oh Dear*

        I also suggest 1 pair of dark jeans. It’s a reasonable thing to own regardless, and does a nice job of dressing down blazers at work. 1 pair of jeans plus 1-2 less dressy shirts from a thrift shop, and you will be good.

      2. Karen from Finance*

        Yes, I was going to suggest this. Accessories can really help tone an outfit up/down. And hairstyles/makeup, too, if applicable.

        1. Clay on My Apron*

          Was also going to suggest a more casual hairstyle and some less formal jewellery.

          Flat pumps if you have them, instead of heels.

          And if you can avoid combining your most formal tops with your most formal bottoms, that will help.

          But I really wouldn’t worry too much. People will get to know you and what you wear will start to fade into the background.

          1. R*

            “But I really wouldn’t worry too much. People will get to know you and what you wear will start to fade into the background.”
            100% true. Do not stress OP!

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I admit I’m more fond of Old Navy dark jeans than I should be. They fit me well, they’re not expensive, and I can wear suit jackets to work without looking too casual or too formal. I’m not the only woman at work who does this, so I think I’m safe with this choice.

    4. AnOh*

      I was in this situation recently after changing jobs. Although I just moved from a business casual office to a business casual, jeans acceptable office. I’ve been trying to save money and also I don’t totally believe in having separate work/casual clothing so I’ve gotten pretty good about mixing the two.
      If you have jeans (no holes, not super skinny etc.) and that’s acceptable in your office then pairing it with nicer silk tops or blazers + t-shirt always works. For pencil skirts, pairing it with a simple cotton t-shirt can dress it down (add a necklace or other accessory to dress it up slightly).
      I basically live in dresses because they can be dressed up or down with accessories/shoes or even just putting on a casual jacket versus a blazer can change it up.

    5. Meg Danger*

      I sometimes dress down a nice dress or fancier business outfit for my casual office by wearing tennis shoes or sneakers instead of dress shoes. The high-low combo takes the edge off, and it seems to be a pretty mainstream trend (vs. odd seeming) these days. Alternatively, I sometimes wear a color coordinating hoodie instead of a blazer over a button up or silk shirt (which sounds like it may be a little too casual for office, but not for mine). Something to consider :)

    6. L.T.*

      I once wore a t-shirt with a baseball team’s logo on it to work, and got away with it by wearing a blazer over it and pairing it with tailored pants. Separates are great for dressing down! A knit sweater with a pencil skirt, switch from heels to flats or even wedges, there are plenty of ways to mix a few casual pieces into an otherwise business formal wardrobe.

  2. Namelesscommentator*

    #3 Can you ask for a corporate card to prevent this? I NEVER personally for something I have an ounce of doubt being reimbursed. I’ve had to push back a few times, but drawing a hard line has never gotten more than one round of gentle pushback.

    I would leave it at “my reimbursement hasn’t come through, I’ll get you the money as soon as it does” and “I can’t reimburse you from my personal funds.” If he pushes back on the first response.

    If your organization has a bigger problem with the boss changing his mind about expenses after employees have spent the money, you’ve got a much bigger problem, and I’d be interested in hearing Allison’s scripts for that situation.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m still kind of floored that Boss thinks it’s ok to front money but then force a report to reimburse him before Accounting processes the reimbursement. If he’s concerned, he should use his position/authority to lean on Accounting or figure out how to speed them up. Instead, Boss sounds like he’s come up with some fairly thoughtless ideas for how to get around GrandBoss’ fickle nature.

      Unrelated, a corporate card would be helpful, but speaking personally, I’ve never been able to use it to charge alcohol (even if an alcohol purchase is ok’d). Also, sometimes those cards end up in your name, which can effect your credit, which is a whole different can of worms. I feel like this whole situation is Boss’ to fix, not OP’s.

      1. LW#3*

        Thanks for your thoughts! It is good to know that I’m not off-base with my initial reaction that this whole situation is a bit weird.

        About the corporate credit cards: interesting you guys bring that up. The CEO randomly decided to eliminate them about 3 months ago. Many execs had them before, but now no one does…

        1. valentine*

          The direct supervisor of each employee evaluates their reimbursement claims and your supervisor wanted to avoid that, so he had you pretend the money was yours? That’s really awful. LW#3, say no and don’t go down his shady path again. I’m always wary of deviations whose details only I will recall.

          1. Mary*

            Yeah, this is basically heading in the direction fraud. Everything your manager is doing is to circumvent extremely normal financial practice of providing a clear paper trail of where money is spent.

            I’ve worked in organisations with good financial management where this kind of thing wouldn’t fly at all, and ones with much more lax atmospheres where it would be fine, so I don’t think you’re, like, immediately likely to get shut down by auditors. But I don’t think it would be a bad idea to get scrupulous about your own financial management!

          2. Czhorat*

            Yes, by having you pretend it was your expenses he is essentially approving his own expense report. That’s not ok, and “because I don’t want my boss to review it” is the opposite of a good reason.

            He very well may be pushing for the reimbursement now bey he isn’t sure it’s coming back.

            1. LQ*

              Yeah, this all smells funny to me. I had my boss try and do some stuff like this with me and he turned out to be an embezzler. Not saying yours is. Just saying you are on firm ground to not let your boss cheat and approve his own expense report.

          3. JustaCPA*

            FRAUD ALERT.

            In the future, just say no. As a CPA and internal comptroller, my hackles went up when you said he was trying to avoid having his boss sign off on his expenses. There is a reason there is a sign off procedure.

            Its not cool that boss changes his mind about previously approved stuff but that a discussion for the manager and the CEO to have.

            1. Big10Professor*

              Yeah, every large company I worked for had rules that the most senior person at an event pays/files the expense report, and it was for this exact reason.

              1. Existentialista*

                Same here. At one global company I worked for, a Country Manager was fired over it.

                You are not obliged to help your manager get away with shady practices. In the future, you can refuse the cash. The senior-most person should cover expenses for team events.

              2. A-nony-nony*

                My company has this, too. I’m by no means senior, but just happened to be the last one with a corporate at a company-sponsored happy hour and had to fill out the expense report. NEVER AGAIN. I had to remember who-all had been there because you had to list the names and it took me forever to fill that sucker out. Most of the time the people who fill out group event expense reports like that have assistants and part of their job it is to do them (and are, presumably, more familiar with it and can do them faster).

        2. TechWorker*

          How long do requests usually take to go through? I can see you manager being slightly irritated if it’s <4 weeks and he usually submits his immediately – but that’s still his fault for doing it in this bizarre way (rather than just like, making the expense claim himself..)

          1. LW#3*

            Oh, he is so bogged down with work that he submits expenses once every 6 months. That’s the best part of this: he is so slow with his expenses but expects us to be really quick with them!

        3. Glomarization, Esq.*

          “Randomly”? Or maybe the executives were getting up to shenanigans.

          I like to think that if my boss were pressuring me like this person is pressuring you, I’d feel comfortable enough to say, “Hey, you can’t get blood from a stone. I don’t have the cash and I won’t get it until the reimbursement comes through.”

          1. Czhorat*

            You mean shenanigans like having a direct report file your expense report for you so you can approve your own expenses rather than let the CEO scrutinize them?

            Why would you even suspect that?

            1. LW#3*

              The nature of my position tends to mean I’m… Privy to the goings on of the upper echelons. Nah, our ceo is just a bit of a live wire and comes up with weird new savings plans every 2 months or so. Usually it involves firing people. Tried to fire me once. He was like “what does she actually do here?” And my boss was all “uhhhh, everything?” And he was all “oh, lol, right, her. Okay, she can stay.”

              1. Observer*

                It sounds like maybe you should be job searching.

                Seriously, these guys sound like real beauties to work for and this kind of behavior makes me wonder how long this place is going to be in business. Especially since you are working crazy hours and are not being paid a wonderful salary, either.

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                So rules change every 2 months but he doesn’t do paperwork promptly? Poor planning no his part.

                Definitely worth describing your ideal position to a recruiter…

        4. disgruntled and discomfited*

          This is how people with money have money – they exploit the people who are too nice to exploit other people.
          I’ve been in this situation and it was outrageous and everyone behaved like that was normal – if you are low on the totem pole, you do as you are told. In one workplace we always had to buy snacks and drinks from our own pocket and then get reimbursed (for anything more than £30). “That’s just how it’s done here.” and also “We don’t have a credit card.” so you had to buy anything you needed for work from your pocket and then wait to get reimbursed.

          1. an infinite number of monkeys*

            Ugh, I’m suddenly reminded of the former boss who used to send me out to bring her back lunch and promise to pay me back, but she didn’t have the cash on her that day, and then somehow never remembered to bring it later. Today-me would be much more assertive; but fortunately, today-me has a boss who wouldn’t even dream of doing that!

          1. pancakes*

            I have a feeling he’s worn out his welcome there. He’s worn out his welcome with me and I only read about him a few minutes ago. People who try to steamroll over sensible boundaries & processes tend to make a habit of it.

        5. Artemesia*

          They changed the rules; that doesn’t mean you should be loaning your business money. If he ‘needs’ that money right away he should be able to understand that his minion also ‘needs’ that money and doesn’t have it to loan him while she waits for reimbursement.

      2. Lexi Kate*

        Our corporate cards are approved to purchase alcohol so that wouldn’t be an issue. However submitting a expense paid in cash 4 weeks after the paid date for drinks would flag for fraud.

        I really don’t get taking 4 weeks to expense this, I understand OP is working overtime and has a tight schedule but I would put the OP on an improvement plan for waiting this long to expense these charges. You make time to make sure your timesheet is in this is on those same lines. Expense reports should be done within a week of the event, ideally within a work day for cash expenses. Quite a few people submit expenses on their own time because its a priority and they don’t want to cover the expense themselves.

        1. LQ*

          This is interesting. Around here people often wait (especially if they have multiple things to expense for or they know they are going to have more) and spend an afternoon doing expense reports because the system is so bad you have to spend half the time on the phone with the payroll department getting them to submit correctly. The only time people get pushy about making them submit on time is near the end of a fiscal year.

          1. Lexi Kate*

            Wow I can’t imagine forecasting the quarter where it was normal to wait over a month to expense. Not to mention if that is on a CC, the charges for not being paid within a month.

            1. LQ*

              My department does it based on the number of trips (mostly it’s travel and the thing you’re expensing is just mileage and meals) expected and how many from the same quarter previous years. …Other departments who do more stuff? Well just just don’t forecast, which is a different issue.

            2. Ali G*

              At my old job they only processed expenses once a month so there was no motivation to do them sooner (and if you missed it, well that was on you). Our employees did so much travel, there wasn’t any forecasting for it (I used to get called on a Wednesday to tell me I needed to be in the EU on Monday – no forecasting for that!).

            3. LurkieLoo*

              We generally process monthly, but if someone needs reimbursed sooner, we will process whenever they submit expenses. We just don’t remind people until the end of the month.

              We have also had a few people who were not able/willing to expense so we gave them company cards. That worked fine for all but one person who insisted on the card and then kept putting random things on a personal card. (I don’t care which way you do it, just PICK ONE.)

        2. ChimericalOne*

          Yeah. But in this case, it’s the boss who’s in the wrong to start with. It’d be pretty backwards to ask your employee to bend the rules for you and then get mad because they didn’t do it (on top of a 60-hour work week) fast enough to suit you.

          The OP was doing Boss a favor. A favor that added to a highly intense workload. I agree with Allison — Boss doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

          1. Lexi Kate*

            I agree that the boss shouldn’t be asking OP to reimburse him from her own money. But he should be upset she didn’t expense it sooner.

            I wouldn’t classify this as a favor. Our Sales managers do this for new hires that don’t have a Company card yet, because we don’t want them to be out of their own money to attend work events where we cant set up a tab before hand. Keeping it a secret from the main boss is the odd part but I don’t know the dynamic behind revoking CC’s, so I don’t have enough information to go on.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s fine for people to float cash for their juniors–I do it all the time, since I can afford to be out the cash for our unit expenses and my staff can’t. It’s not fine for juniors to float cash for seniors. (And if you guys PIP for a 30-day delay in submissions, your heads would explode in my workplace :-).)

        3. SarahKay*

          Putting OP on a PIP for that sounds a little…drastic to me. I agree expense reports should ideally be done within the week, but depending on the system used they can take an hour or more to complete, and in a 60-hour week you can bet they’re not my top priority, or anywhere close to it.

          1. Dragoning*

            I don’t even know how you’d begin to evaluate that! How often do they have to expense things in this department? The OP mentioned this was a team-building exercise–surely those aren’t happening too frequently.

            1. LW#3*

              Like once a quarter is typically how long it takes everyone to do their expenses. My boss only hands them in twice a year – and he has a ton of expenses.

        4. Proxima Centauri*

          There is no way I’d put an employee on an improvement plan for one late-ish (and really all that late) expense charge. That is excessive.

          Setting that aside, this reeks of the boss trying to skirt expense reporting approvals…in the sense that he wants to approve something he funded rather than having his boss approve it. It’s like he’s trying to have his junior employee pay for dinner so he can approve it.

        5. Magenta*

          We are only allowed to submit expenses once a month, apparently Concur charge per submission or something. It is actually really frustrating, especially if I have an expense heavy month.

        6. Call me Ishmael*

          “Expense reports should be done within a week, ideally within a work day . . .” Sez who–you? At most places I’ve worked, we had 30 days to reconcile expenses. Are employees really that paranoid about a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars? How can anyone work under conditions where employees are not trusted?

        7. nonymous*

          I get that a lot of people think that a PIP is draconian. At my workplace, outstanding items show up on a weekly report that goes directly to a team in a different chain of command. That means if you show up on a report, the only way you hear about it is after it has been shared with your boss’s boss’s boss’ boss. It might not be a PIP, but man no one wants to be on the report.

          Also if the cc bill comes in before the trip is finished, you have to pay the bill because reimbursement can’t happen midway. Leaving a balance at the end of the month also gets you on the report.

        8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That (putting someone on a PIP, filing expenses within the same week) seems out of the norm for a lot of other employers, in addition to your employer’s concerns re: fraud. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen where you are, but just saying that what you’re describing sounds like an outlier approach to expense reports.

          OP explains, downthread, why their expense reports were delayed and how their boss approved the delay in filing. So their boss was well aware of what was happening, which convinces me further that the boss is being super shady.

        9. Tammy*

          Not only is this weirdly aggressive compared to every place I’ve worked (CurrentJob’s policy is that expense reports have to be submitted by the 10th day of the month following the one where the expenses were incurred), but I’ve actually created all sorts of unintended havoc for myself and my AP team by submitting expense reports too quickly.

          Our corporate cards are linked to our expense reporting system (SAP Concur), and if we submit the expense report before the charges have actually “posted” from the corporate card to Concur, the system doesn’t correctly match up the charges with the expense report items. Or so I’m told. When I submitted my last expense report, AP asked me to delete and recreate it so the charges and expense line items could reconcile correctly.

        10. Observer*

          That makes sense. Except for one problem – this should never have been on the OP’s plate to start with. And, I’ve seen expense reimbursement forms and procedures that were so complex that you have to spend an hour for something simple. A Pub crawl – where you have to submit for multiple purchases could be a full half day. So, I’m not about to come down too hard on the OP for that.

        11. pancakes*

          That’s pretty hard-core. I’ve never worked anyplace where expenses had to be submitted more frequently than monthly. I don’t doubt there are offices that do, but even so, receipts are pretty easy to misplace, and trying to get one (or a replacement) from a vendor or whatnot isn’t necessarily within the employee’s control.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      Yeah this is actually a classic scheme. Give someone a check, have them pay you real money, then it bounces and they are gone. In this case it is being done with expenses.

      I am guessing that CEO doesn’t change his mind so much as OPs boss gets told no then decides to be the cool guy who sets up epic lavish events all while pulling this “pay me back and expense it” ploy so CEO is the bad guy when he denies and lower management is out the money for OPs boss’s benefit.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        In that context it’s check kiting, but I agree that the principle is similar. If I were OP, I would hold steady until their expense report and reimbursement is processed.

      2. PersonalJeebus*

        This isn’t a totally outlandish speculation, but OP has commented that the CEO really is mercurial about financial stuff. In her words, “a live wire.” So both her boss and the CEO are creating problems.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      This is such a classic issue where I am when it comes to reimbursements. Our company is huge so it takes a while for reimbursements to come through. Fine. Some people have a corporate card, but that card can’t be used to buy food or alcohol. So on the occasions that we do catered lunches, we can only go with places who will direct bill us, which is really limited. We have two restaurants for smaller groups, and then one for large events. But one of the restaurants is drastically cheaper (Think $50 vs. $200) so we go with them a lot, then people complain because they don’t want to eat the same food all the time. But they never offer up their credit card to pay for it, they expect the support staff to do it and wait 1-2 months for our reimbursement. Hard no bud.

  3. NotoriousMCG*

    I’m a bit confused to the advice for #5? Previously I’ve been pretty tightly connected with people who are training me to take their job or vice versa. It actually sounds to me like OP is being a bit inflexible, but I’m curious to hear more of Alison’s POV as to how it may be in other places.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      But if OP still has to get all her work done these last few weeks, and everything takes three times as long, it’s not possible to work together all day long. Then they’d both be there literally 24 hours a day.

      It’s not unusual for a new person to spend some time reading up on things in between “learning sessions”, to give both them and the person training them a break from constant learning/teaching

    2. Turquoisecow*

      My question is if the new guy actually has work to do and knows he should be doing it, or knows how to do it. It sounds like OP has been training him for a bit, so ideally there should be some tasks where she can say “okay, work on the TPS reports for a bit. I’ll be back in an hour and we can review any questions then.” If he comes to her with questions, she can tell him to do what he can do and then they’ll review his questions or issues afterward.

      But if he doesn’t know what he should be doing, or doesn’t have enough knowledge to do this on his own, then i think he may just be hanging around her because he doesn’t have any tasks. There’s always an awkward period in training where the trainer is busy with a task and the trainee has nothing to do. Maybe the guy in this case doesn’t want to sit awkwardly at his desk alone, so he’s hanging around near OP?

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        This is what I thought as well. It sounds like the new guy has absolutely nothing else to do – and it can be brutal to start a new job and just sit around doing nothing. I would see if anyone else has some busy work they can have him work on until you have time to train him. Or even tell him to go around and ask people if they have anything he can work on for a few hours. That way someone can get something easy but time consuming off their hands and it will get him out of your hair. It might not be the exact kind of thing he signed on for – but it might give him a greater sense of your company or your department and the kind of thing different people work on.

        1. Admin of Sys*

          Yes, this! And if he doesn’t have anything to do other than ‘be trained’ it’s possible he thinks he’s getting something useful out of watching what you’re doing. I mean, I’m not sure what sort of thing he’s being trained on, but I actually have learned things just from silently watching over someone else’s shoulder while they use an application.
          Mind you, this doesn’t excuse him from not letting you get your work done. Another option could be to have him read documentation? If there are any docs about the things you are doing (or training sites or whatever) assign things like ‘study this for an hour or two, check helpsite for anything you’re not sure on, and write down any questions you can’t figure out on your own. We’ll go over them at 2p. ‘

    3. phira*

      I trained my replacement at my first post-grad job, and what the OP is describing is not normal to me. When my replacement started, she didn’t have much in the way of other tasks and commitments that she could get done while I did my own thing, but she would find ways to kill time that were still work appropriate (e.g. reading relevant literature, or shadowing other coworkers, or getting her workspaces set up). Since we were also exempt, she could come in a little late or leave a little early, or take a long lunch to help prevent her from sitting around, doing nothing if we were too busy to train her.

      She never harangued me with questions after I told her I was busy, nor did she hover over me and invade my personal space like the OP is describing. (Which is good because I had a coworker do that to me, and it was so inappropriate that my supervisor had to talk to her supervisor to keep it from happening ever again.)

      I will say that it sounds like the OP is starting to get a little hypersensitive, but that’s in response to weirdly inappropriate behavior from her replacement. Like, if he weren’t behaving this unusually, the OP wouldn’t really think anything of a few instances of “too many questions,” etc. And they’re trying to get their actual work done, and it sounds like this is making them stay late constantly because they’re not able to. That’s really inappropriately disruptive.

      I do think the OP should go to their supervisor now and give them a heads up about the replacement. This behavior feels like a red flag to me, and something that management should be aware of once the OP leaves.

      1. OP#5*

        I definitely am oversensitive at this point. That is why I wrote in because I do not want to overreact. I wrote in after he watched me over my shoulder in silence for over two hours after I told him that I was in a hurry and these cases were more complicated than what he had been trained to do. Part of the problem is that when I train him, I cannot do my own work. I don’t want to rush him or make him feel any pressure and because the work is detailed and technical, I need to pay attention to what he is doing so that I can point out if it is incorrect or if there is an easier way. Typically, I spend 3-4 hours a day being 100% available for questions. I do think that he is bored and that he believes watching me do the more complicated cases will help him learn quicker. I fear that it will simply confuse him if I don’t explain it and I do not have time to do that until next week when he is scheduled to learn it.

