I replied-all with an adversarial email, my boss and I dress alike, and more

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

1. I sent an adversarial email — and replied-all

I’ve seen plenty of articles about how to respond to someone who is unprofessional, but what do I do if I was the one who was unprofessional?

I am a supervisor who often interfaces with management and sometimes takes on a management role. Recently, I was working with leadership to transition an employee into a new role on my team. I offered to work with management to support whatever transition plan they needed but, since the employee will earn more in the new position, asked that she be transitioned to the new pay scale ASAP. We were all set to transition her when our admin person cancelled the action at management’s direction. I responded to everyone on one of the emails, basically going on a rant about how we were doing a disservice to the employee and I didn’t understand why when the pay could be separated from the transition of duties.

The email wasn’t received well, to say the least. I got an email from one manager directing me to conduct any further discussion with him in person, another email from a senior manager to the entire group telling me I was being unprofessional and to start being professional, and an email from my second level manager after my response was forwarded to him by the senior manager telling me to give him a call. He then told me that my response was inflammatory, accusatory, not productive, and an exhibition of poor leadership and that I needed to change my communication methods. He brought up a similar type of response I had with a peer (so this isn’t the first time).

I responded to the senior manager’s email by apologizing for my lack of professionallism and expressing that they deserved — and I would give them — better. I want to work on my email communications with a goal of being objective and concise and making sure I *don’t* use email when I feel impassioned about the subject being discussed … which mostly centers around standing up for my employees when I feel like they’re being short-changed. What should I do to recover from this, if recovery is even possible?

Recovery is indeed possible.

Effective immediately, stop using email for anything that you feel heated or impassioned about. From here on out, you need to see email as being only for relatively dry information exchange. Anything that’s stirring up emotions in you needs to be addressed through another means — ideally in-person, but over the phone can work too, depending on the context. I’d tell you to also banish your reply-all button (because that was a big part of where you went wrong), but that shouldn’t be necessary if you follow the first rule.

Also, it’s great that you want to stand up for your employees. But your job is also to work with management above you to understand their priorities and carry them out as best as you can, while giving them information that will help them make good decisions, and ultimately recognizing they have the final call. That doesn’t mean “blindly do what higher-ups tell you.” It means “if you have information that might change their perspective, share it.” But you also have to recognize that they have priorities that might rightly trump yours at times, and they may know things about the bigger picture that you’re not privy to. If your first instinct is to go on a rant about how they’re getting it wrong rather than to seek more information and to offer input like “my concern about X is Y — would Z be an option instead?” then you’re going to make yourself far less effective (and annoy people around you in the process). Right now you’re coming across as adversarial, when you need to be coming across as collaborative.

You can’t effectively stand up for your employees if everyone thinks you’re a hothead.

2. I left qualification off my resume to get my job and I now I’m regretting it

About five years ago, I was out of work and having a hard time finding a job. I saw a job posting that looked very interesting at an exciting organization, but I was clearly overqualified for it. Since that had kept me from getting interviews or job offers in the past, I dumbed down some of the titles, experience, and accomplishments on my resume before I sent it in. I wound up getting the job, and have done very well at it, getting above-average raises and bonuses every year.

My direct supervisor has just announced she is leaving, and I know that I am very qualified to take her place. However, they have just posted the job, and they are listing requirements that I have, but left off or minimized on the resume that is in my personnel file. How do I handle this? Do I come clean?

Well, first, know that your resume is a marketing document; there’s no requirement that you list everything you’ve ever done on it. You’re allowed to tailor it to the job you’re applying for (assuming you don’t lie, of course).

If you left out a ton of stuff, then yes, this might be a little strange. But they know you, they know you do good work, and they’re extremely unlikely to penalize you for the omissions now. (If they would have rejected you if you’d submitted a more complete resume, it would have been because they assumed you would get bored of the job or left as soon as something better came along. You’ve been there five years now, so they clearly don’t need to worry about that now.)

So don’t think of this as “coming clean,” which implies you did something wrong that you need to confess. Just be matter-of-fact about it: “I didn’t include this on my resume when I applied five years ago because it wasn’t relevant to this role, but I actually have a ton of experience doing X and Y. I’d like to apply for this position, and here’s a more comprehensive version of my resume that includes the work experience I didn’t think was relevant for my current role.”

3. My boss and I keep accidentally wearing the same thing

I work in a very small office — just my boss, me, and the maintenance guy who pops in occasionally. I adore my boss, but lately I’ve noticed that we tend to wear the same style of outfits. Like we’ll both have on a blue shirt with black pants and a black cardigan. Yesterday we both wore pink shirts with jeans and grey cardigan, etc. I’m fairly new to office environments, so I’m not sure if this is super weird or if I’m just overthinking it. We don’t wear identical outfits, but they are pretty similar in style and color. Should I go shopping or should I just chill out?

Nah, you’re fine. Sometimes this happens in offices (it’s like the clothes version of women’s menstrual cycles syncing up) and you can make a joke about the matching outfits You definitely don’t need to buy new clothes.

Related: is it weird to start dressing like my boss?

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Should I let a client know I’m struggling with mental health issues?

I recently left my job and am working as a freelance marketing consultant while I look for my next role. One of my clients has expressed interest in hiring me when her budget permits later this year. That’s great news, so I’m doing my best to continue to impress her with my work in the meantime.

My problem is that my quality of work has been suffering lately because of my mental health. Being a freelancer means I do not have health insurance, so my diagnosed anxiety and ADHD are currently going untreated. Without medication, I am finding it extremely challenging to meet deadlines and generally put out the quality of work I want to.

I recently submitted a project over a week past the deadline, and my client expressed some serious frustration. I want to tell her that I’m struggling with my mental health, and that this is not my normal MO. I am also restructuring my budget to find ways to afford my medication so that this will not happen in the future. What do you think about this approach? And what’s your advice for disclosing mental health struggles after they cause an issue? Especially since I’m a freelancer and do not have the same protections that a traditional employee would.

It’s too much information. You don’t need to specify that it’s mental health any more than you would need to specify that it’s colon health. Just go with “health issues.”

There’s still a stigma around mental health (which sucks, but is the reality), and ultimately she doesn’t need to know the details of what happened, just that you’ve been dealing with some health issues that you’re working on getting under control.

Go with something like this: “I’m so sorry I missed the deadline for this. I’ve had a flare-up of a medical issue that I’m working on getting under control, and it led to delays with this work. I know this put you in a bind, and I want you to know that I take that really seriously and am taking steps to ensure it won’t happen again.”

5. How to turn down recruiters who are head-hunting you

Is there a good way to turn down recruiters who are head-hunting you? I didn’t respond to one recently until I realized I was potentially damaging a future relationship, even though I know that the company was in no way right for me. How specific do you need to be, while still seeming open to the company in general?

It depends on the context. If we’re just talking about an email from an external recruiter (meaning one who doesn’t work for the company you’d be hired by, but has many companies as clients) who you’ve never worked with, proposing a job that’s entirely wrong for you, you can just ignore that email. They send out hundreds of those a day and are used to being ignored.

But if it’s an internal recruiter (meaning employed by the company you’d be working for) at a company you might be interested in some day, or if it’s a recruiter who you’ve previously had useful-feeling interactions with, it’s helpful to respond and briefly explain why it’s not the right match for you. That doesn’t need to be anything lengthy — just something like, “Thanks so much for thinking of me for this! I’m looking for roles that focus on X rather than Y so this isn’t the right match for me, but I’d welcome hearing about any X-focused positions in the future.”

{ 323 comments… read them below }

      1. BeeBoo*

        We have a FB group for all staff working on our programs and have hashtags for each day of this week since it happens so often (#matchingmondays, #twintuesdays #wearthesamewednesdays, etc.)

      2. What's with Today, today?*

        #3. I chair the board of a very visible local non-profit. We have dressier events three times a year. It never fails that the Executive Director and I wear very similar clothes to these events. Never planned, but it always happens. We snap a picture each time and just laugh. In those pics, dressed similarly, we could pass for sisters. It’s hilarious.

    1. lammmm*

      This makes me laugh because my boss and I have similar tastes – mostly black with a touch of blue or gray. Most of our not black dresses days tend to coordinate, though there was no actual planning of that involved. It’s legit 100% coincidence when we both show up in the same shade of blue or gray, despite what others may (jokingly? I hope?) think.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        In my early 20’s I had a friend that I shared really similar clothing tastes with and if we were just hanging out or going to a casual bar we both always wore yoga pants and those really great V-neck shirts Target used to have. It got to the point where we would text each other and say “What Target shirt are you wearing?” because we kept turning up in the same colors and we looked nuts.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Aw man, my sister and I also have those v-neck shirts and match sometimes. I’m retroactively made that I don’t own more of them. I just bought two basic black ones but they wash so well and have lasted so long, I wish I had a whole rainbow of them!

        2. Rose Tyler*

          Coming at this way late but look at the Bella Canvas 8435 tees on Amazon. Pay attention to the reviews because they run crazy-small (I usually wear a S and in these tees wear an L) but they are a great dupe to the old Target tees.

    2. Not Australian*

      We had a wonderful occasion at one job where three of us turned up in basically the same outfit – a red top and a floral skirt. There’s always going to be a good chance of this happening, especially where people buy their clothes from the same stores – and what’s suitable to wear for work is going to be pretty standard for everyone in the same office. I should just treat it as evidence that you’re on a similar wavelength, which is a good thing!

      1. hermit crab*

        I used to work at a business casual-type office that was down the block from an Ann Taylor Loft store. Not only did all the female staff dress alike, but more than once I ran into coworkers while browsing the sale rack…

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Long ago I worked in midtown Manhattan, near the garment district and just a few blocks from an old-school outlet store. They sold rejects of all kinds from many NYC stores. Because they opened really early in the morning, some of our staff would browse new arrivals on the way past. When something truly spectacular showed up, it was like honeybees showing off their find and leading others back to the blossoms. I’m thinking of one particular shipment of silk clothing that we all foraged on at break and lunch and after work …

          1. CanuckCat*

            I own the same pair of sandals as three other women in my office because one of them came back from shopping on her lunch break and showed them off, and the other three of us all ran out and bought the same ones because they were so cute and affordable. (Thankfully the sandals came in different colors so it’s only the style that is the same).

        2. joriley*

          Loft is the one that gets us in my office. Three of our seven staff members own the exact same patterned Loft dress, though we’ve only had two wear it on the same day (so far).

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        And you don’t even have to shop at the same place for something like this to happen. Just this week (Monday), three people on my team (women) and our marketing manager (man) all wore purple tops with dark bottoms. The marketing manager’s shirt was more of a lavender while the rest of our tops leaned more to the plum side, but still – it was a funny coincidence that everybody commented on in our small little office.

        1. Midge*

          When that sort of thing happens—a bunch of people wearing different shades of the same color—my office jokes that we’re getting ready to shoot our album cover. :)

        2. TiffanyAching*

          When I was in college and worked in the campus library, my coworkers and I (students and staff) ended up wearing the same color frequently. The most memorable occasion of “Library Matching,” as we called it, was when the other student employee, our manager, her manager, three other staff, and I were all wearing some shade of purple!

      3. xarcady*

        There was a memorable day at one job where 5 of us wore basically the same thing–gray sweater or blazer, white top, black pants. Two men and three women. We took pictures. We were dressed a bit more nicely than usual due to a client visit, which led to many pondering the question of why a client visit would result in the wearing of black and gray.

        That was the job where I showed up for my first day wearing more or less the same outfit as the owner. There were many days when there was at least one instance of duplicate outfits among the staff.

    3. SarahKay*

      In the team of four people that I’m in (me, my manager and two others), there are a surprising number of days when at least three out of the four of us will be wearing similar outfits. We have similar tastes (often black trousers / skirts with single colour shirt / top) which I guess it why it happens, and for us it’s just a running joke.

