my boss has strict kitchen rules, how to escape an exit interview, and more

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

1. My boss has strict rules about the office kitchen

I am curious about proper break room etiquette. We an office of about 11 people and a break room with no seating. Our kitchen is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, sink, pantry, hot plate, flatware, and dishes, so most people bring lunch from home or buy frozen, prepared meals to eat at our desks.

At what point should the kitchen be spotless? The majority of my coworkers thoroughly clean the kitchen after they finish their meals, but our boss seems to feel that this should be done before or during the meal. If she finds a slice of carrot in the sink or a small puddle of mustard on the counter, she’ll call everyone in from eating and demand to know who did it. Often it’s not even the person who made the mess who cleans it up, but just someone who wants to return to finishing their lunch within the allotted break time. If it matters, most of us are hourly, so we’re not getting paid while eating. Is it generally okay to clean up after the meal, providing people actually do it?

Also, is it unprofessional to use disposable/used containers? I am on a limited budget, so I mostly bring leftovers from home. Over the years, I’ve had my good reusable containers go missing, so I often re-use sour cream or yogurt containers to bring my leftovers. I never microwave these and I always wash my containers well, but if my boss sees them in the dish drainer, she chucks them, claiming that they’re “dirty and unprofessional.” Is this true? If it makes any difference, our office is not client-facing so nobody sees my containers except my coworkers.

It sounds like your boss has some weird hang-ups about the kitchen. Your containers should be fine, and if she knows that you intend to reuse them, it’s obnoxious for her to throw them out. By definition, if you’ve washed them, they’re not “dirty.” As for saying they’re“unprofessional … I mean, I wouldn’t serve a meal to clients in a sour cream container, but it’s no one’s business that you bring your lunch in them.

As for whether to clean the kitchen before or after meals, it’s not unreasonable to ask people not to leave a mess in the sink or on the counter before they start eating. It’s not great for someone else to come in to prepare their own lunch and have to work around that. Ultimately this one comes down to office culture, and it sounds like your boss is saying the rule there is to wipe down the sink and counter before you start eating … which, okay, fine. (It might feel more unreasonable in the context of her larger kitchen hang-ups, though, since of course now you’re seeing everything through the lens of her recycled container hatred.)

2. How do I escape an exit interview with my terrible boss?

Unfortunately, my manager is a bad one and completely ignored any of the (constructive) feedack I gave in the last year. For these reasons, I recently decided to take an internal transfer in my (huge) company. When I informed him of my decision and was asked for the reasons, I was pretty honest — I gave him a couple of examples that bugged me in the last few months. Despite having read this blog, I could not see any harm in this at the time: He already knew I was pretty unhappy, my feedback was delivered calmly and professionally, and I had discussed those examples with him previously, when I still thought things might improve.

So I thought that was it. Instead, I was dragged into another meeting the following day, where he started to argue about those situations, explaining why he did everything right, and calling my decision to leave “extreme.” His tone was, as always, very professional, the message not so much. At the end of this meeting, he told me he was going to set up another meeting for us and my team lead (an intermediate layer between us who deals with day-to-day issues and has no real power) to further discuss my feedback. I told him that I was skeptical that this was a good idea and asked him not to do this. I had already discussed the main issues with both of them several times, and all these discussions are emotionally draining for me.

The following day he told me, “I know you do not want this meeting, but I will schedule it regardless.” Due to the way he delivered it, this felt like a declaration of war. It is not in line with our culture to just force feedback. I do not want this meeting and am afraid of being pressured to say things I do not want to say. I do not want the situation to escalate any further either, though.

What are my options? I could escalate it to my grand-boss, who values me and may stop this, but that would probably burn the bridge with my direct manager. Or I could just go there and smile and say nothing meaningful regardless of how much pressure is used, which my boss will definitely see through. I am afraid the situation is not salvageable at this point, and I should have listened to the “do not give even remotely honest feedback when leaving a bad manager” advice.

Try this first: “I genuinely don’t have any more feedback to give, and my decision to move on is a final one. I’d prefer to skip this additional  meeting and use my remaining time to focus on transitioning my work.”

But if that doesn’t work, then go to the meeting and give him nothing. Hold firm; don’t be drawn into a discussion you don’t want to be in.  You cans say things like “I really don’t have anything else I can offer that would be useful” and “I can’t think of anything else to discuss.” You can also say, “Why don’t we use this time to discuss (transition items X, Y, and Z)?” In fact, if you do a little prep work on the transition ahead of time, you could come ready with some high-priority topics related to transitioning your work, and might be able to distract him with those.

The main, though, is that you don’t need to let yourself get pressured into things you don’t want to say. You can cheerfully insist you don’t have any other feedback to give and are excited to move into your new position for reasons unrelated to him. He’s not giving you truth serum! If you’re determined to get out of there without saying anything substantive, you can do that.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How should I handle starting to cover my hair at work?

I’ve been in the process of converting to Judaism for more than a year and I’m getting ready to finish that up. One thing I’ve been considering doing for quite some time is wearing a tichel (a scarf to cover my hair).

How do I approach this change at work? In a perfect world, it wouldn’t make a difference, but it feels specious to pretend that there isn’t a particular context and baggage around Jewish women covering their hair. I’m openly queer and vocally lefty and my coworkers and I are close enough that I don’t think their assessment of me will radically change.

Should I just show up wearing one and not comment? Should I give my supervisor a heads-up that this is something I’m considering? Am I just deeply overthinking this and it’s not that serious?

I don’t know that you’re overthinking it exactly — it’s a visible change that can carry big messages with it. But you definitely don’t need to give your manager a heads-up about it (particularly since you don’t want to sound as if you’re asking for her input or approval in any way). If you have a fairly close relationship with her, I could see mentioning it the way you might mention another big or interesting decision you were considering (“I’m starting to think about buying a house” or “Jane and I are talking about going to Spain this summer” or “I’ve started to study in preparation for converting to Judaism”). In other words, you might mention it the way you might share something else significant going on in your life (if you do that with her; some manager/employee relationships are like that and some aren’t). But it’s not a heads-up that you need to give her or anyone else. It’s completely fine to just start doing it whenever you want to.

4. Why can’t I ask managers for their references?

I’ve been asked for references by prospective employers. It’s a usual part of the hiring process. Seems reasonable. But I’ve always wondered how employers would respond if the I asked for references for my prospective new manager.

I want to ask for references from people who have worked for this manager in the past. I’ve never had the nerve to do it. But why not? Why wouldn’t I want to know more about this person?

You can — you just don’t call it that, because of the conventions around this stuff. But if you get a job offer, you can absolutely say, “Would it be possible for me to set up a phone call or two with members of the team, to learn more about their experience with the organization?” (In fact, the more senior you get, the more common it is for employers to proactively include these conversations as an official part of the hiring process.)

5. Explaining why I didn’t job search for a few months after being laid off

I am currently searching for a new job after being downsized at the beginning of fourth quarter last year. I took a couple of months at the holidays and did not do much in terms of job searching, partly because I enjoyed having time off and having been a hiring manager before, I know most corporations don’t do a lot of hiring in the fourth quarter. I am now having some phone interviews and everyone has asked why I have not worked in the last several months. Does it look bad that I decided to take that time off or should I come up with a different explanation?

It shouldn’t look bad, but some interviewers are weird about hearing that you were just hanging around doing nothing, even though taking a few months off is hardly a shocking sin. Because of that, though, I’d frame it this way: “I took some time off to handle some family projects (or personal projects you wanted to get done, or projects around the house) and think about what I wanted to do next, and now I’m excited to get back to work.”

{ 653 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #3- Expect a LOT of questions. In fact, I’d prepare some scripts. Hair covering, especially using a headscarf or kerchief is generally associated with “ultra-orthodox” Jews. And there are lots of assumptions about the political leanings of that group. So, not only will you get lots of questions you are likely to get a lot of questions that are based on incorrect assumptions. Having scrips handy really helps for those types of situations.

    1. Jess*

      Yep, converting to a denomination of Judaism that calls for headcovering outside synagogue and being queer are REALLY incompatible, and most of the queer Jews I know who were raised in those denominations really struggled with their queerness and have mostly left. So, frankly, as a queer lefty Jew myself (raised conservative), if I saw you come into work that way, I doubt I’d say anything but it would definitely make me question your judgment and capacity for critical thinking overall (not just in relation to religion).

      1. Not A Manager*

        Wow, that’s super unhelpful.

        If I saw an openly-queer-vocally-lefty-recent-convert covering her hair, I certainly wouldn’t assume that she’d joined a denomination of Judaism that calls for head-coverings outside of synagogue. Moreover, unless she’s married to a man, those denominations wouldn’t actually require her to cover her hair anyway.

        1. Jerry*

          I’m confused about why you wouldn’t assume that someone converting to Judaism, who began covering their hair at the same time wasn’t doing so because of the conversion. It’s a logical assumption and is in fact what the letter writer has explicitly said is the reason for it.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            She could be choosing to cover as her own practice, not be required to. Plenty of liberal Jews take on more ritually traditional practices.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Some queer women are married to men. LW didn’t say anything about whether she is partnered or with whom.

      2. Jasnah*

        I agree with the sentiment that you will have more explaining to do to your coworkers with whom you are close, than your supervisor. Your supervisor can get the Alison-script of “This is a change I’m considering, which of course you don’t get to have an opinion about and it shouldn’t affect anything about my work.” But as for your coworkers who know you as “openly queer and vocally lefty”, you say “and my coworkers and I are close enough that I don’t think their assessment of me will radically change” but I think you might want to consider how you explain to them that you are still the same old you with beliefs ABC, but now you’re adding Judaism variant with practices XYZ. Just as you might wonder about a close coworker who was a vocal supporter of gluten-free diets and now they’re a devout Pastafarian*.

        *I imagine actual Pastafarians are cool with gluten-free pasta as long as it is tasty but hopefully you get my point about how it looks from the outside like your beliefs have changed.

