coworkers keep praising my “growth,” when should you use an out-of-office message, and more

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

1. Coworkers keep complimenting me on my “growth”

Over the last few years I’ve gotten a chance to take on some new projects that have given me a lot more exposure than my previous role. This is obviously great and has contributed significantly to my happiness at work.

Now I’m getting lots of comments from people about how much I’ve grown. The problem is that this is the type of work I’ve done a lot in the past and just haven’t had the opportunity to do yet at this job because of my role. So it’s not really growth, but more about actually getting the chance to show what I’m capable of.

I’m worried that the constant comments about growth are affecting people’s perception of me as an experienced professional. Whenever I get compliments about my work, it always comes with a comment about how much I’m growing or, worse, “coming into my own.” These comments seem more appropriate for someone who is fairly junior (which I am not). I don’t want to be painted with this “growth” narrative when it’s not actually true, and I don’t want all my achievements to be viewed through this lens. While I appreciate the praise, I wish it didn’t also come with comments on how far I’ve come versus some imaginary previous level.

Is there a way to nicely redirect these comments away from growth? Or do I just wait it out and see if they naturally die out on their own over time?

The comments should die out on their own over time (it would be weird if they didn’t!) but I can see why it rankles now.

It should be fine to respond with something like, “Oh thanks! I actually did a bunch of llama midwifing in previous jobs but I’m really glad to be getting to do it again.” The key is to say this cheerfully and with genuine enthusiasm so that it doesn’t sound defensive.

2. I have to check the work of someone who’s bad at her job

I started a new job about a year ago. One of my duties is to check the work of a much older but lower-ranked employee whom I do not directly supervise. We are the only people in our department who do a certain type of data encoding, and neither of our managers have the technical skills to evaluate our work. (We’re expected to identify our own skills gaps and seek out training, which the company reimburses us for if needed.)

This other employee is, quite simply, bad at her job. She struggles with the most basic aspects of data encoding and is unfamiliar with the latest technical standards. When I correct her work, she responds that she’s always done it that way, even when I explain that the standards changed several years ago. Since she doesn’t write down what I tell her, she makes the same mistakes over and over again. Her workspace is a cluttered nightmare and she can’t keep track of what we’ve already gone over, so a significant portion of our biweekly hour-long meeting is spent rifling through folders to find the latest list of problems she wanted me to review. Even though she works almost entirely on the computer, she lacks fundamental computer literacy and gets flustered when I ask her to open up a new browser window or bookmark an important training website. She can use the specific interface we use for encoding work, but not much else.

I don’t know the best way to help her. She would likely benefit from watching some basic online tutorials, but I don’t want to insult her by suggesting this—she’s been in the field for over 20 years compared to my five—and since I’m not her supervisor I couldn’t demand that she watch them. I’m also not sure how, or if I even should, bring this up to her actual supervisor. I don’t want her to be reprimanded or fired, but she needs a more regimented training program than what I’m able to offer. What should I do?

You can try giving her feedback and suggestions, but based on what you’ve written here, I don’t have a lot of confidence that she’ll act on them. Still, though, if you want to try, you could say something like, “Can I give you some feedback that I think will help? I’ve noticed you’re making the same types of mistakes over and over, like X and Y. I think it would help to take notes when we go over them, so that you can consult those later to avoid repeating them. I think you’d also find some online tutorials like X and Y really useful in getting more efficient with the computer. I can recommend some specific ones if you’d like.”

But whether or not you do that, you definitely do need to talk to her manager. You said her manager doesn’t have the technical skills to evaluate her work, and since part of your job is to check this person’s work, you do need to loop in her manager on the situation. This isn’t about getting her in trouble; it’s about letting her manager know that there’s a serious issue that needs her attention. I might say to do that even if you weren’t in charge of checking her work — but as the person who is, it’s pretty obligatory. If I were her (or your!) manager, I’d be taken aback if I found out the person in charge of checking someone’s work hadn’t told me about long-running, serious patterns. You’ve got to say something.

3. When should you use an out-of-office message?

This is a fairly low stakes question that I am just curious about — in the past, I have worked for managers who fell on both sides of this extreme. One previous manager strongly believed that out-of-office replies were an indication of every minute you spent away from the office and thus painted you in a bad light, and did nothing but clutter up people’s inboxes unnecessarily. He did not like his team to use them — ever, even when we would be gone for several days and truly not have access to our email. Then I later worked for a manager who puts up an out-of-office even just for meeting-heavy days, as she strongly believes that being responsive is something she prides herself on, and she wanted people to know when they might need to expect a longer than normal delay in hearing back from her.

Curious where you fall on this debate? And if it’s “somewhere in the middle,” where exactly is the middle? What if you’ll be out for a few days but still plan on checking your email? Ultimately, does any of this really matter unless you’re in an industry where rapid responses are truly mandatory?

I always think think it’s a bit much when someone uses an out-of-office reply to say they’ll be in meetings much of the day and won’t be checking messages until 4 pm (or whatever), unless they’re in a job where fairly instant responses are expected. It’s email. The whole point is that you can respond when it’s convenient. Being tied up with other things for a few hours is not announcement-worthy.

Generally I’d say that you really only need an out-of-office message if you’re not going to be replying to people in what would be considered a reasonable time for your field (which for most people is somewhere between one and three business days). Absent any other info, I’d say to use one when you’re out for at least a couple of day but not if it’s less time than that (and definitely not for “I’m here today but really busy”). And in lots of offices, the culture is to only use them if you’re out for a full week or close to it.

If you’re out but checking your email, it can still help to use one so that you don’t feel obligated to respond to things that can wait until you’re back.

Like many things, though, it’s really office-dependent and you’ve got to know your culture.

4. My boss told me to keep a spare pair of shoes at work

I work an office job and like to wear very tall high heels. I’m usually sitting at a desk all day, but occasionally when we have a big project, I am asked to run a particular machine, requiring me to be on my feet much more. Today was just such a day, and I had worn my tall heels. I had not complained about or even mentioned my shoes, and I did not feel like they were interfering with what I needed to do. My boss walked past and asked if I had any other shoes with me. When I said no, she said “I would like you to have a spare pair of shoes from now on.” citing that I could move faster in “practical” shoes.

I am well practiced at walking in high heels, so I feel like my footwear doesn’t impact my ability to do my job and while I may be more comfortable in flat shoes when I’m on my feet all day, I don’t need my boss to mandate my comfort. My plan is to get the most obnoxiously loud, neon sneakers I can find and keep them in the office for when my boss deems my shoes “impractical.” Is this too petty? Is my boss justified in making me have a change of shoes?

It’s hard to say without knowing more, but around some types of machinery there can be safety reasons for mandating certain types of shoes. If that’s the case here, and that seems like the most likely explanation (even if it’s just based on your boss’s own judgment and not an official rule), she does indeed have standing to tell you to switch shoes. Trying to score protest points with the shoes you bring in would be a disproportionate response, and yes, would seem petty (and like you are really missing the point, if this is a safety thing).

5. My boss now sits directly behind me

Our office just changed configuration, and suddenly the window to my boss’s office, the window her desk is against, is two feet behind my work station. Any time she looks up, she can read the text on my screen. She’s a decent boss, but I’m already getting paranoid. Other than gift her with office curtains, what should I do?

Is there any way to change your own desk configuration? You could say, “I’ve always had a weird thing about people behind me while I work, and I don’t want it to interrupt my focus.” If she knows you to be a generally good worker who doesn’t do a lot of slacking off, this should go over fine. (On the other hand, if she does suspect you of a lot of slacking off, this will raise further suspicions.)

Alternately, there are anti-glare filters you can get for your monitor which also prevent anyone from reading your screen unless they’re sitting in your chair.

(The point here, obviously, isn’t that you’re doing lots of untoward things on your computer, but that having your boss able to read your screen all day long — and not knowing when it might be happening — can be a recipe for self-consciousness and distraction.)

{ 564 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve had multiple requests from people to ask commenters to cut out the references to 9/11 as a reason to have flats on hand at work. The point has been made that flats are useful in an evacuation situation, so let’s please leave that there.

    I’ve also removed a bunch of off-topic comments on this post.

  2. Sally Forth*

    #4 It might be helpful to ask your manager to clarify on the foot ware. Is it a concern only on that machine? Is the issue heels, open toes, etc?

      1. valentine*

        OP4: Respond reasonably to the reasonable request and keep a pair of appropriate sneakers in the office. If your boss is obsessed with your shoes and has made comments before, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong about this. If they meant they want you to move faster in general and not just when working the machine, that’s possibly weird, and you’ll have better standing to address anything ongoing if you’re not playing immature games.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I disagree that this was a “reasonable request”, tbh. If there’s an actual safety concern, then it’s reasonable, but that’s not the sense I got from the letter – more that the boss has decided that she has the ability to decide for the OP what footwear will be better at any given moment. I’d find that frustrating, too.

          I’d suggest instead that the OP ask the boss outright why the boss wants OP to have alternate shoes on hand – if it’s a safety thing, that changes it. If it’s not safety but “I think it would be easier for you,” then the OP could gently push back on it.

          1. Confused*

            Who knows, but bosses make “unreasonable” requests sometimes. I also doubt we have the full story from OP. Is she wearing sensible office pumps or platform stripper heels? The way OP seems so attached to wearing heels make me think that they may not be appropriate for the dress code. I don’t think it’s that egregious to have her change into a pair of cute but sensible flats if the boss thinks it’s a safety issue.

        2. Anoncorporate*

          If there were safety issues re: machinery, shouldn’t this be covered when people get hired and as part of the usual dress code?

      1. Triplestep*

        The boss was clear that she’s not happy about the shoes, but may be trying to preserve LW’s feelings by citing the time it takes to move around in them.

        LW, your boss may feel that your shoes are more appropriate for a club than an office. Maybe she’s actually heard comments to this effect and is dealing with it by using a little white lie. It’s possible your boss is actually looking out for you here. Either way, acting out in the passive aggressive way you’re planning is not the appropriate response.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          It may well be that even if they don’t look like stripper heels, they’re high enough that it makes people worry to see LW work machinery in them. Sometimes it’s just about keeping sneakers under your desk so other people don’t freak out and think you’re going to snap your ankle.

          Either way, I totally agree it’s a reasonable request and LW would seem a bit weird if she reacted strongly. It’s not prohibiting her from wearing her preferred heels to work, it just means changing to flats/sneakers to perform this one manual task. Not exactly a hill to die on.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            Agreed–even if LW isn’t actually unsafe in 5-inch heels, to most eyes she would absolutely look unsafe (certainly to mine). IMO the distraction factor is enough reason to change out of them.

        2. Jule*

          Ew. There’s literally no reason to assume that there’s any other motivation for this than what the boss stated. Your own feelings about heels have nothing to do with this situation.

          1. Risha*

            Are so-called “stripper heels” even still a thing? I’m over 6 feet tall and have zero need for extra height, and finding heels under 2.75 inches can be tough. When nearly 3 inch heels seems to be the average, how high do you need to go to get to unprofessional?

            1. Genny*

              Usually around 4+ inches, though I tend to think it’s more the style of the shoe than the heel height. The other important factor is how comfortably you can walk. If you’re tottering around on your heels, it doesn’t matter how high/low they are, that’s not professional (note: it doesn’t sound like this LW is tottering in her heels).

            2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              I might be oddly conservative, but I think any heels (except the low block heels you see on conservative loafer-type shoes and sturdy boots) are inappropriate for work.

                1. Mpls*

                  Yes, oddly conservative. Heels are almost an expectation at many formal business offices (not that they should be!), To the point women ask if flats can ever be considered professional (of course they can).

              1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

                If you’re “oddly conservative”, than so am I.

                My first work experiences were in laboratories and manufacturing facilities. No high heels, no open toed shoes was the *minimum*, regular lab/plant people often wore specific safety shoes, and back then they were guaranteed to be “ugly” if you were into cute shoes.

                I also knew a woman who had to have tendon surgery because she had worn high heels for so long the tendons in the back of her legs had shortened!!

                IMO, spike heels, even low ones, do not belong in the office, much less on a plant/machine room floor. Any heel more than about an inch or an inch and a half is a probable safety concern. Even in an office there can be slip and trip hazards. (Yes, I was part of the safety team back then.)

                Save the heels for your own time.

                BTW, if you brought in neon sneakers, in a manufacturing environment you might start a fad, since visibility can be a very important part of safety.

            3. MsSolo*

              “Stripper heels” are usually characterised by having a certain amount of platform, as well as a heel. This isn’t just about making the woman look taller, but it allows for extra padding to improve comfort. They usually have wider heels than stilettos to improve stability while dancing, too, and may be extra strappy in order to anchor them more thoroughly to the foot. They are, after all, a work shoe designed for a profession that demands you spend most of your day on your feet!

        3. That Work from Home Life*

          This was my thought, too. Maybe her sky high heels aren’t office appropriate and her boss was using the fact that she has to be on her feet a lot for this particular task as a way of getting around saying that.

          Also, OP, it doesn’t have to be sneakers OR heels. There plenty of cute flat and low-heeled options out there.

        4. CommanderBanana*

          I have a feeling it might be this – I’ve definitely worked with some women who were business casual but their feet were in the club and it really didn’t look professional, in the same way that wearing a spaghetti strap top or miniskirt doesn’t look professional.

          I wear heels every day, but my personal rule for office footwear is no double soled (platform) heels, so my heels can’t be higher than four inches.

    1. JamieS*

      By all means ask for clarification but I’d caution OP to be prepared for the answer simply being it’s the manager’s preference and that arguing about it/being defiant about it probably isn’t a good idea.

      1. Annette*

        Yes. I hate people who think others can read minds. This boss spoke her truth and gave clear instructions. Defensiveness or pettiness = uncalled for here.

      2. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I would also ask for clarification – because it might impact the type of shoes you end up having to wear. If it’s a safety issue, the open top of a pair of flats might not be enough coverage for the foot. Not knowing the machinery, I can’t say if this is an issue, but it’s worth asking about.

        1. Need a Beach*

          Agreed, there should be more info provided to LW. Does she need steel or composite toes? Electrical hazard approved? Static dissipating? What standards does the footwear have to meet–ANSI, ASTM, ISO?

    2. LeRainDrop*

      Just another thought to consider — How easy is it to exit your building in case of an emergency? I say this as someone who worked on the 25th floor when there was a car fire in our parking garage that required evacuation of the entire high-rise office building. I had a couple co-workers who *only* wear very high heels and they were struggling to get down the fire stairs for all those stories. They eventually gave up to walk barefoot, including the last 10 stories that had zero lighting in the stairwell, so we used our phones as flashlights. Since then, I always kept a pair of flip-flops in my drawer and another pair of flats.

      1. Walking Tall*

        We are on the ground floor and there is a very clear path to the front double doors. It’s a very open office with few obstructions.

      2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Yes seconding what LeRainDrop says, I am sitting on the 46th floor of a building — my partner worked in this building years ago at a different company on a particular day you may recall, where he had to go down 18 flights (he was only on 19) and then walk home to Brooklyn in a cloud of smoke and building debris. Every 6 months a retired firefighter comes and scares us straight about emergency plans, stairwell familiarization, and the disability/assistance list on record with the fire warden downstairs, and part of that is making sure you have a pair of shoes under your desk you can use in a fire / bomb / shooting / accident situation, even if you really do just stride around the office and work at a computer your entire career. This year all the women (I am a woman) were wearing practical shoes so he had no one to call out as an example though, which we all got a good laugh out of. Something to consider for safety if nothing else. Even if it’s those cheapie roll up flats you can slip into your desk drawer.

    3. Walking Tall*

      It’s basically a large copy machine, so it’s not a safety issue. On days the machine is running well, I need to load it, set it to run, and go back to my desk, looking up every once in a while to monitor it. On days it’s not running well, like that day, I’m typically on the floor removing jams 70% of the day. Neither of these scenarios require me to walk for much distance or move with any unusual speed.
      My boss has previously made comments about “I don’t know how you can walk in those” so I feel like she would feel awkward and unsteady in them and is assuming I feel that way also.

      1. KP*

        I wouldn’t presume that is what she meant. You are always welcome to clarify, but it could come off as defensive — and this really isn’t the hill to die on. Just get the shoes.

      2. Jenny*

        I worked a copy job and can’t imagine crouching in heels. Just bring some shoes.

        I did write up someone for heels at a
        Theater tech job. Our equipment was way too heavy to move in heels. An employee broke a toe in the past so footwear was essential but this employee loved super high shoes. She did not work out.

        This is so not a place to take a stand.

        1. Walking Tall*

          Fwiw, I find crouching in heels to be way more comfortable than crouching in flats, but regardless, I kneel down on both knees or actually sit down to reach the areas I need to, so my shoes aren’t in play at all anyway.

          My boss was very stressed that day. The machines weren’t running as fast as she needed them to, with near constant jams, and she was frustrated by the pace of work, so I think she picked the one thing she felt she could control. I’m going to keep a pair of flats at the office and then just continue with my usual footwear. Maybe it just won’t come up again, especially if I demonstrate that I work just as fast in heels as other shoes. (although she should know that by now, after 4 years)

          1. The Imperfect Hellebore*

            I think what you’ve chosen to do is the sensible thing. That way you can continue as you were, but you’ll be able to switch shoes if she does bring it up again. I might say differently if she was otherwise overly controlling, or patronising, but you’re no doubt right that she was stressed, and felt the need to suggest a solution that might not have occurred to her in a calmer situation.

            As a sidenote, I do envy you your ability to walk well in heels. :)

          2. CommanderBanana*

            Same! I have extremely high arches and some other weird foot things, so heels are actually more comfortable for me – I get foot cramps and tend to walk out of flats because of the way my feet are shaped.

            I’ve worked with people like your boss that couldn’t stop commenting on my heels and it was hellaciously annoying.

        2. The Imperfect Hellebore*

          I used to do theatre tech work, and I’m genuinely amazed your high-heeled colleague lasted long enough to be written up! Even in amateur/youth theatre, dark trainers were required for any backstage work. If doing a get-in, get-out, or any kind of rigging in a professional space, sturdy boots were the minimum requirement, and reinforced toe caps preferred. Anything less and we would’ve been told to go home and change, and rightly so. Flattering footwear isn’t worth the risk of a broken ankle or a crushed foot.

          That said, I do envy and admire OP#4 and others like her, who have the ability to walk well in high heels. I could just about manage in my early twenties, but nowadays I look nervous and ungainly in heels, like a newborn giraffe, rather than confident and graceful. Oh well!

          1. The Imperfect Hellebore*

            To add: I do realise that a theatre isn’t an office, of course, and hope I didn’t derail. I just had to reply to your comment, because the idea of doing backstage work in heels made me howl :)

          2. Jennifer Juniper*

            Walking Tall and The Imperfect Hellebore:

            Google “Sarah Jessica Parker’s feet” under Google Images. The sight will make you never want to wear high heels again. Her feet got deformed from years of heel-wearing.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              I googled it. They look like normal average feet for a very petite 50+ year old woman. What’s wrong with them?

              1. The Imperfect Hellebore*

                I just googled the same thing, and was presented by pictures of SJP’s fairly normal feet.

        3. jhhj*

          Crouching/squatting in shoes with some heel is generally easier, as it requires less ankle mobility. (You’ll see athletes wear slight heels to squat.) I have one slightly stiff ankle and when I crouch to clean the litter or whatever I am always up on my toes even when I am barefoot. (I try to be conscious of this and put my heels down but it’s so hard to change.) It’s also often easier for women to squat in heels because it uses muscles they are likely to be stronger in.

          This has nothing to do with the work advice, which is to just bring in a pair of flats for those days and let it go.

      3. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        I think you need to mentally reframe this–even if she’s being controlling, even if she’s projecting her own nervousness/discomfort about very high heels, she’s doing it because she’s concerned for your safety.

      4. hbc*

        It sounds like your boss is drawing conclusions from the facts available that aren’t 100% justified, but that are common enough. “Heels are uncomfortable for me, Walking Tall is sitting on the floor which I associate with slower work, I would sit too if I had those heels, the work isn’t getting done as fast as I like. Reason: The Shoes.”

        I don’t think there’s any way you’re going to win this battle, because there isn’t much way to prove your point. Just get a $10 pair of business-appropriate shoes from Payless and wear them when “needed.”

      5. Observer*

        You’re making a big leap here. She clearly thinks that your shoes are a problem, but there is no reason to think that she is making any assumptions about the way you feel about the matter. In fact, based on what you’ve said so far (I haven’t read the rest of the discussions yet), I’d be willing to bet that she knows that you disagree with her, but believes that you are wrong.

      6. kittymommy*

        Hmm, I got to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are on to something here. If it’s not a safety issue (and it doesn’t sound like it is) then really, she shouldn’t be dictating your shoes to you. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue you are going to win, and is this really a hill you want to die on?

      7. Scarletb*

        Speculative, but how’s the sound on your floor? I find my co-workers in high heels make more walking noise than the folks in flats, even on the carpeted areas around our desks. If – as you note below – your boss was having a particularly frustrated day, it could have been a straw on the back of a camel primed to comment in that direction.

        1. Walking Tall*

          It’s not super noisy – all the floors are carpeted – and what noise they do make gets completely drowned out by the general office noise, which can be considerable when multiple machines are running. Particularly when I am standing still, as when she made the comment.

      8. HighHeelsAreTheDevilsLure*

        This response leads me to my original thought – she’s doesn’t like you wearing high heels to work and she’s using this “day” as an excuse.

        Fact is, men find high heels very sexy – I work with 45 of them and they are pretty much all the same though some more vocal about it than others. It’s possible she is jealous and/or annoyed by the comments men may be making about you or how you look in them.

        At the end of the day, it definitely isn’t a hill to die on. She’s your boss, she’s told told you in a few different ways she’s not happy with your choice of footwear in the office so you have to change your shoes and keep the peace or decide it is a hill to die on and find another job with hopefully a boss that doesn’t have a shoe hangup.

    4. Lynca*

      I don’t think she needs clarity. The boss is clear they need more practical shoes. But maybe the boss would be receptive to wearing a kitten heel or flats rather than sneakers. The boss may have just defaulted to sneakers because almost everyone has a pair and that’s not the only footwear they would find acceptable. I don’t think there’s much harm in asking if say flats are okay in lieu of sneakers. If the boss is adamant about it being sneakers they’ll say so and you just bring in a pair from home. The OP definitely shouldn’t buy a pair out of spite.

      I’m assuming that this is some kind of office machinery and not Construction/Manufacturing/Lab machinery. If it’s the latter then I would heartily recommend abiding by the request for sneakers without the discussion.

      1. WellRed*

        The boss didn’t specify sneakers so I would think the letter writer could find something to suffice.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wondered about open toes myself, and potential slip hazard of leather soles.
      A co-worker loved her heels but for her promotion she needed to go out onto the manufacturing floor where no-slip safety shoes were required. She found pumps that satisfied the bill — if I’m not misremembering hers had steel-toes as well as safety soles, but I’ve never found them online myself so I’m not sure.