        1. LarsTheRealGirl*

          That REALLY sounds like you haven’t been explicit in what you want him doing when you can’t actively train him, or that you don’t want him hanging around.

          He may think sitting and watching is what’s most productive for him to do, and without you saying “I need to focus on this so **you need to go back to your desk until our next scheduled training**” this screams a communication issue (rather than creepy – but he could also be creepy).

          Good luck in getting this sorted!

          1. Grinch*

            This. The letter made it sound super creepy but OP’s post here makes it sound more like the interaction was
            OP: OK, so that’s how you do a basic teapot design, we’ll do chocolate teapots at 4:00.
            Him: OK, sounds good.
            OP: Cool, I’m going to work on this chocolate marshmallow teapot request, which is really above your level and it’s a rush request so I don’t have time to explain it.
            Him: That’s OK, I understand.
            OP: ….
            OP: (Why are you still here????)
            Him: (I guess I’ll sit here and watch then??)

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            That’s normal training in some places though. It sounds like op has not said – you need to go work independently and find something else to do. She has said – this is more complicated so I won’t be able to train you on it so he observes. That’s utterly normal in a lot of places. My own boss had me sit and watch staff for the first two weeks. If they are sitting there getting creeped out that I am observing and not saying anything about it that’s really on them. Op should be more clear about her role training him and make sure he, she, and their boss is on the same page. The Q thing can easily asked in an apparent lull to and if op I being as passive as she stated she was in this update I can see the trainee not picking up on her hints.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think it’s a question of whether that’s a normal stretch of time for training but whether it’s a normal stretch of time to spend needlessly silent. “I’m going to let you watch me in silence until I can’t stand it anymore” isn’t the appropriate way to handle that scenario. Unless there had been some conflict between us, I’d seriously question the communication skills of a coworker, brand new or on their way out, who sat in silence, in close proximity, for two hours. Even the dullest app or platform for reports or whatnot, there’s something to say about how it works. If the work itself is too urgent for even a moment of instruction here and there, a quick “I’m sorry but I just have to get this done ASAP, how about you read up on [xyz] in the meantime and I’ll find you when I’m done” would take just a few seconds to say.

        2. PersonalJeebus*

          You might need help from above to either 1) get him something to do when you’re unavailable, or 2) reset expectations of how he’ll spend his time. Can it be okay for him to have downtime during his training period, in the interests of you being able to focus? Or are there ways he can practice what you’ve trained him on when you’re unavailable?

          The only other thing I can think of is for him to take a little time to get to know others in the office and learn about what they do. One of the hardest things in a new job is feeling lost on who everyone is, who you should ask about X vs. who to ask about Y, who can assign you tasks, who you should tell if something breaks, where old records are kept. Of course, he should not be taking up large increments of time from any individual who is not responsible for training him.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s very normal in many jobs for a new person’s training by their predecessor to be a few hours here and there, not all day every day. Often you’d get someone started on something and leave them to do it, then check in later. That’s one of the biggest benefits of having overlap between the old person and the new person — the new person can actually get started on work, at which point they’ll discover questions they didn’t have until they actually plunged in, and the old person is still there to answer them.

      1. NotoriousMCG*

        I guess I was hung up on how anti-questions OP seemed to be. I get that other things still need to be done, and hovering and getting in her space is really weird and should be stopped, but I feel like it’s the nature of training that questions will come up while the person is solo-tasking and it’d be weird for someone to just refuse to answer outside of a set time? Then again, the places where I’ve trained my replacements were open floorplans where just calling questions to people in the moment was the norm, so my experience is probably different. OP just came off as pretty rigid from the start of the interactions (questions) than my experience would lead me to expect.

        1. Temperance*

          It’s very distracting to have some weirdo pester you with questions and interrupt your thought process like that.

            1. tangerineRose*

              The co-worker stood and watched the OP for 2 hours without being invited to do so. Seems kinda weird to me.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Whahhhh??!! The “weirdo” was hired to replace OP and is brand new and it sounds like he has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing when not taking direction from OP, and it sounds like no one has been clear with him about what’s expected of him.

            The more I read of the comments, the less I ever want to even consider being a new person at any company.

            Have none of the commenters been new in a job?

        2. OP#5*

          I am trying not to be anti-question, but the work is highly technical and time sensitive, so if I stop to answer a complicated question, things go very wrong. I do try to stop if he is working and runs into a problem that he needs help with, but I can’t stop working to explain what I am doing. It is also not very helpful. I have so far taught him the basics but I am handling the things that are more complicated. If he watches me and wonders why I am doing it differently than the way I told him, he is not yet at a point where I can explain why this case is different. We will get there, but he needs to master the basics first. Essentially, I showed him how to paint a teapot in general and haven’t gone into why the purple and blue teapots are different. Once he can paint a teapot on his own, we will go into the nuances and exceptions.

          1. boop the first*

            This is the problem with Training.
            All my jobs are kind of dumpy, but in my case it’s usual for training to literally be a stranger following me around constantly and waiting for instruction (and requiring close supervision). Sometimes, they are too confident and instead of waiting for me to finish setting up a workspace, they’ll just dive in and incorrectly guess and I’ll have to stop them. Combined with my social anxiety, and that’s why I really hate training.

            Training is a fulltime job. I don’t have actionable advice, but it really sounds like they need dedicated trainers. It’s unreasonable to expect you to just casually pick up such a demanding task and still expect you to have your work done. Can no one step in? Can nothing be re-prioritized?

          2. General Ginger*

            I have so far taught him the basics but I am handling the things that are more complicated. If he watches me and wonders why I am doing it differently than the way I told him, he is not yet at a point where I can explain why this case is different. We will get there, but he needs to master the basics first.

            Have you actually told him this?

        3. Smarty Boots*

          Sure, but she can make it clear that he should save his questions to ask at their next training meeting — ask him to make a list — or give him resources to figure things out. She does need to make sure he has things to do and to go over with him what he’s doing that day (or morning or whatever), quick review on his resources, clear statement on what counts as a question he really does need to bring to her, and clear statement that if he finishes his work or gets to a point where he needs to talk with her and it’s before their next meeting, he needs to talk to his supervisor about what else he can be doing.
          Sounds to me like his onboarding is flabby.

        4. PersonalJeebus*

          Now I’m wondering whether OP needs support to complete her solo work during this period, or whether her manager needs their expectations adjusted. If the amount of work she has to do is incompatible with training her replacement, something has to give.

          “With the time I have to invest in training Fergus, I may not be able to complete X before I leave, and Y might need a second set of eyes because I won’t have time to proofread it as thoroughly as usual. I’m on track to finish Z and Q, though. And if someone can be freed up to help me with the daily TPS report, that would be a huge help!”

      2. Delegator*

        I’ve successfully trained many replacements and I do find the OPs attitude a bit odd. The most important thing to do is train the replacement. Her ‘own’ work is frankly now his work so I don’t know why she feels that invested in doing things as if she is still working there.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          I think you missed the part where she can’t leave for the day until these tasks are done. That changes your incentives greatly.

        2. OP#5*

          Unfortunately, my work is not being passed on to him. I am expected to complete these projects before I leave.

          1. FTCLTL*

            I’ve trained people two different ways: 1.) they are my shadow and I am responsible for filling their day
            2.) I train them on specific things then send them back to their desk, they go to their manager if they need additional work.

            It kinda sounds like you’re doin #2 but he thinks you’re doing #1, there might be a fundamental misunderstanding of how your training will work. (Does not excuse his obliviousness to social cues.)

            Also, by saying you “have” to finish your work before you go your managers have effectively arranged this so you’re incentivized to prioritize your own work over training. It seems like you are conscientiously trying to do both but if you’re feeling really stressed and overworked it’s probably worth a level-setting / expectations conversation with your manager on what can realistically be achieved before you go. Good luck!

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I just wonder if she’s actually getting him started on something and letting him do it on his own, or if she’s only working on these things when they are together – and not giving him anything to work on when he is alone. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the position of having nothing at all to work on in a new job, but I feel like he doesn’t have anything else to do with his time. It could be worth it to set him up to shadow someone else in the department, or give him some filing she’s put off, or find some work someone else needs done that is easy to explain. That way if he shows up and hovers she can say “aren’t you supposed to be working on X?”.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I couldn’t tell from the letter whether he has anything else he can work on in the time when he’s not training with the OP. If he doesn’t, then he still shouldn’t be hovering to this extent (ideally he’d either ask for some tasks or go entertain himself) but it might help if the OP gave him a list of things to do in his downtime – reading, practice exercises, cleaning up data, etc.

        2. boop the first*

          I really hope he’s getting actual parts of her work to be done, otherwise how is he going to suddenly step in and pick up where she left off?

    5. JulieCanCan*

      I thought the exact same way Notorious – and I actually commented below because I didn’t see your response. I feel like there’s either a major communication breakdown (trainee doesn’t know he’s not supposed to shadow/ask questions and needs to stay put) or, if trainee HAS been told to stay put and work alone while trainer goes around doing whatever is necessary, trainee is not normal and shouldn’t be there and they need to hire someone who listens.

      I can’t tell if OP#5 has been explicit in their instructions and trainee is flat-out going against what they were told. There are several issues here.

      So, my questions are:
      1) does the new person have the ability to work on their own, alone, while OP 5 is away doing other things?
      3) If the answer to #1 and/or #2 is “yes” does that mean OP 5 is considering firing current trainee, since they aren’t able to follow directions? That would be my biggest problem- why can’t this new person follow instructions? The lingering and question asking are annoying ( if they’ve been told not to do that ) but the bigger problem is the fact that they’re doing it after being told not to.

      1. valentine*

        It’s odd to need to be told #2 when OP5 is ignoring him and the obvious question he should’ve asked is “When’s a good time?” He could email someone when he’s stuck if the process must go on, ask for more work (unless he’s been told to do otherwise), and keep a list of questions for the next training session. His behavior doesn’t make sense even if someone told him to literally shadow her. He’s lurking (ew), not taking notes or asking about her current work.

    6. Scarlet*

      I’ve trained several people and I never had the luxury to spend my whole days hand-holding them. I always had to do my own work on top of the training (plus checking the trainee’s work, which takes A LOT of time). My own training, back when I was hired, was exactly the same. I was given tasks, which were then checked by the colleague who trained me. I’d never have expected someone to come and sit with me all day long. This is work, not school.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Training totally depends on the job, plus, if he’s new, I would expect him to “shadow” OP since she’s doing work that he will need to be doing at some point (it will be his job to do whatever she’s doing eventually, after all). I get not enjoying having a person lurking at every turn, but they’re within their organization’s walls, not in a back alley at midnight. And questions while training are pretty standard. If the timing is not appropriate when trainee is asking them, he needs to know that. And if he’s been told already and he continues, THAT is a problem – he can’t follow simple directions. But I still don’t quite understand why OP is so annoyed. Training, in general, can be stressful: you’re trying to relay in a short period what the new person will be doing in perpetuity, all while managing your responsibilities and having to clearly explain every move you make. Ideally the new person is taking detailed notes which means you have to stop after each general explanation, which is stressful if you’re swamped and in a rush. If the person you’re training is annoying (hell, even when they’re not!) you would sometimes rather have bamboo shoved into your eyeballs than have to hear their voice ask you a question.

        BUT – everything in OP5’s letter sounds so typical to me as far as training goes. I just wish we knew if it was totally abnormal in her industry for a trainee to behave this way, or if the trainee should have already picked up the majority of the responsibilities at this point, or what.

        Should the trainee be working alone and be fine at this point in the game? I’m genuinely curious about this question because training has been such a big part of my jobs in the past and I’m always trying to improve the process whenever possible, depending on the position.

      2. Nox*

        I actually find it abnormal to not have someone fully shadow me when I train. I think LW 5 got bad advice, they really should have a conversation on culture where they clearly explain that in that office they allocate certain hours towards training vs full shadowing like he used to. I find it alarming at how inflexible this lw is on having direct dialogue and jumping to extreme conclusions when this person might feel very overwhelmed and feel they need to shadow and ask everything before they leave. I think you should think about their perspective first and talk it through instead of jumping to creeper conclusions.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It seems like you are the one jumping to conclusions instead of assuming that OP knows how her work trains people. The fact that other people in the comments have said that the way OP is training him is how they were trained/train others should tell you there are plenty of workplaces where following someone around all day, every day is not the way it works. I’m not sure where you are getting that OP is inflexible and won’t have “direct dialogue,” but jumping to finding it “alarming” is unfair to the OP.

        2. OP#5*

          I actually don’t think he is a “creeper”. I do think that he wants to learn as much as possible. But being constantly watched is making me feel creeped out, especially when I already told him that observing at that point in time would not be helpful for him and that I would come and get him when I finished. I don’t think he is unsafe which is why I am looking for better ways to tell him that I need time to finish my own work rather than going to my supervisor about it.

          1. Salamander*

            OP, I think you’re being very reasonable, and this behavior is frankly very bizarre. I would also find his behavior to be very uncomfortable. And yes, I’ve trained many people over time.

            My suggestion would be…can you give him something to do that will not be mission-critical to allow you to get your work done? And by this, I’m meaning something like exercises or work in a test system that won’t damage anything. Examples: “I want you to review the color codes for the teapots at your desk.” “Please read chapter four on teapot spouts from this book at your desk.” “Please match these teapot color codes in a spreadsheet at your desk.” “Make a list of all the inventory teapot designs that include spout decorations at your desk.” “Please make a list of questions you have about teapot composition at your desk.” “Watch this hour-long webinar/video on teapot handles at your desk.” Etc. It would seem to busywork to someone in your position, but he clearly needs to get familiar with things at the ground level, so constructing some super-basic exercises he can do on his own while you work on your tasks would probably help the situation.

            The bright side is that you’ll be out of this soon, I hope!

          2. JulieCanCan*

            Yes it sounds like you definitely need to tell him SOMETHING – right now the poor guy doesn’t even know that he shouldn’t be shadowing you (which is very standard in most training experiences). Unless you’re clear with what you need him to do, there is literally no way for him to know.

            It sounds like this might be your first time training a replacement. If so, try to put yourself in his shoes- he needs you to tell him everything he should and shouldn’t be doing. He can’t know what is frustrating or annoying to you because you haven’t given him that information.

            You shouldn’t really be annoyed with a person who knows nothing about the company culture or standard practices.

            This really sounds like you need to have a conversation ASAP so everyone is aware of where they stand.

            I can see the trainee’s letter to AAM now:

            Dear Alison, I just started a highly technical job where I’m left to my own devices for 2/3rds of every day, but I have literally nothing to do during those 5 hours per day. I try to shadow the person I’m replacing but this only makes her angry. I don’t want to look useless so I’ll ask questions when they come to mind but that just angers her more. Is this the standard training technique most organizations use? I feel like I could be doing so much more but no one has said a word to me about how this is going to work. Help!
            Sincerely, The New Guy

            1. Grinch*

              Yep. The onus is on you, OP, to explain the meta-outline of how training will work, not for the new guy to guess at it.

          3. PersonalJeebus*

            He probably needs to be told what to do with the time you’re not training him. He may not know what is an acceptable way to spend that time.

            “I need my workspace to myself in order to focus on this, so you should go back to your desk. If you don’t have any more training materials to read/tasks to practice, it’s fine for you to read a book/the news/your social media feed while you wait!”

            “While I’m unavailable, you’re allowed to take a long lunch.”

            “While I’m unavailable, you’ll have to look busy because my boss wants you here and working the whole day, so here are some training materials to read. If you finish them, read them again and come up with some questions for me to answer later.”

            “Once our 2 pm training session is over, you’re fine to go home early.”

            This also helps him learn about the office culture and expectations around time management.

      3. pancakes*

        There’s a lot of middle ground between all-day hand-holding & sitting in unproductive silence for 2 hours at a time.

        To be absolutely clear, being silent for 2 or more hours of reading is fine, great even if there’s a lot to take in, but it doesn’t sound like this company has much reading material to occupy his time. Surely there’s something relevant to whatever he’s meant to learn somewhere, though, even if it isn’t in-house.

    7. Nita*

      Hard to say what’s going on here. In my job, “training” for hands-on work often involves shadowing the person doing it all day, but training for office work doesn’t work like that. Not at all. The trainee is supposed to read the training materials on their own, and try doing the work on their own after going through it with the trainer. The trainer is expected to take time to answer questions, but not to the point of hand-holding all day. And the hovering over OP’s shoulder is just weird.

      Maybe the trainee has really poor social skills and needs to be clearly told they should go to their desk and work on xyz, as Alison suggests. Maybe he needs this level of hand-holding because he’s not just new, but has absolutely no clue about the work. Which is a problem, because if someone completely entry-level was hired to do work that requires some experience, the hiring person really goofed. In that case OP should insist that the new guy try to work on something independently, and then meet with OP to go over the result… if he does that, OP may be able to tell whether he’s able to understand whatever he is supposed to be learning.

      1. Age of Makto*

        “In my job, “training” for hands-on work often involves shadowing the person doing it all day, but training for office work doesn’t work like that. Not at all.”

        You forgot to add “in my opinion.” Because on two occasions in my career, I’ve started office jobs in somewhat new fields from what I was going before, and my boss asked me to shadow my predecessor closely for a week or two — in other words, to do exactly what OP describes her replacement as doing.

        In law firms in the UK, it’s very common for what we would call “summer associates” to shadow a partner.

        The first thing OP should do is clarify whether her boss asked the replacement to shadow her.

      2. Flash Bristow*

        Right. One of the things I’ve done in my notice period, while training up my replacement, was to document everything that were daily tasks, and regular procedures and processes. Then get trainee to proofread the docs – as opposed to just reading! Make them feel useful – and it genuinely does help when they identify things that are assumed or unclear, and unknown to a newbie.

        That way they’re doing a useful service and paying better attention than skim reading the docs and going “yeah yeah, blah blah, done that, bored now…”

        Ask for their feedback on the docs, and mean it. That way they’re learning, but out of your hair while you’re doing other tasks.

        Also, OP#5, have you given trainee the guided tour? Stopping by people’s desks to introduce him to who does what? Invited them to reach out to him if there’s anything they need a hand with? Quietly asked them if they’d like to take him to lunch (so a good time for the guided tour is at the end of the morning)? Abd I’ve never started on a job which DIDN’T need its filing cabinets checked and ordered… tedious but it’s another way to familiarise yourself with where’s what, the names of clients or products or whatever may be relevant.

        OP#5 I do sympathise with your situation, especially having to get your work complete before going. Normally I’d expect stuff to be wound down and taken out of my hands so by your last few days there’s very little you’re still allowed to touch! But I do also feed for Trainee. I think you will need to sit down, have a think, be clearer with him about what he can or should do during this interim period. I get the impression he’s feeling pretty lost right now, desparate to learn before you leave, feeling that you’re giving him the brush off and not knowing how to fix this. Perhaps you could sit down for an honest chat over a tea break, and both put your cards on the table rather than both frustrating each other and worrying that there’s too much to do in too little time, with a ticking clock? Befriend and support each other rather than being all formal and failing to read each others’ minds? It’s only for a limited time, after all!

        Well, just my 2d. Good luck with it all.

    8. peachie*

      I see where you’re coming from, but it seems like OP is already spending a lot of time training. When you’re new to a job, it’s inevitable that you’ll have a lot of questions and take a lot of time to work through processes for the first time, but part of that adjustment is taking some time to try to work things on your own, especially when you’ve already been given information and training materials.

      Plus, I’m not going to discount the creepy vibe OP describes. The hovering is weird.

    9. Wildflowers Don't Care*

      I kind of had to laugh when the OP claimed she enjoyed “teaching,” because I really don’t think she does. I’m a horrible teacher because I lack patience, and from her comments I suspect she does too. In fact, i can’t help feeling sorry for the trainee. His actions may come of as creepy, but i think he just may be an overly conscientious nerd who is anxious to learn all he can from her before she leaves. I don’t know, but I think she can give the guy a little slack. After all, she’s leaving soon, and he wont be her problem for much longer. (By the way, my comments would be the same no matter what sexes any of the players are because I don’t believe it matters here.)

    10. Kathenus*

      A lot of great discussion in this thread, a few thoughts from my reading of all the comments. Agree that there may be a communication/expectation disconnect between OP 5 and the trainee, that might be cleared up with a frank conversation and goal/expectation setting for the training period.

      One thing touched on but not discussed in depth that struck me is that the trainee may be excited about the chance to learn some of the more complex tasks from the current expert, OP 5; or conversely worried that they won’t get the chance to do so and won’t get these skills before the OP 5 leaves.

      OP 5 – in case this is the case, in addition to the other ideas about making sure they have work to do, setting structure around when they shadow you, etc., could you maybe schedule some times to review completed complex cases with the trainee? You could preface it by saying that they may not yet have the experience to understand it completely yet, and that this training is not on its own sufficient for them to learn the task, but go through one or more of these after you’ve finished them and describe how you did it and why you made the decisions/actions that you did? Just a thought that might help if this is one of the underlying reasons they are so persistent with wanting to observe.