      3. TL -*

        I know this is complicated, but that seems really harsh to the OP – religion can permeate to all areas of life, but faith can also be a completely different area of your life than those that call for critical thinking. I’ve known conservative/orthodox people from all three Abrahamic religions who were also brilliant critical thinkers and scientists. Hopefully, nobody who has already built a relationship the OP will penalize her for her conversion/expression of Judaism.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. “Your religious expression would make me question your capacity for critical thinking” is not a constructive sentiment here, and I’m going to ask that we leave it here and not derail on it.

            1. Annette*

              Yes KeepIt. It was a shocking display of bigotry. The comments from Jess above clearly set the tone. Why was that not removed when educational comments from us and others were.

                1. Jess*

                  Alison, would you be so kind as to delete the comment from Annette above accusing me of bigotry?

                  I recognize that my initial comment may have derailed the conversation, but it wasn’t bigoted. It was based on the logical assumption that the queer OP was *converting into* a denomination of Judaism that holds beliefs that are bigoted against queer people. Nothing bigoted about a choice like that raising eyebrows — no moreso than questioning the judgment of someone showing up to a job interview in ripped clothing.


                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m not going to get into removing comments upon request; that will open up a horrible bee’s nest — I hope you understand. I’ve removed the ones I saw that I thought were clear violations of the commenting rules or my request above.

      4. MK*

        Frankly, I would question the judgment and critical thinking of anyone who had this reaction to someone else’s religious search. It’s one thing to think “this person hasn’t thought through how compatible this religion is with their values, probably they are getting carried away” and another to go “they are being stupid”!

      5. Ann O.*

        You don’t need to be ultra-Orthodox to tichel! It’s much more common among the ultra-Orthodox because it’s culturally enforced, but people of other denominations choose to tichel for a variety of personal reasons. It’s comparable to hijab in that regard. We don’t know what denomination the OP belongs to (but since they identify as a queer left, probably not ultra-Orthodox! Maybe Modern Orthodox on the more socially liberal side)

        1. Just Employed Here*

          It doesn’t really matter why the OP (who is not the commentator you replied to) is covering their hair — that’s not what they are asking advice on here.

          The question was how to handle this fact in the work place.

          1. thankful for AAM.*

            I think the questions amd points here might be typical of the reactions of your coworkers. I also dont know all the customs and rules surrounding covering your hair but I worked at a modern orthodox Jewish high school and I have some ideas. I would have many of the thoughts of the others here, mostly surrounding ways hair covering and queerness seem incompatible.

            I would know that I dont know and would ignore it unless you asked me to comment. But I would be confused. These might be the questions you need to be prepared to hear or that people might be thinking.

          2. CJM*

            Well, alisons advise was centered around letting it drop that she is doing it because she’s converting to judism, so why shouldn’t the comments be about that?

        2. One (1) Anon*

          1. Bisexual women can marry men.

          2. It doesn’t matter either way. The OP said they wanted to cover their hair as a gesture of faith; this doesn’t mean they’re converting to an ultra-orthodox denomination; even if it did, it’s still not on you to criticize their critical thinking or judgement.

          1. many bells down*

            Exactly. OP said they’re *considering* covering their hair. Not that they’re going to be required to. Perhaps it’s just an outward marker of faith that she feels good about.

        3. bloody mary bar*

          A gentle reminder that just because someone is queer does not mean they are not married to a person of the opposite sex.

        4. Agnodike*

          Many people choose to adopt religious observances that are significant to them, even if they’re not required to do so by their particular denomination. My sister, a Reform Jew, covers her hair because it’s meaningful to her as an observance, even though that’s not only not required but actually actively frowned on in that denomination. Although I would suggest to the OP that she could probably fulfil the spirit of the practice in a way that would be less challenging at work – a wig or a large hair accessory might be an easier transition.

          1. DataGirl*

            Sometimes I think I would like to cover my hair as an expression of my faith, but I’m part of a huge Reform congregation and none of the women cover their hair. I’m pretty sure if I did come in with a tichel my feminist Rabbis would be pissed. I have a jeweled kippah that I wear to synagogue for special occasions but even that would be a little weird every day. I also don’t know how I’d deal with the fallout at work, as whether accurate or not, hair covering is associated in most people’s minds with ultra Orthodox faiths. Anyway, I understand your concerns and I wish you the best LW3.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              I also think about covering my hair sometimes. I’m a member of both a conservative synagogue and a Chabad (ultra-orthodox) synagogue. I’m really more reform in practice but I prefer services that are mostly in Hebrew. I’m married to man who is not Jewish so I feel like I’d be looked down upon by both the conservative synagogue for being too religious/anti-feminist and by the Chabad for trying to make something of my interfaith marriage that shouldn’t be made.

              For the OP– good for you and I’m glad you aren’t going to let the detractors scare you off!

          2. AMT*

            Yeah, I have definitely seen this in men (wearing a kippot to signal observance, even though their denomination does not require it). Hell, I’ve even seen kippot-wearing women, which is a thing now. It did not make me question their commitment to queerness or wonder about their level or type of religious observance. Personally, I think it’d be kind of rude to ask questions about something like this, even if it was a significant change from what I’d previously observed, like going from flyaway hair to full hijab. I always tell myself that whatever burning question I want to ask about a change in someone’s appearance, they’ve probably been asked that question by several people that day and/or are anxious about being asked about it.

        5. Triplestep*

          Or even Reconstructionist Jews. We tend to be into ritual and making it relevant to our modern lives. (That said, I do not cover my hair, but I know Recon women who wear Kipot.)

      6. Smithy*

        This is a harsh assessment, but as someone who was also raised in a Jewish home and lived in Jerusalem for years – while I wouldn’t phrase it that way, I would be confused. Judaism, like all faiths, isn’t boiled down to “everyone who does X is Y”, but covering hair does largely signify a few things.

        First it signifies marriage, and among those in that faith community it signifies marriage to a man. Now the that may all be true for the OP, who still feels that this doesn’t contradict her queer and lefty self. Or it may be a more niche community of practice that adopts certain traditions along with less traditional beliefs. At work I wouldn’t ask any questions, but it would confuse me.

        With that in mind, I do go back to strongly recommending scripts based on what you’re comfortable sharing. There are folks that will see hair covering and wonder if you’re also keeping kosher, dressing modestly – so be prepared with how you want to address those. Similarly, there may also be people who have the same thoughts as Jess and just quietly detach.

        For many Jews, the practice of Judaism that includes covering hair corresponds with other conservative beliefs. Whether or not people will directly confront you on that at work – I certainly hope not. But I would recommend being prepared for it.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          I think this is a super helpful expression of what I couldn’t find a way to say without sounding like a jerk. As another queer lefty I personally would have many questions similar to some of the more pointed responses if someone I knew started doing this — e.g, “why take on an overt symbol of a religious practice that is typically associated with prejudice against your very identity, especially if it’s not required?” I am old enough and smart enough and affirming enough that I wouldn’t say those things out loud, but I know a lot of people who would. People blurt out the most astonishing things, all the time. So I would be more thoughtful if I were the OP about being prepared for those kinds of direct questions — even aggressions.

          1. Smithy*

            Yes – the likelihood of folks being rude is high. And to be quite frank, I would expect some of the least subtle questions to actually come from people who identify as Jewish or feel well versed in the faith. It’s not that all observant Jews are X in the same way that all Evangelicals aren’t all Y. But people raised in and around those faiths have a wealth of history that’s going to color those interactions.

            Should the OP be joining a Reform or alternative movement but choose to cover her hair as her own sign, then I could also see more traditional Jews pushing back on the choice. Why cover your hair if you’re not keeping kosher? Either way – it shouldn’t happen at work but in social settings I see more room for questions. Some coming from a place of general interest and others perhaps less polite in tone.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              re traditional Jews pushing back – they would, because unmarried women wearing a head covering isn’t a thing. It’s not analogous to a hijab. But I don’t know that any of that’s relevant to the OP because she’s not actually in an Orthodox or Haredi community.

              I guess my thought is cover if the OP personally wants to use that as her visual marker for her Jewishness, although it’s not a thing in the actual practice of tzniut.

              1. Snarkastic*

                Do we know she’s not Orthodox? I assumed that she converted into an Orthodox sect.

                I personally wouldn’t talk or ask about it unprompted by OP. I’d probably think it was a style choice, hiding hair loss, or another illness before I assumed she had converted. So, while I would respect her privacy, I agree that many will not.

        2. DivineMissL*

          As a non-religious person, if someone started coming to work every day with her hair covered by a scarf, I would assume that either she either is covering up some sort of hair loss (not my business), or it’s easier than styling her hair (again, not my business). I don’t know that I would even think to ask.

          1. londonedit*

            Same here. I didn’t actually know what a tichel was, but having Googled, I wouldn’t connect that style of scarf with any sort of religion at all. I’ve seen women wearing that sort of thing, but my first thought would be to assume they were wearing it because they liked it. I mean, I wouldn’t ask questions about anything anyone was wearing, but a scarf like that wouldn’t make me think anything other than ‘Ooh, that’s a cool scarf, looks good on her’.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Same. I can think of a long list of reasons someone might cover their hair, none of which have anything to do with our jobs. And since I’m not obligated to talk religion and politics with coworkers, whatever private questions I might have about any of their attire that suggested a particular leaning are also irrelevant.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          Tzniut requiring hair coverings does only apply to married women – it’s more similar to wearing a wedding ring than a hijab. Unmarried women don’t cover their hair in any Haredi community, except for inside some synagogues.

          It sounds to me like the OP is more looking for some sort of visual marker of her Orthodoxy, but it wouldn’t be interpreted that way in a Haredi community. Not saying the OP shouldn’t do it if she wants to, it’s just wouldn’t be considered a visual marker of Orthodoxy in an actual Orthodox community.

