someone is stinking up the bathroom by my office, I’m forced to use a nickname, and more

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

1. Someone is stinking up the bathroom next to my office

I am writing this partially to check myself. Please feel free to tell me to grow up and that this shouldn’t bother me!

I have a senior level position at a non-profit organization. Our offices are in a renovated home and my office is the former master bedroom which is on a wing of the house that is slightly separate from the rest of the building. The master bathroom is also in this separate wing with a door right next to mine sharing a wall. There are no other offices in this wing.

I have a lot of meetings with donors and members of our executive board, which is part of the reason for my admittedly plum office situation. In the past few months, a woman who works on another floor of the house in another department has started coming to the master bathroom at least once (and often twice) a day to do her business. This business is often loud and always smelly. In addition to my annoyance, this has also been awkward when I am having meetings or bringing guests to my office. She has many other bathroom options (the house has four bathrooms for nine employees) and she literally passes two bathrooms between her office and mine, so this isn’t a situation where she doesn’t have a choice.

The idea of talking to her about this feels extremely uncomfortable, but all my other possible solutions (locking the door when I’m having meetings or loading it up with air fresheners) feel very passive aggressive. Do I need to just suck it up and have this conversation or is passive aggressive the way to go?

I actually do think you could lock it an hour or so before meetings, and in an office this small, you could let people know what you’re doing and why. Not naming the perpetrator, of course — but saying something like, “The bathroom next to my office has become a popular choice for more pungent activities, likely because it’s located away from the others, and this has caused problems when VIPs are here for meetings. To avoid that, I’m going to lock it ahead of those meetings. It’ll be unlocked the rest of the time.”

The rest of the time, though … well, it’s a bathroom! I can see why it’s annoying that she’s leaving her own floor to come use what probably feels like “your” bathroom, but it isn’t really your bathroom and she may prefer to expose one person to the sounds and smells rather than many (and if she doesn’t work closely with you, she may like the illusion of anonymity that she can’t get with people she talks to all day).

And there’s nothing wrong with putting a white noise machine and some Poopourri in there.

2. My office wants to make me use a nickname

My name is, let’s say, Jane Smith. I just received this communication on messenger from my office manager:

Quick question: do you have a fav nickname you like to go by?
How do you feel about “JS”‘? lol
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about Smithy?

I believe this is part of an overall strategy to improve office culture. How do I politely say I like to go by my first name/last name combination. Or just the former. Apparently everyone in the office got the same request and it’s mandatory. I have to submit a nickname by Monday! I honestly don’t have a nickname. My boyfriend suggested that I request to be referred to as “Your Majesty” but I’m a little worried that my coworkers might actually start calling me that.

“I feel strongly that names are very personal and I really don’t go by a nickname or want to go by one. So just Jane for me.”

If you’re pressed, “Really, I’m just Jane. In my family, names are a really meaningful and personal thing and I would feel really uncomfortable having a nickname.”

And if you’re up for it: “I appreciate that this is an attempt to make the culture here friendlier.  But being forced to go by a nickname I don’t like and don’t use would be the opposite of morale-boasting for me. If we want to improve the culture, maybe we can talk about (insert actually useful thing your office needs here).”

3. Being booked in “basic economy” on flights for job interviews

Is there a good way to push back on a company booking your travel for an interview as “basic economy”? I’ve seen plenty of times that basic economy travelers are the first to get bumped and forced to check their bags (in addition to being stuck in middle seats), and I always spend the extra money to avoid it myself. Now a company has booked me on a basic economy fare for my cross country flight to interview. I feel like there might not be anything to do now except suck it up for this interview, but is there a way to prevent this from happening in the future?

(I do want to point out that I’m totally fine with coach. That’s what I book for myself! The issue is the “basic economy” that makes you board last/not choose a seat/etc. On the last few flights I’ve been on, I’ve watched at least two passengers with this type of fare get booted to later flights, too, so part of my concern is not arriving on time. I’m also going to have to pay for my carry-on.)

You can absolutely say, “Would it be possible to put me in Economy rather than Basic Economy? That way my carry-on will be covered and I won’t be at as high a risk for being bumped off the flight.”

It’s possible that it’s their policy to book everyone in Basic Economy, but it’s just as likely that someone junior handling travel arrangement saw a very low fare and grabbed it, but will change it if you ask.

4. Can I ask to work from home whenever there’s dangerous weather?

Two weeks ago, I was in a bad car crash during a snowstorm on my way to work. I was not at fault, but my car was totaled, I was trapped in the vehicle for awhile, and I sustained minor injuries to my neck and shoulders. I live in the far north where driving conditions are frequently deadly in the winter. The crash was traumatic, and has remained traumatic because driving conditions have been consistently bad since my accident. I feel extremely anxious while driving because the roads have been so unsafe lately.

My boss suggested I work from home that entire week as I sorted out my injuries (which were thankfully minor) and found a new vehicle. I was so grateful she offered this option. The following week, driving conditions were still brutal, and I requested that I work from home two days, which was granted. My job has a formal policy that allows staff to telework with their supervisor’s approval.

We’re now on week 3, and we’re expecting 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow and the same the next day. I want to ask for the option to work from home on days when conditions are bad, but I worry that maybe I’m pushing it. I don’t want my boss to think I am milking this or taking advantage of her thoughtfulness in initially suggesting I work from home that first week. I have a good relationship with my boss that allows me to be candid, so I brought this up to her last week when I asked for additional work-at-home days, telling her I in no way intended to take advantage of her flexibility to date but that I was genuinely concerned about safely arriving at work due to the conditions. She agreed and said it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Am I pushing it if I ask to work from home any time driving conditions are significantly dangerous? My boss herself works from home four days a week, so I don’t know why I feel oddly guilty asking for this accommodation, at least for now. I’ve been at this job less than one year and am still eager to reinforce that I am a good employee with a strong work ethic.

In theory, the answer should be that if driving conditions are dangerous, everyone should stay home and you shouldn’t worry about asking. In reality, if you live somewhere that routinely has bad weather conditions, you’ll generally be expected to find a way to get to work except in really extreme situations.

But you’re in an office where working from home isn’t uncommon and you just had a serious accident. You shouldn’t be pushing it if you say something like, “For the rest of the winter, would it be okay for me to plan to work from home when driving conditions are dangerous? I’m still shaken up by my crash and I’d feel a lot better being able to plan on doing that, but I don’t want to assume it would be okay without talking to you, and I don’t want you to feel I’m taking advantage of your flexibility.”

5. When should I start applying for jobs?

I graduate early May, and I’m not sure if I have begun applying too early. I won’t be able to start any jobs until after graduation, but I also don’t know how long the process usually takes or how quickly employers are looking to fill positions.

Go ahead and start now. Some employers will be looking to have someone start more quickly than that, but lots of hiring processes take months. You can’t always tell from the outside, but this is a reasonable time to begin applying. Most employers will figure out from the fact that you’re in school that you’re not available until May, but if for some reason one doesn’t, you can make sure it’s clear when they first contact you. (There are also some fields that hire a bunch of soon-to-be-grads even earlier than now, like parts of finance and law, but you probably know if you’re in one of those fields.)

Make sure that your resume lists your education this way:

University of Porridge, B.A. in Oatmeal expected May 2019

{ 624 comments… read them below }

    1. Woman of a certain age

      No, you aren’t. Poor lady probably has IBS, and as a fellow sufferer, who has walked to ANOTHER BUILDING often to find a more private bathroom, and who has held up AN ENTIRE PLANELOAD OF PEOPLE from takeoff because I absolutely, absolutely, HAD to use the plane lavatory before we were towed to the taxiway–and it was the front lavatory, so the FA’s gave me attitude as I exited just in case the whole planeload of passengers didn’t know it was because of me, and WORSE, FAR WORSE, you don’t envy this poor lady, trust me.
      On the other hand, I’d die rather than use the VIP bathroom, knowing that sounds and odors were making their way to the VIP office. I’d absolutely bring my OWN white noise machine and plenty of Febreze. And I would still die of embarrassment.

      1. Just Employed Here

        The odds of you dying of embarrassment are probably lower than the odds of Stinky being jealous.

      2. JulieCanCan

        When my IBS was at its worst 20-25 years ago, I needed to use the restroom 6-10 times a day while at work. I’d call my mom crying from a private room in our suite to commiserate since she had it in her late teens and early 20’s also and knew what a pain in the ass it was. Literally . Sorry.

        Twice daily (at the office) sounds more like someone who eats a lot of fiber.

        Sorry to get so specific, but it’s part of life for many of us. I would have KILLED for twice daily.

        1. Crooked Bird

          Maybe Stinky is actually in the same boat and that’s what they meant…?
          Anyway I’m so sorry that sounds like it SUCKS. (Sucked? Or both…)

      3. Cat Fan

        I am guessing that she does not realize she can be heard and smelled, she probably thinks that bathroom is a lot more private than it really is. I think once OP says something about it to the group, she will realize and stop using that bathroom all together.

        1. Em Dash

          Came here to say this! I seriously suspect that she thinks she’s found an out-of-the-way place to take care of business and would be mortified to learn it’s not as private as she hoped. In this case, alerting the group to the new arrangement would be doing her a kindness.

          1. Michaela Westen

            I’ve been at my job for several years and just realized recently the people on the other side of the wall of one of our bathrooms can probably smell it. I can hear them talking, and once saw a waterbug walk under that wall… so sounds and odors probably travel too.
            It’s the second choice bathroom as it’s not ventilated, but you know, sometimes it’s necessary…

          2. Random person

            I would NEVER think that someone could hear me in the bathroom through what probably looks like a solid wall.

      4. AnonNurse

        Actually, chronic constipation can be a very painful and embarrassing condition for its own reasons. Please don’t discount the possibility that someone might really be jealous of that situation.

        1. kittymommy

          Preach! I have IBSD, it’s horrible and is definitely an impediment on my life. A co-worker at my last job had chronic constipation and I always though that would be great. It is not. I can understand sufferers of either envying the other extreme not realizing that it’s just the other end of the nightmare.

      5. Snark

        This strikes me as a lot more about you than about the letter writer or the person in question, to be blunt, and I don’t think it’s reasonable at all to asssume that someone who poops twice a day has IBS.

        1. formergr

          Yeah, I have to agree. While I always appreciate having my worldview expanded and learning new things in the comments here, other times it feels like the comment section has become a rush to prove the exception rather than the rule based on personal experience.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’ve deleted a bunch of off-topic posts about people’s poo. It’s fine to say “hey, here’s what could be happening” but we don’t need 20 detailed personal examples.

              1. Database Developer Dude

                Not with co-workers. The ones on the gig I’m at currently already have boundary issues. Damn millenials!

        1. MCMonkeyBean

          Someone recently left a bottle on the toilet in the bathroom at my office and I am *not* impressed. Every time I go in there it just smells like citrusy poop which is really just worse.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

            I wonder if people are using it incorrectly, like it’s an air freshener for afterwards. It has to be sprayed IN the toilet bowl BEFORE you go. It’s scented oil and stuff so it creates a film on top of the water that helps prevent/minimize odors from wafting up and out.

            1. Nic

              Honestly, I’m surprised that works. I mean, once it’s under the water, I’d expect the majority of the smell not to make it out anyway (unless you left it for hours!). Surely the majority of the smell happens as it leaves you/in the moments before it hits the water?

      6. Prof. Kat

        This got me thinking. I have IBS that has, at different times, resulted in both ends of this particular equation. I’m truly not sure which one I would prefer. I mean, neither, obviously. But if I had to choose…yeah, I really don’t know. They both suck a lot!

      7. Rumbakalao

        It really isn’t a competition. People have all types of bowel schedules without necessarily having anything significantly wrong with them.

    2. Anon tmi

      So I had my large bowel removed. I go frequently, and it can be noisy. Not to be envied as it can be embarrassing.

      I wonder if using the master is a reasonable accomodation that’s been agreed?

      1. Gigi

        Sure it could be an accommodation but I bet if it is it won’t be if they know that the board and donors can hear what’s going on in there.
        I like the make an announcement and then lock the door before meetings plan.

      2. Rumbakalao

        OP states that there are 4 available bathrooms. This doesn’t sound like it could be a reasonable accommodation since the effect it’s having it certainly not “reasonable.”

    3. always in email jail

      I have Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis and honestly I would prefer the lock the door before meetings plan. I would DIE if it turned out the boss AND GUESTS could hear me! I’d much rather be barred from the bathroom than have that happen!
      I also second Allison’s poo-pourri for the bathrooms situation.

      1. Mike C.

        Talking about how many times you sh!t is not an appropriate topic of discussion and I can’t believe I have to explain this to actual adults.

        And do you see me talking about cars and driving? No? Then why bring it up? Is talking about cars and driving an inappropriate topic of discussion in a professional workplace? No? Then why bring it up?

          1. Sunflower

            I’m sure those posts on IBS sites are appropriate for their forum. I would completely expect details. And also know to avoid such a site if I was tired of reading about poop. No problems there.

            I should be able to navigate the comments section of a workplace blog without being bombarded by details about the frequency of strangers’ bowel movements.

        1. Annette

          It’s your lucky day – you don’t need to explain anything to adults! You can choose to ignore and KYMS. What did you think a thread about pooping would contain. Live with the consequences.

        2. Delphine

          Talking about how many times you sh!t is not an appropriate topic of discussion[…]

          That’s a strange rule.

          1. Annette

            Many people = obsessed with etiquette and maintaining veneer of professionalism at all costs. Even though this blog is not a workplace. They apply the rules of a workplace. To understand more -read Michel Focault’s Discipline & Punish.

            1. One (1) Anon

              The fact that you’re bringing in Foucault, of all people, to judge people who don’t want to hear you talk about poop is honestly hilarious. It’s not about professionalism, dude.

              1. Annette

                Actually – I do not talk about poop. But when I see overly sensitive commenters like the one above. I weigh in.

              2. One (1) Anon

                By comparing them to Discipline and Punish? That’s not weighing in with a helpful comment, that’s straight-up ridiculous.

                (Also maybe spell his name right if you’re going to namedrop Foucault?)

              3. Annette

                Adopting the mentality of a workplace and policing language to conform to work norms even when not actually working or being supervised. Is very similar to what MF describes. My mind may be sharper than my keyboard – but if you resort to correcting spelling it says very sad things about yours.

              4. Canadian Public Servant

                One (1) Anon, please note that the commenting rules specifically state to be kind and not nitpick spelling (amongst other things).

            2. Michaela Westen

              Having studied the subject I really don’t feel that mentioning frequency is overly detailed. I haven’t seen any other details here.
              I think some people want us to pretend we don’t poop – but we all do, and with the sensitivity of that system we sometimes need to discuss and compare notes.
              Also don’t even get me started on all the non-food ingredients in food and medicine that *cause* IBS symptoms. Discussion of that would benefit a lot of people!

    4. JJ

      Sounds like a great opportunity to get some company-branded matches! Nothing better for bathroom smells, plus it’s less direct than the sudden appearance of Poo-pourri.

    5. Magenta

      I was always told anything between 3 times a week and 3 times a day is fine and anything outside of that might need looking in to.

    6. MissDisplaced

      I’ve had bad IBS reaction days where 10-12 times can happen. It’s horrible and painful.
      But I get it, poop stinks! It’s just as awful to walk into or have sit near stinky bathroom and/or hear all that.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    I’m really struggling to understand how forcing nicknames on people (or forcing them to adopt nicknames) would somehow improve office culture.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I don’t understand how creating them or even using them sporadically improves office culture in any way.

        1. Woman of a certain age

          Sounds like a very young boss who has no actual idea of how to improve office morale or culture. Perhaps she read it in a book somewhere (“use people’s nicknames if possible, to show friendliness”) and in her inexperienced mind this translated into “DEMAND NICKNAMES IN WRITING FROM EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY”

          1. nonegiven

            Name: Jane

            My nickname is JANE. I’m afraid I would never adjust to answering (or even notice some one calling) to any other name.

            1. gsa

              Yup! I have a fairly traditional first name with the obvious associated nicknames. People never understand when I don’t answer to one of those nicknames.

              BTW, I think we should calling Kit Kat either Reese’s or Three Musketeers!!! :D

              1. AnonEMoose

                I have a first name with a ton of nicknames attached. And I hate being called any of them. I go by Full First Name. Always. Even my mother uses Full First Name, and my husband and my best friend either use an endearment (Best Friend and I call each other “hon” fairly often) or Full First Name.

                Now that I’m a bit older, it doesn’t happen as often, but when I was in my 20s, I’d get people who would be like “oh, that’s so formal, I’ll just call you [NICKNAME],” and who would then get offended when I told them “I go by Full First Name,” or would fail to respond to whatever they had decided my name was. It was incredibly annoying. So, yeah, I would do my best to shut this office nickname thing down HARD.

                If I got pushback on Alison’s script, I might go with something like “I’m happy to use the names people prefer, but I don’t have any nicknames I like to use myself.”

                1. MechanicalPencil

                  You and I must be cut from the same cloth. The only possible nicknames for my name make me cringe. One of my coworkers tried one, and I pushed back so hard I think I toppled him. My name is MechanicalPencil, and anything less than that is incorrect.

                2. stitchinthyme

                  I always call people whatever they’re introduced to me as, unless they themselves correct it. So if you go by (for instance) Elizabeth, David, or Marcus (all people I know who go by their full first names), that’s what I’ll call you.

                  How hard is it to call someone what they prefer to be called?

                  I also don’t have any nicknames, and my first name is short and easy to pronounce (think something like “Sarah”), so it’s not exactly a hardship for people to say the whole thing. It annoys me when people try to shorten it to just the first syllable, though thankfully that doesn’t happen often. I also get a lot of people assuming that my name is already a nickname because it’s often used as a shortened version of a longer name — but it’s not; that’s what’s on my birth certificate.

                3. CoveredInBees

                  I also have a first name that can have a lot of nicknames that people would just start using. They would even give me nicknames that were entirely different names but had many of the same letters as my name. These were people I saw regularly and had seen my name written down many times. I cringed at all of them but especially because people loved to choose the most cutesy nicknames that I detested.

                4. EPLawyer

                  “I’m happy to use the names people prefer, but I don’t have any nicknames I like to use myself.”

                  This is what improves morale. Treat people with respect. Use the name AND pronouns they prefer. Don’t impose your ideas of names on someone else. Nothing says you are not important than saying “Hey I will call you what I feel comfortable calling you.”

                  No I am not touchy on this subject at all, why do you ask (It’s EPLAWYER not Lawyer, EP or anything else)

                5. Mari

                  Trust me, when I have to go by GivenName, it is always GivenName because the only nicknames whomp (one is overly masculine and one reminds Xers and Boomers of Three’s Company; the association is unflattering). Mostly I tell them just to call me Mari because I’m actually planning a name change. GivenName doens’t fit and half the time I don’t even respond to that!

                6. Seeking Second Childhood

                  My daughter’s the same way. Full name, no shortcuts, all syllables please.
                  Ironically, one reason we named her what we did is it HAD nicknames available. My name does not — no it’s not Jane — and growing up it felt like I was the only kid without a nickname.

              2. ElspethGC

                Ugh, yes. My name isn’t exactly traditional (except in Scotland) but people seem to have a pathological need to give me nicknames. There were people at school (thankfully seems to have died down since leaving that behind) that I wouldn’t speak to for months because they kept trying to use nicknames.

                My name is Elspeth. Not Ellie, not Elsie, not Beth. They’re all perfectly nice names, but they’re not *my* name. It is two syllables. It is not a taxing name to say. Just say it.

                (The only ones that stuck were ‘speth, which was close friends dropping a syllable, and Elspie from my parents. They are not names that strangers call me. They are names that people who have known me for at least a decade call me. I certainly wouldn’t let coworkers use them.)

                1. Metalhead momma

                  My first name is Fiona. I’ve gotten all kinds of crap nicknames from people over the years. My least favorite are Fi and FiFi. I flat out tell them I am NOT a French poodle and I do not answer to that. Most people apologize except for one person I work with. He kept trying to call me Fi, bless his heart. I kept telling him to stop calling me that. My boss and his boss had to get involved. He stopped. Only one person has a nickname for me that I answer to, my brother. My parents and my sister don’t even call me this particular nickname.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood

                  @Metalhead Momma The “Fifi” line made me think of Lynda Barry’s drawing “Poodle with a Mohawk” …a friend had the poster and the punchline “They’ll never call him Fifi again” has stayed with me for many years. :)

              3. emmelemm

                I’m the same. My name has a million nicknames. I answer to none of them. If a boss tried to make me do this, I would be really P.O.ed.

                1. UKDancer

                  Likewise. My name has many abbreviations and nicknames and I refuse to answer to any of them. I don’t like having my name shortened. I like my name as it is and am clear at work that I expect people to use my name in full. My parents have given me a nickname after a character in a TV series but its not what I’d consider professional (it’s along the lines of Tinkerbelle). I wouldn’t thank any of my colleagues for using it and it’s a private family joke.

                  Interestingly the only exception is in a class I take with a Spanish teacher where she calls me the Spanish version of my name (think Caterina for Catherine). I don’t mind that so much because it doesn’t feel like a nickname, just a different pronuncation.

                  I’d take exception to someone trying to devise a nickname for me at work. My name is a part of my identity and I define myself.

                2. Alianne

                  The one and only time I have accepted a nickname at work is when there were three other folks working there with my name (or rather, versions of my name pronounced the same), and nicknames were necessary to differentiate. But years later, when I ran into an old coworker and they used the nickname, I corrected them so fast.

            2. Jack not Jackie

              Had one colleague say “Jack, hey, Jackie”
              Me: “Jack.”
              Everyone burst out laughing and he just said “Well, you nipped that in the bud pretty emphatically.”

              1. AnonEMoose

                LOL! I think what people don’t realize, it’s the first time they’ve asked about it…but it’s about the millionth time that someone has asked about it, or tried it. So, yeah, my patience and forbearance have long worn out on that topic.

                1. stitchinthyme

                  Oh god, yes. The one thing you Just Don’t Do is make jokes about someone’s name. Because there’s zero chance they haven’t heard it before.

                2. UKDancer

                  Goodness yes. I’ve a colleague who has the same name as a cartoon character. I do not mention this because I am sure she is aware she shares the name with a cartoon character and does not need me to make a joke of it. It’s her name and she’s entitled to use it without dealing with an inquisition.

              2. Daisy Steiner

                There’s a guy at my work who gives EVERYONE a nickname, usually some variation of their actual name. It drives me batty but I figure they can always say something if they don’t like it. But the first time he EVER tried to shorten my name to something that I’ve never gone by, and isn’t even a typical nickname for my name (think ‘Dorry’ for ‘Doris’) I shut it down IMMEDIATELY. I knew if I let it slide even once, the horse would have bolted. And to be fair to him, that one ‘Oh, it’s Doris’ was all it took and he’s never tried it again

              3. Mr Shark

                Jack not Jackie
                I went back and forth with a coworker on names for awhile before I figured out exactly what he wanted. I would call him Dave, though he signed his e-mail with David, and I wanted to go by (for example) “John”, and then he replied in email calling me “Jonathan”. Eventually I figured it out…so I replied with David, and he replied with John. It was a bit passive aggressive, but it worked.
                Most people call me by my preferred name (i.e. John), and for some reason there are a few people around the office that can get away with a different version Johnny, but only for those people is it okay. Others I immediately correct to John.
                Bottom line is that people should call you what you want to be called, and requiring nicknames is not professional at all if that person doesn’t want to be called a nickname.