      1. facepalm*

        Yes, the same with the women in my small department. I’d say 3 days out of 5 we end up wearing the same color top. It’s just something funny to notice, but no one is disturbed by it. Sometimes we notice it in our larger team, like at a group meeting 10 out of 15 people will be wearing green. I wonder if you work together long enough if you develop some kind of hive mind, or if it’s just coincidence.

        1. Elizabeth*

          My section of our department has 7 women. Today, all 7 of us are wearing some iteration of purpleish pink. Very different personal styles, but all within a few shades of one another. Another day, it was dark green. Our boss says that it is that we all think on a certain wavelength on some days.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Probably about once a month or so, one of us looks around and goes, “I guess it was Blue Day” or whatever.

    4. Damn it, Hardison!*

      A former manager and I routinely shopped at the same place and had similar taste in tops in particular. We owned several identical pieces, (think embroidered cardigan, so obviously the same thing). How we never managed to wear them at the same time was a mystery!

      1. Artemesia*

        Well if you had worn them at the same time at least the rest of the office wouldn’t think you were actually sharing a closet.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We had 5 people at one point and I wish we’d done that when we coincided — because it was often FOUR people that matched and one who didn’t. We said it was that person’s day to be lead-singer in our rock band.

      1. KRM*

        At my old job (when it was still fairly small) there was one day when every woman except me was wearing a pink shirt–including the two sales reps who stopped by that day!

    6. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I work in a group of eight. There are days where six of us wear the same. Hell, someone from another group stopped over to see why we were laughing and she was wearing burgundy and gray, too. It happens.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        At my old job we joked that black, white and gray were the official department uniform. Most days we all wore some combination of those colors. It just happened with no forethought at all.

    7. Midge*

      Nice! It happens occasionally around here, and while we haven’t yet taken photos, we do note it with a lot of laughter, and sometimes showing off to people from other departments who stop by. It’s this weird team bonding thing that I absolutely love. Small bits of weird joy.

    8. AnotherAlison*

      I have ended up wearing the same outfit as my male coworker more than once. We also have the same last name, which adds to the weirdness. We both have black argyle pattern sweaters and things like purple button down shirts.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      I just started a new job and it’s become very clear that my boss and I both shop at Roz & Ali. She shows up wearing a shirt I was going to buy, but didn’t, and I show up wearing something she’d been admiring and planning to buy. We have a good laugh about it. I’ve been here less than two weeks, but I’m waiting for the day when we both show up in the same outfit. Given that all the Spring clothing is out in stores, it will likely happen soon.

    10. AdAgencyChick*

      We had that at an agency I used to work for too. Same name and everything. How meta is that?

    11. MagicUnicorn*

      Several coworkers and I have identical dresses. We rarely end up wearing them on the same day, but instead we seem to have an unspoken rotation where the first person wears it on Day 1, the next person wears it three days later, then the third person the following week. We then all hold off until the first person brings it back out again.

    12. Hold My Cosmo*

      I have a memorable Fair Isle sweater from a defunct company, and a colleague had the same one. When she quit to work elsewhere, I treated her to lunch as a “thanks for letting me be unique again” joke.

    13. RabbitRabbit*

      Happens a lot in my group, though mostly just with color choices, to the point where someone who isn’t matching will quip something like “I missed the memo” or “you didn’t text me about what we were wearing this morning!”

      1. SpicySpice*

        Same! In my office, it’s pretty much the law to refer to “the memo” when you match with someone.

    14. nnn*

      I’m reminded of the day that 14 of the 20 people in our office all showed up in red shirts and black pants

    15. MissGirl*

      I was making an announcement in our department meeting about an upcoming diversity meeting when I realized ten of the men were wearing blue plaid shirts and dark pants.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, men have that happen all the time. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a bit less common in women’s clothing because there are more options. But if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a young man interpret “business casual” as “blue shirt, grey pants” I could buy myself…a lot of blue shirts, I guess!

    16. SeluciaMD*

      I love this! There are 15 women in my org, including me, and when a bunch of us show up in similar outfits or in a matching color scheme we always joke that the ones who don’t match the rest of us just “didn’t get the memo.” Even in a group this size it happens more than I would have expected! We all find it pretty amusing.

    17. Chocoholic*

      I used to have a co-worker who had a yellow shirt and always seemed to wear it on the day I wore my yellow shirt. We always joked about it. When I got pregnant and started wearing maternity clothes, she told me all bets were off :p

      At my current office this happens occasionally where people wear similar colors or patterns. One time so many people wore black and white stripes on the same day, we took a picture and put it on the intranet.

    18. Feeling old*

      The other day I was wearing the same blazer as another woman, and when I mentioned it, she said “you and my mom have great taste!” That was…not the response I expected.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Hahaha! Dang. I say stuff like this sometimes without thinking, and then want to kick myself later – the unintentional jab, smh.

    19. SaffyTaffy*

      What a nice idea! I used to synch up like this with a manager and a coworker, where the three of us would all wear the same color or whatever, and we’d call it a “good luck day.” I like the idea of Wall of Same, too, it’s cute.

    20. Nervous Accountant*

      Its actually kind of heartwarming to see so many people amused and enjoying this and no negative comments! I think matching (intentionally or not) is funny and cute. When I was growing up (and even now?) there’s been the stereotype where women hate when others’ dress similar to them while men are chill about it, and I (as a woman) honestly never understood that. I would be tickled pink if someone dressed similarly to me. I have a lot of male coworkers so the chances of someone wearing the same color is pretty high.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I love all this! My boss and I often show up in matching outfits – and its ALWAYS on a day when we have public meetings which are videotaped and broadcast on TV. People probably think we plan it but we don’t. I am just delighted that this seems to be a thing all over.

    21. Indigo a la mode*

      We take #twinning photos, but “Wall of Same” is hilarious.

      The best twinning we ever had was when two women showed up one day, completely coincidentally, in a grey long-sleeved shirt, black jeans, silver belt, one black flat…and one walking boot. They’d each had an accident over the weekend that required a boot on the left ankle.

      One division here is well-known for dressing alike, because it’s largely staffed by women with similar style (heavy on black and minimalist pieces) who often go shopping together. But I can’t talk, because my team of three is very much comprised of your outdoorsy-bearded (for the men)-slightly hipster-flannel types.

      1. Bri*

        I showed up in the exact same outfit as my boss on my first day at an old job. Everyone joked I clearly understood the clothing norms of my office and people asked my boss if she meant to hire a clone. It was very funny.

    22. Horatio*

      My current dept, which fluctuates between 4-7 people, had this happen so frequently last year that on the days we DIDN’T have at least 3 people matching (or in the same color scheme), we’d joke that our department psychic connection was down.

      There’s been a lot of turnover since then and it rarely (if ever) happens anymore, but I miss taking “album cover photos” with that particular group of coworkers.

  1. Eric*

    #2, depending on where you work, there is a very real possibility that nobody has your old resume or remembers what’s on it. So it may be no problem at all.

    1. Zip Silver*

      Yeah I’m thinking this exact same thing. I wouldn’t think anybody would remember the exact details of the resume five years later.

    2. Aveline*

      And if they do, you simply say: I believe in taking the time to tailor my resume to the position I’m seeking given the different types of experiences that I’ve had with teapot design.

      As someone who switched careers in my late 30s, I had no less than five versions of the resume at one point.

      I don’t think it’s a big deal.

      1. Angelinha*

        The only thing is that she mentions “dumbing down” the titles. If you turned in a resume 5 years ago that said you were the Teapot Coordinator from 2010-2014 but now you’re going to say that you were the Director of Teapots from 2010-2014, it would seem like either you lied back then or you’re lying now.

        1. Someone Else*

          Yeah that bit was a little iffy to me even on first reading. Changing the accomplishments/general descriptions of what you did where is totally tailoring, but I don’t think I would’ve changed me job title on any of them. I usually try to use what the company actually called me, just in case it comes up in a reference check. The only time I’d maybe change it is if the title were something super specific to the org that makes no sense outside of it or is actively misleading, and even then I’d probably use a clarifying parenthetical than straight up just change it.

      2. chairmanofthebored*

        OP Here – yeah, this is what I am worried about. I knocked my title down (which is basically the same one as the job I am appying for), and I don’t want the thought to be, “Oh, what a coincidence! NOW you’re a former VP!” What makes matters worse is that my former company no longer exists (bought out-which is how I lost my job in the first place), which makes it harder for them to verify my updated credentials.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          Have you kept any performance evals. or correspondence that had your title? Each start of the fiscal year my employer sends a formal letter outlining my salary raise for the year and it gives my title and department. Your company may not ask for proof, but if you offer it as evidence they might take it into consideration.

        2. Robin Sparkles*

          Well the title doesn’t matter as much as the responsibilities – so if you performed VP level responsibilities that apply in this current role you are applying for- then you can put that in parentheses (or mention in a cover letter or email). Titles can sometimes differ so drastically – for example a director in one industry would function as a coordinator or a lower level manager in my industry based on the work. While a director here would likely be similar to a VP in a another company that has less employees.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            Especially when you consider size. If you’re in a department of four people, sure, you can be Director of Operations, but that’s not the same as being a Director of Operations for a department of 600.

  2. LarsTheRealGirl*

    LW #4: There’s also a different balance in what you may share with a manager/your company and what you share with a client (even though they may be evaluating your work a different way.) Less is more when you’re working as a consultant/freelancer.

    I had a management consultant who would CONSTANTLY call to debrief on exec meetings and have all sorts of “oh I don’t think that went well…do they like me? I hope they like me…wasn’t the CEO mean, I think he was mean…”…Not that that’s what you’re doing at all, it just made me realize how I can’t go through the emotional labor of managing a consultant the same way I would an employee.

    A basic acknowledgement that it was a health issue and a plan for clear communication and deadline meeting is all you need – otherwise you’re asking clients to do more emotional labor than they signed on for.

    (And your situation is super tough. I’m sorry. I know first-hand that navigating mental health without – and honestly even with – health insurance is brutal and I hope you can get the support you need.)

      1. Tarra*

        I’d expect different advice if it were an employee relationship as presumably you’d mention about potentially requesting workplace accommodations.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not across the board, no. Sometimes though. (But in this exact scenario — I missed a deadline but now I’m getting it under control — I wouldn’t jump to that if the letter writer hadn’t.)

      2. Sick But Not That Sick*

        I submitted a longer question about something very similar recently (“should I tell my boss about my chronic health condition?”) and although I agree it’s not appropriate to go into detail with a client, I’m surprised Alison doesn’t think you should tell a manager either. I’ll read the comments for more insight.

        1. your favorite person*

          I think it mostly depends on how you think it will affect your work. This letter writer believes this to be a one-off event, then it might not be worth mentioning, as most people will have at least one health related issue in their life at some point or another. It’s pretty different if it’s a chronic illness that maybe isn’t easily treatable or has more frequent and obvious flare-ups.
          For example, I have Cystic Fibrosis and for the most part, it doesn’t affect my job much except that I use up all my sick days. However, I did tell my boss about a month into my role because I thought it was something worth noting that sometimes I end up hospitalized. It didn’t happen for over a year after that, but they were very accommodating with my illness and my work was (and is) stellar so it didn’t impact my job too much.

        2. Lance*

          For one thing, as she says, there’s still something of a stigma around mental health. It’s really hard to know for truly certain if a mental health ‘label’ won’t affect how your boss, or anyone else, treats you, even in subtle ways, so it’s generally best to lay out what you need without going much further than that. If the manager wonders about it, then they can wonder; it doesn’t change what’s being requested.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      Exactly. Even aside from the stigma of mental/health issues, it just feels like too much information, and a little bit like flagellation? And as the employee/client I wouldn’t know how to respond.

      I’d feel similarly if a freelancer/consultant told me about their unreliable babysitter who was causing them to miss work, or the liver failure of their pet iguana, or that they fell for a scam and sent a Nigerian prince all of their money, or that they have this thing where they’re just a terrible person and they have failed you and they don’t deserve your trust but if you could somehow find it in your heart to be patient with them they swear they’ll try to be a better person….