    11. Observer*

      It doesn’t really matter if the OP is being inflexible or not. They told the trainee that they are not available. That’s it. If that needs to change, the trainee needs to go to their boss and ask Boss to talk to OP. Hovering and getting into your trainer’s space is NOT the way to do things.

  4. Aw Nawny Maws*

    Re #4 “…I don’t know how to correct them without making things awkward. How do I tell them they’ve got the wrong gal??”…by, simply saying to them that “You’ve got the wrong gal”. Seriously, what’s so “awkward” about that?? It’s not like you’re telling them that they’ve got food pieces stuck in their teeth or anything

    1. Nikara*

      My co-worker and I are both white-appearing young women with brown hair, very opoular names for people in our age category, and the same job title. For years people have been getting us confused with each other, generally in very nice ways. AKA-I’ll be congratulated for a project that she did. I always make to sure to ascribe credit and correct people immediately and kindly. Unusually I’ll say something like- “I know, didn’t XXX do a great job on that project?”. Generally people get the idea that we aren’t the same person pretty quickly from there. There is always a moment of embarrassment, but honestly, I’d feel worse if I were getting credit for someone else’s excellent work, so making the correction quickly is the right way to go all around.

    2. Artemesia*

      I remember when I was running a big professional conference having one of the participants confuse me with a professional from another organization. I was a bit insulted and felt we were nothing alike and then I really looked at her — she was of a similar age, same race, brown hair, glasses, sort of tall, conservatively dressed — and yeah, if you didn’t know either of us it would be easy to confuse us. Even if race is the driving factor, well similar people get confused. Two blond willowy students with long straight hair are going to get confused too. Race makes it more embarrassing for the person doing the confusing, but we all tend to sort and recognize by dominant characteristics and race as well as age and gender are probably the most dominant characteristics followed by hair style.

      1. OP #4*

        See, part of my problem comes from us looking nothing alike. I’m half a foot taller, we have different colored hair, very different body types, she wore glasses and I don’t… and so on. If I’d made a mistake like that I’d be really embarrassed, but I realized I’m probably overthinking it!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OP, what you’re experiencing happens to me all the time (being confused for people who look nothing like me, save for our shared racial background). Which is shockingly banal, in my opinion, but apparently it hasn’t stopped people from doing it.

          In my experience, people are not as embarrassed about this as they should be. But it’s much better for you to call it out (you can do it kindly and warmly) than to let them keep confusing you. At some point they have to learn that all people of X racial background are not all the same.

          1. OP #4*

            I think in this case it’s more gender based than race, but the effect is similar. And you make a good point that the people most likely to make the mistake are the least likely to be embarrassed by it!

            1. AcademiaNut*

              I had a similar experience as a grad student at some meetings (male dominated STEM field), and I realized that for some senior faculty “female grad student” really was the extent of the information they were mentally storing. I had my hair dyed an aggressively non-natural colour at the time, but remembering “the blue-haired one” was beyond them.

              1. Mary*

                I had a weirdly clarifying moment of exactly how my people-memory works once when I ran into someone I knew socially at work, and my brain processed all this information about him – and still left me with two possible people!
                “Oh it’s him! – who is he? – I know him from a completely different context – actually a different country – we used to go to the pub together and I get on really well with his wife – he is ginger – his name is Pete – he has a PhD – last time I saw him was at least two years ago – he’s about five years older than me – HELP THAT STILL LEAVES TWO PEOPLE! Is it Pete L or Pete M?”

                It was like a game of Guess Who, I had all this information but still two characters left on the board.

              2. Silhouette*

                I’m a queer woman in a male-dominated STEM field, and I am _constantly_ mistaken for the two other out queer woman in my field in my country. The three of us are from three different continents (and have radically different accents in the local language), I am built like a linebacker (the other two are both very skinny) and also tend to dye my hair interesting colours, but, nope, clearly all butch women are the same.

            2. Nita*

              That is kind of awkward. I’m in a company of about 300 people, and our own head of HR mixed me up with my coworker for months. She’s kind of new (been here less than a year at that point), and maybe we look a little alike – same race, height, vaguely similar hair, we sit next door and do very similar work – but still. HR. I didn’t realize she’s gotten us confused until she greeted me by my coworker’s name. I guess it happens though, it’s got to be hard to remember the faces of 300 people you don’t interact with every day… thankfully she figured out who’s who eventually, otherwise I’d have corrected her next chance I got (we don’t see each other often – mostly just say hi in the hallways).

            3. AnotherAlison*

              At my first mech engineering job, my boss used to call me “Stacey.” Stacey had been in the department before me. She still worked at the company but in a different department when I started. We were both white women, but she was 10 years older, taller, 50 lbs heavier, loud and outspoken (I’m quiet), with platinum blond longish hair when I had a dark blond pixie cut. 40 men in the department could all be kept straight, and there were a couple other women that he could keep straight, but I always got “Stacey.”

              I don’t think the people saying this really need to be embarrassed–sometimes the brain just gets hung up on these things. I have a hard time remembering if I have met some people before, and I can see how if I didn’t remember you specifically, I may remember I met a woman in that role from Teapots Inc. . .must be you. (Exception if they make a dumb comment about why they mistook you for her.) You certainly should not hesitate to correct them, though!

            4. Chinookwind*

              I would agree that it is gender based. I think the human mine work from biggest to smallest differences when categorizing/filtering new people. Gender would be the first, most obvious one and, if there is only one woman in the group, no more filtering is required. And, if said woman is replaced by another woman and you don’t interact with either of them regularly and/or are horrible at names (I am that way), it may not even register as a change in the back of your brain because you know that person X works in the Nisku office is female, the person who you are meeting is female and works at the Nisku office, the person you are meeting must be person X (because you forgot that person X no longer works there).

          2. Slartibartfast*

            I have no memory for names or faces, and have confused people in similar roles who really have no physical characteristics in common except gender. I am pretty up front about it, and I know it’s my issue. I will also pretend to know who you are if you act like you know me, and I usually figure out who you are in a few minutes.

            1. Falling Diphthong*


              Usually people will at least give me the context in which they believe they know me, so I can either say “Oh, yes, I ran the elementary Science Fair, that’s probably where you remember me from” or “Nope, nothing to do with swim team, I think you may have me mixed up with someone else.” (I’m distinctive… but if you’re also a light skinned woman with shoulder length straight blond hair, well, even my own toddler once mixed me up with the same general type when one of us had sunglasses at daycare pickup.)

          3. Who Are You*

            I used beat myself up over this until I read that not being able to recognize people you have met is an actual thing. I also never realized that people could actual visualize people and things in their head, the minds eye. I can’t do these things and the anxiety when I have to greet someone I should recognize makes it worse.

            1. Asenath*

              Prosopagnosia. One of my sisters was diagnosed with it. I’m bad at recognizing faces, but she’s literally in a different category regarding that trait. I’m just, um, a bit less good at recognizing faces than average. Or than what appears to be the average level of ability to recognize people.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Reading about that was a huge lightbulb for me. I’m where you are, rather than your sister, but I still remember that dawning “Wait, this is a thing?”

            2. Red Reader*

              YES. A couple years ago, I discovered that for most people, picturing things in their head is an actual thing and not a metaphor, and my mind was BLOWN. My husband was like “well, what do you see when you close your eyes?” And I said “…. dark?” And that blew HIS mind. Heh.

              1. TheMonkey*

                Wait. It’s NOT a metaphor? Unless I’m asleep and dreaming, yeah, I close my eyes and see darkness.

                Even if I try really hard to think about, say, the layout of a room or the route to work or whatever, I’m not actually seeing anything. Just remembering that there is a stop sign with a giant tree and that’s where I turn left.

            3. Four lights*

              My husband is the same way. The lack of being able to “picture” something in your “mind’s eye” is aphantasia. As a result he’s not good with faces either.

            4. Lehigh*

              During freshman orientation, years ago, I enthusiastically introduced myself to the same girl three separate times, with no idea that we had never met before.

              Needless to say, we never became close.

          4. Ella Vader*

            I’ve been that white person, mixing up two people who don’t look or act much alike except that they are both East Asian female teenagers or tall South Asian men. I’m not great with facial recognition in general, but I struggle with it more for people who have different racial background from me, and I’m more embarrassed about it when it happens. Probably sometimes I’m just not working at paying attention, I’m just thinking “Black guy who works in engineering” without following through to think, “there might be more than one Black guy working in engineering. ” Which is racist.

            Sometimes I wonder if the “clues” I adopted consciously and unconsciously to distinguish people by appearance are maybe distinctions that work better for white people, too. Things about hair and about face shape.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Actually, it is. Depending upon your background, you cue into different things about a person’s appearance. (For example, shape and breadth of the nose and jaw are less likely to be noticed by people of European descent but more likely to be part of how a person from, say, East Asia identifies a facial characteristic.)

              To white people, hair and eye color seem like obvious markers (especially since some hair colors can be seen from a distance), but they aren’t that big a deal among people who don’t have as much variation in those two things.

              I had a roommate from Jamaica, and I remember that she always used somebody’s skin tone when she described them.

        2. Ron McDon*

          I think when people have in their mind ‘oh, that must be Lucinda over there’ they will explain away physical changes – she must have dyed her hair and got contacts, or put on/lost weight etc.

          Often people remember a person more by their job title or role, and less by physical characteristics.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t mean to derail, but sometimes people are just obliviously racist.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It can absolutely be racist (or sexist) for someone to confuse two people who look nothing alike for one another when they share the same racial or gender background.

                I’m raising this issue to push back on the idea that people remember others by their job/title over their physical characteristics. For a lot of people in the United States, that’s just not true. It’s unclear if race is the driving factor for what OP is experiencing, but it certainly sounds like it’s one factor (perhaps among others, some of which may be more influential).

                1. Aw Nawny Maws*

                  Um, people who mistake one person for another are neither “racist” or “sexist”. They simply…mistake one person for another

                2. Dead not read*

                  That may be true generally, I don’t know, but from what the OP has said it’s not a factor in this case. Thank you for raising awareness of the possibility, but it seems unnecessary to keep insisting on it when there is no evidence of relevance.

                3. Slartibartfast*

                  I speak only for myself. I have confused people of different races simply because they have the same role-in my case, visiting drug reps selling vaccines. My brain is not equipped with name or face recognition. I remember who you work for, what you’re selling, what your dog looks like. Maybe if you have neon colored hair, I’ll remember that. Certainly race can be a factor, I mean really how can it not? It’s embedded too deeply in society, and I am in no way discounting your experiences. I am merely stating my own.

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I cannot believe people are pushing back on this. This . . . is not new information. There absolutely can be a racist component to it. Are you racist just because you mixed up two black women? No. Do you have no problem keeping straight the white employees at that organization, and only mix up the black employees? . . . You need to do some self-reflection. And maybe read a few studies that show this is absolutely a thing. Or, I don’t know, believe the many people who have experiences this their entire lives.

                5. Elizabeth*

                  Yep. It reveals racism or sexism when it shows that race or gender is, for the one making the mistake, the only salient feature of the people they’re mixing up.

                6. Le Sigh*

                  Just because PCBH is discussing this (known, discussed, written about, please google) thing doesn’t mean it’s a personal attack on anyone here.

                  And I say this as a white woman. People can have trouble with faces generally for many reasons and it not be about racism or sexism. But it *is* a thing that exists and happens in this world, and merely discussing it here does not require an immediate defense of the reasons you have trouble with faces.

                  If your immediate response is to tell someone why they’re wrong, maybe pause for a second to instead absorb what someone who has had these direct, real experiences is talking about. It’s okay to acknowledge the many ways racism and sexism are woven into our world while also acknowledging other true things. Sometimes several things can be true at once!

              2. Ella*

                There is racism at play when someone more frequently mixes up non-white people than they do white people, though. And that’s something that definitely happens. The people making those mistakes likely aren’t not doing it intentionally, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t disproportionately negatively affect people of color. (And sometimes it can become pretty clear the person isn’t making a one-time innocent mistake, they just haven’t bothered to put in the effort to not mixing up the two black people in their office, or what have you.)

                1. Aw Nawny Maws*

                  OK so if I mistake (1980s / 1990s supermodels) Elaine Irwin and Tatjana Patitz, then I must be “racist” / “sexist” against blue-eyed blonde females. But I’m sure they won’t be complaining about it..

                2. Ceiswyn*

                  I’m not good at faces, and I do find it easier to mix up non-white people. It’s not because I’m not bothering to put in the effort, though; I actually try extra hard, because I know that it’s an issue that contributes to people of colour feeling marginalised.

                  I think what’s happening is simply that whatever set of traits I’m using to differentiate between the faces of white people doesn’t work so well with differentiating between the faces of people of colour, and I’ve unfortunately never had enough people of colour around me to figure out an approach that works better.

                3. discarvard*

                  @ Ceiswyn Watching more diverse media, e.g. fiction shows with an all PoC cast, may tune your face recognizing abilities.

                4. Ceiswyn*

                  @discarvard (Is that a Tom Lehrer reference I see?) The sort of media I watch tends to have a pretty diverse cast, but I watch very little of anything, so that doesn’t amount to a reasonable amount of exposure. Unfortunately :(

                  If you have any recs of shows with multiple PoC in them, I’d be interested – Friday thread?

                5. discarvard*

                  Diverse media recs would be a great Friday open thread topic! And it is indeed a Tom Lehrer reference!

                6. Chinookwind*

                  “I think what’s happening is simply that whatever set of traits I’m using to differentiate between the faces of white people doesn’t work so well with differentiating between the faces of people of colour, and I’ve unfortunately never had enough people of colour around me to figure out an approach that works better.”

                  I agree based on my experiences. I am a white chick who grew up around a lot of natives and then spent two years in Japan. The distinct characteristics in both Cree and Japanese geneology are subtle because the hair, eyes and facial structure are all similar but I can see the subtle differences and never get people in these groups mixed up (well, there was the time I thought group of Japanese Ainu were tourists from Northern Alberta, but that is another story).

                  But, put me in a group of white guys and girls with blonde hair or older white women with short, white, curly hair, and my brain gets overloaded and I literally can’t tell the differences between them all even though I am of the same race – I just never spent enough time with a large enough sample group to develop the ability to recognize the small differences.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s a known thing that happens to racial minorities. It may not be what’s happening here, but please don’t dismiss a very real thing that’s widely experienced.

                1. JamieS*

                  Do you know OP is a minority? Also she specifically notes it doesn’t happen to men and I’d think it’d happen to men of her race if there were a racial element. There’s definitely a possible sexist element going on and racism does exist in the world as a whole but there’s no evidence of race being a factor here.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @JamieS, as OP has noted, it sounds like this is a gender issue. But it’s not true that if someone mistakes two women of color for one another—despite the fact that they look nothing alike—, they are also likely to confuse men of color. It may happen to both populations, but women of color tend to have distinct experiences with racism than men of color (and vice-versa).

                3. JamieS*

                  PCBH so you’re saying there’s evidence women minorities are more often mistaken for one another than men minorities?

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @JamieS, I am saying that intersectionality changes the frequency and type of racially problematic experiences that WOC face when compared to MOC.

              4. OP #4*

                I just want to point out (again) that this doesn’t happen to my male colleagues, even ones who share a job title and look far more similar than Lucinda and I. I don’t think it’s racist in this case, but sexism is absolutely at play.

                The awkwardness comes from trying to walk the line between “not assertive enough” and “too bossy,” which is particularly tricky as a young woman in a very masculine career. I wouldn’t worry about this in a social setting, but work is different.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Ugh, OP, I’m sorry. It’s always impressive (/sarcasm) when people can’t distinguish between the two women in an organization, but they can run down exactly why John S. and John W. (who look similar and are dressed similarly) are very obviously different people.

                  I vote for Alison’s warm and breezy, “Oh, I’m Cordelia!” as a correction. But I am sending you so much empathy and commiseration on this one.

                2. valentine*

                  OP #4, maybe you’d feel really bad if you were the one doing this and are hoping to spare such feelings, but, given the sexism of “Woman=Lucinda,” I think you’ll be fine correcting them in a bright or breezy tone.

                3. Melly*

                  I feel you, OP. Regularly in male dominated settings here, frequently the youngest in the room. When people can’t remember me or get it wrong, I flash my friendliest smile and say “Nope! Good try, though. I’m Melly, from XYZ organization.” And we all laugh (on the outside, anyway).

                4. Based in science*

                  OP 4, I know this probably doesn’t help how you feel and it must be horrible if it feels like there is racial bias in play, but there has been studies that show that people struggle to identify people from other races/ethnicities ( a lot of work has been done on this for police line ups etc). My understanding is that we tend to look for certain facial characteristics to distinguish between people, and across ethnicities which characteristics these are change – meaning that white people are much better at identifying different white faces than they are non-white. This isn’t specific to white people either, black people have more trouble identifying non black faces etc.

                5. Not Sally*

                  This has happened to me more than a few times in my male dominated industry. Usually people are gracious when corrected. The few times people have responded with a “whatever” sexist vibe, I’ve sacastically said, “I know it’s hard because we’re both blonds with vaginas, but I promise you we are different people.” That usually does the trick and they remember my name going forward.

                6. LurkieLoo*

                  I think in the case of mistaken identity, you aren’t really going to come across as “too bossy” no matter how you phrase it. I would probably just address it the same way you address it in a social setting.

                  I worked at customer service in Macy’s for a while and a co-worker looked similar enough to be a sibling. Immediately after coming back from a break, a guy came up to the counter and started getting really aggressive about things I’d said. “Sir, you did not talk to me, but if you can give me more details, I’m sure I can help you out.” More about how of COURSE it was me. Then my not-actual-sibling co-worker walked in and I asked, “Are you sure you talked to me?” while pointing. He promptly and sheepishly apologized.

              5. sheworkshardforthemoney*

                I’m short with straight black hair and wear glasses. Another co-worker was much older, heavy-set, wore braids and worked on another floor in another department. We had a co-worker who called us by the same name all the time despite corrections. Our only commonality was our race. This went on for the whole time I worked there. Right now I’m working with college age students who are in the same age range, dress the same, style their hair the same way and all have similar builds. I manage to tell them apart.

        3. Ms Mac*

          You’re not alone OP #4! The person I sit beside has different coloured hair, significantly different build, a different accent and a different job to me. At least one a week for the last year people have confused us. The only thing we can put it down to is the fact we started in the same week. People’s brains make weird connections!

        4. Asenath*

          There was a period when we had several young women of similar build, similar age, similar clothing styles and very similar hair in the then popular colour and style – and I often confused them, which is why I got in the habit of not addressing people by name. I preferred the embarrassment of being suspected of not knowing their names to that of calling them by the wrong name. But my point is this is a fairly common source of embarrassment, and really, most people will understand if you simply correct them – and most of them (unless they’re as bad as I am with faces and names) – will learn to identify you correctly.

          It’s surprising how easily this sort of mistake can happen – even across races. In one long-ago job, I was, more than once, confused with another woman – one of the very few women employed there. Neither of us were of the predominant local race, or the same race as each other, and we dressed very differently and worked in different areas. Also, somewhat to my chagrin, she was older than I was. We were mistaken for each other, nonetheless, presumably on the basis that we both fit into the “foreign female” category. More recently, a very senior person in my organization used to greet me warmly every time we met in the corridor – actually, he did that with everyone. But in my case, he revealed that he had mistaken me for someone else – twice. I don’t know the other person, so I don’t know how close the resemblance was.

        5. W. S. Gilbert*

          I work in a field that tends to employ more men than women. One of our clients mistook a colleague for me and started discussing my project with her, much to her confusion. We are both women, but look nothing alike: different height, different hair color, different voice, different race, and different areas of expertise (we were working on different projects). But apparently, in the mind of that client, there was one female who worked for OurCompany, who was both of us.

        6. LQ*

          Eh I have a coworker who I’m that different from and people confuse us so much we just answer to each others names. I do think you should just pleasantly speak up. I might even say something nice about the former employee to help move the conversation forward. (Mostly because my single trick for networking is saying something nice about someone so if I get an opening for that I’ll grab it!) “Lucinda was amazing and brilliant at doing handles, I’m Cordelia and I’m trying to fill her shoes.” Whatever…

        7. Artemesia*

          Then you probably have people who don’t remember what your predecessor looked like but just know that Susie had that role. They don’t recognize Susie but are trying to pretend they do and then oops, it turns out it isn’t Susie but OP4.

        8. KR*

          I’m wondering if part of it might also be that they’re looking in their contacts/notes/asking around and ll that’s in their head is that Acme’s teapot sales manager is named Jane so they’re calling you Jane

        9. schnauzerfan*

          Years ago I had a student worker. Jeff “Jones” we now have a faculty member Mike “Jones” they are nothing alike except for both having the same last name and the both being men (about 30 years apart in age. Does this keep me from calling Mike “Jeff”? No. No, it doesn’t. I do it so often, my coworkers know I mean Dr. Mike Jones when I say Jeff stopped in. Grrr. So I call him Dr. Jones just to keep myself from messing up…

        10. Close Bracket*

          After a few months of, “Oh, I’m Cordelia, Lucinda was the person who did this before,” I would be really tempted to start adding, “..Lucinda was the short, blonde woman with glasses who did this before.”