            3. Genny

              If we’re going the malicious compliance route, I’d totally say my name is Jane and my nick Jaine of Dzhane, or some other form of Jane that is pronounced exactly the same way.

          2. Anastasia Beaverhousen

            Also feels like a fairly desperate move – like, there are many good ways to improve morale, but they all basically boil down to ‘Treat your employees with respect, give them fair pay & interesting work, and maybe a few fun perks if you can swing it.’ So the ~creative~ attempts to improve morale always feel gimmicky, and like they can’t be bothered to go with the more meaningful approach.

            1. HarperC

              I can’t express how much I feel the same way. We are in the midst of some team building proposals and the problem is that if there are more serious problems in your department, the cutesy stuff just comes off as insulting and an attempt to dodge the larger and, granted, more difficult issues.

              1. Jadelyn

                I always go back to the example of the candy bowl. I worked in a call center many years ago, and it was…well, it was a call center. Repetitive work, crappy pay, no benefits, overbearing bosses, stupid scripts to follow that resulted in frustrated callers, etc. Turnover was very high, and morale was in the toilet.

                So management decided to “show appreciation”…by having someone walk around with a bowl of mini candy bars. Once a month. And because they sold it as this big “we appreciate you!” thing, it wasn’t just dumb and useless, it was actively insulting. Oh, good, you appreciate us so much you give us pennies worth of candy once a month, but not enough to pay us well or anything. Feeling reeeeally appreciated here.

          3. Lance

            Given the wording, I’m definitely leaning toward ‘young’… or, at the barest minimum, ‘trying way too hard’. ‘On a scale of 1-10’, I’ll just have my actual name (that gets messed up enough as it is) used, barring any commentary from me to the contrary, thank you very much.

        2. On Fire

          It doesn’t (improve office culture). But someone gets to feel self-imposed warm fuzzies because “awww, look, we all have fun nicknames now.”
          I’ve never used a nickname in my life. They’re not a thing in my family or among my friends – we use our real names. But twice in my life people have jumped on someone mispronouncing my name and called me by that mangled structure. A couple of aunts still occasionally use a cousin’s version, 35+ years later, especially if we’re reminiscing. And I’m finally down to just one coworker who uses a one-time customer’s name for me. Those people have the claim of long association. But if I were required to provide a nickname for myself? “Sorry, my name is RealName.” And I would simply ignore anyone calling me by a forced nickname.

          1. JulieCanCan

            I come from a family where my siblings and I had about 10 nicknames each, all bestowed upon us by my dad, who still uses them today. But if my co-workers started calling me Tiki Torch, Tiki Deekee Bo Deekee, Teeks, Winnifred or Kadoozle, I’d probably think I had wandered into The Twilight Zone.

            Of course, when we visit my parents, we answer to our nicknames without giving it a thought. My friends used to wonder what was happening when we’d respond to these nicknames that had zero in common with our real names.

            Either way, FORCED nicknames are cringeworthy and the mere thought makes me embarrassed for everyone involved.

            1. SaeniaKite

              My family call me one nickname but I go by another socially and professionally. Both are diminutive of my name but it still caused confusion when my dad tried to contact me at work and was told no-one of the name worked there. He now knows to use my full name

              1. Melly

                At my wedding rehearsal when we were making introductions, my dad introduced himself as [my nickname]’s dad, and my husband’s family was very confused for a minute.

                1. Dobermom

                  My brother’s wife’s family called her by her middle name growing up. Once she got to college, she decided to use her proper first name. So my brother knows her as, say, Sally; but her entire family (and everyone that knew her before college) calls her Ramona. It confused my grandmother SO MUCH at the wedding when my SIL’s parents said, “Oh don’t Joey and Ramona look great together?”

                2. Ralkana

                  My dad’s family calls him by his first name, which he isn’t that fond of, and when he met my mom, he introduced himself with his middle name (which he also isn’t that fond of, but likes more than the first name). So his entire family calls him First, and her entire family calls him Middle. It’s very confusing for friends and guests when members of both sides are present!

                3. NotAnotherManager!

                  Ah, the my-name-depends-on-who’s-saying-it… VERY familiar with that one. My family calls me a diminutive of what is effectively my middle name because I share a first name with a close family member. (My sister is in the same situation.) When my mother uses my first name, I assume she is talking to/about the person I was named after and not me.

                  I go by my first name exclusively outside my family. Trying to correct to a nickname of a middle name was too much for the bureaucracy of 1980s public education/large university/large company, so I gave up rather quickly.

                  It has caused confusion any time there is something that involves both my family and basically any other people. I try to warn anyone who needs to know so that we don’t end up in some sort of sit-com-esque thing where my family is referring to my relative and my in-laws/friends are assuming they’re talking about me. My mother switched, for a while, to calling me by my full given name when the my in-laws were around to try to bridge the gap.

                  Hence my strong feelings about honorific names going in the middle and naming your child what you intend to call them.

                4. Seeking Second Childhood

                  Seen that too. Guy named his son junior who named his son the third — and then someone decided it was already confusing having FirstName and Firstnamey, so everyone started calling the little one MiddleName. But it was too long for such a little kid so it becamse MiddleNamey.
                  By the time he got to middle school he was tired of correcting teachers & substitutes and was using FirstName. He lets his family get away with it. ;)

              2. quagmire

                My cousins and I were very concerned at my Great Aunt Betty’s funeral because funeral cards said “Mary E. Lastname” and we thought there was a mixup. Nope, turns out Betty was a pretty common nickname for Mary Elizabeth in the 1930s. Who knew? (Everyone, except the one group of cousins.)

            2. Amy Farrah Fowler

              Nicknames are also somewhat confusing especially in larger groups. My grandfather is one of ELEVEN kids, and EVERY SINGLE ONE had a nickname. I remember asking my mother many times “okay, which one is ‘Babe’, and people just called my grandfather ‘Man’ (as a kid it was “little man” and when he grew up they dropped the ‘little’).

              1. NotAnotherManager!

                You can also go the other way and overuse a family name. James is a family name back to the Dark Ages on my spouse’s side, and they have enough guys called James, Jamie, Jim, Jimmy, Little Jimmy, Jimbo, and J.[Middle Initial Here]. to field at least two sports teams. It is confusing as crap at family reunions.

                1. Dust Bunny

                  My mom’s cousin was [Nickname], and his son went by NJ, short for Nickname, Jr. Only the son wasn’t a junior–his real name was something entirely different than his dad’s. Because why not?

            3. Artemesia

              I had a nickname typical for my actual name as a child and shook it when I grew up. Somehow the nickname is attached to all the miseries of adolescence and so it raises my hackels. It feels infantilizing. I don’t mind an old friend from childhood calling me my old nickname or my family but put a quick stop to anyone new who imposes nicknames on people.

              1. VelociraptorAttack

                My husband went by a nickname until high school because there was another kid with his name and he haaaaates to be called it now.

                Upside, I can always tell when I meet someone he grew up with because they’ll call him Bobby (not the actual nickname).

              2. Elizabeth West

                This is exactly why I quit using my first name and insist that family and even old friends call me by my middle name. I went by Liz for a long time but now I just prefer Elizabeth. Although my family calls me Lizzie, I’d rather not do that at work.

                My legal name is on a lot of my accounts, however, so I get called by my first name constantly when I’d rather not. I was hoping to change it entirely (when) if I got married to avoid doing it twice, and completely drop my first name, but that hasn’t happened (yet).

                1. Seeking Second Childhood

                  Someone I knew didn’t like being called “Lizzie” and was getting called it by thirdperson anyway. She remarked “Lizzie just has such bad history… Lizzie Borden took an axe and all that.” Then she left, and thirdperson was left saying “what? huh? who?” until someone took pity on him and said the whole verse.
                  He got the hint.

                2. Bad Janet

                  Assuming you’re US, check up on the paperwork in your area, because that “changing once” ideal is probably not as easy as you want it to be. I, too, had this idea. But the thing is, the SSA only lets you change the parts of your name affected by the marriage (Last and middle if you’re moving your maiden name to middle name).

                  So, to change your first name you have to go in front of a judge – a whole process in and of itself. Then, to clean up your records you have to get your birth certificate amended (then driver’s license, and passport if applicable). If you’re doing this AFTER marriage you’ll then have to add the marriage license onto the list of amendments. And things like insurance policies and mortgages.

                  Just….do the first name change first and have the foundational documents squared away. It will make the marriage entanglement easier.

            4. iglwif

              Oh gosh yes. My mom is allowed to call me [ridiculous animal-based nickname] but if you’re not my mom and you call me that, you will not be happy with the results XD

        3. Falling Diphthong

          You know how on teams of fighter pilots, they razz the n00bs until the n00bs do something nickname worthy and earn their callsign, like Boomer or Hot Shot or Sparkle Pants? This office will be like a tightly knit team of fighter pilots, except with copiers rather than jets.

          1. Mimi Me

            I can only think of the Big Bang Theory episode where Howard tries desperately to get a cool astronaut nickname. He wants to be called “Rocket Man” but ends up being “Fruit Loops”. LOL!

            I go by a common, shortened version of my name (think along the lines of Jen / Jennifer). There are other options that people have tried to use but I shut it down immediately. I am either the nickname I choose to go by or the full name – there is nothing else. I did have a manager who told me that I was weird about my name and not liking nicknames. I had to explain that nicknames have a way for being fun only for the person who gets to say/choose them, not for the person who is called that. Perhaps if I spoke solely in third person the nickname would be more fun. She didn’t fully understand (her name was very unique and no nickname was ever given) but she did respect my choice and called me by my chosen name.

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

                I once dated a guy nicknamed T-Bone. Nothing like Constanza, that’s for sure!

        4. pleaset

          The rationale is it creates a special set of names that are exclusively, mainly known to the team – a name “jargon” that is special to them, and not used outside.

          It’s one reason nicknames are created withing teams in sports, in small military units, etc.

        5. Wired Wolf

          I’ve always gone by a nickname at work…but our new assistant manager somehow always makes it sound condescending/belittling. Also, over our crappy radios my nickname sounds like someone else’s (in a different department, but we inexplicably use the same radio channel) full name.

          …at times I wonder how it would go over if I said to her one day “Actually, I go by (name which could be either gender based on spelling, but sounded out is typically male) now”. For a while I was going by that name at another job; both an in-joke and there were two other employees with the same name/nickname as me.

    1. sacados

      Yeah it’s pretty silly. My company has implemented a variation of this, although thankfully MUCH less forcefully. Even though we are a pretty casual place to begin with and there are already many people who go by nicknames (either universally or only between certain staff), a year or so ago they decided to start a “Let’s call each other by our nicknames!” initiative.
      We all wear security access cards on lanyards, so the company decided to have us all put namecards in them and went around asking everyone to say what name you wanted written on your nametag. Though fortunately, we were also allowed to just list our names if you don’t particularly have/want a nickname.
      It feels a bit patronizing, but happily the company had the sense to not be *too* overbearing about it so the upshot is that we basically all just wear nametags, some of which have a nickname instead of the person’s given name.

      1. Glitsy Gus

        I kind of wish my company had done that. They didn’t, and everything has my legal name on it, which I never use.

        When someone asks, “does anyone call you Legal Name?” I usually answer “Only the IRS.” But now I have several people in my office that I mostly communicate with via email calling me by my legal name because it’s my email address. It’s really quite annoying.

    2. Quoth the Raven

      Right!? I am pretty cool with people giving me nicknames (and I’ve never had any I’ve disliked or that were meant to mock me) and I still would hate to have to go by one — and that’s not even touching on the fact that my friends being allowed to call me “Raven” does not mean my boss is entitled to the same right, because there’s different relationships at play.

      (Nick)names are so personal. If you want a better office culture, it helps to call people what they want to be called! It’s that simple. I would ignore it anytime someone tried to address me by a nickname I did not want, and I did not approve.

    3. Leela

      This is definitely one of the weirdest/least-likely-to-work ones I’ve heard, but I see companies do all sorts of crazy things to improve morale (that sad foosball table that no one uses, forced drinking [or being around drinking] with high-level execs/your manager during the workday because you’re a FUN COMPANY, wear beachy clothes day, literally anything except addressing the problems that are causing poor morale in the first place). But seriously, I can’t imagine how anyone would think forced nicknames would even be something to try

    4. AcademiaNut

      I think it’s fundamentally a misunderstanding of cause and effect. “Nicknames are a sign of affection and closeness. Therefore if we give everyone nicknames, that will increase friendliness among our employees.” and not understanding that the affection comes first.

      It’s like thinking that because overweight people need sturdier chairs, if you give all the employees sturdy chairs, they’ll gain weight.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Oh yes! The two people currently living in my home call me Mom. We have a great relationship. But it does not follow that, if my coworkers start calling me Mom, it’ll improve our working relationship! Probably the opposite!

      2. Akcipitrokulo

        Like “People who are fond of each other exchange playful insults. If I insult my co-workers, we will become fond of each other.”

        No.

        Especially not when joining a new team. They get to banter with each other BECAUSE they are close. Doing what one new project manager did and bantering to MAKE these people he’d just met closer… didn’t work.

    5. Willis

      Well, they have the handy 1-10 excitement rating scale. So at least everyone can get the unwanted nickname they dislike the least. Ya know…for morale. (But seriously, this is ridiculous…just call people what they want to be called.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        The rating scale killed me, and I would probably have no choice but to respond, “Thanks for asking! Here is my ranking of nicknames:

        10 – Jane
        9 – Jane
        8 – Jane
        7 – Jane Smith
        6 – Jane Smith
        5 – Jane Q. Smith
        4 – Ms. Smith
        -3 – JS
        -5 – Janie
        -8 – Janester
        -10 – Smithy

        I’m fine with anything in the positive numbers – thanks!”

    6. Airy

      It’s kind of cargo-cult thinking. “In friendly offices, people often call each other by nicknames! If we introduce AND ENFORCE nicknames, friendliness will follow!”

      1. Mongrel

        We’ve had that sweep across us with Ping-Pong tables “these other businesses with high staff satisfaction have ping pong and table football, therefore…”
        Then they re-purposed the break room to cram more desks in

    7. Cat Wrangler

      I dislike nicknames as my family don’t shorten names (and my name is short anyway). Even if I nominated myself a nickname, I wouldn’t respond if someone used it because I’d have to remember that it was me. Nicknames have to grow organically.

      1. Mr Shark

        I agree, nicknames have to come from a certain situation or moment. Generally you can’t really assign yourself a nickname. I like the comment below…if you want to ask what people would like to be called when just starting out, that’s fine, even if it’s a nickname. But forcing them to decide on one is ridiculous.

    8. Foreign Octopus

      Forced nicknames are so strange. Why do this? Nicknames evolve naturally and generally reference something funny or relevant.

      When I was working at my last office job, one of the clients called in asking for me but got my name wrong (think Jelly instead of Jenny) and from that point on, I was Jelly. I quite liked it because it was funny and it wasn’t offensive in the slightest, but if I started working there and they started calling me Jelly apropos of nothing, I would not be happy.

      1. Al who is that Al

        I immediately thought of pushing back with nicknames everyone couldn’t use. In the UK, in the classic 80s comedy series the Young Ones – Vyvyan (a man) was having a baby (Don’t ask), so Rik asked him what he would call it, Vyvyan replied “Shut Up or Piss Off”, Rik said “Charming !” Vyv then says “No, No, those will be its names, either ‘Shut Up’ or ‘Piss Off’ it’ll be great for starting fights when he’s older !”
        The same thought occurs, my nickname would be “Whothef*ckareyoulookingat?”, “IHateYou”, “GetYour(appropriate anatomical bits)Out!” etc etc.
        Any other suggestions gratefully accepted !

        1. AJHall

          I went there, too. “Bitchface” I thought would be an excellent starting point. Or possibly “Killer”. Or “Mad Dog.”

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          If no one knows the song “A Boy Named Sue”, now’s a good time to go download some Johnny Cash. :)

          1. Tisiphone

            I remember that song! And I also remember the first time I heard it wondering why the mother let the dad name the kid “Sue” just before abandoning the family. I was five.

      1. Gigi

        Lol!!
        Lols in emails drive me nuts!! Like I’m not supposed to be upset by the message bc of the lol at the end. Right. Ha ha.

    9. xarcady

      Back when I was training all the new people in my department, I sent them an email before their first day, outlining their first weeks, going over the dress code, and asking them what name they would like to use in the office. Lots of people prefer a shortened version of their name, or use a middle name, or initials, or whatever. It’s easier on everyone if the new person starts out on day one getting introduced by their preferred name.

      If Jane’s office had done that–asked each employee what they would like to be called–that would make sense. Trying to create nicknames out of thin air is forced and probably those nicknames probably won’t get used after the first few days of people awkwardly starting every conversation with, “Hey, James, no I mean Jim-Bob, can you help me with this?” “JulieAnne, oops, J.A., want to go grab lunch?”

      1. Syfygeek

        In the South, we have the 2 name first name- could your real first name and last name be your nickname? Then everyone could just call you Jane Smith. Both names, all the time. Having your Boss call out “Jane Smith, you wanna grab lunch?” sounds better than an enforced Smithy.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          :: BLINK BLINK ::
          Oh my goodness so THAT’S why that new boy in middle school called me firstnamelastname.
          Will wonders never cease… I DID have a nickname after all.

    10. FiveWheels

      I have a nickname that isn’t used out loud much because the people who use it mainly live on the other side of the planet. If someone uses it I’ll immediately respond, but the one time someone used it in work I got a reflexive big goofy grin on my face, some kind of Pavlovian response.

      It would probably improve my mood in the short term to use it at work, but at the cost of upsetting colleagues with my normally glum persona becoming deranged and overly smiley!

      1. boo bot

        Ha, similar here – my grandmother was the only one to ever give me a nickname that stuck, and it would in fact delight me to be called by it. It’s difficult to pronounce for non-Russian speakers, about three times as long as my actual name, and only amusing if you get the pun, so, I dunno how well it would work in this context.

        If everyone goes along with this, they’re going to need a table of contents at the front entrance or something.

    11. Seifer

      Crossing of the letters: “my girlfriend calls me ‘master,’ please refer to me as such for my nickname.”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        I came to check if anyone has suggested “young lady” yet, but this is much better!

    12. Hey Karma, Over Here

      My boss just showed me a picture of her daughter’s high school bowling team. Each had a t shirt on with their team nicknames on the back. It was cute.
      I told my boss our department should do that. And we laughed and laughed. And then got on with out day.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

        I was actually thinking that this was the intended outcome of the boss’s request…

        1. Joielle

          Yeah, or if they have a staff page on their website with bios, I’ve seen small companies add a silly nickname to each person’s name there. Usually companies trying to seem “fun” or “quirky” or “young.” I guess I always assume those are made up for the purpose of website cuteness and not actually used. (Perhaps I am just humorless. Ha!)

    13. That’s Not My Name!

      I have a nickname among friends and close coworkers but I prefer to use my given name in the office (especially with our clients). My given name is unique to Americans and may require an extra moment to learn how to pronounce. The downside is when someone you don’t want to use the nickname with makes it their preferred name for you. Unfortunately, a new guy in the office heard it once and hasn’t taken the (sometimes direct) hint that he should learn to pronounce my given name and use that, instead, but will frequently use “Ash” instead of “Aisling.” It, seriously, makes me cringe to hear him say my nickname just because he isn’t comfortable taking the time to learn how to pronounce my name correctly.

    14. Snark

      It may be that there’s already a Jane or a Smith in the office, and they’re doing that “but HOW will ANYONE be able FIGURE OUT this TERRIBLY COMPLICATED situation?!?!?” thing.

      1. JustaTech

        In my high school class at an all-girls school there were probably 20 Elizabeths. It was a popular name that year, I guess.
        How did we handle it? There was one Beth, one Liz, and everyone else went by their last name. (Except the girl who had the same last name as one of the teachers. She had to go by her full name, but she never offered a nickname so I guess she was OK with it.)

        It’s hardly rocket science if a bunch of 14-year-olds can figure it out.

    15. SheLooksFamiliar

      I still cringe when I think of the time I called a co-worker by a nickname I invented for her. She ignored me the first few times, and finally told me I should know better than to call people by a name they never asked me to use: ‘It’s insulting to assume you can call me something because it makes you feel good about us.’

      It was years ago, and I was young and stupid. But I learned! Oh, boy, did I!

      1. valentine

        It’s insulting to assume you can call me something because it makes you feel good about us.
        I love this.

    16. blabla

      They haven’t said what the nicknames are for and I feel like a lot of people are assuming they are going to ask employees to call one another by their nickname, but maybe it’s something super benign like “we’re ordering hoodies for everyone in the office as a gift and we want to put people’s nicknames on the back as a surprise.” I don’t think that simply asking people what their nickname might be is inherently a sign of terrible management – it depends on how they plan to use the info.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        There is not a scenario where mandatory nicknames is okay or makes sense.

        Whether Boss intends to call everyone by their nicknames every day, only on alternate Tuesdays, embroider clothing with the nicknames (!! How would that be better !!) or put nicknames on the company web site, none of it is good management. It is intrusive and obnoxious to insist that every MUST pick a nickname.

        A boss does not get to dictate the name a person uses – does not get to demand a person change his/her name. “But it’ll only be for sometimes!” isn’t a mitigating circumstance.

        1. Elmer Litzinger, spy

          Benign or not, do not force a nickname on me. I have a legitimate but highly unusual in the U.S. name. I have fought a lifelong battle with people who resent having to learn it. It’s phonetic. If you can learn to pronounce Thomas, Stephanie or Sean, you can learn how to pronounce my name. And I’m not a nickname kind of person.

          I warn you twice, then stop answering. If you persist, I start calling you random names.

    17. TootsNYC

      This made me think of Henry Stern, one-time NYC Parks Commissioner.

      He invented nicknames for a small group of people, and it was sort of fun, and he was big on fun.

      So he then required the ENTIRE PARKS DEPARTMENT to have nicknames, and he sometimes assigned them.

      1. Susana

        OT – I knew Henry Stern way back when, when I was working in NYC. Sweet man. Best description of him came from then-Mayor Koch: “If you have a dog, Henry Stern knows its birthday.”

    18. Tisiphone

      It doesn’t.

      I had to endure this nickname stuff at school in junior high. The teachers wanted other students to pick nicknames for people who didn’t already have one.

      I didn’t have one and I refused to answer to the diminutive of my first name (I hate being called that) so the nickname that was imposed on me was “No Way”.

      Not once did anyone address me as “No Way”. Thankfully.

    19. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      It reads as either a) really junior high school clique — the IN kids give everyone in their group a nickname and now your “accepted”; or b) very athletic team like in the NFL where it’s like a marketing ploy or gimmick for sports writers I guess — ie. “Prime Time” for Dion Sanders or for groups of people like “Steel Curtain” given to the defensive line of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers.