          1. Smithy*

            My mom is like this with being kosher. She has her interpretation that is very important to her but doesn’t truly follow the rules.

            Now if someone at a potluck brought a dish with pork or shellfish in it and she says “oh sorry I can’t eat that, I keep kosher” – I don’t have issue with it. But occasionally she’ll refuse vegetarian food on the lines of “because I’m kosher I won’t eat anything you made in your non kosher kitchen” as an excuse because she doesn’t think the food looks good and it really bothers me. She’ll eat out in non-kosher restaurants and all that but thinks this is a way to avoid hurting feelings.

            Anywho – clearly an issue between me and my mother and almost entirely off topic, but also an issue that I think is within the Jewish community in many small ways. Doing something atypical that has meaning for you isn’t wrong – but people will have their own opinions. Some they’ll voice strongly, some they won’t.

            At work, I can hardly imagine anyone wanting to poke this all that much. Except kashrut – because if office meals are ordered people may want to confirm that they’re following people’s religious dietary guidelines. But socially – welcome to the tribe! People will have opinions!

            1. CommanderBanana*

              A lot of my ‘kosher’ friends are like this, and it makes cooking for a group pretty hard, because I never know how kosher they’re koshering on a particular week, but *shrug*.

            2. SpaceySteph*

              +1 for “welcome to the tribe! People will have opinions!”
              Judaism in a nutshell right there.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Having been married is still the common denominator. The head covering is signifying your status as an observant married Jewish woman. Nothing’s stopping the OP from covering or using a head covering as her personal signal that she’s now an observant Jewish woman, it’s just going to signal something else in an Orthodox or Haredim community.

              I wear a wedding set even though I’m not married, so if I get questions about my husband or whatever I have to explain that I’m not married, I just wear a wedding set – but I understand that I’m wearing a signal that I am, in fact, married, and I’m not going to get annoyed when people assume that I am. Since the OP doesn’t sound like she’s part of an actual Orthodox community, it kind of doesn’t matter, but she may or may not get pushback from her synagogue community depending on what sort of community it is.

        4. CommanderBanana*

          This – a friend’s sister decided to convert to Islam for a hot second, and she would wear a hijab – with a sleeveless tank top, thereby kind of sailing past the point.

        5. Annette*

          Yes and in Evangelical communities a diamond wedding ring symbolizes marriage to a man. So women can never subvert the practice in a way that’s meaningful to them? Ok.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            That’s not what I said (and ironically, I’m not married but wear a wedding set and have for years, so. Also a diamond engagement ring is not associated with any particular religious practice.).

            I said that it sounds like the OP wants to signify her Jewishness in a visual way and she’s choosing to do it through wearing a tichel, which, totally cool. However, wearing a tichel and also not wearing frum dress is going to read as really weird to Orthodox or Haredim, which? Doesn’t matter, because OP isn’t part of that community. And it’s unlikely outside of Orthodox areas that her tichel is going to be read as anything other than a head scarf.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Sorry, I thought you were replying to my comment. Still no link between diamond engagement rings and being Evangelical.

          2. Smithy*

            Subverting practice based on what is meaniningful to an individual is entirely what religion should be about. However it also means that it may result in more questions.

            Based on my personal experience with more conservative expressions and practice of Judaism, presenting a marker of conservative practice (covering the hair) would bring up questions for me in regards to previously mentioned queer/lefty politics. However, as I have noted in all my comments – not questions appropriate for work. And for a “work friend”, also questions I’d keep to myself. Religion, sexuality and politics combined is a whole basket of “not going to touch” at work. If the OP and I worked together and she wanted to share, I’d be open to listen but would be guarded to ensure we retained an appropriate professional relationship.

            It may well be that the OP has been talking about her conversion process with her work friends for a while and this is a true non-thing. But I think being aware that there are some who will have questions just echoes AAM’s advice. Have scripts ready to share what you want. Because this may not be the same as saying “FYI boss, I’m now converting to Orthodox Judaism and will now require the following accommodations as a result”.

        6. Manders*

          Yes, you put what I was going to say more eloquently. LW, I think you’re going to be pretty much fine just telling non-Jewish coworkers that this is a religious observance. Be prepared for the fact that your Jewish coworkers, if you have any, may have strong opinions about what you’re signaling with this choice.

          (Also, if you feel the need to give a more detailed explanation, do not say anything to a Jewish coworker implying they should do the same thing, or that your practice or family background gives you more of a right to judge what’s “really Jewish.” I had this happen to me at a former job and it soured my working relationship with the coworker who did this to me permanently.)

          1. KeepIt*

            but what makes you think OP would do that in the first place? they mention in other comments further down the thread that they are doing this for extremely personal reasons. I think you’re right though – most non Jewish co workers aren’t going to really think twice about it. There may be some curiosity but I feel like most people (in professional contexts) anymore lean on the “I don’t want to be rude so I’ll just not mention anything” when it comes to religious expression

            1. Manders*

              Ah, I didn’t see their comments further down. That clarifies the issue a lot, I don’t think the LW would do that.

        7. Oaktree*

          I know “queer lefty” Jewish women who are married to other women and cover. But you’re right that it is generally married, heterosexual Orthodox women.

        8. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          I don’t know that this is anybody at OP’s job’s business–other than keeping kosher, if that were the case. That is probably something that people at your work need to know.

        9. AnnaBananna*

          Frankly I hate that we would even expect her to have to deal with questions like this. I mean in this day in age why haven’t we just gotten to the point that religious decisions aren’t anybody elses business and left it at that?

          — naive atheist

      7. Annette*

        This reaction = shockingly bigoted. If you would be nervous and uncomfortable around a Jewish or Muslim woman wearing a head covering (let’s be honest about what we are talking about here). Ultra right propaganda has done it’s job. Very sad.

          1. Annette*

            I did read it. The assumption that someone who begins covering their hair (again. We are talking about a Jew here. Could also be Muslim) will start condemning others. Is the definition of bigoted.

            Consider that alt right extremists want to convince you that Jews and Muslims are a threat to your liberal values. This = serious business.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              WS said clearly that they are a queer person who had had a lot of problems with conservative religious people. You are dismissing their personal experience and chalking up their reaction to “you are bigoted and brainwashed”. Cool. I’ve had some negative experience with men in certain circumstances and try my best not to be in those conditions but sometimes I am, and I am nervous and uncomfortable too. But I guess my experiences don’t matter, because “bigoted and brainwashed”, amirite?

      8. Annette*

        Yes KeepIt. I wish people had kept them. Now I know how many closed minded people are lurking. Heinous comments.

      9. MatKnifeNinja*


        Where I live…

        The only women who wear a tichel are..

        Some of the teen age girls at the Reform Jewish day school. I was told it’s to aggravate their parents. Lol..

        And the ultra Orthodox Jews that are right of the Lubavitchers. Take your local Chabad schul and shove it right of those minhags (community customs/standards).

        As a coworker, your tichel would be a blip on my radar screen. I’m sort of a you be Boo, Boo person.

        My nosey curiosity might be which schul you worship at, since gay and left isn’t in the usual tichel wearing crowd where I live.

        Still none of my damn business, and I wouldn’t say a thing.

        I went through an Orthdox Conversation, and didn’t wear a tichel. Tichels were heavily frowned upon. I could wear a wig or a snood. Since I wasn’t married, I did nothing. The Jewish community I was in did not wear tichels, and me rolling in with one would have been a big WTF. Even though a lot of my semi religious Israeli friends wear one.

        I really comes down to what does your Jewish community do? I would find it interesting Reform women would wear Tichels, but *shrug*. The reason being, there’s too much baggage that people believe you go to that Haredi schul down the street that believes the State of Israel doesn’t exist.

        If your Rabbi doesn’t care, go for it. Just remember a Tichel can be more than a statement than Jewish modesty. Tichel can also be a statement of which branch of Judaism you are from. Haredi Jewish women wear Tichels. Haredi believe homosexuality is an abomination.

        Work won’t care. More Jews, depending where you live, might call you out on the tichel. None of their business, but be prepared for it.

        1. Smithy*

          Well said!

          There are lots of traditions that mean lots of different things to different Jews based on their experiences. And while different workplaces have different boundaries around this (my old office in Jerusalem – there would have been inappropriate questions for days. Cause that was how that office was), I don’t really see much happening at work.

          But I do think all of these posts give some insight as to why there are comments saying “people might have questions, spoken or kept silent”.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Really good point – this would be like me rolling up to my local super-lax Reform synagogue that is basically the Reform answer to Unitarianism in full-on frum dress. It would not win me any friends and they would assume I’d gotten lost on my way to the ultra-Orthodox community one state over.

      10. Jennifer Juniper*

        Whoa, Jess. OP’s religion/politics are absolutely none of your business. Unless she starts trying to convert her coworkers or bugging them about religion, then her conversion is nobody’s business.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you hadn’t previously been openly (other religion), you might try answering invasive questions with “I didn’t used to be an observant Jew.” Let them know it’s religious so they (should) back off, and let them draw their own conclusions about your history with religion. Because inappropriate people often don’t restrict their comments to one topic.
      (As we say in my family, ‘Step AWAY from the vehicle…”)

      1. Temperance*

        I think this only works if she doesn’t want close relationships with her colleagues going forward. If she had previously identified as queer and liberal, her colleagues are going to be surprised by her conservative wardrobe choices.

    3. Doodle*

      Or…no questions at all. A kerchief doesn’t “read” the same way a hijab or yarmulke does. If I see a colleague wearing a kerchief, I think she’s …. wearing a kerchief. I wear them sometimes myself. It’s a fashion thing!

      Unless you do want to talk about it, OP, wear your kerchief and don’t worry a bit. No one is really going to care that much.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yeah, it’s not readily apparent that a tichel is anything other than a head scarf unless you actually live in an area with a lot of tichel-wearing women and know what it is. When I’m in Brooklyn and see a woman wearing frum clothing with a wig, I know she’s Orthodox, but a woman wearing frum clothing and a wig somewhere else is going to be seen as just a woman wearing a wig and modest clothing.