      The key is to apologize just enough to assure them you take it seriously and you’re fixing it.

      1. Lissa*

        Exactly! “Health issue” or “emergency” work better – added information makes it feel like the person is trying to get me to change my emotions on the situation – like to improve my opinion of the missed deadline because the reason was convincing enough. I think it shouldn’t be about getting the client to “like” LW better or “forgive” them or anything – if they are annoyed they’re annoyed, let it be that way. (I say this in part because as someone with anxiety one way it manifests is trying to get other people to have no negative opinion of me at all by overexplaining myself, as if I can just explain enough then they won’t be “able” to be mad at me. I don’t do this anymore but I sure did when I was younger.)

        1. I Took A Mint*

          Right you nailed it. The client sounds frustrated, as she has every right to be when receiving late, poor-quality work. But it’s not like more details will REALLY convince the client that it wasn’t OP’s fault (just the basics will do). The client is probably mostly frustrated at the situation and there’s not much OP can do to fix that except apologize and do better next time.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Completely agree. I also have trouble with the fear of “getting in trouble” or people not being happy with me, so I’ve had a bad habit of explaining the mistake rather than just taking responsibility for it. I’ve come to realize that it looks evasive and makes the situation worse, so I’m working on resisting this impulse!

          1. KC*

            Same fear of “getting in trouble” and it’s not realistic because I’m normally a high performing employee. However when I do feel that I might “be in trouble” or misunderstood I feel a strong need to explain, end up overexplaining and oversharing and getting in trouble anyway. Because I then seem all the things I’m trying to prevent-dishonest, flaky, suspicious, etc. If I’m actively working on my self-worth I don’t do this, but if not, can easily fall into this trap again.

            1. Grassfire*

              Lord help me. This is exactly me and I’m trapped in a miserable web of it right now! It’s like a bad grass fire – I made a mistake that has led to a bunch of little misunderstandings that I’m trying to clear up. I would love for my boss to help me get it under control but I feel like I don’t have an advocate. So I explain, and explain, and defend…ad nauseum! Ugh. It’s not a good look.

        3. LW #4*

          This rings so true to me, and I had never thought about it this way before. Thanks so much for sharing that!

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I agree. There’s a weird paradox where more information can sometimes make it seem more like you’re hedging and being evasive.

        Simple and to the point is best.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Honestly, as a client, I don’t care why the person I’m paying to do work hasn’t done the work.

        I’m reasonably compassionate, so as a human I’m concerned about your health and well-being. But as a client, all I’m concerned with is how we will solve the problem (will you do another complementary round of edits? Reimburse me what I’ve already paid because I had to hire someone else to pick up your slack? Etc.) and whether I’d hire you again.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Oh, and: it’s important for folks who hire freelancers to remember that this kind of thing — someone dropping the ball and not having backup — just goes with the territory of hiring freelancers. Humans aren’t robots, life is messy, and sometimes the work doesn’t get done. That’s the risk we take when we hire a single person (rather than a larger company that could shift workload around, or having someone on staff that we could constrain, etc.)

    2. LW #4*

      First, thank you so much for your kind words! Also, your comment about “emotional labor” gives me such clarity on how to think about situations like this. And client relationships in general.

      I did end up sending an email similar to the one Alison suggested, where I just said it was a health problem that I’m managing and making plans for how to address in the future. The client thanked me for handling the issue proactively.

      Good to know that reading enough of this website gives you better professional instincts :)

    3. smoke tree*

      Oh, yes. I work with freelancers a lot. I like to think I’m very understanding if a freelancer has the occasional emergency or slip-up, but I find it really exhausting and uncomfortable when they emotionally unload on me about how bad they feel about the error, how serious the emergency is, and so on.

      I also find it annoying when freelancers who I know to be chronically late are always coming up with excuses early in the process to pave the way for their eventual lateness–or when they know that they will be late but don’t tell me until after they miss the deadline and I have to follow up. But if a reliable freelancer had an ongoing personal issue that required them to need a little extra time, I would be happy to work with them on that.

  3. JM*

    OP #3 – my org has a slack channel dedicated to when coworkers show up to work dressed alike. That’s how common and not a big deal this is :)

    You’d think that jeans and black and white horizontal stripes were a required uniform, the amount of times multiple gals show up to work in that ensemble :)

    1. R.J.*

      …you’ll never guess what I’m wearing to work today!
      Also, my section once had three guys who all owned the same shirt and would regularly show up wearing outfits that differed only in their sock choices. They seni-seriously worked out a calendar for who got to wear the outfit.

    2. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

      I call it my “millennial uniform,” and in fact, I’m wearing it today. Bonus points for a mustard cardigan (which I’m also wearing).

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      I think the best “dressed alike” I saw was a man and woman wearing a bleu denim button down, khakis and sneakers. Of course the fit and style were different but the outfit was the same.

    4. brightbetween*

      My favorite was the time that staff at another office sent out the picture of three staff members all wearing black and white stripes with the “haha, look what happened today!” I responded with my own photo…guess what I was wearing?

    5. MissDisplaced*

      It’s kind of funny that it’s happened several times though. Not that they have the same type of clothes, but that they wore same style and color on same day.

  4. JamieS*

    Gotta disagree on the first letter. If OP is that impassioned in an email they’re almost definitely too upset to discuss the issue in person where there are more ways to show frustration than there are using email. If possible it’d be better to wait until the anger has passed to respond and keep the response as short as possible.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we disagree. You’re just adding an additional point — wait until you’re calm and not feeling heated before that in-person conversation — which I agree with as well.

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        The reply-all is also a key factor….

        If you’re heated in-person to a manager (or even 2) it’s contained. A reply-all can be the equivalent of yelling it out during a conference call.

        If you’re heated and NEED to say something, 1-1 with a higher-up is a way better way to go. (Or a reply to a single, key person.)

        1. lammmm*

          I’ve worked for companies where ‘reply all’ is the default when trying to reply to an email. It was awful, especially since the IT department wasn’t aware of this (supposedly).

          1. Busy*

            Haha I work at a place where reply-all temper tantrums are the norm throughout the culture. It has gotten better as some long-time managers and leads are dropping off, but that hostility to anything is still there. I used to be upset about it, but now I just try to see the humor in it. These people wouldn’t make it at most places due to their lack of professionalism and bad attitude, and I do like to remind them of that lol.

            Now these people behave like this in regular every day interactions. OP just did it once. They can definitely recover if they apologize. It will also be helpful to wait to respond when feeling heated until you have utilized some calming coping skill in the future.

            1. fposte*

              This may have been the first reply-all version, but it looks like it wasn’t her first adversarial email.

        2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          Or write a friend/partner/yourself a text on your personal phone to get the feelings out and the incendiary first draft somewhere safe. I learned this one the hard way

          1. Michaela Westen*

            And when you have calmed down and write the email about the touchy subject, don’t put the names in the “To” field until you’re ready to send it.
            This prevents accidently hitting Send before you’ve proofread and revised it and maybe it was a little too passionate…

      2. Adlib*

        This is really key. I work with so many people who allow others’ frustration/anger to get them worked up, and nobody takes a breath before hitting send or picking up the phone. Guess where that ends up most of the time? People yelling at me like the world is ending when it’s clearly not.

    2. hbc*

      I know quite a few people who are tigers by email but kittens in person or on the phone. And that’s even if you call them the minute after they hit send. There’s either something cathartic about the uninterrupted torrent of words or they forget there’s an actual human being on the other end until they hear the voice. If OP is one of these, then heading straight to the office isn’t really a bad thing.

      1. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

        Keyboard warriors. Raging, angry and fighty behind a keyboard. Perfectly measured and pleasant in person.

        I feel like I have to keep such people at arms’ length and can’t totally trust them, because who knows when they’re going to kick off at me, or someone else?

        1. Mazzy*

          Yup. Being a keyboard warrior and not able to have a conversation about difficult issues is one of the things that will keep you out of management at my company.

          That being said, I don’t think the OP committed a work sin in this case. The situation is not good, and they were responding accordingly. I think if this was going to start via email, I’d start with a more innocent/confused line of questioning, such and asking if the new role is no longer happening or if the start is changing, and let the other party respond. Of course, in some places, that would be considered passive aggressive, but in my job, it would be ok, so I guess know your company

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s a venal sin, but it sounds like it wasn’t the first time and that it’s really out of step for the OP’s workplace.

            More importantly to me, it is, as Alison indicates, counterproductive. People are *less* likely to listen to a rant, and they’re less likely to take the action somebody demands in anger.

          2. Observer*

            Well, there are a couple of issues here. One is that it seems to be a bit of a pattern. Also, the response wasn’t helpful. Rants rarely are, and by their own description, they didn’t really say anything useful. “why are we doing it this way if we have option x?” addressed to the decision maker is a reasonable question and might actually get a useful response – either information that the OP doesn’t have or a reconsideration of the decision. “This stinks, you’re horrible to Employee, I disagree and we should just do X” is really not useful and isn’t going to get anywhere.

      2. Lance*

        As well, I think there’s something to be said for not seeing the physical reaction, and knowing that any reaction that may come won’t be immediately seen by you, because it has to be read, thought over, typed out, sent, etc. It’s easy to write out what you’re thinking; it’s a whole lot harder to say it aloud.

      3. LJay*

        Yeah, I don’t know what it is. It might be the years of customer service that I worked where I had to keep it together, no matter what.

        But when I am super pissed I have a hard time containing it in email.

        By phone, the only thing that happens is that I get more and more polite.

        In person it depends. If I’m really angry I physically shake. So if I’m at that point it won’t do. But if I’m not quite to that point yet than in person works better than email, too.

      4. Micklak*

        All I could think when I read this letter was:

        #1. Don’t send adversarial emails, especially with reply all.
        #2. Don’t be adversarial. You can express concern or dissatisfaction, but there’s no room in the workplace for hostility.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Never piss and moan in writing, even if you’re right. People save that stuff.

    3. Emily K*

      Before I write an email accusing someone else of being an idiot, I stop and think: “Hmmm. What if I’m the idiot?”

      There have been numerous times where I started writing a, “This choice was a mistake because now I can’t do X and what am I supposed to do now?” email, thought, “Hmmm, what if I’m the idiot?” and reworded the email to, “Having trouble figuring out how to do X after we made that choice. Can you show me?” And pretty much every time, it turns out there was a way to do X and I was indeed the idiot. Asking myself this question has saved me from so many ill-advised emails implying that other people were idiots that I would have sent otherwise.

      1. RJ the Newbie*

        Amen to this, a lesson hard learned by me through years of experience and self-reflection.

        I actually have written out the email I would like to send, sat and read it over and over again, coming to the conclusion that I was either coming across as extremely defensive or extremely dismissive of someone else’s opinion. Oftentimes, what I write comes across as standoffish or argumentative, even when that’s not my intention. Depending on the situation, I will either speak to the person or I’ll even out my response so as not to put off the recipient. It’s made for better communication in my workplaces.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        GREAT script, even if it turns out someone totally forgot about X.
        It’s a situation I run into often enough I just bookmarked this comment. (Title “What if I’m the idiot?”)

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Oh, absolutely. Any time you’re writing an email to tell someone they’ve messed up, write it as if there’s a possibility that YOU are the one who messed up. At some point that’s going to be the case.

      4. Legal Beagle*

        Yes! I’ve been there. Taking two minutes to sit and think it over before pressing send is never a bad idea. Email is very much an “act in haste, repent at leisure” medium.

    4. Sam.*

      I agree that a combined approach is key. The thing that worked for me was to open a fresh email window (with NO ONE in the “send” category), pound out the angry reply, discard it, and then step away from the issue for a while. This let me excise my anger and then gave me time to think it through with a cooler head and be more rational when I did address it, whether by email or in person. Now I don’t usually bother with the ranty draft, but initially it went a long way toward convincing my brain it had expressed its frustration and letting me move on to a more rational and productive mindset.