    20. NotReallyKarenWalker

      I find that nicknames only really make sense in that way when they’re authentic or organic. If you come into a team and say “I’m Jane, but everyone calls me Captain Awesome”, it’s absolutely meaningless. However, if someone from your team (sincerely) dubs you Captain Awesome and the rest of the team rolls with it, THAT’S a thing that contributes to camaraderie.

    21. Susana

      It won’t. It’s forced intimacy. Also, nicknames – unless they are offered up voluntarily by the nicknamee- are infantilizing and sort of controlling. I mean, think of it – someone wants to literally define you. No.
      A (good!) friend tried this on me – most of his friends had (what I thought were) overgrown-child nicknames. He came up with one for me, off of my last name. He would introduce me to people with this name. I would say, Susana, actually. And the effort ended.

    22. Database Developer Dude

      Forcing nicknames on someone would NOT improve office culture. This is just another case of the boss trying to impose personal preferences. In this case, I would push back.

      I actually legally changed my first and middle names before I entered the working world. I then, a few years later, decided to go by my initials. Those that I’m on a first name basis with call me by my first and middle initials. Those I grew up with and graduated high school with either call me by my first name or by my initials if I have close and continuing contact with them.

      Anything else is unacceptable. I even shut down someone who wanted me to change my name while at my Army Reserve unit because he had the same first name. Not happening.

      Your name is your name.

    23. Chrismah

      I had a professor force nicknames on us day one, and called us them the entire semester. No one took her seriously at all.

    24. AnoninNYC

      I’m the same way. My legal name is from another culture and go by an English name that lends itself to some nicknames. I abhor the nicknames because I find them to be infantilisng and rude. But yet I’ve had someone almost at all of my jobs, almost always an admin person, try to force a nickname on me (some of them don’t even know my legal name). I usually just end up saying I prefer to be called X and only X. Sure it makes me look less friendly but am I the only one who thinks it’s weird to force nicknames on people??

      1. Database Developer Dude

        AnoninNYC, I wouldn’t care about appearing less friendly to someone who had no basic respect for me as a fellow human being. I’m a reflective asshole, though, so there is that.

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        It’s totally weird and rude as well to force nicknames on people. It’s not rude or unfriendly to assert your boundaries as to the name you wish to be called.

  2. Eric

    I think the problem with the answer to #3 is timing. Once they are booked on basic economy, it is too late to change it (that’s one of the restrictions on most airlines basic economy, no changes). The script you have seems like it would be awkward to use if the employer hadn’t said anything about basic economy.

      1. Woman of a certain age

        Wouldn’t another, quiet option, be for her just to call the airline and pay the difference to upgrade to regular economy or even economy premier?

        1. basic sucks

          Unfortunately, most airlines don’t let you upgrade once you have paid for basic economy, even if you offer to pay. It is awful.

          1. Gatomon

            Sometimes they let you pay for it at check-in or just before boarding. I was able to do this with American Airlines last summer via their phone app at the gate. My ticket still said “see agent” and there were already a line of people waiting to talk to the gate agents so I just cut the line electronically.

            Of course it’s freaking ridiculous to pay several hundred dollars for a flight and THEN have to come up with additional money to get a seat. Pretty sure the FAA won’t let you fly without a seat so… shouldn’t that be included?

        2. lammmm

          I think there’s also often an option to upgrade when you check in (at least at the check in kiosks). I think I’ve seen them for both Delta and United.

          Although paying for a carry-on makes me think Spirit, as the last time I flew with them it was cheaper to check a bag than pay the fee for the carry-on (my fault, I book my own flights on the company card and priorities timing, and didn’t necessarily look at total cost. I had to expense the cost of my bag, as it was a 3 say trip. A 1 day trip [more typical in my job] I can normally pack just a large purse).

          1. basic sucks

            Delta- * Ticket changes or refunds not allowed after the Risk-Free Cancellation period. Basic Economy travelers are not eligible for paid or complimentary access or upgrades to premium seats, including to Delta Comfort+® or Preferred Seats; and no paid access to Priority Boarding.

            United- When you choose a Basic Economy ticket, your complimentary seat will be automatically assigned prior to boarding, and you won’t be able to change your seat once it’s been assigned. Advance seat assignments may be available for purchase during booking and up until check-in opens. You will not be eligible to purchase Economy Plus® seating or receive Economy Plus subscription benefits. MileagePlus members, including Premier® members, cannot use complimentary, earned or mileage upgrades.

            And

            For all other Basic Economy tickets, you’re not allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, the primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or a Star Alliance™ Gold member. Everyone else who brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

            American also does not allow upgrades and you board last.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot

              Reading all that makes my head spin! :-D

              (Tangent…I think I’ll keep buying my tickets through the bucket shop travel agency near my office. I’ll save close reading of terms for my client contracts and specifications and the building codes.)

                1. boo bot

                  Austerity Plus, coming in 2020. (Also, Basic Austerity: strap yourself to the wings, Bring Your Own Strap. Passengers may not change wing selection, upgrade, cancel flight, or sue airline for loss of life, limb, or dignity.)

              1. Quackeen

                Maybe they mean that your seat is going to say nice things to you.

                Why, you little wisp of a thing! You hardly weigh an ounce!

              2. MCMonkeyBean

                Haha, yes that wording is hilariously absurd. “You paid to ride on this plane and we are very generously giving you this chair to sit in for no extra cost.”

          2. Doodle

            Unless you’re on Southwest I think you are paying for your bag.

            I love Southwest. Two bags free. I pay for the early bird check in. Their employees are unfailingly polite, their pilots are very experienced, and their prices are good. Also they fly where I want to go most of the time.

            OP, the time to ask about economy rather than basic economy is when the employer calls to arrange your visit. Ask about it then, and I’d stress that it’s basic economy passengers are often bumped and thus you would arrive late.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

              It’s true that Southwest is now the only airline with free checked bags, but this is worse than that – basic economy fares mean you pay for your *carry on* bag too!

            2. Anonymous Large Woman

              Also, if you need (or want, for comfort) 2 seats because you’re on the larger end of the spectrum, Southwest allows you to board first and they’re very polite and discreet about it. I prefer Southwest to other airlines I’ve flown.

            3. TrainerGirl

              If you have a United Mileage Plus credit card and purchase the ticket with said card, many of them offer one free checked bag. I was SO mad when I found out about this 5 years after I got the card and hadn’t been using it. I usually do carry-on with my flights because they’re short and typically 3-4 day trips, but it’s nice to know I can check my bag free if I want to.

          3. Jessica

            Just almost booked a flight on United and discovered that they charge you for carry-ons in Basic Economy too. It’s such a crock — they appear to have cheap flights when you’re searching in a search engine, but then you either have to pay $30 per leg for each piece of checked OR carry-on luggage, or $60 to upgrade to Economy. So basically their flights all cost $60 more than list price unless you’re able to fly with just a purse.

      2. OP3

        While Alison did answer my question very promptly, it has been more than 24 hours since it was booked (on Monday afternoon). I didn’t realize the type of fare until yesterday. I’ve sent the following email

        Dear X,
        Thank you for sending along my travel information. It looks like this is a basic economy fare, which means no allowed carryon and boarding last. I’m a bit nervous about getting bumped since I’ve seen that happen to basic economy passengers in the past. Any chance we can change this to a regular economy ticket?
        If not, please let me know how to submit receipts for the baggage fee.
        Regards,
        OP3

        (I have not mentioned my annoyance that I will be spending 11 hours total in a middle seat, but that plays into my feelings here, too. It seems penny wise-pound foolish to book such a fare when it’s really peanuts compared to what my salary would be.)

    1. Jasnah

      I still think OP could bring it up. Especially if there is a concern about being bumped from the flight, it’s in the company’s interest to ensure she makes it there on time too.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      You should be able to upgrade, you just can’t cancel without a penalty. It’s the same with hospitality, you don’t punish a customer who decides to pay you for the update.

      1. Drew

        Not on Basic Economy fares. The tradeoff for the comparatively super-low price is that you are not allowed to upgrade in any way. I believe the complementary term from sailing is “steerage.”

    3. Beth

      It does make it more awkward that they can’t change it, but most employers won’t check in in advance and ask “is basic economy ok?” so it almost definitely has to be an after-the-fact question. If it is genuinely a mistake on their part (for example, if the person doing the booking didn’t notice the fare was for ‘basic economy’ and not ‘economy’) they might still correct it, especially if you justify it with concerns about being bumped and potentially throwing off the schedule. If it was intentional or they’re not willing to eat the cost, they might say “Sorry, this is our policy”–and then you’re right where you were before asking, so no harm done.

    4. Engineer Girl

      At a minimum, the company should spring for the carry on. Many people struggle to travel with just a personal item only. Forcing people to travel like this for business is cheapskate travel.

      I suspect someone junior did this. Most companies prefer to pay a slightly higher price for the additional flexibility. I’d go in assuming it was a mistake.

      1. OP3

        OP3 here–yes, my plan was to pay for my carryon and then just ask how I should get reimbursed for it. I’d find it really unacceptable if they expect me to travel with only a backpack sized bag (interview clothes +PJs + medication I need fill up my backpack) and pay for the difference myself. If they balk at that, that’s a red flag for me.

        1. Antilles

          That’s pretty much how I would treat it too. The only thing I’d clarify is that since it seems like you’re dealing with a fairly junior person, make sure not to phrase it in a way of asking permission – someone that junior might say no simply because they’re not sure about whether they can approve it or not.
          Instead, you should phrase it as something like “How should I provide my receipts and documents for the reimbursement for my bag charge?” – you’re submitting your expenses because of course you are, this is totally normal, you just want to verify you’re clear on procedure.

          1. Engineer Girl

            Carry on travel is the business standard. People are usually bringing suits and laptops. The company should pay for basics like this.

          2. OP3

            A book? Some form of entertainment for 11 hours of total flying? Ideally my laptop + charger.

            A second set of clothes for the flight back would likely be appreciated by my fellow passengers so I’m not stinky.

            And I’d really like to pack my suit in a bag that won’t require extensive efforts to get wrinkles out at my destination.

      2. Ama

        I work in a job where we frequently pay for guest travel and we’ve had to completely overhaul our guest travel policy in the last year because of how quickly the U.S. commercial airlines threw in that basic economy tier — we’re a nonprofit so our original policy was “we can only pay for economy tickets including one checked baggage fee each way, if you want to upgrade further is at your expense.” And by this happened fast — we did an event in early March last year where ticket booking (mostly in January/February) was no problem, and by the time people started booking in March for our April event we were getting tons of inquiries from people wondering if economy meant “basic economy” or the next tier up. So if it has been a while since that company booked travel and the person booking it isn’t a big traveler themselves they may be completely unaware about this new bare bones level.

        Adding to the confusion, every single airline now calls what used to be economy a different thing (Delta calls it “main cabin,” some airlines still call it “economy,” some call it “premium economy”) so when altering our policy we had to just result to a very clunky but specific — “we will pay for economy level tickets that include carry on space and guaranteed seat selection, plus one checked bag fee each way.”

        1. fposte

          Yeah, I just looked at American, which is what I usually travel on; regular economy is just “economy.” But it also looks like American has grudgingly allowed basic economy passengers one free carryon now.

      3. Quackeen

        I don’t travel much at all, and this is my first time really reading and understanding the difference between Economy and Basic Economy. Someone new to booking travel might not be reading the fine print and seeing what they’re forcing the candidate to agree to.

        1. H.C.

          Basic Economy was a relatively recent development for airlines to maximize seats filled (& revenue) per flight & to compete with budget airlines like Spirit.

    5. Willis

      If it’s too late to change the flight, there may still be an option to pay for a seat selection, which would at least take care of one part of the OP’s concerns. IME airlines don’t usually make you pay for gate-checked bags either so even if there’s no room in the overhead it shouldn’t mean an extra cost for the OP.

      1. Willis

        Or if it’s an airline whose BE fare doesn’t cover a carry-on, I don’t think it would be out of line to ask for reimbursement for what you end up having to spend. If we were flying a job applicant out, I would be fine with covering their baggage fees, parking or transportation to the airport, and meals while they’re traveling. They’re spending that because we asked them to interview! But, I guess this would vary by company.

      2. Basic sucks

        Basic economy on most US airlines now means you aren’t allowed to upgrade, whether you pay for it or not. Also they automatically charge you for the carry-on, whether or not you have to gate check it. That is one of the other reason it sucks so much.

        1. Willis

          Some allow you to pick a seat for a fee a few days before the flight. And American and Delta’s BE fares include a carry-on at no additional cost. So, it depends on the airline.

          1. Basic Sucks

            True. But then the company is offloading part of the cost onto the candidate rather than actually covering the total cost of flying out for the interview which just sits wrong with me. When my husband was interviewing this happened to us as they wanted to meet me as well. This was right around when BE was being introduced and it meant we were seated far from one another which might not bother some people. Unfortunately, I have tons of lying anxiety and fear and needed to be near him. It was a nightmare since they wouldn’t let us change or upgrade our seats. Also American just recently made the change to allow a free carry-on thank goodness! ) I am hopeful that with the volume of complaints they have gotten that have loosened up on those original strict rules.

            That doesn’t help the OP though. I agree with Alison’s response that is fine to ask to be in Economy rather than basic. I think citing the likelihood of being bumped is probably the best reason to give.

            1. Gratiana

              I was just dealing with this last night: be aware the actual policy is that people with BE tickets who show up at the gate with a carry-on bag (apart from their allowed personal item) will be forced for gate-check their bags, charged the regular $30 bag-check fee, and ALSO charged a $25 gate handling fee (which I suspect is what you’re thinking of). It wasn’t worth the hassle for me—I checked my teeny carry-on this morning and will submit the receipt for reimbursement.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish

                That’s just insane. I used to have to fly fairly often but haven’t in the last ~4 years- it’s dystopian how much it’s changed since!

              2. Elizabeth West

                I usually fly with a small carry-on roller bag and a small backpack as my personal item, and I always have to gate check here, because our airport is tiny and the legacy airlines only fly commuter jets out of it. Despite the fact that they rebuilt the entire airport to allow for expansion, Southwest won’t come here because we’re too small. >:P

                Fortunately, with a regular economy ticket, they don’t charge for gate checking. Or they didn’t—I don’t know if that’s changed. It does make it a hassle when you get to your connecting airport, since you have to wait for your bag to be offloaded.

              3. MM

                Somehow, United consistently manages to go above and beyond its competitors in making everything about flying as stupidly miserable as possible.

          1. noahwynn

            Basic Economy is made so the big airlines can compete with Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier, etc. These ultra low cost carriers don’t include anything but a seat from A to B. You don’t get to chose your seat without a fee, you don’t get a carryon or checked bag without a fee just a small personal item like a purse/backpack/totebag.

            I guess you can call it a racket, but it is really designed to allow more people to travel and for them to be able to chose and pay for exactly what they need. Yes, I do work for one of the ULCC and I do think that options are a good thing.

            1. Katie the Fed

              except they didn’t lower the cost when they decreased what you got. So you’re paying the same and getting less. We’re not stupid.

              1. and the waves

                YES. They say it’s so they can compete, but really, the Basic Economy prices are no lower than they were a year ago (in fact about 10% more) for when I flew what is now regular Economy.

          2. Kendra

            I recently did basic economy for a trip where I drove a car out to my parents’ house (24 hours) and then turned right around and flew home the next day. I didn’t need more than a backpack for that.

            1. Engineer Girl

              And did you bring a suit and laptop? Those are big bulky items.

              I travel personal item only all the time. That said, I can easily see how many people have a hard time making that transition.

              1. OP3

                I could totally do it for a 24 hour personal trip. I’d just wear the same pair of pants, back underwear + socks + shirts. Interview clothes take up space.

                1. Engineer Girl

                  Exactly. But a suit makes it hard. You either have to wear the suit, which exposes it to dirt and accidents, or you have to put it into a daypack. Yes, there are ways to do it, but most likely it will come out wrinkled.

                  I’d do it for a business trip (have done it). I’m not sure I would do it for a high stakes trip like an interview.

    6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen

      The person making the travel arrangements often doesn’t care about the comfort or convenience of the person that actually has to do the traveling. They just book the cheapest fare. I’ve been booked for interviews where they had me on the 6am flight changing planes on different airlines when it would have been just ~$100 more to fly direct at a more reasonable time. And I was located in a hub city where direct flights were plentiful and price competitive. I tried politely pushing back once and they didn’t seem to like that. But then again, if they don’t like it when you ask to travel like a human being, it’s probably a company you wouldn’t want to work for anyway.

      1. if you want it done right, do it yourself

        Offer to book your own travel, or if they have a corporate travel agent, to contact person yourself. If the company balks, you know it’s one you don’t want to work for. PAs and such always mess up travel. This is definitely one area where “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”

        1. OP3

          I’ve been burned before with a company not reimbursing for travel after I turned down an offer (there were other red flags). This placed told me I could book the travel myself, and I said I’d prefer they do it. And now that seems to have been the wrong choice :/

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here

            I think your situation is the literal definition of a dilemma. You can either risk paying the cost or risk getting bumped from a flight. Definitely worth discussing with your company contact person, in the form of, “basic economy is a risky option for applicants. Risks of getting bumped, gate checking luggage, etc.”

          2. Elle Kay

            OK- this implies to me that maybe they don’t book that much travel if it really didn’t occur to them?
            I do book the basic economy tickets for people at work but only ones that include a carry on and only with having discussed it with staff before.
            I wonder if they don’t do it that often?
            Also- for my office, flights have to be reimbursed from individual dept.s discretionary accounts, which are the least well-funded, so we do always go for the cheapest flights since even 2 or 3 non-basic coach seats might mean that the 4th or 5th conference of the year’s flights can’t be reimbursed. (Which means they can’t go if they don’t pay out of pocket)

        2. AnitaJ

          No, sorry, PAs “and such” don’t always mess up travel. That’s not a universal truth, and insulting to good admins.

          1. An Admin

            Thank you! That was such a dismissive and condescending thing to say about Admin staff. Clearly, this person doesn’t understand the value of support staff or the complicated dance that is booking travel for another person while under budget constraints.

    7. Loux in Canada

      I just booked a flight for a trip in basic economy and was able to pick my seats (for an extra fee)? Generally choosing a seat rather than having one assigned to you is supposed to make it less likely you’ll get bumped.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor

        It depends on the airline. I was just looking into flights for my family (it’s really hard to travel with children on basic economy…) and on a lot of airlines you can’t even pay to choose a seat.

          1. Elle Kay

            Part of the frustration is the variation between airlines… b/c you can on American! And I got an auto-email about upgrading a basic economy to regular economy a few days out so they will let you do that. Sometimes, at least.

          2. Arts Akimbo

            I find United’s website utterly ridiculously difficult to use and useless for many things. I wish this thread had existed a month or two ago; I’d have bought different tickets!

        1. Loux in Canada

          True, I’m flying with Air Canada. I paid $16/seat, but I am sort of picky and wanted a window seat on the right side of the plane, so I sucked it up.

    8. Beancounter

      I highly recommend Poo-Pourri. The stuff really works (with three or four sprays). I have one bathroom in my house and my husband and I used to flip a coin to see who got to use it first after we ate Mexican food. I joke that this stuff has saved my marriage. I keep a bottle in my desk draw for my own bathroom runs at the office.

      It never hurts to spray once again post-flush and once in the air for good measure.

  3. MarfisaTheLibrarian

    For #1, maybe invest in some poo-pouri and place it prominently? I don’t think that’s passive aggressive. Sure, the culprit might be embarrassed to realize that the smell is noticable…but hopefully that will lead her to use the provided tool to deal with the smell.

    1. Wherehouse Politics

      Also a real quick strike and instant flush of a match knocks out the nastiness. I know in a corporate building that wouldn’t likely be allowed but in a house, I don’t see that would pose a big problem

      1. valentine

        OP1 also mentions noise, so I like the locked-door advice.

        What’s the liquid product where a drop in the toilet is meant to prevent smell?

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Nah, I would not take any chances on accidentally starting a fire. Though that would make a great AAM letter.

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl

          Dear Alison, I used a match in the toiletroom and it went BOOOOOOM. What should I do now?

    2. Drew

      OP could supply all the bathrooms in the office and then no one is being singled out. A cover story of “I tried this stuff at home and it works, so let’s all do our part to make our shared office a little more pleasant!” might help, too.

    3. Kit Kat

      “but hopefully that will lead her to use the provided tool to deal with the smell.”

      I have to ask what you’re doing with pot pourri if you think it’s a thing to somehow use and not just there in the room? Unless it means something other than ‘bowl of scented leaves’ in America.

      1. Annastasia von Beaverhausen

        PooPourie – not Pot Pourie. It’s a spray that you put in the bowl to cover the small of poo. (Hence the name)

            1. AKchic

              I will admit, it *almost* completely masks my husband’s odor. Alas, nothing truly gets rid of his Bog of Eternal Stench odor that seems to be breeding up there. We’ve considered weaponizing it, but can’t find the right container, or anything to protect the user.

      2. Sami

        It’s a product that one sprays on the toilet water before doing one’s business. It traps odors and it really does work.

      3. Sam Sepiol

        In the UK: “even VIPs need to VIPoo!”

        I thought it was some kind of joke the first time I saw the ad.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here

          Oh completely. I was waiting for the “show” to cut to commercial…it didn’t. I was googling so fast…it’s REAL!!!

    4. Mystery Bookworm

      Even if she does notice, there’s a very good chance she’ll feel grateful or relieved. I think a white noise machine is a good idea as well.

      She’s probably not going to the most removed bathroom twice a day because she finds it relaxing – more likely she’s embarressed, but can’t help it.

        1. always in email jail

          Yes. Being able to turn on the exhaust fan (or whatever it is?) that makes white noise is helpful. Honestly even for peeing it’s nice to know not everyone can hear you.

          1. Competent Commenter

            Ah…but white noise like a fan needs to be where the potential listeners are, not the cause of the sound. If it’s in the bathroom itself everyone outside can hear everything going on inside, but the person in the bathroom can’t hear what’s going on outside. It’s like a reverse cone of silence. We have a very small master bathroom just a few feet from my side of the bed. Whoever steps into the bathroom and turns on the light, which automatically turns on the fan, can no longer hear anything said in our bedroom even a few feet away, even with the door open. But believe me, I can hear everything my husband does in there. Sorry!

            1. nonymous

              They make some incredibly quiet ones now. Specifically look up the Panasonic WhisperGreen series (0.4 sones at low speed – it has a light to tell you it’s on), cost is about $200 instead of the $60 noisy broan/nutone builder-grade ones. Best practice is to put it on a timer for 30 min to do a full exchange of room air by creating a negative pressure scenario.

              I’m full of info on this topic right now because we just retrofitted our house :-)

              1. Competent Commenter

                Ooh, nice tip! I’m sending that to my home email. What I really wish I could do is change the wiring so that light and fan are separate, which is apparently a bigger deal than it sounds like. Feels like such a waste of electricity to run a fan while you brush your teeth at night. But having a very quiet fan would be a close second!