        Tichels aren’t as immediately recognizable as religious headgear the way a yamulke or a hijab is – and there are a ton of different types of head coverings for observant married women and sometimes that varies from community to community. I can tell which community some women are from by what sort of head covering they have (tichel v. sheitel v. a half-sheitel v. a snood v. certain styles of hair-covering hats…so many options!). Some types of head coverings aren’t seen as modest enough in certain communities.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Also, and this is so ridiculous – a cousin of mine became more observant and started wearing a tichel after her marriage, and my non-Jewish grandmother was so upset that she was covering her hair – and that grandmother is Catholic, where all nuns cover their hair, and a lot of her congregation wore mantillas or head coverings in church!


          1. Phrunicus*

            “where all nuns cover their hair”

            …And not even that necessarily any more, unless they’re in a proper habit and all. My son’s Catholic school principal is an older nun, and while she dresses conservatively (in roughly the same thing every day, so that may be her order’s more modern take instead of a habit), she doesn’t have a head covering. Even at Mass.

            Not to get too off topic, but I think a general rule of thumb is, if the order is out and working in the public, they’re more likely to not have the traditional habits and such, at least for everyday use, versus ones that are cloistered or at least more in community.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      Yes, be prepared to come across colleagues baggage around religion. As was rudely exampled in this thread, some people will decide that any outward show of religion is an invitation for judgment and even argument about how you are doing things wrong or right.

      I’m a fellow lefty, queer Jew and I am shabbat observant and for a while exclusively wore skirts, which was very noticeable in a more casual workplace. Some people definitely had clearly prejudged me on this but were open to discussion. There was one, however, who had a lot of personal baggage about her own Jewish upbringing and she acted like I was doing these things *at* her as well as ascribing a number of political and social opinions to me that I very clearly didn’t hold.

  2. EtherIther*

    Though cleaning up before you eat affects no one else when you live at home, it does affect people at work. Though I’m not in the habit myself usually, lots of people do clean up food prep before eating. So while it’s annoying, it’s not totally unusual, and as Alison said, probably helps people out. I would say it’s unreasonable if no one is complaining, though.

    Also, the “unprofessional” containers is nonsense, since there’s no customer/clients that would see it.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      Although it is indeed nonsense, I would probably not want to die on this hill (the boss doesn’t sound like she’s going to be convinced to change) nor want to keep losing my containers.

      So I’d probably just dry them off straight away after washing up and take them back to put in my bag when I go to eat my lunch at my desk.

      1. EtherIther*

        Agreed. I’d probably just buy some Tupperware or Glad containers and call it a day.

        1. valentine*

          Maybe boss threw out the Tupperware as well and her deal is she doesn’t want to see anything in the kitchen, like the coworker who wanted desk surfaces bare. It sounds like everyone eats at the same time, but even if not, it makes more sense to clean once, post-meal, especially if that counts as part of the unpaid break. (Returning for reprimanding is definitely work, though.)

          OP1: If your boss limits her theft to the kitchen, use plastic wrap or foil to spare your containers.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            If the cleaned containers (of whichever style) are stored in OP’s bag, there’s nothing to throw away.

            1. Cindy Featherbottom*

              Thats what I was going to point out. Rinse off the containers and put them back in your bag. Leaving them to dry (which is what I assume you’re doing) clearly isn’t ok with your boss for whatever reason so just throw them back in your bag after lunch.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Agreed. I have a mug that has sentimental value to me – it was custom-made, commissioned from an artist I like, as my gift to myself when I got out of retail and got into my first office job where I could sit and have a cup of coffee in the morning while I worked.

                And I never. ever. ever. leave it in the dish drainer in the kitchen at work. I wash it, dry it with a paper towel, and take it right back to my desk with me. It never leaves my sight, specifically because I know I’d be pissed if someone borrowed it.

                This could be a similar thing – you know your boss is going to throw your containers away, so just wash them, dry immediately with a paper towel or something, and take them back to your desk with you.

      2. Anonandon*

        “she’ll call everyone in from eating and demand to know who did it. ”

        Yep, because that always works.

        1. Quackeen*

          Yeah, that was a common occurrence in my household, my mom dragging us all out of bed to demand to know who left a glass in the sink. It makes the boss seem particularly unhinged, but because it’s so predictable, I’d probably just adjust to it and make sure to check the sink even if I myself had left nothing in there. If you all know that everyone’s lunch is going to be interrupted until the miscreant (or a Spartacus-like substitute) fesses up, just get in the habit of glancing in the sink.

          I’m particularly aggrieved by her tossing of your containers. Reusing plastic is environment and wallet friendly and I don’t feel that she should get to decide that your containers are not up to snuff. Again, though, I’d look at this in the context of the full range of her behavior and decide how I wanted to respond.

          1. Massmatt*

            I was going to mention this first point, Alison really seemed to skip over it. The boss calling in all the workers to demand to know who sinned by leaving a spot of mustard on the counter reeks of dysfunction. Collective punishment for trivial offenses is the hallmark of petty despots everywhere, especially bad teachers of young children.

          2. Karen from Finance*

            > I’d probably just adjust to it and make sure to check the sink even if I myself had left nothing in there. If you all know that everyone’s lunch is going to be interrupted until the miscreant (or a Spartacus-like substitute) fesses up, just get in the habit of glancing in the sink.

            On the one hand, yes. But on the other hand, that’s how you become the office cleaning person. I’m always ambivalent about this type of situation.

            I’d probably meet it halfway, and check for any mess and clean it, but doing it while complaining loudly. “Guys, you know we’re gonna get told off for this, please let’s all just collaborate” or something. But that’s because I’m a bit used to being The Annoying One.

            1. Quackeen*

              I think as long as you’re saying something like “please let’s collaborate on this” and not “. Why won’t people EVER clean up after themselves?! “, then it’s less about complaining loudly (not an effective or pleasant or even functional strategy if you’re trying to encourage behavior change) and more of a call to action.

        2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          This is really funny, because I was just summoned for “who keeps emptying the ice trays without refilling them???” (Ice tray was half empty, but I know some people refill ever time they take an ice cube).

          My answer was: I didn’t know we had ice trays. The fridge door makes ice.

          1. RandomU...*

            Now this is my kitchen pet peeve…. wait until the ice tray is empty or almost empty to refill… if you refill after you take an ice cube (or a couple) how is the next guy supposed to get ice out of the tray when there’s water in it?

            1. Rex*

              Is this really a thing? Why not empty the entire ice tray into a different container and then refill the tray?

              1. RandomU...*

                We had one in my office that would do this… 5 ice cube trays and I couldn’t get an ice cube out because they were all partially water.

                1. Alpha Bravo*

                  Gallon size freezer bags. When spouse was dying of throat/lung cancer he lived on the stuff, so ice production was a key process. Crack trays into bag, refill, freeze, repeat. Serve from bag.

                2. Janie*

                  Both those solutions pretty much require someone put their own personal money into the community office kitchen.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          I’m a fan of old movies, so I went right to James Cagney’s ship captain/epically bad micromanager going ballistic in “Mister Roberts” – “Allll right. Whoooo did it? Whoooo did it?”

      3. RandomU...*

        This is essentially what I was going to say.

        Congrats OP you don’t have to guess what your boss’ hot button is. The best news is that this is a pretty easy one to work around. Take a minute while heating up your lunch and wipe down the counters. Then when you’re done with your lunch, wash, dry, and put in your bag your lunch containers.

        This is the easiest weird boss quirk to avoid and takes minimal effort.

      4. Jennifer*

        Yes, a lot of people keep their containers at their desk here after eating. The OP’s containers were stolen because they were left on the drying rack, I’m guessing.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what I always did–people would put my containers away in the communal cabinet and then I couldn’t find them again. I lost a couple of good ones this way. I would wash them while my food was microwaving.

      6. Paquita*

        I think most people are going to be heating and eating the food in the container. How are they going to wash it while the food is heating?

        1. lunches for everyone!*

          Well, if they are eating their food in the container they heat it in, then it won’t be sitting in the sink and there is nothing for the boss to be mad at!

    2. Jasnah*

      Agree that at work, it’s hard to tell the difference between “I left this mess but I’ll come back to clean it up later” and “I left this mess and I have no intention of cleaning it.” So this is one area where you really have to think about how it looks to coworkers using the kitchen after you.

      Also as someone who has also reused yogurt containers, can you just remove the sticker/wrapping that indicates its past? Now it’s just an ultra-trendy Mason jar, perfectly “professional.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          paper labels get gunky with washing.

          Maybe if you have a P-touch labeler (or a friend does), you could make some labels w/ your name on them, and put them on the yogurt containers. When they’re labeled with something sort of spiffy looking, it might be harder for her to toss them.
          (But really, I’d just dry them with a paper towel and take them back to my desk)

          (having to clean the counter and your dish on your own time is perfectly reasonable)

      1. Karen from Finance*

        It’s a fantastic idea about removing the labels assuming the yogurt containers are glass. Particularly because as you say, those types of jars are so trendy now for some reason.

        1. curly sue*

          Yogurt comes in glass? I’ve only ever seen it in plastic tubs like sour cream / cottage cheese / cream cheese.

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            I happened to have discovered this over the weekend. Yopliat makes a French line of yogurt that comes in a glass container. It must be something new although I admittedly am pretty zoned out at the grocery store so may have happened 2 years ago for all I know haha.

            1. ThatGirl*

              The Yoplait Oui are fairly new, but the label actually doesn’t come off easily (shame, they’re cute little jars) and there’s no lid to them – it’s a foil seal.

              1. Wednesday's Child*

                If you run super hot water over them, they peel off well. Sometimes you’re still stuck with a little goo, but a dab of olive oil (or any oil) rubs it off easily enough.