      1. Hummer on the Hill*

        Yeah, I do this too. One rule that’s served me well is “Never send an email when your eyeballs feel hot.” It’s amusing enough to remember and steps me down a couple of notches.

      2. Roy G. Biv*

        Yes! This! It is cathartic and yet saves me from, “I want to discuss that email you sent” meetings with my manager. And since it is in a new window, there is no danger of accidentally hitting send.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Even better, write out your rant in a document that isn’t email. No chance of accidentally sending a stream of consciousness rant if you’ve typed it up in notepad.

        1. Lance*

          This does seem like the safer option to me; some of us (e.g. myself) feel really weird about typing out any sort of e-mail without first filling in a recipient and subject… so I could see myself running the mental ‘script’ of writing an e-mail automatically, and well…

          1. Blue*

            This is a good point. I, on the other hand, almost never put in the addressee until the very end because I’m always nervous that I’ll hit send before I’m ready, give them a non-sensical collection of words, and look dumb!

            1. valentine*

              Any piece of writing can get you into trouble. Best not to even create such a document.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                It’s probably ok if they don’t save it. Unless the employer is using spyware and taking screen shots? I think most don’t look at what employees are doing unless they already suspect the employee of something.

      4. Prof. Kat*

        This is my approach as well! I’ll often do it in a blank Word doc (which I later close without saving), so that there’s absolutely no chance at all that I’ll accidentally (or not) send it. It really helps me to get that frustration out of my system, walk away, and come back to it later. Usually, I reread what I’ve written, cringe, delete the thing, and write something much more calm and professional. I’m a professor, and I teach professional communication in an intro course, so this is a recommendation I give to my students as well! We talk a lot about how important it is to Not Send Emails While You’re Angry. It’s sooooo tempting, and sometimes it seems like it would be effective or cathartic, but it usually isn’t in the long run.

        (and I should mention that this is a lesson I learned through trial and error! I’ve sent more than a few unproductive angry emails in my life. Eek.)

    5. Murphy*

      This is what I do. Most of my interactions with people is via email (large university) and I love that it gives me the option to take some tie before responding instead of running the risk of saying something not great in the heat of the moment.

    6. Peggy*

      I was also surprised by the suggestion that discussing an issue where emotions are strong is better done by email. What is wrong with a thoughtfully composed (emotion edited out) email?

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Nothing’s wrong with that, I don’t think. It just seems that, particularly in this case, there was no thoughtful, non-emotional response. A conversation doesn’t have a written record.

      2. Washi*

        I think it’s partly that the more charged the issue, the more likely it is that someone will misinterpret someone else’s tone or take offense where none was meant, and it’s easier to clear up misunderstandings in person.

        But I think more importantly, Alison is saying that maybe this particular person with a history of sending inflammatory emails would be safer if she resolves to not email while angry.

      3. fposte*

        I think it’s going to depend on the person, but it’s very common for people to be a lot more intemperate in email, when we’re detached from the reaction and feelings of the other person, than they are face to face–it’s the online version of road rage–and also words can sound more intemperate in email than face to face, where you have tonal control. If you’re the kind of person who regularly shouts at everybody in a meeting, this won’t help, but if it’s only in email where you let fly inappropriately, walking over and having an in-person conversation both 1) dials you down and 2) means even if you don’t stay perfectly cool it’s not preserved for all eternity.

      4. Jennifer*

        Nothing, but I think the point is it’s difficult for some to edit their emotions out of an email while they are angry. If you don’t have time to calm down and something needs to be addressed right that minute, pick up the phone or go find the person. It’s more difficult to be rude right to someone’s face usually.

    7. Call of Dewey*

      I pretty frequently will type up what I actually want to say in a word document, save it to my desktop, then revisit and edit it the next day to actually send. Word document is key, because you can’t accidentally send it

    8. smoke tree*

      In addition to giving it extra time (which I think is part of the advantage of an in-person conversation–you need to take the time to find the person first), I think it might help this LW to reframe their general approach to the office hierarchy. I think it’s great that they’re so committed to standing up for their team, but as Alison says, that commitment needs to be tempered with diplomacy in order to really be able to advocate for them effectively. Also, I feel like the LW may have a bit of a “my team vs. the powers that be” attitude, which will probably come through in a more combative approach generally, and isn’t likely to serve them well. It might be more effective to concentrate on your shared goal of making the team more effective.

  5. EtherIther*

    #2 – I think the worst case scenario is that they figure you should’ve put it on the resume to begin with, but weren’t the best at putting together a resume for relevant work (assuming your boss’s work is somehow related or relevant to yours). That’s what I would assume anyway, assuming I remembered your resume at all – which I definitely would not!

  6. KP*

    No. 1 — It has taken me years to learn to exercise restraint in work email (I know it sounds absurd, it’s work and it’s email — how much more banal can you get? I don’t know if it’s that the danger is especially acute if a person is a creative type, where writing might already be a more comfortable/too comfortable form of expression, and the personality type can become passionate and sometimes impulsive rather than office-measured in response). I still don’t always succeed in not hitting send, but I’ve gotten much better because way too high a percentage of situations I regret bringing on myself at work are the result of … email! It’s so hard in the moment, but try to force yourself to wait FIVE MINUTES before even composing a response. (It will seem a lifetime. The other person will likely not even notice such a short time if they are expecting a response, nevermind think they are about to be hit with a rant/outburst email.) I started practicing this with even routine email — just even revising an already short noncontroversial response to make it more professional and … open/nice/whatever. Good luck!

    1. Imprudence*

      In outlook you can set up a rule to delay all outgoing emails for a set period of time. Mine is set for 3 minutes, and is just long enough to call back a regretted email for whatever reason – bad tone or more frequently, forgotten attachment, or overlooked idea. It isn’t the whole solution for lw1 but it may be part of the solution, and demonstrate a commitment to doing better in the future.

      1. CMart*

        I never would have thought to do this, but I think I might. I’m not infrequently guilty of firing off a question (after having given a medium amount of thought to it) only to return to my task/problem with slightly fresh eyes because I looked away long enough to write that e-mail and either see my question was explicitly addressed, or that I was able to figure it out. And then I have to send another e-mail on its heels “please disregard, I see X is stated in the instructions” or whatever.

        It makes me (rightfully) look like I lack critical thinking skills/have poor reading comprehension and I’d really rather that not become my reputation. A few minute delay would save me from 99% of that.

      2. SarahKay*

        I have literally just added a rule to do that. Not, in this case, because I’d sent a bad-tempered email, but because for a horrible moment I thought I’d copied in someone that really shouldn’t have been included on my email.
        Okay, it doesn’t happen often, but it just struck me that’s it’s the sensible thing to do to prevent that awful NO! moment as my fingers hit send at the same instant as my brain spots the error. Now I have two minutes to fix the error.

      3. elemenohp*

        That’s a really good strategy.

        Another strategy I use when I’m feeling extra spicy and can’t calm down until I write it out: I’ll write the email, but leave the recipient field blank (so there’s no possible way it can be accidentally sent), and save it as a draft. I leave it as a draft until I’m able to calm down, then go back and re-read it, determine if a follow-up is still warranted and if so edit out the spice before actually sending. (Sometimes, when I’m extra, extra heated, I’ll do this is Word instead, to further remove the send temptation.)

        That way I get the immediate emotional release of angry email writing, but without any of the negative repercussions.

    2. Hush42*

      This! I have an employee who used to work for a lawyer. She sent a… feisty… to a couple of people in that office once and the owner of the company (who had known her since she was a child) came and told her that she needed to start giving herself a cool down period before responding to emails. If you can’t respond politely wait 10 minutes, or an hour. If it’s something that really upsets you wait 24 hours. Having a delayed response is better than sending a rude response.

  7. sam*

    #3 – I work in a small department (3 people) and live in a regional area. There are limited places to shop, so more than once my manager and I have showed up in the same exact shirt. We have a ‘ha!’ moment, and maybe a joke about our ‘uniform’, and then… that’s it. It’s not a thing. Don’t even fret it.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      This. The department store next to the office had two styles of dresses on sale. For the next year you could set up a chess game at any bus stop.

    2. Old Cynic*

      There are 3 of us at my current job. It’s a jeans and dress shirt environment. We have a running joke that when 2 of us wear matching shirts, we look at the third and say “didn’t you get the memo?”

  8. Anon govt workerbee*

    #1, this could be written by my coworker. She is very intelligent and good at her job, with one major flaw: her approach to diplomacy and restraint in the workplace is best described as “bull in the china shop”. The has not served her well as she has been promoted to a supervisory role. Her first and last time managing staff ended up with her forming a clique of her team and becoming very adversarial with management. She was moved to a special project where she has no supervisory role as a result, which she believes was due to her amazing skills alone (her skills played a part but getting her out of being a supervisor played a large part). She has just been passed over for a promotion that she otherwise would have been a shoo-in for.
    Here’s where you are different: it has been explained to her that her lack of professionalism is holding her back. She just can’t process it. To her, these talks are another example of “this is how management is stupid and wrong!” Yeah, sometimes they are wrong. But all you can do is give your best effort and opinion on what is right and know that you did your best. They have the ultimate decision and you can’t change that. As long as you understand what you are doing wrong you can change it. I learned the hard way not to email when I’m hot about something. Fix that and you should be fine.

    Dressing the same as your boss: this is so frequent at my work it’s a thing. We have a twin wall where if you dress similar to someone you take a pic together and tape it on the wall. We once has a deliberate twin day. Anything from two wearing the exact same outfit to a large group in the same color. Directors to interns have fun with it. Not a big deal at all. Everyone I know shops at target so it happens

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      One of the managers at my office has a collection of “twin photos”, because for reasons none of us can figure out, when two people wear the same outfit, she’s most likely to be one of them. (In my twin photo with her, we’re both wearing blue flannel shirts and jeans.)

  9. MK*

    #1, I would also try to be more cool-headed about the substance of your advocating for employees. There are times when management is short-changing workers, times when they are being tightfisted but within their rights and times when they are perfectly reasonable. I don’t know if I am readin this wrong, but it sounds as if you went on the warpath insisting an employee should receive the higher pay before they start working the higher-paying position. While it might make sense to do this in some cases, it’s not a given either, and not something to be enraged about.

    1. Tarra*

      This. I think it’s also worth noting that this was a reply to the admin person, who would have been included in the reply-all as well. The admin person is following instructions from their boss. They don’t call the shots and aren’t the right person to get enraged with.

      I think it would be a good idea to separate the following in your mind:

      – advocating for your employees and making yourself heard

      – sending an inflammatory or adversarial email

      Because actually that isn’t a method you can use to make yourself heard and you’re not standing up for anyone it you do it. So it could help to think about what it actually means to advocate for people and what will achieve that.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It’s also a really important lesson to learn that being right usually isn’t enough. I’ve had colleagues who tended to be very confrontational and prone to public rants about issues, and they had real trouble getting people to listen to them even when they had a valid point.

        If they had a reputation of being a complainer then people would tune them out (because they were always complaining about something and that gets really old really fast), or find reasons not to include them in relevant discussions (because ranting in meetings isn’t particularly useful). In addition, people tend to react badly to being yelled at, whether in person or in email, and will hear the hostility but not the valid message it contains.

        I’m in academia, and I’ve seen this happen over and over again with fairly junior people like postdocs – they’re angry or frustrated about something and they let people know it, but end up irritating people so much they don’t get listened to. And in a few cases, it’s actually hurt their job prospects, when the hiring committee decides their research is quite good, but they really don’t want to spend the next 30 years in faculty meetings and committees with someone who has publicly called them stupid.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, there are some people who believe that being right justifies whatever actions they took. But the thing is, a lot of times at work the question is not “is my action right or wrong” but “is my action likely to be productive or unproductive?” I have a very dear friend whose bluntness is delightful as my friend, but it was a nightmare to work with her, because she took all feedback about moderating her reactions to other people as “I can’t pretend to feel what I don’t feel” and “I have to be honest.”