      I’d suggest you look at shoes aimed at nurses, because we all know they’re on their feet all day AND have to respond quickly without slipping. Some of them are really quite beautiful.

      1. Walking Tall*

        All my shoes are closed toe, and the entire office is covered in the same carpet. If there’s no slip risk of walking to the break room, there’s no slip risk to standing in front of the machine (or sitting on the floor next to it, as is the case half the time).

        1. MattKnifeNinja*

          For whatever it’s worth…

          It may be absolutely nothing to do with saving your feet/ankles/back, or being able to flee a burning building.

          I’m guessing more than a few people commented about your “inappropriate office footwear.”, and this boss is being not straightforward with you. Coworker/client/investor/her higher up? You don’t know.

          I worked at an elementary school. My job had a dress code, the teachers with a union did not. They could wear everything from dollar store flip flops to Bettie Page heels, which they did! Lol..

          The administrator HATED flip flops, strappy sandals and 3+ inches heels, she couldn’t say boo. The crazy parents would post on FB about the “kindie teacher running around on hooker heels.”, and call the principal up complaining. The principal didn’t care about the “inappropriate footwear”, she just didn’t want to be bugged by the parents.

          I’m sure you are rocking the heels. If you don’t have a dress code you could probably push it. Is this worth aggravating the boss over? Instead of the boss saying, “the heels gotta go.”, now you are picked over on minor performance issues.

          Beauty of working in the US, you can be dumped for just about any reason, but you can cut bait and run. (generalizing here)

          You need to decide your line in the sand, and remember this boss could just let you go over the shoes.

          Good luck.

          ETA: I’m assuming you had decided not bringing the other shoes in is not an option for you.

    6. Celeste*

      I think your boss feels you are violating the social norms with your shoes in that office. Maybe someone else has commented, maybe not. I think that’s the real root, but I would also accept that they probably don’t help you move faster and more efficiently.

      If it’s about fashion, you don’t have to wreck your look by choosing sneakers. There has to be something else you could wear that is lower heeled and still appealing on days when you have lots of work at the copier. I would avoid being petty and focus on getting your work done.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So as an aside, this thread reminded me that I wanted to look for steel-toed office shoes because my role does sometimes send me out onto a manufacturing floor.
      I found steeltoed slip-on Merrells at coffeebreak…perfect for the next fire alarm *AND* going onto the mfg floor.
      Sometime this week I’ll call around to find out who carries them in my area, because I’m fussy about fit.

      1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        Sweet. It’s really cool that they now make decent looking steel toe shoes, because when I was working with machinery it was all ugly boot/hiking boots.

    8. Anonymouse*

      LW4 I had a conversation once with a staff member once… for context…. she shortened her official issue shift dress uniform to a mini, and wore sky high heels. She also had the job of moving copier paper around and loading the printers and copiers….

      It went something like this:
      “Hey T can you please wear flat shoes and return your hem to the correct height, or wear a longer skirt to work”
      “Because I can see your underwear and so can everyone else”
      “Oh Really? Oh well, isn’t that YOUR problem”
      “It’s become my problem because people have indicated they are going to complain about it formally if you don’t stop flashing them and that’s too much paperwork for such an obvious issue.”


      Now… are your high heels causing issues? Who knows. I can wear sky scrapers too… but there was that one time I rolled my ankle in one and dropped a laptop down a flight of stairs. I became a little more mature/risk averse about them after that. Are your high heels making your back curve in a way that it’s dangerous for you to be routinely lifting a carton of paper off the floor? Are you working on a slippery or uneven ground and at risk? Are you meeting/greeting highly conservative clients or walking people around a manufacturing or warehouse environment?

      An employer can say “That foot wear is not suitable for the office” and be talking about either dress code (presentation) or more importantly health and safety (heel height, closed toe etc matters). If you fall, break your ankle, then is the company going to be impacted? Yes. Does your job regularly require you to move around in a way that means you might slip/trip/catch a heel? Sounds like it… So they can mandate this and aren’t being unreasonable.

      I used to dye my hair hot pink… and it was a protest vote to a horrid CEO we got (in a 50,000 employee company) and the whole mess that flowed through…. but we all found our ways of dealing with that nightmare, and it wasnt’ taken out on the manager who was being forced to do some rather crazy stuff ‘in the name of efficiency’… don’t take it out on the manager – they are just enforcing reasonable working standards and safety. If they don’t… they could lose their jobs.

      Buy some simple low shoes – court shoes… slip them on while doing the tasks that are dangerous to do in heels, and when you have to walk between buildings and up and down flights of stairs. Put your ‘glamourous’ shoes back on at other times if you really must. And… if you’ve shortened your skirts, consider the wider respect for your colleagues ;) I know this isn’t about short skirts and knickers, but I’ve found that the sky high shoes may go with the sky high hems, and some jobs are better done in flats, and with modesty … and the paper work on sprained ankles, grumpy other employees etc sometimes isn’t worth the glamour.

  3. Game of Drones*

    No. 4, I once saw a secretary trip on heels on her way to the copy machine. I wasn’t able to catch her.

    I used to keep both heels and flats under my desk. My boss complained about the shoes being there.

    These points aren’t at all helpful, I realize, but if I were in your place I’d want some comfortable shoes as an option.

    1. Artemesia*

      My kids were both in DC 9/11 and my nephew and niece were working in NY one in one of the buildings at the WTC site. IMHO everyone should have shoes at work they can walk 20 miles in. Sometimes in a disaster it can be necessary.

      1. Words are like shoes*

        That’s exactly why I keep sneakers at my desk. In case of an emergency where I might have to walk miles to safety.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I wear trainers to commute to/from work. Whilst luckily I’ve never had to use them in an emergency, they’ve come in useful during transport strikes etc, so I like the idea of them being there just in case something goes wrong enough that I’d need to walk home from central London (around 10 miles). I keep smart flats in my work bag which I change into when I get to the office, but I know there’s no way I could walk that far in those, and certainly not in heels!

        2. Essess*

          I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I’ve never really understood the logic about bringing shoes to change into for an emergency. Do people really expect to stop and take the time to remove old shoes, pull on new shoes and tie them up in the middle of an emergency? If there is a fire, or bomb, or shooter then you really don’t have the time to sit and change your shoes.

          1. Aveline*

            Not necessarily. I was once in a high rise where there was a fire-safety related evacuation. A lot of the women and a few men changed shoes very rapidly and then went to the stairs.

            So, in a fire, yes people have time to change shoes. Active shooter, probably not.

            It’s not an issue of time. It’s an issue of whether or not one can remain clear-headed enough to remember to change the shoes.

            1. Me*

              No. I work in emergency management. Best practice is to get out if possible (Run/Avoid), second is to deny them access to you/your location buy locking a door, piling chairs in front of it etc etc, last choice is to defend yourself – grab a fire extinguisher and spray it at them, throw things etc.

              Active assailant’s whole purpose is to commit mass murder. Hitting the floor/hiding under a desk does not increase your odds of survival.

          2. boop the first*

            That’s what I was thinking! But then the shoes in reference are probably more like ballet flats or other kinds of slip-on shoes. Also, we all probably take extra time anyway to gather our wallets because no one wants to discover that it was a REAL fire and are now trapped coatless/walletless/keyless in the parking lot for who knows how many days.

          3. Anne Elliot*

            Yes, I do. I mean, we haven’t had a true emergency but I work on the 15th floor of a 15 story building and when the fire alarm goes off (yearly, maybe twice a year) I kick off my heels and slip on flats I keep in the bottom drawer of my desk, before I grab my purse and head to the stairwell. And I do this as quickly as I can, because what I know from years of these types of drills is that if there ever is a fire/bomb, I’m going to die in the stairwell trapped behind 14 floors’ worth of colleagues, some of whom are very slow (old, disabled, overweight, wearing stupid shoes, etc.). So I get as close to the ground as I can, as fast as I can. The alarm goes off and I am outta there. I wear flats because I take those drills seriously and I think flats legitimately increase my chances of surviving in a disaster. More practically, I wear them because I know from painful experience that negotiating 15 stories of stairs will leave my calves and knees aching the next day.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            I don’t wear high heels any more, but it literally takes two seconds to slip out of a pair of heels and into a pair of flats, unless you’re dealing with laces or buckles. And I’m never dealing with laces or buckles in a heels-to-flats situation, so that’s not an issue.

          5. Artemesia*

            Quicker to change shoes than to hobble barefoot down a fire escape or walk down flights of stairs in heels than several miles across town. And if you had to leave immediately, you’d carry them till you could change.

          6. iglwif*

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, the time spent changing into flatter shoes would be easily made up in being able to walk faster in those shoes than in the heels!

            If I didn’t have flatter shoes to change into, I would very likely just ditch the heels and go without shoes, since I’d be significantly faster and more agile barefoot / in socks.

            This is all a bit academic for me because I’ve never regularly worn heels to work, but just as an alternative perspective…

          7. TootsNYC*

            My favorite line from the Northeast blackout of 2003:

            My boss walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn in the company of a colorful character from our HR department, who kept pointing at women in heels and saying:
            “Bad blackout shoes!”

            My vote for the OP: Stick a pair of comfortable flats you could walk in under your desk, and call it a day.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              My dad had the pleasure of being evacuated from Lower Manhattan on 9/11 (there was running involved) and then happened to be on a train during the 2003 blackout, where they had to climb down to the tracks and walk to the next station.

              The number of times I have been lectured for inappropriate shoes is beyond counting. “You’re wearing flipflops on the subway? What if you have to get off the train and walk in the tunnel?”
              “Can you comfortably run in those shoes? What if you have to run away from your building (or airplane, I get the same lecture when I fly.)”

              I’m now in my 30s with a bad back so there’s no way in *hell* I’m wearing uncomfortable shoes but still.

              1. mrs whosit*

                I saw a car spin off the highway once — not on icy roads, just terrible driving — and didn’t pull over to help (though others did, I was glad to see) because I was in flip-flops. I too immediately thought of my dad’s admonishments.

          8. Japananon*

            In Tokyo, it’s more about being stranded at work and suddenly having to walk home, than being able to run out of a burning building quickly.

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I live in Mexico City and while I never wear high heels, I live by the rule that I only wear shoes I can run in — that helped in September 2017, there was an earthquake that made several buildings collapse, and resulted in several hundred deaths (two buildings a block away from where I worked partially collapsed). While I was uninjured, I did have to walk over 20 miles home over broken glass and rubble and I was so thankful I was wearing sneakers.

        I also remember the woman in front of me during evacuation who literally could not walk because she was wearing 4 inch open toes stilettos.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Since Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 I’ve kept sturdy slip-on shoes at my bedside and sneakers at my desk.
          I trade off my not-quite-worn out walking shoes –the ones that still look good but I can feel my back start to ache from uneven support if I wear them a few days in a row.

          (Which reminds me, it’s time to change off my desk shoes!)

      3. anon needs a new name*

        Yes. I was on the marathon route when the Boston Marathon Bombing happened and our building was on lockdown and then evacuated and we had to walk down over 15 flights of stairs. And all the subway lines and roads were shut down or overcrowded so for some of us to get home we had to walk for miles. I had never been more grateful to keep a pair of flats at work rather than my normal heels.

      4. lammmm*

        As someone who wears high heels everyday, this is a good reminder to bring the sneakers I have in my car (just in case) actually into my office. I suppose, now that you point it out, that I may not have time to run to my car if it’s a true emergency.

        Thank you for that.

      5. Yet another Sara*

        Yeah, my mom’s office was (and is) on the 41st floor of a building (in a different city) that was evacuated on 9/11 as a precaution. She had to walk all the way down the stairs. You just never know.

      6. Airy*

        At my job we all have Civil Defence backpacks under our desks for emergencies/evacuations and I keep a pair of slip-on sneakers in mine for exactly that reason. I’ve never had to use them for that purpose but they did come in handy when a sandal strap broke on me.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Totally curious (Londoner here, never encountered the concept) – what else is in them, where do you get them, etc?

          Would love to learn more, please start from basics and assume I know nothing, as I don’t! Civil defence? Provided by the government or summat? I’m intrigued! Thanks for any answer.

          1. BeeJiddy*

            I am not sure where Airy is from, but here in NZ ‘Civil Defence’ is the branch of government that deals with natural disasters or emergencies.

            It sounds like they have a kit like this –

            That website has a lot of good information in it about preparing for emergencies. I think there are places you can go where they do sell ’emergency kits’ ready-made but I think most people here just throw one together themselves.

          2. Kiwichick*

            Another Kiwi here – yes, civil defence emergency kit in case of earthquake or other natural disaster is supplied by my employer. We do have to keep replacing the lollies though as they get munched on!

      7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Every year we have mandatory fire drills and must evacuate using the stairs. Inevitably, the slowest ones down are wearing heels. Keep a spare pair of good shoes at your desk.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          That and I don’t know if it’s the same in your building, but at my old work you weren’t allowed to take your shoes off in an evacuation (though I’m sure plenty of people would’ve been chucking their stilettos out the window in a real emergency – myself included!) 19 levels of stairs was murder on my knees either way though. I totally agree it’s best to be prepared. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

      8. pleaset*

        Raising 9/11 as a an example to learn from seems crazy to me – it was a profoundly exceptional event and I don’t think it’s wise to generalize from exceptional events.

        (I live in NYC, I worked in 1WTC at a different time, had a friend killed in the 9/11 attack BTW).

        1. Christy*

          I mean, I live by this rule too. (I work in DC on the Mall.) 9/11 weighs heavy on my mind, as does the earthquake we had several years ago. Yes, they’re exceptional circumstances, but that’s why I keep my old, slightly decrepit sneakers at my desk, and not a pair of just-broken-in runners. It’s not going to be a normal circumstance that forces me to walk the 8 miles home, but I’d much rather make that trek in sneakers than flats. And because my desk has plentiful storage and I was done with those sneakers anyway, it costs me nothing.

        2. PB*

          Yeah, and, given the manager’s phrasing, I suspect they weren’t thinking “Keep a pair of flats in your desk in case of terrorist attack.”

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          We had a transformer blow in our office building near DC, and had to walk down 10 flights. I actually wound up doing a four-handed seat carry for a patient from one of the medical offices who was unable to walk unsupported. NYC had a blackout in 2003 that shut down the subway system, and many people had to walk home 10+ miles. The blackout was kind of an exceptional event, mostly because of the scope; but the transformer only affected our building, and so it is the kind of thing that could happen anywhere, at any time.

        4. Observer*

          It’s not just 9/11 though. By now people have dozens of examples. Stuff happens, and anything that keeps your from moving quickly, or makes it hard to walk long distances is going to be a problem.

          1. pleaset*

            Fine. Then don’t use 9/11 as a reason. It’s annoying and used as a cudgel for some many things. It’s almost a parody? Why wear sensible shoes? 9/11. WTF.

            Use something more likely to happen. Or disasters more generally.

            1. Observer*

              I agree. When I did disaster prep workshops, it was not long after 9/11 and I specifically pointed out that although 9/11 was the most high profile event in recent memory (I’m talking 1-2 years out), all of the things I was going to talk about are a good idea even if the disaster is that you had a major flood in the building.

            2. brighid*

              Maybe instead of telling other people to get over it, you should work on that yourself. You’re the one who seems obsessed here.

        5. TootsNYC*

          it was a profoundly exceptional event!

          and yet 2 years later, all the power went out to the entire Northeast, and we all walked home from Manhattan.

          Steam pipe explosions have shut down small sections of our city.

          Maybe in Creston, Iowa, there’s little need to walk miles, since residents only get around with automobiles.

      9. Falling Diphthong*

        There was a fashion designer–I think it was Donna Karan–who walked home 30 blocks on 9/11, and decided that it would be flats from now onward. Just in case.

    2. Marni*

      This seems like a weird piece of anecdata to me. I’ve seen plenty of people trip in all kinds of shoes, including steel toed boots and ballet flats. “I once saw a secretary trip in heels, and I couldn’t catch her in time“ seems like exactly the kind of thinking that’s driving the boss – – the assumption that the heels of the problem, the assumption that it’s your responsibility to catch the other person, or police her footwear. It’s infantilising. The letter writer made it very clear that she does not prefer to wear other shoes. her boss may well have standing to command otherwise, but I don’t understand all the comments that seem to be telling her that she ought to prefer it.

      1. Game of Drones*

        Apparently you’ve never been in a situation that required safer shoes, Marni. I’ve been in two evacuated buildings where hundreds of people had to rush out at once. Trust me, flat/low-heeled shoes made it easier and safer.

        1. Namey McNameface*

          It’s not that anyone is arguing “wearing high heels is great for running!” It’s that adults should not be policing other adults on their footwear choices, unless there is a very good reason (e.g., builders should no work while wearing stilettos).

          If you were to go around pointing out risks and questionable life choices of everyone around you, there’s a lot you could say – probably some things that are much more urgent or potentially dangerous than the risk of being caught in an emergency without sneakers. (“Bob, you shouldn’t be smoking – it could cause lung cancer” “Dave, I think you should lose some weight; didn’t your doctor tell you about diabetes and heart attacks?” “Debbie, your boyfriend is a cheating jerk – you should really dump him”).

          But we don’t do that because…it’s not our business.

          1. Lucy*

            Your safety at work is your boss’s business though – if you consistently wore fringed sleeves that only just didn’t catch in the shredder it would equally be definitely in their lane to bring it up. And your cheating boyfriend causes your work to dip that becomes their business too.

            1. Dragoning*

              The dip in your work would be your boss’ problem. Your personal, off-the-clock relationships? No, absolutely not. Would you say the same if the work dipped because someone was taking care of their dying spouse?

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                Actually, bosses have. Kind bosses recommend the worker take time off. if the employee and the work is suffering. They don’t speak about what the worker should do in their personal life but certainly saying “I know you’re going through a lot. Have you thought of taking some time off? You seem stressed.” isn’t bad.

          2. Essess*

            It does become other peoples’ problems during emergencies, especially in stairwell evacuations. It’s the same reason you aren’t supposed to carry cups of liquid (coffee, etc…) or carry anything in your hands during an evacuation because it can become a tripping hazard for others. Everyone needs to be able to exit quickly and you become a hindrance/obstacle to others if you are wearing shoes that keep you from moving at a brisk pace. For the OP, she has already stated this doesn’t apply so that’s different, but if you work in a highrise then that is something to seriously think about. I’ve never said anything to my coworkers who wear tall spike heel shoes, but it does bother me when I see them.
            I’ve been in several evacuations in my life (fire/bomb/tornado) so I’m not being paranoid about it.
            Another example was an article in our newspaper a couple years ago about a woman who wore stilettos to work during an ice storm and she was giggling about how many strangers had to help hold her up during her walk from the commuter train to her office. She thought it was cute and funny and didn’t understand how inappropriate it was.

            1. Salamander*

              Yeah. I’ve been in a couple of building evacuations with dozens of floors (including an on-site day care on one), and you darn well bet our division was wearing shoes that allowed us to pick up kids and move quickly without being obstacles to the people behind us.

            2. pleaset*

              “Everyone needs to be able to exit quickly and you become a hindrance/obstacle to others if you are wearing shoes that keep you from moving at a brisk pace. ”

              So basically no high heels ever, unless the person has a spare of sensible shoes handy.


              1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

                Yes. Anyone who wears heels should have a set of sensible flats in their emergency stash.

                I live in earthquake country. Even on the ground floor, if you have to evacuate in an earthquake, you don’t want heels.

                I keep a set of slip-ons near my bed for the same reason. Common sense.

          3. pleaset*

            “If you were to go around pointing out risks and questionable life choices of everyone around you, there’s a lot you could say – probably some things that are much more urgent or potentially dangerous than the risk of being caught in an emergency without sneakers.”


      2. Flash Bristow*

        Hear hear.

        I can only wear a certain type of footwear, and my last workplace tried to insist I used something else… It wasn’t worth the argument, but I totally understand “this is what works for me and I’ll be fine in it”.

        OP I assume there have been fire drills etc and no issues? in which case surely you can ask what the grounds are for their issue?

        1. Walking Tall*

          We actually have never had a fire drill in the 9 years I’ve worked there, which is a completely separate issue. But the office is very open and on the ground floor, so I am confident that in an emergency, I can keep pace with the other 15 employees making their exit.

          1. Busy*

            I am pretty big old feminist. I hate the very idea of policing people’s bodies and clothing choices. But here is the thing: very tall high heeled shoes are not, by design, easy to get around in (and there is actually a whole history here of women’s garments and restricting movement heels actually center around that isn’t relevant to your choices today but worth mentioning) that isn’t just based on perception. Your boss saw you battling the printer during a time where things were slowing down due to said printer. She then saw your heels. She felt you could be moving much faster and safer in other shoes. What she is saying doesn’t have anything to do with your shoes; rather, it has to do with speed. She, as the boss, has decided a certain type of shoe is required to safely and quickly work on this machine during particular times. She isn’t saying change them every day. And even if she did say to never wear them again, she is in her right to do that as very tall high heels aren’t considered part of the allowable dress code in many places. High heels are lovely. They are. But they aren’t worth all the drama. Wear the flats as perception is everything.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              “I hate the very idea of policing people’s bodies and clothing choices.”

              But this is what you’re doing, or at least, condoning. LW says she’s just as fast and agile wearing heels as she would be in flats. Why not take her at her word?

            2. LCL*

              I have read many accounts posted by women that had to wear heels as part of the dress code, even when flats would have been better and safer. And management would get in their face about changing into to flats to, e.g., pull supplies from the walk in or stock the beer fridge. Manager is really being a good manager to insist on nonheels for machine running. If it is a comfort issue where you feel better with heels, there are hundreds of boot styles available, including ones with really high heels. Try rocking a pair of Blundstones or Fryes for copy machine days if you want to be fashionable and comfortable. Ariat makes western style boots with a tall heel.

      3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        It’s not that LW ought to prefer it, it’s common sense to have practical footwear available because one never knows when they will be needed. LW can look at is as having an emergency kit, not needed all the time but very necessary when it is.

      4. nnn*

        Yeah, that’s just what I was thinking. The other day I tripped in my running shoes and nobody caught me.

      5. Jennifer*

        Agreed. I have tripped barefoot, in sneakers, in heels, every type of shoe you can imagine. The boss just seems to disagree with her choice of footwear. It’s not their business. They said nothing about needing flats for an emergency.

      6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I wear steel toed, slip resistant safety boots every day at work. I still trip in them sometimes. The most spectacular falls I’ve had were while wearing Dansko clogs, which are designed for people who are on their feet all day.

        I agree that it’s a bit infantilising to lecture the OP on all the disasters that could happen at work and how having the wrong shoes could put them at risk. I’m more inclined to take their word for it that their footwear is not posing a particular safety risk.

    3. Blarg*

      I keep a pair of slip on sneakers (Vans), a pair of basic and cheap black pumps, AND a pair of rain boots in my office. All but the boots stay in an extra desk drawer.