              2. elemenohp*

                They make great drinking glasses, and candles/candle holders (if you’re into that sort of thing).

              3. Kallisti*

                I was a bridesmaid in a wedding last year where we arranged flowers in a zillion of these jars for the tables. The bride ate SO MUCH yogurt.

              4. SweetTooth*

                They come off if you are determined! I am currently using a few jars on my dresser to hold my makeup brushes and the concealer and eyeliner I use daily. It helps to have strong fingernails or something else to scrape with, and then using Goo Gone to remove any residue. I’m sure that would be helpful with other containers, too, like jars of spaghetti sauce or other food items with labels attached rather than printed on. It is still absurd that there’s any question of the OP not being able to use any old container she likes!

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Yes, at work in the type of break room arrangement noted here, I would find it weird that you made a mess, went back to your desk to eat, and intend to clean it up later (while everyone else has to prep their meal around your mess). We have a kitchenette area on each floor with a sink, fridge, and microwave. I assume once you’re gone from the area, you’re gone for good. (Now, flipping out about an errant carrot that may not have been flushed down the disposal and calling recycled containers unprofessional are things I can’t agree with.)

        1. Starbuck*

          Yeah, agreed, if you are leaving the space to eat, you should clean up before you go. Especially if it’s likely that someone is going to come in and use the kitchen in the meantime, and assuming that it’s lunchtime, they probably will.

      3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I was assuming a full size (pint or quart) plastic yogurt container.

        But another option occurred to me for OP:

        Reusing marinara/spaghetti sauce jars for lunch after removing the (usually paper) label… essentially a free (if you wanted spaghetti sauce anyway) mason jar!

    3. MK*

      Even if no one is complaining, it’s not unreasonable to ask people to, say, wipe the mustard they dropped on the counter immediately instead of waiting till they finished their meals. I am guessing the boss has some reasonable expectations that are being overshadowed by her more unreasonable ones, like the containers.

      1. PB*

        Yeah, that one stood out to me, too. A slice of carrot in the sink? No skin off my nose! Puddles of condiments on the counter? That’s a different story. Those will likely be in the way of other people prepping their food, or might end up on a sleeve. Just take the extra second to wipe that up.

        1. Works in IT*

          Depending on what food it was, I could totally see someone saying “I’ll eat my food while it’s warm and then clean it up”. That’s part of why I clean up after eating at home, cleaning up after you’re done preparing/warming it up and before you’re eating sometimes results in food that is no longer as hot as you want it.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            But it’s not like someone is cooking a spaghetti dinner at work. What do you have to clean up, really? Is your food going to be lukewarm if you take the time to remove your plastic dish from the sink? You can take it to your desk dirty and then come back and wash it later if it was really going to take you 5 minutes to wash it.

            1. Psyche*

              Yeah, if it takes more than a couple minutes to clean up (which can be done while your food is heating up usually) then maybe your lunches are too elaborate for a shared work kitchenette.

              1. Jennifer*

                I was wondering about that too. Are they cooking full-course meals on the hot plate or in the toaster oven? I understand assembling a sandwich or salad, but that’s a bit much.

                I clean up after I eat at home because I’m usually super hungry by the time I’m done cooking and washing the pots and pans and tidying up the kitchen would take a while to do, sometimes 30 minutes or more. It makes sense that they don’t want to spend their entire 30-min break hungry and cleaning, but that means they need to bring simpler lunches.

              2. biobotb*

                Yeah, it seems like meal prep in a work kitchen should be minimal enough that it would be easy to wipe up as you go, instead of waiting until afterward.

          2. Galina*

            At home you are presumably not sharing your kitchen with dozens of other people who are also preparing their own meals at the same time. It takes 30 seconds to wipe down the counter and the sink. You food won’t get cold.

          3. boop the first*

            My husband uses this reasoning sometimes, but that’s because he just doesn’t warm things properly and it’s cold even before it’s hit the plate. Temperature can be planned and adjusted pretty easily.

            1. Works in IT*

              When I used to work depressing retail job, breakfast was a lean cuisine. Following the microwave directions for the lean cuisine, it was still cold by the time I was half done eating it. Sometimes food cools really fast.

              1. RandomU...*

                Can’t the OP wipe down the counters while it’s cooking?

                I can’t imagine the mess caused from opening a formerly frozen meal being all that bad.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                You need to adjust the time when you notice this with frozen meals. The directions are for assistance but every microwave is a different wattage. Our work microwave boils my Lean Cuisines if used to exact directions.

                Most frozen meals aim to over heat and tell you to wait 1-2 minutes. That’s the time you clean up after yourself…

                1. TardyTardis*

                  As I discovered to my sorrow when I made popcorn in the company microwave instead of my vintage 1981 microwave (I’d been there only two weeks). Well, it had been a while since we’d had a fire drill anyway, right?

          4. TootsNYC*

            but at home, no one is coming behind you and wanting to set their lunch down on the counter w/ the mustard on it.

            And how much cleaning up are we talking? Picking up a carrot from the sink drain, or wiping off a blob of mustard. That’s < 60 seconds.

      2. MommyMD*

        Astute observation. Clean up your mess. Common kitchens are gross when people leave food in the sink and uncleaned spills, dirty dishes. Clean it as it gets dirty. I think it’s strange to say cleaning is not part of the job when you’re the one making the mess. The container thing is very odd though.

      3. Massmatt*

        But it IS unreasonable to call all the employees into the kitchen and demand to know who doth DARE spill the mustard.

        1. EtherIther*

          Yeah, that’s what I meant! Asking people to clean up after themselves is one thing, this seems a bit over the top.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I’d say it’s appropriate in any shared kitchen space (including with roommates) to clean up your meal preparation before you eat, so the kitchen is ready for the next person.

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      I frankly don’t ever want to operate over anyone’s spilled mustard. In a space shared by many people, and where you might not come back for 30 minutes between preparing your food and finishing it, it’s much more considerate to clean up as you go. Prep your sandwich on a napkin or paper plate and toss it when you’re done.

      Re the containers, while I agree that the boss is being totally ridiculous, I use old branded containers like yogurt and margarine tubs precisely *because* if they end up in the bin, I won’t miss them. Either get plain tubs and work harder to keep up with them by putting them directly back in your lunch bag, or bring tubs that you can stand to lose (or some combination). I suspect the irritation is mostly because the boss is over the edge about a bunch of things, not because OP cares that much about a Brummel and Brown tub. If OP loved her boss, this probably would be a tolerable quirk.

      1. Fergus*

        I bet there are a lot of other things she has issues with, that’s why I am never in the office for lunch. I don’t want or need the drama.

        1. Susan Anderson*

          There was always so much drama in my old workplace about cleaning up the kitchen area! Although the people who got annoyed about co-workers leaving unwashed cups and plates in the sink were correct, they used to make things worse by creating a pile of unwashed crockery in the corner of the room, which became so messy and unsightly that nobody wanted to tackle it! It all got very bitter and vocal.
          SO, one weekend when I had popped into the office in my own time to do some work that I wanted to catch up on, I decided, on a whim, just to wash it all. It was not time-consuming; I soaked the pile of crockery, washed it, let it air dry and put it back in the cupboard in between my other tasks.
          Nobody else was there and nobody knew that I had been in the office at the weekend.
          On the Monday there was a HUGE OUTCRY when it was discovered that the pile of dirty crockery was gone! People were going around angrily demanding to know who had dared to wash the crockery of shame! I suspect that they were angry not only because the “guilty parties” hadn’t washed it, but also because their current source of drama had disappeared. I didn’t confess but I still smile when I think about it years later.

          1. Quackeen*

            People are so effing weird. Take away the thing that’s irritating them (and I adore the phrase crockery of shame) and they are irritated anew by the lack of justifiable opportunities to complain.

            Do NOT make me have a pleasant day, damn it!

          2. TootsNYC*

            that’s hysterical–“who DARED to wash that!”

            While my stuff is microwaving (or my single cup of coffee is brewing), I wash all the dishes people leave in the sink. It doesn’t take that long, and it gives me something to do. And I feel good because I tell myself I’m helping someone who might have forgotten (which I know I have done a time or two).

            And there is always a pile of CLEAN dishes on the counter by the sink.

        2. pleaset*

          Yeah, I don’t use our kitchen ever for this reason.

          Well, not never – I use it for guest events. Never for my own food. I don’t want to deal.

      2. TechWorker*

        Side point ‘prep your sandwich on a napkin or paper plate and then toss it’ is not exactly environmentally friendly… this was one of the culture shock things for me when working in the US – hundreds of paper plates and plastic cutlery used at work when the company could just you know, provide dishwashers :(

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I work in a sprawling 1940s/50s building added onto many times — there’s no dishwashers because half the building simply has inadequate plumbing. And they don’t want to make it look like the people who work in one section is treated better than others.
            (Except the people who work in the old sections come to the new section anyway because the kitchen’s newer & nicer…so I think they’re just justifying CorporateCheap. )

            1. Antilles*

              That’s the sort of thing that’s *only* an issue if it’s part of a larger issue.
              If they treat their employees like crap in general OR there’s already a culture of “some employees are better than others”, then yeah, dishwashers in one area but not all would cause resentment. “Oh yeah, they treat the salesmen like kings, meanwhile we peons can’t even get a bleeping dishwasher in the kitchen!”
              But if they treat employees generally well and fairly, then it wouldn’t draw one second of thought – no different than how some floors have more emergency exits or larger restrooms or other various building quirks.

          2. Roy G. Biv*

            Yes, it does. OldJob had a full kitchen with a good quality dishwasher, and the office whiners would complain when there were no clean dishes in the cupboard. Well, take one out of the dishwasher, and while you’re at it, unload the rest of the dishes. It will take all of 5 minutes. But oh no, that was asking too much. I actually enjoyed loading/unloading the dishwasher at that job, because it was 5 whole minutes of peace & quiet, away from the never ending office drama. I don’t miss that job. I do miss the nice kitchen.