        11. Jennifer Thneed*

          There’s a thing that happens to lesbian couples, where people can recognize the closeness but not figure out why, and so they assume that the women in question are sisters. As in “Are you two sisters?” as a friendly inquiry.

          (At least, this used to be true. Queers who are under 30, does this still happen to you? And I assume it happened to men as well.)

          The thing is, lots of times the women in question are very clearly NOT sisters, which makes the questioner look extra dumb. My wife and I once actually got “are you identical twins?” — not just twins, but identical twins! And we are SO VERY FAR from being identical, except that we’re both white and fair. Different ages, different heights, very different faces, different dressing styles, and on and on. My only conclusion is that people are lazy.

      2. Aw Nawny Maws*

        It’s really not “awkward” at all, OP4 simply needs to say “I’m not ‘Lucinda’, I’m OP4” and then (optional, if the person seems embarrassed) “Sometimes I get mistaken for ‘Lucinda’ who is no longer with the company”. Is that really so difficult for Op4??

          1. OP #4*

            Thanks Allison. I know it’s not an earth-shattering predicament but I really appreciate your advice!

            1. KC without the sunshine band*

              I think this also happens when a ton of the communication with these folks is by email. My company is spread out across the US, and I’m one of 2 people in my region in my position that are female. Therefore, at conferences and such, some folks confuse us, and we look nothing alike. They are just used to dealing with she or I on email. This is true for women and men across the corporation. They’re memorized data of us must be “lady from the east unit” or such. No biggie.

            2. SignalLost*

              It is an earth-shattering predicament when it’s happening to you, though. I just had to take the bull by the horns and correct every single person in my org about how my name is spelled and it felt really awkward to consider, but it was that or go through the rest of my career here with my name spelled wrong. (One is still spelling it wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s an autocorrect thing.) Don’t think this isn’t important just because it seems like it shouldn’t be!

    3. Ron McDon*

      I get people mixing up me and my new colleague all the time.

      The first time it happened I was genuinely bewildered, as I don’t think we look anything alike! But then I realised: we both have shortish, darkish hair with a fringe, dark heavy framed glasses and are a similar height, so I guess to people who don’t know us we are interchangeable.

      Still gives us a laugh everytime it happens! And I just say ‘oh sorry, it wasn’t me you were just speaking with, that was my colleague; she’ll be back in a moment.’ Zero awkwardness!

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In cases like this, the awkward is 100% the other person’s doing. So I think it helps to approach this as giving them a gracious way out of the hole they’re digging. That said, if they decide to keep digging, I will happily let them fall into that hole.

      I’m frequently confused with women of my race, even when we look nothing alike, have very different features (including different skin, hair, and eye colors), and are completely different heights/weights. I think the most uncomfortable was a woman who confused me for another woman (who is awesome!) who had been her roommate for a multi-day conference the prior year.

      Once I realize they’re confusing me with someone else, I very warmly say, “Oh, I think you’re thinking of [other woman’s name]. I don’t think she’s here, today, but you may be able to get in touch with her through [suggestion here].” Most people have the decency to be embarrassed at that point, although I’ve also had people double down that I must be the other person. If they’re overly insistent, I’ll be more direct and more steely-toned and say something like, “No, we are two different people. I’m [my name].”

      1. MK*

        How do they double down? Do they insist you don’t know who you are or do they think you are pranking them by pretending to be someone else?

        1. Over the hill*

          “But im pretty sure youre the one that did X. Yes… but that still doesnt make me Lucinda”

          Usually it seems to be a way to save face and kind of throw their memory under the bus, as if their memory isnt them and they cant be held liable for it making a mistake.

          Basicay they struggle with in the moment correction that has made them feel uncomfortable and try to get YOU to acknowledge that they are free to not feel bad. Its irritating as hell.

        2. Cindy Featherbottom*

          I’ve actually had people do that to me (rarely thankfully). I had someone ask me once after I corrected them about my name ask “are you sure?”….really? Am I sure that I know who I am? I try not to take it personally because I figured its usually them trying to mentally figure out why they are confusing me with someone else. But yes, people do “double down” occasionally. I dont think it helps that I’m a fairly average height with brown hair and eyes so my features are super common.

          1. OP #4*

            Ugh, my sympathies. I’ve had that happen too and it’s funny but frustrating. I’ve also been corrected on spelling my own name, since the spelling isn’t the standard version…. really? As if I hadn’t been writing it this way since kindergarten?

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Everything Over the hill and Cindy have said. I have literally had people tell me that I’m someone else and then become upset because they think I’m “lying” (it’s never “pranking” to this special subsection of confused people, but rather, a conspiracy to embarrass them). I’ve also had the person who calls me by a name they think is stereotypical for people of my racial background and refuse to correct it, which I see as a form of doubling down. For those folks, I deploy the strategy outlined in the amazing Twitter thread by Tora Shae.

          I should also be clear that this usually happens with people who do not have difficulty remembering distinctions between people and accurately identifying people—I understand that there are some folks who simply cannot remember faces for anyone of any background.

          1. Karyn*

            “Okay, Todd.”

            “Good morning, Jeff.”

            “Scott, are you sure about that?”

            “What do you think, Brett?”

            “Later, Kyle.”

      2. Dana Lynne*

        Recently at a conference, I was mistaken for my sister by a person in my field whom I know slightly. My sister went to high school with her many years ago. My sister and I look nothing alike and work in different industries, for most of this time in different states. I pleasantly corrected her quickly and it was fine although she was embarrassed. So the mental people-filing that goes on here can be quite surprising. Who knows what associations this person dreamed up? But it turned out fine in the end.

      3. Health Insurance Nerd*

        I once had someone double down on the fact that I was pregnant when she saw me at a wedding the prior year (where I drank the entire night). I was, in fact, not even remotely pregnant. That someone would continue to insist that I was, was bizarre. And I also immediately got rid of the dress I wore to that wedding!

    5. I’m actually a squid*

      In my prior job (retail) if I was working with one manager then we both knew we’d spend the day confusing shoppers. And, the thing is, put side-by-side, you wouldn’t guess it as we really don’t look alike. But as humans we usually short-hand the people we meet by as few distinguishing characteristics as we can. So in our case we each got slotted into “female, Caucasian, short hair, glasses” and then threw customers off by both fitting that description.

      I suspect in OP’s case people short-handed her predecessor as “female, [race]” and, until now, that worked.

      In my experience a quick, “oh, Lucinda was my predecessor. I’m X,” and then carry on with the topic of hand all works nicely to correct without embarrassment.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        There are 2 employees at my work who look very similar, and it would be easy to confuse one with the other. (They work in different departments on different floors)

        Funnily enough, you never see them in the same place together.

        1. BigTallLady*

          I think the problem is one of being “othered” in the office – whether that’s gender, race or other factors. OP is in a (less powerful) minority in her office and that makes it more awkward when she is confused with the only other member of that minority, even though that person no longer works in the industry.

          OP you have my sympathies – this happens to me at a mainly older, male work-related conference I attend every year. Myself and another queer woman (same race, physically very different – I’m aboit twice her height and weight! – and employed by different companies in very different roles) are frequently confused, to the point where she has had lengthy conversations about my company/role, all the while wondering why the other person is so interested in this topic… we joke about it to each other but it is awkward in the moment, particularly if the person is senior to you. I can’t improve on Allison’s advice but just to confirm that this is awkward!!

          1. OP #4*

            Thanks, you articulated much better than I could why it happens and why it’s so awkward to correct people. It’s particularly a problem when I’ve met someone multiple times and only now realize they think I’m her. Will they be embarrassed? Maybe, maybe not, but a lot of older men take really badly to being corrected or embarrassed by younger women, so I want to make it as graceful as possible. I want to save my feather-ruffling for times it’s really critical.

            1. Gumby*

              Heh, it’s totally not what is happening in your situation, but for me? Meeting multiple times is no guarantee. Because names just do-not-stick right away for me. They do eventually, particularly if I see you several times in close proximity (so once a week for 2 or 3 weeks should do it). But then again, I *know* that I don’t know the other person’s name, I don’t just randomly assign them one. There was a guy in my freshman dorm whose name I’m not sure I ever got down. He was “the football player whose mom does his laundry” (seriously, she came to watch the home games and would be down in our dark and blah basement laundry room washing his clothes). But he was also rarely around and rarely participated in dorm events so…

      2. Elizabeth Proctor*

        This happens to me with servers at restaurants all the time. I can never pick mine out. It seems I latch onto hair color most, so if there are more than one brunette I’m done for.

    6. Miss Wels*

      I recently had a situation where at our large organization, another staff member I rarely work with approached me and asked me about a piece of equipment that I had never used. She claimed my name was on it. Turns out, it was someone else entirely and she mixed us up because we’re both Southeast Asian with last names of Spanish-Catholic origin so I was pretty annoyed because the whole thing felt racist to me. But this may not have been the case for OP4.

  5. Namelesscommentator*

    #1 can you save up a modest budget for some new clothes? For $30 you can usually walk away from goodwill with a few pairs of pants and t-shirts. You can mix the business casual clothes in with your business to create an appropriate look.

    I’m also looking at this from the perspective that, if your clothes were too casual for your office, my response, in addition to cheap shopping advice, would be “find a way that doesn’t include going to worm dressed inappropriately.” From what you write, it doesn’t sound like you’re wearing a ballgown to teach kindergarten, but if you’re coming to work dressed wildly out of the norm, I’d prioritize meeting the norm in my budget.

    1. many bells down*

      Mixing the dressy pieces with the casual pieces is how I’d transition. Silk blouse with jeans and loafers, pencil skirt with a tshirt and a scarf or some funky costume jewelry. It’s hard to change your style when you’ve been dressing one way for a long time!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely this—jeans will almost always help you bring an outfit down a few notches without going overboard (same with casual tops with more formal bottoms). I’d also think about transitioning footwear and accessories, because that can help dress down an outfit.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agree with the footwear piece. Flats or non-athletic sneakers (think Vans, Chucks, Pumas, et cetera) go a very long way toward dressing a look down. Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear often noted that the tone of your entire outfit is set by your shoes. I think the exact quote was, “There’s a reason you never see a nun in stilettos.”

          I also suggest mixing and matching so you aren’t wearing full suits, dressing WAY down once a week or so, and picking up just a couple of more casual pieces to mix in. I’m not a thrift store shopper, but I do really well on the clearance racks at Old Navy, Gap, Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx.

          But mostly, I doubt people will notice. There’s nothing wrong with looking extra nice; you mostly look like you have good taste.

    2. Rebecca*

      I also learned that at the Goodwill store near me, every Sunday and Monday the “tag of the week color” means 79 cent clothing items. You might be lucky and find something. **I buy most of my work clothes at thrift shops!

    3. Kermit*

      I came here to recommend Goodwill or the like. A family member had gastric bypass several year ago, and soon after lost enough weight that none of her clothes looked right on her. She hit thrift stores and got an entire wardrobe for less than a suit.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      This is what I would do. If you have the time to pick through the racks at a thrift store, you can often find good clothes in decent repair for $2 or less. It takes time, but if you’re on a budget it can be worth it. You say you have a suit or suits; break up the suit into pieces and wear only the trousers, or just the jacket, instead of the whole suit. Matching articles of clothing tend to skew dressier than non-matching items.

      Shoes and accessories also go a long way to bringing an outfit up or down. What do you already own that could dress down your work clothes? Do you have more casual shoes that you could put with trousers or some funky costume jewelry? Think outside the box a little bit and you may be able to put together a few fun looks that will fit in with your new work culture without having to actually change your wardrobe.

  6. TypityTypeType*

    LW1, you may be worrying too much about this! When I started a job at an extremely casual office in my younger days, I wore skirts and blouses and often heels both because I was more comfortable that way to start and, more to the point, those were the clothes I actually owned for my previous jobs, and I was way too short on money to not wear perfectly good clothes.

    Nobody ever noticed, or if they did, they never said a word about it. I did as Alison suggested and gradually adjusted my wardrobe over time, and it was fine, and your situation will most likely be too.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. OP#1, the wardrobe you describe can probably be dressed down fairly easily by modifying your accessories. You can start adding more casual pieces as you go along — Old Navy is good for this, and check out any local thrift shops in your area.

      But don’t panic. Your coworkers are probably less concerned about this than you are.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        If anything, they’ll probably think something like, “oh, she looks nice” and not give your clothes another thought.

    2. Boo Hoo*

      Most people at my office wore jeans and sweatshirts (gross). I wore a pencil skirt and blouse most days as that is what I liked. No one thought I was too dressed. Management dresssed more alongside my lines, although sometimes more casual so at most I looked like i was following their lead rather than the lazy people.

      1. Wehaf*

        This comment seems unnecessarily judgmental and unkind. There is nothing inherently gross about a sweatshirt as opposed to a blouse, are wearing jeans instead of a skirt doesn’t make someone lazy – it usually means they have different priorities.

    3. CarolynM*

      I agree, TypityTypeType! I get how OP#1 might feel a bit self conscious being new and being a bit more dressed up than the average coworker, but if you aren’t wearing super-formal clothing, you are probably not tripping anyone’s radar for being dressed out of the norm.

      I work in an office without much of a dress code – people wear everything from jeans and hoodies to dress pants/skirts. I wear dresses or skirts every day – even weekends – dressing the way I do makes me happy and that gives me confidence and a boost – days that I get to wear my purple fit and flare dress with the black bands around the skirt and my favorite black cardigan – ooh! I feel like I can do anything! I purposely kick it up a notch when I know I have a challenging day ahead – feeling put together and polished is an extra shot in the arm!

      I totally get why OP wants to eventually add new wardrobe pieces to tone down the formality of her look, but my advice until then – just rock it! Don’t feel embarrassed or try to shrink into the background so no one notices – just be confident, warm and professional and THAT is what will catch peoples attention. I don’t think anyone consciously stops to think that I am always a bit more dressed up than everyone else, it’s just who I am and what I do. They don’t talk about my wardrobe – I am better known for my work! ;)

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Clothing is a lot about the attitude you wear them with.

        You might make it a priority to act more casual rather than dressing it. Make sure you are warm and congenial with your coworkers.

      2. Op#1*

        Thank you for setting my mind at east a bit about it. I think that’s a big part of why I was writing in. I know about thrift stores (I just can’t afford things right now) and what not, but I was hoping for actionable ideas of ways to fix this since I don’t have the cash to spare, as well as ways to reframe my mindset around what I do have, and I think I am probably overthinking it a little.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      At my previous job, I dressed quite a bit more conservatively than my coworkers did because I am pretty heavily tattooed and wanted to make sure everything was covered up. Not that I think tattoos are unprofessional, but that’s just not how I wanted to present myself at that work place. I honestly think OP is probably fine. I always really admire people with a sense of style. I kinda dress like Carl from Aqua Teen.

    5. Sleepytime Tea*

      The way I look at it, being the best dressed person in the office (barring showing up in a ball gown or something) is never a bad thing. I would much rather be known for dressing really nicely than known for dressing poorly. Sure, there’s some exceptions. In the tech industry people might look at your particularly weird, but that’s still only in parts of the industry, not all of it.

    6. Op#1*

      Thank you, I think I probably am worrying a bit too much about this, and since I can’t afford new things right now, I think thinking about it from the mindset of “it’s mostly totally fine”, is a good way to go, and to yes, adjust overtime when i can.

  7. Not A Manager*

    #1 – I find that I can dress down a dressier piece by pairing it with a less dressy one. Silk shirt with jeans, dressy slacks with a plain tee shirt. Also, depending on the workplace, something like dress slacks paired with fun Vans.

    1. Anancy*

      Agree with the above. You can also use patterned tights, or funky accessories, and more casual hair, nails, makeup to dress down a look too. Adding a casual large necklace or scarf could also work well. Could you also try a casual top under a blazer?

    2. Circe*

      Honestly, this dressy-cashz mix is my preferred workwear style, but it’s still dressy for my office! And while I’ve gotten less dressy since I started, I’m still a step dressier than my coworkers. And no one cares! By now, they know I just like blazers.

      OP1, one thing that helps me keep my shopping in check is keeping a running list and then budgeting and waiting for coupons/sales. If I were going to add five pieces, I’d add a good pair of dark jeans, a chambray shirt, some cool casual shoes (flats/loafers/ ankle boots), and one dressy tee in white and one in grey/black/navy. Then keep your eye out for these pieces at a bargain when you’re shopping. I think you’ll be surprised how much a few casual things can update your look.

      1. PhyllisB*

        This may have already been suggested; but if you have family that gives you gifts for Christmas/birthday perhaps your request this year could be some casual clothing, or gift cards to pick out what you like.

  8. Close Bracket*

    OP1: silk tops with jeans, “nice” t-shirts (ie, not graphic tees and not crew neck tees) with pencil skirts and slacks. That will look more casual without a huge change in your wardrobe.

    OP4: There’s not just a racial aspect to it. There’s a gendered aspect that is worth acknowledging as well. It’s pretty common and well known (to women, anyway) that when a second woman joins a group where there was previously one, they get lumped together. Sometimes, they don’t even have to be the only two women, such as if they perform the same function. They just become “one of them.” Oddly, in those instances nobody seems have trouble telling all 47 of the men apart.

    1. OP #4*

      Yes, exactly! That’s one of my concerns… it can be tricky navigating a male-dominated industry as a woman, and the line between what people consider “not assertive enough” and “bossy bitch” is is tough to find. I admire Lucinda’s work but I want to establish my own professional reputation separate from her. Like you said, no one has trouble telling my (male) coworkers apart.

      1. Lora*

        Oh wow, I feel this comment.

        More than once I’ve worked at places that had not only a whole bunch of men of all the same race, and all dorky engineers dressed in the Engineer Uniform (10+ year old Dockers and a polo shirt with the logo of a company they used to work for), but they all had the SAME NAME. Literally, four guys named Chris all in the same department, or five Andys, or six Dans.

        People somehow managed to tell them apart. I don’t know how, I could barely tell them apart after years of working with them. But they all knew The Girl, just like they knew the One Black AutoCAD Guy or the One Guy, We Think He’s Mexican Or Something Maybe?

        1. OP #4*

          Oh goodness yes, it’s just like that. At one point we had three guys with the same first name AND last initials… we joke that you can’t get hired unless you share a name with a current employee!

          1. Asenath*

            We’ve had two women who retired (not at the same time) and in both cases the replacement had the same first name as her predecessor. We joked that there must be a new policy requiring all new hires to have the same name as the person leaving the position! And the ones who worked with me most closely has a name beginning and ending with the same letter as mine. I wouldn’t have thought that would be really confusing, but a surprising number of people send us emails with the wrong names. I don’t think any of us – me, present co-worker and past co-worker – look at all alike, but of course, many of the people emailing us don’t see us face to face very often.

          2. Slartibartfast*

            I once worked with a Jen, Jenny, and Jennifer all at the same time. It was a small business, over 1/3 of the staff had the same name. Female dominated industry, so the men were the ones that stood out. That led to some interesting conversations.

        2. CM*

          Haha, I am often in rooms where I’m the only woman and everyone else is Mark or Dan. And there are like six people in the room.

          OP#4, I wonder if you can do more to differentiate yourself in their minds than just correcting your name. I don’t think that will be effective since they just see you as “the woman.” Are you ever in a situation where you have something else to connect with them over? Like, “Oh, I’m Cordelia, I replaced Lucinda. I worked with you last year on the penguin restructuring account. How’s that going, by the way?”

      2. Elle*

        I feel you so much on this. I sometimes feel like I’m walking around with a blinking arrow pointing down at me sometimes, I just always stand out more than the guys I’m surrounded by. Sometimes that’s good (like getting an opportunity to lead something because when I speak up in a meeting its way more obvious), and sometimes that’s bad (people know me as the girl, instead of the person who is good at ___).

        I find that the tone with which you respond to insensitivity is the best tool you have in not coming across like a bitch for correcting them. I actually learned this from watching a woman executive at work who I adore. She just walks around acting like OF COURSE she should be treated exactly the same as every other person out there and OF COURSE the entire room WILL be quiet and listen when she speaks. And if they’re not giving her the respect she deserves, she’ll just get this perfect slight frown and cock of her head until everyone stops talking and looks at her again.
        So, if they treat you unfairly, absolutely correct them, but do it with a smile on your face as if its just as natural as reminding a toddler to say please. No need to be upset or emotion, just firm and confident that you deserve to be treated in a different way.
        -“Oh, you must be thinking of my predecessor. Actually, I’m Cecilia. Nice to meet you again!” :)
        -“Oh, I actually don’t discuss those things about work. But how is your son doing?” :)
        -“I would love your feedback as soon as I’ve gotten all the details out but I swear I’m getting to your question, its on slide 5.” :)

      3. CheeryO*

        It’s not bossy to correct them on your name – it would be far more awkward if you let them continue calling you by your predecessor’s name. I’m in a similar position, and when people mistake me for my other young, female coworker, I just say, “Oh, actually, I’m {CheeryO}!”