              2. Close Bracket

                > They make some incredibly quiet ones now.

                Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a white noise machine?

      1. Smithy

        I agree with this.

        My guess would be that where her office is, she’s likely been in situations where she’s been able to hear whatever is happening in other bathrooms. And the lack of sound privacy (let alone smell) may have resulted in traveling to use a toilet where she assumes/hopes she has more privacy.

        I think that it may be worthwhile to invest office wide in sound machines/odor killers.

      2. Glitsy Gus

        Exactly, I know other have shared their experiences, but as a person who has had my share of tummy issues I am so sympathetic to your coworker who really is probably just trying to find the least embarrassing option here.

        White noise machine and some kind of deodorizer is the way to go here. If that doesn’t help then switch to locking the door. I would suggest that order of events, just out of kindness.

    5. Annette

      Passive aggressive, yes. It may work but may also make her feel terribly awkward. Nobody but LW could be responsible for poo-pourri.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Maybe it’s for LW! Why would the visitor necessarily take it as a personal jab? It’s an air freshener that belongs in a bathroom.

        1. Annette

          The comment about “display prominently” = pooper should see it and realize she stinks. If the advice was just to help LW get rid of the smell – just put out the poo-pourri and don’t hope she sees it and stops pooping. Your plan isn’t subtle.

          1. Elsajeni

            Someone upthread had this confusion, forgive me if you do already know this, but it sounds like you may be picturing a bowl of potpourri used as a passive air-freshener — Poo-Pourri is a specific product that’s designed to reduce smells if you spray it into the toilet. So if you’re putting some in the bathroom, you do have to put it somewhere fairly prominent, so people will see it and realize it’s there to use.

            Whether the person in question might feel singled out or embarrassed by an air freshener suddenly appearing in the bathroom is a legit question, but it’s also not really something you can plan around, I think — putting out a spray air freshener is a fairly normal thing, and anything the OP could do here would pretty much imply “I have noticed that sometimes people take smelly poops in here,” so the best you can do is just be chill and neutral about it and, if you have to talk about it, phrase any comments as “people do this” rather than “someone does this.”

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish

              I also don’t know if this is normal, but my church bathroom has this in some of the stalls, and the product bottle in there at least is tiny. If not displayed prominently it’d be easy to miss

      2. The Original Stellaaaaa

        It gets to a point where adults have to deal with the limitations of their own bodies. Otherwise OP is making herself a minor martyr over something that becomes really onerous as time goes by.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I was at a large house party last month. There was poo-pourri in the bathroom. I thought it was thoughtful! (even if it had been placed there for the host and their roommates to use, not for the guests)

    7. Anon Accountant

      I think Poopourri in every restroom would be good. Others that use other restrooms may appreciate it too.

    8. BadWolf

      And making sure there is a bathroom fan? And that it works? And it doesn’t sound like a jet engine? Maybe rewire it to come on with the lights like they do in some hotels? That might be useful for everyone — both in and out of the bathrooms, depending on the layout of the house.

      1. VictorianCowgirl

        I love the fans that come on automatically, then there is no conspicuous turning on of fans. I also think it’s odd that peeing isn’t as embarrassing or shameful as pooping is. I get that it’s a more discreet function but we all do both! All the time! It’s so totally natural and it causes all these weird problems.

    9. TootsNYC

      also, talk to your facilities folks about proper ventilation in ALL the bathrooms, and adjusting the fan to automatically go on, and stay on for a while afterward, etc.

      And whether there’s some sort of deodorizing spray dispenser you can put in that bathroom (and the others), especially since visitors will probably use it too.

      Treat this as a “canary in the coal mine” helping you spot a problem (or a potential improvement) early.

  4. Artemesia

    Lots of companies hire for their new grads in the early fall so it is definitely not too early. No one will be surprised that a new grad will be ‘available after May X’.

    1. Frozen Ginger

      This is especially true in STEM fields (surprised Alison didn’t mention it!)
      A lot of people I graduated with had their job lined up before they started their final semester.

      1. Rosalind Franklin

        I’ve even seen (many moons ago of course) new grads start work on partial hours. Now, granted, this was a STEM graduate in a masters program working at a start up, so things were very flexible, but it ended up working great – by graduation, she was already up to speed in the lab.

      2. BadWolf

        Indeed — at my STEM job, it’s pretty normal for new college hires to be locked in by mid winter, planning to start in the summer.

      3. Kendra

        I’m in a stem field, graduated in December, and started looking for a job in September and I just baaaaarely managed to start in January with Very Large Tech Company. The bigger companies move slow and might have special procedures for hiring college students, so definitely start now! (Or even in the fall, for everyone who will be in this situation next year)

      4. Sam

        I was coming to say the same. I’m an engineer and we interview for May grads before Thanksgiving. Honestly, there are red flags for a May grad that is just starting to apply now. But this is a competitive industry and the best talent all have jobs lined up by Christmas (if not sooner). I’m sure this varies depending on the industry and region.

    2. Equestrian Attorney

      I know we are currently hiring May graduates in a variety of departments – go for it, OP! Just be clear about your availability on your resume.

    3. Celeste

      It’s not too early, especially in federal agencies where they will need time to complete a security clearance.

      1. Loux in Canada

        My federal agency is hiring for recent grads right now! The posting has been open for several months and will be open for another month and a half. Security clearance takes a while though, I think when I did mine (as a student, two years ago), it took six weeks? And that’s only because students have a more lax process. When I got bridged in as full-time, I had to complete another clearance, and they needed my birth certificate.

    4. lost academic

      Also true in finance. Really at my college (15 years ago though) (R1) you needed your job solidified by December overall if you weren’t going to graduate school. Once you’ve graduated “taking the summer off” doesn’t look right (with obvious exception to everyone graduating into the recession)

    5. Risha

      Yes, back in Ye Olden Days of my last year of college, I interviewed in October and got the offer over my Thanksgiving break, and started on June 15th. Really took the pressure off that last semester.

    1. what

      Yes! I personally don’t understand why someone would be offended by the request to choose a nickname that would only be used on the job. (I am assuming that’s what they’re doing here, having everyone go by a different name than they go by in the rest of life, sort of like how some clubs give everyone their own insider nickname except you get to choose your own, which sounds fun albeit corny

      1. what

        Whoops my computer cut me off. I meant to say that instead of claiming that one’s name is somehow uniquely unique and meaningful, it might be better to be humorous about one’s unwillingness to participate in the game. I.e. “I was named Jane after my grandmother, but here I will be Jane after Jane Goodall.”

        1. Arts Akimbo

          I do believe each person’s name is special and meaningful to them, so was all set to disagree with your comment, but by golly, that might be a great solution!

  5. Anono-me

    Dear Ms Jane Smith,

    I would respond to the message as if it were a good-faith effort to determine what you like to be called best. Maybe something like:

    “Dear Office Manager,

    Thank you so much for asking. I really appreciate it that you cared enough about what I wanted to inquire. Actually I really like my own name. And I would be most happy to continue to answer to “Jane Smith” or “Jane”.

    If you would ever prefer me to call you something other than Ms Office Manager, please let me know?

    Thank you again for being so considerate of what my preferences are.

    Jane”

    Because maybe this really is a good faith effort to make sure everyone’s being called by their preferred name. And if not you still made it clear that you want to be called Jane Smith, without escalating things.

    Also, maybe this is a just a zany plot by the office manager to start using nicknames; because the office manager just really hates her name and wants people to call her something else.

    1. Jasnah

      I like this, it acknowledges the kind & friendly intent, then emphasizes what she wants to actually go by. I’m not sure if OP is new at her job? but this is a good way to push back while keeping a good relationship.

    2. Anono-me

      Oh my gosh. I just saw Allison’s response to Scooby Snacks post. Mandatorily assigning nicknames to people is ridiculous.

      I take back everything I said about hoping for the best of intentions. This is diminishing. The only suggestion I have now is to keep forgetting to use and answer to the nickname.

      Also what happens if one of these mandatory assign nicknames is actually a pejorative word or phrase? There are lots of regionalisms, coded, and slang terms.

    3. Blunt Bunny

      This is great response, kill them with kindness. The petty in me was just thinking call me what you want but I only answer to my name. But seriously if say my name is Rebecca and everyone refers to me as such I will not automatically respond to Becky, Becca or Bex etc, as I’m not expecting to be referred to in that way and wouldn’t realise they were calling me as that’s not my name.

    4. LQ

      I agree with taking this attitude. Think about all of the people who some how got sucked into being called the wrong name or pronounced incorrectly. It is a great kindness to occasionally stop and go, hey, let’s check with everyone on what they want to be called and make sure we are getting it right. It’s not a bad idea at all (maybe this phrasing, but I’d rather have this phrasing and calling people what they prefer than perfect phrasing of we are going to call you what we want, regardless idea).

  6. scooby snack

    Is it possible that the nicknames are for some online account or username they’re setting up for you?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s definitely not. The OP told me the nickname they’ve now forcibly picked for her. I’m obviously keeping her real name anonymous here, but it would be like if your name was … Jane Appa and they announced they were going to call you Applesauce.

      It’s like … camp counselor names. (Remember those?)

      1. Jasnah

        Oof. That’s so weird to just pick one like that, especially after being told they prefer something else.

        If I were OP, I’d respond to every instance of Applesauce with, “It’s Jane, thanks!”/”Please call me Jane :)”/”Actually Jane is fine, thank you!” over and over as needed. If they wrote “Applesauce” in a doc I’d reply all “Please correct to ‘Jane’, thanks!”

        I’m not a huge fan of dredging up an “actually my family takes this very seriously” or “actually I have a really valid reason” for something as so basic as going by your preferred name, but I suppose in this instance OP might need to since the office is weirdly attached to this idea.

        1. Celeste

          Remember in “The Office” when Andy started calling Jim, Big Tuna? It’s the same dumb thing.

          Don’t be the Andy. Ever.

      2. Beth

        Yiiikes. Even when I was a camp counselor, we didn’t assign people names they actively didn’t want to go by!

        How unprofessional would it be for Jane to just refuse to answer to anything other than Jane? It’s a little childish for most circumstances, but if she’s already asked them to use her given name and they’re still trying to force it, they’re kind of asking for it.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t think it would be unprofessional at all! The forcible nicknames are what’s unprofessional. She could absolutely decline to respond to it. How far are they really going to push it? (I also feel like it might be something that just doesn’t take off and won’t be a thing two months from now, but who knows.)

          1. Knitting Cat Lady

            Honestly, it took me ages to remember to respond to ‘Frau Nachname’, the German equivalent to ‘Ms Lastname’.

            So, if you call me anything other than my first name or the above I won’t realize you’re talking to me. No conscious thought needed.

            1. SusanIvanova

              I’ve got a double first name. Substitute teachers would call only the first half, and since my last name is 2/3 down the alphabet I wouldn’t be actively listening by the time they got there, so the half-name wouldn’t ping as “mine” and I’d be marked absent.

              I was actually rather impressed that the person 2 or 3 levels above me in the management chain corrected someone who’d referred to me by the half-name in email.

              1. Asenath

                Even when the names are not actually part of a single name, a lot of people use a middle name instead of their official first name. Ideally, people would indicate on their records which name should be used, but they often don’t. My late mother used her middle name all her life, but when she started at a new doctor’s office, the staff would call her by her first name – they didn’t even call her “Mrs. LastName”, I suppose because they were being friendly and casual, if not friendly enough to keep track of the name she actually used. Of course, she didn’t respond, since she didn’t use that name and assumed they were calling someone else. Eventually, she would ask the receptionist when it would be her turn, and they’d apologize and send her in to see the doctor, but the same thing would happen on the next visit.

                Regarding nicknames; I’ve never used one and would not use one picked arbitrarily the way it happened for this woman. I can’t imagine any office actually insisting that people use some kind of invented nickname.

                1. LGC

                  Yeah, I’m in that boat. Up until my 20s (okay, maybe up until college), I would barely respond to my first name since I always used my middle name.

                  Even now – outside of work I’ll usually not respond if you call me by my first name. (At work it’s the opposite – if you call me by my middle name I’ll probably ignore it.)

                  For what it’s worth, my first name was more common in the 40’s and 50’s, but less so in the 80’s when I was born. My middle name is more contemporary. I share my first name with my dad, but we have different middle names.

          2. nonegiven

            My name was mispronounced at a place I was at for a couple of weeks. I gave up correcting people after a couple of days, because it was futile, but started answering to the mispronunciation. Then a few days later someone showed up with the real, more common, name that was what they were mispronouncing for me. The next time, I clenched to avoid even twitching to the mispronunciation. The people around me, got my attention and pointed to the person trying to get my attention.

            “Huh?”
            “Why didn’t you answer me, wrongname?”
            “That’s wrong name over there.”
            “What’s your name?”
            “Name.”

            After that, idk if anyone ever tried to get my attention again by using the wrong name. If they did, I never heard it.

        2. Foreign Octopus

          Does anyone else remember that story that went viral a few years ago of a black woman who’s white male colleague decided that her name was too difficult to pronounce and so he just called her Jane or something?

          She fought back by calling him every stereotypical name for a white man under the sun until he got the picture that he was being an idiot.

          1. Marion Ravenwood

            Actually it wouldn’t surprise me if this is why the company is forcing nicknames on people – someone has an unusual/’ethnic’/difficult to pronounce name and, instead of, y’know, actually learning how to pronounce the person’s name, somebody had the bright idea that ‘if we make *everyone* have a nickname then Wakeen can’t be mad when we call him William!’ Granted I might be biased because this is the sector I work in, but having seen it happen to individuals I can quite easily imagine it being extrapolated to a whole organisation.

            (That said, I love how the woman in the story you mentioned fought back, and if it is for this reason I’d be really tempted to do something similar if I was the OP…)

          2. VictorianCowgirl

            How lazy does a person have to be to not spend 10 minutes practicing a pronunciation for the name of an actual human being they see everyday? Even if he didn’t pronounce it totally perfectly, if he at least tried, that would be something. What absolute overt racism. Good for her.

      3. Falling Diphthong

        My son’s programming camp had camp counselor names. We figured it provided some anonymity for frontline staff if they attracted any stalkers.

        Not quite sure how that applies to an office. If someone is mad at “Applesauce” won’t they know Applesauce is also Jane Appa? This sounds like trying to blame things on your identical cousin who also works for the company.

        1. Lance

          The ‘camp counselor’ point, I believe, is that they’re ‘fun names’, as it were. The point in the letter is very much not ‘will someone be recognized by this name’, but ‘do they want to go by this name’… which, in the OP’s case, is very much a ‘no’, and the office manager is being fairly overzealous on the matter.

      4. Anon and on and on

        They can call me Applesauce all they want but I hope they don’t expect me to answer to it. I’m touchy about my name too though. People are always trying to shorten it and it drives me crazy. Its like if my name was Linda and people kept calling me Lynn. That’s not my name and I seldom answer to it.

      5. Cedarthea

        As a camp director we do use camp names, but we have a good reason for it. One, is the privacy of counsellors who are super easy to find online these days and our staff deserve privacy. The other is to give them a camp persona so they can try out new things in a new environment.

        That said, I don’t go by my camp name when I’m in my office (and would be unimpressed if we did it that way) and I only use it in communications so parents can connect my “human name” with my “camp name”.

        1. Flower

          The camp I went to and then worked at had additional reasons, beyond privacy and new personas. As a language learning camp, everyone got a name from the target culture, connecting it more strongly (often people would pick their own if it also existed in that culture). In addition, we wanted only one person per name (and tried to avoid very similar names), which just made our lives easier. Kids also got new names – as did kitchen staff and nurses. But everyone *picked* their own name, it was *never* assigned, and if a desired name fit into the target culture or was a young kid determined to keep their name not from the culture, we could agree to deviate from our initial list.

      6. Elizabeth West

        Oh FFS.

        I bet this is one of those offices where they all consider each other faaaaaaaamily, too.

    2. Cat Wrangler

      I commented above to say that it wouldn’t register with me that I was being addressed verbally by a nickname so it wouldn’t last long with me – I have been alive longer than any stupid nickname you can try on me. It would rankle in written communication. Call me Cat or Ms Wrangler.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt

        I’m pretty good at blocking out everything around me when I’m working – so I always tell my coworkers they need to say my name before the ask/tell me anything or I will totally miss it. A nickname would not work at all. My name is pretty much the only thing that will break me out of it – unless one of our many alarms goes off – or my brain decides to tune into the exact wrong part of a conversation that will make something innocent sound inappropriate.

        1. copier queen

          Yes, I can almost guarantee that if Jane tells her manager her name is just Jane, the manager will jokingly refer to her as “Just Jane” for the remainder of their time together.

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch

    You don’t nickname yourself, that’s not how nicknames work. And people who force nicknames as a “thing” reminds me of dudebro jocks. I’m sorry your office morphed into a frat house on you :(

    I wouldn’t answer to whatever they stuck you with. That’s not your name FFS!

    1. Auntie Social

      This is how Wolowitz tried to be ‘Rocket Man’ at NASA and wound up being ‘Fruit Loops’.

      1. JanetM

        From _The Martian_ (from memory, so possibly a bit off): “If we’re going to have a secret project, I want my codename to be Glorfindel.”

        1. Lynn

          Also about nicknames, from The Martian: “He asked us to call him Captain Blondebeard.”

          Back on topic, I go by my middle name. It is what my parents always used. At one point, when I changed schools in 4th grade, I wanted to try to change to my first name-but I didn’t stick with it and ended up going back to what I was used to.

          I have enough trouble having to listen for someone to butcher my (somewhat oddly spelled) first name and/or my apparently difficult last name. Having to listen for some nickname that isn’t even mine-nope. I’m pretty much not going to answer to that until someone taps me on the shoulder and catches my attention.

    2. Nana

      Worked at a Jewish non-profit, where the president/ceo wanted to call me by my Hebrew name [there was another Nana]. No biggie, except that I was given a Jewish name at birth…and it wasn’t the one he decided on. Nope. No way. I corrected him a few times…then I just didn’t respond. He gave up [although he didn’t give up being an a**hole].

      1. Observer

        What the what?!?! It would be bad enough if he decided to “give” you a Hebrew name if you only had a secular name. (And it would be pretty bad, imo.) But you HAVE a name. He just doesn’t like it. Which means that he was just looking for an excuse for acting like a jerk.

      2. ShortT

        I’m Sephardi and a convert. (My community is very heavily Ashkenazi. Including my SO.) A lot of people still refer to me by a diminutive version of my secular name. A rabbi once heard someone call me by my nickname. (Only my mom calls me by my full secular name. Even then, only when she’s p***ed.) He has the nerve to say, “That’s not your real name, (insert Ashkenazi pronunciation of my Jewish name) is your real name.” I just looked at him and calmly said, “I don’t recall asking for your psak and that’s not your decision to make.”

    3. Asenath

      There is – or was, it seems to have died out a bit – a custom of naming the son of John Smith “John Smith, Junior” and in many of these families, the younger John was nicknamed “Junior”, and called that, often into old age. One teacher had a bit of a bee in her bonnet about nicknames, and insisted on calling everyone by their “real” name – mostly, it was pretty obvious – “Robert” for “Bobby”, “Susan” for “Sue” and so on, but of course “Junior” doesn’t give any hint as to the actual name. I always had to stop and figure out who she meant when she said “John” since there were several of them, and remembering that Junior was also a John took me a while.

      This was treated as just a personal quirk; everyone else, staff and students, continued to use the names or nicknames the student preferred.

      1. Slartibartfast

        I have a friend whose “real” name is Billy, not William. It’s “Billy” on his birth certificate. Wonder if that teacher would make him prove it?

        1. Asenath

          I think she would have made him prove that was his real name! I liked her, but then, I often like eccentric people, and she was certainly eccentric about the “real name” business.

        2. Catherine Tilney

          My legal name is Beth, but occasionally I’ve met people who insist it must be Elizabeth. Nope, it’s Beth for a reason and I like it that way.

          My mother’s name is Greta, and she had a teacher in elementary school who insisted that that was a nickname and her name was really Gertrude. My grandmother had to go in and straighten out that teacher.

          1. Working with professionals

            My Mom had a friend with the same problem. Her name was Penny but the teachers insisted that was a nickname for Millicent. Her mom had to bring in the birth certificate to provide it. Then the teacher lectured the mom on how inappropriate the name was!

            1. Elizabeth West

              I have a friend from school called Penny whose real name is not Penelope. She often has to deflect people who think it is.

        3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

          Similar for my husband. His legal name is “Billy”, and it’s gotten him into all kinds of documentation wrangling when forms come pre-filled in with “William”.
          Just to confuse things, he also took his mother’s maiden name after she got acrimoniously divorced when he was a little boy. So his birth certificate says “Billy Thatcher”, but everything after his *fully legal* name change says “Billy Bratt”. He keeps his driving licence or passport on standby, because of people who keep calling him William Thatcher – who is a person who doesn’t exist!
          And then we got married and I took his legal last name (so I’m Wondering Bratt), and funnily enough, the registrar was one of the few bureaucrats who got it all right first time.

          1. Asenath

            When a friend of mine got married, her husband-to-be discovered that his middle name was not what he had always thought it was – he needed to provide a birth certificate to get married. It turned out that his father had put down the wrong middle name when he registered the birth. I think these days procedures for registering a birth are a bit more formal, and mistakes less common.

            I helped one of my aunts get the documentation to correct her official name – in her case, it looked like some clerk transcribing the original hand-written record into the official records had mis-read “Marguerite” for the much more common “Margaret”.

            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

              Which immediately brings to mind Princess Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre of course…

              (sorry for the brief derailment)

        4. JSPA

          “Junior” can also be a given name (with English or Spanish pronunciation).

          I’ve noticed that Filipino given names can be fascinating concatenations or diminutives of names, nicknames and other words from all over the world.

        5. Lucy (not Lucinda)

          Similar here – I had a boss who was adamant that Lucy was short for Lucinda, and called me Lucinda even when asked not to.

          Like yes ok Lucy can be short for Lucinda but in my case it isn’t.

          He only stopped when I started loudly addressing him as Fergusinda or Fergusette at every opportunity.

      2. e

        I knew adults like this as a kid.

        My first name is Emma– it wasn’t common then– and I would get Emily from them. They weren’t just mixing up similar names, they would actually comment on it being a nickname.

        Emma is not a nickname! Really showed how ignorant this practice is, in addition to rude.

        1. ClumsyCharisma

          I go by a shortened version of my given name – think Nikki for Nicole. However, I had a former boss who always called me Nicollette which of course I never responded to. One day he said, “You don’t seem to like it when I call you Nicollette.” Well, that’s not my name, so no, I don’t like it. I often corrected him but he either didn’t care or couldn’t retain it. Knowing him it could have been either one.

      3. Yorick

        I think there’s someone at my job who does this. I overheard an older man call Jen “Jennifer” and then give a speech about how he likes to do that. I don’t think he’s around much, fortunately.

        I don’t go by a nickname but it still annoyed me right away. It seemed like an older man treating women like children by calling them by a full version of their preferred name. You know, the way you might call 6-year-old Johnny Smith “Jonathan” or “Mr. Smith” to make him seem grown up.