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Heh, we also had a secretary that spectacularly faceplanted and wrenched her ankle while navigating some tricky corner of the printing room in platform stilettos. We also once had a fire alarm and had to take the stairs down to the exit (we worked on the 36th floor) which left two of the office staff with blistered toes and strained tendons because they just couldn’t do that much in their heels.

      Personally I agree that common sense says you should have a pair of flats available if you wear heels. That being said, if my boss told me to do it, I’d have a “you’re not my mom” moment – like if she told be to pack a sweater to make sure I stay warm. *That* being said, I wouldn’t actually say that to my boss. Maybe you could bring the flats, but then still wear the heels. If she asks, say “yes, I have them, and I’ll change into them if it becomes necessary – but I’m doing fine now, thank you.”

      1. Walking Tall*

        Yes, you got how I felt exactly! I felt like next I was going to hear her say “put on a jacket; I’m cold!”
        After reading Allison’s reply and the comments here, I’ve reconsidered my neon shoes plan and I’m going to go with what you suggested: have a pair of flats and change into them when I feel is necessary.

        1. Mk*

          I think your boss may also feel the heels are inappropriate for your office setting or may have received concerns or complaints from coworkers or clients. She could also just worried about you or have thought you weren’t sure if flats were acceptable. It also may be a liability issue if you hurt yourself in your shoes then the office is not liable because you have been told to bring other shoes.

          I don’t think it’s offensive, how you present yourself is part of your job. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
          I’ve been in offices where you can’t go sleeveless or wear jeans as it is considered not appropriate for the office setting. I have also been to many places where open toed or very high heels are not allowed. They say it is for safety, but who knows. But I think if you have such a petty response your manager will probably look into your performance not just your choice of shoe. Get some cute flats, there are tons all over and you never know a heel may break (mine did once and I didn’t have extra at the office) and you may be happy to have an extra pair of shoes around!

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            If the boss felt the heels were visually inappropriate she should have said as much. Instead, she said she wanted “practical” shoes, to ensure LW could move about. That smacks me as condescending, as it concerns a matter that LW should have the last word on.

            That being said, it’s not the hill I’d break an ankle on.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          The feeling is valid, but ultimately you should just wear what your boss prefers as long as the reason isn’t offensive. There’s a lot of people I know whose personal sense of style doesn’t match their office environment’s norms for even less sensible reasons (for example, two of them are goths in a non-client facing corporate environment). See if you can work around the guidelines and still express yourself. In other words- I think you have an opportunity to get some really bad-ass flats.

          But ultimately, you are not your shoes!

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Ooh I had a boss who got mad if people didn’t wear business clothes between the front door and the restroom to change. This was in Boston, in the dead of winter, when I took the subway and then walked a half-mile to work. I wore the bottoms I needed for my commute, changed promptly, and let her seethe otherwise.

            Incidentally, she had the building’s only parking space, right next to the front door, and could wear dress shoes in the nastiest weather as a result.

    5. Michaela Westen*

      When I was a temp I had a job where the woman I was filling in for had 11 pairs of shoes lined up under her desk. That seems excessive to me. :)

      1. Dorothy Zbornak*

        Ha! When we relocated to a new office in December there were a number of women packing up their multiple under-the-desk pairs of shoes to go with them :)

    6. LadeeDa*

      About 10 years ago there was an explosion in the building I was working in, I was on the 23 rd floor and had to walk all the way down in 3-inch heels, then all the way back up. Since then I keep a pair of those Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats in my laptop bag and in my purse. When I still worked in an office I kept a pair of regular flats in my desk.
      I also keep a spare car and house key in my laptop bag. On that day I was in a meeting 2 floors below my office and wasn’t allowed to go up to my office to get my purse, if I hadn’t been allowed back in the building at all I wouldn’t have been able to get into my car or my house- and my wallet was in my purse so I wouldn’t have been able to pay a locksmith.

    7. Doodle*

      The point is that she’s running an office machine (copier? fax? shredder?), which I take to mean there isn’t a safety issue with the kind of shoes. Or perhaps wearing heels means OP is reeeeeeaaally slow and wearing lower heels would make OP considerably faster in completing a time-crunch job. Or, I dunno, standing in one place for a long time pokes holes into the carpet?? If it’s not one of these reasons, the boss is overstepping. OP, check to see what the boss’s reason is. If it’s not reasonable, you can say thank them for their concern, but that you are comfortable in your heels.

    8. Snuck*

      A side bonus of having shoes under the desk…

      One day one of my colleagues came to me, and asked whether she could borrow my spare shoes… in her mad rush to get out the door that day she’d worn two different shoes. Of two different heights. Hadn’t noticed until she’d finished school run at two different schools and then walked across town into the office.

      How? I’ll never know… but borrowing spare shoes from under the desk helped her walk straight that day :P

    9. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      I never wear heels, and rarely even wear shoes coded as girly, and I wear men’s shoes as well, including all kinds of safe & sturdy boots.
      I trip, stumble, and fall all the dang time, no matter what kind of shoes I wear. And it sure ain’t anyone else’s job to try and catch me!

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – There’s a big difference between walking in heels Vs stretching and lifting in heels. Especially so if you are balancing loads.
    There’s also repetitive injury. You may be physically fine for short periods but doing damage for longer periods of wearing high heels.
    Take it from an older person! I thought I was physically getting away with all sorts of lifting and pushing. I wasn’t. When I got older I realized that there had been some injury but that my youthful muscles had compensated for it. The older muscles didn’t compensate as well so I ended up with aches and pains.
    Your boss gave you practical advice that will keep you from injury. She knows what she is taking about.
    And please, don’t do the passive agressive stuff with the shoes. If you don’t like it go talk to the boss like an adult.

    1. Annette*

      Boss said nothing about injury. She wants LW to move faster. Likely she is not as skilled at waking in heels as she thinks.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        There’s always a safety/injury correlation. There’s also a speed/safety correlation.
        OP can not safely walk in heels at the speed boss wants.

        1. Walking Tall*

          (LW here)
          I’m not sure how fast she wants me to walk, since the job requires me to stand mostly stationary at the machine, or sometimes kneel to pull out a paper jam.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Maybe think about it as her not wanting to be worrying about your heels slowing you down on days when it’s really hair-raisingly busy?

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              If what really, really worries OP’s boss on hair-raisingly busy days is the theoretical prospect that the OP could potentially be walking faster to the copy machine if only she wore different shoes, then I think that boss must not have many things to worry about.

          2. Snuck*

            Are you kneeling because you can’t stand to do it? Do your heels make the bend and manage too difficult?

            Or if you needing to get very low to the machine… are you then having to grab something to balance to get back up off the ground?

            Like… just how graceful a move is all this? And how ‘balanced’?

            That’s probably part of it then. If you are crawling around on the floor unjamming a photocopier… and bending over deep into it to fill it with paper…. and carrying boxes of copier paper around… is that all working well in high high heels, or would a simple pair of sleek court shoes or ballet flats under the desk make the whole lot a more graceful and less… dangerous… proposition?

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              I wear safe, sturdy, non-heeled flat boots & shoes, and if it was very low, I’d also sit on the ground to undo a paper jam, and would need to grab onto something to balance to get back up off the ground, because I am neither graceful nor balanced.
              If someone was unhappy that I, a woman, was not appropriately graceful or balanced enough, or found me too awkward and clumsy, I would be LIIVID, because what they would actually be having a problem with is me not performing femininity to their liking. (And as I now know my lack of balance & coordination is caused by an Actual Disability, it would be inappropriate to comment on yet a whole other way.)

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Because you have to follow the boss’s orders unless you’re being told to do something illegal or unethical.

            1. Jennifer*

              You actually don’t. You can push back or ask questions if you’re asked to do something that’s not a job requirement, but not illegal.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              …no, you don’t. I’m sort of sad that you think that, to be honest. You are allowed to question things and push back on orders that you believe are wrong or unreasonable or not the right way to go about things. People do this all the time, and many of the answers Alison has given on this blog are about how best to do exactly that.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I thought that was only for people who were fairly senior or high-ranking, not people in jobs like call centers. Also, wouldn’t any orders go under “other duties as assigned”?

      2. MK*

        Which is very possible. People often have a false perception about themselves: I am sure the OP isn’t taking baby steps on high heels, but I don’t know many people who walk as quickly and as comfortably in them as with flats or lower heels.

      3. Game of Drones*

        Agree with you, Annette. My take is that heels may be interfering with her efficiency.

        Frankly, overly high heels look silly in an office.

        1. Triplestep*

          Agree about overly high heels in the office. I said it above, but I think what we have here is a boss who is afraid to have a conversation about appropriate office attire. I think the timing of the comment meant the boss could use the “moving quickly” excuse; IMO it’s just as likely it was on her mind because the LW is typically behind a desk, and this particular day her shoes were on display.

        2. Psyche*

          Even if the heels are not slowing her down at all, they are probably giving the perception of it. People are going to assume that she is not prepared for the more physical tasks, regardless of the reality. Perception is very important.

        3. CoveredInBees*

          Whether you personally think tall heels are silly is pretty much irrelevant. For some people, they’re actually more comfortable than lower heels, depending on how the arch of one’s foot is.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Ok, so you’re right, but, the boss isn’t her mom, and OP should be able to make her own terrible podiatric health decisions.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^This. Can my boss also force me to quit smoking because it means I don’t take the stairs as fast? (I don’t smoke, but, that’s MY decision.)

          1. Ginger Baker*

            …my understanding of a tobacco free workplace – like the one I work in – is that there is no smoking inside (or in some cases, x-feet from the door) of the building. Not “we can force you to not smoke in your home life/time off the job”. In this comment, I was not responding to the LW’s actual question of wearing heels in the office, but rather to Engineer Girl’s parenting’level comment stating that LW4 should stop wearing heels “for her health” [“#4 – There’s a big difference between walking in heels Vs stretching and lifting in heels. Especially so if you are balancing loads.
            There’s also repetitive injury. You may be physically fine for short periods but doing damage for longer periods of wearing high heels.
            Take it from an older person! I thought I was physically getting away with all sorts of lifting and pushing. I wasn’t. When I got older I realized that there had been some injury but that my youthful muscles had compensated for it. The older muscles didn’t compensate as well so I ended up with aches and pains.
            Your boss gave you practical advice that will keep you from injury. She knows what she is taking about.”]

            I maintain that it is not anyone’s place to tell another adult what medical decisions to make with their own body, period, nor for a company to. Again, this is in response to this particular sub-thread.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              Some employers in the US test for nicotine.

              My health insurance has a $900 a year fine for using tobacco, as well.

    3. Walking Tall*

      To run that machine, I do not have to lift anything more than two or three pounds. In my regular job duties, I do sometimes have to lift rolls of material that are up to 20 pounds, and she has never mentioned my shoes in regards to that isn the 4 years I’ve been wearing heels in the job. She’s also pretty vocal about people being safe in the workplace, so I don’t think that was her concern or she would have specified.

      1. Human Sloth*

        No offense intended, but who cares why she wants you to change shoes. Just do it, she’s your boss, she’s telling you what to do, period.

        1. Project Manager*

          This reads as rude in my opinion. OP has said she’s been able to effectively do her job in high heels for 4 years now (in her opinion) and suddenly boss is asking for a change. It’s reasonable for her to wonder why.

          That said OP, a casual conversation with the boss should get to the bottom of it – I would approach it as wondering to understand when you’re supposed to wear flats so you adhere to the new policy. All the time, only when you’re working with the machine, …?

          1. Birch*

            +1, I really don’t get the pushback on OP here, since in her experience the shoes have nothing to do with the job! Agreed that it’s reasonable to ask for the logic behind a change.

              1. Birch*

                Sure, but IMO that falls under “malicious compliance” with a boss who is being potentially unreasonable. I didn’t see the need for all the “stripper heels are affecting your credibility and have no place in the workplace” type comments that immediately cropped up without even knowing OP’s situation.

                1. Natalie*

                  There’s a reason malicious compliance is called that; I don’t think most people would advise it unless the relationship is completely trashed and you’re already looking to move on. If the LW is planning on staying at their job, it would likely be better for them to swallow their pride about this and just get some office appropriate flats.

          2. Jennifer Juniper*

            Maybe there’s a new C-suite exec who is thinking nasty things about the OP because of her footwear (I hope this isn’t the case).

          3. Human Sloth*

            Sorry for the tone. I really was not intending offense. This just brought me back to a time (I was much younger) when a boss said we could not wear jeans to work. We were not client facing, the jeans were not hindering our work, so on. I and others were miffed. I complained to my older sister, and she said suck it buttercup, he’s the boss. And to be honest, not wear jeans didn’t ruin my world. So I guess I don’t understand being upset enough to act out with neon sneakers. I agree with you that OP such initiate a conversation as to why, since this has struck a cord.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          No offense intended, but who cares why she wants you to change shoes. Just do it, she’s your boss, she’s telling you what to do, period.

          Really? So if the boss said “I don’t think you look good in yellow; you should stop wearing that yellow blouse,” she should do it because the boss told her so?

          1. Jennifer*

            Exactly. What if she brought her an entire new wardrobe and told her this is what I want you to wear every day now? Normally we would advise an OP to push back or ask questions if their boss asked them to do something outside of their job description or that just seemed strange but because it’s heels now she has to do whatever she says because she’s the boss? Very strange.

          2. Doodle*

            Plus a million.

            Per the OP’s follow up comments: the shoes are not unsafe, she’s able to do the job (standing at a copier) — really, I don’t see how having flats would make it FASTER (that’s the boss’s reason) to change copier paper or fix a paper jam. If the boss’s problem is actually that the shoes are inappropriate for the office culture, then the boss needs to use their words and say so. Otherwise, the boss needs to back off and not comment on their employees’ dress, as long as it’s safe and appropriate for the job and office.

        3. TootsNYC*

          actually, the boss didn’t say to change shoes. The boss said to keep some non-heels in the office.

          I totally get the “you’re not my mother” moment, and I think the OP /Walking Tall is probably accurate in thinking it’s a “I’m cold–put on a sweater” moment.

          So I’m totally behind her plan to be a little miffed, write in to Alison, fantasize about neon sneakers, and then find some more comfortable flats to put under her desk.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            I’m wondering if there is gender based discrimination.
            “You’re not my mother” is extremely gender based, especially when the boss has every right to dictate footwear.
            “Who is she to tell me what to do” is a common push back against women managers.
            I’d suggest rethinking this one and see if OP would respond in the same way with a man. Especially with the passive agressive compliance.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t think you have any basis for that, at all. And I say this as someone who thinks that the OP’s initial response was silly (I’m VERY glad shes rethought it), and who thinks that the boss is not terribly out of line.

            2. Ginger Baker*

              …I doubt very much a male manager would tell a female employee to not wear heels (not counting say, in a lab/factory/other place with safety considerations), and if he did, we would all be commenting that this is quite inappropriate and potentially “gender based discrimination”.

            3. Close Bracket*

              If you want to talk gendered interactions, gender is definitely at play when telling a female subordinate not to wear feminine coded shoes. Those dynamics don’t get better when we gender-flip the boss.

      2. Slingback Jimmy Choo*

        Do you have someone you can ask how it looks when you are doing the job? So that you have a second opinion that it is your boss being overly protective. I love a 5′-6′ heel and could walk Disney in it with no complaints, in a 3′ heel or less I feel like I’m back in kid shoes. However I have found that at work carrying coffee and my laptop I look like it’s my first time in heels. Part of me wants to ask for an intern to carry my laptop and to quit drinking coffee but I haven’t figured a way to word that yet where I don’t sound like a complete nutjob or an entitled a double S.

    4. Doodle*

      That’s not actually the boss’s reason, as the OP reports it — the boss says OP will be faster, not safer. Faster *may* be a legit reason, OP will have to talk to the boss to find out.

  5. Annette*

    Superfluous OOO messages tick me off. In the meeting situation just screams self important. I want an answer to my email not the story of your life. But, follow your colleagues, keep your head down, ignore the nonsense from your pufferfish managers.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      We all had a good laugh at work when I got an Out Of Office message from somebody who was attending a country house opera (Glyndebourne or similar) and therefore had no phone signal in the countryside.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        My goodness, why would anyone want to get into that kind of detail?! Isn’t the point of an OOO message to tell people that you’re not available, and when to expect you to be able to attend to whatever they need you for (and/or whom to contact in the meantime)? Who cares *why* you’re unavailable?

        On a related note: At my office, we send out regular updates about people’s private financial stuff, depending on their expressed preferences. It’s always weird when we then get auto replies saying they no longer work there or that there is some other reason we should contact someone else at their company for a, b, and c. Keep some distance between your private and professional lives, people! Don’t use your work email for your private stuff. You never know when you won’t have access to your work email or someone else will have to access your inbox.

        1. Flash Bristow*


          “At my office, we send out regular updates about people’s private financial stuff” I


          “Keep some distance between your private and professional lives, people! ”



          1. Non-prophet*

            I read this as “Just Employed Here” works for a financial services company. Their clients sometimes use their work email address for personal financial correspondence with Just Employed Here’s company, which is odd because it’s not private.

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              Maybe they’re using their work e-mail to avoid a financially abusive spouse’s monitoring / draining their bank account.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                It’s easy to get another email account, though. So I don’t see why using the work email would be the only solution in such a scenario.

            2. Risha*

              I sometimes use a work email address for those accounts that have some sort of tie to my job, even if ultimately the contents are private – for my 401(k), for instance, or various insurances. This is mostly due to mild paranoia that they won’t believe I’m actually from the company if I use a different email. It’s easy enough to change those when you leave the job if it’s something that leaves with you.

          2. Rabbit*

            I’m pretty sure they are saying that they are contacting clients/others (e.g they work for an accountant or bank or something) and are getting responses which indicate that people were using their work email address – which is unwise if you want any sort of privacy

        2. Asenath*

          A lot of people at my workplace use the same email address for private and work emails. At an early stage, I got an office email set up and have traine… er, successfully encouraged .. about 99 % of my fellow-employees to use that one. (Long story; the other one is on files somewhere, is easy to guess, and dates from my student days long before I was an employee).

          As to the question – in my neck of the woods, you’d have to be away from your desk at least a day to set up an out-of-office message. Some don’t bother for a single day, and the longer ones, that give alternate contacts as well as when you will be back, are generally used for trips of several days or more – a big conference, or holidays.

          Then you get the people who don’t turn their out-of-office messages off. Since you can set an off date and time on our email system, this is usually a phone message problem – “I will be back in my office January 3, 2017”).

        3. Database Developer Dude*

          When I left my last gig, I set auto-reply emails stating I no longer worked there (until they deleted my email accounts), because my Army Reserve unit insisted on having my work email address. I’ve been gone from that particular client since September, and my Army Reserve unit is STILL using the address I had there, despite multiple reminders. Yes, it’s a thing.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            I had a job where I had to work with an affiliated third-party website for training/certification classes. They were personal certs and I would need access to the site if I changed jobs, so I signed up for it using my personal email address. This was in 2010.

            Last year, 2018, after having moved states and changed jobs a few times, I signed up again for another course through this third-party website, and got a complaint from the instructor that emails to me were bouncing…because they were going to the work address from my job in 2010.

            I have no idea how that happened.

      2. Anononon*

        I worked with a guy who once put in his OOO that he was participating in some sort of medical study!

      3. Jennifer*

        I got one that said, “I’m hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.” Just need to know when you’ll be back, thanks.

      4. EvilQueenRegina*

        We had a good laugh at someone once whose OOO said he was going to be at Wembley Stadium.

        There was a big fuss about this a few years ago where I work because out of office was blocked for external people. Apparently this was because there was felt to be a risk of burglary if people got a message saying “John Winchester is on a trip until X”. People kicked back at this by saying they felt the risk of that was low, that people could word their OOO in such a way that people wouldn’t know they’d actually gone away, and they would much rather get the message that internal people got about “Please direct any urgent queries about demon hunting to Dean Winchester” and have someone to contact if needed, rather than have something urgent sit unseen in an inbox that wasn’t being checked. The eventual outcome was that an option was given to display an out of office to external people.

    2. another Hero*

      An out of office message, for the recipient, is another email. So much better not to send if your response will be within whatever seems reasonable in your work world, imo

      1. Bagpuss*

        I agree, but I think also that what is reasonable varies quite a lot, and ca be different for different people even within the same office.

      2. J.*

        What is reasonable definitely varies a lot. I put up an away message if I’m traveling for work and only checking my e-mail sporadically or will be unavailable because I’m driving for a few hours or something because if I don’t, I’ll inevitably get back to my inbox to people wanting to know what’s taking so long. I’ve had other jobs where that would be silly, but I’ve found that it’s super useful in this one.

    3. Kit Kat*

      Sometimes people are important though and it’s helpful to know that they’re busy?

      Amazed everyone is so offended by these.

      1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Yeah. And if you’re using Outlook, you’ll only get it once.

        I’ve even set up a rule so that if the standard out of office phrase shows up in the subject line, it gets automatically sorted into a different folder, reducing the email clutter.

        I’ll do an out of office if I’m absent for half-days, vacations and holidays that are not shared by other provinces or everyone (Family Day, we’re closed, Quebec is not; not everyone takes Easter Monday off).

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I’m not sure if it’s the entire office culture or one or two (self-important) individuals, but quite often email is used as a substitute for IM – particularly among those who aren’t aware of / don’t know how to use the *actual office IM program*, in that they email, and if they don’t get a response in approximately five minutes, they turn up at your desk demanding an answer. (I think it’s partly office culture, as I distinctly remember my training included this exact instruction )
        So an OOO that you’re working on a deadline is sometimes the only way to head off the at-desk-chaser-uppers.

        But, as AAM advises, it’s heavily dependent on your own office culture.

    4. Stephanie*

      I have to send out a report near the end of my shift. It’s standard, and only a few people look at it, of the list of 20 people.

      I get 4-7 Out of Office messages every time (I send at 2am pacific). 4 of these are variations of “I’m out of the office because it’s not my scheduled time” and it drives me crazy. Yes, I know you’ll be gone, especially if your hours of work are in your email. We don’t need it for overnights.

      1. Hekko*

        Do they work with people from very different time zones? “not my scheduled time” sounds like an overkill, but maybe they are regularly in touch with people who don’t keep track of what time it is in, say, Dallas.

        1. Stephanie*

          Only one of them works in different time zones. He I understand, and he puts in time zones for his work, alternate contacts, etc. The rest don’t, and set up fonts and colours and highlights for their messages, with no hours of work, other people to contact, etc. Having worked at that company, and been a part of their department (just one without email), I know no one expects them at work at 2am. They have the main line for that.

          I suspect part of my annoyance is because this my first job where I have company I need to check frequently, so when I’m away from my desk and my boss goes “you have email” I have to drop my current tasks and check it. It’s annoying. Also, my office only has 2 people who bother with out of office messages when they’re gone. The rest of us don’t bother because no one will be emailing us directly at a later time.