        Also, maybe I’m confused, but these are people you’ve never met before, right? I think I’d give them a mental pass as long as they don’t continue to get your name wrong. I kind of look at it as a positive thing, in a weird way – I get to force the hordes of 50-something white dudes to take a second to realize that there are multiple women in my role, and they should probably get us straight.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        I work in a male dominated field and I skew towards “bossy bitch”. It’s really okay. You get may get pushback and stupid comments at first, but if you can establish yourself and someone who isn’t going to be cowed, life gets easier. I honestly haven’t had many problems. Men usually don’t worry about preserving other’s feelings, and you don’t have to shoulder that burden either. Which is hilarious because I’ve never seen people as catty, gossipy, and subsequently butthurt as a group of men. Don’t take anything personally. Be cheerful, be friendly, but be firm.

      5. Close Bracket*

        I feel you. I’m an engineer with degrees in physics. I don’t have good advice, just lots of sympathy.

    2. WS*

      I was working in an engineering firm (as admin support) and the almost entirely male workforce were unable to tell me apart from the sole female engineer, even though we looked nothing alike and I wore office clothes while she wore clothing appropriate for building sites, including hi-vis gear! There was only one “woman” space allowed, but they had no trouble with the five Matthew C’s.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      Because if you’re the only woman, you’re often The Girl. “Oh, you’re the Girl at the factory.” That IS your name. Girl. Or, slightly more specific, you’re the Llama Girl, or the Teapot Girl. It’s incredibly stupid, but it goes the other way too. One man in a large group of women is The Guy. He’s the Llama Guy or the Teapot Guy. His real name is unimportant. Humans are often very unoriginal creatures and we don’t put more thought into things than we have to. Of course you have to remember all ten Scott’s because they all do something different, but if there’s only one woman, all they have to remember is that there’s a woman. No more thought required.

      Don’t be afraid to err on the side of assertiveness on this matter. People will remember your actual name if you make it uncomfortable for them not to. Correct them each and every time. Be cheerful about it but don’t back down either. I work in a male dominated field, and it’s really okay to assert yourself. Do it brightly and firmly, don’t get mad, and don’t back down. Meekness is often not actually admired at the end of the day, no matter how many grumpy sexist comments the good ole boys make. And trust me, I’ve heard many of them.

      1. Close Bracket*

        And when you are not the only woman, you are still The Girl. And the other woman is also The Girl. And when the men need the woman who does teapots, they go to The Girl without checking to see whether The Girl is the correct woman.

        Whereas the men are The Llama Guy, The Teapot Guy, The Llama Guy No Not That Llama Guy The Other Llama Guy, The Teapot Guy With the Brown Hair, The Teapot Guy With The Glasses, etc., and NOBODY goes to the nearest man and just starts talking teapots. THAT’s the problem.

        If you’ve never been in the position of all the women being lumped into a borg called The Girl, that’s awesome. It’s a real thing, though. Being the Teapot Woman would be a huge a improvement (until they hire another woman to do teapots, then you become the The Teapot Girl borg).

    4. Mary*

      >>Oddly, in those instances nobody seems have trouble telling all 47 of the men apart.

      On the flipside, the head of my directorate, his deputy and the head of the other directorate and a couple of other senior-level managers which we work with closely are ALL middle-aged white men with the initials CP or PC, and I absolutely cannot get my brain to remember the difference between them. >_<

      1. chickaletta*

        Late to the comments here, but if you google “wardrobe capsule” you’ll see tons of ideas for creating a lot of outfits out of just a few pieces. The idea is that everything should go with everything. It takes a bit of planning and self-discipline when shopping, but it’s easy on the budget (and also makes it a lot easier to get dressed in the morning). You might find that you can create new outfits out of what you already own, and when you do have funds to go shopping you’ll know that you’re buying something that will give you a lot of bang for your buck. As someone on a tight budget also, I don’t shop often for clothes but I always have a variety of outfits to wear to work. Good luck!

  9. Training Please*

    I find all of letter #5 and the subsequent advice confusing. Dude needs training and information for his job and the person that he’s been told will give it to him…isn’t. What is he supposed to do while OP is busy, twiddle his thumbs? As opposed to, you know, watching his immediate predecessor do the job he’s going to be doing so he can learn?

    1. AcademiaNut*

      It sounds like the OP is expected to train the new employee, but also expected to complete all her normal work tasks as well. So if she’s training for eight hours (at 1/3 her normal speed), she then has to stay an extra 16 hours to make up the extra work. Which is not feasible. So instead the new employee gets 3 hours of training a day, and the OP has (only) 3 hours of overtime.

      And really, it’s pretty unusual to have your predecessor training you in the new job – they’ve usually given their two weeks notice and left by the time you’re hired, so any training he gets like this is a bonus.

      What the OP might do is give the trainee tasks to do independently – reading documentation, for example, or doing simple tasks, the rest of the time. Or she can go to her manager and say that she can do full time training or her regular work, but not both – there’s no need to drive herself to exhaustion right before taking a new job.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—I have never been on the training end and expected that I would just watch the other person after the designated training time that day has expired. That’s not really normal for a lot of jobs.

    2. Madame X*

      At my current job, I underwent extensive training to learn how to do the tasks for my role. It was a mixture of on the job training with an assigned mentor, shadowing, self learning activities, and reading literature related to my role. After a few weeks, I started taking on simple tasks ( that was reviewed by my mentor or supervisor).
      I can sympathize with the OPs replacement because I recognize that he likely wants to learn the role as well as he can so that he won’t be completely lost when the OP leaves. However, hovering over the OPs shoulder is not a great tactic. Especially if the OP has already explained to him when his designated training times would be.
      It would not have been feasible for my mentor to spend every minute of her workday training me hands on while completing her workload. Which is why my training was a mixture of tasks with my mentor, with other people and on my own.

      I wonder if there any independent training tasks that the OP’s boss could assign the new employee.

    3. Amylou*

      It looks like the OP already gives him plenty of training time! He is being rude and it sounds like he can’t keep himself busy (plenty of reading up/studying the org to do when you’re new) which I would find a bad sign. What if OP had already left? He’d had to find those things out for himself anyway, not expect to have someone at his beck and call 24/7.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Part of the problem is that we don’t know if it’s the kind of job that needs a full week of nonstop training, or if he should have been able to get the gist of it within a couple of hours. Or if he’s been told all of the directives by OP5 and he’s just not following her instructions.

        Is the trainee aware of the fact that he’s not supposed to be doing what he’s doing? And is he able to work alone at his desk and actually DO work? I mean, in some jobs a few hours of training wouldn’t be sufficient and that would be just a start, but other jobs would be fully trained after 4-5 hours …….that’s another variable that we don’t know. There are many jobs that require a full week or two of intense one-on-one training where the first week the trainee is simply observing, and the next week the trainee is doing the work while the person training them sits near them or is within reach.

        Maybe OP5 will come back and comment to fill in a few of the blanks so we can better understand, because I personally felt a bit sorry for her replacement after reading OP5’s letter. We don’t know if the new person should be fully-functioning and autonomous by now, or if he knows he’s supposed to stay put, or if he has been told all he needs to know in order to not annoy OP5 while Op5 is doing other stuff, etc. AND if he’s been told not to follow and hover and ask non-stop questions and he continues to do so, it would appear that he’s not the right person for that position and it’s time to let him go and find a more suitable candidate. Time to cut your losses and contact the 1st or 2nd runner up for the job with fingers crossed……

        1. valentine*

          Why would you chase down your trainer outside training time, follow her, and loom over her? Those are things I’d do to annoy a sibling, not workplace behavior. His Uriah Heep act has tripped her spidey senses.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            I don’t understand why people are so baffled at the idea of a trainee needing to hover and loom. When I hear “hovering” and “looming” I immediately think about training people while sitting at my desk, on my computer, with the trainee directly behind me slightly to my left. This is a very necessary “hover position” so they can observe everything I’m doing on the screen while I’m the person actually sitting at my desk. They have no choice but to hover and loom. It’s the only way they can see my computer screen while I work on said computer. The hover and the loom are standard practice.

            Even in my waitressing days, training a new server entailed them hovering and looming while I punched my tables’ orders into the computer.

            What training is there that doesn’t involve heavy hovering and looming??!! This describes every training period for every job ever to exist on planet earth in the history of jobs.

            Anyone weirded out by a hovering trainee has never trained.

            1. Close Bracket*

              When I train people, I make room at my desk and have them sit next to me. Sometimes I hand them the key board and mouse, which would be challenging if they were behind me. Having them hover and loom behind me would make me extremely uncomfortable, and yet, I have in fact trained people.

        2. Amylou*

          I am kind of assuming here, that if it was a job where full-time training is needed, he would be given full-time training or that OP5 had mentioned: I’m supposed to give him full-time training but I also have to finish my work, so I can’t (but that doesn’t seem to be the case how I read it). OP5 has said training him takes 3x as long as for other people, it looks like she’s doing enough.

          Now it’s a perfectly valid situation he may have more questions than were answered during the training time, but the way he goes about it is just so awkward and socially inept… that seems to be OP5’s issue. Let’s take her at her word that she provides sufficient training! After all, she’s the one doing the job currently. If new guy needs that much hand-holding, it doesn’t bode too well.

          If it was me, and I had questions outside of my training time, I would certainly go to the trainer to ask, but if I saw my trainer was busy, I’d be like “oh shall I come back later today? When’s a good time?”. And then leave. Not hang around. Also, it’s his training period, I wouldn’t expect someone to be fully autonomous then. Your first week is a great opportunity to get to know people, find the best coffee machine, set up your computer the way you like it, read through HR manuals, read through your training manual, read up on your new company or the products/services you’re providing… maybe he’s not so self-sufficient and OP5 could tell him to do one of those things instead (if they’re appropriate to their org) in addition to clearly telling him to leave her office.

    4. Scarlet*

      What I find confusing is that several people seem to think that on-the-job training requires as much supervision and hand-holding as kindergarten.

      1. NotoriousMCG*

        Or we came from environments where shadowing is the norm? There’s no need to demean people who have had a different experience than you.

      2. JulieCanCan*

        It 100% depends on the job. I’ve trained some people for jobs where it was necessary to sit with them for the entire day, every day for a week, sometimes two. But there have been roles that need an hour or two of general explanation, then it’s “let me know if you have questions, I’ll be in my office!”

        I’m confused by the people commenting who keep saying “why does he need so much training? Why does he need hand holding?” when we have no idea what position or industry we’re discussing, nor do we know what the norm is for the exact job he’s training for.

        There are thousands of variations of training styles and timeframes and jobs, and what the trainee is looking for from Op5 doesn’t sound outrageous to me.

        1. Nita*

          Great point. It really matters what kind of work this is. It’s one thing to throw someone into writing or filing, where it’s easy enough to fix whatever they mess up, and another thing to expect them to know their way around, say, unfamiliar machinery.

          1. JulieCanCan*


            We have no clue what’s normal in OP 5’s world, so when people keep saying “why does trainee expect so much training? why does he need so many hand holding??!!” it’s completely unfounded.

            OP has posted a few more details and it sounds like the job is very technical and *does* require some intensive, time-consuming training in order to gain an understanding of the role. So he probably can’t jump in and work away on his own without potential issues arising. But there *are* certainly jobs where a new person could kind of putter around and work without the fear of messing anything up too badly. This position just doesn’t sound like one of them.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I think it can also depend heavily on whether it’s the only role of its type in the company or not. If I left tomorrow, there are 14 other people who could train someone to do my job. If they took over a specific project as PM mid-project, then I would have to brief them heavily on that project, but there would still be the project sponsor and the team left behind to tell them anything I forgot. If you’re the only person who does “X”, then this is the last chance to ask questions of the predecessor and no one else may know all the details of the job.

      3. Mike C.*

        I can think of tons of different types of positions, blue collar and white, that would require this sort of supervision.

    5. Boo Hoo*

      Every job I have ever been at there is plenty of twidding thumbs during training. It is not uncommon. My husbands company takes at least a month before new hires even get their ID cards which are required to so much as long into a computer (to me that is beyond ridiculous, but hey, government work). Trainee should take that time to get to know people (have an extra cup of coffee and hang in the lunch room for a few), read up on policies, master the copy machine, organize something.

    6. MarsJenkar*

      Does the trainee have a desk, or somewhere to do the training exercises? (I thought the letter implied they did, but rereading, I’m not so sure.) Some kind of “landing spot” to be when OP isn’t training them? If not, or it wasn’t properly explained to them, the company is mishandling the situation badly, and it would explain the hanging around–they don’t know where else to go. If this turns out to be the problem, this needs to be addressed.

  10. Cat wrangler*

    #OP4, don’t be embarrassed, just correct them and do it consistently each time, with a smile. I have a very popular first name which has led to potential mixups on a number of occasions but I just correct them. Occasionally I have to correct the name (so Katie rather than Kathy). If they’re reasonable people, they’d want to know their mistake so they can stop making it.

  11. Bex*

    #3: At my company, what your boss is asking you to do could be grounds for his firing. He paid for the drinks, now he wants you to submit the expense so that he’s the approver and his boss never sees it. That’s super problematic, even before we get to the part where he expects you to give him cash out of your own pocket.

    1. Kimmy Gibbler*

      YES! A purposeful end-run to avoid his boss having to sign off for $150 worth of drinks? Not worth getting fired over… (And, what a crappy position to put your employee in.)

      1. LW#3*

        Hmm, a really interesting point!

        I would say that the dynamics at my company make this situation less sketchy from my perspective. The CEO did agree to the event and he knew there would be drinks involved, but he is the sort to change his mind when he sees receipts. I’ve been in many meetings with him where he’s decided spur of the moment to cut costs in surprising ways when he previously hadn’t had an issue with them. So I do think my boss was just trying to avoid an awkward conversation rather than anything else.

        But I agree that the whole thing smells a bit weird to anyone standing more than 20 yards away.

        1. valentine*

          the dynamics at my company make this situation less sketchy from my perspective.
          Perhaps you are too close.

          Your supervisor used you to subvert the reimbursement process and approve his own expense. If he’d done it properly and the CEO returned less than $150, would your supervisor expect you to pay the difference?

          1. Czhorat*

            Exactly this.

            I’m a bit surprised that Allison didn’t lead with “this is malfeasance” along with “your boss is an ass”

            Imagine if someone wrote to AAM with the following: “my boss gives approval for team-building events, but sometimes changes his mind about reimbursing me if he finds the cost to be too lavish”.

            Would our response be “pretend that your direct report incurred the expense so you can approve it yourself behind your boss’s back”? I don’t think it would.

          2. Holly*

            Especially considering LW mentioned they just ended corporate cards – could just be CEO penny pinching, could be indicative of other issues with how money is handled.

    2. Czhorat*

      In some places it can probably get both of them fired; lw submitted a false expense report and is passing the money back to their boys over the table.

      1. EBStarr*

        Yeah… where I work (a large company), I’m pretty sure they could both get fired for this — but if the LW worked there she would probably already know that, because we have a detailed ethical training every year. On the other hand, at a small company where the CEO is in the habit of approving and un-approving expenses on a whim, who knows? I’ve worked at a small company run by a sort of deranged CEO, where I could see people not even realizing that this kind of thing was a fireable offense, even though to me it seems obvious.

        But I’ve been in the world long enough to realize that this stuff just doesn’t always occur to people, especially if (like the LW) they’re not profiting out of it. Like, many jobs ago I worked with someone who was fired for misusing an expense account. She genuinely didn’t even realize what she was doing was bad and was shocked to be fired for it… but when she told me the story I was shocked not that she was fired but that she had done it at all, because to me it was so patently unethical.

        1. LW#3*

          “a small company run by a sort of deranged CEO” is actually the perfect description for my company. Like, I think we should use that as our strapline, not even kidding.

          1. Czhorat*

            Understood. Just note that, as many have said here, that it is a serious ethical issue to approve ones own expenses – especially if someone else should be the approver.

            That you don’t like what you think they’ll say doesn’t improve things.

    3. The Tin Man*

      Yup that’s a major problem and it seems to stem from the CEO deciding to suddenly not reimburse things he said he would reimburse. That is a serious problem and if that was done to me where the CEO forced me to pay for a company expense I would be IMMEDIATELY looking for another job.

    4. Beehoppy*

      What I don’t understand is why the CEO is more likely to approve the expense as submitted by OP than by her Boss. Isn’t there an equal likelihood he will unapprove?

      1. Bex*

        It sounds like expenses are approved by the immediate supervisor. So if the OP submits the expense, then the Boss approves it and the CEO never sees it. Boss is trying to cheat the system.

    5. MassMatt*

      At my old job (large corp) there was an expense reporting system that REQUIRED the list of attendees, and that the report be filed by the highest-ranking person in attendance, for exactly this reason. Granted not many smaller places are likely to have this sort of system in place but the principle is the same. It is sketchy of your boss to do this.

      And it’s also also sketchy that the grand boss/CEO seems to act capriciously about whether to reimburse expenses already agreed upon. That’s no way to run a successful business.

  12. Khlovia*

    #5: It’s one of two things. Either he’s thinking, “She has told me she can’t take time to train me right now. I want to be conveniently available, and it isn’t fair to make her take time to come find me. So I’ll just wait here until she does have time–five minutes from now, or ten minutes from now, or fifteen minutes from now, or twenty….”

    Or he enjoys breathing on your neck because he enjoys breathing on your neck.

    In addition to Alison’s scripts, I’d suggest including somewhere: “…Meanwhile, the training manual is on your desk.” The training manual *is* on his desk, isn’t it? If not, that’s on you, not him. Or it’s on the company, if no training manual has ever been generated.

    Then figure out which parts of your job could by any stretch of the imagination be designated gruntwork (probably not a lot, but look for it) and send him off to his own desk to do the gruntwork. Lightens your load just a bit and gets him practice on the gruntwork, leaving your training time to focus on the not-gruntwork.

    1. Lilipoune*

      I would also check what the supervisor said to new employee. In my team, I have been training someone new and I had the same issue. I found out that supervisor had said that when I was doing normal work, even without explaining, new employee was asked to sit behind me and look…

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Yes!! I really feel like there is a similar communication issue at play here – between Op5, the trainee, and perhaps a supervisor or manager who told trainee something that OP5 is unaware of.

        It just doesn’t seem unusual to have a trainee shadowing the person currently in the job they’re going to be taking over. It actually makes sense that the trainee is trying to see everything involved with the role, from start to finish each day.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          Yeah – agreed. My current role is the type that really can’t be taught in discrete training sessions – its just too nuanced for that. When I started, if I didn’t have anything to do (which was the case for the 90% of my time for the first couple of weeks) I’d go plop myself down in the my colleagues or cube or manager’s office and observe. I was fully aware that just because I observed my manager handle a specific situation that I was not qualified to handle it solo from then on – it was just helpful to start seeing the types of issues that come up and my manager’s/coworker’s thought processes in handling them. Hell, my manager actually commented in a positive way on my “proactivity” in trying to observe some work related stuff rather than sitting around twiddling my thumbs.

  13. Ms Mac*

    OP 3: It took you 4 weeks to submit the expenses. Meaning it’s been 5 weeks since he gave you the money. If I’d given someone $150 and not seen it after 5 weeks I’d be asking about it as well. Just because he’s paid well does not mean he doesn’t need the money. There’s plenty of bankrupt ‘millionaires’.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That doesn’t really affect advice for OP, though. And frankly, if the Boss wanted to get reimbursed faster, he should have taken care of all of this himself instead of giving OP cash and deputizing OP to oversee the event.

      1. LW#3*

        I was sure that would come up at some point in the comments.

        My boss knows better than anyone how tight my schedule is, as he is the only other person in the office with me at 9 in the evening finishing up my work, and he’s given me multiple tasks in the past 4 weeks that have had priority over dedicating time to my expenses. He’s the one who underprioritized that task for me, so the timescales here are perfectly transparent to him.

        And thanks Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. I do agree that if he felt it was taking too long he could reimburse the funds himself.

        1. LKW*

          Ah, was coming here with that thought, but as he knows it’s a lower priority (at his direction) then yup weird.Put this in email. Tell him as soon as it hits your bank you’ll transfer funds. Do yourself a favor and create a paper trail. As some others have said, the loop hole your boss created to avoid the CEO is shady.

        2. Susie Q*

          But honestly, how long does it take to do an expense report?

          Yes your boss should have does this himself. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that you couldn’t submit a expense report for an entire month. As your manager, I’d strongly question your ability to manage your time and your tasks. Every place I’ve ever worked has had time limits in which expense reports must be submitted.

          1. Washi*

            If the OP was buying drinks for 8 people, depending on the system, there may have a number of receipts to scan in, plus filling out whatever forms are necessary. It sounds like the OP was swamped and the boss isn’t saying that the reimbursement should have been submitted earlier, just that he wants OP to front the money.

            1. Czhorat*

              Quibbles over how long the expense report takes don’t help the OP.

              I’ve had some that have taken 15 minutes, some 45 minutes or more.