        2. fposte*

          It’s also a really important lesson to learn that being right usually isn’t enough.

          This is so worth repeating that I bothered to look up the italic formatting.

          1. Legal Beagle*

            Yes, I was going to highlight this, too. Great lesson for life! And for OP, I really admire your advocacy for your reports, but you can’t be an effective advocate for them if you piss off management. The best way you can do is foster a good relationship with management so that they’ll actually listen to you and consider your input.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              The more you can show management you are level-headed and understand where they’re coming from, the more they will listen to you and value your input.

        3. Workin on that name thing*

          This has been me too many times in past years (academia admin) that it’s a thing I actively work on. To the point of printing out Alison’s answer and writing in notes from the comments including this one.

          1. Grassfire*

            This lesson is so hard to learn! And the stink of past missteps seems to linger… I’ve made big efforts in this regard but it’s not possible to erase the collective memory of the workplace team. If there is a formula or potion for a fresh start I would love to know. This comment thread is life-giving at the moment.

    2. hbc*

      Oh, good, I thought I was the only one interpreting the situation this way. The email might have been too strong in any/all cases, but if emotion like that is to be deployed, it better be when there’s an obvious bad thing going on. As in, writing up a person for being late who was in a serious car wreck, or having employees clock out to use the restroom, or forcing bigger employees to pay for their extra airline seat.

      Not giving someone a pay increase until they’re doing the duties that go along with that pay increase? Pretty normal. If there’s a reason why this is a special case, then lay out the facts, but it’s not a blazing guns situation. It’s probably the choice of topic more than the passion itself that raised eyebrows.

  10. Lissa*

    #4 Alison is right on. If you’re anything like most of us, you are likely hoping that sharing this information will make the client less annoyed, by having them think “OH, LW was not being irresponsible, but in fact they have conditions that meant the work getting done was not their fault!” But generally speaking, the client isn’t thinking about it that deeply and mostly just cares about knowing that it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, unless you go into more detail, it’s very likely the client will hear this as “this is likely to happen again.” If you just stick with “health issue that is now in the process of getting under control” I think that does a better job of addressing the client’s concern about possible future delays.

    1. Snark*

      Yeah. Having worked as a consultant for a while, and later as a contractor, I’ve been in similar roles, and….this sounds a little callous, but while they may like you on a surficial interpersonal level, fundamentally they’re paying you to deliver a thing for them, on time and for a fee. They are not interested in managing you, they’re not particularly interested in the particulars, and the relationship is a forthrightly business one, not employer-employee or friendly. So tell them what they need to know to rest assured it won’t happen again, do what you need to do to make sure it never happens again, and carry on.

      And as someone with anxiety issues himself, I have great sympathy for the hurdles that mental health issues put in your way, but….this can never happen again, for this reason or any other, or you will not find freelancing to be a feasible professional option for you. Overshooting a deliverable date by a week is a big deal, even if you give lots of advance notice, but particularly if you do not.

    2. Artemesia*

      And people are likely to cross you off their list if mental illness is preventing you delivering product whereas a ‘health issue’ that may well be a one off may not have that effect. Any failure to deliver jeopardizes future work as a consultant, but something that is chronic will increase the odds a lot. They can be sympathetic but one of the points of hiring a consultant is reliability and they don’t have to provide the same flexibility they would with an employee with issues.

  11. Dan*


    I’m not really a fan of AAM’s advice on this one. I’ve worked as a W2 employee for what is essentially a consulting firm for the last ten years. There is one edict about all else: Thou Shall Not Miss Deadlines. Period. Early in my career, I was told we scale back before missing the deadline. Under no circumstance shall a deadline be missed. The only exception being a contract extension that has previously been negotiated.

    The thing with AAM’s wording is that it implies there is an ongonig medical issue that *isn’t* completely under control, and that “taking steps” allows for the interpretation that the deadlines could be missed again in the future. That’s *not* the message one wants to send to their clients.

    The other thing is, nobody can promise that they won’t get sick and miss work. IMHO, about the only thing OP can say that won’t leave the client wondering too much is “I suddenly fell ill and apologize for the inconvenience.” About the only reassurance that should be offered is backup plan in case OP gets sick in the future. If there is no backup plan, “sorry for the inconvenience” is about as much concession that should be offered.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      I agree that the “taking steps” and “getting under control” does sound like the issue might come up again… of course that’s not how health works but the key is to sound confident, right? Maybe “I have taken steps to ensure it won’t happen again”?

    2. misspiggy*

      I dunno – I’m a freelancer who has frequently missed deadlines because my health issues cannot be controlled to that extent. I’ve given clients ‘need to know’ information and been clear that I’m doing everything possible to manage it, and people keep giving me repeat work – I guess because they’re happy with the quality.

      1. Tarra*

        And because they are human.

        I thought the same about deadlines so I kept working when I was really unwell, because deadlines. This ended with me becoming much more unwell and you know what? People understood and were nice.

        Yes, deadlines are important but don’t assume everyone is made of stone!

      2. Forrest*

        I think part of the OP’s response should be expectation management going forward. Missing a deadline is a huge deal; re-negotiating a deadline may not be. I think I’d focus the apology not on the missed deadline itself, but the lack of communication and state that going forward you’ll let them know at the earliest opportunity if you think you’re going to miss a deadline so they can plan accordingly.

        If that isn’t something you can commit to, then you might need to accept that freelancing isn’t going to work out and you need to find a role sooner rather than later, even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for.

        1. HappySnoopy*

          Yes, this. And maybe steps you’re taking and plan of action on what you are doing in meantime to minimize impact on client.

        2. I've got Nothing*

          Well said. Rescheduled deadlines are never missed. Communication is the key. It is better t have an extension and not need it, than need an extension and not have it.

        3. CM*

          I’d do both — profuse apologies for the missed deadline, and acknowledgment that the lack of advance notice and communication was unacceptable. I think “let them know at the earliest opportunity if you think you’re going to miss a deadline” is tricky because it implies that you’re planning to continue missing deadlines, so I’d leave that out.

          Also, OP#4 has an issue here because she doesn’t necessarily have the situation under control, so she can’t really promise she’ll never miss another deadline. I think that’s the bigger problem, and I don’t have a good answer — it sucks that she doesn’t have access to necessary medication.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Maybe “if something like this ever happens again I will let you know as soon as I know” or something like that.

      3. Snark*

        To be very honest, I think you’re a lucky exception. If I were working with a freelancer who missed deadlines with no notice more than twice – let alone frequently – I would no longer do business with that person, even if I was otherwise happy with the quality.

        And even if they gave me plenty of lead time and renegotiated deadlines before they missed them….dunno. If it happened regularly, that would still be a problem.

        1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          Same. There are other freelancers who can deliver equal quality out there in the world and, if I am outsourcing, it is because I need it done by the time I contracted for it to be done. 1-2 days late with a heads up, ok, maybe one more try, but late twice or more than a day or two? Sorry. You’ll get paid for this, but I’ll have to look for someone more reliable in the future.

        2. I Took a Mint*

          Oof yeah, it would have to be REALLY amazing, can’t-get-it-done-anywhere-else level quality for me to deal with frequently/regularly renegotiated or missed deadlines. Or it would have to be something that wasn’t that important in the first place. Otherwise… as a client I would go elsewhere too. Same thing if I was working with a freelancer who made every deadline but the work was shoddy… if I’m paying to get X thing by Y date, I’m not going to settle for one or the other.

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      Seconded. If someone used AAM’s script, I’d leap to colon issues. Or cancer. Or something else that was chronic and painful.

      1. WakeUp!*

        Yes, I think that’s the point. You *don’t* want them to think “common mental health issue.”

    4. BRR*

      If I heard a freelancer who missed a deadline say they’re working on getting something under control my mind would jump to, “they’re going to miss a deadline again.” It feels harsh but I would possibly be considering if I should continue using that freelancer.

      1. Emmie*

        At the same time, LW / OP needs to be accurate about the impact of OP’s medical issues. Stating that something is “under control” or “now resolved” is helpful when true, and OP can deliver. It’s tougher when OP will have ongoing challenges until the OP gets these issues resolved, or under control – much like cancer, or any other ongoing illness. I don’t have a perfect script for these ongoing situations right now.

    5. HappySnoopy*

      But right now, it is the case that it could happen again. Until OP unfortunately is in a better financial spot and depending on effectiveness or side effects of treatment as OP and doc get it under control, there may be more missed mini milestones or rougher work product. Its not dimishing the importance of the deadline, but it is also being careful not to overpromise either. If OP says this won’t happen again and despite best efforts, next week it does…OP is in an even worse place. I think the advice is correct.

      1. quirkypants*

        Knowing it could happen again also allows the client to make a more informed decision… they can decide if they want to take the chance it will happen again (ie, how sticky are these deadlines? How important are these projects?) or adjust the way they work with this particular freelancers (ie, brief in work earlier, give false deadlines a few days before the real deadline, find other people to work on truly time sensitive projects with).

        I think it’s best and most honest to be clear on what one can deliver and I’d tell an employee the same thing (ie, be honest with your boss if you don’t think you’ll complete things on time or may have conflicts, etc).

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I think these are both really good insights. OP isn’t a W-2 contractor, she’s a sole proprietor 1099 contractor. Her health means she hasn’t been able to honor Thou Shalt Not Miss Deadlines and may not make it in future. What else can she do but deal?

          OP, I will say 1) don’t slacken the job search just because this client has suggested employment is a possibility, since that may never happen and 2) check to see if your drug manufacturer offers any kind of pharmaceutical assistance program to help defray the cost. Needymeds dot org is a good way to look them up.

          1. M2*

            #4 I agree with continuing the job search. If the client who wants to offer you a job is one you missed multiple deadlines for I would assume they are rethinking hiring you. If they still want to hire you they may not be able to, so I would keep sending out your resume and cover letter. I don’t know what kind of work you do but universities usually have good medical benefits even if they don’t always pay the best. And many will have need for a variety of roles.

            It’s also a good idea to see if any drug companies give free or reduced medication. If there is a free clinic near where you are? Good luck.

    6. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      But it is, unfortunately for the OP, the truth. Without medication and therapy, it is an ongoing issue. In good faith, OP can’t say it’s been resolved. It sucks, but it’s not a broken arm.

    7. Samwise*

      Agreed. We all know life happens. In addition to the backup plan, OP also needs to be sure to let the client know when she’s ill that the deadline may not be/won’t be met, not wait til after the deadline has passed. And ask the client how they would like to proceed.

      But no need to TMI on how you are ill, just that you are and that it will affect the work in X Y Z ways.

      1. LW #4*

        Some harsh truths in this thread :) But yes I’ve considered all of these things, and I realize I haven’t put myself in the best situation re: having this person continue to want to work with me. I will definitely continue to feverishly apply to jobs.

        I also think it’s a great point that I should prioritize finding a job, even if it’s not 100% perfect. Knowing that I can’t work to my preferred standard while un-medicated kind of precludes me from working freelance long term.

        Will definitely check out needymed, too! Thanks for the suggestion

        1. Susie Q*

          I think that your best bet is returning to be W2 employee at a company for the medical insurance. While there, you can access medication, therapy, and save money for when you return to freelance. Before leaving a job, I recommend making sure you have enough room in your budget to afford medical insurance while freelancing.

          I also highly recommend working with a therapist on developing coping techniques and strategies without a dependency on medication. There may be other instances when you can’t take medication. For example, I have ADHD and am currently pregnant. There are no ADHD medications approved for use while pregnant and even breastfeeding. The past several months and the time when I am breastfeeding are very difficult. However, my work with competent therapist has helped me develop good coping techniques so I am able to function at my job without getting in trouble or fired.