      4. TootsNYC

        of course, then there was my brother’s friend who was Donut to EVERYBODY except his mom and grandma (seriously–teacher, principal, friends) until he became a grownup and his childhood-sweetheart wife decided to insist on his real name. I always have to stop and do a little mental gymnastics to update myself when someone refers to him by his actual name.

  8. Bethany D

    #4 Being more careful than normal after a trauma like that is completely reasonable – even when just considering your physical recovery (which you might feel more comfortable discussing at work than the psychological impact). Whiplash damage can be subtle & slow to heal. A second accident, even a minor one, could trigger far worse effects than showed after the first accident.

    But I do hope that won’t happen and you’ll have a speedy recovery!

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        I knew a guy who got an advanced degree in Russet Potatoes. Well, the official term was Agronomics, but he did specialize in russets. So it would not be surprised if there were degrees in Oatmealology.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      I would have thought it would be a Bachelors of Science degree though and not Art. Oatmeal science is very serious stuff.

  9. Rory

    #5 Depending on your industry, you may even be behind the curve for job hunting. A lot of jobs start looking at graduates the fall semester of their last year and have jobs locked in by the spring. So its certainly not too early!

    1. Chocolate Teapot

      Hundreds of years ago, in my last year at university, I got the Prospects directory which contained all of the graduate employment schemes and gave instructions on how to apply. This was just when the internet was becoming more common. I remember some deadlines for schemes would be in December or January/February.

  10. Carlie

    Longer-term, OP1 should ask about the company installing a more powerful ventilation fan in that bathroom as well and wiring it so it automatically turns on when the light is turned on. Buying a strong but cheaper one would provide a good deal of white noise too. Part of the business of retrofitting a house as an office is making modifications for higher usage…

    1. Gigi

      My 30yo home’s master bath did not have an exhaust fan. I spent a small fortune putting a very powerful one in (spouse likes loooong hot showers twice a day). I can still hear him in there…newer fans aren’t very loud. And not for nothing…this is a nonprofit. I can’t see them spending that kind of money to cover the noise of one person.

      1. always in email jail

        ^this. We redid a bathroom and were sad to discover the fan in our Master bathroom is almost entirely silent.

      2. Observer

        The thing is, it’s not really “the noise of one person.” Sure, right now it’s one person who is using the bathroom, but affects a lot of others. And there is no way to insure that it STAYS one person, either.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt

      If I was visiting at VIP for a big meeting and there was a bathroom fan happening in the background the whole time I would probably be a little confused and maybe joke about it later. But I would also be put off by someone walking through the office we were in to use the bathroom and leaving again. If feel like the OP is totally in the right to stop her from using it when there are guests.

      1. Someone Else

        I don’t think the door to the bathroom is in the master-turned-office anymore. The letter sounded like when the building was converted from residence to office the door to the master bath was moved to the hall. The letter said the door to the bathroom and office were next to each other. That’s usually what I see when a residence is turned into offices. Any en suite bathroom intended to be used by all, if the door can be moved, is. That bathroom previously being the master bath I think just causes the issue of how close it is to this now-office (and not the other offices) and explains why the walls are kinda thin and things are audible etc.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House

      Honestly, I think this depends on what you’re considering “master bath” too. My current apartment, the master bathroom includes the closet, so there’s a door and 8′ feet separating the toilet from the bedroom, and it also has a vent fan.

      My parents’ master bathroom is exactly large enough to fit a toilet, sink, and shower stall. It doesn’t have a vent fan, the toilet is the first thing you walk into, and it is so close to the door that a taller person would have their knees hit the door while sitting on the toilet.

      I’m inclined to say it’s rude to use a toilet that’s attached to a workspace vs. in the hallway, because it’s disruptive to the person in that workspace and anyone who’d be entering the workspace for work purposes while the smell lingers. Which means I’d be inclined to say OP can’t use that toilet prior to an appointment if she couldn’t guarantee the smell would have dissipated by then.

    4. MissDisplaced

      I find it kind of weird their office is in a converted house. I mean, houses are not designed for that many people generally and bathroom toilets are in too-close proximity. I bet the electric is in a similar situation with not enough outlets and tripped breakers.

    1. Triplestep

      Seconding this. I thought it would be obvious to employers when my daughter was applying during her last semester that she was still in school out of state. (Her resume listed an “expected graduation date” that was in the future.) But one employer asked her in for an interview with no phone screen, and she came home for this, taking (and paying for) two trains and travelling five hours. They later told her that they needed someone who could start within a few weeks.

      This had been her first interview for a post-college job, so she chalked it up to “good practice” (and she did practice after having downloaded Alison’s free guide, which you should do, too!) But lesson learned. Some people complete their coursework and are just literally waiting to graduate. Make sure you make it clear when you can start if asked to travel for an interview.

  11. Bagpuss

    LW2 – I would simply not respond at all to the nickname.
    I mean, I probably *genuinely* wouldn’t register that it was me you were trying to speak to, as I am pretty good at focusing and ignoring non-relevant conversation, but in any case, If you call me by a nickname I don’t like or want then the only response you’ll get is “My name is [Name]. I don’t use [unwanted nickname]”.

    And I’d also correct it if referred to in writing that way.

    My guess (and hope) is that this will die a death as most people will go back to using the names for their co-workers which they are familiar with and which the co-workers respond to.

    Given that names are such a fundamental part of personal identity it feels incredibly invasive and inappropriate to refuse to use someone’s preferred name.

  12. g

    For #4 – Alison has said several times variations of “if you live somewhere that routinely has bad weather conditions, you’ll generally be expected to find a way to get to work”. What does this mean?

    1. Yellow Bird

      If you live in Texas and it snows, you can work from home. If you live in Alaska and it snows, you better haul yourself to the office because there would BE no office if everyone stayed home during bad weather.

      1. g

        Maybe I should have been clearer. What is expected of people in Alaska that is not expected in Texas? Aside from the obvious like buying snowtires, there is not much that an employee can do to make commuting in bad weather less risky.

        1. Tema

          Some of it is just comfort level and experience. People in Alaska on average will be much better at driving in snow than people in Texas, which makes it safer for everyone, not just the experienced drivers. Also government response will be better in Alaska (streets will be plowed, public transport will continue to run). It’s also just pragmatic. It’s relatively safe to drive in snow, but if it almost never happens and your workers are nervous because it never snows where you are, it’s not going to hurt business and may boost morale to let people stay home. In Alaska, allowing people to stay home every time it snows will absolutely hurt most businesses.

          1. Archaeopteryx

            Yup, Seattle’s current snow basically shut down the city. Very few roads plowed, and a shortage of de-icing salt. Plus tons of people rely only on bus or bike to get to work, so when those aren’t options it’s work from home or close up shop.

            In Alaska I’d assume they have plows and 4wd.

            1. R.D.

              Yes. The infrastructure piece really important.

              An employee in Alaska will have more experience and skill driving in the snow. They will also be more likely to have a car well equipped to handle the snow, but even without those things, they will have roads that have been plowed and salted.

            2. LCL

              And the pass on I 90 has been closed more than its been open. And one of the ski areas, Snoqualmie Summit, has said to the press, after 4+ feet of snow in 2 days ‘…we may have gotten too much snow.’

              Some of us still went to work. It was glorious driving in the industrial part of the city yesterday-so little traffic it was like Christmas day.

            3. Kendra

              I even have a 4 wheel drive and am comfortable with snow, and I had to work from home because nobody plowed my apartment complex, and there were about 8 inches of slushy, rutted, snow melt mess everywhere!

            4. ThursdaysGeek

              I’m on the other side of the state, and we don’t have much more than Seattle for snowplows and such. I was stuck until mid-Monday when a neighbor plowed the snow drift that was our road, and today I’m working from home because my boss doesn’t care – I’m in a different state anyway.

            5. Earthquake City

              I live in Alaska. The roads get snow packed and stay that way for the rest of winter. This is a good thing. A couple weeks ago we had a warm snap — got up to 45° in January. It was absurd. So everything started to melt. And freeze. Anchorage was like an ice skating rink. Factor in the sun not rising til after 9… schools were closed. Cause it got too hot. And icy.

              What constitutes a weather warning varies by region. In Anchorage, it has to be -40°F wind chill with sustained wins > 15mph for 3+ hours to get a wind chill warning. In parts of the US, the threshold is 0°F for any amount of time. But if it gets to 70°F here, people start complaining about the heat. :)

          2. AKchic

            Even in Alaska, there are going to be times when the roads shut down. Especially with our chronically anemic budgets, poor economy (which means poorly maintained vehicles on the roads) and to be quite frank, our generally bad roads in the first place. Add in the new road hazard of “earthquake damage” in some areas (just new dips, but not bad enough that required immediate repair, more like frost heaves) and settling of roads, and things have gotten interesting. We’ve had semis hitting overpasses on the highway in 2-3 instances in the last year, shutting down two highways this year. We have had rock falls on the deadliest highway in our state (and I think the country) that has caused issues. And yeah, the earthquake (and it’s aftershocks, which really aren’t too bad anymore).

            I would say (having been in accidents before) that the LW is dealing with normal reactions after being in an accident. They should be kind to themselves, and ask for the WFH on bad weather days if they can.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          I live in New England and was in Texas for an ice storm. In New England, they salt the roads. Plows are running regularly. We just had a snowstorm last night–salt trucks were out before it started, and plows could be heard when I was falling asleep. I just came in from shoveling–once you get out of my driveway it’s a damp pavement surface from here to work, school, and the grocery store.

          In Texas (Houston), there were no salt trucks and no plows. People had bought out all the Morton’s salt at the convenience store to sprinkle on steps; otherwise the strategy was to wait for it to melt out. Roads and sidewalks were covered in black ice, and the overpass/bridge freezing before everything else was being graphically illustrated.

          1. Sam.

            Yeah, the supporting infrastructure makes a world of difference. I live in the Midwest now, and I’d be expected to go to work in pretty much any circumstances. Fortunately, our public transportation system is typically equipped to roll with more intense weather. I grew up in Texas and my family, who still live there, are constantly amazed that things keep trucking when a foot of snow falls overnight here, because that much snow would shut them down for a week, easily. No plows, very few salt trucks, no snow tires, little-to-no experience driving in snowy conditions, etc. means they’re simply not equipped to deal – and that’s fine, because odds of them needing to do so are slim.

            1. Anonysand

              Yeah, it really comes down to the infrastructure. As a northern midwesterner, our local and state governments are equipped with an army of snow plows and salt trucks in case of snow or ice and are pretty much always on call for inclement weather. 4-6 inches of snow in a day for us is manageable since we have the tools and experience to clear the roads and drive in the weather, but in another state in the south? It would shut a city down for a day or two until it melted off.

              1. nonymous

                Yeah I just got in an argument (stupidly) with an acquaintence online because she couldn’t understand that to keep the arterials clear you need to plow them multiple times. We’ve had three days of 3″- 12″ snowfall in the last week. It takes the city 3 days to get through their full snow/ice removal plan with the infrastructure in place, and they have had to restart the process a couple times. But she was advocating that because “it’s been a week since the [first] snow dump” the plows should move on to residential areas.

              2. So long and thanks for all the fish

                I was lucky and stupid enough to drive from Florida to Virginia last year the day after Georgia and South Carolina got an inch or two of snow. It was just insanity- no plows or salt, so the snow had become a half-inch of ice covering all the roads except the ones rarely taken. They called a state of emergency, and were right to- but even in this part of Virginia where my Ohio-native self thinks they’re a little precious for how often the children are off school due to weather, that amount of snow and cold would be absolutely nothing.

            2. TooTiredToThink

              And also, the roads are different in Texas – they are made to withstand the 100+ degree summers. I was once told that they don’t handle the salt/sanding very well because of that – and hence can’t be salt/sanded too often (granted I’m going by 2nd hand info there). So its a matter of preparing for which is more likely.

            3. ababao1o1

              a particularly difficult situation is if your infrastructure is excellent …. but the subdivision or neighborhood road hasn’t been cleared. Your snow tires and 4wd may be fine on the 1″ of slush on the roads but you can’t get out of your driveway because the 6″ on the street.

              1. fposte

                Yeah, I live on a late-plowed street and my car has a pretty low clearance. I’ve had a couple of days over the years where the SUVs can make it out of my street but I can’t.

            4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

              Yep. I spent ten years in Seattle, and at least when I lived there (it’s been a few years), my parents’ 10k-population town in central Michigan had more snow removal equipment than the entire Seattle metroplex area, because they just didn’t ever need it. My first year in the PNW, the local community college closed classes for a half-inch of snow – meanwhile, the Lansing paper had pictures of the MSU students cross-country skiing to class and sledding down drifts from their second floor dorm windows and the like. It was a trip.

              1. Pescadero

                Absolutely.

                My home metro area has a population of ~170,000, with the biggest actual city being ~60,000.
                At full force working overtime – they can put 45 salt/plow trucks on the road.

                When I lived in Portland Oregon (2.3 million) – 2 of the 3 metro counties had ZERO plows, and the third county had 5 or 6.

          2. Gingerblue

            This. When I moved to the south, what would have been a minor snowfall in NY (“Huh, it snowed overnight. Pretty.”) was a crisis that shut down the entire city for a few days until it melted. Most people didn’t own shovels or car scrapers, and there were no plows or salt trucks. I certainly didn’t try to drive in it—aside from the state of the streets, no one who wasn’t a displaced northerner knew how to drive in that weather, and I wasn’t getting on the road with them.

            1. Anonysand

              I was once in Nashville, TN leading up to a “snowstorm” that was expected to bring 2-4 inches of snow to the city. As a northerner, it was really fascinating to watch as they closed schools ahead of time and went into shutdown mode. I’ll never forget one of the city news stations interviewed young kids who hadn’t seen snow before, and how they were so excited to build snowmen! We take all of our infrastructure for granted up where I am, and I did the same as you- we hunkered down until the worst of it had melted off, then once we had the all-clear I showed the friend who I was staying with the basics on how to drive on slick roads, just so she’d be prepared next time. She still texts me, now years later, when she’s proud of herself for remembering those lessons!

        3. WellRed

          The state or county or city treat roads, plow regularly and the majority if drivers have some experience driving in the conditions. Mainer here who got trapped in northern Va., for 3 days When there was 2 inches. I couldnt get around because of all the other drivers in thr way.

        4. Mrs. Fenris

          In areas that get infrequent winter weather, it is handled completely differently. In Atlanta, we have very few snowplows (I’ve never seen one, just photos) and the only roads that are salted are some of the interstates. Nobody has snow tires. I actually do own a set of tire chains, an impulse purchase on Amazon after a storm several years ago, but those are pretty rare here too. So if there is the slightest flurry, everybody just stays home.

          We can get away with this because our winter storms are very short! If we just don’t go anywhere for a day or so, it will all melt and we can get back to normal life. The only exceptions were week-long ice storms in 1982 and 2011, and the blizzard of 1993.

          1. Michelle

            Fellow Georgian here. I was 7 months pregnant during the blizzard of 1993 and trapped on a hill. Luckily, we had gas heat, but we were basically trapped for about a week.

            1. Mrs. Fenris

              Wasn’t that storm scary? I lived in a rural area. We didn’t lose power, strangely, but the (landline) phone was out. We were comfortable, but we sure as heck couldn’t go anywhere and we couldn’t talk to anyone.

        5. kittymommy

          It’s both a comfort/familiarity on the driver’s part but also from a municipal perspective there is probably not going to be the equipment needed to deal with extreme weather occurrences. I remember a while back when a lot of the southern states were getting snow dumped on them (I think this may have been last winter). Places like GA and AL just simply didn’t have snow plows and ice trucks, nor would most government budgets have the monetary flexibility to purchase them so suddenly). Snow tires and chains for cars were not very common for people to buy.

        6. CheeryO

          In addition to what the other commenters said, it IS still risky. Snow tires and AWD help, winter driving skills help, having good snow removal infrastructure helps, but there are still days when you end up driving to work in a whiteout blizzard, going 10 mph with your hazards on. It’s just seen as an acceptable level of risk, because otherwise everything would be shut down for half of winter in some places.

        7. Baby Fishmouth

          Places where it snows often are generally more prepared for snow – there are plows and salt trucks that make the roads safer. These things don’t exist in, say, Atlanta, because they rarely/never need them, so if it DOES snow, the city comes to a standstill because it’s so unsafe.

        8. CDM

          Also, snow isn’t the same everywhere and every storm. I have an acquaintance who keeps complaining about closures around here and how they never close anything in the lake effect snow area she came from. Well, lake effect snow is generally light, fluffy, dry snow, falling on an area that’s consistently below freezing for much of the winter. I can, and have, driven my AWD vehicle safely through 8-9 inches of that type of snow. (with all-season tires, not snow tires) We get that type of snowfall on average about twice a winter.

          What we more commonly get, is 2-3 inches of snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain on a road surface that is just above freezing at the start of the storm when the temperature starts dropping. While it’s “only” 2 inches of snow, it’s far more dangerous driving conditions.

          We are far enough north to have decent enough infrastructure to deal with snow, but ice still makes for dangerous driving conditions even with plows and salt. It’s not uncommon for an interstate in the region to get shut down for 6-12 hours due to the sheer number of vehicles stuck on ice (about every other year), while it takes a good 18 inches of snow to close the interstates. (4 or 5 times in 30 years)

          1. Mrs. Fenris

            Yes, that’s part of the issue in Atlanta too. The temperature hovers around 30 degrees when it does snow, so we get a lot of patches of black ice. I’ve driven in true snow with no ice and didn’t find it overly hard. Those invisible patches of ice, though, those are a game changer.

          2. Pescadero

            “Well, lake effect snow is generally light, fluffy, dry snow, falling on an area that’s consistently below freezing for much of the winter.”

            As someone who grew up right in the heart of the Lake Michigan lake effect snow belt (in a town that average 110″)… this really isn’t especially true.

        9. Annie Moose

          Aside from the infrastructure side of things…

          People in Alaska are familiar with driving in snow. They do it yearly. They know how to drive a vehicle safely in snowy, icy, slushy, etc. conditions, because they’ve had a lot of practice in it. It would be surprising and unusual for an Alaskan to not know how to drive in snow. On the other hand, most Texans do not habitually drive in snowy or icy conditions and do not have practice in doing so. They would therefore not have as much practice in how to accelerate/brake/turn/etc. properly in snowy/icy conditions.

          Furthremore, people in Alaska would be expected to have materials and tools in their cars/houses to handle snow and ice. That is, they’d be expected to have snow shovels/snowblowers so they can get out of their houses/driveways. They’d be expected to have ice scrapers to clean off their cars. They’d be expected to know how to start a car in cold weather. They’d be expected to have snow boots on hand, and good winter clothing, and salt for their sidewalks, so they can comfortably and safely go outside.

          That is what Alison means when she says that people in areas with routine extreme weather are expected to find a way to get to work. It means that they are expected to have both the knowledge and the tools to handle such weather.

      2. Elemeno P.

        Yes, this. I live in Florida and it was raining sideways when I drove home yesterday. It’s not pleasant, but it’s normal, so we’re expected to drive (though most people are understanding of delays). If it lightly snowed, everything would shut down because we have absolutely no infrastructure in place for that.

        1. PhyllisB

          Yep. Mississippi here. We are paralyzed when it snows here. What we normally get is sleet/freezing rain and black ice. We have a church member from Michigan and one day he kept making comments about “dumb Southerners who can’t drive in snow.” I finally turned to him and told him it wasn’t a matter of knowing how to drive in snow (though of course I realize that is an important skill.) It was more a matter of not having the equipment (plows, salt, ect.) that made driving so hazardous. And that since we got maybe “2 inches of snow every five years there was no chance of us ever having said equipment. I never heard him say anything else about Southerners and snow.

    2. CatMintCat

      I live in the Australian outback. Duststorms are a part of our life in a drought (which we are in now) and everyday life goes on uninterrupted). Sydney gets a duststorm (that’s my backyard blowing through the city) and it makes the national news, there are health warnings, children to be kept inside, asthmatics should be careful, articles on how to clean up, etc).

      Meanwhile in West Woop Woop where I am, it’s another day, more dust. No health warnings, no news, nothing.

      1. Asenath

        I think people have finally almost forgotten that Major Canadian City once called out the armed forces to help with snow clearing. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, life continued as normal, snow and all.

        1. DaisyGrrl

          Never forget! My brother recently relocated to that city from our snowier hometown and he said that there really is a difference in how equipped the city is for even moderate amounts of snow (5-10 cm). Fewer plows, and the drivers are less likely to have snow tires and know how to drive properly.

        2. Lupin Lady

          At one point in a storm or winter there’s the issue of where to PUT all the snow that’s been cleared. You can only plow to a certain point and then the snowbanks are too tall. In cities, where there’s street parking and pedestrians need to use the sidewalks, snow clearing is tricky.

          For those unfamiliar with driving in snow, stopping can take 12 x the distance. Stop tailgating and slow down so you don’t end up in a ditch. You can drive anywhere in a snow storm if you drive slow enough- Just leave earlier for work. I spent 30 minutes clearing ice off my car this morning – although admittedly I only budgeted 20 min and the city where I work the roads were worse than at home, so I was still late for work.

      2. Elemeno P.

        This isn’t terribly related to the subject at hand, but I am constantly impressed by the variety of locations inhabited by the readers of this business blog.

    3. Asenath

      There are strict rules in most workplaces as to when you don’t have to show up due to weather. For one place I worked, that I had to drive over treacherous secondary roads to reach, I didn’t have to show up if the appropriate manager declared the place closed – which was done based on local conditions, in a rural area so many/most people commuted, often through worse weather than that around the workplace. Therefore, you had to get there even if the weather at your home was worse than the weather at work. You didn’t show, you didn’t get paid. It wasn’t the kind of job where you could work from home. Our contract said we also didn’t have to work if the roads were officially closed – but in practice, they never were closed, because of jurisdictional disputes over who had the authority to close them. The police or the highways people (who ran the plows) might advise everyone to stay off the roads, and the highways people might even announce that they were removing all equipment from the roads due to bad weather conditions, but the roads weren’t officially closed. In practice, of course, the workplace would have usually been closed by then, because that sort of thing is a sign of a big storm covering a lot of territory – but if not – get there, or lose pay.

      I was rather pleased that in about three years of commuting through snowstorms over those roads, I never lost pay. I was sometimes driving the first car through after the big highway plow, and I was only once stuck badly enough to leave the car and get a lift with someone passing by. Once I returned the favour to a couple of guys who were stuck in the snow when I wasn’t – that kind of courtesy was normal. So, yes, you get through in really bad conditions. You keep your car stocked for emergencies. You listen carefully for weather bulletins, notices from your employer and from the police and the Highways department. And, if you’re me, you eventually move to a larger centre where you don’t need to travel as far in bad weather!

    4. Mystery Bookworm

      It’s just reflective of the fact that ‘bad weather’ is relative, and what one person might consider unsafe to drive, another person might be unfazed by. If you live in a generally mild climate, and you’re suddenly hit with an unexpected snowstorm – even if it’s only a few inches – people probably won’t be prepared. They might not have appropriate cars with 4-wheel steering and snow tires – maybe snow plows aren’t common so they have to wait a long time for the roads to be prepped. They’re not used to driving in bad weather, so the conditions will increase the odds of an accident.