              As Washi said, you might need to attach multiple receipts after scanning and copying them. You may have to look up various project numbers or codes to attach each expense to, especially if you’re doing a whole month at a time.

              1. LW#3*

                I’ve already covered the prioritization thing, so I won’t repeat myself.
                The report took about 2 hours in the end. There were 13 different receipts I needed to scan in separately, as well as copy out the addresses of the restaurants and bars, the full list of recipients for each item on each receipt, the tax numbers of the locations… And I needed to fill in three separate forms to get everything processes.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            My husband routinely ASKS me to nag him to do his expense report. Because he has a full (often overfull) plate, and it’s always something that can wait until these other five urgent problems get taken care of. He’s better about it now (possibly the system has improved under new management; also he isn’t buying his own airline tickets so that huge amount isn’t squatting on the credit card) but for a long time taking weeks to submit the expenses was a sign that he was… a valued employee with lots of demands on his time and a time consuming expense submission process. (I’ve long wished he could just have a corporate card, but they aren’t offered.)

          3. LQ*

            Idunno last time I had to submit an expense report which was just for meals without receipts because there was a per diem it took 30 minutes, plus later 2 15 minute phone calls with payroll, so an hour to expense 6 per diem meals and nothing else. I can definitely see putting that off. And even if there is a time limit you don’t know that it was exceeded, we have a time limit, before the end of the fiscal year. That could be 12 months.

            1. MassMatt*

              Unless this was done incorrectly the first time this sounds really dysfunctional. The whole point of per diem allowances is to simplify and avoid paperwork.

              1. LQ*

                I totally did it incorrectly the first time, and the second, then my boss did something wrong. But yes, still dysfunction. And still a reason to put off completing the expense report.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think nagging OP about the expense report submission is helpful. What’s done is done, and OP’s boss was fully aware and signed off on the delay. The purpose of our advice should not be to chastise OP based on our personal standards/norms about when to file expense reports—that’s in no way helpful to OP or to anyone else.

            The standards for expense report filing where you work or in your field may not be widespread or shared in other jobs, and they rarely have anything to do with a person’s time management and load management capacity. I’d encourage you to readjust how much importance you place on expense reporting as a signifier of organizational skills.

            1. LW#3*

              Thank you, PCBH! I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments here on AAM and it is a bit thrilling to have what feels like a celebrity be so kind to me for my submitted letter! :)

          5. Observer*

            Let’s see. You’re giving your direct report enough work to keep them at their desk till 9:00 at night, and you would STILL question them for not finding an ADDITIONAL 45 minutes to fill an expense report for YOUR expenses?

            I’m glad I don’t work for you.

        3. Bagpuss*

          All other considerations aside, I would not pay him until you receive the funds, otherwise if the claim isn’t approved or isn’t approved in full, you’ll be out of pocket. (ad while it is also unfair to you boss for him to be left out of pocket if the CEO changes his mind, that problem isn’t yours to solve.

    2. MLB*

      Sorry but that doesn’t matter. Boss is trying to avoid his expenses being denied approval for reimbursement by having LW do it. He doesn’t get to dictate the reimbursement if he’s unwilling to do it himself. And frankly the way he’s going about it seems sketchy to me. If he needed the money sooner, he should have submitted the expenses himself.

  14. matcha123*

    For OP1, you can move to business casual with what you have. If you have some plain t-shirts that are navy/dark blue, grey, black, or white, you can pair them with your pencil skirts (tuck the shirts in) and a cardigan.
    I have done the same and that combo is one of my go-to work outfits.
    With shoes, if you are wearing tights with your pencil skirt, tennis shoes/sneakers/running shoes (whatever you call them) can look pretty nice!

    If you do go to Old Navy, look for plain tops. Basically if you have one formal piece, you can pair it with a less formal one and still look work ready. If you have the time, try laying out some outfit combos.

    If you have a cardigan, but your t-shirts have logos on them, you can also pin the cardigan so the logo doesn’t show. Or show it if it seems like other people do the same!

    1. I’m actually a squid*

      thats what I’ve done – just wearing a $5 t-shirt under the suit jacket with the skirt casualizes the whole outfit while still looking good. Nice jeans are more expensive so, in my experience, it’s cheapest to start by getting a few neutral tops and then worry about new bottoms and jackets (if desired) once the paychecks have been coming for a while.

    2. Op#1*

      I unfortunately don’t have money for new stuff, but mixing some of the stuff I was thinking was too casual with the dressier could help a little. I’m going to see what I have that would work in that sense (it probably won’t be much but it’ll be a start!)

      1. matcha123*

        I thought that might be the case! I can add on, with the caveat that I don’t know your office, body type, style, current clothing options, etc.

        A few years ago I had surgery and needed to wear loose-fitting clothing. I actually wore sweatpants a lot to the office. Black or grey with the cuffs rolled up and paired with nice shoes and a nice shirt can look very put together. I’ve also noticed that just rolling up the sleeves a bit on a t-shirt can make it look dressier.

        There are times when I’ve worn fleece jackets, zipped up or half zipped… With the cuffs rolled up a bit. For whatever reason, rolling up the cuffs a bit can make a casual piece look more formal.

        I don’t know how your office is with hoodies, but if you have a plain one, you can wear a collared shirt under it with a nice skirt and sneakers and have the casual, but put together business look.

        If you do have dark jeans or pants… Roll up the bottom a bit, pair it with dress shoes, if you have, and one of your nicer shirts, and you’ve got a great outfit.

        Definitely take the time to look through what you have and be a bit experimental. If it doesn’t work, then that’s one bad outfit day, and we all have multiple meh outfit days.

        Oh, and if you need big pins to pin something closed, but don’t have one, use a binder clip from work! I have done this a lot myself… And my coworkers.

        Take a trip to a local mall when you are able and just walk around looking at the styles and take a mental note of what you already have that could work.

        Good luck!

        1. Legalchef*

          Sorry, I really disagree w this whole concept of rolling up sleeves/pants legs to make something look more formal. In a lot of clothes, if it’s not intended to be rolled it will end up unrolling over the course of the day, and then she’ll just look sloppy. And usually rolling up sleeves makes something *less* formal (think men’s dress shirts), which might be what she wants, but again could look sloppy and just plain weird for the clothes.

          And a binder clip? No. Bearing a wardrobe malfunction, that’s not something that would be considered normal to do at most workplaces.

          Also… sneakers/running shoes shouldn’t be worn w tights and skirts, barring an injury of some sort of course (and gym shoes are not usually business casual). Maybe shoes like keds or converse.

          OP, in addition to clothing stores mentioned elsewhere, I’d also suggest Loft and Target for once you can afford it. It might be a good idea to go to some stores and try on a few things, so you have an idea of your size at those stores, so if you see a great sale online you can snap things up. If you celebrate any of the upcoming holidays as well, perhaps you can ask for some items or gift cards.

          1. londonedit*

            This summer there was a huge fashion where I live (UK/London) for smart/casual dresses (think floral tea dresses or block-colour maxi dresses) with white trainers/sneakers. I agree it wouldn’t fly in more formal office environments, but the area of London I work in is home to a lot of creative/arty industries and the dress + trainers combination was extremely popular this year.

            1. Birch*

              Yeah I was gonna say this too. It’s not a *formal* look, but it’s definitely considered stylish (in a specific way) to wear sneakers with skirts and dresses. IMO if you have a dressier dress or skirt, depending on the fabric, pairing it with clean, simple sneakers and a cardigan can effectively turn the outfit to more business-casual. Plain flats would also achieve the same effect.

          2. Bagpuss*

            Yes, the advice about rolling up sleeves/bottom of trousers seems quite odd to me and I’m having trouble visualising a scenario where it would be seen as more formal. I do think that, as Sylvan said, it also runs the risk that you end up looking sloppy if anything starts to unroll or look looser / uneven

              1. matcha123*


                This tutorial has a great example of what I mean by rolling up sleeves. The creator doesn’t use a t-shirt, but the method would be the same. The same concept applies to pants/slacks/sweatpants. A clean, roll-up looks polished and goes well with a work outfit.

          3. matcha123*

            I roll my sweat pants like the model in the picture in the link.

            I have used binder clips to close my cardigan at work, I literally copied what I saw other women doing. These aren’t huge clips…

   (3rd photo with the green skirt is pretty similar to what I wear to my office about three times a week)
            I wear skirts with sneakers to work all the time. As do many of my coworkers. We take the subway to work, some people change into heels at work. We all wear tights with our skirt/tennis shoe combos. I don’t know why you would think they can’t be.

            Picture 8 of the girl in the t-shirt with rolled up sleeves is what I do.

            I don’t know what you were imagining?

          4. ChimericalOne*

            Rolling sleeves makes a formal shirt casual, esp. if done in a slightly sloppy way, but adding a crisp rolled sleeve to a non-dressy, plain shirt adds detail/interest and makes it look a little more dressy. For it to stay looking nice, though, I imagine you’d have to pin it.

            I can imagine that creating the appearance of cuffs on plain pants would have the same effect, if likewise crisp. (Not the fuzzy-inside kind of sweatpants, but plain ones.)

        2. Washi*

          I’m so confused about the binder clip thing. Everything I’m imagining would look absurd…like are you pinning it from the inside somehow? Or is the binder clip visible?

          1. matcha123*

            I only suggested it IF she didn’t already have a safety pin or ‘fashion’ pin. It’s a quick fix to cover a logo on a shirt and most people probably wouldn’t notice it. I’m pretty sure I’ve used paperclips and such to close a shirt that was popping open between the buttons when I didn’t want to show cleavage.
            I’m confused about what you guys are picturing that would look weird…

            1. matcha123*

              I should clarify, if you have one of those cardigans that doesn’t have buttons (I have a few) and you need to pin the cardigan closed….I think that’s what I originally wrote?

        3. Sylvan*

          Is there a specific fit that works with rolled legs or sleeves that you’re thinking of? Rolled up sleeves look less formal, not more. Rolling the sleeves is actually one way to dress down shirts that look too formal. It’s also done sometimes to integrate formal-leaning pieces like blazers into casual outfits. Cuffing pants also leans casual (or “look at my raw denim”) IME.

          1. matcha123*

            The OP said that her office was more casual than what she felt she typically wore, so I was trying to think of ways to make her already formal wear look slightly less buttoned-down.

          2. matcha123*


            Pants rolled up like the girl wears in this video.
            I said above that I don’t know what the OP’s wardrobe is like. I am throwing out some ideas that she may or may not have already tried herself. Just trying to think of ways she can work with what she already has without going out to buy new stuff. She says her office is business casual, so depending on the piece, you can dress it up or down.
            I also don’t know her tastes, size, etc…

      2. Woodswoman*

        I worked in a place that had a business casual culture. Some people enjoyed dressier outfits and they wore them routinely. If your workplace is anything like mine, my co-workers were accepting people and didn’t mind that others wore dressier clothes.. My guess is that your co-workers aren’t noticing this as much as you are and that as you get to feel more comfortable in your workspace and get to know people, it will feel less awkward. I hope that helps, and good luck in your new position.

        1. ragazza*

          Yes, I agree. It’s always better to be too dressy than too casual, and in the meantime you obviously get the culture and are taking steps to fit in, so I’m sure you’re fine.

        2. CheeryO*

          Agreed. We have a couple people who dress a notch or two above everyone else, and they get a little good-natured ribbing about it every so often, but it’s really no big deal.

          Also, I think it’s normal for people to dress a little more formally at first when starting a new job. All of our new hires start out in dress pants and blazers until they realize that really, they can wear jeans!

          1. CM*

            I had the same thought — I think you can go a month or so in more formal clothes and people will assume you want to make a good impression because you’re new.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes. There are some people who believe that another person’s suit is a conspiracy to look grown-up, but they are vastly outnumbered by the people who figure that those are the clothes you have, or the clothes that put you in a work mindset, or they have noticed OP1 never comes to work naked or dressed as a giant eggplant but nothing more detailed than that.

      3. I’m actually a squid*

        Been there! In that case, seriously, don’t stress and wear what you have and you’ll look great. If you want then take the time to look at your closet and see how you can dress down with what you have – any plain tees or rolling up jacket sleeves or pairing a dark jacket with a lighter skirt. Just breaking up suit pieces can help. But only if you have time and are in the mood. Otherwise really, don’t stress! I bet you look great and anyone who judges you for dressing up a bit is telling you more about themselves than anything else.

      4. Oxford Comma*

        Is anyone giving you trouble for how you’re dressing? Because if it’s not raising eyebrows, people may just chalk it up to your personal style. I’m in a field that tends to be pretty casual, but I have a few colleagues who dress to the nines and no one notices. In my experience, it’s more noticeable when someone who’s been ultra casual suddenly shows up in a suit.

        Even if they are, in the interim, I would dial back accessories/jewelry, maybe go more casual with your shoes and hairstyles. Mix and match your more casual tops/bottoms.

  15. Ella*

    #1 if you’re able to get even just one or two pairs of dark wash jeans, that paired with your more dressy tops/jackets will look perfectly fine in a business casual office, and jeans you can pair with almost anything and wear multiple times a week without people realizing. Places like Uniqlo, Old Navy, or Target will have quite inexpensive options available, and if there’s a Goodwill or other thrift shop near you there might be even cheaper options. Or, if you really can’t swing the cost right now, perhaps ask around if friends or family could lend you a pair or two until you’ve had a few more paychecks come in?

  16. JulieCanCan*

    OP#1, Goodwill, thrift stores, and certain websites have very affordable clothes for every possible work/play/outdoor/indoor environment. I don’t want to give away all my secrets but I’m a huge fan of secondhand clothing. I once purchased a $600 sweater- brand new, tag still on, for $6. I get compliments every single time I wear it and to this day it’s still one of my favorite things. That was a gem and a pretty special find. But all it takes is patience, a willingness to hunt and keep your eyes open, and acceptance of the fact that you won’t find exactly what you want (specific color, brand, etc) when you want it. It’s not like when you go to Macy’s and you know what they have in stock before even entering the store.

    Once I went to my favorite thrift store and someone with my exact shoe size and style had just dropped off 8 pairs of barely worn (or not worn at all!) work shoes/pumps/heels. I bought all 8 pairs for $32, and when I researched the original prices of each pair they came to a total of $1000+ for all of them. I’m not kidding. Brands like Joan & David, 2 pairs of Etienne Aigner (sp?) , these were NICE shoes and some hadn’t even been worn. I’m not a designer label person – the only designer stuff I have is from thrift stores (plus a few things that I saved up for and thought about for a year before taking the plunge to spend a lot of money). I’m mentioning brand names in case you’re wondering if it’s possible to find work-worthy clothing, or if you’re into labels, which is totally cool – lots of people are. You have to go through a lot of stuff and it can be frustrating, definitely. But when you do find an item that you love (for next to nothing) it’s exhilarating. Lolol at least for me it is!

    Sorry – I could wax poetic forever about finding deals on clothes, shoes, anything really…… I know it’s not everyone’s jam, but if you’re willing to spend a little time and effort, you might be able to purchase a few affordable key pieces to add to your wardrobe.

    There’s also trading with friends or selling some of the items you know you won’t wear in the future, and then using the money you make on more suitable clothes for your current job. You can bring clothes in to a goodwill or a second hand store then (if the store offers credit) look for things that you need.

    TL: dr (sorry – I tend to draw out my comments): If you’re willing to put some time and effort into it, thrift stores can have great options. You just need to re-set your expectations so you don’t get frustrated and give up. Good luck- there are some great deals out there!

    1. JulieCanCan*

      And I meant to say that you probably look very nice and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable being slightly more dressy than your coworkers. If you were talking about only having LESS dressy clothes, then you’d need to do a little more to be more business-like. But if you’re dressing nicely, I can’t see anyone thinking that’s a negative.

      1. Op#1*

        Yeah, I definitely know about Goodwill and thrift stores and what not, it’s where I got the things I do have that are dressier! I definitely appreciate the feedback, but I think it’s challenging when the response to not being able to afford things is…to go buy things, even if they are less expensive. The problem unfortunately is that I can’t purchase anything right now.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          Yeah, “BUY MORE STUFF!” probably isn’t the right answer. But a couple $2 tee shirt and a few pairs of $4 jeans, purchased over a month or two, hopefully might not hurt too much? Try not to think of it as something you need to do immediately; you can take your time since you do have nice clothing you can wear.

          That’s where trading with similarly-sized friends with great wardrobes come in, if possible. Or selling some of the dressier items on ebay to be able to not feel the pinch of the purse strings.

          Honestly it sounds like you probably look really nice at work, which isn’t a bad thing. If anyone gives you a hard time for it, they have the problem, not you. : ). I can’t imagine commenting negatively about a co-worker’s nice/dressy clothing, except to maybe joke around about being envious because you look nice.

          1. Op#1*

            I’m kind of sad that my response was that I don’t have finances to get more things (after already saying it once) and the immediate response was to more things?

            I am not placing myself in this position because I don’t belong in it ( i will be fine being weirdly overdressed at work), but it is really concerning to me to hear folks say that they cannot afford “x” and the response is “but it is cheap x!”. like, i have said i cannot afford x. i get that for you $2 is not a lot, but it is for some people.

        2. Carlie*

          The thing you can do right now, that has already been suggested but is harder than it appears, is to just own it. I’ve been in a couple of situations where one co-worker is vastly overdressed for the environment, but they somehow put off an air of “This is just how I like to dress”, and eventually it became unnoticeable. People would remark on it for awhile, but cheery responses of “Thanks!” and “No, these shoes are totally comfortable!” and maybe a couple “I’ve always dressed this way” or “It puts me in the mood to work hard” kinds of comments made people get used to it. It’s acknowledging that it is a little out of step, but just your own personal quirk, and then people slot you into the category of snazzy dresser and stop thinking about it. The only catch is then you have to transition reeeeally slowly when you do end up starting to dress down, or everyone will think you’re not feeling well!

        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          One thing that helps dress down an outfit is hair style. A pony tail, single loose braid, messy bun, etc. can make you look less formal. However, given what you have described, it doesn’t sound like you need to do too much. I might stop wearing the blazers until you have more casual bottoms, but everything else sounds like it is fine, if a touch dressier than others.

        4. Alston*

          Yeah, that’s rough hearing everyone say buy something when you really can’t at the moment. The one thing I can think of is perhaps taking a couple of dressier itwma to a clothing consignment store. You could potentially get with cash or store credit to get a couple of less dressy things, and not be out any cash. But if you see yourself moving into a dressier job again sometime soon should probably would not be worth it.

          1. Op#1*

            Thank you! There has been some helpful suggestions (owning it and reframing, mixing casual with dressy, clothing swaps, a site online to sell, etc.) but it is hard that folks keep suggesting thrift stores and less expensive stores. I understand where the impulse is coming from, but I can’t afford to buy things….so it actually makes me a little sad to hear over and over again that I should buy things when I can’t afford to. In terms of consignment stores, I have totally tried that, and why I think it’s an awesome idea in theory, I think maybe I’m not stylish enough or out of season or something, because they have basically not taken things for the most part. They seem to be a bit picky unfortunately. :(

        5. CarolynM*

          OP#1 – just rock what you have! I have been in your shoes – when I started this job I was in diiiiiiire straits, and when coworkers wanted me to join the lottery pool it was super-humiliating to have them say “but it’s only $5!!!!” when I knew that $5 had to be used elsewhere if I wanted to eat or put gas in my car. The day my finances kind of leveled out and I was in the grocery store and I could impulse buy a bag of Smartfood, I felt like Bill Gates! LOL I feel you OP, I hope you get more breathing room really soon, but until then, don’t worry – I am sure you look great and that no one is holding your dressy clothes against you! Anyone who thinks you are wearing more formal clothes AT them would find other reasons to be weird if you weren’t dressed up, yanno?

      2. pleaset*

        Yes, dressing one level up does not seem at all bad to me, unless you have other “issues” to deal with, such as being much older than your colleagues or something like that.

        Dressing one level down from most other people is more problematic.

      1. bearing*

        If they really have bedbugs, that’s not enough to be sure (some bugs will survive up to 122° F). What does it is the hot *dryer* because it dries as well as heats hot enough. Dryer first on highest setting (15 min is supposedly sufficient), then wash, then dry again. And carry them through your house to the dryer in a sealed plastic bag.

        Source: once rescued my grandma and all her clothes from the worst bedbug infestation the exterminator had ever seen.

      2. Kelly L.*

        There are some fabrics that will be utterly ruined by that, so I guess you either take your chances or don’t buy ’em!

  17. Less Bread More Taxes*

    OP1 – I am a formal dresser in everyday life. A couple of years ago a fire took up most of my wardrobe, so I went out and bought one formal dress in five different colors. My wardrobe has expanded slightly, but because I feel my best in formal wear, I wear those dresses or ones similar to them everyday.

    When I moved to a job where people where shorts and t-shirts, I didn’t even notice myself standing because I was so used to standing out all the time anyway. And you know what, it was no big deal. I think it was obvious that I was very comfortable in those clothes, and that’s what mattered.

    From how you’ve described it, it sounds like you’re comfortable in formal stuff too. Own it. Be comfortable. If you want to update your work wardrobe eventually, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t need to stress about what you’re wearing now.