      2. Bagpuss*

        It’s not necessary to *you* – maybe they have found it is helpful to others? For instance, if you have offices in different time zones, they may have found that not everyone realised / takes that into account. Similarly if they work flexible or non-standard hours.

        I know my colleagues who are part time do have an OOO for the days they are not in, which says which days they work, because not everyone remembers which people work part time and it reduces the number of chasing e-mails, and also serves as a reminder that if your message is time sensitive you may need to speak to someone different.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, that sounds like part of a possible solution to a caller from one of Alison’s podcasts a while back — the caller works with people in other countries, and there’s a basic expectation that she’ll respond to any email at any hour. Reminding folks that you aren’t working could be helpful in a situation like that.

        2. Stephanie*

          I’m sure I’m the only one annoyed. The people who do it I know have fixed work schedules, as I used to work there, as a minion. They don’t list them in the email, just when they’ll be back. Useful for knowing they’re gone over the weekend, but not for knowing they’ll be back in the office 3 hours after I send the email. They’re also not frequently calling people in other time zones, except maybe 1 over once in a while.
          This is my first job where my work email matters, so I’m just getting used to it.

    5. Elemeno P.*

      Following your colleagues seems best. I just set mine for when I will be gone for a period of time where someone will expect a response; one day would be too much, but if I’ll miss two or three I’ll put one up because people will think I’m ignoring them otherwise.

      It sometimes happens even if I put one up, though. I once got four follow-ups from one person during a three week period I was out of the country. I guess they enjoyed my repeated OOO message stating the day I’d be back!

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I had a coworker on a previous team who not only set an out-of-office for hours outside her regular shift (which was regular banker’s hours, nothing weird), but also turned it on literally whenever she left her desk. Lunch break: out-of-office message. Coffee break: out-of-office message. Bathroom break: out-of-office message. Drove me bonkers. I’d just wait until she was back to send any emails. (And then it would take her 45 minutes to an hour to respond anyway, WHICH IS PERFECTLY FINE because her role was not one where anyone would be asking her urgent questions.)

    7. OtterB*

      It really is not just office-dependent but role-dependent. Because I get email notification if a phone message is left (a delightful feature of our phone system), I don’t bother with OOO if I ‘m working at home or traveling but expect to respond within my normal parameters. If I’m at a rare but predictable point of high activity I’ll set an OOO just so people know I will be responding but not right away. If I’m completely offline, I’ll set one. A couple of years ago when I had surgery, I set mine to say I was out of the office and to email so-and-so about Project A and my boss about anything else.

    8. Dragoning*

      In my office, we get OOO message if a member of management is out all day in meetings offsite, or similarly uncontactable in case of emergencies.

      But only management does this, IME.

    9. TootsNYC*

      My email system will only send an out-of-office to a specific person once a day.

      Me, I use an out-of-office message when I won’t be around for the whole day, or if I’m out for a half day during a really busy period in which people might be able to get their answer/help from one of my colleagues, if they knew about it.

      1. Kitryan*

        My approach is basically the same- most of my work comes in via emails to a couple email groups, which is meant to keep everyone in the loop and ensure coverage, but people are not great about always submitting to the group and keeping the group on replies, so having the message on makes sure those people know to resubmit their request.

    10. Nervous Accountant*

      Right now all client correspondence is done via our portal, so we couldn’t email out even if we wanted to, emails ca be sent internally. But the only time I’ve ever strayed from the standard “OOO” (where I say I’m away, limited access, you can contact so and so and I’ll be back __)” is when I was out of the country b/c my dad died. I had put that I was out of the country for a family emergency and I had no idea when I’d be back. (I still have no idea how I had the frame of mind to even create the OOO). My boss didn’t like it so about 10 days later, she had my manager go in to my email account and fix it. I was mad then, but now it seems so silly to be mad about that.

      I’ve seen my coworkers put away messages for holidays b/c for some reason ppl seem to think that we work 24/7 even during thanksgiving. *giant eye roll*

      1. Nana*

        I had a Terribly (self-) Important Colleague who would include details: “I’ll be OOO [many details], returning to (city) on Sunday, 1/2. I’ll be back in the office on Monday, 1/3.”
        OTOH, I’d put “OOO. I’ll be back at Noon on Monday, 1/3.” That gave me a chance to check VoiceMail, e-mail and anything else that was urgent…before the phone calls started.

    11. emmelemm*

      Yeah, if it’s just one day, good grief. I have, however, been glad to get an OOO email saying so-and-so was on vacation for the next week or whatever, because then I could adjust how fast I worked to get something done for them knowing they wouldn’t even look at it before the following Monday.

  6. Annette*

    LW5 – tell NOT Peeping Tom it’s too close for comfort. She likely is absorbed in her own work and hasn’t noticed. But if it’s too much for you she will want to know and fix the issue.

    1. quirkypants*

      I expect that the boss had no say on the particular configuration (our offices were just re-configured and although I’m on the senior end of the management spectrum, I had NO say in desk configurations/seating arrangements).

      Since this feels particular to this employee (as in, this wouldn’t bother many people), I’d expect my employee to come to me with a suggestion or learn to live with it. There are certain problems that seem petty when brought to management and this is one of them… Allison’s advice was right on. Don’t put this on the boss.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Seconding this. I’d guess there are very few people who are genuinely okay with the feeling of someone hovering over their shoulder all day.

      1. 2 feet behind*

        My boss definitely had no say in the configuration. Someone was going to end up in my spot, and she chose me to be there because she already trusts that any time she looked up she’d see me working. (There’s a couple people that wouln’t be true for, and it would have become a problem.) But most of our group got pretty hostile with her when she had to break the news to us that we’d all have a lot less space, and I gave her some support when she needed it, so now telling her to put up a poster or barrier on the window feels like I’m pushing her away too. But it looks like I’ll have to, she’s sitting at an angle that anti-glare screens wouldn’t block. I’ll start looking for a good motivational poster and get a mirror for my desk. :)

    2. Sarah Simpson*

      I was a boss who ended up in this situation – if I looked up, I could see one person’s computer. I talked to her about it and she was philosophical, but admitted it was a bit intimidating. I put a poster up on my window to block my view enough that she could be more comfortable.

  7. Words are like shoes*

    #4. I moved to New York a few years after 9/11/01. I have kept a pair of sneakers at my desk since one of my co-workers (who lived in NYC in 2001) told me to. She said she that day the ground was littered with high heeled shoes of people who had abandoned them when they needed to run.

    In the grand scheme of things, being asked to wear practical shoes around a specific type of machine doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. It’s not like she’s telling you you can never wear heels to work. Buying flashy neon shoes is petty.

    1. CastIrony*

      Now THAT puts it into perspective! I’ll make sure to wear shoes that let me run while I’m alive!

    2. Airy*

      Plus if she did buy the bright neon sneakers, it would probably turn out the boss thought they were really cool and complimented them every time they appeared. Such is life.

      1. Thursday Next*

        9/11 may be remote hyperbole to you, but some of us lived through it (in my case, had a partner working at Ground Zero at the time of the attacks), so I’d ask you to be respectful of the fact that this is something that actually happened to people reading these comments.

        1. WakeUp!*

          it’s disrespectful to use 9/11 to win internet points about freakin’ footwear. These examples are ridiculous. (and yes, I lived through it too)

          1. Thursday Next*

            That’s not the point TS made. Comparing 9/11 to a “zombie apocalypse” is beyond any sense of decency.

            And I agree that this letter could be discussed thoroughly without reference to 9/11, especially secondhand anecdotes.

        2. Jenny*

          Or things like the Navy Yard shooting. A guy I worked with lost his wife to that. I live in DC and shooter and terror drills are a regular occurrence.

      2. TL -*

        Eh, heels are impractical enough that there are good reasons to have a backup pair if you wear them on the regular. I wouldn’t say take a pair of flats to the opera or out clubbing, but if heels are your everyday shoes, there probably will be a fire drill or other (emergency or non emergency) event where flats would be useful.

        Also, I wouldn’t let an employee wear heels around large machines – it’s not safe for a number of reasons (and I salsa dance in high heels and know what can be done in them with practice.)

      3. snowglobe*

        As others have commented elsewhere, there are many reasons other than terror attacks that may cause a building to be evacuated. It’s happened to many reading these threads. It’s happened to me. The point is that it’s a good idea to have a pair of shoes in your desk that you can walk in if you need to .

      4. Colette*

        You should actually be prepared for an emergency, yes. Why do you think you shouldn’t?

        My city was hit by 3 tornados in September. Roads were blocked with trees, and the power was out in some areas for 3 days. It was a Friday evening, so people weren’t at work, but a couple of hours earlier and everyone at work could have been doing some unexpected walking.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah. I work in a bad neighborhood, and I make sure to always wear shoes that I could run in, if I had to. Not sneakers, but solid flats with laces.

    4. Stella70*

      I completely agree. I think these threads have strayed too far into the weeds.
      (And I’m sorry to hear of your experience with 9/11 – all these years later, these accounts still give me chills.)

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      I was not directly affected by 9/11, FWIW, but I must say I agree with you. (And I’m so sorry that you and your husband went through that.) Yes, practicality can be important but this really feels like jumping to the worst and most dramatic conclusion possible in order to tell the OP that she’s wrong.

    6. Nana*

      Worked at a suburban school where we had Emergency staff training annually. First question from trainer: How many people live 5+ miles from here? [Many] Could you walk home in the shoes you’re wearing?
      For those who drive…keep an old pair of sneakers/walking shoes in the trunk of the car

      1. pleaset*

        Do you think most of those people could even walk 5+ miles home with the right shoes?

        Fuck these kinds of training/shaming. They’re OK for info, but shaming about not being “prepared” is so lame. Whatever bro.

        1. Allonge*

          Huh, that did not come across as shaming to me. And even if, I would rather be a bit embarrassed about “huh, I have not thought of that” than not do a fairly simple emergency measure.
          Is it ableist? Potentially.

  8. MommyMD*

    Boss asking you to have a pair of non-high heel shoes when running machinery is not out of line. Please don’t get sulky and buy an obnoxious pair. It’s not that big of a deal. And Boss is Boss.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      And if you think about it calmly: do you actually want to own a pair of sneakers you hate? Is that really a good use of your money? If you buy a nice pair, you’ll have a nice pair of sneakers; if you buy spite shoes, you’ll own shoes you never wear except to piss off your boss – and if they’re flashily ugly, you may even end up getting told they’re inappropriate for work anyway, and just be out the money.

      At the end of the day, the shoes you buy will be your shoes. If they’re horrible, you’ll be punishing yourself more than anyone else.

      1. MK*

        The OP doesn’t even have to buy new shoes, just bring a pair they already own to use when handling the machinery.

  9. chersy*

    For LW3 – I tend to use out of office replies only when I am on vacation, that I literally will not touch my office email, but I do indicate until when I will be out, and the contact person who can respond to their query, and if it is super urgent, they can call my mobile. It really is dependent on office culture, but if they require a notice if you’re “busy” but in the office, or in whole day meetings, we place a note in our Skype status—something like, “I’m hosting a client event today and will be unable to reply until EOD (or whenever)” or “Expect delays in my reply as I am holding design workshops today.”

  10. Eleanor Rigby*

    OP 3 – whenever we are on annual leave or non working days for part timers, the out of office goes on with contact details for the general office email and number. I think this is fairly standard.

    1. Amey*

      Yes, this is the same in my office (in the UK). I work 3 days a week in a professional job, at an employer where lots of people have flexible working schedules. I put my out of office on when I’m on any leave of a full day or more and on the working days that I don’t work. It’s not a problem if I forget for a single day here or there, but generally it’s expected and needed. People do occasionally put ‘this is an extremely busy time of year so don’t expect a quick response to emails’ messages which I tend to hate (it’s usually code for ‘you will never get a response to this’…) but they’re sometimes helpful for letting you know where/how to contact for something really urgent.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, that’s how it is here too (UK). We use our out of office for annual leave, and people who work part-time also have OOO messages saying ‘Please note that I work Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays’ (or whatever).

      Occasionally I’ll be out of the office with more limited access to email, but I’ll still be officially working, and in that case I’ll probably also put on an OOO that says ‘I’m out of the office today but will be checking my email sporadically – if you have an urgent query please contact (colleagues who are physically in the office)’. Otherwise I usually only use it if I’m out of the office on holiday or off sick and I won’t be checking my email at all.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes. My OOO for external e-mails generally only goes on if I am going to be out or unavailable for 1 day or longer, and it has my assistant’s e-mail in for emergencies.

      My OOO for internal e-mails goes on if I am out for shorter periods, because internally, I will also get messages for stuff that may be time sensitive, and it is helpful for staff to know why I am not responding straight away, as it may mean that they have to contact a different partner, or track me down by phone.

  11. MommyMD*

    Unless you spend some of the day online shopping or on social media, I wouldn’t worry that Boss can glance up and see what’s on your screen.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        Anyone who’s ever had a co-worker sit by them for training or while you work on something together, only to find that your ability to type coherently and without mistakes goes COMPLETELY out of the window when there’s another pair of eyes on the screen, knows how thoroughly off-putting it can be knowing that there’s someone behind them while they work.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Decades ago, a colleague called this “Watched Typist’s Syndrome”. He was a programmer, fwiw.

            1. L. S. Cooper*

              I’m in a programming class that operates remotely, and every time someone shares their screen over the call, they completely forget how to type and spend the whole time apologizing. Perfectly normal.

    1. Green Great Dragon*

      Maybe she does spend some of the day shopping or on social media when she needs a break? Or making her Drs appointments in her lunch hour, or anything else that no-one would object to but you don’t necessarily want your boss watching.

      1. quirkypants*

        Most bosses know this happens and won’t care as long as it’s reasonable… if one’s boss has different standards, then it’s probably better to know the standards and live (reasonably) within them.

        That said, there are also screen protectors that can obscure the screen available in many cases! Might be a cleaner solution and you then you’re all set no matter who is behind you.

    2. Asenath*

      I really dislike people coming up from behind me or reading over my shoulder or possibly being able to read over my shoulder. Maybe I could get over that personal quirk if I had someone spending an entire workday directly behind me and close enough to read over my shoulder, but it would be difficult. I disliked being unable to arrange my current workspace so I am facing the entrance while sitting at the computer – I’m kind of side-on to it, which is an acceptable compromise. And that’s just people coming to see me, not people working close behind me! It really has little to do with what’s on my screen, and more to do with the creepy feeling of being spied on. I think the earlier suggestion of one of those screen gadgets might help, but you’d still have the feeling of someone directly and too close behind you.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oh, hear hear. I hate it SO MUCH when people read over my shoulder. Some of the men in my office have this habit of coming into my office and walking around behind the desk to talk to me, and besides the fact that I don’t want them looking at my screen, it makes me uncomfortable. I used to use anti-glare privacy screens to avoid that feeling when I sat in a cubicle on the floor, I guess because for me, at least there’s some modicum of privacy if people can’t read the screen.

    3. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Even at my most productive, I wouldn’t like having someone behind me all day. Among other reasons, I tend to flip my computer the bird fairly frequently.

        1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

          Me three!

          Another reason I hate open plan h3ll-pits.

          Currently, my job entails sometimes looking up PII (personally identifiable information) on various people. I can’t have people behind me looking at my screen without my specific invitation.

    4. Jadelyn*

      Okay but…I take my breaks at my desk usually, and I spend those couple little chunks on here, or on Amazon or Etsy, because it’s more convenient to do that on a desktop than using my phone. Those are legit breaks that I’m legally entitled to (I’m in California), but I very much would worry about my boss seeing that and not realizing I’m on my break.

  12. valentine*

    OP2: I hope you’re not helping her with the rifling. Tell her to have the problems ready to go in future. If she still doesn’t, reschedule. Carve back that time for yourself.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Seriously. She should make sure whatever she needs to have ready IS ready BEFORE you start your “session” with her, not make yiu sit there and twiddle your thumbs while she rounds stuff up.

    2. Dust Bunny*


      But, yeah, it’s way past time to bring her/your/y’all’s manager in on this.

      Is there anyone else in the office whom your manager trusts, who could observe and vouch that this woman’s skills need more help than the current situation can provide?

      1. OP #2*

        Dust Bunny, there’s one person who used to help her before I came on staff. I might be able to talk to him about his interactions with her.

    3. OP #2*

      When she does this, I always try to redirect, e.g. “Well, let’s talk about X issue that came up in conversation yesterday.” She will focus on other problems if I directly ask her if I should come back later. I’m just miffed that after months of doing this, she’s still generally unprepared before all of our meetings (which are scheduled in Outlook and give a reminder pop-up 15 minutes beforehand).

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        And yet you keep rewarding the behavior. Stop *asking* if you should come back. Start telling her that you will come back, and then go back to your desk.

        If you have a meeting for a set topic, stick to that topic. If she’s not ready, name a time and return then. If you return and she still isn’t ready, rinse and repeat. If you don’t let her control your time, you’ll feel a lot less frustrated by her wasting her own time.

  13. Leela*

    #4 I’ll give your boss the benefit of a doubt here and say there’s a good reason to ask, just for the sake of argument, but I still want to say:

    1) It is NOT helpful for bosses to imply that there’s something wrong with your clothes and not really tell you why. I understand here that if your boss said “practical shoes” it’s implicit that they not be high heels but I’ve had bosses tell me that if I could change my shirt on my lunch break that’d be greaaaaaat thanks with no indication at all as to what’s wrong with it or what type of shirt I should come back with (frankly I think that this particular boss had a problem with my breasts, not my clothes), and not very clearly laying out why you needed extra shoes and specifying what kind they should be, since she’s the one placing the demand, was a mistake on your boss’ part and

    2) people an an office are often comfortable treating their female employees like barbies to be dressed up by them when the female employees aren’t actually doing anything out of line/against a dress code.

    Whether your boss is in the right here or not, I can certainly sympathize with why you’re miffed, because being female means many, many times in your life getting unwanted and unnecessary comments about your clothes/general presentation and it gets hard to tell the legit ones from the crap ones.

    1. MK*

      Getting miffed isn’t really a proportionate response (unless the OP has other issues with her boss); asking why the request was made, preferably in the monent, is.

      And while I understand some responses can be the result of the accumulated frustration of years, that’s not really relevant and it only serves to make you look unreasonable.

      1. Walking Tall*

        I do have other issues with my boss giving unreasonable orders, but, like you mentioned, I didn’t feel they were relevant so I didn’t include them in the letter. But you’re right, they probably did influence my gut reaction.

        1. HighHeeler*

          As a manager, I would never offhandedly ask someone to change any part of their clothing without a longer discussion and clear expectation setting. If it’s impacting your work or your coworkers/environment then I should stop, pull you aside, and take the time to explain that, and I bet you would have had a different reactions if she handled it that way. Not to mention that people have such differing feelings about high heeled shoes (I am a fellow wearer in my private life and you should hear the comments I get! All completely unnecessary and unsolicited.)

          Of course the manager could have a good reason for asking but I think she handled it pretty poorly and that’s what caused OP to feel slighted. I would be miffed too walkingtall. I also would be leaning towards the petty solution at first but in the long term if you’ve otherwise had a good relationship with your boss then I wouldn’t. If this is just more poor managing from a poor manager then I would be casually job searching.

    2. Person of Interest*

      I have to agree with Leela – there are a lot of comments here calling out/judging the LW for her clothing choices for no reason. She has explained that she is able to do her job wearing her heels, and clarified in the comments why in this case there is no safety issue or function issue. Just because others wouldn’t/couldn’t wear high heels in her situation doesn’t mean commenters should be shaming her clothing choices or telling her she is wrong for choosing to wear heels. Yes, she may ultimately need to give in to meet her boss’s expectation or have a different kind of discussion with her boss about she doesn’t think her heels cause a work issue, but it sounds like the boss has no real reason to make the request other than disliking them. We have no reason not to take the LW at her word.

  14. Sheritz*

    I have to slightly disagree, re: only using the OOO if you’re out for at least a couple of days. I think it’s good practice to put it on if you’re going to be out for an entire business day, and mostly because time-sensitive issues can come up, and the quicker people know to redirect them to someone else, the better. Granted, this depends on the likelihood of such queries, but I tend to favour a proactive approach.

    1. Bazinga*

      This. I use OOO if I’m going to be out at least a day. If I’m just leaving early, or at a few hour long meeting, no.

    2. Moths*

      Same here. I use OOO if I’ll be gone for at least one full day so that people know to redirect anything time sensitive. We don’t have an inter-office chat (e.g., Slack), so email is used for any and all requests. Without an OOO, people end up emailing again to follow up on time sensitive issues or will have to walk over to the other side of the building, just to find out that you’re not in. That being said, I’m not usually too concerned if I forget to put one on for a single day event, but I always make sure there’s one turned on if it’s more than that.

    3. Bostonian*

      Yup, adding another voice here that it’s normal in our office to do an OOO email if it’s a day or more.

      There is 1 person in our department that sends out an email to the department if she’s going to be unavailable all day, which I thought was weird at first, but.. she is somebody that’s in high demand. So I guess it’s not just the office, but the position that matters, too.

  15. CastIrony*

    I’m with the chorus of commenters, #4. It could be a safety issue!

    As for anyone who has to supervise anyone, please tell those you are correcting, reminding, etc. WHY you’re telling them. I find it super helpful if I can fall back on regulations and rules because no one likes to tell someone else “no”.

    1. Walking Tall*

      It’s basically a large copy machine, so it’s not a safety issue. On days the machine is running well, I need to load it, set it to run, and go back to my desk, looking up every once in a while to monitor it. On days it’s not running well, like that day, I’m typically on the floor removing jams 70% of the day. Neither of these scenarios require me to walk for much distance or move with any unusual speed.
      My boss has previously made comments about “I don’t know how you can walk in those” so I feel like she would feel awkward and unsteady in them and is assuming I feel that way also.

      1. Bostonian*

        Ooooh yeah, with that extra information, it sounds like your boss has different expectations about what level of comfort/mobility is associated with wearing heels. I do think it’s odd that she wants you to bring in extra shoes instead of this happening:
        Boss: Those don’t look comfortable to wear when dealing with Crappy Copier
        Walking Tall: I’m actually quite used to them, thanks!
        Boss: Oh, OK

  16. Myrin*

    “Trying to score protest points with the shoes you bring in would be a disproportionate response, and yes, would seem petty”.
    As we saw in the past, actually!

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      IMO, that situstion was really not analagous to this one, but it was certainly an epic letter and one if AAM’s greatest hits!

      1. Myrin*

        Oh, I agree it wasn’t analogous, but I did have a brief little chuckle with myself about how that sentence I quoted has actually applied to at least two letters by now!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a small aspect of that letter, but: You already have the appropriate shoes and clothing! You’ve been wearing them for a month(ish)! Just wear them for the remaining month or two. It’s not like you’re being told to purchase giant dinosaur costumes for a one-off event by people who don’t notice a few hundred dollars here or there.