            1. starsaphire*

              I couldn’t get my *roommates* to empty the dishwasher. Their favorite trick was to open the still-steaming dishwasher full of clean dishes, and shove their dirty stuff in because “I didn’t knooow it was cleeeean!”

              I can’t even begin to imagine how much worse it would be in an office. Nooo thank you, no dishwashers in my office kitchen!

              1. TechWorker*

                We’ve moved to having 2 next to each other with a little circle thing stuck on the front that can be moved to show clean/dirty/running. Obviously wouldn’t work everywhere but in larger/more expensive offices (eg the one I noticed it where they have multiple sinks and a fancy espresso maker, but use paper cups/plates/plastic cutlery) there’s not really an excuse.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I used to have to hand wash coffee cups at one receptionist job–I liked it because it got me away from the phone for a bit.

          3. RabbitRabbit*

            My office was promised a dishwasher when we remodeled. Guess who still doesn’t have a dishwasher a few years later.
            Plus **someone** (prime suspect is an executive who throws a lot of stuff out) keeps throwing out any disposable plasticware left in the cabinets for coworkers to use. (And extra silicone scrub pads. And condiment packs, and… but I digress.) He apparently denied to his assistant that he did, but a lot of us don’t believe him. So we have no dishwasher, no drying rack, and no disposable plasticware.

        1. Observer*

          Aside from the very significant “drama” that comes with shared appliances when there is no one person whose job it is to maintain it, sometimes it’s just not practical. For instance, there s absolutely no space in our kitchen, and this is true for the majority of the kitchens (If you can even call most of the nooks that) I’ve seen in offices. Changing that is non-trivial.

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          I agree that the paper waste is not ideal, but if it’s that or mustard on the counter, unfortunately sometimes a tree has to die to keep office peace.

        3. Starbuck*

          TechWorker, I feel ya. Grateful to be working at an environmental org right now where we can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk re: waste. It works pretty well in our “kitchen” luckily due to staff buy-in – people are committed to making it work.

      3. EtherIther*

        I agree it’s more considerate to do it as you go, I’d just say that unless there’s been complaints, the Spanish Inquisition of who left the mustard out does seem a but much.

        1. Observer*

          I firmly believe that people should clean up as they go, rather than waiting for later. But, the spanish inquisition is at least as stupid – even if people complained!

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Also, in my experience, “after they finish their meals” can become “and then this phone call that came in, and then I had to enter the information from the call in the computer…and by then I had forgotten about it (or hoped someone else would clean it up)”.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The one I saw at a previous job: “I didn’t make all this mess, I’m not wiping everything.” So no one wiped anything.

    7. Kathleen_A*

      The container thing is ridiculous. But I have to admit that I, too, would not be happy if a coworker left “a small puddle of mustard” on the counter while he or she ate her lunch. Mustard and marinara sauce, among other things, are sneaky. One minute they’re innocently there on the counter, and the next, they’re smeared all over the cuff of my white shirt, and from there, they move to the hem of that same white shirt, etc. It’s pernicious. So in a communal kitchen, the best approach is to immediately clean up anything that could affect another of the kitchen’s users.

      1. BadWolf*

        Yes, food bits should be “clean as you go” especially in a shared space.

        We have people who don’t seem to understand that when you wash out your food container in the communal sink, the food bits don’t just magically disappear from the sink strainer. They sit there to revolt the next person.

        Same for “leaves tea bag in the sink” guy.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Oh, gosh, I cannot fully express my disgust for the person / persons who routinely left their tea bags in the sink at oldjob. Why why why when it’s so easy to drain it and toss it in the huge open trash barrel literally five feet from the microwave?!

          1. Arielle*

            We literally had to have an announcement sent around yesterday about not leaving tea bags and lemon slices in the sink. Grown adults who presumably don’t live in filth at home, just leaving the sink in that condition and walking away.

    8. Artemesia*

      Leaving a pool of mustard on the counter for someone else to put their sleeve in while preparing their own food is gross. The boss is right that cleaning up should occur before you sit down. The good container thing is just non of her business.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I too think it’s a bit different at work than in your family kitchen at home.
      Partly, it’s your place; the work kitchen is not.
      Also, at home you may be making a bigger mess that takes more time to clean up; at work, you’ve got a stray carrot in the sink or a blob of mustard on the counter. (Demand plenty of paper towels to be able to clean up quickly.)

      Also–you are all eating at your desks, so you’re essentially done with the kitchen for awhile. Don’t leave it messy for the next person.

      As for containers–one solution is to take them to drip-dry at your desk (dry them mostly out w/ those aforementioned paper towels). Another is to put your name on them and to say to her: “My good containers keep getting stolen, so I use these–please don’t throw them out, because I need to use them a few times in a row.”

      If she says, “But they look unprofessional,” reply with, “What do lunch containers have to do with our work?” Or even better: “Nevertheless.” (and stop)

    10. Jennifer Juniper*

      Leaving food messes on the counter can bring extra friends of the disease-spreading six-legged variety, especially in warmer months. Also, nobody wants to see someone else’s food spills in the kitchen. Grow up and clean up.

    11. CanCan*

      I would just keep my containers out of the drying rack. Either wash/dry it and put it in your bag, our just take the dirty container to wash up at home.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I apologize if I’m being obtuse, but can OP#2 fully skip the meeting without burning a huge bridge?

    I realize skipping the meeting is antagonistic and borderline insubordinate, but forcibly scheduling a meeting with someone who has told you that they do not wish to continue the conversation seems pretty antagonistic/bullying in this context. Although I try to assume good intent, it sounds like Old Manager is power tripping a little bit. Could OP pretend he’s the Wizard of Oz and look behind the curtain?

    Alternately, if OP has to attend the meeting, Alison’s scripts are of course professional and the preferred course of action. That said, the part of me that is flagrantly unprofessional would be tempted to pull a Marshawn Lynch and repeat “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” to all questions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are you saying just don’t show up at the scheduled time? Sure, that’s an option, but this boss sounds likely to just go into her office and tell her the meeting is starting and they’re waiting for her, and at that point she’d need to flat-out refuse, and that’s not a great thing to do while she’s still working for this manager and planning to stay within the org. Ideally she wants her transfer to be as drama-free as possible.

        1. Airy*

          It will make OP realise the boss was right and reasonable all along and they want to keep working for them and apologise and tell everyone how nice they are and buy them an expensive Christmas present!

        2. WKRP*

          I posted down below. My experience has been that they want to document the issues, note the attempts made to address it and close the case. It might be overkill at this point, but people don’t like to admit defeat and even less so like to admit they were wrong or have it perceived they’ve been wrong. OP is transferring, so there won’t be additional opportunities to resolve the issue.

        3. Op #2*

          This is my main question/reason for concern, too, and i have been thinking a lot about it. It might be about (self-) perception, making him feel (and show to others) he did everything right, trying to address the issues. To me, it feels a lot like bullying, though, which makes me afraid of going there.

          1. Lupe*

            With my union reps hat on, I’ve gone along to potentially bullying exit interviews before. Op, is it possible for you to go, but bring someone along? If you’re not a union member, maybe an HR person? My normal excuse was always “just to help keep things official”, and just having someone else there as a witness generally made people back off a bit

            1. No Mas Pantalones*

              My first thought was to involve HR as well. Even out the playing field. I’d talk to them first and let them know what’s going on and then forward the invite to them. When you forward an invite in Outlook, it informs the meeting organizer that you’ve done so. That may be enough for him to call it off.

              1. Quackeen*

                Yeah, I read it through the lens of a former Employee Relations specialist and thought that I’d want to be there on behalf of OP, were I in that role. Failing that, just use the advice given to people who are being questioned by the police: repeat that you have nothing to say. I find that repeating a phrase verbatim, in the same tone each time, tends to end things more quickly than changing it up. It brings the conversation to a halt more quickly (usually. Boss seems pretty unreasonable and unlikely to respond in the way a normal person would) when the questioner is getting the exact. same. answer every time.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Oh yes to the cut-and-paste tactic.

                  Come up with the four sentences that address anything you’ve already mentioned.
                  Work out a phrasing that’s more about “good business practices” than “he doesn’t do his job right.”
                  (so, like, instead of “Getting feedback more promptly would have made my job easier,” say “Prompt feedback allows people to adapt more quickly.”
                  Practice them.

                  Say them for EVERYTHING! Never deviate.

                  You: “Prompt feedback allows people to adapt more quickly.”
                  Him: “I gave feedback!”
                  You: …..
                  Him: “Did you think you didn’t get feedback promptly enough?”
                  You: “Prompt feedback allows people to adapt more quickly.”
                  Him: “I’m good at giving feedback!”
                  You: “Prompt feedback allows people to adapt more quickly.”

                  And maybe even the phrase, “I’ve provided all this feedback many times; I really have nothing to add.”

                  Then only allow yourself to say those four or five phrases. (Write them down on an index card, and check it before you open your mouth.)

                  it shuts people up SO fast.

            2. Dagny*

              I came here to post this.

              It’s an exit interview. There should not be a single thing amiss with having HR there.

                1. Op #2*

                  Sorry, I did not know the term ‘exit interview’ implied HR being present and/or leaving the company.

            3. Op #2*

              Thanks for the suggestion. This is an option I also mentioned in my original letter, but it was edited. There is a designated person, not HR, in our department that you can approach for any problems with the employer. I am not sure how the concept translates to English/the US system, but they are really only representing employees and not the employer.

              It is good to know that you independently thought of this, too!

              I will approach them for advice in any case and then see how to proceed. Not intending to ignore Alison’s helpful advice, but getting an opinion from an insider is always helpful and combining these approaches pretty straightforward.