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      This, definitely. I wear semi-fancy dresses and boots every day, even on dress down Friday, even on weekends, and nobody notices or cares that I’m a few levels of formal above everyone else at any given time. As long as you’re matter-of-fact about it rather than defensive, then I’m sure your co-workers aren’t thinking about it as much as you are. It could help to make sure your behaviour is more on the warm and approachable side too, so people will think “oh, that’s just how she dresses” rather than “look at the way she dresses, she clearly thinks she’s too good for us” (which is an absolute worst case scenario and almost certainly not the case!).

    2. LQ*

      Agreed. I’ve methodically switched out my wardrobe for …10 dresses because I hate shopping. I think if you have a …casual attitude about your more formal clothes that comes through. I also don’t wear makeup and just wear my hair in a bun which I think makes me look more casual overall. Be casual about your formal stuff and it will be casual.

  18. JulieCanCan*

    OP #5, are you sure your replacement knows he’s not supposed to be watching you while you work throughout the day? Does he have the ability to be alone while working in his new role (ie your former role)? To me it just sounds like he doesn’t realize he’s supposed to stay put while you go around and do whatever you need to do. Maybe he feels he can learn from shadowing you? This sounds more like a communication breakdown than a creepy new employee. Is he aware of where he SHOULD be while you’re not at the work station/desk?

    I don’t know – as I read your question I felt a bit defensive of your replacement – maybe because when people are new and clueless, they literally need to be told EVERYTHING from A to Z. I’ve trained around 400 people in my 20 years of working in my industry, and it’s crucial to remember that the new person is a blank slate and empty vessel, containing nothing yet. We on the other hand “know all” and need to transfer our knowledge into their minds. What you know and what’s in your brain may feel obvious and be crystal clear, but that’s because you know the job and have the history and experience to get why and how everything is going on. A new person knows nothing and doesn’t yet possess the ability to assess what and how and why and where, hence an appearance of “lingering creepiness” that may actually be closer to “unsure cluelessness.”

    Maybe you’ve pointed out whatever is necessary for him to “get it” and he should know not to hover or linger. In that case, if telling him point blank that he needs to stay put hasn’t worked and he’s not absorbing this request, then you probably need to reconsider this hire. Because if you have already tried telling him not to do what he continues to do, there’s a problem.

    1. Mae West*

      Yes! Is it clear what he should be doing while you’re not around? If he’s done with the work before you’re available, does he know who else to approach about more work? Being new is terrible–maybe he’s not creepy, just clueless (an “empty vessel”).

  19. Roeslein*

    One issue with the advice to OP#1 is that second-hand clothes are often very difficult to find for people outside the more common sizes. I’m relatively petite (though not unusually so) with small feet and I’ve always struggled to find anything at all second-hand, including online – never mind work-appropriate “grown up” clothing or shoes.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That’s definitely an issue.

      Even for people who are average sized, thrift store shopping is not a quick fix – you can’t say “I’m going to Goodwill to buy myself a cheap work outfit.” You go, you see if there is anything in your size in the right category of clothing, if there is you try it on. But you often have to do this multiple times over a period of weeks or months to get what you need. I used to walk home by a Ross, and I’d stop in once every week or two to check what had come in – if you have to make a cross town trip it’s a lot less convenient.

      Discount sales, however, often favour size outliers and don’t have much average sized stuff, because they’re selling what’s left at the end of the season.

    2. Project Manager*

      Same here (I’m petite enough that I sometimes buy basics, like shrugs or jean jackets, in the children’s section. Cheaper AND often fits better than adult XS), but I actually have found some awesome stuff on ThredUp. There must be some short, skinny, lesser endowed rich ladies out there who also really like Tahari and Classiques Entier :-)

      As for the idea that when someone wears X, they are doing it for any reason other than because they like how they look in X (or because they’re required to wear X, e.g., because of safety concerns), I don’t know what to say. The only hidden message in my clothing is that I stood in front of a mirror that morning and thought, “Yeah, lookin’ good!” I really don’t know where the idea that people who dress “better” are doing so because they’re arrogant comes from. As an engineer, I’m quite familiar with arrogance, but I have not noticed any correlation between it and clothing choices.

    3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Yup. Short but zaftig here, and there’s a lot of “…no…nope…mmm, no…” in my thrift shopping, because of things that aren’t the right length, won’t go over my hips, won’t button up top, or would make me look frumpy as all get out/like I’m dressing in my big sister’s clothes.

    4. Elfie*

      Or you could shop at Ebay (generic you, not you OP1 – you’ve already said you can’t buy). It’s certainly not as cheap as charity/thrift shops, but as someone who wears absurdly small shoes, it’s about the only place I can find shoes my size outside of going to London (I’m in the UK). I’m also really short, but fat – Ebay is great for me because I can filter by size, and not get upset at all the cool stuff that won’t fit me. It used to be a real bargain, but now it’s probably sale-price. But I’ve recently bought two Tahari skirt suits from the US on Ebay, and even with shipping it only cost me £120 – about $175 I guess? I do practically all of my clothes shopping on Ebay, and I spend a lot of money on clothes, but I’m a sucker for not paying full price for anything!

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OMG yes. I’m relatively tall (34″ inseam). I buy a lot of my clothes at thrift stores, but I have never been able to buy a pair of pants there. Second-hand pants in my length just don’t exist.

      1. shammaye*

        I’ve been very lucky with the thrift store in my area – someone as tall as me (or possibly taller!) has been donating extra long pants lately! I’ve found three pairs of jeans and two pairs of black pants in my hard-to-come-by size. So there’s hope! Maybe someone is hoping you’ll donate your pants too.
        I’m reminded of the time Kramer went to return a pair of pants but was wearing the pants at the time. Don’t do that.

    6. Rez123*

      That’s interesting. I’m struggling to find second hand clothes because the options in those shops are so small. They are alway either small or extra small. I’m on the larger size of average high street sizes so I cannot find anything seocnd-hand.

  20. Mookie*

    If, in LW3’s case, there remains “a risk nothing would get expensed in the end” because the boss’s boss might not approve, then, yeah: don’t “reimburse” the boss. He doesn’t get to retroactively push that problem, that he knew about before me approving and funding the event, onto you.

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – while I agree he’s being a bit overbearing… one thing I did notice that may put it into context was “I just managed to submit my expenses last week (four weeks after the event).”

    I suspect he expected his money back a lot earlier, and is asking you for it as a kind of “well, if you can’t be bothered to put in the claim so I can get my money, you should give me it instead!”.

    I understand about the workload, but can also feel his frustration – from his point of view it could be that it’s only a few minutes to do (which may or may not be correct!) – it might be a good idea to acknowledge that when you speak to him to smooth things over – something like “I’m sorry for the delay in putting in the claim; I know you were worried about that. I’m not in a position to reimburse you, but the claim is now in and I’ll chase it for you.”

    1. Scarlet*

      No, asking your subordinate for money is just never ok. And if he’s “worried” about 150$, imagine how OP feels when they make way less money than thay guy.

    2. LW#3*

      I’ve already answered this elsewhere in the comment thread but it bears repeating here. He underprioritized this task compared to all the other tasks I had, so the timescales here were indeed transparent to him. It’s not a matter of “not being bothered” on my part – and he always had the option of taking over his own expenses himself if he felt the timelines he set wouldn’t work for him.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Oh I know it wasn’t on your part! But just saying he may be seeing it that way, and that might be part of it. Maybe he forgot (and yes, that would be shit). He’s still absolutely in the wrong.

        1. LW#3*

          Ohh, I should have realized! Yes, it’s definitely a fair point that showing I understand where he’s coming from on my part may make the situation easier. Thanks for your comment!

    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      While I’m sure the boss expected the submission of the false expense report and his successful circumvention of the approval process to be completed earlier, it’s hard to take his side under these circumstances, even though the OP agreed to participate in this deceit. On the bright side, if he asks the OP to do this again, OP can say “To ensure you get reimbursed promptly, you will need to submit the expense as your own.”

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Not taking his side! Just suggesting how he may be (unreasonably) miffed and suggesting recognising that may help with social lubrication.

  22. Ms Cappuccino*

    5 《getting to close for my comfort》. OP I can’t help wondering if he’s not attracted to you.

  23. TechWorker*

    #2 – whilst you obviously know your workplace better than I do, I would be wary of assuming your supervisor does ‘no work’ – it’s possible they’re lazy ofc, but is it also possible they have management type tasks to do that you’re just not aware of happening? (Obviously this is not true if you literally watch them doing nothing all day :D)

    I say this as someone who used to gripe a bit about my manager doing nothing (some of the gripes valid, like he didn’t do basic tasks that would usually fall to the manager) but now being in a position where I’ve taken over most of that role I’ve realised just how much ‘extra’ there is to do that I never realised existed before.

    1. Resilient Buttercup*

      Thank you for your comment and you’re right, “no work” is overstating it. He fills in on low level work and he does basic management things that would be very noticeable if he didn’t, like budgeting for the department. He doesn’t do much else and is often the delay on projects because he didn’t do work he said he would.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        While Alison’s advice is right, the problem is that it takes very nuanced communication to discern the distinction between:
        ‘Things are in progress’ = ‘He’ll be out by February’
        ‘Things are in progress’ = ‘We’re hoping he eventually shapes up’

        I mean, they shouldn’t tell anyone not his supervisor what they plan for correcting your manager–that would be weird. But that means employees are left to sift tea leaves to try and discern whether they are moving to fire Pat or giving prayer a shot. There are places that replace bad workers before they start losing valued staff, places that replace bad workers only after they have lost a number of people citing Pat is a Jerk as the reason, and places where Pat will never be fired. For the middle group, it seems like the way some people mature out of being jerks because they had enough negative experiences result from that–but any number of “I feel hurt when you are a jerk” conversations by friends willing to continue on despite the behavior have no impact. The company finally fires Pat after six people they wanted to retain left, and when reconnecting with old coworkers they wonder if they should have stayed… but the change only happened because they actually left.

  24. Software Engineer*

    For #3, beyond the demanding to be paid back, why on EARTH is a boss asking his underlings to expense something so he can approve it for an event that he attended? He is essentially asking to approve his own expense reports which is hugely problematic. At my company it’s always the most senior person in attendance (or the most senior from the org funding it at least) who has to pay and expense it, because you’re never allowed to approve expenses for something you attended and benefited from. Otherwise my manager can say it’s perfectly OK to go for steaks instead of burgers for a team lunch even if his boss disapproves. It removes the oversight which is the whole point of expense approvals

    This guy is being a bit shady

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I don’t think this is always true. I work in a multi-region office. Each office has a director. Employees in each office need approval from the director for expenses before they are sent to accounting. But I know that director has approved expense reports for team lunches that they participated in. It still has to go to our accounting department for approval processing, but my director does not need to get the expense report signed off by their boss the VP.

      The way I read the letter OP’s boss did not attend the event, that is why boss gave OP the cash so OP could pay for drinks at the bars.

      While it does seem a little shady, and boss pushing OP to reimburse them is wrong, I don’t think the process itself is entirely wrong.
      If we switch things around a little it can be okay.

      What if OP’s boss had not given OP cash but instead insisted that OP pay for drink out of their own pocket and put in a reimbursement request after to boss. OP pays for drinks, then submits the request to OP boss for approval. OP realizes it is taking a while and needs the money and asks boss about it and boss gives OP the cash (out of boss’s own pocket) and then says pay me back when you get the reimbursement.

      1. LW#3*

        Oh! I had completely not mentioned this rather important part of the story! You’re right – he wasn’t even involved in the pub crawl. He never attended that part, or any parts of my expense report that I was required to expense. I can’t believe I didn’t mention that earlier, that’s really important to the story.

  25. Katie*

    Op #1: wondering what size you are. I just came from a job much more like your current coworkers are wearing, and my new job is slightly dressier. The wardrobe I have now is sufficient, but I have a few tops and pairs of dark jeans that might not work so well in my new role. I’d be happy to share. If interested, comment here?

    1. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

      Yeah, same here OP #1. I have a few tops you could have. I’m a medium/size 8ish.

    2. Nerdgal*

      This is why I like this blog
      OP1, I wear size 10P to 12P and if either of those would fit you, I would also be happy to share. I now work mostly from home and don’t need as many business casual type clothes anymore.

          1. Nerdgal*

            Hi, I have created a burner email address, ping me there.
            Aamnov15 @
            (Remove the spaces)

      1. Sopranini*

        OP#1 Me 3! I’m an avid thrifter and a have a side business of selling some of those finds on eBay. I am a size 10/12, Large, but I have items in my eBay stock that are various sizes. I would gladly send a batch to someone who could use them.

        1. Sopranini*

          You can email my shop: allthingspumpkinshop

          Send your mailing address and I’ll pull together a batch of business casual wear.
          What size shoe are you?

    3. Labradoodle Daddy*

      If OP can fit anywhere between a 4-8/10 (US) I have a contractor bag full of stuff she can have….

    4. Op#1*

      Hi folks commenting about clothes! I would potentially be very interested, though I am not sure the logistics of getting them to me. I am usually about a 10 or 12, but can be as small as an 8 or as big as a 14 depending?

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP5 – that sounds really annoying – but I can so see myself in your trainee’s position! If he’s new, or uncertain, he could be in a “I should go… but I don’t know if I’m meant to… but I shouldn’t be hovering… but I can’t go without being told to…” indecision vicious circle.

    If he’s being obnoxious, telling him straight “Go and do X” is not mean in slightest.
    If he’s being stressed about what to do, it will be a kindness :)

  27. Resilient Buttercup*

    Hello, to answer a couple questions posed in the advice for #2.

    Yes, I have gone back to HR and our Executive Director to let them know what’s going and I believe my supervisor is now on a PIP. They are being very supportive and I feel protected which I’m very grateful for.

    But, it’s still been very difficult. We are now supposed to be very clear about what work we need my boss to do to “avoid confusion and miscommunication”. They are asking a lot of the whole department. It’s stressful and uncomfortable to be that blunt with a supervisor who’s been known to be mean, and one who from my perspective clearly doesn’t want to do the work.

    That said, I feel like I’ve really been able to stretch myself and my skills in a way I would not have otherwise needed to. I’m getting better at having difficult conversations and pushing myself through even when it gives me anxiety or makes me uncomfortable. Those will be valuable skills regardless of how this all turns out.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      Good for you, seeing the positive in your situation! That’s great that you’re gaining various skills that will help you out in the future and improve your marketability, even though the reason for having to gain those skills kinda sucks. It’s not an enviable position to be in, but it’s certainly a good thing that HR has your back.

      Good luck!

    2. Elle*

      You’re so right about how valuable this experience will be later!

      Unfortunately, most corporations work on a negative feedback loop. As in, no news is good news. You said something wasn’t working, they put a process in place to fix it. You said, eh, not quite there yet, they made more tweaks. Once again, they’re going to continue to assume their additional tweaks did the trick unless you tell them otherwise.
      I went through the same thing last year, and one thing that really helped was asking the director if we could schedule once a week mentoring sessions, just for a quick half hour. It made for a really easy opportunity for me to give feedback instead of making it A Thing (because sometimes the feedback is about subtle enough behavior you’d feel weird about making a whole appointment over it). And it also gave me a great opportunity to get advice about my job, since I sure as heck wasn’t getting it from my crappy boss.
      Plus, it gives your director a bit more concrete insight into how things are going. “You asked me to send Fergus clear communication, so this week I tried sending him an email with a bullet list of feedback I needed from him. But it doesn’t seem to be working as intended, I guess he’s not a fan of email. Do you have any advice for other ways I could try communicating with him?”

      1. Resilient Buttercup*

        Thank you! I really appreciate reading your comments. It’s nice to see that this type of thing happens to other people in a similar way and they were able to work through it.

        I am sending weekly check-in emails to my boss (at his request) and copying HR and my Executive Director. It’s nice to see from the advice here that we’re doing the right things. I’ve been trying to follow up with him directly while also letting them know if things aren’t done. I like the idea of a standing meeting so it doesn’t feel so much like “tattling”. Thanks again!

        1. Elle*

          I will say that ‘your boss sucks and isn’t going to change’. I’ve found that some things can be fixed with training, like say disorganization or poor communication. But being a yeller and a work avoider comes from a fundamental lack of respect for people. You can train people not to show outward signs by forbidding yelling, but you can’t train integrity or respect.
          So your stance here should be to help HR ‘play the game’ by doing everything they need to check all the boxes on the PIP so that they can fire him with a laundry list of causes. And, if you give them just cause and they don’t fire him, you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to continue working for him.
          Sounds like they’re pretty open to firing him if they can’t fix things though, so keep at it. It really sounds like you and they are doing the right things. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up that he will magically stop being a jerk one day.
          My story ended with them transferring Valuable-But-Tyrannical boss to a position that doesn’t involve direct oversight of people. Which wouldn’t have been nearly as rewarding as having that jerk fired, but at least he’s not going to do more harm to other people down the road.

          1. Resilient Buttercup*

            Thank you! That has been my route so far. I want to demonstrate that while I’m skeptical he can change I am open to continuing to work with him if he does. I worry that if I’m perceived as only wanting him fired it will lead others to doubt what I say. I am working to be very clear, and often more blunt than I’m comfortable with, so that there’s no grey area around my expectations about what’s required for items that affect my work.

    3. EPLawyer*

      So let me get this straight — your boss is giving you the silent treatment so YOU have to work on your communication with him? YOU have to make sure what work your BOSS needs to do is clear?

      There’s managing up and then’s doing the damn boss’ job, You have well crossed into that territory.

      At this point, I think you have to accept that all they will do is shift more of the burden on to you and your co-workers to fix him. Work on your exit strategy whatever it may be.

      1. Smarty Boots*

        No, it sounds to me like HR et al are working on getting documentation in place so lazy boss can hang himself and they can fire his azz, because they seem to have been pretty responsive every time you and the others have spoken up. They are formalizing the “speaking up” process, as it were.

      2. Resilient Buttercup*

        This comment and the one by Smarty Boots hit directly on my question. There’s no clear answer on which is a more accurate assement of the situation. Even knowing all the details I’m unable to decide, I feel both ways at various times. I appreciate both of your comments. Thank you.

        1. voyager1*

          Something else to think about to LW. You deal with your boss every day, the HR team only deals with him when they have to because something comes up. For you your boss is your job for the HR team your boss is just part of a whole bunch of things that they do just like any HR dept. Time is going to feel like it is dragging for you because you deal with this situation 8hrs a day everyday.

          It does sound your HR dept is on this though.

        2. MassMatt*

          Resilient Buttercup, you sound great—seeing the positive in having to do work your boss is doing, getting something from all the comments, etc.. You know your workplace better than I do but it seems as though you are split on this question about whether HR is handling this issue or whether it is going to fester. Even if they are working on getting rid of him (which sounds necessary, given your description)it may take a long time.

          I recommend you prepare for the eventuality that change either may take a long time or not happen. Update your resume, network, get a feel for the jobs out there. If your boss gets fired you haven’t lost anything, if not then you are better prepared.

          Also, keep trying to pick up all the skills you can. If and when they DO fire your boss, you can position yourself as the clear replacement. “Well we could start an external search, but we have Buttercup, who has proved to be SO resilient!”. Good luck!

  28. hbc*

    OP5: Does the trainee actually have enough stuff to do to keep him moderately busy, with or without the answers to his questions? And are his questions pretty reasonable ones for what he’s been taught to do?

    Basically, if he’s got work he can get done without those answers, there’s zero excuse for him to keep bugging you. But if all you’ve taught him to do is process basic expense reports and that only takes two hours even at his slow pace, he’s going to be looking for stuff to do at 10:00 even if you’re not meeting with him until 12:30. And asking questions about the non-basic expense reports. You either have to accept that you need to answer questions to keep him moving, or be crystal clear about what he needs to do to keep busy. “Go through last month’s reports to find a similar case so you can answer the question.” “Go help with unpacking pallets in the warehouse.” “Kill time with a book or the internet or something.”

    Also, if he really should be able to figure out what to do and/or his questions show he hasn’t been paying attention, let your manager know. You don’t want him telling your manager “She didn’t have time to train me” when he’s screwing up after you’re gone.

  29. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

    Alison, since OP #1 has mentioned elsewhere that she really cannot afford to buy any new clothes right now, but commenters meaning to be helpful might not see that, do you think you could pin a note at the top asking people not to suggest “buy more clothes!” Maybe I’m being overly sensitive but I know when not having extra money is a pain point it really doesnt help things to hear people suggest buying more and having to explain that I can’t, even to the most well meaning person.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yeah, it’s coming across as a bit tone-deaf at this point. Also, thrifting is not the magic bullet it’s made out to be. Finding things at thrift stores that are at least vaguely in-style, fit, and are in decent shape can be a tall order. Don’t get me started on thredUP… they treat their sellers horribly.