      In those cases, it’s reasonable to stay home.

      However, a lot of snow in some places is a small amount in others, and if someone from Mildtown, USA moves to Wintersville, they’d be expected to upgrade their transport and learn how to drive in the snow. Otherwise, all the offices would be out of commission for the winter. Usually in those places there’s a lot more infastructure to support transporation in bad conditions. If you have no desire to ever drive in snow (fair enough) then you’re going to run into issues if you move to an area where it snows routinely, since your office is likely not going to be very sympathetic to that.

      1. Mrs. Fenris

        This. If I ever do move somewhere that gets a lot of snow, I will be happy to get snow tires and learn to drive in it. (I’ve been told my new car is terrific in the snow, and I secretly want to try it.)

        1. Southern Yankee

          I grew up in Western PA and my family is still there, although I am in Alabama. I have two in-law’s from Georgia now living in PA. They gleefully tell the story of their first winter when their respective spouses took them to an empty parking lot to practice steering/braking on snow & ice so they would be prepared if they started to slide while driving. They found it fun, although to natives it was more a sixteen year old right of passage.

          1. Shad

            And it goes the other way, too! I was raised in flatland NC by a dad from WV, and he took me out in one of the rare ice storms to teach me how to skid.

    5. BRR

      My interpretation of that is in a place that gets a lot of rain/snow, you have to sometimes drive in it if it’s not that bad. For example, we had a small amount of snow yesterday. Thankfully my office was closed but I check a local, large university for reference/curiosity because they post when campus is closed and things continued as normal. If I worked there I would be expected to be there and it would have just taken longer to get there. The weather wasn’t so bad that it was dangerous to drive and in a normal winter, we get this small amount of snow often enough.

      1. Asenath

        Sometimes, it’s not so much a case of “you have to drive in it if it’s not that bad” as it is “I really want/need to get there, so I’m going”. I think the reason we have such specific (and sometimes complicated) rules about getting to work is that you have some people who hate driving in only a little snow (although they won’t get much sympathy in a part of the world where a lot of snow is normal, and things function normally except in major blizzards) and you also have people who will take a chance and try to get “over the road” even in appalling conditions. Sensible people, experienced with the climate, collect information about the conditions, and act accordingly. I could make a long list of the announcements and types of closures I’d use to judge how bad things really are! For example, I needed a medical test done. A storm was winding down that morning, and another was due to move in that afternoon. I had an appointment at 1 PM. I had booked off work (which I don’t think closed down); I don’t drive myself any more, and I knew that that particular medical clinic opened regardless of weather. Public transportation was on, with delays. I guessed many patients would cancel their appointments, so I took a chance, got a taxi to the clinic about an hour ahead of time, got a cancelled appointment, and took a taxi home just in time before the weather worsened again and they took the buses off the road (no, I wasn’t taking the bus, but that’s a sign conditions are REALLY bad). That’s the kind of factors people in places with bad winter weather juggle.

      2. Doug Judy

        We got a foot of snow yesterday where I live and most people still had to go to work.
        I’ve noticed over the last few years, now that remote working is becoming more main stream, that companies in my area are more flexible about allowing and encouraging people who are set up for working from home to not come in the office in bad weather days. The general rule seems to be if schools are closed, then work from home.

        1. Colette

          I feel like you live near me.

          It sounds like the OP has the ability and the company culture to work from home. However, she lives in a place where it frequently snows, so I’m not sure it’s a good idea for her to work from home every time. From a work perspective, she’s probably fine, but sometimes avoiding something scary makes it scarier, and it could lead to her being trapped at home 6+ months of the year.

        2. ISuckAtUserNames

          Yeah, my company is definitely that way. If you have an office job and a laptop and can dial in to meetings, there’s no reason for people to risk the roads if they don’t feel comfortable, and as the OP pointed out, it’s not about your driving necessarily, but everyone else’s, too.

          If your job requires you to be present in a location, the math changes, but for your standard office job where telecommuting is even an option, it should be a given that people can WFH if they’re not comfortable driving.

    6. ClemFandango

      I think the OP lives in my province! It’s a ‘snow day’ here and the schools are shut down.

      It takes A LOT for the schools to shut. Just having a few inches of snow overnight won’t necessarily trigger a closure. The schools were open after 35+cm of snow and then freezing rain a couple of weeks ago.

      I would say that most Canadians would love to remain at home when driving conditions were a bit rotten. But because this weather isn’t exceptional, I think that remaining at home too much might be taking the mickey a bit.
      OP – how about base your driving on school snow days. If it’s safe enough for a 5 year old to be on a school bus, then its safe enough for you. At least then you’d be limiting your days to the very worst ones and you’ll have a bit of government justification for remaining home.

      1. Loux in Canada

        School buses are cancelled in most regions here where I live in Northern Ontario but schools remain open and of course, workplaces are open. Haha. It’s 7:35 AM and I’m at work.

        1. Windward

          Um, how do they expect kids to get to school if their school buses are cancelled? Here it’s all or nothing – school bus run when schools are open. No school buses, no school. It’s different when kids are taking city buses to school, as was the case when I lived in Montreal.

          1. Middle School Teacher

            They don’t. In parts of rural Alberta attendance has been close to 0% for almost a week because it’s been so cold here the buses haven’t been running.

            I’m in a big city and all our buses are running, although they’re often coming late.

      2. Some Sort of Management Consultant

        I’m Swedish and I’ve never in my entire life heard of schools closing because of bad weather. I’m sure it must happen occasionally, especially for kids in rural areas who are further away from their schools, but it’d still be highly unusual.

        I’ve had some days where I haven’t gone into work because there wasn’t enough to clear the roads and get public transport going, but even then I could’ve walked. I dislike driving in snow storms but I can.
        Normal winter roads are simply a fact of life here. We do have a special driver’s ed module on road safety on slippery roads though ;)

        1. Asenath

          I think locally (Canada) school closing has become more common as schools have larger catchment areas than in the past so more students are transported by bus – and in rural areas, that transportation can be over secondary roads and fairly large distances. Unlike in urban areas, those roads may not be able to be kept clear all the time. School administrators can’t do anything right – if they close during the day, there’s a rule that the teachers must stay and care for the students until the last one is picked up. Nevertheless, parents who are working claim that schools close too often, requiring them to leave their work to pick their children up even though the teachers are still on duty. On the other hand, some parents (especially those of small children) will accuse the school authorities of endangering their children’s lives if they open the schools when it is stormy and expect the children to travel to school.

          In my small town childhood home, no one was bused to school (well, not until the last years of high school when they started consolidating some of the rural schools), and no one lived more than about a kilometer or less from school. That school was much less likely to be closed due to weather than schools today. I remember one closure – I must have been in elementary school, and we were all sent off to walk home in a storm. One of the workers for a local company came by in a kind of giant precursor to a skidoo, and gave some of us lifts. It was exciting. Today, in many of the now consolidated schools, most if not all of the children would be driven home by bus, and the road conditions and whether they were deteriorating would be a big consideration in whether or not to close the school.

          1. Madge

            My town seems to have a policy of never closing mid-day. If heavy afternoon snow is in the forecast school will just be cancelled.

          2. Perse's Mom

            I grew up in the countryside of a rather small city – the school bus would have to go down our road and turn around and pick us up on the way back because we were the only house on it with school-aged kids. There were a few times when the roads were bad enough that the bus ended up in the ditch.

            1. LQ

              We ended up in the ditch quite a bit. It was very rural and I was on a weird and very long bus route that was basically all dirt roads off dirt roads off dirt roads, including some minimum maintenance road homes (they won’t bus down those, you have to walk to the nearest dirt road with maintenance). So the ditch was definitely a thing, as was just getting stuck in too much snow. Turning around mid route to drop back off because it was canceled also happened a good bit. (As did the driver continuing on at least part of the route to shoo kids back inside because they wouldn’t have known otherwise that it was canceled.)

              The more urban a school is the less likely it is to close due to road condition (vs temp) has been my experience just watching schools in my state. If your students are all in an urban area with plows vs your school is located in a town of 500 people but also the 6 neighboring towns and you’re covering a huge amount of space, much of which is rural, a decent amount of which is very rural (aka dirt roads/min maintenance).

          3. That Girl From Quinn's House

            This is also something that happens in big cities with lots of traffic. Even if they get snow frequently, it slows down traffic and increases accidents on the roads. So while any individual driver might be fine driving in the snow, going 30 on the highway that normally travels at 70, doing that in bumper-to-bumper traffic with a million cars is definitely going to result in accidents, then blocked roads, then massive delays and people stranded at rest stops for hours or children stranded on school buses that take 4 hours to run their 45 minute route.

            I lived in Boston for the 2007 trafficocalypse, when a blizzard hit just as everyone was leaving work and school to beat the blizzard. Even though Boston gets tons of snow, it’s a growing city and it was the first time the area really got put through its paces with its current population level. An hour commute took people four hours in that snow, and kids who were let out of school at 2 pm were on buses until 11 pm. After that, they got much stricter about closing schools and declaring a state of emergency to keep people off the roads. The snow wasn’t so dangerous, but the congestion was.

        2. Jaybeetee

          In my Canadian city, most of the time it’s more due to freezing rain than snow, as schoolbuses are probably rather treacherous on icy roads. I think the rule goes that if they don’t want the schoolbuses running on ice, they can’t obligate kids to be at school, though the schools generally remain open and teachers still come in for any kids who do show up (i.e. driven by their parents who still have to go to their jobs).

          That said, I believe schools are closed here today, as we’ve experienced a Snowpocalypse since last night, so for exceptionally severe blizzards I guess it’s a thing, but not common. I came into work anyway, as I had to park my car elsewhere due to a street ban anyway and by the time I was up, dressed, and retrieving my car I figured I may as well go to work – but I think most people elected to stay home/work from home today, and I’ve yet to see another human in the building apart from the security guards.

          1. Baby Fishmouth

            Yupp, freezing rain is much, much worse than snow – freezing rain makes both driving and walking completely unsafe. Schools here have been closed twice in the last week due to freezing rain, including universities, which NEVER happens.

            1. Asenath

              I agree. We get freezing rain quite often too – and although a little bit isn’t considered enough to close schools and workplaces, it’s nasty stuff. And if you get a full-scale sleet storm, it will not only close everything down, it’ll take down trees and power lines.

              We’re expecting 5 cm of snow overnight, followed by freezing drizzle and maybe freezing rain. That’s enough, by local standards, to make it “messy” as we say, and annoying to get around in, but isn’t nearly enough to close anything down. Not unless conditions get a LOT worse than the present forecast says they will.

            2. curly sue

              We’re closed (uni) for freezing rain here today as well, and my students are probably thrilled — they were supposed to have a midterm this afternoon that’ll get pushed off to after reading week now.

        3. my little actuary

          I grew up in Moscow, Russia, where there was a school closure policy based on air temperature, which was different for primary, middle, and high school. When I was in high school, that was -31C or below. I think in my three years of high school the lowest it ever got was -29C, and we were all really hoping it would get just a tiiiiiiny bit colder.

          1. Asenath

            I have relatives in Winnipeg – I can’t really call and complain about our climate (LOTS of snow, rain, sleet, high winds, but not often as low as -20C) because their climate is so much colder! I looked it up out of curiosity – they stop school transportation if the wind chill is -45°C by 6:15 a.m. Presumably schools are still open.

            I was astonished when a girl I met from Ottawa said that they sometimes closed their schools because it was too hot! (This was a while back, maybe they all have air conditioning now). I couldn’t imagine it being too hot to attend school, but I did once briefly visit Ottawa in the summer – maybe later than the summer closure, I don’t remember – and it was extremely hot by my standards.

            1. Tau

              I’m from Germany and my school closed for heat. We didn’t have air conditioning (most places don’t, summers are usually pretty mild over here) and I think the rule was that if it got over 32C/90F in the coldest room of the building, the lower grades could go home. We used to joke that they must be measuring that in the refrigerator.

              On the flip side, students were responsible for finding their own way to school (no school buses) and I can’t remember the school ever closing for inclement weather. This includes the time we had freezing rain and I walked 3km to school on solid ice.

            2. LadySmalls

              I grew up in Winnipeg! In the last month they have had below -50°C, it was crazy! I remember when the outdoor rinks would close because of the windchill but we would all still go out and skate regardless of the temperature!

      3. Lauren

        I’m in Alberta and I don’t think I’ve ever had a snow day. I don’t pay attention to school closures so it’s possible that there have been closures. We are in the 13th straight day of temperatures of overnight lows of -30 C (-22F) and in the day time it hasn’t been over -20 C (-4F). It’s not breaking until next week. It is cold. Everyone still goes to work. Stores are still open.

        1. Middle School Teacher

          Can confirm schools in AB are still open (seven though buses in some places are not running). I’m in a major city, yesterday one of our buses was an hour late. We’re all just keeping on. Bundle up, leave earlier, and plug in your car when you get there.

        2. iglwif

          Yeah, I grew up in AB and I don’t remember schools ever closing because of cold or snow.

          They did keep us in at recess when it rained, though :P

      4. Madge

        I live in a very snowy, hilly place and we average 3-4 snow days a year plus a couple late starts. We have all the needed equipment and a good sand and salt budget, but we’re a mixed rural and “urban” district and school is cancelled based on the condition of the rural roads in the higher altitudes. Sometimes the conditions are fine for the kids in town but the kids in the hills also got ice or 6 extra inches of snow and can’t make it in. The kids are disappointed today because they were certain school would be cancelled, but there’s only a late start.

        I grew up in another snowy place, but a city on the prairie and I think school was cancelled for snow once my entire time in grade school.

        1. Snark

          Similarly, I live in a small city tucked up next to some mountains and a ridge that runs perpendicular to them, and it’s often sheltered from intense storms. My workplace, however, is 15 miles out on the plains, and a mildly blustery day with some snow can be a shrieking blizzard with zero visibility out at work. And mountain towns up the road can be absolutely hammered with snow while we get an inch or two.

    7. Loux in Canada

      I live in northern Ontario. Before this, I lived somewhere in southern Ontario that had bad lake effect that routinely caused large snowfalls. Here, that actually happened last night! This morning there was a pile of snow on my car, and one of my neighbours used his truck to flatten the big snowbank left by the city plows, since the landlords haven’t sent out their contractor yet. Normally it’s just frighteningly cold here in the winter (we had about a week last month where the temperature before wind chill was below -30 Celsius basically every day), but sometimes when it warms up we get big winter storms.

      I work for a large government agency that has about 4,500 employees in this building alone. Many people commute from out of town. This morning, (at 7:29 AM; most start at 7 AM), most people are here, the parking lots were already plowed this morning, and the roads were plowed, albeit not yet salted (from what I could tell, anyway) and still snow covered. I saw some plows out as I was driving to work. Plenty of people were late, but the office is definitely still busy.

      So basically what it means is that, barring power lines falling because they are encased in ice or whatever, you’re generally expected to report to work. Most people here have snow tires, snow brushes, the plows are out overnight and transit is still running in the morning, so it’s still possible to travel. I’ve seen it in places like Toronto where this amount of snow falls and basically the entire city grinds to a halt. That almost never happens here.

      1. iglwif

        I’m in Toronto (but am not from here originally). Everything closed yesterday because of the weather–including schools, which NEVER happens, and my choir rehearsal last night, which also NEVER happens–and I went out this morning expecting … idk what, but it’s actually Really Not That Bad. The plows and salting trucks have been round, the snow accumulation is much less than the last time, and the sidewalks are walkable, if kind of unpleasant.

        I will say, though, that it was horrendously windy yesterday, with extremely poor visibility, and walking, waiting for buses, etc., was probably going to suck, so I’m glad I didn’t have to be out in those conditions too much.

        (Also note that we have not called in the military even once this year to dig us out XD)

        1. Loux in Canada

          LOL omg. Honestly, a lot of my coworkers were preparing for Snowmaggedon, but yesterday I left work early cuz I wasn’t feeling well and the snow had not started yet… Apparently at 3 (when everyone else left), it was bad (I was lying in bed, napping), but honestly, it’s not like… horrible. The temperature rose from like -20 to -10, so it was actually nice outside this morning too. I was laughing as I was driving to work this morning about how everyone thought the city was basically going to be closed, work would be closed, etc, but everything was running pretty much as usual. I heard it was pretty bad in Ottawa, though.

    8. xarcady

      We got about 5 inches of snow last night, followed by rain. Shoveling was hard this morning, because the snow was so heavy.

      Being prepared to get to work here in snow country means that you have a car that can handle the roads–snow tires, maybe four wheel drive; you get your car dug out and the driveway cleared so that you can get to work more or less on time. Lots of people hire a “plow guy” to come and plow their driveway before they have to leave for work in the morning, but lots of other people have shovels or snowblowers to deal with large amounts of snow. The plow guys were out all last night, keeping their clients’ driveways clear.

      Most employers are understanding if you are 15-30 minutes late. The worse the roads are, the later you can arrive. Except of course retail jobs and the like, where you just have to be on time, even if that means leaving an hour before your usual departure time.

      But say your normal route to work involves a large, steep hill that you don’t like to drive when the roads are bad. Finding a way to get to work means that if you know you are going to take a 15-minute detour around that hill whenever it snows, you plan that extra time into your shoveling/plowing/getting ready for work time, and leave 15 minutes earlier. Well, since you will probably be driving a bit more slowly than usual (this morning, the highways in my area have a 45 mph speed limit), you leave even earlier than that, so that you have a chance of getting to work somewhere near your usual start time.

      That said, I’m sitting warm and safe at home this morning, because I cleared it with my supervisor last night that I could work from home today. We didn’t know how bad the roads would be and he’s working from home all this week to concentrate on a huge project. But my company is very good about flexible schedules and working from home during bad weather–they’d rather have you work from home then call out and miss a day’s work. I have an injured wrist that makes shoveling less than pleasant, so working from home is letting me a) allow some of the snow to melt and b) work on getting the snow off the car in short stretches.

    9. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      In places where a particular weather condition is routine, it is expected that you figure out how to get around. Make sure your car has the right tires, get some lessons on how to drive in snow, figure out public transportation options if they exist. If you move to, say, Colorado from Florida you will need to learn how to cope. But also how to decide that the conditions are in fact too dangerous for you (and your vehicle). Sometimes a heavier or 4WD vehicle will be fine, but if you drive a Geo Metro you’re not going anywhere in it.

    10. Zona the Great

      I live in a city that gets to 120•F often. Get your swamp ass on that bus and get to work! Live in Another Big City? There’s pandemonium.

      1. Pomona Sprout

        Yeah, I live near Chicago, and in 1995, there was a major heat wave. Higgest temp? 104° F. Mild by your standards, but there were 739 heat-related deaths over a period of 5 days! Just goes to show, when it comes to weather, it’s all relative.

    11. Equestrian Attorney

      I think some of it is just pragmatism. I live in Quebec – if offices closed every time it snowed, we would be closed for business from Nov – April. Snow tires are mandatory, snows plows are relatively efficient, and most people are trained to manage winter driving safely. I say this as I am working from home due to extremely heavy snowfall last night – but this is the first time this year, and other people I know are still at work. There is a recognition that snow and ice are just a part of every day life and we need to deal, although some employers are better than others at recognizing extreme weather conditions. I also try to be more mindful of my commute because I know I will need to drive in the winter, so I live relatively close to work, but this isn’t true of all people.

      1. Loux in Canada

        My sister is living in Montreal right now and life for her is business as usual. It seems like a lot of places in Quebec are just used to dealing with tons of snow every winter.

    12. Traveling Teacher

      And, the opposite is sometimes true, too. A friend of mine from Northern Minnesota moved down to LA years ago. His first winter in LA, one morning he woke up and saw that there was one inch of snow.

      He left a bit early, planning for even slower traffic than usual, but he was shocked that no one was on the highway. He was having the time of his life, driving in LA with no traffic, and made it to work in record time. After being at work for an hour or two and no one else showing up, he called his boss, who nearly had a heart attack by proxy, and ordered him to go home immediately “where it’s safe!”

      1. Asenath

        Some of my family moved from eastern Canada to Tennessee. They reported that people responded badly to snow in Tennessee, which didn’t have the equipment and snow-clearing procedures like back home, and had hills. Hills are Not Good, especially if you are also in an area where there’s not usually much need for expertise in snow clearing. In my home province, when I was still driving, my car (equipped with snow tires, too) once slid backwards all the way down a hill.

        I got one of the worst sunburns of my life visiting Tennessee – I mean, it was MAY!!! Who gets sunburn in May? So I didn’t take any precautions, and I’m pale-skinned, particularly after the winter.

        1. emmelemm

          That’s why snow is Seattle is So Bad. Everything, and literally everything, is a hill. I mean, everything.

          1. biobotb

            Exactly! It really annoys me when people from snowy but very flat areas get holier-than-thou about how Seattleites handle snow. Conditions that would be manageable on flat terrain can turn very dangerous on hills.

            1. emmelemm

              I have hills in every direction from me to get to any of the main roads. The steepest is right on the corner west of my house. It’s basically a short-little block-long hill, but it’s really steep. (And it melts *last* because there are huge trees on both sides that hang over nearly meeting in the middle of the street, so it gets no sunlight, ever. But that’s beside the point.)

              Every time there’s even the slightest bit of snow, or just a decent amount of ice, I see people try to go up that hill, and they always come sliding right back down. Four-by-four, SUV, chains on tires, don’t matter. Down you come!

    13. Silence Will Fall

      I’m in Michigan and we get blasted with lake effect snow on a regular basis (which is different than snow elsewhere). Most of my employers have been flexible with start/end times when the weather gets terrible.

      For example, I usually get to work around 7, but when the weather is bad, my employer is fine if I come in a couple of hours later. This gives the road crews a chance to hit the main roads before I have to drive.

      This certainly isn’t true of all employers, but it’s one factor that mitigates some of the danger of driving in bad conditions.

  13. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

    How do you feel about *stupid nickname*? – Not Happy

    How excited are you about *even stupider variation* on a scale of 1-10? -300

  14. Harper the Other One

    OP #4 – this is a non-work bit of advice, so sorry for going astray a little, but while it’s totally understandable to want to work from home for bad snow (both because of the trauma and because of the higher chance of reinjury with two accidents close together), make sure you don’t avoid driving in snow altogether, which can inadvertently reinforce and heighten your anxiety. I have a relative who had an accident on the highway who was advised to do some highway driving on quieter roads for this reason and refused, and several years later her anxiety is severe even thinking about highway driving.

    Work could be a good motivator for this, so if you’re scheduled to work on a day there’s a sprinkle of snow, use that “I’m expected at work” to give yourself the little push if you can; it will do a lot to help rebuild your confidence on the road.

    1. Asenath

      Yes, there’s a balance between taking the needed time off to recover, and getting back into the habit of highway soon enough to rebuild your confidence. It’s very easy to become extremely anxious if you don’t get back on the horse that threw you, as they used to day.