      Here, I think OP is right that the manager was feeling stressed about the copier malfunctions, which she couldn’t fix, and so hit on OPs shoes as something that could be changed–it’s an example of a point where you can be technically right but you still don’t need to die on this hill. The problem can be fixed with an old pair of flats, or a new super cheap set of ballet flats from Payless. Like the epic battle of candy dishes letter from a week ago, which Alison almost didn’t publish because it was such a minor issue. (Presently at 1350 comments.)

  17. Myrin*

    OP #1, even before I got to Alison’s response, I thought “OP should tell her coworkers what she says in her second paragraph!”:
    “[T]his is the type of work I’ve done a lot in the past and just haven’t had the opportunity to do yet at this job because of my role. So it’s not really growth, but more about actually getting the chance to show what I’m capable of.”
    Said cheerfully/with a friendly tone, that sounds absolutely alright with me!

    (On a separate note, I’m wondering why on earth multiple (!) coworkers feel the need to address this at all. I would never dream of saying something like this to my peer (maybe except in some special circumstance where I’d trained them or something) and it seems weirdly condescending, especially if you aren’t a brand new junior employee or someone’s mentee. Do you get the sense that this is a strange little quirk in your office?)

    1. LW#1*

      This is LW1. There are pockets of my office that are pretty “touchy-feely” and that’s mostly where the comments are coming from. I think people are genuinely trying to be nice but I think it’s just a mismatch between how they think I should be praised and how I would actually like my work acknowledged.

      1. thankful for AAM.*

        I absolutely hate the “you are growing” comments. Serious pet peeve I guess because it is infantilizing and just a judgement really.

        I love what Myron and Alison said (and I am keeping their suggestions in mind if I ever need them). Best of luck in sorting this to your satisfaction.

        1. Artemesia*

          It would make my skin crawl too. ‘you’re a good girl, yes you are.’ Just feels patronizing and infantalizing.

      2. Smithy*

        If it’s an overall good place to work and you feel properly acknowledged – then I think all the advice is appropriate.

        I will note that I once took a job that initially felt like a lateral move, but it became clear that from leadership what I had previously done was clearly not known or not regarded. Basically everything of note that I did included what I’d done while employed there. Now this was a place with lots of other red flags, so I’m just putting it out there. If you are seeing other red flags, this may potentially be indicative of other problems in how you are perceived.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I said a bit about this in a standalone comment, but this happens to me too, and yes, it’s really condescending. There’s an element of, “Oh, it’s great how far you’ve come in these two years!” which is nice, but it ignores the fact that you actually worked somewhere else beforehand. Oddly, my peer gets it and she will say, “Oh, you’re presenting that project? About time!” while other senior people in the office will treat it like, “Aw, good job, you’re getting the chance to present!” And I feel this urge to list all of the presentations I made in my previous jobs, which I resist.

        1. LW#1*

          Thank you to everyone who responded with tips and commiseration! I was worried I was being petty about this and it’s good to hear all the advice.

          I appreciate all the comments to just speak up about my experience. I really like how this blog and all the commenters make things seem so straightforward and simple. Like one of the other commenters I am a woman who looks quite young for my age and I’ve definitely got some emotions wrapped up in how I feel about the comments I’ve been getting at work.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah I would be really peeved if people spoke to me that way. It feels so condescending.
      But I’m a woman who is mistaken for an age much younger than I am, so I have a nonexistent tolerance for anything remotely close to, “look at you, little girl! working all by yourself with no help!”

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      Myrin, you’re wondering why multiple coworkers feel the need to address this at all? Because many in the working world treat it like junior high school.

      1. Myrin*

        Hm, that behaviour doesn’t read as particularly junior high-ish to me (I don’t really associate “praising your peers about something totally unrelated to you” with 14-year-olds), just plain weird.

      2. designbot*

        honestly it reads as a dominance thing to me. They’re ostensibly giving a complement, but doing so in a way that puts LW in a place of being expected to care what they think of her growth.

    4. Allonge*

      Maybe there was a recent presentation at the company on the growth v. fixed mindset thingie? I agree it is very weird to have this comment even once, let alone several times…

  18. Kit Kat*

    #3 Personally I find it infuriating when people don’t reply and it turns out to be because they were out of the office. I think it’s useful to let people know. But then we use Outlook so if you’re emailing someone with an auto-reply you get to see the message BEFORE you email them, once you type their name in – which saves a lot of unnecessary emails from going out.

    As to announcing you’re busy in meetings most of the day, I don’t think that’s so unnecessary – it means the person won’t try to call you or walk over to your desk and follow up with you, and that they have the option to ask someone else if it is indeed urgent. Sure, if it’s urgent it’s on them to wait however long and then ask someone else but I am happier and less stressed when that is conveyed instantly.

    It’s also helpful if you have lots of dispersed / remote workers who don’t know who’s in or out at a given time.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      An OOO can be particularly helpful if you deal with freelances. I’m a freelance and generally only have one point of contact on a project, and if I don’t know when they’ll answer my queries, I can’t plan properly. It can waste a lot of my time.

    2. I coulda been a lawyer*

      OTOH I have a coworker who puts up her OOO when she goes to the bathroom. It tells people to call my number for assistance. THAT is overuse.

    3. nonymous*

      I find IM status especially useful for the intermittent busy notification. If the IM program is linked to email (think skype & outlook) then meetings on the calendar will automatically turn to red (busy). And if you’re away from the keyboard more than some set time the status is yellow (away / brb). So basically the only time it’s green is if you are at the computer, with nothing scheduled, and even the status can be manually overridden .

    4. Decima Dewey*

      I find OOO messages annoying when the email I’m sending concerns something I *have* to keep Grandboss or other PTB in the loop about something. Yes, I got the email saying that X is covering for Grandboss this week. but Grandboss still needs to know that issue A happened and what we are doing about it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        To be fair, OOO messages aren’t tailored to the individual – it’s not like they’re setting an OOO *at* you, and the OOO doesn’t stop your email from getting to the person, so they’ll still see it when they get back. Just delete the OOO and continue on.

  19. Rez123*

    #3 In our office in general we put out of office message if we are gone for the day or more. Day of meetings is still being at work so we wouldn’t use it for that. I think a good general rule in my book is that if you are gone for more than a day. But this is in a job where you are not expected to answer emails immediately on the day.

    #4 I think this comes down to the tone. Was it more of a under no circumstances are you allowed to wear heels when you do this? or more you might be more comfortable and more mobile if you were wearing flats? I can read it wither way but the interpretation depends on the boss.

    1. Walking Tall*

      (LW 4)
      The tone was “this is my will on the matter and I don’t want to have to say it again.” It’s a tone she’s used many times in the past, like when she decided that I can’t listen to internet radio, sing, or change the color of my computer desktop background.

      1. Mk2*

        I would say listening to internet radio and singing were inappropriate at work. It impacts other employees. In some jobs you can have headphones but if you are front facing that can be difficult. Changing the desktop picture seems extreme unless it is inappropriate or something. Although I have heard of places where you must keep the desktop as it has always been.

        1. Gyratory Circus*

          Agreed. Streaming music/internet radio sucks up a lot of bandwith if a lot of people are doing it. My employer blocks all streaming sites because of this. (Our desktops are also locked down so that the background can’t be changed, and they use a default company logo.)

          None of these seem unreasonable to me, either.

        2. Walking Tall*

          I had a reply ready explaining my particular office culture and why I and my coworkers (and some customers, according to a coworker) see these policies as odd. But these issues are really not relevant to the current situation, and I don’t want to start a spiral of defending myself and in the process denigrating my boss. While she can be frustrating and illogical at times, she can also be really great about important things like family leave and flexibility. I regret bringing up other issues, because that’s not a road I’d like to go down.

      2. erynlibrarian*

        Have you worked in other offices or is this your first? None of these seem completely unreasonable to me.

      3. Piggy Stardust*

        I wonder if you’re generally out of step with the cultural norms of that specific office?

        Internet radio and singing in what you describe as an open office would drive me crazy as a colleague.

        1. WellRed*

          It would drive me crazy, but then it’s so unreasonable to listen to music sans headphones at all and then sing along that I have no qualms telling them to cool it when it happens.
          The shoes? Eh, boss’s call, though in this case it sounds reasonable.

        2. Amadeo*

          Especially the singing. I’d probably be annoyed at someone else’s music played without headphones, but them singing along to it would make it just that much worse if I’m stuck in an open office with this person and couldn’t get away from it.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It’s even worse if they have headphones on *and* are still singing along. We have a new officemate that I had to say something to last week because she was humming and singing along quietly to whatever she was listening to on her headphones, and it was driving me up a freaking wall. (But it was the drumming on the desk in time to the music that finally pushed me over the edge into “say something before you snap and strangle her for it” territory.)

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        As others have said, singing in the office is not something you should be doing, nor is listening to radio without headphones. If your office prefers you don’t use headphones, then listening to the radio at all is not appropriate for that office.

        My initial thoughts were that no one should be policing footwear unless it’s really inappropriate or against a written dress code/safety policy, but now I’m thinking that you’ve been resistant to your boss’s instructions/requests in the past– on perfectly reasonable matters– and it’s not looking great for you. Sometimes we have to go along to get along to make our days go more smoothly. This sounds like one of those cases where your capital is shot and you need to work on building it up, so I would direct your energies there instead of at resisting her request that you wear lower-heeled shoes when you have to be on your feet for long periods of time.

        Here’s the thing: I think her request about the shoes is silly, you’re operating a copier and not a lathe, your feet are your own business. But if you have this relationship that already sounds a little antagonistic, this isn’t the hill to die on. Use this opportunity to make things a little smoother between you. Down the road, if the antagonism has subsided, you can try the heels again.

        1. Kay Webble*

          Just have to say, I get the impresssion you are reading waaaaay too much in to a few brief examples the LW provided of her boss’s requests. We have no idea what was even meant about singing in the office, the extent to which LW complied and how, or what her other colleagues think about her rules. I think you are overreaching when you say her “capital is shot” and I find the comment unhelpful.

      5. Natalie*

        Do you ignore her requests or argue with them, generally speaking? That may be why she’s not giving you a lot of explanation anymore.

      6. Artemesia*

        If you are singing and listening to radio at work, no wonder you are being micromanaged. I find it surprising that you lump that together with these other things that seem kind of trivial. I’d be reflecting on the presentation of self that is ticking off the boss. (or maybe the boss IS petty and ridiculous, but on singing, not so much)

        1. Kay Webble*

          We don’t know what LW meant about singing. It could be breaking into a choreographed rendition of “The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball”, but it also could have been humming to herself while making a coffee during lunch (something my office mates and I have been guilty of loads of times). So let’s not get too hung up on this point. I’m not sure it’s helpful.

          Same goes for radio. We don’t know if LW meant listening with headphones on or off, or what the company’s bandwidth limits are. I’ve never been dinged even for having YouTube music playing in the background at any of my offices, and maybe her company culture is similar.

  20. Kit Kat*

    #2 If she isn’t ready for your meetings I think you need to halt them (assuming you are permitted to) and say you’ll pick this up when she’s prepared. It’s not unreasonable to ask that she prep for the meeting.

    I would also ask her to write things down and wait until she does. You don’t need to be unkind, just say: “I was waiting for you to write that down.” “I’d appreciate it if you write that down.” And keep waiting until she does!

    1. WellRed*

      yes, there’s definitely a few things the LW could do here without worrying she’s overstepping or whatever. Still needs to loop on the manager.

    2. OP #2*

      I have a lot of leeway, so I’m free to reschedule/postpone our meetings as needed. In the past when I’ve asked if I should come back later, she usually stops shuffling papers and will pick a problem to address.

      I also have an inkling that she isn’t comfortable using Outlook. The meeting has a pop-up reminder 15 minutes beforehand, but she always seems a little surprised to see me at her desk.

      I agree that I should try being firmer and see how she responds. I’ve noticed that I have a hard time correcting coworkers who are significantly older than me–some childhood habits are really hard to kick!

      1. WellRed*

        Maybe set some sort of agenda, or have her set one, of topics/problems to look at? Though, I really think we all know there’s a much bigger (or several bigger) issues here.

  21. Bob*

    Re: #3

    Standard rule in the companies I’ve worked at has been anything more than 1 day needs an OOO. There’s a few times here and there where I’ve forgotten to do it if I just have say a Friday off, but that is the general trend.

    And if it applies to you, its also standard practise where I’ve been to put on your OOO if you’re on business travel so people know not to expect immediate/standard time responses. In my case, business travel generally means seeing clients or conferences where you MIGHT be able to get a bit of work done (usually in mornings/evenings), but its not guaranteed.

    1. LQ*

      This is about what the practice is around here. Some people deviate either way (leaving 30 minutes early and put it on all the way to out for a month with no ooo).

      If I know I’m going to be off but checking a few times I won’t always bother to put it on. But I’ll also put it on early if say I’m in meetings from 1-4:30/leave at 4:30 and will be out the next day with no time. I’ll go ahead and start that one at 1.

      For me it’s far more annoying to not get an ooo for a person I need a response from to get an ooo from someone I don’t care about. I’d tend toward put it on more than not. (Though I feel the for a day of heavy meetings is over the top.)

  22. Ruth (UK)*

    3. Where I work it’s the norm to have an our of office if you’re off for 1 (whole) day but not if you’re off for the afternoon or a half day or something.

    I am admin in an academic department in a uni and academics often email me things they expect me to receive and action pretty much right away like “can you print 50 copies of this by 2pm” or even “help sound not working in lecture call IT”. One emailed me recently asking me to come to the location of his seminar within like 10 minutes to help him relocate to another room (can’t remember the reason for the move but he had equipment that needed moving). I was in a 1.5 hour meeting and missed the message…

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      Ps. They actually shouldn’t be expecting email to be answered that fast and have been advised to call reception if they want an immediate response. My boss does not want me to use out of office replies for being off for less than a day. On case anyone wondered..

  23. Camelid Accoucheuse*

    It’s been a long time since my profession was mentioned in a response to a reader. I am touched. Shed a single tear.

    #1 – the script is exactly what I would do in the same situation. Just be pleasant and cheerful about it, and it should die down fairly quickly!

  24. Allonge*

    This really is industry-dependent, to the point where in my past company there were different OOO rules/customs for IT support (who have a central number for contact and so only put OOO if they are on several days’ leave as everyone knows to call the helpline anyway) to communications (who put OOO even for half a day of absence or if they leave early) to legal (who have a template and use it every time they are out or in a meeting/training for a day or more).
    Honestly I tend to use it as much as possible, it is useful information and I care more about letting people know I am not available than I care about anyone thinking I am overestimating my importance or whatever. They want something from me, so on some level I am important and it is basic courtesy to let them know I have no time to respond and who they can contact.

    1. Blarg*

      It’s so very job dependent. My job requires coverage for critical (medical) issues. If I’m out for any amount of time and anticipate I won’t be able to access my email, my OOO messages are specific down to what issue you’re having and who you should call depending on what day it is.

      At a prior job at a small agency, we used to use the internal vs external OOO setting freely. External was formal. Internal tended towards “I’m enjoying a sunny vacation in Mexico while you suffer through more winter weather.” It was fun.

      Not helpful: “I’m out of the office til next Monday. If you need help with xyz, contact someone else in the department.”

      1. WS*

        Yes, I often have to contact people with time-dependent issues (also in healthcare), and the OOO messages that include who I should contact instead are great!

        1. Mongrel*

          Yep, at my office there’s nothing codified – I’m barely in contact with people on a day-to-day basis so I only use OOO for a week off. My manager, who wears multiple hats, uses it for anything longer than a day and people who are expected to be contactable will use them if they’re not going to around for the day (often with a “I have limited e-mail usage today, for anything urgent contact “.
          I mostly saw that with sales people and finance & HR teams, where an urgent answer may be required.

      2. Miso*

        It really is super dependent on the job and industry.
        I work at a library and basically never use my OOO except for my big summer vacation if I remember – but that’s because 98% of the emails that need someone to do something or a reply go to our general email address and 90% of the mails I sift through after vacation on my personal account are just the “xy is sick” kind.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Agree 100% that this is very, very industry-specific. I set OOO usage guidelines and expectations at orientation and provide the basics of how to set one up (and what it should say) using our company systems. We use Outlook, which does previews of who’s OOO when you’re sending them a message and only sends the message to each email address once per OOO message, so it’s not a ton of emails and gives you the option to take someone off if they turn teal (indicating they’ve got an OOO up) when you start drafting. We are also email-heavy and most attorneys prefer email to the IM client, particularly when they themselves are not in the office.

      I do work in one of those industries where immediate responses are expected, so anyone gone longer than their hour-long lunch break is expected to note that they’re out, if they are checking email/VM, when they’re coming back, and who can help them in the interim (it sounds like a lot when I write it out, but, in reality, it’s 2-3 sentences.

      Honestly, I have 30+ staff members, some of whom may be on vacation, off at a whole-day hearing, or taking an extra half-hour at lunch for an appointment. OOOs really cut down on people calling me to find out where people are, including the people who have been telling their entire floor about the amazing vacation they have had planned for months.

  25. Camelid Accoucheuse*

    I just can’t imagine, since the LW mentioned she works an office job, that the “machine” she is asked to run is actually some type of manufacturing or construction equipment, and might be more like (in my imagination) a large format printer, or laminator, or digital printer, or spiral binding machine or something. If that’s the case, the ask wasn’t about safety and could possibly be rooted in something else. That something else could very well be sexist (I am aware the LW says her boss is female, but women can internalize and perpetuate misogyny and sexism too) because of the height of the heels, or the shape of LW’s body which of course more attention will be drawn to certain things when in tall heels.

    I am just not okay with someone dictating what a woman wears at work, especially if the ask is not followed with a reason. It felt icky enough to LW to ask for advice, so I feel like she should trust her gut about why it felt icky to her and that her safety wasn’t a concern. I feel she would have mentioned safety in her letter if it was a logical explanation for the ask.

    1. Camelid Accoucheuse*

      I missed the part about the boss saying she can move faster in practical shoes. I don’t really buy it though.
      Also, why does her boss get to decide what is practical for her or not? Like LW said. I don’t believe she was moving too slow, I think the boss just doesn’t like her heels for some reason and the “move faster” reason is a good cover. I might be a cynic, but people do people and I’ve been a people long enough to know how they people when they people.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree – looking around my office, I cannot think of any type of equipment that we have that would cause an immediate danger to someone using it in heels. If this office is keeping some sort of heavy machinery in the filing room, I feel like a) the OP would have mentioned that and b) she probably would have been told about safety measures when operating it before this.

      If I had to guess I would think it might be something to do with the height of the heels. Although heels are obviously very common in many offices, some people view “very tall” heels (I’m thinking platforms in particular) as more clubby than office-y. And office jobs tend to involve a lot of sitting, so it may just be that when the OP is operating this mystery machine it’s the main time that her boss will see her standing and take note of her shoes. Saying that sneakers will let her “move faster” really just sounds to me like the boss has a problem with the height of the heels but doesn’t want to come out and say that directly.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I’m wondering if it’s something like a large guillotine-style paper cutter. I’ve seen someone use one of those in very high heels before and it was terrifying, because she wobbled every time she leaned forward to pull down the (extremely sharp) blade. And she did have to go much more slowly as a result to make sure the only thing she cut was paper!

        Still, the boss should have been more specific about what the issue was. This left too much open for interpretation.

        1. Walking Tall*

          Event Planner Gal is correct. It’s basically a large copy machine, so it’s not a safety issue. On days the machine is running well, I need to load it, set it to run, and go back to my desk, looking up every once in a while to monitor it. On days it’s not running well, like that day, I’m typically on the floor removing jams 70% of the day. Neither of these scenarios require me to walk for much distance or move with any unusual speed.
          My boss has previously made comments about “I don’t know how you can walk in those” so I feel like she would feel awkward and unsteady in them and is assuming I feel that way also.

  26. Derailing Pollster*

    When I (male) am Big Boss , my office dress code is going to ban heels. Does this make me an ally or an oppressor?

    Fwiw this is entirely theoretical

    1. Kay Webble*

      Without knowing what line of work you’re in (if you were a football coach, for example, I’d see things differently), I would have to say you probably won’t win any awards for being an ally if you fully ban a style of footwear that is commonly worn at work and seen as generally complementing professional attire.

      A better move would be to relax a dress code rather than restricting it if that matters to you, thereby giving people more choice in what they wear.

    2. WS*

      Banning clothing is usually an over-reaction, and is almost always focused on women’s clothing for some reason. Why not just have a more relaxed dress code? (And I’m someone who never wears heels, even on formal occasions.)

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I mean, banning something that is almost exclusively done by women is not really the best way to go about things. Some women enjoy wearing heels. In your theoretical workplace, an ally move would be to allow both flats and heels and to make sure your employees knew that both were considered appropriate and they wouldn’t be penalised for wearing flats. And maybe also to ensure that all employees who have to stand a lot have regular breaks/seating to take the weight off their feet, which benefits everybody but a lot of employers don’t do (looking at you, college retail job with not one single place for an employee to sit).

    4. M*

      Oppressor, and badly missing the point.

      To the extent to which wearing heels is a physically damaging thing women are conditioned and – often – coerced into by oppressive dress codes and sexist expectations about professional dress, it’s obviously good allyship to combat actual coercion in your office. But sexism and engrained gender roles aren’t things you can just magic-wand away, and telling your female staff to change their – professionally appropriate – clothing choices to meet your male preferences is not a help, it’s just another instance of controlling women’s bodies to meet male preferences.

      Want to free women from oppressive dress codes? Encourage *their* interpretations of comfort and professionalism, not yours. Be outspoken when colleagues comment on women’s physical appearances in the workplace. Be active and vocal in questioning whether women are being overlooked for promotions, raises and opportunities for reasons that don’t relate to their actual work performance. Draft dress codes that focus on your business needs – industry-appropriate professionalism – not your personal preferences, and give your staff as much leeway in interpreting that to fit their needs and wants as possible. Empower your staff to wear what *they* want, not what you *think* they should want.

    5. Electric Pangolin*

      Several people have actually told me that they have worn heels for so long that it is now painful for them to wear flats. Who doesn’t like mandatory pain!

      1. WS*

        This was my grandmother! She wore heels all her working life and could no longer articulate her ankle in the right way to put her foot flat, so she wore high heels even for gardening! It certainly discouraged me from wearing them, I have to say.

      2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        If I’m on my feet all day, I need to change shoes to a different height; flats all day will hurt my lower back and heels all day will hurt my feet.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Telling women that they can or can’t wear certain items without good reason is generally on the oppressor side.

      Insisting on high heels would definitely be on the bad end of the scale. Banning them could be OK if there is a legitimate H&S reason for it – or even “no stilettos on our expensive new floor”.

      Best way is, absent of a reason not to, allow people to wear the shoes they want. And it’s perfectly OK to have a unisex “smart shoes” rule.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. Deciding what’s best for a woman is a subject best left to the individual woman in question.