    2. $!$!*

      And in my local area the thrift shops have turned trendy over the past five years. When I was in college I could pick up new clothes on the cheap for work and internships; now everything is usually picked over even when I hit the thrift shop on the same day they set out new merchandise. I read on a blog somewhere that some thrift shops set aside the good stuff to sell online for more money. This is similar to the comment thread where the LW said she didn’t wanna wear make up and everyone said, just wear mascara !

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, I guess the question was really should I just keep being overdressed, or should I explain why, and the comments are suggesting how to dress down what she has with new pieces.

      My grandmother used to volunteer at a small, church-sponsored thrift shop (so not affiliated with Goodwill or Salvation Army, which may have specific rules.) I guarantee that if you went in there, you could walk away with a few more casual pieces to fill in the gaps if you told her your situation. You could possibly offer a trade, too, if you could donate some suits for jeans. I don’t know if there are independent organizations like that anymore, but maybe!

      There are also some organizations that collect workwear for women who don’t have the means. We had a mobile boutique come to my office, and the business model was to shop and donate, then they donated the clothes to underserved women. Again, while you may not meet the requirements for receiving a donation, organizations like this want suits and be open to trading for khakis.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        There’s a shop in Hamilton (Lanarkshire) that works on “points” – you get some for free when you sign up, and then earn points by donating clothes you don’t want to spend on clothes you do. (Rent paid by Scottish Government iirc).

        There may be something close by that does that?

        But in general – yeah, reassurance that if you’re wearing plainer versions of dressy clothes (ie a step below interview) you’re probably fine. Especially as you’re new – it’s not unusual for new people to be that bit smarter for the first while until they suss out the dress code rules (unwritten in particular!).

    4. The Other Dawn*

      You’re not being overly sensitive. I felt the same way when money was extremely tight a few years ago, and family and (mostly) coworkers would basically tell me to throw money at X problem. Sorry, but I’m worried about feeding myself, husband and pets at the moment, plus having a place to live–I’m not going to pay someone to do X when we can do it ourselves or just wait on it.

      And finding stuff at thrift stores can be really difficult. I’m really tall and used to be morbidly obese on top of that, so thrift store shopping wasn’t an option for me. Now that I’m a more standard size, I’m still really tall so finding pants are out of the question. Tops can be hard, too.

      1. Op#1*

        Yup, in addition to the fact that spending money isn’t really an option for me right now, the finding things can be really challenging in thrift stores as well. I’m a pretty standard size (though kinda short and curvy so it can be hard), but it still is more time consuming than shopping other spots, and even more so for folks who aren’t standard sizes. I work full time, commute, volunteer, and have health challenges (which honestly, the gazillions of scents around thrift stores do not help with at all)…even when thrift stores are an option for me, they are a challenge.

    5. Never*

      It’s because not everyone means the same thing when they say they “can’t afford” something, so it’s possible OP can actually afford it. Some people mean they have literally have no money. But plenty of other people say it when they don’t have hundreds of extra dollars floating around after their $200 phone bill and $1000 restaurant tab.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Even if she had hypothetically spent all her money on something you find frivolous, the fact still remains that she’s out of money now. And there’s no evidence that’s the case anyway.

    6. Op#1*

      Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it and have mentioned this a few times in the comments. I know people are coming from a good place, but I feel really similarly to what you outlined in this comment. There’s been some great suggestions around owning it, clothing swaps, places to sell online, etc (and even some donation offers, which have been incredibly kind and thoughtful) but the over and over of suggestions to buy things, even inexpensive, is tough.

  30. Elle*

    OP #1:
    I work in a pretty lax business casual environment. But the big bosses all wear blazers and dress pants every day. I used to try to dress as casual as I could get away with, but I always felt kind of bad about myself especially when I was the junior person in a meeting.

    I started to dress more formally at work – blazer and silky tops. And everyone treats me so differently now, in a good way! I genuinely seem to get more respect, no one questions why I’m in meetings, and most of all I carry myself with more confidence which I’m sure makes a big difference in how my opinions are received.

    So, its not necessarily a bad thing to be dressing nicer than the norm, as long as you aren’t out dressing the people 1 to 2 levels above you (that could seem pretty out of touch). Whats important is that you carry yourself with confidence instead of walking around embarrassed about how you look.

  31. LessNosy*

    OP4, just want to affirm for you that I’ve been through the same thing you have. I’m a female in a male dominated industry and almost 5 years under my belt. For the first 2 years or so, I was confused constantly with my predecessor. I felt completely interchangeable at first. Then I realized there were a few similarities between us and it DEFINITELY didn’t help that we also had similar sounding names (for example, Christina and Sabrina). My go-to response was always “Oops, I’m actually Sabrina, Christina’s my predecessor – happens all the time!” and chuckle and continue the conversation. The more light-hearted I was about it, the better the other person reacted. I made sure in my mind I was framing it as being warm instead of trying to protect peoples’ feelings/not offend them. The intent, I believe, really helped carry the message and make it soak in.

    Now when it happens (which admittedly is very rare), I have some fun with it – “Fergus, don’t you know who I am by now? Geez!” :)

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Yup. This is the way to handle it. My name is uncommon and hard to pronounce, so people forget it all the time. I also work in a male dominated field and often get relegated to being The Girl in people’s minds instead of them learning my actual name. Just be cheerful and matter of fact about it, and don’t back down. And yes, once you’ve corrected someone several times, lightly poking fun at them is appropriate. Guys rib each other, for whatever reason it helps them remember stuff.

  32. McWhadden*

    OP # 1 I’d just wear your current work clothes. Sometimes mixing with casual clothes you own works but other times it just looks odd. I don’t think anyone will care at all. And they’ll likely just say “Cloris sure does dress well” and leave it at that.

    Congrats on the new job! Don’t less this be a source of anxiety.

  33. lnelson1218*

    #OP2, I agree with the following up with HR. People who have been allowed to get away with bad behavior for a long time will have a hard time changing their spots.
    I was in a similar situation, but I was HR and since this guy was “special” (read in the eyes of the CEO the goose who will lay the golden egg) even though everyone knew he was a jerk, bully and plenty of other swear words that aren’t fit to print, upper management went through the motions (they had to as I/HR was complained about his treatment of me) of some mediation, he was never disciplined for anything that he did. No PIP, no real warnings of shape up or else. Very telling. So glad when I got laid off.

  34. thankful for AAM*

    I am very bad at remembering faces. I realize I do use race as a cue. My spouse is a different ethnicity, not a common one here. I have on occasion mistaken random people for him!

    And at work, a 6ft talk woman and I have the same first name, not a common one. I am 5ft tall. I am heavier, she is willowy. She has red blond hair that is long. I have short dark hair. People thought we were sisters all the time. And WE HAVE THE SAME FIRST NAME!

    People are weird (myself included).

    I wish the best to OP#4 in navigating this.

  35. Smarty Boots*

    I work in a casually-dressed office, what you might call very casual-business-casual (we draw the line at flip flops, shorts, and weekend jeans — very nice, dark denim jeans are ok). A few of my colleagues wear business or dressy business casual every day, beautifully done hair/makeup/nails. It’s their look and nobody thinks anything of it. Well, those of us on the more casual end think, Wow, Griselda’s outfit is slammin today! You’ll be ok. Get more casual things as you can afford them.

  36. The Tin Man*

    #4 I like Alison’s advice here of just cheerily and matter-of-factly correcting the person. I have an atrocious memory for both faces and names so I can see myself making this mistake (and being properly mortified, especially if it is a case where I have mistaken one POC for another but I think I’m somehow even worse with people of my own race). Better to be corrected quickly and move forward in the conversation.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      I think for obvious reasons, it’s easy to confuse people of the same complexion if you’re already bad at recognizing people. This is a really embarrassing confession, but my office has 2 tall, skinny blonde women. I would run into them separately and actually thought they were the same person until I saw them both in the same room at the same time.

  37. Rez123*

    #1 I really don’t see the problem in dressing up to work. Evening gown might be pushing it, but what you have seems totally appropriate. It’s just your style. People won’t notice and those who do, get over it once they realize that this is how you dress. There is no need to make any changes.

  38. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: Although I agree with AAM’s advice (you shouldn’t front the money), please never agree to do this type of thing again, ie, submit a false expense report for an expense that wasn’t your own. You enabled this situation by agreeing to submit his expense as your own in order to willfully circumvent the proper approval process, so that he could approve his own expense. Do not participate in his deceit again. The consequences could be worse if someone else found out.

  39. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – I think even little tweaks can help your wardrobe. I would start with not pairing things together like you WOULD have. Meaning if you have a blazer that you always wore with a set pair of pants/skirt to make it look like a suit, trying pairing it with a different pair of pants (or leave it out all together). If you only wore heels with your skirts, try flats, etc.

    Leaving a shirt un-tucked (or even just a front tuck) if you normally leave it tucked in.
    Same goes for buttons – if you normally button all the way to the top, leave a couple undone (nothing scandalous!)
    Rolling sleeves with a top under a sweather/cardigan/blazer can lend a more casual look too.
    Keeping your makeup/hair minimal instead of really done up (if you do it that way normally).
    If you own a nice pair of jeans, add a nice top and it will tone things down too.

    All else fails, I like Alison’s suggestion of the “my last job was super dressy, and I’m looking forward to buying some new stuff soon!”

  40. nnn*

    For #1, if you’re in a temperate part of the northern hemisphere, do you own a sweater or two? Throwing a sweater on top can be an easy way to bring the kind of outfits you describe down a notch (more casual than a suit, hides the “blouse” characteristics of a silk blouse) and if it’s a cold day it doesn’t even have to be well-fitting or look like part of the outfit – you simply put on a sweater because it’s cold!

  41. Jen*

    1) I just had the exact same situation with my new position. I just went out and bought two pair of dark jeans and one pair of casual black pants and I wear them with my blouses and jackets. So I am enjoying reading everyone’s advice and suggestions too.

  42. Elizabeth*

    OP1, if it makes you feel better, I think you’re fine. In my office, people usually wear what they want as long as it is clean and neat–some wear sneakers, some wear heels, some flats, etc. I’ve worn all three of those. I’m wearing sneakers today, but who knows tomorrow?

    Also, one of our executives always wears a suit and heels, despite being told that she doesn’t have to dress up so much. But she’s a boss so, I guess she can dress how she wants.

  43. Miss V*

    LW #1- I went through something similar earlier this year. Jeans and a solid color tshirt are the norm here. Not only do I like my wardrobe from my old job, but I pretty much live exclusively in skirts and dresses. I hate jeans (I’m oddly shaped. Smaller waist, larger hips, and 5’7 with a 25″ inseam. I’m all torso. Pants just don’t work with my body.)

    I did a lot of what people here had already suggested- solid colored t shirts with my skirts, flats with my dresses instead of heels- but ultimately what I found was it doesn’t matter. As long as you aren’t showing up in black tie formal wear most people just assume that’s your style and don’t think any more of it.

    It’s actually worked out to my advantage- Oh, Miss V? Yeah, she’s the one who works back in teapot design and always wears the pretty, vintage style dresses. Having a signature style does tend to make you stick in people’s minds.

  44. Data Miner*

    OP #1: I’ve been in your same situation and have dressed down my outfits with jewelry. Wearing trendier jewelry that is chunky and colorful can pull the outfit down to being more casual than wearing delicate metals. It’s a cheap and versatile option.

  45. Beth Spencer*

    OP#1 – If you live in any kind of a city, search for “(City) clothing swap” and you may find something. I know I’m spoiled living a very large urban area, but I tried the smaller cities I lived in before (75k-200k) and both had upcoming clothing swaps open to anyone, sometimes with a gender neutral theme, specific to plus size, etc.. lots of options. These seem to be fairly popular right before the holidays, so now might be a great time! Even if you don’t have anything to bring, I feel like there are always people who just want to get rid of stuff and not pick up anything anyways. I did a swap with an acquaintance, primarily with other women I didn’t know, and ended up getting a few great things that I wore all the time.

    And as someone who cycles through a lot of cheap, impulse buy clothes.. if you have any friends around your size, ask them if they have any clothes they were getting rid of. There are things that people might be on the fence about, but if they know they are going to a good home, they’re willing to get rid of them.

  46. Dealtwiththis*

    When listing accomplishments on my resume, are there any statistics that aren’t good enough to include? For example, if I say that I increased something by 70%, is that good? Should I list it?Seems like a C grade to me. Ha!

  47. league.*

    OP1, this seems like a great question for Corporette if you’re familiar with her site.

    ….Well, not the question you actually asked, which is not what most people are answering! But the question of how to dress down too-formal work clothes has Corporette written all over it.

  48. Michaela Westen*

    #4, please don’t be too quick to assume a racial element to the mistaken identity. I’ve never been good at remembering what people look like, and it’s not about race. I’m equally stupid with all races.
    Especially if these colleagues only saw Lucinda once in a while, they may not remember exactly what she looks like and could easily make the same mistake even if she was of the same race.

  49. Theory of Eeveelution*

    OP1, thrift stores! I get about 90% of my work clothes from thrift stores, and I’m usually the best-dressed person in the room. Example: today I’m wearing a $7 wool Ferragamo sweater with $10 Born pumps. I get compliments on my clothes all the time, and it’s one of the things in life that I spend the least on!

  50. The Ginger Ginger*

    OP 5 – Has your manager told this person what they should be working on when they’re not training with you, or has his only instruction from his manager been “train with OP”. It’s not shouldn’t really fall to you to have to manage him outside of his training (unless you’ve been told to do that?), so when you tell him you can’t work with him at the moment, he (in theory) should not be your problem any more. Maybe a heads up to your manager that trainee needs some non-training tasks or direction on what to do outside of training times might help.

    It might also be worth letting your manager know that you can’t be available to trainee outside of training times because of your deadlines (if you haven’t already). Get really explicit about what your timelines are and how they’re impacted by non-training interruptions so your manager is really clear about your availability and has both insight and a vested interest in protecting your non-training time. You don’t have to through your trainee under the bus, but something like “he’s so eager to learn that he’s interrupting me with questions and trying to watch me outside training. I appreciate his motivation, but it’s really slowing me down.” would illustrate the problem in a positive (for him) way while still raising the issue with your manager.

    Also, are there industry resources online you could direct him to? So you could say, “I can’t work with you now, but why don’t you read through the online archives of Trade Publication ABC? They have really good articles on Llama accounting that will be good references for you.” You could even send him a bunch of links if you had some bookmarked to get him started.

  51. mf*

    OP 1: I’m a fashion lover + formal dresser in a business casual environment, so I’ve got lots of thoughts…

    1. Shoes can really change the formality of an outfit. A silk top and pencil skirt looks super professional with pumps but more casual with booties or strappy sandals.

    2. Same with jewelry and accessories. Formal or elegant jewelry dresses up an outfit. Costume jewelry or a colorful scarf dresses it down.

    3. Do you have a nice white tee? Pair with dark jeans and one of your blazers for casual Friday. This will look great with pumps, booties, ballet flats, or loafers.

    4. Wear colorful stuff if you can. Neutrals tend to look more formal.

    5. Roll up the sleeves of your silk tops and push up the sleeves of your blazers. Gives your outfit a slightly undone look that will read casual.

    6. When you have the money, considering buy 1 knit top in a neutral color (black or white) and 1 pair of business casual pants (probably black or navy). Along with your jeans, this will get you at least 3 business casual outfits: silk top/business casual pants; knit top/pencil skirt; silk top/jeans. You can probably get 2 wears/week out of your knit top if once a week, you wear it under a blazer.

  52. Lauren*

    #4 – I once replaced someone who was also named Lauren and also had red hair. I regularly had vendors thinking I was insane for not “remembering” them and them not understanding that I was an entirely different person who had never actually met them or spoken with them before.

  53. Peaches*

    OP #1 – Alison’s Old Navy suggestion is GREAT. I just got three pairs of clearance pants there for work for $3.95, $7.95, and $10.95. Obviously the selection will vary by store, but the Old Navy near me consistently has a HUGE clearance selection, with a variety of sizes and styles.

  54. Anoncorporate*

    #1: I work in a business casual environment and I got many of my clothes from Goodwill. I don’t think anyone knows or cares, as the items are in really good condition. I got about 10 items for less than $20

  55. Katartsis*

    Hey OP #1, I’ve run into this issue too. My advise is to get some cardigans. You can find them for pretty cheap at a thrift store, but really, just having one or two in heavy rotation tends to be good for me. I started a job with a more lax dress code and began throwing cardigans and woolen shawls over my dresses. Not only was I warm (it was library work in a rare books collection – very cold!), but I fit in more. Also, I was known as the fashionable one at the office, so, not a bad perk.

  56. Raine*

    OP 1:

    When you can afford to get more clothing, I highly recommend Old Navy’s Rockstar jeans. They have lots of different lengths and sizes, plus they work very well for people who have a waist that is smaller than their hips (that’s the only body I can comment from, but these truly are my favorite jeans, especially the high waisted ones!).

  57. SKA*

    OP 4: At my current position, I took over for another woman who went by a name is slightly different than mine, but also a shortening of the same longer name. I was vaguely aware of this, but she didn’t get mentioned that often (there was a period between her and me where they contracted work out, so not much that she left open ended up with me).

    It took several instances of vendors (who I generally only interact with via email or phone) asking me if I’d gotten married recently (because they were used to seeing emails from “Liz White” but were now receiving emails from “Lizzy Smith”) for me to put 2 and 2 together.

  58. Flash Bristow*

    Right. One of the things I’ve done in my notice period, while training up my replacement, was to document everything that were daily tasks, and regular procedures and processes. Then get trainee to proofread the docs – as opposed to just reading! Make them feel useful – and it genuinely does help when they identify things that are assumed or unclear, and unknown to a newbie.

    That way they’re doing a useful service and paying better attention than skim reading the docs and going “yeah yeah, blah blah, done that, bored now…”

    Ask for their feedback on the docs, and mean it. That way they’re learning, but out of your hair while you’re doing other tasks.

    Also, OP#5, have you given trainee the guided tour? Stopping by people’s desks to introduce him to who does what? Invited them to reach out to him if there’s anything they need a hand with? Quietly asked them if they’d like to take him to lunch (so a good time for the guided tour is at the end of the morning)? Abd I’ve never started on a job which DIDN’T need its filing cabinets checked and ordered… tedious but it’s another way to familiarise yourself with where’s what, the names of clients or products or whatever may be relevant.

    OP#5 I do sympathise with your situation, especially having to get your work complete before going. Normally I’d expect stuff to be wound down and taken out of my hands so by your last few days there’s very little you’re still allowed to touch! But I do also feed for Trainee. I think you will need to sit down, have a think, be clearer with him about what he can or should do during this interim period. I get the impression he’s feeling pretty lost right now, desparate to learn before you leave, feeling that you’re giving him the brush off and not knowing how to fix this. Perhaps you could sit down for an honest chat over a tea break, and both put your cards on the table rather than both frustrating each other and worrying that there’s too much to do in too little time, with a ticking clock? Befriend and support each other rather than being all formal and failing to read each others’ minds? It’s only for a limited time, after all!

    Well, just my 2d. Good luck with it all.

  59. Erin W*

    The Lucinda question reminds me of what happened when I started my job. I didn’t get a lot of training and there was basically no documentation, so I was kind of flailing the first few weeks and asking people a lot of questions. I almost always got the same response, “Ask Jean, she knows, she handles that stuff.” Jean was the person I replaced. One day I finally flipped out on somebody and was like “I AM JEAN NOW. Stop giving me that answer.”

  60. Help*

    What happens if you have a dysfunctional boss and you work for a dysfunctional company (like, one without a functioning HR office) and you haven’t been able to find a new job?

    Morale at my struggling office has been low for about a year, but it has gotten lower with the new boss they hired some time ago. Unfortunately I have to share an office with her… and all she does is unload snark on everyone and everything that is not in the room. She wasn’t here for six weeks before she started criticizing the company openly, mocking some of her own employees behind their backs, and bringing her personal problems into the office and into weekly departmental meetings. (By the way, her work history is odd, I saw her resume and she has rarely lasted more than 2 years at any place she has been. I believe she was hired because they desperately needed someone to fill the position.)

    It’s just been exhausting to work with her because I have to pretend that her arrogant behavior doesn’t bother me when it really bothers me a LOT. I have to listen to everything she spews. (and I don’t doubt for a minute that she would badmouth me behind my back if she ever got the chance) But I can’t complain to HR because we just don’t really have an HR department, we’re not a big enough company. It has gotten to the point where a few of us employees have started comparing notes and resolving to write things down (time, date, etc of behavior or her poor judgement calls) but what is the point because we have no one to show it to. We’re basically just hoping she stays true to form and moves on to a new job soon.

    I just don’t like talking about anyone (even someone who’s such a problematic supervisor) behind their backs, that is not my style, but something’s got to give. Nobody wants to work here any more which is a shame because even despite the challenges, we enjoyed each other’s company and team work and kept a positive attitude until “Two-Faced Terri” came along and injected such incredible negativity… which is starting to rub off on us. Help!

  61. LuvDonatedStuff*

    Does your neighborhood have a Community Facebook Group? I love ours. We lend eachother all kinds of things, get opinions, share info, and ask for donations, when needed. I also second freecycle or craigslist.

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