    2. Baby Fishmouth

      Yes! I got in an accident in one of my parent’s cars a few years back on my way to work out of town (in the snow). I was fine, and there were no other cars involved, so I just called my Dad – who showed up, handed me the keys to his other car, and told me to drive myself to work anyways while he dealt with the car. I’m eternally grateful he did that because I would have been absolutely terrified of driving in the snow again if I had waited too long.

      There’s something to be said about get back up on that horse.

      1. wafflesfriendswork

        I had a pretty bad accident driving with my mom and sister *the week before I was to get my license*. I was terrified to take the driving test, but I was commuting an hour to school and needed to be able to drive myself! The first time I made that trip by myself was insanely nerve-wracking, but I did it, and it got better eventually.

    3. OP--Winter Driving question

      I agree completely. I see a therapist and she recommended I get back on the road as soon as possible. I was back to driving within 4 days of the crash.

      I crashed on the exit I take every day on my commute to work. I could have taken alternative routes, but I decided I needed to take the exit where it happened asap. It sucked. A lot. I was very anxious. But I’m glad I did it because it’s helped me in the long run.

      Thanks for the solid advice.

    4. SarahKay

      This is such good advice about not letting it be too long before you try again, and to try it in low-stakes conditions.
      In my early twenties I got into an accident, primarily due to my inexperience driving on major city roads. This was at a time when I didn’t own a car (I was in a hire car in the accident) and I didn’t have spare cash to hire a car just to ‘get back on the horse.’ It ended up being ten years before I drove again since even when I was earning more and had some spare cash to hire a car, I’d lost my nerve by that point.
      In the end I took some more driving lessons to help get my nerve back. While I still don’t own a car (no need) I make sure I hire one every couple of months or so, and push myself to drive in areas / busy roads / heavy traffic conditions *just* outside my comfort zone to make sure I keep a reasonable level of confidence.

    5. Auburn

      I took a defensive driving class after a bad accident just to get over that fear. I couldn’t drive for the first couple of months and it really helped me get confident again. They covered snow and ice too. It was great.

      1. Loux in Canada

        I took a winter driving course a few winters ago, and wiped out spectacularly on the course… I somehow ended up in a snowbank (I wasn’t looking where I wanted to go… not so “somehow” about that, actually, now that I think about it). They had to shut down THE ENTIRE THING for like half an hour while they pulled my car out of the snow. It was supremely embarrassing.

        A few years later, I have built my skills and that hasn’t happened to me since! :D The skills I learned from that course helped me a TON in the future, even though I did make a total fool of myself. It’s funny now, but at the time I think I was pretty upset. I saw one of the instructors recently since my sister did the same course, and he laughed at me about it and made fun of me in front of the class. I was just like, meh. *shrug* :)

  15. Uncle Leo

    Nicknames tend to be chosen by others, but you still get to decide whether to accept.

    Examples of accepted nicknames: A couple of my coworkers call me “Uncle Leo” because my name is Leo and my computer screen-saver is a slide show of photos of my nieces. One of my direct reports is Haitian, so I call him “Mon Ami” (“my friend” in French).

    Example of unacceptable nickname: A guy named John was once addressed as “Johnny Rebel.” Never again.

      1. boo bot

        Indeed. It’s also the kind of thing I would find incredibly grating in the employee’s position, but not really feel able to say anything about, because, when you try to explain the issue it’s going to sound like you’re offended by being called “my friend.” (Which honestly, would just sound strange to me in the workplace, in any language, but I could be lacking context. The point is he’s being singled out, even if it feels like you’re singling him out in a kind way.)

        TL;DR: this guy may or may not have a problem with it, but if he does, he may not tell you.

  16. Szabo

    In the military, it is common to pick up nicknames, particularly among certain cadre (Top Gun, anyone?). My commanding officer at a shore station was used to this and thought we should come up with nicknames too. What he failed to understand is that these names tend to happen organically. You can’t sit in a meeting and just start randomly coming up with nicknames. He got annoyed that we didn’t immediately love the idea.

  17. toomanybooks

    Did I misread #1, or does it kind of seem like the “master bathroom” is actually (for all intents and purposes) pretty much OP’s bathroom? I’m not a high level executive or anything but if there was a bathroom connected to my office and my office was the only one on that floor, I would consider it my bathroom, and if I were someone else I would never use it. Especially not for something where my presence would be so noticed (either by the time taken in there or the smell). Is this just me, though? Or, are plenty of people using that bathroom and it’s just this one person bothering OP?

    1. Rebecca

      It says the OP’s office is separate from the other offices, due to the placement of the former master bedroom, and there are 4? other bathrooms and 9 employees. Since the OP’s office is separate from the others, it seems like the person using the bathroom doesn’t want the other employees to hear or smell the results, and has chosen instead to use the OP’s bathroom instead. I feel sorry for the bathroom user, this has to be horrible.

      1. a1

        Which I sort of get, but also don’t really get. I can see not wanting to bother others, or be embarrassed when they know it’s you, but does it not compute that she is instead doing those things to OP and VIPs like donors and board members? That would embarrass me more, I’d think. It must be obvious that the doors to the bathroom and OP’s are near each other, and that the share a wall.

        1. Rebecca

          I didn’t get that part, either – I’d be more mortified to use the bathroom in another part of the house, especially if I got there and found a meeting in progress! And what if she got there, and the OP or a visitor was in the bathroom? Personally, I’d be concerned that if I had to “go” and I was taking a longer route to the bathroom I might not make it in time. My take on it is for whatever reason, the bathroom user knows there are sounds and smells, and perhaps some of her coworkers have complained, so she’s taking her business elsewhere. At my first job, we had a woman who was the bathroom police, and complained if anyone defecated at work, claiming we could all “hold it” until we got home as to not cause smells.

            1. Rebecca

              I did! Fortunately, though, I lived 3 miles away and had an hour lunch break, and often went home for lunch, and I don’t have any gastro issues. But others felt the need to go to other bathrooms in the office complex to avoid her. She was totally unreasonable! Management was ineffective and they didn’t care, so she was free to tromp around the offices to announce that someone “pooped” and it smelled bad and we should hold it. I am not joking. It was ridiculous.

              1. Fergus

                I would seriously think of coming into work early and do a big one in her trash can. Wonder what she say then.

          1. Fergus

            I know that with medical issues (chrons, IBS, IBS with C, IBS with D, ulceritive colitus, etc. there is no “hold it”.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt

          I was under the impression she was walking through the OP’s office to get to the bathroom, which would be super strange in a meeting. Most master baths can only be accessible by walking through the Master Bedroom.

          1. Femme d'Afrique

            The OP says, “The master bathroom is also in this separate wing with a door right next to mine sharing a wall.” So it sounds as though the coworker isn’t walking through the OP’s office, but rather using the bathroom right next to it.

            And while I can understand why Alison said that the OP shouldn’t consider this to be *her* bathroom, the fact that there aren’t other offices in that wing explains why it feels more like a private rather than public bathroom.

        3. Jaybeetee

          Since it sounds like the bathroom is adjacent to OP, but not actually connected to OP’s office, this lady may not realize how much OP (and clients) can hear/smell, and assume it’s a more private space.

          In my early-mid 20s I struggled a lot with IBS, and now only have the occasional flare-up. I remember becoming very adept at finding rarely-used bathrooms whenever possible. (Pro tip: basements, when accessible, are often your friend in this regard. When I was in uni it seemed quite a few buildings had out-of-the-way basement bathrooms that I don’t think a lot of people knew about).

          1. Syfygeek

            When I had “issues”, I would use different bathrooms during the day, that way no one knew how many times I had to go.

        4. JSPA

          Perhaps the ventilation is such that it does not stink into the hall, but rather travels into OP’s office. So far as the pooper knows, she’s venting to the outside. Best answer, IMHO, is adding a ceiling fan that turns on when you flick the light on and vents properly through the roof or through the siding (downwind from OP’s office, calculated on the prevailing winds). This is beneficial for general moisture management / preventing mold / preventing flaking paint as well as for smells. And if the board members have been stunk out before, it might be a very easy thing to have approved. Ideally, do it for other bathrooms as well, and the pooper may be more inclined to use them. Bathroom specific vent fan for domestic use is ~$25-$70; the vent kit is $15-$25. Ducting (semi rigid or rigid) is ~$8 per ~8 feet’s worth. Elbows cost about the same. Code will determine how it has to be wired (as far as GFI and plug in vs surface mount vs properly wired in the walls).

          If there’s no shower or tub in the room, and you have an outlet far away from the sink that’s on the same switch as the lights, you can probably even get away with a plug in, in-line duct fan, which is practically a DIY (but watch out for lead paint or liberation of scary old insulation as you drill through the wall). A low speed, low volume fan could possibly even be left on all day (they use very little energy and are nearly silent).

    2. Fainting Goats

      I think it depends on where the bathroom door is, do they have to enter the office to use the bathroom. It sounds like there was a door added in the hallway, I worked for a company that renovated a mcmansion into office space and they mainly installed doors with locks to every room leading to the hallway, turned all spaces into offices ( I was in a walk in closet), added outlets etc.

    3. Lily Rowan

      I would have thought this letter was written by my mother having gone back in time, if not for the rest of the details! She used to work in a converted mansion, and her office was the master bedroom, and there was a coworker who pooped in there every day! In her case, it was a shared office, so not quite as weird as walking into one person’s office to take a crap, but still.

      In this case, it sounds like there are plenty of bathrooms for the number of people, so you’d really have to make a point to use this one.

    4. copier queen

      I wondered where the bathroom is in relation to OP’s desk. Is it an en suite master bath, so you have to walk through OP’s office to open the bathroom door? Or is it more of a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, where there’s a door that opens into OP’s office, and another door that opens on the other side of the bathroom?
      If the bathroom is only accessible through OP’s office, like an en suite, I could see why OP wouldn’t want to share…

      P.S. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s 15 years ago — my best bathroom trick is to turn on the sink faucet to drown out any gross sounds. I realize this wastes water but it preserves what little dignity I have left.
      I also heard that when Oprah was serving on a jury, all the jurors shared one small bathroom, and everyone could hear everything that was going on in the bathroom. Oprah had everyone else sing while she relieved herself, so the sounds would be muffled! :)

  18. Stella70

    I’ve worked a few places where C-suite executives have their own bathrooms and no one thought anything of it. Given the layout of the house, and the fact that employees will not have to walk longer distances – who can argue with that?
    Make sure all 4 bathrooms are nice and well kept, mention that the one nearest your office will remain designated for meeting/visitor use only (they do it for parking spaces don’t they?) and be done with it. I think remembering to lock it an hour before every meeting is inconvenient and unnecessary, when staff have 3 other bathrooms to chose from. (And what if her reasons for the smell is medical? Why embarrassing her? Because you know darn well, her co-workers have likely noticed her restroom “preferences”).

  19. Need a Beach

    LW #4, at some point you’re going to have to make some kind of change (either move house or get a different vehicle), because people are only accommodating for so long. I just spent 30 minutes trying to get up my ice-slicked street, and finally had to call in a vacation day. I’ve used up my goodwill on weather-related remote days and vacation days, but it’s literally not possible to get anywhere without defying physics. Even just walking back up my driveway after abandoning my car, I almost broke my ankle.

    Colleagues who live right up next to the highway are not sympathetic to those of us who live anywhere else. It’s unfortunate that the amount of effort the town puts into clearing the roads reflects on us as employees.

    1. MLB

      I disagree. If her boss says it’s ok, then she needs to take her at her word. I live 35 miles from where I work. My boss has been to my house, and actually encouraged me to work a second day of the week from home since my commute sucks (we all work remote on Fridays). When the weather is bad, she is usually surprised if I show up. A reasonable manager is not going to think you’re taking advantage of a situation. Working from home does not automatically mean you’re slacking at your job. In fact, when I’m home I’m more productive because I don’t have people coming to my desk, or groups having conversations around me.

      Unfortunately many jobs don’t allow people to work from home, but if it’s an option, OP is not taking advantage of the situation in this case. Moving or buying a new car is not a realistic solution to the problem.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Yup, I’m with you. It sounds like the OP has some flexibility and an understanding boss. I don’t think there’s any need to worry too much. I do think that since the OP lives in an area with bad winter weather that she should plan to devote some time in the future to getting her comfort level back, but that doesn’t mean she should force herself. She was involved in something really traumatic AND she has a reasonable, thoughtful boss. Moving sounds like a drastic step in this situation.

      2. R.D.

        It’s very office culture specific. I don’t particularly like driving in the snow. Fortunately at my current work place, if remote in they do not care why. I live in an area that gets a lot of snow. Most work places have a policy of either “We never close for snow. We want our employees to be safe. If you don’t feel safe on the roads, don’t come in. Any time when you are not in while the office is open is considered unplanned vacation time.” or “we follow X School District’s snow policy. If they are on a delay we are as well. If they are closed, we are as well.”

        My last two company’s have followed the first policy, but fortunately the current company allows you to remote in and my manager fully supports my remote work on days when I don’t want to brave the snowy roads. Personally because while we get snow, it’s not the frigid north, so the roads aren’t *that* unsafe. I usually WFH because I don’t want to have my 30 minute commute take 60 minutes. At the previous job, it was expected that I would know when the storm would hit and leave an hour early to accommodate the weather. Neither is wrong, but the current job is certainly nicer.

        If you are concerned about using up your good will, have you considered working from home for half a day when it snows. I have found by noon, frequently the plows have done their work and, since it’s not rush hour, there are 1/2 as many cars on the road, so it’s not as slow and it’s safer. Again, I’m not on that far north so in my area, the roads will thaw a bit by noon, but frequently re-freeze in the evening as the temp drops so you are taking on the risk when you return home. That may not work as well in areas where there is no mid-day thaw.

    2. M. Albertine

      I think it’s more dependent on the culture of the business and if you can trust what your boss is telling you. If you’re a butt-in-seat kind of culture, then yes, your situation applies. But if like mine, it is much more about “if you’re getting your work done, it doesn’t matter where you do it”, work from home is encouraged if it’s dangerous out. I’m doing my second work-from-home day this week, because although the main roads are clear, last night’s windy conditions have our gravel road drifted over, so I can’t get out until the plow comes through.

      1. BadWolf

        Yes, at my job, if you had a bad accident, it would be fine to work from home on snowier days when other people would generally come in (assuming you weren’t weird drama llama about it). While we’re an “in office preferred” we can all work from home and often do on bad days (especially when school is cancelled).

  20. Madeleine Matilda

    #2 – stick to the name you prefer. I recently had a get together at which my friends, who all call me Madeleine, and my family, who all call me Maddie, were together. Most had no idea that I used the other name. Maddie is from childhood and Madeleine which I chose to use as an adult. Forcing nicknames is ridiculous and if my adult friends started to call me Maddie, I would correct them because it is a name only my family and childhood friends use.

    1. xarcady

      My brother’s name is Robert. Growing up, he disliked being called “Bob,” which is a fairly common nickname for Robert, so much so that many people automatically call him Bob on being introduced to him. But my brother prefers Rob, so that’s what we call him.

      I guess as an adult, he didn’t bother so much correcting people and let some people call him Bob. So one time when he was home on leave from the Army, someone called my parents’ house and asked to speak to Bob. I had answered the phone and told the caller there was no one there by that name. Because there wasn’t.

      Fifteen minutes later, there’s another phone call and Rob answered it. After he got off the phone, he asked me why I had told the previous caller he wasn’t there. “But he asked for Bob! You aren’t Bob!” Well, I guess he let his commanding officer call him whatever the heck the CO wanted to. The CO apparently thought I was not quite right the head. But dang it all, Bob is not my brother’s name. Never has been.

      On the other hand, when I heard one of his friends-who-happens-to-be-a-woman call him “Rob,” I was not at all surprised when they announced their engagement a few months later.

      1. Drew

        Same here – only a few family members and VERY old friends call me “Andy”; it’s “Andrew” to almost everyone else. I have a few close college friends who started using “Drew” and I like it enough that I tend to use it online and, weirdly, when I’m ordering food – monosyllables confuse fewer people, apparently.

        I’ve had a few folks in my adult life default to “Andy” and stick with it even after I tell them I prefer “Andrew.” Those people did not become friends.

  21. Blunt Bunny

    OP1 Could you have the bathroom window open at all times that may allow the smell to go elsewhere and the sounds might drowned out by outside noise.
    OP2 I would let them know that I prefer my own name and that I call people what they introduce themselves to me as eg if someone says Hi I am Bob call them Bob if they introduce themselves as Robert call them Robert not Bob. If they want to go by something else then I will do that unless it’s master!
    OP3 I’m not sure what is the biggest risk the negative perception the company may have if you or the risk of having issues with the flight? Are you flying the night before or the day of? If it’s not too late you could maybe ask if you could fly earlier as you have found in basic economy they often board last and aren’t guaranteed a seat and this would give you time if you need to catch another flight. Check on the airlines website if you can check in online that way you can do it first thing in the morning. Also give your flight details to the interview/hiring manager and say you be in contact if there is any delay or cancellation to the flight.
    OP4 If there are weather warnings in your area then you shouldn’t come into work unless there is public transport. I would make people aware you are working from home and make any additional arrangements like getting a headset to take calls they only difficulty I see if there is need to wet ink sign things.
    OP5 6 weeks is about average and start dates for graduate roles are at the earliest one month from offer, in my industry they mostly start in July or September as that when the student placement start. I would put the end day of your course on your CV and put in your cover letter that you are happy to move or commute to X place.

  22. Delta Delta

    #2 – Nicknames happen organically. You can’t force a nickname. It just doesn’t work. It reminds me of the end of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” when Jeannie, the sister, is sitting in the police station with Charlie Sheen and he asks her name. She’s trying to be cool so she says, “Jeannie, but everyone calls me Shaunna.” and he calls her Jeannie. Don’t pretend to be Shaunna or try to get people to call you Shaunna if that isn’t what happens.

    I used to work with a guy who had been in the military. He was a one-man nickname-making machine. They were good. They were unexpected. They came out of nowhere. They stuck. Here’s an example: We worked with a guy named Stewart. Somehow he ended up getting called “trombone” (there was some whole long train of reasoning that got to this and Stewart did not play the trombone) and it totally worked. But, he only gave nicknames if people were willing and the nickname had to match the person. Someone asked him what the boss’s nickname would be. His response was, “nah, that guy ain’t the nickname type.”

  23. RecentAAMfan

    Alison, I love your made-up degrees/job titles/work duties!
    I don’t know if you’re just effortlessly creative and funny, or if it takes time and effort, but it adds a smile and often a chuckle to my day!

  24. Crooked Bird

    Jane Smith – play their game but by your rules.
    Either by email or in person, do a big buildup about what a weird and unique nickname you’ve picked, how unconventional it is to do this but you hope they’ll accept to call you by it, etc. Then tell them your nickname iiiis…
    “Jane.”

  25. Call Me Maintenance

    In college we had ridiculous nicknames for each other — Maintenance, Wednesday etc. You could always insist on that.

  26. MLB

    OP#4 – take your boss at her word. If she says it’s ok to WFH, then it really is ok. If you want to put your mind at ease, have a conversation with her and express your concerns. But it sounds like she’s a reasonable person and it’s not a big deal. I get it. I have a long commute, and my manager is VERY flexible with me working at home. So I sometimes have a bit of guilt when I let her know I’m not coming to the office – especially because sometimes it’s a judgement call. It might be snowing or sleeting at my house, but doing nothing near work (or vice versa). And you have the added stress of having recently been in a weather related accident. It’s totally understandable.

  27. coffee addict

    LW5, you definitely need to start applying now. Depending on your industry, companies could already be well into the hiring process. Just a few tips, if you’re applying to jobs in an area different than your “home address” or where you attend college, you might want to add a sentence or two into your cover letter as to why you’re interested in moving. I would also reach out to your school’s career services office if they have one. They probably have some idea of where other graduates have had success getting jobs so that might help you get a start. In terms of start date, they can vary wildly. Some companies like to have one huge start date for all new employees or you might be able to have more flexibility since you’re a new grad. However, in my experience, most hiring for new grads is complete by the end of March with an expected start date in June/July.

    1. pentamom

      I am surprised that OP 1 isn’t getting more guidance on this from the college. I know that some of my kids’ friends had jobs lined up in October, for May graduations. But yes, contact Career Services on this, yesterday.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      You’re talking about large companies in specific fields that hire “classes” of new grads. There are loads of fields that don’t work like that, and where new grads get hired on the same timelines as anyone else — meaning that it’s not planned in advance in the same way. If the OP is in liberal arts, she’s actually on the early side for applying right now, not late.

    3. RG2

      It really depends on your industry! We’re hiring for a position now and I’m having to reject a lot of soon-t0-be-grads because they won’t be finished with their degrees by the time we need someone to start. (Also, the position requires a several years of more specialized experience, but that’s a separate issue).

  28. SaraV

    LW #4 – First off, I’m glad you’re physically okay with no major injuries.

    I had a job several years ago where I had a 45 minute drive on the interstate between two cities. One morning I hit a patch of black ice and spun out on the interstate. I was fine, car was fine, but didn’t go into work. (Car did get stuck in a snow bank, and there was a tow ban) About a week later, my home city got about 3-4 inches of snow, whereas my work city got less than one inch if any. I was still “gun shy” about driving in less than ideal weather, and I got some flak from my manager when I asked to work a half day from home. “There’s no snow up here.” “Yeah, but there is down here.”

    All this to say, you were in a much more serious crash than myself, and I totally understand how you’re feeling. This winter has been absolutely brutal with bad driving conditions. If I were your manager, I’d let you work from home the rest of this season any time you didn’t feel completely safe driving into work. If your manager allows you to do so, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it.

  29. Adlib

    #1 – I know how you feel. I used to sit by the restroom in a previous office used almost solely by all the field crew guys, and it was…not pleasant. Alison’s suggestions are great here though.

    #3 – I don’t know why companies use basic economy, especially for interviewees who are presumably on a schedule. My current employer bans us from even choosing those flights for business purposes. They seem to be geared toward frugal personal travel, not business. (I haven’t checked in a while, but do they even save that much money compared to economy when you figure in carry-on fees or other such addons?)

    #4 – Just be communicative with your supervisor. Alison’s script is great! I understand your concern though. If you aren’t used to working from home a majority of the time or are still fairly new to the office, it can feel weird to be out of the office so much. Your accident sounds pretty scary, and with as much snow as you get, I wouldn’t even try to go outside! Be safe!

    1. OP--Winter Driving question

      Thanks for the kind words! I talked with my boss about this today and she was supportive. She said she’s “very comfortable” with me working from home when driving conditions are dangerous. I’m lucky to have a boss who puts my safety first!

    2. OP3

      I just did a quick check.
      If I hadn’t been warned that I need to check my carryon bag before I get to the gate, it would be more for basic economy than just regular economy (if they got similar prices to what I now see online).

    3. zora

      Re: Basic Economy: same for my company. Our policy is to block all Basic Economy fares in our travel system, here’s the note posted in our system:
      “NOTE: Basic Economy Fares have been turned off due to company policy. The “use it or lose it” fare rule, no pre-assigned seating, etc. helped to make this corporate decision.”