    7. RUKidding*

      Heels are worn almost exclusively by women. In fact I dont know any males save fir performers who wear them. Ergo, the answer is “oppressor. ” Banning them is policing women’s wardrobe choices. Better to not do sexist shit like that and instead allow grown women to choose their iwn footwear and other clothing. ***

      *** Safety issues (real ones) not withstanding.

    8. AnonForThisPost*

      It’s also arguable that this could be considered ableist – foot drop, which is generally a symptom of a nerve condition, can be made more comfortable by wearing heels for plenty of women. Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (awesome disabled lesbian YouTuber) has pointed out that yes, she wears heels even when she’s on crutches with part of her leg paralysed, because it helps her feet.

      I have dropped arches, and I’m *much* more comfortable in kitten heels than I am in completely flat shoes, with the exception being flat shoes with expensive arch support.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Oh. I didn’t know that. Thank you for the information! Walking Tall and The Imperfect Hellebore, I apologize for being ableist. I have never heard of foot drop.

        I have the opposite problem. I can’t wear high heels due to being uncoordinated. I have tripped over sidewalk cracks wearing sneakers, so high heels = NO!

        1. The Imperfect Hellebore*

          Just to let you know, Jennifer Juniper, you weren’t being ableist as far as I’m concerned! I’m clumsy in heels, but that has nothing to do with my disability. I’m sorry if one of my comments made you feel weird or guilty, it wasn’t intended.

          I’m with you – likely to trip over almost nothing!

        2. Walking Tall*

          I don’t think you were ablist, either, but I’m abled, so I may not have the right frame of reference. Regardless, you didn’t offend me. I just always have been more comfortable crouching in heels. I assumed that was typical, but I guess I was wrong.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Thank you! You didn’t make me feel weird or guilty. I was proactively apologizing to make sure I wasn’t being ableist.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Yes – I had foot surgery to correct a defect I was born with, and I was on a walking boot and had to wear a heel on the other foot to make up the difference – and I got SO many comments like “I can’t believe you’re still wearing heels!” Wearing a sneaker gave me terrible foot pain because I needed a three inch heel on the non-busted foot to make up the difference.

        1. The Imperfect Hellebore*

          It’s weird to me that anyone would comment, frankly. By Zeus, someone is wearing unusual footwear! Meanwhile, is our work getting done or not?

        2. Walking Tall*

          I wore heels at work through my entire pregnancy, including the day I went into labor. I got comments almost daily about how uncomfortable/dangerous they looked. They were actually more comfortable for me because the construction of the uppers gave my swollen feet more room than flats. I stuck to my 3-inchers,though. I didn’t want to tempt fate with the 5″ heels, haha!

    9. dawbs*

      Paternalistic and hence problematic.

      Story time:
      Once upon a time, in the bad old days in the 1940s, my grandfather (g) was(against his will) made a white officer in charge of African american troops (that’s how the segregated military worked)

      Gambling was a thing that happened, bbecause large groups of bored young folks. It was something that everyone turned a blind eye to. Well, g’s commanding officer said they were going to “save the boys from themselves”, and told all of the lesser officers to confiscate all gambling paraphernalia all the time.

      And most of them did. And most of them lost dinne of the respect their men had for them, (bbecause they were being targeted, not their white counterparts, and because in most of their circles the gambling was acceptable, what hasbr the officers theright toi police their free time and their culture- which the white officers often failed to understand).

      (My grandfather developed an unbreakable habit of whistling on his rounds and sometimes a cough before he went around corners. Si he always honestly could say he never saw any dice. )

      Policing a group you don’t have shared experience with is a dangerously arrogant thing to do. Especially if the thing is nunyabusiness.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        ” confiscate all gambling paraphernalia all the time.”

        Heh. They try to do that at the construction camps here (laborers are brought in from other countries and housed on-site). The laborers now make roulette wheels out of screwdrivers and other construction stuff. Apparently it’s a goddamn MacGuyver Casino down there. People are resourceful.

    10. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I had a male boss who simply banned shoes that made noise on hard floors. Most high heels, flip-flops…I think the words he used were “no shoes I can hear you clip-clopping in.” I kind of loved it.

        1. Observer*

          Flip flops are only worn by women?

          Also, sometimes even when something has disparate impact, it’s not not necessarily *ist. Of course, refusing to accommodate a genuine need is a problem (even outside of any possible legal obligations), but that’s not what is under discussion.

    11. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I hope your tongue is in your cheek, Pollster. If you require certain footwear for safety reasons, that’s entirely reasonable. If you’re banning high heels because you think you’re doing their wearers a favor, you come across as naive and unncessesarily paternal. So don’t do it.

      FWIW, I’m a late-50s woman who needs a few days in flats after I wear Aerosoles with 3 inch heels. I used to wear 4+ inch heels at work every day, and got around just fine. Thanks to all those years in heels I have problems NOW, hence the Aerosoles. But I’d never ban heels because my feet hurt looking at them.

    12. iglwif*

      I almost never wear heels, both because they hurt my feet and because I’ve seen what wearing them for decades has done to the feet of older women I know, but I still vote Oppressor.

      You can accomplish the same goal (fewer women wearing heels in the office) by not requiring or encouraging heels, while pissing off far fewer people. Women who were only wearing heels because it was required or expected or “strongly encouraged” will revert to shoes they like better and will be pleased and relieved instead of resentful; women who enjoy wearing heels will continue to wear them, which is probably unfortunate for their feet but good for morale as they also won’t be resentful.

    13. NotAnotherManager!*

      Are you banning them because they pose a safety issue for the type of work that you do or because you think you know best what kind of shoes women should wear to the office (since few men wear heels)? If anything other than a real safety issue, preferably one covered by some sort of workplace regulations, it’s paternalistic and oppressive.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “…or because you think you know best what kind of shoes women should wear…”

        This gets my vote.

      1. Observer*

        That’s totally not true. Plenty of others have outlined the issues here. Male or not, you don’t get to tell adult people how to take care of themselves outside of some fairly narrow circumstances.

    1. snowglobe*

      You can probably even set up a rule to move all messages containing “Out of Office” in the subject line to the Deleted items folder.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Or auto-archive, so that when you pull up the email in a few days to check on it, the OOO will then show up.

  27. Kay Webble*

    Awwh, #4, I think we might be being a little tough on you! Without seeing the situation firsthand, I’m happy to take you at your word when you say you move just fine in high heels. And I chuckled when you said you are thinking about buying flashy, loud shoes to satisfy your boss’s demands: I didn’t find that statement petty, but instead funny, I have to admit.

    I agree with other commenters who find it unfortunate that your boss could just instruct you to wear “practical” shoes without providing context or examples of times you haven’t moved fast enough. My fear is that asking for clarification will just cause your boss to double down rather than rethink how she communicated in the first place.

    I guess if I were “in your shoes,” I would try to find a way to cater to my boss while maintaining my own sense of style and individuality. I’d buy me some shiny black sneakers with bright white soles, or something sparkly. Not to be petty, but to make sure I always feel like myself when it comes to my wardrobe at work.

    And if you ever want inspiration in terms of statement shoes worn by women at the top, just check out the Twitter page of Amanda Blanc (her Twitter handle is something like “Amanda shoes”). She’s the CEO of the company I used to work for, and has always made bold statement shoes a signature part of her style. Now that she’s a board member of multiple organizations she has started tweeting about other topics, but if you scroll back to 2013 you can find plenty of pictures of her elaborate high heels. In a male dominated industry, this has been one of the many ways she’s said “this is who I am, take it or leave it, folks, but you’re not gonna stop me.”

  28. Vique*

    I find it interesting that OP4 decided that the boss meant sneakers as the practical shoes.
    I think that you could go with a lower heel shoe that would be more practical yet still be your taste/style.

    1. Walking Tall*

      I specified sneakers because I presume it would be easier to find neon sneakers than neon flat or low heel dress shoes, and the neon was the point of my passive-aggressive intent.
      Also, my boss wears black sneakers, so maybe that subconsciously informed my idea of what she meant by “practical” shoes.
      I no longer intend to get the neon shoes, so I probably will get some cheap flats.

      1. Joielle*

        I’d bring in some cheap flats and leave them under your desk but not put them on (unless YOU want to). If your boss says something again when you’re running the machine in heels, like “didn’t I ask you to bring in flat shoes,” you can say “Oh, yeah, I have some flats at my desk but I’m actually more comfortable in these for now. I’ll change if I need to. Thanks!” Give her a friendly smile, as though you appreciate her looking out for you, and go back to what you were doing. If she presses it beyond that, then you can decide whether to just put the flats on once in a while or whether this is your hill to die on.

        FWIW (and this is speculation, but I’ve seen it many times), based on your follow up comments, my guess is that your boss is judgmental about women who wear heels/makeup/whatever and has a personal problem with your shoes – but she knows it’s unreasonable to straight up tell you to stop wearing them, so she’s seized on this opportunity as a somewhat-legitimate-sounding excuse. It’s absolutely misogynistic BS, but if you want to advance at this company you may need to take that into account. I wouldn’t put it past her to stall your career growth because she (even subconsciously) thinks you’re being a woman wrong.

      2. LQ*

        If you really wanted to be passive aggressive about it you’d switch between your heels and your flats every time you got up to go to the machine and then back to your desk.

  29. only acting normal*

    #5 Anti-glare filters only stop viewing from the side, not from directly behind! If you can angle your monitor it might still work, but no guarantee.

    1. Lady Blerd*

      I was coming here to say this, I know because I have one. And if you have a mirror somewhere behind you, your screen’s content will show regardless of the filter and the angle. Ask me how I know. Ok nothing dramatic happened, a colleague told me.

    2. LQ*

      My experience is that they have a range from directly behind that they work for. I can be directly behind someone who has one but if I’m say an extra foot or two back from the normal user it’s still nearly impossible to see. (This is why the flippy/snap on kind is good. It means you don’t have to have tech help literally breathing down your neck to see what’s happening, neither of us wants that!)

  30. GermanGirl*

    #4 Do your feet a favor and listen to your boss. Running around in very high heels all day is not healthy in the long run even if your feet are strong enough to do it occasionally and seem fine afterwards.

    But it might still be worth it to ask boss for clarification. If it’s a real health and safety reason, they might have to provide you with appropriate shoes. I have a pair of safety shoes in the office that my employer bought for me. I only have to wear them a couple of times a year but they’re super useful to have there when my normal shoes get soaked on the way to the office.

    #3 in my office, you put up the OOO- message when you are out for a whole business day or more, even if you might check your e-mail.

  31. Game of Drones*

    Please, LW4, keep in mind that Overly high heels don’t exactly enhance one’s credibility in the workplace.

    1. AJ*

      You’ve already commented elsewhere that you think they look “silly” in an office, so not sure why you decided to repeat the point, particularly because it isn’t some universal truth. I’ve worked in several corporate environments where it would be just fine for a woman to wear higher heels — it depends on the specific shoe, the other wardrobe, and the ability of the wearer to move in them without toppling (plenty of women can!)

    2. Bagpuss*

      Really? I think that must be a very industry specific thing (or possibly even very office specific).

      I don’t personally wear anything very high as I can’t, but unless there is something further, e.g. the person wearing them can’t walk in them, or they are wearing them as part of an outfit which as a whole isn’t entirely appropriate for the specific workplace, I don’t think they affect credibility.

      And I can think of some situations where they can help – for instance, giving you extra height can have benefits..

    3. Walking Tall*

      My heels are 5in high, dark suede, closed toe, and I wear them with dress pants and a blazer. It is quite office-appropriate.

      1. Barb*

        Are 5 inch heels really appropriate for a workplace? Does this vary by area of the country or industry?

        1. 1.0*

          Why wouldn’t they be? I don’t wear heels so maybe I’m missing something, but “exactly like the next person’s practical pumps, except with an additional inch or two” seems like a weird place to draw the line

          1. Val Zephyr*

            5in heels are usually worn to the club, not to the office. The fact that they are associated with club-wear does make them less appropriate for the office. I agree that it seems arbitrary, but there are a lot of social rules about what clothes are appropriate in certain situations that seem arbitrary.

            I suspect that OP’s boss might think that the 5in heels are not appropriate for the office and is using the machine as an reason to point that out to that OP.

            1. HighHeeler*

              This is not universal so you shouldn’t say it as it is. It sounds as if you’re bringing some assumptions to this situation where they are inappropriate as well. There are plenty of offices where high heels are appropriate and there are plenty of clubs where 5 in heels are not appropriate.

              1. Confused*

                Of course not. Some offices, mine included, don’t have strict dress codes. But it doesn’t matter – her boss has asked her to stop wearing the heels, so it is inappropriate for her office. She can keep arguing back if she wants but it doesn’t change anything.

            2. 1.0*

              Huh, alright.

              This just strikes me as so silly! I guess I can’t say that I’ve ever spent any time looking at the heel height on anybody’s shoes — I’d get it if it were something strappy or with clear platforms or something, if it looks like a pump but taller, calling that unacceptable strikes me as about as silly as saying toe cleavage is inappropriate at work.

              (In terms of actual advice, I’d suggest OP roll her eyes and capitulate, but also I really feel her — I would really bristle at being told I need new shoes for either the stated reason or the unspoken reason it probably is)

          2. Yorick*

            Many heels that high have a platform on the front of the shoe, which can make it look less like a work-appropriate pump. Of course, we haven’t seen the OP’s shoes, so we don’t know, but I think 5 inches seems quite high for an office.

            1. VelociraptorAttack*

              I agree with you, I think that the platform could be the biggest issue. Granted, we do not know if OP’s shoes have a noticeable platform so this is more of a general statement.

              I wear heels to work fairly regularly and my rule of thumb is to avoid anything with a platform. This is partly due to my own aesthetics and not liking the general look but also because I think they tend to look young and not very professional.

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

                I have seen a LOT of designer classic closed toe pumps, often in a wide range of neutral colors, that have a hidden platform which isn’t obvious or “clubby” looking but allows the shoe to have a higher heel than normal. They are sleek and sophisticated, and wouldn’t look inappropriate for work with an outfit like OP describes wearing.

                Frankly, I’m astonished at the number of moral assumptions and unkind judgments being thrown around in response to OP’s letter.

          3. Rez123*

            I’m learning from this site all the time about unprofessional clothing that I’ve never ever considered being a problem. I wonder if I just don’t understand what it means it if others are just way too concerned with others people clothing.

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Others really are way too concerned with others clothing. There is a lot of sexist assumptions being flung around in this thread.

      2. Lady Blerd*

        5″ at work is a lot though. I bet your boss would have nothing to say if they were 3″ or maybe even 4″. Honestly I think you should relent on this one.

      3. hbc*

        5″ heels plus your comment that you don’t have to walk fast makes me think that you actually *are* walking less fast than is good in a situation when equipment is down. You may be fully stable, but I’ve never seen anyone walk in anything close to a full stride when wearing such high heels. I think you might need to both increase your hustle and increase the appearance of hustling in these situations.

        1. Jennifer*

          Is getting to the copy machine a few seconds faster really going to make much of a difference? She’s not running into burning buildings or something.

        2. Ginger Baker*

          I detest this line of reasoning so much – unless this is a job with “express courier” in the title, or perhaps if there is a *mile* of walking, there is not a particularly vast amount of time you “save” by walking fast versus slow, and barring it being an essential part of the job, there should be zero focus on that so long as someone is now so slow it IS interfering with the job. Which LW4 has categorically stated she is not walking at sloth-like levels. There are PLENTY of people who cannot walk “briskly” who are nonetheless valuable office employees and in jobs where “speedwalker” is not a requirement: for instance, anyone with a chronic illness that impacts their walking speed, or who need to use a cane, etc. My mother – who, post-chemo, walks about the speed of your average turtle – could not succeed as a bike messenger but still kicks ass as a proofreader and is employed as such. And I promise, LW4 is gonna lap my mom, even if she added two inches to the 5-inch heels she’s wearing…leaving her plenty of time to clear paper jams.

          1. L. S. Cooper*

            I’m definitely in trouble right now, having recently had surgery on both of my big toes, and being unable to move particularly quickly…

            (Of course, I work for a company known for footwear that’s both less-than-sleek and incredibly comfortable, so 5 inch heels would be incredibly out of place at our office, but presumably, LW4 doesn’t work here.)

            In fact, I’d go so far as apply one of our taglines to this situation: Everyone comfortable in their own shoes. If you’re comfortable, do your thing.

      4. Confused*

        5 inch heels are not appropriate in most work places. Do you see any other women wearing them? If not, they’re probably not appropriate for the dress code and you need to scale back to 3-inch heels or so. I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish in this comments section. Most people have told you that the heels should not be your hill to die on. If you want to build bad blood with your boss over a pair of shoes, be my guest, but it is petty, unprofessional, and makes you look like the bad one in this situation.

        1. Kay Webble*

          Actually, all I’m seeing the LW do is add clarification, really. And she’s mentioned 3 or 4 times that she’s now planning to buy some practical flats. So why you are suggesting she sees this as her hill to die on is beyond me.

          1. Walking Tall*

            I just want to mention that never before in my life have I read the phrase “hill to die on” this many times in a 24 hour period.

        2. Walking Tall*

          “I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish in this comments section.”

          Do you mean why am I responding to comments? Largely because Allison asked me to, I presume to facilitate discussion and understanding.

        3. Observer*

          I’m confused by your comment. You’ve clearly read some of her comments, and she’s being quite reasonable, as well as providing some useful context and information. Why the hostility?

        4. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          I don’t think this should be your Heel to die on…

    4. Joielle*

      Nope! Nope. The type of shoe a person wears has no bearing at all on whether they’re good at their job. If you think there’s some correlation between shoes and credibility, that’s straight up misogyny (because guess how many men wear stilettos to the office?)

      1. Psyche*

        Wearing work appropriate clothing does affect people’s perceptions of you and it isn’t all misogyny. Wearing shoes that could make her less able to do the physical parts of your job (or that make it look like she will struggle) is going to make people doubt her capability and judgement. And I do give serious side eye to men who wear inappropriate shoes to the office (especially flip flops).

        1. Joielle*

          You’re proving the point! If you read her follow up comments, she says the machinery in question is basically a large copier – no safety issue. She doesn’t struggle to do the job in high heels, and if you think it “looks like” she would struggle when she is not, that’s because of prejudice – or in other words, misogyny.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          Flip flops at the office. Ew. Unsafe, cheap, impractical, and gross. Nobody’s bare feet should stick out that much.

        3. MattKnifeNinja*

          I worked with a kindergarten teacher who had heels that were 4+ inches, an in cheetah print, pink, neon orange, little smiley faces…she must have had a zillion shoes.

          There was also a male teacher who routinely got snarked on by wearing ratty flip flops and ratty looking sneakers.

          *Union contract. As long as all the necessary bits are covered, go for it.

          The shoes were a HUGE distraction, and parents had fun in snark sessions on FB about how “millenials have no clue of what PROFESSIONAL is.” Some would actual harass district office over it.

          My sister is planning for “This is what we wear to work here.” summer intern big meet and greet. Her job runs very conservative clothing wise, and the interns always crank on the unfairness of it all.

          “Yes, I believe you when you say your friend can wear jammy pants and flip flops at his performing arts internship. That is not allowed here.”

          She hates it.

      2. Jennifer*

        Very telling the men, and a fair amount of women, seem to categorize things that only women do as “silly.”

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Please, LW4, keep in mind that Overly high heels don’t exactly enhance one’s credibility in the workplace.

      Which is as it should be, since your dress-code-appropriate shoes shouldn’t have anything to do with your credibility.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think the style of the shoe matters a lot more than the heel height. I work with a few people who wear heels that would make me trip with one step, but they are not out of line with professional office dress. Some of the shorter attorneys with whom I work (one is not even 5′) wear taller heels, and they don’t seem to be suffering a credibility hit, even in a very conservative industry.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        This is a really good point! If WalkingTall is already a tall woman, this may look more extreme than if she’s short. I’m 5’8, and on me, even a 4 inch heel makes me absolutely enormous– not to mention that I cannot, in fact, walk gracefully in them. (Not that there’s anything wrong with appearing incredibly tall, I actually bought the 4 inch heels in an attempt to be precisely 6′, but there’s some stigma around tall women out there.) But if WalkingTall is shorter, then this is a completely reasonable thing to do, and may even be helpful to her functioning, since most machinery and general environments are designed for a specific height range. Or maybe she just likes it! And if the boss’ only issue is “I dislike this and you should cut it out” or “I couldn’t do this in those shoes so I think you shouldn’t either”, then boss needs to chill.

    7. neeko*

      Yeah, that isn’t true at all. You’ve made it clear that you don’t like them. We get it. But that isn’t a universal agreement.

  32. MJ*

    #5. Place a small mirror at the top corner of your screen. Tell the boss it’s for fung shui purposes and that the only alternative is to move the monitor.

    1. 2 feet behind*

      I think I’ll need one, if only to reassure myself that she’s not always watching over my shoulder! :)

  33. Marion Ravenwood*

    On #3, I work in PR/comms, and if I’m going to be away from my computer for more than half a day (at an event, say) then I’ll put a message saying ‘I’m out of the office this afternoon and won’t have immediate access to email, if urgent please call my mobile or I’ll reply when I’m back’. But that’s because things move so quickly so I do need to be contactable at short notice, whereas if you’re in a job that’s not as time-sensitive then YMMV.

    If I’m on annual leave then it’s ‘no access to emails during this time, please call office number’ – that time is valuable to me and I’ve got better ways to spend it than checking messages! I wouldn’t do it for a day of onsite meetings though, or a working from home day (which I normally use if I have a big project to work on), because technically I am still at work and can answer emails, although in my last job I did know other people – mainly senior staff – who used it for the latter.

    1. Southern Yankee*

      I’m finding it very interesting how much the OOO norms differ by industry, region, office norms, and roles, although it’s not unexpected. I have generally worked in HQ office support positions (shared services) and OOO messages were absolutely vital because the sender may need immediate help and not know who else to contact. The OOO would save them time and frustration waiting for me to respond, hearing I’m out of the office, and then trying to track down who else could help. It’s also common to use different messages for internal and external email – and the “all day training” emails are generally only for internal emails for people in support roles.

  34. Akcipitrokulo*

    On the shoes “…I don’t need my boss to mandate my comfort.”

    Hmm. Thing is, depending on the H&S regulations where you are, he may be obliged to mandate your comfort (to a certain extent). And ensuring appropriate footwear definitely falls within that area.

  35. LGC*

    I’m actually…not sure that letter 4 is as cut and dried as it seems to a lot of people.

    I’m saying this because I feel like if the boss did have safety concerns, she would have told LW4 that first. Instead, she said that she thought LW4 would work faster in flats, which…is fine, but comes off more as the boss’s preference. If there are actual safety hazards (like LW4 is walking on grates, climbing steps, or carrying heavy loads), then the boss should use that as the determination.