        2. Squeegepooge*

          LW #4, I work at a pharmacy as a tech.

          Have you heard of GoodRX? It’s a website or app for your phone that will give you a cash discount for your medication, you just input the medication, dose, and quantity as well as which pharmacy you use. The discount listed isn’t always 100% correct but it’s usually close. I don’t believe anyone but chain pharmacies use it however, so watch out if you go to a local place. And Vyvanse has a manufacturer coupon on their website. Your local pharmacy may also be able to get you cash discounts using Scriptsave or something similar.

          Your pharmacy techs are here to save you money!

  12. I'm LW#5*

    Thank you for responding to my question Alison!

    I’m really relieved that you specified that type of script, because that was what I ended up going with. It was something like: “I appreciate you reaching out, but I’m looking more for X type of job, so right now that position isn’t the right fit for me. Don’t hesitate to reach out again with more opportunities like X though.”

    There was both an internal HR, and a hiring company who reached out to me recently, and I treated them the same way.

    I’m actually a little surprised that it’s less worth responding to hiring agencies, as I thought that they’d want confirmation that you’re a real person who is indeed open to opportunities. Though I suppose if they’re sending out head-hunting messages en masse, they probably don’t care as much to read your response.

    1. knitter*

      I got a head hunting email via LinkedIn a month or so ago. The job listed very few details (not the name of the school, town, or grade level…) except it required the teaching license that I have, so I googled the person who sent the email to see if I could figure out more details about the school. They worked at some headhunting firm based on the other side of the country.
      So I never responded and have no qualms. But it did boost my ego that I got a headhunting email (even if there was very little criteria used to send it).

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      If you contact the head hunting agency when you are ready, they will not think, oh this is the guy who blew off our blast email two years ago. Honestly.

    3. foolofgrace*

      I get headhunter cold-call emails all the time, and for some reason many of them approach me with jobs in other cities. I’m in Chicago, I get emails for jobs in California, Texas, etc. One time I answered the phone and it was a headhunter with a job in Smalltown. When I said I was in Chicago, he asked if I wanted to move. ! Other times the job requires skills that I don’t have, meaning the headhunter didn’t even bother to actually read my two-page resume. They don’t deserve a callback or email-back. And I don’t think they mind, it’s all scattershot with most of them.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I’m in tech. Long ago I designed the chocolate teapots, but nobody wants that anymore; now it’s all industrial-sized coffee vats. Not the same thing!

    4. Bulbasaur*

      The problem with informing headhunters you are ‘open to opportunities’ is that it tends to escalate into a full-blown job search. That’s fine if it’s what you want, but they tend to take up a lot of time, and personally I find it tiring to be in job search mode all the time. If you are reasonably happy where you are and not particularly inclined to put the necessary effort into doing a job search properly, it’s fine to just cast a quick eye over the opportunity and bin it if it doesn’t excite you.

      If there’s no opportunity, you don’t know them personally, and/or the accompanying message looks generic, I would just ignore them. I get them almost daily, usually as form letter LinkedIn connection requests. I do get a kick out of reviewing the ‘mutual connections’ list before I hit Ignore, just to see how many of my contacts indiscriminately accept them.

  13. Nicole*

    OP3 I worked in a medical office and I can’t tell you how many times 3+ of us (out of 4-6 people in the dept) would come in wearing green. Occasionally 2 of us would match in other colors, but overwhelmingly it was green (and I only owned 2 green shirts at the time).

    1. Overeducated*

      This happened in my old office too. Not medical, but in an organization where green was part of the very recognizable brand.

    2. Ms. Meow*

      At my office, it’s maroon. I own exactly one maroon shirt, but I think it’s hilarious when 5 or 6 people out of my group of 15 are wearing maroon on the same day. As my mother always says “it looks like everyone got the memo.”

    1. Sam Sepiol*

      There was a guy in my old work that said “we’re playing for the same team” (he was a big football {soccer} fan).

    2. Rebecca*

      My work too! It’s funny how a bunch of us will show up with the same color shirt, totally different looks, but same basic color :) No worries, we just laugh, and tell the person with something completely different that they “missed the memo”.

    3. BRR*

      I think I’ve heard this everywhere I work. It’s peak work humor to me :). It was even a joke on 30 Rock

    4. TiffanyAching*

      In my office of 6, when some of us end up matching we like to say that we’re all on the same wavelength. We try to take it as a sign that we’re jiving well as a team!

    5. SusanIvanova*

      Or the 30’s newsreel social-gossip voice: “Don’t you just haaaate it when someone wears the same thing to the party?”

  14. Anonandon*

    #3 – One time I was preparing return home from my work site and my replacement had arrived. We spent about a few days going through the handover process. Every day we would show up in nearly identical clothes, just as pure coincidence. My counterpart thought it was embarassing but I thought it was hilarious.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      That’s fantastic!! Its like you were visually blurring so that the handover would be less disruptive or something.

  15. Comms Girl*

    OP#1: in addition to everything that Alison said, and speaking from experience, making a habit of using the Forward button instead of the Reply-All can also be useful here: it forces you to write down/individually select the recipients, so it’s an additional way to ensure only the intended people see your email. But yes, having this kind of convos in-person or over a phone call is normally better. Good luck, I second that it recovering from this is indeed possible :)

  16. All Outrage, All The Time*

    #3 If I had a dollar for every time I’ve gone into a meeting and all the men were wearing blue striped shirts or what have you, I’d be writing this from my private island. I don’t know why, but people turning up wearing versions of the same thing, is a thing. In my current job, five people turned up in black and white striped tops on the same day so we took a photo and put it on the wall. A way avoiding this might be to play your wardrobe in advance, ie put two weeks worth of tops at the front of your wardrobe and rotate through them rather than picking something at random each day. And also play outfit bingo. If you turn up in the same thing, take turns at buying each other a coffee or some such. It’s cute an funny :-)

  17. SusanIvanova*

    #5 I used “I’m currently looking other places” to a recruiter at one big tech place that’s not used to being turned down. It was true – a different big tech place had said “as soon as we have an opening we’ll call you” (and they did; I work there now) – but glossed over that I really never want to work at the first place.

    The recruiter replied with “I’m sure you meant you’re *not* currently looking elsewhere. When you are, call us!”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The recruiter oddity I’m having is that I keep getting recruiter contacts for jobs 50 miles or more from my house. I’m not actively looking, so this is usually via LinkedIn — but some of them cannot remember I am only interested in openings that would *reduce* my commute. There’s a state capital and at least a half-dozen suburban technology centers within 15 miles of my house. Please think of me THERE for crying out loud.

  18. greenius*

    #3, my supervisor and I were pregnant at the same time. We would routinely come into the office wearing IDENTICAL outfits, because we were both choosing clothes from Target’s somewhat limited maternity options. If anyone notices you & your boss matching, you can just make a joke about great minds and laugh about it.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I have a friend who was pregnant at the same time as her coworker. They worked at a hospital, so both gave birth there. 3 days apart, both gave birth to sons, and they chose the same name. They had not discussed names with each other (or anyone) prior to that. It was not a hugely common or popular name, either, although not completely unique and out there.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Two coworkers having babies born at the same time who look exactly the same sounds like the beginning of a science fiction and/or horror piece…

        1. wendelenn*

          “In October 1989, 43 women around the world gave birth on the same day. However, none of these women had been pregnant when the day began.”

      1. Belle8bete*

        I’ve also had issues like this…a little birdie said check out candaian pharmacies online for less expensive options. Also, check out RX coupons from the manufacturer. Tweet tweet fly away bird of knowledge.

  19. Daisy Steiner*

    Op#3 In case it wasn’t clear, I don’t think Allison is advocating a joke ABOUT menstrual cycles…. Although maybe you just have to know your audience?

    1. WellRed*

      It’s not really a joke. This is a known thing that happens, like with roommates. But, let’s not derail.

      1. WakeUp!*

        I think Daisy is saying it’s potentially ambiguous whether Alison was saying OP should make a joke about “it” meaning the matching outfits or “it” meaning the situation being like syncing menstrual cycles. I don’t agree, I think it was obvious she meant the former. But I’m sure Daisy knows about menstrual cycle syncing and her comment wasn’t derailing so your comment comes off a bit more condescending than you probably intend.

        1. WellRed*

          My comment is not meant to condescending, nor did I suggest it was derailing, though I feared getting into a further comment thread about cycle syncing, which would be derailing.
          Have a nice day.

      2. AlphaUterus*

        Actually it’s not! There is no evidence that menstrual cycles have any relation to the women around you. It’s a very common misconception that started from a woman who studied sorority sisters in the 1970’s and hypothesized that an “alpha uterus” dictated the syncing of cycles. No other study has been able to replicate the effect of other female roommates (which was dubiously weak anyways). It’s one of those cultural myths we’ve all somehow learned, for one reason or another.

  20. BRR*

    #2 I think you’re treating this as coming forward about lying on your resume but omitting things on your resume isn’t lying. Plus, I imagine you would apply with an updated resume that includes accomplishments from your current role and you can add those other qualifications.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Yeah, a resume is a marketing document, not an affidavit. I think LW2 is good, and well-poised to market themselves for this promotion.

  21. Amy*

    One nuance with the internal versus external recruiter issue is that some companies outsource 100% of their recruiting for certain roles.

    For example, my husband’s team handles all the hiring and recruiting for a niche department at multiple companies. Even if you apply directly to the website, you’ll end up getting vetted by his team first.

    You can definitely ignore his emails! But he’s also working directly with the companies’ CFOs to fill the roles, so even though he doesn’t work for the companies, it’s similar to an internal role. If he doesn’t think it’ll be a good fit, he won’t pass it on.

  22. WellRed*

    The advice from everyone for OP 1 is spot on. I just want to say how sorry I am you have that many managers. Ugh!

    1. fposte*

      I didn’t read it as having a lot of direct managers, just a lot of senior people on the email chain and then a grandboss getting involved.

  23. rudster*

    “Being a freelancer means I don’t have health insurance.”
    The ACA guarantees you right to buy health insurance – anytime if you’ve lost coverage due to a job loss/change, or at open enrollment – and in any case regardless of preexisting conditions. I get it – premiums cost money, there are deductibles and copays… but if your income is so low that you’re going without needed medication, the premium subsidies through the ACA are likely to extremely generous.

    1. WellRed*

      This is really dependent by state, but she should absolutely look into it if she hasn’t already.

    2. Arctic*

      Several states have hobbled their healthcare exchanges. It’s not a practical option for a lot of people anymore.

        1. I've got Nothing*

          Absolutely. Professional societies, alumni organizations, and other groups OP belongs to may offer insurance of some type. I have used these in the past.

        2. Arctic*

          Of course! But we shouldn’t assume OP hasn’t tried or is just not using a benefit clearly available to her.

        1. $!$!*

          In my state we didn’t expand Medicaid so a lot of people can’t afford the ONE insurance option we have in ACA marketplace for our area

        2. Arctic*

          About 19 states didn’t expand Medicaid, as the ACA requires, that means people who should qualify for government health insurance were pushed onto the exchanges. This made premiums skyrocket in those states and made it very expensive for insurance companies to cover them (since these are often people who hadn’t had insurance in a long time and had lingering, untreated healthcare problems). So, many insurance companies have pulled out of the exchanges completely in those places. Leaving few to no options for people living on the margins.
          All of this was intentional.

        3. Queen Anon*

          Some states setting the minimum income requirement to such a point that it’s very difficult to qualify for those low or no cost state options. When I was unemployed, between my unemployment income (which of course didn’t equal my actual income from when I was working) and my husband’s disability income, we made about $20-50 too much for me to qualify for my state Medicaid program. Believe me, we were not raking in the dough! From what I understand, that’s hardly uncommon where I live.

        4. Michaela Westen*

          I wish everyone who lives in these states that are trying to kill them would just leave and move to a better place (a better state). Then see how the elites manage with no one to do the work.