      I would keep a close eye for any bookings from now on, so you can respond immediately if this happens again, and ask for them to book you in regular Economy. Your email above is worded well, but you should definitely speak up! I would also be worried about getting bumped and missing an interview. Our company would not bat an eye if you asked for that.

  30. Jennifer

    #1 I think this woman is being a bit inconsiderate. I’m not going to diagnose with a medical condition over the internet. The letter didn’t mention she had a medical condition. And going to the bathroom twice a day doesn’t necessarily mean she has a medical condition.

    A lot of people sneak off to another floor to go #2 but this office is in a private home. It should go without saying that people will be able to hear, and smell, what’s going on. It’s especially inconsiderate when she knows there will be important visitors in that part of the building. If ya gotta go, ya gotta go, but she should be bringing her own white noise machine, or playing white noise from her phone, and purchasing her own Poopourri if she’s going up there to use the bathroom. She knows other people are in the area, even if they aren’t people she works closely with, and she should be more considerate.

    1. Rainbow Roses

      She should but she isn’t. Unfortunately, she’s not the one asking for advice. So what should the OP say or do?

      When I worked at a very small office, I lit matches and made sure to thoroughly run it under water before discarding.

  31. 653-CXK

    LW#4: If there was bad weather at ExJob, the prior rule was the company shut down and we got a paid day off; I think the amount of time paid out, plus the influx of new employees and a premium in space had forced the company’s hand and gave all who worked on desktops previously laptops, and told us we had to carry our laptops at all times, even at home; the company would still be open regardless of weather (otherwise you’d have to take PTO for that day)

    In my experience, when the company began to offer remote work from ExJob, it was a godsend, especially after the Winter From Hell of 2014-2015. Even though I worked remotely two days per week and lost my permanent desk, the winters of 2016-2018 were much, much easier to take – no four hour commutes home, no crowded-to-the-gills trains, etc.

  32. Jaybeetee

    LW4: I sympathize – years ago I had a long-ish commute to a rural area, and had a bad car accident in icy conditions that left me anxious driving for the rest of the winter (and even now I dislike driving in freezing rain, though I can make it through any blizzard). I find it really depends on the job and workplace, so the best person to ask would be your boss – who seems to be understanding so far, so it doesn’t sound like you have to be nervous about bringing this up with her! (And if she works from home several days a week, that’s all the more reason to think that at least having a conversation about what you can “get away with” shouldn’t go over horribly). Maybe be honest with her that you’re still shook from your accident, and that you’re also afraid of taking advantage or pushing limits, and see what she tells you? Such a conversation would also likely give you a better idea of where the “limits” are for staying or working from home due to weather, instead of it being a mystery to you and leaving you more anxious.

    After my accident, that particular workplace instituted a policy that if buses were cancelled (which basically means freezing rain around here), we wouldn’t open for the day. It was a public-facing job anyway, usually in bad weather hardly anyone would come so financially it probably made sense to tell everyone to stay home anyway. Overall I think it was a good policy, but could be tough as many of us were hourly workers who wouldn’t get paid when that happened. Where I work now has pretty generous WFH for inclement weather, which unfortunately I’m not set up to use just yet (access to systems, etc.). That said, if someone called off or WFH every time there was a few flakes of snow, they’d probably be seen as a bit precious and unrealistic for living in this area.

    Finally, I very much get your anxiety right now – it was the same for me! But as someone above mentioned, if you avoid bad-weather driving completely that’ll make things harder and worse for you in the long run. I spent the rest of that winter being an anxious mess every time I had to drive through snow or ice – but in hindsight, I’m glad I was forced to, well, force my way through it, as those feelings did eventually get better, and I feel better knowing I’m capable of driving in nearly all weather conditions.

  33. Duchess Of Consonants

    I have a long and complicated name that is actually pretty easy to pronounce it if you take a second to look at it (or if you bother to listen to me pronounce it the first time round). Whenever people ask for a nickname, which is very often, I just say “No, I don’t have a nickname” and smile at them until they give up awkwardly.

  34. Observer

    # 1- Nothing passive aggressive about putting some air freshener in the bathroom. It’s a common problem.

    Also, if your org can spend the money, make sure there is a good exhaust fan in there. It REALLY helps.

  35. Observer

    #2- Your office is trying to improve culture by treating everyone like a bunch of pre-schoolers that can’t possibly handle scary adult names?

  36. Dog Person

    Letter #5
    I agree with Allision regarding starting the job hunt now. It took me 1 1/2 years to find my first paying job after finishing grad school. Good Luck and may your search not be as long as mine.

  37. Observer

    #2 – If you HAVE to have a nickname, ask for it to be “hey >your position<" or "hey you", because you're probably more likely to respond to that as to some nickname that someone decided to foist on you in the name of "office culture."

  38. Allison

    #4 – In addition to it depending on your region, industry, and office, part of it also depends on what your actual job is, and how necessary it is to actually be IN the office to get your work done. If your job requires your presence in the office, like if you work the office front desk or you work in tech support, or you need to be present for meetings and/or interviews with candidates, clients, or internal staff, then yeah, you need to get your butt to work as long as the office is open and the weather is relatively standard for the area. If you have a job that can be done from anywhere, and you have the option to work from home for a variety of reasons (feeling a little sick, expecting a delivery, getting the car fixed, child has the flu, etc.), and people on your team use that option frequently, then managers are typically okay with you choosing to work from home simply because you “don’t wanna deal with that mess” – that mess being gross roads and extra bad traffic that’s just plain unpleasant to deal with if you don’t need to. Tenure has something to do with it too, though – if you just got there, you should try to make it in, even if it’ll be a gross, crowded, slippery commute.

    That said, even in New England there’s such a thing as weather that’s too dangerous for most people to commute in. We have snow emergencies, we have situations where it’s illegal to drive if you’re not essential staff, and the public transit system does sometimes shut down for safety reasons. In those cases, 90% of managers let you work from home unless you’re essential staff. If nothing else, it makes it slightly easier and safer for, say, emergency room staff to get where they need to go.

  39. nnn

    For #2, if, despite your best efforts, you do get as far as getting a nickname imposed upon you, I’d advise obliviously failing to notice when you’re addressed by the nickname.

  40. Latkas, please.

    OP #5 – my sister majored in something that can get her into her field straight from college and has already gotten herself her first job lined up for June, after she graduates in May. It’s not too soon and people hiring understand.

  41. SKA

    #5 – You’re definitely good to start applying now. I graduated about 10 years ago, and also started applying around 3 months ahead of time. I ultimately accepted an offer probably about 6 weeks before graduation.

    Just make sure to mention your graduation date in your cover letter – otherwise, if they just skim your resume, they might schedule an interview with you when they need to fill the position immediately, which would be a waste of time for both of you. Also, you can probably expect a lower response rate than a typical job search, as there will be some companies who are looking to hire earlier than you’ll be available. So don’t be disheartened if you don’t get as many positive responses as you otherwise might expect.

  42. LadeeDa

    Nickname: Do we know why they are asking? Is if it for a one time game that is going to be used for a team meeting? If it is something like that I’d give a ridiculous nickname. Since Princess Consuela Banana Hammock is already taken by one of the posters here, I will have to go with Crap Bag. ;)
    If it is so they can make a cute poster and have funny nicknames for everyone to show how close and awesome you all are and it’s going to be used by people, then no. I wouldn’t give a nickname either. I would feel awkward about saying no- but I really hate nicknames for myself. Only my siblings and nieces get to call me by the common nickname for my name.

  43. LadeeDa

    #5 Does your university have recruiting events? My company is always sending recruiters and some recent grad employees to college recruiting events. We spend the 6 months before May graduations and the 6 months before December graduations recruiting. Look into those events, and look on social media. If (bigger) companies are doing a big new graduate recruiting drive, they will post about it.

    Good luck!!!

  44. Rachael

    #5 – I agree to start now. When I was laid of of my last job the word was leaked 1 year before the actual layoff date (due to a bank merger). I worried about the best time to start my job search (I was being laid of in June). Then, someone gave me the BEST advice. “Start 3-4 months ahead. #1 You will get great practice for the jobs that you actually have a shot for later on in the process. #2 If you have to turn down a job due to timing you aren’t out anything because you wouldn’t have known about the opportunity if you would have waited longer to start applying, anyway.

    Note: I couldn’t start earlier due to a generous severance and retention bonus that I would be forfeiting if I left earlier than my planned date.

  45. Manchmal

    OP #1, how about this: Send an email asking people to avoid using the bathroom next to your office when visitors/donors are in. “Dear colleagues, I’m writing to ask you a favor. The bathroom next to my office is unfortunately not well-insulated sound-wise, and I’ve had a number of awkward moments in my office during donor meetings when bathroom sounds and smells are clearly noticeable. So, I’d like to ask that everyone use a different bathroom when you notice that we have visitors. You can check my calendar if you aren’t sure. Thanks for your indulgence, OP”

    If, after a couple of weeks you still notice a problem, then you can flex your authority and say “We’re still having the problem, I’m going to start locking the bathroom door prior to donor visits.”

    1. LadeeDa

      I like this option!! Nice letter too!

      My therapist’s office is an old tiny house, and they have a white noise machine in the “lobby” so that those waiting can’t hear the people in sessions. It works really well, I am only able to hear a murmur of voices from each of the rooms.

  46. TootsNYC

    “I don’t want to assume it would be okay without talking to you, and I don’t want you to feel I’m taking advantage of your flexibility.”

    yes! Say these things. Drag this awkward stuff right out into the open and talk about it.

    I can’t imagine a reasonable boss reacting badly to your saying, “I don’t want to make assumptions or take advantage or look like a bad person.”

    They might pooh-pooh the notion that you’re taking advantage, but that’s not “reacting badly.”

    And even if they’re a NOT reasonable boss and they do react badly–well, now you know, right?

    Don’t hint, don’t try to send smoke signals, etc.
    Just bring all that stuff up.

  47. Amber Rose

    Oh boy, nicknames. The incorrigible snark in me would reply that I sometimes go by Shnookums, just to see if anyone would actually call me that at work. The realistic part of me realizes that I almost certainly would be called that by someone missing their senses of embarrassment and irony and the universe would implode as a result.

    I haven’t had a nickname since elementary school, when some jerk kids called me Amberger. Or I guess that time in high school I got 98% on a test everyone else in my class failed and was briefly known as Alien. :/

    1. Snark

      yaaaaaaaasssssssss

      “I’ve been known as Cutie Patootie Booty since I was little, so I’d prefer that.”

  48. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)

    I know someone who uses “Spike,” I assume because she didn’t like any of the standard nicknames for her given name. “Assume” because she’s been Spike longer than I’ve known her, and she’s not especially butch or sharp-edged.

    OP could try something similar–it sounds like they want to hand people nicknames like “Apple Pie” and “Janey,” so a woman saying “It’s Jane, but you can call me Spike” (or “Butch” or “Duke” or something else not generally read as sweet) or “my friends call me Jane, but ‘Ma’am’ will do” might get them to call her Jane.

    1. TootsNYC

      or maybe because she read Terry Pratchett’s “Going Postal” and admired the character Adora Belle Dearheart.

  49. JSPA

    RE Nicknames: I’m going to speculate a bit wildly (but I think we’ve all seen it?) that boss may be having trouble remembering very short or very long names from people-not-of-his-ethnicity and is trying to find a way around singling out a subset of people for re-naming by trying to encourage memorable nicknames for everyone. Whether he can’t remember which Nguyen is which, or needs practice saying Pattikirikoralalage, or if “Smith” is actually exotic for him, the answer is the same: Any employee who wants to adopt a soi-disant “more approachable” / Westernized name has presumably already done so. There is really no OK way to pressure more of them to do so. He should instead put a picture directory on his wall for all his employees.

  50. JSPA

    OP#1, more details are upthread, but to highlight: you have a mechanical problem masquerading as a personnel problem.

    A bathroom vent fan or in-line duct fan, properly vented, will fix much or all of the problem. Especially if you add them to most or all of the bathrooms. Wire them so they stay on when the light is on, or splurge on adding a motion sensor and timer.

  51. OP1 for today

    OP1 here. Thank you for the advice. I think locking the bathroom an hour before meetings is probably my best bet so I will try that and see how it goes. I can handle it when it’s just me in my office but the second-hand embarrassment is just too terrible when I have people in there.

    To answer some questions about the layout, there is a door that leads to the whole master bedroom suite that I generally keep open and inside the suite there is a bathroom, bedroom, and big walk-in closet that we use for storage. The bedroom/my office and the bathrooms both have doors so nobody needs to walk through my office to use the bathroom. As I write this I’m thinking I might also try closing the outside suite door during meetings to discourage people from coming in.

    To answer some of the other questions, with one exception the other bathrooms are not actually located next to anybody’s office and nobody else uses the one next to my office so her choice seems particularly strange. I think it’s unlikely we are going to put in a whole new ventilation system but once the weather warms up I will definitely try keeping the window open for smell mitigation purposes. This same employee has been very vocal about her dislike of air fresheners and scented products and has thrown them out when she has found them in other bathrooms so there would be no way to send that message subtly!

        1. JSPA

          Yeah, but there are “one piece” units, on wall, that cost under $50. (waiting in moderation below.) Allowing $450 for cutting a hole, hooking it up and caulking it makes each one come in at under $500. That’s… nothing like the cost and bother and disruption and maybe even permits or electrical upgrades needed to add a whole house ducting system.

          I feel like I’m suggesting “you could put up a trellis for the sweet peas” (thinking of a $10 wooden grid) and am getting back that they don’t have the time and money to add a custom-built gazebo with trellised sides. This is…comparable complexity to adding an electrical outlet or a light fixture.

          1. fposte

            Whereas I feel like I’m talking to the cyclists who say “Just ride your bike to work!” when people talk about their unreliable cross-state commute. It feels like cutting the Gordian knot to you, but I don’t think it is.

            I mean, I think it’s fine for the OP to mention to whoever’s in charge that they could consider putting in a fan. But installing a fan might be physically easy; it might not. It might be allowable; it might not. It might be inexpensive; it might not. And overall, getting stuff installed at work is a whole different ballgame from doing a home repair even at the best of times.

            Plus the OP really doesn’t want people in the bathroom during the meetings anyway, so it doesn’t solve her entire problem.

            1. valentine

              OP1: Try One Drop.

              If you’re the only women, maybe she thinks of it as the ladies’ room and/or it’s cleaner.

      1. JSPA

        here’s an even simpler “plug and play” option. One piece; mounts on the wall; vents through the wall.

        https://www.lowes.com/pd/Broan-Utility-Fan-6-5-Sone-180-CFM-White-Bathroom-Fan/1266265

        Alternatively, for an in-line duct fan, you…firmly attach (to wall or ceiling) a piece of ducting with a grille on the end. Include and secure a fan, somewhere along the run. (Far enough in from the end to avoid any entanglement risks if something gets past the grille.) Even a booster fan will help, and those suck almost no power. Stick the other end of the duct out a hole in the wall, with a grille over that end, too, so birds don’t get in, and a flap to keep moisture and cold air out when it’s not in use.

        In both cases, caulk the inside and outside of the hole in the wall.

        It’s really that simple.

        A 4 inch duct will fit a fan that moves enough air, and a 4 inch drill bit for drilling through a wall won’t break the bank. Don’t drill through a stud. Don’t drill through a wire. I’d be amazed if a contractor billed more than $500 for each of these, installed, if the workplace isn’t relaxed enough (and people tool friendly enough) for a bit of DIY.

        If the mansion is in a historical district, you might need to hide the vent behind some more “period” piece of woodwork, but that’s the only complication I can come up with. They draw very little power (much less than a cooling fan).

        example of a booster fan:
        https://www.amazon.com/Line-Duct-Air-Booster-Inch/dp/B0002HTFIE

        examples of semi-rigid duct (this is fairly flimsy): http://www.imperialgroup.ca/flexibleducting.cfm?c=258

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      Throwing away other people’s property…she sounds lovely. I hope you come back and update us on how locking the bathroom or suite goes because I imagine her reaction is going to be just as vocal as her dislike of air fresheners.

      Any chance she’s doing it on purpose to stink bomb your office? Is she resentful that you have a private suite?

      1. AKchic

        This is actually something to consider. I mean, we’ve had others weaponizing their flatulence, why not weaponize their bowel movements? If you’re going to be answering nature’s call anyway?

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

          Especially since this is new behavior, “In the past few months, a woman who works on another floor of the house in another department has started coming to the master bathroom…” Whenever someone changes their normal behavior, and it’s more than just a one-time thing, there’s usually something else going on besides just “Gotta poop! I wanna be private.” Because presumably she was pooping in the other bathrooms just fine before.

    2. MissDisplaced

      It might not be location but traffic.
      At my office, the most crowded floor (of mostly women) has the smallest woman’s room. :-( You can’t be in there more than a minute without others coming in. Which means if you have issues, you seek out a less busy restroom.

      Given your office in a house situation best thing is probably to lock that bathroom when you’re planning meetings.

  52. Not my real name

    I go by a nickname, which was actually supposed to be my real name. But my mother wanted to give me options if I didn’t like the name. So…. no one has ever called me by my real name. Except my asshole ex boss. I would answer the phone with my preferred name and signed emails with it. He totally ignored me. And we were a 12 person office, so he knew me quite well.

  53. 4Sina

    As far as nicknames go, I can see checking in with all employees/interns on preferred name to be called (also, this is a good time to ask about pronouns if you haven’t already!) just to make sure you’re doing your best to not stick someone with a name they actually DON’T want to be called, and to give people an opportunity to speak up that doesn’t feel like they’re being singled out when they have a name they’d prefer instead.

    But this forced camp counselor nonsense? No thank you. It’s not the Appalachian Trail, the name on my email signature is fine, thanks.

  54. Lilysparrow

    #2, you could always say, “I like my name, I don’t have a nickname, and I don’t want to be called by another name. But if you’re going to make renaming mandatory, just go ahead and call me Offred.”

    Then you can start saying “Praise be!” and “May the Lord open!” in the mandatory morale-boosting meetings (you know they’re coming).

  55. Fae Kamen

    #1 – Personally, I’d skip any mention of “pungent activities” or sounds and keep it simple. “Hey, I’m going to start closing off the bathroom during meetings because it can be awkward when someone’s in there,” or even just, “Hey, I’m going to start closing off the bathroom during meetings.” Everybody knows what goes on in the bathroom so I don’t think graphic details are necessary, even euphemized.

    1. Fae Kamen

      The more I think about it, the less I even want to say “awkward” or “in there.”
      “Hey, I’m going to start closing off the bathroom during meetings because it can be distracting when someone comes in.” That way you could be referring to someone simply arriving as easily as someone creating pungent smells and loud sounds.

  56. rfalls

    My last job I was assigned a nickname that I absolutely HATED with a passion. As our team grew people would be told my nickname and I would correct them as soon as my boss left us and say, “I really don’t like that nickname, please call me (First Name).” The worst part is my first name is a classic name with a dozen nicknames! (Think Robert, Bob, Bobby, Bert). Nicknames like that are only fun for the people using them.

  57. Blue Dog

    #1 (Ironically) – I believe that less is more. Just say that because of the frequent presence of guests, this bathroom should be used for Number 1’s only.

  58. Anoncorporate

    Nickname pushers, die please.

    I have one of those names like “Jane” that cannot be easily nicknamed and I’ve been around people who wouldn’t let up trying to ascribe one. Also, my name is “foreign”, so I’ve had people try to give me Anglo names. Ugh.

  59. Xtina

    Only a few of my nearest and dearest know this story, but it’s absolutely true.
    My mom is one of the most vain people you could ever meet. Her hair, nails, clothing and makeup ALWAYS have to be perfect. She was having heart palpitations once, and wouldn’t call 911 because “her face wasn’t on.” She puts forward this aura of being perfect, and will do anything to preserve that impression.
    She used to work on the 2nd floor of a 4-story building, and when she had to poop, she would always go to another floor. She didn’t want to burst the illusion of anyone she worked with in her department that ever had to (gasp!) poop at work.
    One day, she had to poop, so she went from her floor to the 4th floor. She had settled into the stall and was ready to let loose when a woman came in and got into the stall RIGHT NEXT TO HERS. My mom was frustrated but decided to play the waiting game (you know the one–we ALL play it). So she waited, but the woman next to her was playing the game too. After a while, my mom had to go so bad that she was trying to figure out what to do. She decided that if she took some toilet paper and created a little hammock with it, that when she pooped, the poop would land on the toilet paper and she could slowly lower it into the bowl without the telltale “plop” that would give it away.
    So she took a length of toilet paper, straddled it, and pooped, where upon hitting the toilet paper, the poop bounced off the hammock and landed UP AGAINST THE SHOE OF THE WOMAN IN THE NEXT STALL.
    My mom was HORRIFIED! She pulled up her pants and RAN out of that bathroom, all the way down to her office.
    She called me, and was laughing/crying so hard I couldn’t understand what she was saying. By the time I got the story, I was laughing so hard that I wet my pants at work and had to go home to change.
    I don’t know if she remembers that story anymore, but that’s one that has really stuck with me (pun intended).

    1. uju

      I don’t find that funny in the slightest. I just feel bad for the poor woman who was assaulted all because your mom is terrified of pooping.

      1. Xtina

        You are as entitled to your reaction as I am to mine, and I still think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard of.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      Wow. I find it funny… and a bit awful and a bit tragic. I hope you had a heart-to-heart with your mom about it being okay and perfectly normal to poop at work.

  60. Lars

    OP #2 – this might be addressed above, but I wonder if the company realizes that nicknames can be a minefield for certain individuals.

    We had a nicknamer in our company whose conduct was annoying enough to be addressed by management. I got a nickname that was obnoxious enough for me to say something, but otherwise didn’t offend me. (Nicknamer: “Hey Kookie!” Me: “My name is Jungkook, stop calling me that.”)

    We also have an employee who was in the process of coming out as trans to our team. The nicknamer steamrollered all over their attempts to assert identity (Them: “I would prefer to be called RM, please, for personal reasons.” Nicknamer: “Rap Monster it is!” Them: “…”), to the point where, despite management intervention (that thankfully didn’t involve outing them), they stopped their coming out process. Even though the nicknamer was let go (for a myriad of reasons), they still haven’t felt comfortable with coming out and expressed a portion of that was fear from what the nicknamer did to some of us.

    I can imagine MANY other situations where a similar issue would crop up. Names are very important to people and foisting a random one on someone could be very damaging.

  61. Ketchikan9

    OP4: I feel you. I, too, was in an accident early in the winter in which my car was totaled. I walked away without a scratch. I also live wayyyyy North where we’ve had 224″ of snow so far this year. I have complete panic attacks when driving if it’s snowy and windy. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and am trying biofeedback.

    Take care of your mental health as well as your physical health. I hope your boss can appreciate the stress of an accident of that matter, and as long as you are a good worker, and productive, I hope you can continue to work where you feel safe.

    Best wishes.

  62. Rhoda

    Sounds like that bathroom needs an extractor fan, or maybe a stronger fan.
    As for the nickname: “Jane, Lizard Queen From The Dawn Of Time” would be a great one. After a week they’d just be using “Jane”.

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