              1. tinyhipsterboy*

                If there are any issues with this person you mention–or if you’re at all worried about your boss but don’t/can’t have the person with you during the interview–double-check laws in your area about recording. In the USA, certain states allow you to record a conversation provided at least one person is aware of and has consented to it (meaning you can record a conversation you’re having without someone else knowing, but you can’t just record someone’s conversation off the street without their consent). If that’s the case where you are, and you’re that worried about retaliation/bullying, it might be a good idea to have an audio recording.

          2. Observer*

            I’m going to agree with the others both on asking HR to be there – unless you HR is totally incompetent it should keep the bullying at bay – and on having a couple of scripts to deploy.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            Seems like it’s going to not be fun for you, or for the other person he roped in. Ugh. Bring an extra good snack for moral support perhaps?

          4. Judy Seagram*

            I don’t have anything to add to the suggestions that are here already, but I want to thank OP #2 for reminding me to “not give even remotely honest feedback when leaving a bad manager.” I was THIS close to telling my own micromanager that I’m job hunting, and why, when this brought me up short. THANK YOU.

            And congratulations on getting out.

            1. Op #2*

              Happy to help. “My manager cannot possibly be as unreasonable as all those really bad ones in the internet.” is such an obvious trap…

          5. Jerry*

            That sucks, but I kind of get it, especially if he’s an insecure manager (which it really sounds like he is). May I suggest some language for this inevitable meeting? In addition to Alison’s suggestions on having transition topics to cover, I’d expect him to continue to press you on agreeing with him that he’s been right all along, and you actually loved working for him and are now regretting leaving. We know that’s not happening, so may as well be prepared.

            In a cheerful voice:
            “I feel like I’ve outlined pretty effectively what works for me in a work environment, you’ve had a chance to think about it, and it sounds like that doesn’t fit with your management style. I’m very certain about what I need, and it sounds like you’re very certain about how you plan to operate. I think the best solution here is for me to move into a situation where I can get what I need, don’t you agree?”

          6. polkadotbird*

            My advice here is to be okay with silence. Repeat your point and then stop. It is so hard not to feel like you have to keep explaining! But if you think to yourself, I have made my point and now it is their turn to speak, not mine, then I think you will feel much more comfortable and in control of the meeting, at which point you can just turn up, tick the box, and be done. Remember that you are leaving! He is trying to feel in control of you but that ship has sailed.

        4. Fried Eggs*

          Yes, I’d expect this to be a meeting about how your reasons for leaving aren’t really valid. That’s my concern about Alison’s suggested approach. My feeling is that the meeting’s not really about getting new information out of you, but rather getting you to repeat what you’ve already told him now that he has a defense prepared. So I’d prepare a script for that eventuality too.

        5. Mookie*

          Power move with the team lead to salvage reputation or spread the message that leaving will be ‘inconvenient’ should any team member try to do so in the future?

          If this next meeting was with the grandboss, on the other hand, I’d be delighted to go and demonstrate how dysfunctional this manager is, preferably with the aid of A/V equipment. Or just let him talk himself into a corner and then thank him for insisting on the meeting.

        6. Sam.*

          Yeah, my guess is he just wants to continue harping on all the ways he believes she’s wrong. Alison’s scripts assume he wants additional feedback – I don’t think that’s actually the case here. I do wonder whether the team leader can be an ally here (as in, if OP tries to distract with transition planning, would they jump in on that conversation with her?)

          1. Observer*

            No, Allison’s scripts assume that that’s the reason he’s CLAIMING for the meeting. The actual reason doesn’t matter – this is not a meeting set up in good faith, so the best thing the OP can do is play dumb and pretend that this is about a real “discussion”. At that point repeating “I’ve already explained why X” and “I hear you” like a broken record is the OP’s best bet.

          2. Artemesia*

            There are many situations in which pretending the ostensible reason is the real reason is strategic. Of course she pretends he is seeking feedback although of course that is not the reason for the meeting. That then allows her to proceed calmly as Alison suggests. Back when I was teaching when whiny students would demand to know ‘why they didn’t get a better grade’ I would always hear ‘how can I improve on the next assignment’ and address that. That way we focused not on me justifying my judgment but on me helping them identify ways the thing could have been better and what they needed to do next. It always worked to make the conference more helpful all around.

          3. JSPA*

            Not knowing what non-US culture we’re dealing with, I’m not sure how much face- saving and appearance of concord may generally matter.

            Might be safest to keep saying, “a workplace is most functional when the boss and the workers work in natural harmony, with good mutual communication and understanding.”

            It’s essentially impossible to take umbrage with that statement. You and boss didn’t have good raport. Your transfer is a chance for both of you to find a better match.

            The risk that he’s setting you up to look unreasonable far outweighs any possible benefit to the common good, of setting him up to look unreasonable.

          1. Op #2*

            Apart from the “our styles just do not match” I gave him three examples of things that really annoyed me in the past year. Those are just the symtoms of much larger issues that I did not address and I could have easily found a lot more.
            * Lack of recognition/unfair treatment: He attempted to assign someone else the official role and responsibility, but wanted me to do all the work and the other person was obviously not even remotely qualified. We all – including him – agreed on the lacking qualification and who would do the work.
            * different “quality” standards: A product of bad quality was delivered to the customer as experts’ opinions (mine among others) were ignored even though we protested a lot and there would have been very easy fixes within budget and timeline.
            * lack of planning: he set tight deadlines for one project and then swamped me with other work refusing any attempt from me to get him to prioritize. He then complained when things had not been done by the deadlines even though I shared my prioritization and expected delivery dates and the very obvious difference to his desired dates numerous times in writing.

            Reading it now, this was probably way to honest, even though I did use nicer, less confrontational language in our conversation. None of this should have been a surprise to him, as we had previously discussed these examples in detail. I am learning from this mistake!

        7. LawBee*

          It sounds to me like he just needs to win and be right and self-justify his actions to her face.

        8. Earthwalker*

          Isn’t this the flip side of all those questions to Alison about “now that I’m leaving the toxic company that never cared about me, shouldn’t I go to HR and tell them what I REALLY think about how they run this place?” It won’t do any good and doesn’t make any sense but the desire to get in the last word is so strong when one is angry.

          1. Op #2*

            I do like my company though and intend to stay there at least for some more time, knowing that this manager is the exception rather than the norm. So I believe that I was not purely motivated by anger, but cannot exclude the possibility. :-)

            1. Earthwalker*

              I was referring to your manager’s anger at the idea that you might move on. Sounds like you’ve handled it pretty calmly.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes! I’d be super tempted not to show up at the designated time/place. It’s definitely possible that Terrible Boss will try to find OP to pull her into the Meeting of Doom, but I’d be curious to see what happens if OP blows it off. (Although this may escalate the drama and fan angry flames.)

        1. MicroManagered*

          Similarly, if there’s a meeting invite sent through Outlook, OP could just decline it with one of Alison’s scripts a la “I don’t have anything new to add.”

            1. Op #2*

              I would not actually try that, but like the idea very much. Notice periods here are in the order of months rather than weeks, which complicates this approach quite a bit, but just think of all the beautiful, absurd reasons one could provide during all that time to make him reschedule!

        2. CanCan*

          No, OP is staying with this company, – it’s important to appear reasonable. Invited to a meeting with boss? – show up to meeting. Just keep calm and remember that you won’t have to work with him any more.
          If he argues that your decision to leave was unreasonable, or that you’re wrong about the feedback you had provided, – you don’t have to prove otherwise or say anything in defence. That is your opinion; they don’t have to agree with it. You’re leaving and that’s that.
          If he asks whether you would’ve stayed if they had done this or that differently, – you don’t have to answer. Just repeat that there are many factors to any decision, your mind is made up, and you’re excited to start the new opportunity.
          If explicitly asked your opinion on specifics, and you believe that they are genuinely looking for your help with making the team a better place, – you could offer your ideas — but only if it looks like everybody in the room is agreeing with your negative feedback to begin with. If they’re not – don’t argue, and repeat your key messages.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        The meeting does sound as though it will be pretty awful, but in the OP’s shoes, what I would find the least stressful – because it would be the least dramatic thing – is to just go to the meeting and not let myself be drawn in to the drama. I think resisting too much would add to the drama. Alison’s scripts are excellent. I particularly like the idea of redirecting the conversation to “How can I make this transition easier on you, about-to-be-former boss?” But if that doesn’t work, well, there are only so many things he can say to “I really don’t think I have anything to add.”

        Good luck, OP. It might be unpleasant, but the thing – the great and blessed thing – is that it won’t last too long.

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        Old Manager could also fire her or sabotage her transfer. OP needs to be extremely careful until she’s safely out. Also, Old Manager could be friends with New Manager, so being defiant may be bad for that reason as well.

    2. Media Monkey*

      i was going to suggest making sure you have a scheduled meeting straight away following this exit interview if you can’t get out of it. At least you will have a hard stop after the alloted time and they can’t keep on at you for too long. Would your team lead be on your side? or could you ask your new manager to mediate if you explained the situation (which presumably they are aware of?)

      1. Op #2*

        Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, my team lead will probably not take my side, but stay silent.

        I really do not want to include my new manager in this – he is aware of the issues (through other people, not me), which is part of the reason he approached me about his open position, but involving him in this potential drama feels like starting on the wrong foot. I want our relationship to be focused on the future rather than on past problems.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I might agree with this is OP had gotten a job at a new company, but she said she’s moving to a new department within the same company. If her current manager doesn’t get her way, it sounds like she would go out of her way to bad mouth her to the new one, or make things difficult for her in general. I would just do what Alison suggested. Tell her once more that she has no more feedback, and if manager still insists on the meeting, give her nothing.

      1. Kes*

        Agreed, I would go, ignore the manager’s likely long explanations of how the manger is right and OP is wrong, don’t contribute anything, and then move on.