    3. foolofgrace*

      An option that I had to use recently was to have ‘them’ (government? Marketplace? Not sure who) pay for a couple of hundred dollars per month on my premium, leaving me “only” having to pay $300 per month. The kicker is that it gets added to your income at tax time so it’s more of a postponing than a bailout.

      1. I've got Nothing*

        You then pay whatever your tax rate is only on the subsidy, not the whole thing. You would likely have a low tax rate if you qualify for a subsidy.

  24. Luke*

    #3 one of my coworkers and I occasionally wear the same shirt on the same day. I roll with it and joke to office visitors that “We’re getting the band back together!”

  25. boo bot*

    I’m a freelancer with ADHD, and honestly my best advice to the OP is, get back on your medication by any means. Freelancing full-time, especially when you’re new to it and still creating your routine, requires a ton of organization, focus, and ability to stay on-task, and trying to build your habits while adjusting to being unmedicated sounds like a nightmare. If you’ve found medication that works for you, get back to it – it is daunting, but there are ways.

    Off the top of my head:

    You can look up free and sliding-scale clinics, and prescription discount programs (Walmart, GoodRx, CVS/FamilyWize; NY has a state program and maybe other states do, too.).etc. If you’ve got a doctor you’ve been seeing for a while, call the office and ask if they have advice, don’t just not go.

    I know you’re looking for a W2 job next, but if there’s any chance you might be self-employed for more than a month, look into the ACA exchanges; leaving a job (for any reason!) is considered a qualifying life event to enroll outside the official enrollment period, and depending on your income you will get a tax credit to discount the premiums. Some states even have counselors you can call who will walk you through the process of signing up. I pay a lot for insurance, but I can do my work because I’m properly medicated – I consider it basically a business expense (if only the IRS agreed!)

    1. I've got Nothing*

      I have found that doctors are often willing to supply samples rather than seeing a patient go unmedicated. Worth a conversation, you really don’t know until you ask.

      1. boo bot*

        Definitely! ADHD drugs are often controlled substances, and I don’t know if that would impact the likelihood that samples would be possible, but as you say, you really don’t know until you ask!

    2. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Excellent advice, particularly as looking for work while unmedicated might be really challenging. I know it was for me.

      1. M2*

        Yes! I had a friend who was in the same boat and she had to go to Planned Parenthood because her regular GP wouldn’t give her reduced pricesince she didn’t have insurance. Planned Parenthood scheduled her on the day the mental health provider was there and she was able to get months of free samples of her medication and pay a reduced amount for the visit. This helped her until she was able to get health insurance through a new employer. So many pharma reps bring free medicine to doctors (it’s actually sometimes gross. One time I had to wait bc there was an emergency and in the 20 min I was in the waiting room 9 different pharma reps showed up) and PP it’s usually birth control and such but they may be able to point you in the right direction if they can’t help. Good luck!

    3. LW #4*

      Unfortunately, the way my state has handled ACA makes it pretty un-attainable for me.

      HOWEVER, I love the idea of calling my doctor and seeing what they can do. And I SO appreciate the solidarity :)

      1. Belle8bete*

        Many ADHD meds are highly controlled and won’t be given as samples. check online for RX coupons, check out Canadian pharmacies online.

      2. boo bot*

        Good luck, LW! I look back on the years I used to freelance without medication, and I have no idea how I managed it, apart from just existing in a constant state of panic (oh right, that’s how).

        If your doctor doesn’t have suggestions, look around for any kind of free/low cost clinic in the area (even if it’s not mental health-related) and ask for advice there; people working somewhere that routinely deals with low-income patients will have a better awareness of the resources out there than anyone else. Take care of you as best you can <3

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You can also do some digging on the pharma site for your particular med. Look for a link on the main site that says something like “giving back” and you’ll probably find a link to a separate web page for their “Foundation” — once there, you can fill out a form about your financials and they can send meds to your doctor, who then gives them to you. That way it’s not just samples, but a month or two supply … with your name on it!

      Got me through a period of disability with no health coverage!

  26. Jennifer*

    #3 Don’t stress. Women tend to shop for simple, basic pieces when looking for work clothes for a business casual setting. It’s not unusual for everyone to look similar. I used to try to stand out and be a bit more distinctive at work when I was younger but now it’s easier to keep things simple. I think a lot of women come to that conclusion.

  27. CanuckCat*

    #3 – Echoing everyone else’s comments. I work in an office that’s about 60% women and a lot of us shop at the same stores, so it’s really not uncommon for people to be wearing the same outfit or virtually similar outfits on any given day. (My boss and I joke about texting each other to plan outfits because we have three different dresses, that despite coming from different stores look remarkably similar to each other’s… and have sometimes unintentionally worn them on the same day).

  28. Jaybeetee*

    LW4: Yeah, unfortunately it’s hard to be forthcoming about mental health issues due to stigma (and for that matter, your health issues aren’t the employer’s/client’s business anyway, beyond “health issues impacted my work this week.”) ADHD in particular still has a LOT of stigma as an over-diagnosed “excuse” for poor performance. I’ve certainly been told in the past “There’s no reason you can’t XYZ, don’t go blaming it on ADHD” (but… I have/struggle with this issue because I have ADHD?) It may lead to your being taken less seriously/judged more harshly, even though it shouldn’t.

    The difference would be if you and the employer could agree on accommodations that could aid your performance at the job, at an environment you know it won’t be used against you – but as a freelancer, dealing with what does sound like a temporary flare-up and not an issue that warrants longer-term accommodations, that’s not the case for you at this time :/.

  29. Argh!*

    There’s such a thing as paying cash for medication. I just checked GoodRx, and ritalin generic is around $30 at Walmart with a coupon. Seems like money well spent if it increases hireability.

    1. M2*

      But you have to go to a doctor to get the prescription and the fees cost way more without an insurance adjustment. I just had my yearly physical and to see my doctor for 20 minutes (not including bloodwork) without my insurance would have cost me 400$! Call your doctor and see if they can redo your prescription or have you seen for a set fee (get it in writing) or see if you have a free clinic around you.

      Also you can always negotiate with the finance office at the doctors after you get your bill. My aunt told me she has never paid (after insurance) a full bill for any of her or her children’s medical bills (she has a high deductible). I had no idea you can negotiate what you pay…I tried once and it didn’t work (they offered me a payment plan and I just paid it all instead) but she has done it.

    2. Jennifer*

      Let’s assume that the LW knows what options she has and they aren’t realistic for her. I know people are trying to be helpful, but when someone says that can’t pay for something, it means they can’t pay for it. That’s not the kind of advice she’s asking for. And as M2 commented below, you need a doctor to get a prescription.

    3. LW #4*

      Second what the below commenters said, though I appreciate the thought. The particular drug I take for ADHD costs around $200 (generic even!) for a month’s supply. And since it’s a controlled substance, I have to physically see a doctor every month to have the prescription refilled, and that’s costly, too.

      1. MaureenC*

        I don’t know if this is due to different state regulations, or different regulations for different medications, but my doctor allows me to call in my (non-refillable, controlled substance) medication every so often. It helps that I’ve been her patient for years, though, so if you’re starting from scratch…

        If not having your medication means that you miss deadlines, then I would regard having medication as a Cost of Doing Business, same as internet access or printer paper. (Unfortunately not deductible, though.) It would probably also make filling job applications easier as well. (Cover letters. Ugh.) Good luck; the system was designed for highly organized neurotypicals with time to talk on the phone during the business day. (So, like, 3% of the population.)

        1. Belle8bete*

          I’ve lived in four different states, and I’ve been able to find doctors that would let me come every three months and write up three post dated scripts (I am on a controlled med). Maybe ask about this option and explain why it would help you out?

          And I know that LW didn’t ask for this, but seriously it is hard to find people who can actually talk about this, and I know what hell it is to be without your meds and having to do freelance work!!

          1. LW #4*

            It’s so true, and I seriously can’t thank you enough for your understanding. It’s SO, SO great to hear that someone else out there knows the struggle.

            Also, another excellent take away from this all is that my health expenses are a cost of doing business. I have been looking at my medicine as a non-necessity during this time. Will definitely stop doing that.

            I’m writing this from my doctor’s office. He got me in with his NP, who charges far less for a visit. I will be telling her my situation to see what work arounds we can find, if any.

            1. Belle8bete*

              Also…adhd sometimes responds well to Mountain Dew. Something about the caffeine can help. good luck! I feel you!!

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    Obviously we don’t know exactly what #1 sent in their email, but it sounds like mgmnt could be using your “unprofessionalism” to obscure the fact that they pulled the plug on an employee’s promotion and raise at the last minute, seemingly with no explanation. Instead of feeling guilty or owning it, they go on the offensive–I’ve seen this many times. /speculation

    1. $!$!*

      That’s exactly how I read that question as well—Alison’s advice still stands obviously but it’s refreshing to see a supervisor speak their mind when it comes to transitioning an employee and their $$$$

      1. Queen Anon*

        That was exactly my thought! I’ve had more managers who would not go to bat for their employees than those who would. It was very refreshing to read a letter from someone who did so, even if they went about it the wrong way.

    2. Arctic*

      Totally! The LW definitely did handle it wrong. But no way would it have the same level of pushback if they weren’t being called out on a shady practice.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know; if you really ranted on an email chain here to a pile of managers, you’d get pushback because it’s really a bad thing to do here, not only if the action was shady.

      2. Observer*

        I totally disagree. The Op described behavior that was both way too adversarial, totally out in public and repeated. That absolutely does deserve push back. Especially since the OP didn’t even focus on what you describe – which would be a legitimate probpem, and instead told everyone off for not raising the employee’s pay before moving them into the actual higher role.

    3. LCL*

      Yes. One of the jobs of a first line supervisor is to advocate for their people. I understand why their management had issues with it, but as presented, the OP was basically doing the right thing. It sounds like one of management’s objections was not only whatever was in the email, but that it went out to so many people. Which does have the effect of being more inflammatory than productive.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It doesn’t read like that at all to me. It reads like the OP was asking that the person start getting the new pay ASAP, before she’d actually transitioned to the new job. It’s not an outrage that they said no to that, if that’s what happened.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I guess it depends what “cancelled the action” means.. I took it to be that the employee would no longer be getting a new role or increased pay (and with no explanation) … but I see where you’re coming from

  31. Czhorat*

    I’ve had some terrible recruiters and some good ones (including the one who set me up with my current job). The worst ones seems to just hunt keywords and give comically poor matches. Even as such, it’s not terrible to respond, “I’m sorry, my specialty is in environmentally-neutral exorcisms rather than general monster hunting. If I were to move, I’d need an annual salary of $247,831.97, a company jetpack, and a staff of disposal interns. If something like that comes up, feel free to let me know!”

    Bad ones will just delete your reply and send you another useless keyword match. A decent one might realize they were wrong the first time and, if they have someone looking for *exactly you* you might find a match.

    1. Shoes On My Cat*

      Oh!!! I am so going to use your above verbatim for the second time-same recruiter not applicable job offers. Then I will set my email up to block/spam. Thanks for the awesome laugh!!!

  32. LaDeeDa*

    My husband picked me up from the office one day for lunch and when I got in the car he said “Every single woman is dressed the same.” So yes— pretty much every woman wears slacks or a skirt, a solid colored top, and a cardigan. Those tops can be worn with a suit if needed, slacks, a skirt, jeans, cardigan, blazer. My work clothes side of the closet pretty much looks like The Loft and White House Black Market catalogs.

    Also.. men wear the same things– pants and a polo or a button-down shirt…

      1. LaDeeDa*

        OO daring! LOL! People at my company show their personalities with either statement jewelry or brightly colored shoes. Men here like wild socks.

  33. wafflesfriendswork*

    When I was in high school my family took a vacation with another family we’re close to. When we all came downstairs for breakfast at the hotel my mom was dressed the same as the husband of the other family, and my dad was dressed the same as the wife!