    (And honestly, to be real, I read the letter again and it kind of sounds like…LW4 agrees but is reacting because she’s being told what to do by her boss. In that case: dude, she is the boss of you, and – yeah – footwear policing can be a reasonable choice, especially when there are possible safety concerns.)

    I’m also definitely going to say that yes, LW4, get the spite sneakers. Not because they’ll have the desired effect (they probably won’t), but because I personally enjoy loud footwear and once very nearly bought a pair of metallic kicks with metal spikes on them. (As an actual late-20-something adult. I miss Jackthreads from back in the day – some of their stuff was wild. But I digress.)

    1. RUKidding*

      Never stop buying interesting shoes!

      I turned 56 last Saturday (ugh!) and doent part if the day shopping for cool shoes.

      I ordered a pair of glittery gold Keds…because gold glitter(!!!) and customized two pairs of Converse; one for the University of Washington, and one for Princeton because…school spirit, even all these years later. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Asenath*

        I generally dress very plainly, especially when it comes to footwear. I go for flat comfortable styles that provide lots of support. The only time a then teen-aged daughter of a friend commented in any way on my clothing was the time I really had problems finding suitable duck boots – those short rain boots, not the ones sold under the same name which are intended for serious hikes in the the backwoods. The only pair that fit properly and were a reasonable price were purple and hot pink. My friend’s daughter thought they were really cool. I think it’s the only time I ever wore something cool, not counting a skin-tight short jacket I bought when I was a teenager. My mother called it “your long-line bra” although it was bright blue and had lots of shiny snaps.

        In the original letter, it sounds like the boss is making a more or less reasonable request, so I’d bring in a spare pair of comfortable flat shoes to keep in the office. I don’t suppose she has to actually wear them unless her feet are bothering her.

        1. LGC*

          Good catch – the boss didn’t say she had to wear them, just that she’d like them on site just in case. So while I still feel like the boss should have been more direct…really, she wasn’t even saying that LW4 needed to change!

          (As an aside – although I’m not the most flashy dresser myself, I do have a bit of a reputation! I’ll often come in the office wearing my leather Chuck Taylors, for example. (They’re light gray.) Much of my work time is spent trying to figure out how fun I can dress while getting away with it.)

    2. Walking Tall*

      Haha, I’ll leave the “spite sneakers” to you, then. As another commenter pointed out, malicious compliance is, in fact, malicious, and not really a good idea to maintain a good relationship with my boss.
      Plus, I already have plain flats. Spending money on new sneakers out of spite is truly petty. A little distance from the situation and reading some good comments here has given me some perspective.

  36. Bagpuss*

    #2 I agree with Alison that you do need to tell your manager about the issues you are having. Try to be factual and set out the fact that you don’t feel she is improving as the problems are the same, repeatedly.

    In dealing with your co-worker, I would suggest that you try a more structured approach,. For instance, say to her (perhaps you can e-mail her to set up the time of your next review, and include this in the e-mail?) That you need her to have her list of issues ready at the start of the meeting.

    then, in the meeting, ask her to make notes as you go along. Tell her that it is important that she is able to remember and act on the information you are giving her.
    When you tell or show her how to do something, remind her that she needs to make notes / take screen shots so she has these to refer to.

    Consider taking your own brief notes, simply listing what issues you cover in the meeting, That way, you have a record of what she has been taught, so if she then brings it up again you can remind her that you covered it (and can also give a factual report to your boss. e.g. “I have shown Janet several times how to run the sales report. I became concerned that she didn’t seem to be able to retain the information and needed me to show her multiple times.When she raised it on [date] I made sure that she took notes, with screen shots, so she had a step-by-step guide she could refer to, but then on [date] she asked me again about the same process” ( and add it at that point how she responded when you reminded her that she had notes of how to do it).

    If at the start of the meeting, she doesn’t have her list, then tell her to find it then come find you, and in the mean time, go back to your desk, so you are not wasting time.

    1. Rebecca*

      I totally agree. If the OP arrives at her desk, and she starts the 10 minute “where did I put that?” routine, tell her to send a Skype message when she’s prepared for the meeting. That’s it. For future meetings, set up a calendar request with a reminder 15 minutes prior so she can find her stuff. And, I totally agree on the notes, lists, etc. I’ve been down this road (with a trainee, not a seasoned person) and having a checklist of things that were reviewed or need to be done was key. In my case, it was “I totally understand” to my face, but this person told my manager “Rebecca didn’t tell me/I didn’t understand/she’s confusing” when she got called out on not doing something correctly or at all. I solved that by having a checklist that she initialed as we went over action items.

      The OP needs to be very clear and factual when reporting back to her managers. And I sympathize, it’s not a great position to be in.

      1. OP #2*

        Rebecca, we use Outlook to schedule our meetings and there’s already a 15-minute reminder, yet she’s still unprepared. In the past when I’ve asked if I should come back later, she buckles down and we can talk about the issues she’s having.

        I’m not particularly worried that she’ll try to shift blame back to me if her actual supervisor calls her out, but I certainly can’t rule it out. I’ll start taking my own meeting notes, for sure.

        1. Observer*

          Keep on doing that then – there is no reason for you to waste your time waiting for her to find stuff.

    2. EPLawyer*

      The only problem with telling the person to take notes or be ready for the meeting is that they are peers. If LW says “I’ll be back when you are ready” the co-worker is going to go to boss and say “She won’t help me anymore.” LW has no authority to make the co-worker do anything.

      This is the problem with the set up. LW has the responsibility but not the authority. You need to talk to your boss immediately about the situation. It’s not going to change because co-worker doesn’t want to change. All you can do is protect yourself when everyone wonders why co-worker is not doing things she should.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s not unreasonable to expect a coworker to be prepared for a meeting, though. Also, she’s not the coworker’s manager, which is always an issue in these arrangements, but she IS senior to her.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think being peers is what makes this okay. And if the coworker has the cojones to complain that the LW won’t help her, I’d say “what is she talking about; I went over there to help her and she wasn’t ready, so I told her to call me when she was ready.”

      3. Observer*

        The OP most definitely CAN say that. If there is a chance that the coworker will complain to their boss, all the OP needs to do is to make sure that the boss knows what is going on. The boss needs to know what’s going on anyway, so that’s kind of covered. In the meantime, OP should keep some sort of log of what’s going on so if a larger conversation needs to happen and the coworker is complaining, OP will be able to talk factually and accurately about the fact that even though there is a calendar meeting, the coworker was not ready for the meeting on X number of occasions. AND that they offered to come back, rather than just cancelling.

    3. Yorick*

      Maybe OP can stop having the meeting at the coworker’s desk, and that will force her to spend a few minutes getting ready?

  37. Al who is that Al*

    High Heels – As a part-time Deep Tissue Therapist, I can only say that I spend a lot of my time correcting issues people have with their lower back and legs due to high heels. I fully understand why people wear high heels, but physically it’s not a good idea to wear them for long periods of time. There are various exercise you can do to alleviate the strain etc you might want to have a look at those.

  38. karenelair*

    #4: the staff I manage do in-house event photography. The first time one staff did, she wore heels (we have concrete floors) and her shoes were very loud, distracting from the speaker. Since then, when I go over what kind of shots I need from the event, I ask staff to wear shoes that are quiet and easy to walk in so they can move nimbly around the room.

  39. Delta Delta*

    #4 – because we lawyers never stop being lawyers… Get/wear different shoes for this task. Do it. Why? Because in 5 years if you have a bunion or plantar fasciitis and you decide to make a workers comp claim, the company will have basis upon which to deny you benefits. Why? Because you will have willfully continued to do something you were specifically advised not to do which could have caused or aggravated your injury. And depending on your jurisdiction – if it is pro worker or pro employer – you could find yourself in a spot where you’ve got a problem you can’t fix.

    I also suspect there are shoes that fall into the professional spectrum somewhere between tall heels and loud neon sneakers.

    1. Walking Tall*

      Lw #4 here
      This has no bearing on my issue, but I just remembered that I technically got the heels from my boss, and I think that’s amusing.
      (my boss also manages residential properties, and one of her tenants suddenly left, leaving behind a lot of clothing, so my boss brought it all into the office to let us take what we wanted before hauling it to the thrift store.)

      1. Walking Tall*

        This was supposed to be a general comment and not a reply to this comment. I’m confused about why it got stuck under here as a reply. My mobile site must not be working well with my phone or something. Apologies.

    2. Birch*

      Why would OP make a workers comp claim for something she chooses to wear (presumably also in her personal life)? Also, who files workers comp for bunions?

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I never would have gone with this line of thinking, but yeah lawyer. :) My father was a machinist and on his feet every day for 25 years, and even wearing supportive shoes intended for that use, ultimately needed costly and PAINFUL foot surgery when he was in his mid 40’s. He was out of commission for months. Foot stuff is no joke.

      1. EMW*

        A lot of times your personal insurance won’t cover something if it’s work related and you haven’t filed a claim through work. If you get denied workers comp, your personal insurance will cover it (depends on the state). People will complain about any work related pain to see a doctor for free when they aren’t covered by personal health insurance/copay for insurance is too high.

  40. Triplestep*

    LW#2, I agree with Alison except for one thing: The manager you should speak to is your own – not your co-worker’s. But one of the things you could talk about is whether or not you should simply take up the issue with the other manager, or if the three of you should have a meeting together.

    Your own manager is the first person to speak to because – even though these meetings with your co-worker are part of your job – you are having to spend too much time on one of your responsibilities and your manager needs to know that. She may tell you to go ahead and approach the other manager, or she might not want to handle it that way.

    Secondly, your co-worker’s manager is a peer to your own manager. It’s appropriate for you to give your boss a heads up about this and give her a chance to handle it differently if she chooses.

    I just left a workplace culture where anyone could go to anyone’s manager (or THEIR manager) with complaints; it just promoted the already-chaotic environment, and added more drama. I’m not saying you don’t have a valid complaint, LW#2 – you do. I’m just suggesting you try speaking to your own manager first.

    1. RS*

      I agree. A question for the OP: is this coworker ostensibly responsible for checking your work? You mentioned that you two are the only ones on the team that have specialized technical skills, so I’m wondering if this arrangement is supposed to be reciprocal? If so, I imagine that it’s not happening in any meaningful way, which means that OP isn’t benefiting from having someone competent doing spot-checks of their own work. That would be another good thing to bring up with your supervisor.

      1. WellRed*

        I read it as, they know the coworker is underperforming and needs to be checked. Which is a whole ‘nother issue.

        1. RS*

          Yes, I’m pointing out that from management’s perspective – and ideally from OP’s own – there might actually be more than one issue here. If the two employees are supposed to be providing QA to each other’s work and that’s not happening, then that’s an additional problem that OP might want to raise with her manager.

      2. OP #2*

        No, she isn’t expected to check or review my work–in essence, I write new code while she edits/modifies existing code. There are people scattered throughout the building who do work that is similar to mine, and we have regular group meetings to troubleshoot problems, discuss standards, etc. I might start pushing my coworker to attend these meetings–she’s on the Outlook invite, but so far she hasn’t shown up. If it’s specifically me that she has trouble coming to for help, this would introduce her to others she could ask.

  41. Melly*

    My job is very public facing and I work on a large variety of projects at one time. I tend to use an OOO regardless of the length of time I’m out if I know it is a time of year when I’m likely to get time-sensitive requests with additional contact info (e.g. proposal deadlines, someone trying to reach me AT the event I’m attending), or if I won’t have access to email, so I can manage response expectations.

    I ask myself, “Is an OOO going to add value for whoever is emailing me, or will it just be annoying?”

  42. Fainting Goats*

    #4 I feel like people are either for high heels at work or are against high heels at work, and by high heels I mean 6 inches+. At that height most people have a vehement reaction when they are against it and I walk better in heels than in sneakers response when they are for it. So I fall in with the thought that the boss is against high heels and is pushing their power on this. However after working with my husband a few years ago and being asked by him to no longer wear heels at and over 4 inches because according to my husband at 4 inches I am quite a bit slower and he has to wait when we walk places (as a health initiative we do a lot of walking meetings when possible), and that when I have to carry things (laptop, and boxes of printed packets 30 lbs tops) that I look like I am ready to topple. I disagreed and he videoed me at work and I wear flats to work now. I am not saying this is OP, I am saying OP needs to get an impartial 3rd opinion and a husband is usually a good source and maybe let us know what she is working on carrying and the condition of the office.

    1. WellRed*

      Six inches is a very (ahem) high bar. But, unless there is a reason, I say live and let live and love your shoes. I do find it hilarious that your husband video-ed you so that you had a different view on the matter. I’ve had one or two friends or coworkers that, if they could see how they looked in the super high shoes, might rethink.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      It’s interesting that your husband did this and it changed your view. I admit that, due to my own poor planning, I have found myself in a 5 inch heel lugging a large laptop bag, top handle satchel, venti Starbucks, giant water bottle, and my lunch bag on sketchy pavement types (i.e. decorative brick, cobblestone, etc.) I know I looked totally silly and on a couple of occasions had to take my heels off or I wouldn’t have made it. My solution has been to plan better and always have a pair or neutral flats with me. One for the desk and one for the car.

    3. Arctic*

      But the boss hasn’t banned heels entirely. So, they don’t seem to be entirely against them. Only when she uses this machine.

  43. Frances*

    Alison, you should set up an Etsy shop where you sell t-shirts with all various job titles that have come up over the years: teapot designer, teapot analyst, llama midwife… :)

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      There is very little interne merch that I have any interest in purchasing, but this stuff would definitely make the cut. We want merch Alison!! :)

  44. Alton*

    #3: Personally, my line is that I’ll use an OOO greeting if I’m not going to check email before close-of-business. This is because I sometimes get last-minute requests and I don’t want to put all my faith in my coworkers remembering when I leave early to go to the doctor or whatnot. It gives me peace of mind.

    I prefer it if other people use an OOO greeting if they’ll be out for more than a day or so. I work with a lot of people who can be difficult to reach by both email and phone, and it can be really hard to tell if they’re out or just busy.

  45. MissDisplaced*

    Out of Office: I really only use the OOO if I’m truly out for the entire day, because I would usually reply sometime during the workday. But if I’m out for say, a dentist appointment or something, I just book it on my calendar so people don’t schedule meetings during that time.

    High Heels: Yes, so you can walk in them. But I’d heed your manager’s advice and swap to flats for doing certain manual tasks anyway for all sorts of practical reasons. Your boss doesn’t sound unreasonable if they have no issues w/heels at other times. And really, is this a hill you want to die on?

  46. 1.0*

    OP3 – I was a consultant and thus needed to be reachable by clients, especially since sometimes they had extremely time-sensitive requests — I once had to bail on an hour long meeting because a client called the receptionist 4 times in about 15 minutes because I didn’t answer my desk phone right away.

    I now err to the side of using OOO messages whenever I’m out or unreachable for more than a half day, but it’s definitely dependent on who you work for and where you work

  47. Mazzy*

    I’m home job hunting today because of a situation like in #2. I realize that I just can’t handle it anymore. My boss doesn’t understand, because he just sees us sitting there at our computers and doesn’t know what’s going through her heads. But I’m just completely burnt out from constantly fixing someone else’s errors and watching them get little to no repercussions from it. And it’s not just like a fix spelling mistakes, in our industry, if you make a mistake it can take 2 to 3 months doing a series of things to fix it, so I always have a backlog of work fixing things that they caused. Feels like a hopeless situation.

    1. Anonymous Celebrity*

      I feel you. I spent a good deal of my career fixing mistakes made by people who are fine examples of Dunning-Kruger and who spend their working lives careening from one avoidable mistake to another, with few or no repercussions professionally.

      I moved into another field altogether in order to work with a smarter, more capable, more competent group of people and never regretted it. Actions should have consequences. Far too often they don’t. It’s stressful and demotivating to have to deal with incompetent employees and incompetent managers who won’t train/correct/demote/fire people who need those sorts of repercussions/remedial actions.

      Please know that it’s not like that everywhere. The best of luck to you in your job search. You can do better, and I hope that you do.

    2. OP #2*

      I really sympathize with this and am sorry you reached your breaking point. I hope you find a new gig that holds people accountable soon!

  48. T*

    Ugh been in #5’s position. I had a boss sitting next to me in full view of everything I was doing, but she was pretty relaxed and it actually wasn’t that bad. I also sat in a cubicle with low walls next to a completely bonkers supervisor. Different department than mine, different roles in the company, and I did not report to her. I would still turn and see her multiple times a day looking at my screen with her jaw hanging open checking out what I was doing. I got a screen guard which actually pissed her off which made no sense, I had absolutely nothing to do with her or her department. Bought the biggest plant I could find and created a wall of greenery between our desks.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Oh, it made perfect sense! The screen guard pissed her off because she could no longer play her nosy games.

  49. boop the first*

    4. The boss doesn’t want OP to wear shoes when she’s away from her desk and working. But the common trope is that the spare pair of shoes is often worn when you’re hiding behind your desk and working. So at what point during the day are employees expected to wear the heels? I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely a little curious. Or was the word “spare” not genuine?

    1. WellRed*

      Huh???? The spare in this example is the pair of shoes you would wear as backup when the main pair, for whatever reason (running a machine, escaping a fire, your boss hates the sight of them) are not the best choice.

      If you wore six-inch heels to work and brought another pair of six-inch heels in case a heel fell off the original pair it’s still a “spare” pair.

    2. Miss Displaced*

      My take on it was that the boss expresses concern because the OP was working with/or on some machine, and so it seemed task-related only and not a mandate against wearing high heels in the office. I don’t know if that machine was in a place that could be perceived as more of a safety issue, such as in the copy/mailroom (trip, slip & fall potential), the machine itself, or some aspect of working around it. Or perhaps boss was merely concerned about her comfort? Maybe all of the above.

      If that is the case, it seems to be a practical and reasonable request to keep some spare (extra) comfort shoes in one’s desk for when one has to do such things for more than 15-20 minutes.

  50. Bunny Girl*

    No. 3, I agree with Alison. I only think an Out of Office message should be there for when you are gone for longer than it would normally take you to reply. Although, there was a time where I was out for almost a week last year and didn’t put my reply up because I was really sick and just didn’t have the energy or mental space to log into our system from home and leave it there.

    I also think it depends on if you get a lot of internal vs. external email. Our office is closed for about two weeks around Christmas and a lot of people in our department don’t put an Out of Office up because they only get internal emails, and they know everyone else is going to be off too.

  51. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #1: I am in a similar situation, finally getting to do things in my current position that I did for a long time in a previous role. For various reasons, there have been a lot of assumptions that doing X is new to me, and yes, it is really, really annoying because it feels like people think you just floated in from a cloud and don’t have experience and skills. One of those compliments that’s not really a compliment. Take Alison’s advice, of course, but find that you may have to employ– as I have– bit of, “Yes, thank you, I’ve been doing this for a while.” My personal inclination has been to tell more stories about what I’ve done in previous roles when it’s relevant, but I’m trying hard not to become That Guy who always talks about the great stuff she did before getting here.

    But, in short, I sympathize and I hope the “growth” talk dies down sooner rather than later.

  52. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#4: Fellow high heel wearer here! I work in an environment very similar to yours and I have to admit that, on days when I know I’ll be at the copier a lot (I have to babysit my stuff) I wear flats or a very low wedge. I wear heels so frequently that co-workers often joke that “I’ve shrunk” or am missing “my 6 foot shins” on my flat days. I tell them it’s because I move faster, and I really do. As good as I am in heels of all heights, I will never be able to walk as fast in heels as I can in flats, so there is certainly some truth to your bosses statement.

    Perhaps a pair of cute ballet flats in a spare desk drawer will do the trick. That’s what I do. I agree with other commenters, this isn’t the hill to die on. Just take a pair of flats or even a super low wedge that you can speed walk in.

    Also, someone posited that your boss might be using this as a polite way to convey that your shoes are more club-appropriate than office-appropriate. That is hard to gauge from your letter, but I will admit that I went through a phase of wearing heels to work that were really not office appropriate (i.e. 5 inch, black patent peep toe pumps with a form fitting pencil skirt….some of my heels even had some large buckle detailing that made them look a little bondage-ey). With long pants and barely visible shoes, it might have worked, but with the pencil skirt, it was a little too “naughty secretary.” In that example, it was really the shoes that changed the “vibe” of the outfit. Had I worn flats or a smaller closed toe heel, the outfit would have been much tamer, for lack of a better word. Just some food for thought in case your boss did have a hidden message.


    1. Walking Tall*

      (LW 4)
      I can see your point, but if that is the case, she needs to say so. Hidden messages are quite often misunderstood and therefore don’t work. If the issue is her thinking my shoes are inappropriate for the office, she should tell me that and ask that I leave those shoes for my personal time. Simply telling me to have a change of shoes does nothing to adress that issue.

  53. MCMonkeyBean*

    It’s really unfair, but in many offices women still have a really fine line to walk with regards to dress code. We are often expected to wear makeup and heels to look “professional”, but not too much makeup or too high heels! OP, given that you yourself describe them as “very tall high heels” it is possible that your shoes are not seen by your boss as appropriate shoes for the office. If you truly believe there is no safety issue, it might be that your boss just took this as an opportunity to express something they’ve thought for a while. Dress codes are often unreasonable but I think in most cases not particularly worth fighting. I don’t think this is a battle worth fighting. Plus as others pointed out, buying shoes you think are ugly out of spite wouldn’t do much since you are the one who would actually have to wear them.

  54. Observer*

    #2 – Two things to keep in mind. Firstly, don’t worry about insulting your coworker. She’s, hopefully, an adult and can take feedback. Assuming that you present these suggestions in a factual and respectful (non-condescending) manner, that’s all you are doing. You are providing feedback with some actionable suggestions.

    Also, given what you describe, looping the boss into the situation is actually part of your job. Obviously you want to do this in a way that’s the least likely to harm your coworker. So, you skip any judgements, sweeping statements or non-factual statements. You stick to the facts – eg eg her lack of computer skills make is harder for her to access valuable resources or she’s still using standard X even though the rules changed to Standard Y 3 years ago and she’s resistant to changing. And you brig up the things that you think would help – eg basic computer skills training or a refresher course in the standards that apply to your field.

  55. Database Developer Dude*

    For OP#4 (Walking Tall)
    My comments aren’t generally directed for her, but for everyone else commenting. What makes the boss automatically right, that they’re the boss? I’m sorry, but no. I’ve worked with plenty of women wearing high heels who moved just as fast and safely as I do, and absent any tangible problem, it’s just the boss’ personal preference. She’s in an office, so if I already didn’t know by her comments, I would assume that by ‘machine’, the OP meant copy machine.

    Just because the boss is the boss doesn’t make them right, and if they get to win on this, what else will they push back on? I am betting that the boss is a man, and intimidated because the OP is taller than him, and even taller in high heels, and he’s using the “safety and efficiency” excuse to cover his own insecurities.

    I’ve seen it a lot, that a boss expresses personal preferences, and it’s expected to be taken as an order. I have a serious issue with that. We’re employees, not robots.

    1. Colette*

      The boss makes the rules. If you don’t like them, you can defy them (and take the consequences, which may include limits to your career at that location, getting fired, or building a reputation for being unreasonable) or accept them. You’re getting paid to do what your boss wants you to do (within reason – sexual harassment, criminal behavior, or safety violations are not included). If your boss is wrong, she should hear about that from her boss.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        So if my boss not only hated Freemasonry, but knew, for example that red is the color of Royal Arch Masonry, would the boss have the right to demand I change my tie to a different color? (I’m in a suit right now wearing a red shirt and tie, because I have my Royal Arch Chapter meeting tonight). How far are you willing to allow what seems to be a *personal preference* to go?

        Rules need to have good reasons behind them, not just “because I said so”. We’re not toddlers, we’re grown adults.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          In principle, you are right. She sits at a desk most days, who cares how tall her heels are?
          But, this also is a pick your battles situation.

          Just keep a cheap set of flats (or shirt or whatever) at your desk, if her boss decides it really matters one day and wants to push more than she can work to understand why and has a backup pair of shoes to show she listens.

        2. Colette*

          Honestly, if your boss hated the colour red and asked you to change the colour of your tie, I’d think she was focusing on the wrong things and being pretty petty.

          And if you made a big deal about it, I’d think you were also focusing on the wrong thing, and I’d probably never recommend you for a job in my network.

        3. CheeryO*

          Because not every hill is a hill to die on, and presumably keeping your job is more important than being right. You can roll your eyes internally and save it up as a good story for the future, but what use is it to push back on something like that when you can just as easily not wear red? People who are that petty are not likely to change just because someone gives them a hard time – they’re just likely to think less of you.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Okay, after further review, I withdraw my comment betting the boss is a man. The OP posted saying her boss was a woman (‘she’ was used)… still, another commenter had stated they thought the boss was thinking OP is “being a woman wrong”…whatever that means..and I’m tending to agree with that commenter.

      1. Walking Tall*

        Thanks for the support, but, while it’s totally possible for women to discriminate against other women (internalized patriarchy, etc) I’m leaning away from that in this instance. Perhaps, possibly an underlying thread, but no more than that. I don’t get that kind of vibe from her in general. I do know, though, that she has very strong views on what she sees as professionalism, and I suspect my heels don’t quite conform.

    3. Arctic*

      I don’t know any office that doesn’t allow bosses to set the dress code. And, in this case, she isn’t being restricted from wearing heels. Just on the few days she has to work the machine.

    4. The Francher Kid*

      They’re still the boss, though. You may not like it and it may not make it right, but that’s how it works in every place I’ve been employed. I would not make a spare pair of shoes my hill to die on, but that’s the OP’s call and not mine. The OP states in her letter and in follow up comments that her boss is a woman, BTW.

    5. hbc*

      The boss isn’t automatically right, but they get to “win” because they’re the boss. If they’ve got a couple of petty preferences that they turn into rules, you need to decide on a case by case basis if it’s something worth pushing back against, and then look collectively if you’re ceding too much autonomy. But I think very few people would hear “I [got fired/quit] because I refused to switch to flats during the couple of hours a month when the printer was having a tantrum” and feel like that person made a good decision.

      Also, I’m no fan of slippery slope arguments–just because your boss bans three inch heels doesn’t mean that you’re inviting a rule to have your skirt length measured or to wear a beige unisex jumpsuit.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        hbc, I’ve been in workplace situations before where the boss wasn’t automatically right, and here are a couple of examples:

        A co-worker who just lost his wife was *ordered* to remove his wedding ring upon his return to work. We worked in an office.

        A coworker was asked to wear a different NFL team’s tie because the boss isn’t a fan of his team.

        Are we really going to carry ‘the boss gets to win because they’re the boss’ to the personal preference extreme when there’s no good work-related mission reason for it? WTAF? We’re not personal barbie dolls.

        1. The Francher Kid*

          Dude, I think everyone who’s ever worked for somebody else has been in a situation where a boss made a rule that was anywhere from nutty to petty to outrageous to extreme. I’ve personally worked in a departmental hellmouth that hit all of the above. As hbc said, you get to decide whether it’s a hill you’re willing to die on. The boss is still the boss and does get to *win* because of that unless the rule bumps up against law, at which point HR/legal needs to step in.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Yeah, I’ve got an Army buddy who successfully pushed back against his commander after he’d lost his wife to breast cancer….he still wore his ring for a couple of years afterwards.

    6. Southern Yankee*

      DD Dude, I agree some of these responses have been a bit much. However, I will say that in many years as an employee and as a manager, dress code issues can be the toughest to navigate. It’s very personal, and people are likely to feel offended or even attacked. I’ve dealt with numerous issues where employees were stretching the dress code so far it had to be addressed and none of them were pleasant.

      Early in my career, I felt attacked when I was perceived as messy when I worked at an operations facility. Jeans and polo shirt just did not look as professional on me (5’2″ and overweight) as on male coworkers (6’0″ and trim). I was so completely hacked off when my boss shared some comments with me and pointed out the potential to impact my chance for advancement. It was not fair! How dare they say that! It was ridiculous! Here’s the thing, though. I was advised “perception is reality”. Even if the perception is not true, it may still delay or prevent you from reaching your goal. So all that you can control is changing something you do in order to change that perception.

      It was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It goes closely with “don’t dress for the job you have but the job you want”. Now, it may or may not apply to all jobs in all industries or in all circumstances. And sometimes, a boss is just being a jerk. But I think all the “not worth dying on this hill” comments reflect that it is hard to win the perception war on any kind of dress code issue. If it’s important enough to you to flout the advice from your boss, then be prepared to pay the “perception” loss of points. Sometimes it is absolutely worth paying those points, and sometimes it isn’t. Knowing the difference, and getting over the “not fair, I can wear what I want” approach can be a hard lesson. Only the OP can tell which it is in this case, and probably is worth a clarifying conversation with boss before deciding either way.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        I like the way you put that, Southern Yankee. Though I live in Virginia, I’m original from New England, so DD Dude sounds like a reference to Dunkin Donuts rather than Database Developer.

        While I’m completely on board with the “is this the hill you want to die on” concept. Some of these ridiculous letters were trying to justify what the boss is saying BECAUSE she’s the boss. I can easily comply with a bullshit rule because that’s not the hill I want to die on and STILL think of the boss as a micro-managing jackass imposing rules because of their personal preference. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

        Plus, I’ve got sense enough to go to work ( I work in an office ) in at least a polo shirt and nice jeans, and not in a thong and a crop top.

        1. Southern Yankee*

          The yankee in me appreciates the Dunkin Donuts reference – my mother’s maiden name is Duncan and I always felt oddly invested in their success as a kid (it only makes sense in 6-year old logic). Rock on Donut Dude!
          I also agree that not dying on that particular hill and boss is still a jerk can coexist. I thought the OP might appreciate the experience on “perception is reality” as a way to get through weird personal dress code crap. And I really wish all people had the sense to understand the difference between nice polo shirt+jeans and thong+crop top!

  56. Observer*

    #4- Your boss can indeed tell you to wear more practical shoes. Without knowing her exact reasoning, it’s hard to know whether she’s being reasonable, obnoxious or somewhere in between. But, you’re still not going to come off very well if you go out and get the sneakers you’re talking about just to be in her face. In fact, you are almost certainly going to come off as childish as well as petty.

    Now, depending on your office culture, if you happen to have a ratty old pair of shoes or sneakers that you really should have tossed some time ago, that might work – key word being MIGHT because it also depends on what your boss was really after and how she responds. But, in general, trying to score points with your boss is generally not a winning strategy, and using passive aggressive tactics like this doesn’t really help.

    By the way, does your office have a dress code?

    1. Walking Tall*

      I’d have to dig up the employment packet to see if there’s exact wording, but in general, the dress code is business casual, no shirts with writing, no skulls, no tattoos, no facial piercings, no brightly colored hair. Jeans on Friday.

      1. Observer*

        Your shoes probably stand out, I’d guess. But, I’d also guess that your boss is well within the “discretion” portion of the dress code, if it exists.

  57. CBH*

    OP#4 This may be a repeat comment, as I have not had a chance to read all the comments above. It might in general your company may consider such shoes to be a liability issue. You may be comfortable in 4 inch heels on a daily basis; you can probably walk the runway flawlessly; they most likely look fabulous… but boss might be thinking of the heels as cause for concern due to the nature of the job. The company may be concerned that IF something happened the company could have a lawsuit on their hands. While you have every reason to justify wearing 4 inch heels to work, the company has reasons to justify you not wanting to.

  58. Orange You Glad*

    OOO Messages – If you use Outlook, they have a feature to send OOO messages just to people in your organization or to people outside your organization. I use this a lot depending on how long I’ll be gone. If I’m out for one day – I just send the OOO to coworkers in the organization. This let’s me give everyone a heads up that I’m not available and who to contact if immediate responses are needed. Outside contacts don’t necessarily need to know that and I can usually respond the next morning when I’m back at work.

  59. Database Developer Dude*

    #3 – OOO messages – I normally only put a message up on my email if I’m going to be out on PTO or Military Leave. That means I might not get to a message the same day. Plus, I get my work email on my phone, as do many in my firm.

  60. Kenneth*

    I’m actually surprised no one has mentioned this yet…

    LW#4, look at 29 CFR § 1910.136. While you likely don’t need to make sure that whatever you select is fully in compliance with that, the fact you’re occasionally running a “particular machine” means your actions on the job may fall under that regulation with regard to your footwear. There’s a lot of occupational safety regulations that can apply, meaning this is not only a battle you shouldn’t fight, it’s one you’re guaranteed to lose if you try.

    While you might not think it’s your boss’s place to “mandate [your] comfort”, it is their job to ensure your *safety* as best as possible. And “tall heels” around “machinery” is absolutely not acceptable. And compliance with regulation is something on which your employer has no choice, not unless they like paying fines and being subject to additional scrutiny by regulatory agencies.

    If you’d pressed this with your boss, Federal and State regulations, as well as the company’s safety policies, likely would’ve come up at some point.

    1. Observer*

      You can’t be serious. It’s really hard to make the case that running a copier or even unjamming it) would be considered a situation where there is “a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole” or “an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures”

      That’s the exact language that OSHA uses to describe the conditions under which they require protective foot wear.

      1. Kenneth*

        Back in the original letter, she described it as “a particular machine”. That leaves a LOT of latitude for interpretation. It appears the LW has clarified additionally here in the comments that it’s a “large copier”. At the time I posted my comment, I did not see the clarification since she used a pseudonym that didn’t readily point out she is LW#4.

  61. Mockingjay*

    #3: OOO messages can be useful in context. It’s really up to each office’s culture or your boss’s preference. I worked for a supervisor that used OOO as an employee tracker by the hour. (A shared calendar would have worked so much better, but boss’s call…)

    I use OOO messages when I am physically absent from the premises for leave or work travel, with start and stop dates. I include an alternate point of contact. The POC is always someone who can actually do my tasks – someone who can help as opposed to Bob who just happens to sit near me but isn’t on my project. I also brief that POC before I leave. Nothing worse than getting blindsided by: “Hey, Mockingjay, Mary is out this week and said you would clear the teapot spout backlog while she’s out.”

  62. TotesMaGoats*

    My OOO goes on if I’m going to be out of the office for a whole day or more. Whether it’s sick, vacation or otherwise. T
    I will put up a voice mail greeting if I’ll be in meetings most of the day and tell people to email me.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is not putting up an away message. It takes two seconds and you can do it from home too. I’ve sent urgent requests only to find out people are out sick or away in general.

    1. TootsNYC*

      i often find myself wanting an answer quickly from someone who works on another floor, and if I don’t hear back immediately, I’ll call a colleague and say, “Is she out, or just away from her desk? If I know I’ll get an answer when she gets back from the bathroom, or out of a meeting, I can wait. But if she’s away for the afternoon/day, I’m going to chase that answer some other way.”

      If someone’s truly not in the office for most of the day, I like their to be an OOO.

      So I put up an OOO if I think it might be helpful to someone in that situation. (I’ve never had a boss get very micromanage-y on this point; I have seen a process manager tell an entire team, Please put up an OOO if you are not going to be able to get back to people in less than 2 hours)

    2. Anonyby*

      Not everyone can set an OOO if they’re out sick.

      Even if I could set one from home (I can’t), if I’m sick then I’m just going to text my manager/coworkers, then crawl back into bed.

  63. Jennifer*

    I got major Devil Wears Prada vibes from #4, except in reverse. IF it’s not a safety issue, then I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what shoes she wears to work. I’m not a big heels person but some people enjoy fashion and expressing their individuality that way.

    IF it is a safety issue, then bring more practical shoes from home. This isn’t worth a fight. I do think that if certain types of footwear are required or prohibited at this job, it seems that would have come up in orientation or would have been mentioned much earlier. I’m leaning toward this is more of the boss’s preference than a job requirement.

    And if it was an emergency, no way I’d take an extra minute or two to change shoes. I’d take them off.

    1. LQ*

      I think the thing about emergency is that while emergencies are emergencies, they don’t always require literally instant action. Fire. Fire sounds like a take off the shoes and run thing right? But I’m in a 20 story building. I’m on the 5th floor, if there was a fire on the roof we’d all need to get out. But I’d have time to change shoes. Or grab my coat. It’s going to take a long enough for people to get to the exits and get out and I’m far enough down that I’m going to be ok changing shoes. Maybe not lacing up high top sneakers, but kick off heels and slip on flats? Sure. Power out, yeah, time to change shoes is fine. Bad snow. Random midday transit shut down. Broken heel. (This absolutely happened to me and I had to use super glue to glue it back together. It did not work. Worst of all I had to walk about a mile with it, in snow. Taking it off was the worse option. I did finally give up and snap off both heels, it was bad but less so.)

      Not all emergencies are actual run for the hills right now emergencies so being prepared to swap is good.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true. But the comments from the OP’s boss had nothing to do with emergencies or safety really. Women wear heels every day. The chances of an emergency happening are slim. I don’t understand the focus on shoes and emergencies when that’s not what this is about. My comment was just a response to that.

  64. Ginger*

    #4 – based on your responses to comments, I’m going to go out on limb and wonder if you and your boss have bigger issues than just shoes. The shoe issue seems to be a symptom of something larger. Your tone seems very defensive and you’re quick to want to go straight to a passive aggressive response (neon sneakers) instead of reflecting on why your boss might ask you to wear something more appropriate. You also put down her personal choice in footwear which isn’t really helpful or mature.

    I know its hard to be picked apart in a comment section but these are just observations from neutral 3rd party based on the details you’ve provided.

    1. Walking Tall*

      I apologize if you feel I was insulting my boss’s choice of footwear. Where did you see this? I don’t have any problem with her shoes, and any implication of such was unintended. I only recall mentioning her shoes in one comment where someone asked why I jumped to sneakers. I suggested that since my boss wears sneakers, maybe that’s why my brain went there first. But I have nothing against sneakers vs flats vs kitten heels, and I have worn all those styles happily in the past. I never meant to imply that *sneakers* were the offensive part of what I planned as my “spite shoes” but rather the bright neon part. The sneakers mention was incidental.

      1. Kay Webble*

        Just to chime in as another third party observer, I think you’ve been very, very polite today in all of your responses. I’ve only really seen you clarify things and refuse to put down your boss. I haven’t seen you act defensive at all. Just my observation.

        But really, as I said in another comment, do Google Amanda Blanc Shoes to see what my former CEO (and an absolute powerhouse) kicks back in. I think you’ll love it!

        1. Walking Tall*

          Thanks! I always try to encourage polite discussion on the internet. There’s too much sniping and vitriol as it is; I don’t need to be part of that.

          I did check out Amanda Blanc. Her style isn’t quite me, but I love her confidence and boldness. I did feel a little guilty scrolling past all her actual accomplishments because I wanted to look at her shoes, though, haha.

  65. TootsNYC*

    #1: getting to use a skill that you had before, but that others have never seen.

    TALK ABOUT IT! Even before they bring it up.
    And in greater depth when they talk about “coming into your own” or “growth.”

    Start saying, “Oh, it felt so good to get back to doing X. I’ve done it before, and I always liked it, so it’s nice to finally get a chance to do it.”

    “Finally I get a chance to use all that lama midwife experience from my previous jobs.”

  66. Jennifer*

    I have read the comments from OP#4 and it’s very obvious she works in an office setting. Many women wear heels to work everyday. Wear the shoes, girl. I’m sure you look fab in them.

    I think keeping the flats at your desk just in case is a good idea but I think your boss was just annoyed by all that was going on that day and lashed out. Your shoes had nothing to do with the real issue at hand which was the copy machine malfunctioning. She just needed something to blame. I’d bet this won’t come up again.

    Now that I know this is about a malfunctioning copy machine, I think this is more 9 to 5 than reverse Devil Wears Prada.

  67. TootsNYC*

    Having lived through a few “exceptional” disasters/events, I have come to see those as reminders to be prepared in general.

    Every preparation one might make for a hurricane / widespread blackout / etc. is something that would be really helpful in the event of a chemical spill / steampipe explosion / sudden illness.

    The thought of a big, dramatic event (like the sudden bankruptcy of one’s employer, or maybe the zombie apocalypse) can motivate us in ways that the thought of smaller events might not–but then the smaller events turn out to be the places in which we use those preparations.

  68. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m a bit gobsmacked by some of the attitudes I’ve seen in the comments.

    It *is* possible to BOTH comply with a bullshit rule because it’s not the hill you want to die on AND push back because the rule is bullshit, or simply think to yourself that the boss is a micromanaging jackass. Even if you’re complying, it doesn’t mean the boss is right.

    1. Milksnake*

      I felt the same way about the comments section. It’s not such a “you’re right she’s wrong” situation, there can be grey area.

      Part of me thinks this “get over it” reaction might have something to do with it being specifically about high heels… but I’ll leave it at that.

    2. Colette*

      In the workplace, the boss is right. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s objectively right, or that her requests are reasonable, but it does mean she gets to have it her way. If the business doesn’t like it, they can take appropriate action (up to and including firing); if the OP doesn’t like it, she can decide if it’s worth quitting over.

      In this case, the manager has asked the OP to keep another pair of shoes at work. She hasn’t banned high heels, or even said she’d like the OP to wear the other shoes – she just wants them available. That doesn’t seem ridiculously outrageous.

      1. Jennifer*

        The boss isn’t always right. Even if she did end up firing what sounds like a pretty good employee over shoes, that wouldn’t mean she was in the right.

  69. Certified Llama Midwife*

    I want LW#1 to say “I did a lot of llama midwifery in my last job” in response no matter what the job actually is.

  70. JessicaTate*

    LW4: I was an avowed high-heel-wearer at my office jobs in my 20s. Not sky-high, but 2.5-3″ heel was my norm. I liked them. I functioned well in them. Hell, I could run in them. And people – bosses and coworkers and family, for that matter – felt the need to comment on them regularly. It was usually with a tone that came across as passive-aggressively judgemental — “I don’t know how you walk in those.” “It’s our resident fashionista.” “Oooh, what shoes is JT wearing today?” “Don’t your feet hurt?” Etc. So, I’ve been in your metaphorical shoes and I understand the chronic judgy BS that’s being hurled in your direction. My advice…

    It is completely possible (likely) that your boss’s request is coming from a judgemental place about how she perceives your footwear (and you… and possibly herself), rather than the reality of whether it is hampering your abilities. Coworkers, you can ignore or shut down. But because it’s a boss, I might look for a less aggressive, passive-aggressive middle ground. Could you bring/find a pair of shoes that are also to your liking, but a lower heel? They are arguably more “practical,” but still you. [This was my solution for a judgemental cousin who told me not to wear heels to her wedding (I was a guest). I got a pair of kitten heels that I still loved, and told her, “To me, these are flats.”] If Boss still pushes back after that, it’s an opening for a bigger discussion about what is the underlying performance issue that she’s seeing (or not seeing). Or you could just have that conversation now, if it’s a hill you really want to die on.

    1. mf*

      This was my read on the situation too. It’s amazing how many people will comment if you wear high heels on a daily basis, *especially* older women (in my experience).

      I would bring in a pair of flats and leave them under my desk. If Boss asked me to change my shoes, I would say, “Well, I have a pair of flats, but they hurt my feet. I can change if you want, but it will slow me down.”

  71. Powercycle*

    #1 – I went through something similar when I changed tech support jobs in my mid 20s. I already had 5+ years experience in tech support with my previous employer (including 2 years in a senior technical role) but most of my new bosses were treating like I just came out of school. Everything I had done before counted for nothing. I basically had to prove myself all over again. It was a frustrating experience.

  72. Anonyby*

    For #3, if I’m out on vacation, I put up an OOO message. Less than a day I don’t worry about, but I can get stuff that require same-day response. I also don’t worry about putting one up for holidays—the outside companies I contact and get emails from are all closed for the same holidays, and if it’s my internal clients… well, they receive multiple emails leading up to the holiday that we’ll be closed.

    The only time I have to worry about it is if I’m sick, because I don’t have any chance to stick up an OOO ahead of time and the browser login for our emails doesn’t let me put up OOO messages.

  73. Red 5*

    On #3, as somebody who actually monitors an account that gets all of the out of office bounce backs from mass mailings, for the love of binary code, I wish people would stop putting them up if they were going to be gone less than 48 hours. For one, because then I wouldn’t have to deal with it but also because I start to get this really depressive sinking sensation reading them about how “on” these people are expected to be and how obsessively connected their office culture must be that they think they have to put up an auto reply for, I kid you not, being away from their desk for lunch.

    I only saw that one once, but I see them for anything from “I’ve got several meetings this afternoon” to “I’m out for the next two years on sabbatical.” I really weep for our office culture at how many I see are for people just being out for an afternoon or a morning, it’s probably about 1/3 of them.

  74. TechWorker*

    In my company OOO are most useful in that they usually point to the team alias. Eg I used to work across a bunch of stuff and my ooo would be like:
    Out until x, for llama grooming contact llama-groomers, for haircare contact llama-haircare-support and for anything else contact my manager, Bob-Jones.

    Then it’s useful even if i am only out for a day, because it points them to someone who can probably solve their problem quicker (and that extra day often turns into nearly 2 if it’s a Monday or Friday, because we work with people in non-overlapping timezones in both directions)

  75. poop doctor*

    getting noticed in the organization is a skill unto its own and would constitute growth in my opinion.

  76. Academic Advisor*

    OOO: This affirms what I like about working in student affairs in higher ed – expectations about email reply are much more relaxed than in a business. We’re often meeting with students all day and get maybe an hour tops to answer emails so even under normal circumstances, a two business days response time is normal. If students email twice in 24 hours about something non-urgent it’s an educational point about how they need to plan ahead and cannot expect instant turnaround. Many people I work with won’t put an OOO unless it’s two or more business days. One day is OK but anyone with an OOO for a half day or less would get some raised eyebrows.

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