  34. SpurLeeLoche*

    I’m the OP for #3 (I dress the same as my boss), and this is such a relief!! My last few jobs have either been in health care where I wore scrubs, or at a place that had a set uniform (like they gave me a shirt)…or at a health food store where our uniform was funny t-shirts and jeans. So dressing professionally has been such a puzzle for me!
    I read that you should wear what your coworkers wear, and since I just work with my boss I was worried I was taking the advice a little too literally! Glad to know it’s a common phenomena :)

  35. Aitch Arr*

    Our team jokes that “I see you got the HR Memo” when two or more of us show up in similar color schemes or outfits.

  36. axe*

    When thinking about talking about health problems, mentally replace your issue with “colon problems” lol, cause that’s always the most TMI

  37. Memyselfandi*

    OP #4 – There is no need to go without treatment. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer no-cost or low-cost treatment that is tailored to your income. If you search “How to Find A Federally Qualified Health Center” you can find a locator tool.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, I have never heard of this program, and it looks like it has additional assistance available for prescriptions, too.

      (However, it’s doing itself no online favors–it was tough for me to find information about being a patient by searching.)

      1. Memyselfandi*

        There are probably easier ways of locating care than I suggested, but I didn’t want to step over any boundaries. How people get their healthcare is their business. Most FQHCs are known as Community Health Centers as well, although some have started branding themselves.

        1. fposte*

          And I don’t mean to get at you! You provided some really good information. I just get really frustrated when a useful program gets buried because of poor information provision.

  38. notanyuse*

    Re: Recruiters. I am a current attorney, former barista. One of the things a very good manager impressed on me, back in my coffee-slinging (bean-grinding, restroom-cleaning, trash-hauling, pastry-arranging) days: Each interaction you have with someone, while you’re working, should reflect your professional identity. It doesn’t really matter who you’re interacting with — it matters who you are.

    Recruiters are people you interact with professionally. If it is at all possible (i.e., if you’re not getting thirty unsolicited emails per day), and it seems as the recruiter has actually taken an effort to target you personally, give them the same impression of you (professionally) that anyone else gets. Whether that’s a breezy “No thanks, not for me!” or no-nonsense “I’m not looking right now, please take me off your list, thank you,” depends on you.

    1. Czhorat*

      YES to this.

      Even if they aren’t one hundred percent professional, YOU CAN BE.

      The response to say either, “I’m not looking” or – better – “I’d only be interested in [job type X] at [salary Y] at this point in my career” takes very, very little of your time and is a professional, appropriate interaction

    2. Judy (since 2010)*

      I’d just say that it’s rare that someone contacts me with a job within my technical competency. I’m a software engineer, I work on embedded systems, programming in C/C++. Recruiters who look at my linkedin using keyword searches and don’t actually read my profile don’t deserve the time of my response.

      I don’t do IT. I don’t program PLCs. I don’t do websites. Oh, and the fact that I have a degree in electrical engineering doesn’t mean that I have the skills to design circuits or power stations. (It’s obvious in those cases they looked at degree + geographic location.)

      I get 5-10 linkedin emails a week for jobs that I’m in no way truly qualified for.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, but I have had some recruiters adjust after I told them what it is that I do (audiovisual system design, which is perhaps not as specialized, but I’ve gotten tons of misses with “AV” as a keyword.

        The good ones will listen and then pass on jobs that fit. The bad ones — well, at least you gave them a chance.

      2. Sun Tzu*

        I get all the time, from the same headhunter company, emails about an “excellent job opportunity”. After reading, it turns out they are looking for an expert in $technology_barely_mentioned_on_my_cv, for a duration of just a few months, in $city_1000_miles_away.
        And they end the message saying “if you know someone interested, feel free to pass along”. In short they are asking me to do their job for them. Very annoying.

    3. Someone Else*

      This is interesting to me because as I’ve been reading through the comments here, I realized I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually heard from a recruiter or not. I do not use LinkedIn at all. So when I get what *might* be a recruiter or a headhunter email, I’ve always assumed it’s spam, rather than a real human actually trying to reach me intentionally. I flag their messages as such. Am I being a jerk to someone just trying to do their job? Or if their message were spammy-sounding enough to convince me it’s spam, I’m safer assuming it is and deleting/flagging as junk and getting on with my day?

    4. PlainJane*

      Well said. I don’t hear from a ton of recruiters, but when I do, I always respond. And honestly, it’s a nice ego boost to hear from them, and sometimes the jobs are really interesting. I once had a headhunter contact me for a job on St. Kitts, and though I knew there was no way I could take it, I did spend about 20 minutes reading about the place and drooling.

  39. peachie*

    One morning at work, our receptionist came up to my desk, grabbed my arm, and said, You have to see this! She brought my down the hall to a where my coworker sat. She was wearing the same pants — literally the same pants from the same place! and not plain work pants! they were this weird, loud floral pattern! — and the same shirt and the same cardigan and the same shoes and the same belt and the same necklace, and we both wore glasses that day. It was bonkers. This was probably three years ago and I work elsewhere, but I think about it all the time.

  40. Observer*

    #4- Stigma aside, it’s just TMI. Same if the problem were purely physically medical.

    People need information But too much information often backfires. And you also don’t want to give people too much license to poke into stuff that’s not their business, either.

    1. fposte*

      Yes. I think it’s pretty common, when you’re in distress, to have an impulse to share that distress and to want people to understand why you’re not functioning the way you want, but that’s not a good way to make decisions about sharing health information professionally.

  41. Observer*

    #1 – If I’m reading you correctly, a change in attitude would be a really useful addition to your efforts to recover from your mis-step.

    For one thing standing up for your staff is good, but it doesn’t excuse any and all reactions. Going on a public rant about something an Admin did on the orders of their superior is just not an appropriate way to react. Given that the person who set you off was an Admin acting on legitimate orders from a superior, it also kind of reduces your credibility as “defender of the line staff”.

    Also, you do need to understand that there is a difference between short-changing someone and not giving them the best possible deal. Transitioning someone into a higher role and delaying their raise *IS* short changing them, and you would be right to push back strongly- just not the way you did it. But, giving the raise first is NICE, not required, ethically speaking. Not doing so is not “short changing” them.

    And, if the problem was that what actually happened was that the entire promotion was pulled, then you should have addressed that. It’s not short changing, either, by the way, but still not appropriate.

  42. Ruth (UK)*

    I am a cis woman but I wear men’s button up shirts for work. I have the same dark blue shirt with small white dots as my boss (a man). I don’t have many work outfits and neither does he seem to so we often end up matching. We mention being in ‘the spotty shirt club’ when this happens.

    We also have some other matching or almost matching shirts, but in plain blue or plain black so it’s not so obvious that we are ‘matching’ when this happens as when we have the spots.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal to accidentally match in most situations but it also can depends what the outfit is.

  43. MaureenC*

    OP #4, I’ve found that if I’m running behind on a deadline, I get a far better reception if I let the person know that I’ll probably be late *before* the initial deadline. If it’s because the work’s taking more time than I initially estimated, I’ll say that; otherwise I’d consider giving a small discount for the schedule shift.
    Also, I know the pain of dealing with Obamacare while ADHD. But it may be worth it to talk to a tax attorney to see if you can find a way out of having to update your income each month in the system.

  44. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: I am allergic to “reply all” and big group CCs. I break out in metaphorical hives of doubt, suspicion and sometimes dread at the mere thought of using those things. I wish more people would use “reply all” and big group CCs only after careful consideration and internal mental query, and only when the nature of the communication makes it appropriate. I recently took over new job responsibilities, and was almost immediately swamped with an extra 60+ emails per day because of the mindless habit that certain people had developed of CCing large groups and “replying all”, thereby sucking lots of people (including me) in on every email exchange. It was chaos until I started pushing back, specifically asking people when to copy me, and when *not* to copy me–letting the direct stakeholders handle matters, and only involving me when issues required my action/input or directly impacted me.

  45. Mobuy*

    Re: OP #3 I’m a teacher. One Monday, I and about five other kids all wore red. Ha ha, no biggie. The next day, we all wore black, again a coincidence. Now it’s getting ridiculous. Then they told me that everyone was going to wear blue the next day. Well, I’m not in junior high, so I smiled and ignored them. The next day, I wore gray…and so did all of them. They’d tried to play me, but the universe played them back!

    This is all to say, it happens. Enjoy the confluence of the strands of the universe.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      That is so cute! Do you rotate your clothes in a way that they were able to predict or track it?

      1. Shoes On My Cat*

        We had a high school teacher who did that with his polo shirts. He had ALL the colors so it took a while for people to catch on. But my sister had him as a teacher 6 years before me and gave me the color chart her class had put together. IT WAS THE SAME!! He was an absolutely fantastic teacher so I think it was more of a colorful ‘decision fatigue avoidance’ thing a la President Obama :-)

        1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          When I was a senior in high school, I showed up one day wearing an identical yellow shaker-knit sweater as that worn by my math teacher. I was mortified, as any 17-year old girl probably would be when looking like a twin to the middle-aged dude teaching pre-calc. I tried to fly under the radar; he noticed immediately and come over to my desk to hold his sleeve next to mine and point whilst making “check out this coinc-y-dink!” faces.

    2. Birb*

      Oooh, this reminds me of something that happened when I was in high school.
      We had a teacher we only saw once a week, on Wednesdays I think, and he was always wearing a yellow shirt. He rotated the same 3 yellow shirts through the whole school year, and everyone in class wondered about that. On the last week, one of my friends worked up the courage to ask him if all the shirts he owned were yellow. He got a thousand-yard-stare, we could practically see him reflecting on his life choices, until he answered that no, he had several different colors, but his laundry routine at home meant he always ended up picking yellow on Wednesdays.

  46. DeColores*

    Re #5 – Can I ignore recruiters who cold-email me at my work address? I don’t list that email on my resume and it always feels intrusive, like the recruiter doesn’t care that my employer could see that email and think that I’m looking.

  47. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP #1: I hear you! Oh, how I hear you!! But, as you know, and have asked Allison for, there are better ways. That being said, I too have a tendency to rant. Much much ranting on behalf of my peeps. I just do it in Word or some other completely offline document. Then I come back after a food and perhaps a *vigorous* walk and mine that document for the hidden gems that are actually on point and productive. I delete the rest. Then I edit the gems for managerial consumption with the perspective that my grand boss, as well as my boss, may see it. Then I do other work to change gears. Then I re-read it, edit if needed, and copy that to an email to send. It’s really really helped my relationship with the PTB in the last few jobs. Good luck!!!

  48. Le Sigh*

    My old boss (male) and I (woman) accidentally showed up dressed alike more than once — blue button downs and black pants, etc. Which was whatever, until the day I showed up for work for a big event in my nice new black suit and pink button down. Thought I looked snazzy — until I saw my boss, who was wearing the same exact thing. He just looked at me and was like, “oh come ON.” Since we were at a public-facing event and looked like the Bobbsey Twins, we opted to keep our distance for the day.

    1. Easter*

      Same here! My old boss (male, 15+ years my senior) and I would frequently wear the same/similar outfits – blue button downs and black pants being a prime example! I was the only person in my department and worked directly with him – and was the most junior person doing so – so it was actually a kind of nice inside joke. Fortunately, we never wore the same/similar outfits to a public facing fancy event! :) LW, I wouldn’t stress about it.

  49. BenSteven*

    Same happened to me in my college days. I and my friend dressed up the same outfits. Some people called us twins or some makes it a joke. But It didn’t impact us because it is not a big deal to dress up the same. Moreover, I never care about what others think about me. Thanks for sharing this interesting stuff with us.

  50. RightPeople*

    Same happened to me in my college days. I and my friend dressed up the same outfits. Some people called us twins or some makes it a joke. But It didn’t impact us because it is not a big deal to dress up the same. Moreover, I never care about what others think about me. Thanks for sharing this interesting stuff with us.

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