  4. Maria Lopez*

    3. In orthodox Judaism only married women cover their hair, so if you aren’t married, no need to cover. All the orthodox women I know wear wigs, and they look so natural that they absolutely do not draw attention to yourself, unless that is what you actually want.

    1. Not Australian*

      I’m pretty sure the OP indicated that it was something she *wanted* to do as an expression of her faith, though, whether it’s considered necessary or not. We should probably assume that she was in full possession of the facts before making the decision, otherwise the question wouldn’t have arisen.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        This. I’m sure the OP understands their reasons for wanting to do this.

          1. JSPA*

            There’s nothing wrong with personalizing one’s faith! But if (say) someone wants to have an ash cross on their forehead for 4 Wednesdays, following Ash Wednesday…or if a man has a bindi (that he intends as a marriage mark, not a tilaka)… its going to provoke some puzzlement from people who know what the more common usage would be. Preparing for the “I’m perplexed” confusion from others within the greater faith tradition is one of the things she’ll be navigating. Knowing what’s more or less common in the broader tradition isn’t something a convert who’s studied in one sub-tradition can necessarily find out. Equivalent: Catholic traditions =/= Coptic traditions, nor Baptist, nor Quaker (etc).

        1. Maria Lopez*

          Then why write a letter to AAM instead of asking the women in the temple who hold jobs outside the home? Stop trying to make this about my response and look at the letter.

    2. envirolady*

      Maria: I’m Jewish, not Orthodox. If I want to cover my hair, I will. Judaism isn’t black and white. OP – Good luck! You might get some questions, but I’m sure even the most invasive of folks won’t be too bad, since religion and religious expression are usually topics people don’t want to delve into at work.

      1. curly sue*

        I am a screamingly left-wing Jew. I was raised Modern Orthodox, am now Conservative, queer, married to a partner of a different gender than myself, and I covered for a while after we got married to see if the practice suited me. Now I don’t. I might again someday. As envirolady said, Judaism is not monolithic, the customs of different communities can vary widely, and there are no laws that say you can’t start to cover whenever it suits you to do so.

        There *is* a general Orthodox and Conservative rabbinic line of thought that says anything way outside of community norms should be avoided, due to the risk of drawing negative attention — and usually once you begin a new practice / take on a new mitzvah for yourself you’re supposed to keep it up. But that’s still minhag (custom) rather than halacha (law).

        OP, I would suggest mentioning the conversion to give context to the change, and then keep on being yourself. People will realize very quickly that your core values haven’t changed with your hairstyle.

    3. CJM*

      Well, alisons advise was centered around letting it drop that she is doing it because she’s converting to judism, so why shouldn’t the comments be about that?

      1. Me*

        Religion is extremely personal. Explaining why you are doing something, as a nicety, about something that is absolutely 100% none of anyone else’s business is in no way an invitation to offer your thoughts or opinions.

        Especially about religion.

        TL:DR someones religion/chosen expression there of is not an invitation for debate/discussion/insertion of your own opinions.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Letting it drop that the OP has converted and will be trying out a new religious practice is not an invitation to criticise her choice or tell her why it’s unnecessary or wrong, which is how many of these comments strike me. She didn’t write in to ask if it was the right choice, she asked for advice on how to tell her colleagues about it if they ask.

    4. Karen from Finance*

      Why are so many people trying to explain to OP her own belief system?

      I’m pretty sure this is precisely the type of thing she was asking about how to avoid.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        People are assuming she can’t be married to a man, because she said she’s queer. This is an incorrect assumption.

          1. Karen from Finance*

            Yes, that’s the second assumption they’re making: that she can’t be married to a woman or non-binary person, because one would imagine that the jewish faiths that have women covering their heads aren’t really accepting of non-cisheterosexual relationships.

            But that’s a lot of assuming. It really shouldn’t be up to us to question her beliefs.

          2. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

            I mean, she says below that she’s married to a woman, but it’s also possible for a woman to be married to a man and still be queer (and vice versa). It’s a thing.

            1. Janie*

              Yes, that’s what Karen from Finance said, and what I was agreeing to. Also as a queer person who is (very occasionally) attracted to men, I am aware of this.

              1. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

                My bad! Seeing a lot of erasure here in this time of #bihealthmonth and I missed your “also.” Cheers for us queers.

    5. Close Bracket*

      Well, first of all, LW might be married. She might even be married to a man. She doesn’t say, and just knowing she’s queer says nothing about her partnered status.

      The other thing is that there are circumstances when unmarried women have to wear a scarf over their hair. I don’t know all of them or what the reasons are, but I know they exist. One of those might cover (heh) LW’s reasons for wearing a headscarf.

      Or she might just be choosing to wear a scarf even though she doesn’t need to! We don’t know that, either, and it’s not what she asked for advice on.

  5. Archaeopteryx*

    I’d be pretty confused if someone expected me to clean up dishes/food prep before the meal is even over, unless it’s pretty extensive or actively inconveniencing others! Unless it’s smelly or in the way, there’s no reason it can’t wait 20-30 minutes to look spotless again.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      A deep clean is a bit much pre-meal, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask people to clean up counters and other prep spaces after they’ve put their food together but before they eat. Specifically, I’m thinking of OP’s mustard example. If you spill something in the microwave, on the counter, etc., you should definitely clean that up before eating so that the next person who comes in can use the space effectively.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree – at home, fair enough, I’d leave the washing up and tidying until I’d finished eating. But at work, where you’re sharing a kitchen space with lots of other people who would all like to be able to prepare their food in a clean environment, I think it’s reasonable to expect people to clear up any mess, put any food away, etc, before they take their food back to their desk (or wherever it is that they eat). If you walk into the work kitchen and the surfaces are covered in crumbs and blobs of spilled mustard, that’s pretty gross.

        I agree that the boss is being weird about the food containers (really, who cares if you reuse an old tub to bring your lunch in, as long as it’s clean) but I would be really annoyed if I came into the kitchen to prepare my lunch and found that no one had bothered to clean up after themselves.

    2. Lioness*

      I think it’d be different if it were at home or if people were eating near where they had to clean up.

      Since people are leaving the room and whatever mess they may have made. It’ll be easier to just leave it and not clean up.

    3. Rez123*

      I think it’s different when people don’t actually eat in the kitchen. When there is a group of people in the kitchen you assume it is theirs and they will clean up soon. When it is there just left alone I would assume that someone has just left a mess. That being said. I wouldn’t bee too bothered.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think that is true in a home setting, but in work, or other shared spaces, it’s reasonable to clean up as you go so that the kitchen is ready for the next person to use.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Wiping up spilled sauce as you prep your lunch does not seem especially onerous to me.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I can put up with a lot of mess at home — but at work, I wipe off that counter even if I just drop crumbs. It’s common courtesy in a shared workspace.
        5S …it’s not just for factories anymore.

    6. this way, that way*

      Your not at home this is an office kitchen, if you spill something clean it up immediately. Most people eat lunch around the same time it is incredibly rude to leave your spills and scraps for someone else to work around or clean. The same thing with leaving your clean dishes, again your not at home your at the office put your stuff up its a space fore everyone to use not to store your dishes.

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That seems odd to me and I’m not a clean freak. When I cook at home, if I spill something I wipe it up right away. I may not clean up splatters from a pan until after dinner, but I’m not leaving a blob of something I spilled while preparing a meal. But this is a shared kitchen in a work space. You shouldn’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up, because if someone leaves spilled food, you can guarantee that they’re not coming back to clean it up after they’re done eating.

    8. Psyche*

      That doesn’t work for a shared kitchen though, unless you are making lunch for everyone. Leaving it a mess is basically declaring “This space is mine for the next 20-30 minutes. You may use it once I have finished eating!”

    9. TootsNYC*

      I’d be pretty confused if someone expected me to clean up dishes/food prep before the meal is even over, unless it’s pretty extensive or actively inconveniencing others!

      Mustard blobs on the counter ARE actively inconveniencing others.

      Actually the “pretty extensive” cleanup is the kind you DO leave to after you’ve eaten–at home, where you are making a “pretty extensive” mess.

      Simple things, like taking your carrot slice out of the sink or wiping up the grease from your salad dressing or the stray mustard blob, should be done right away, even at home! For precisely the same reason–so they don’t transfer to someone else’s plate, or sleeve. And so that the edges don’t dry out and make it harder to wipe up.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Cleaning stuff up is PRACTICAL, not just some “oh, let’s me neat and tidy” prissiness, dammit!

        It’s a practicality.

        Mustard blobs (as someone mentioned further up) transfer to your sleeve, or the front of your shirt (and they are hell to get out),a nd then to other parts of your clothing.

        Grease from your salad dressing will get on the underside of my bowl, and then when I take it back to my desk, it’ll get on whatever surface I set it on, and then transfer to the papers I’m working with.

        This is one of my biggest pet peeves.
        You hang up your wet towels so they can air-dry, because mildew grows in dampness, and it stinks, and it ruins towelsl, and it is extra work and money to get rid of.

        You vacuum the carpet because the grit that gets in there will cut through the fibers every time you step on the carpet, and that will shorten its life. And you will have to pay money to replace it sooner.


        Wipe up your damned mustard.

    10. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I wouldn’t be scrubbing the pots or cleaning the cooking spoon before the meal was over, but if I spilled something on the counter during the preparation I would just wipe it up as I went.

    11. Starbuck*

      If you’re leaving the room to eat lunch (OP said there was nowhere to sit) and won’t clean up until you return, that’s pretty rude, because during lunch time it’s very likely other people are going to come in and need to use the kitchen.. and wonder who left a mess in their way! This ought to be common sense in a shared kitchen.

    12. ... cats and dogs*

      People leave work kitchens and sinks in a disgusting state. Tomatoes sauce, tuna, meat etc. It is gross to even use the sink to clean your own dishes. I vote: Clean up before you eat!

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Are you saying it’s gross to use the sink to wash dishes? Even if you clean the sink before and after? If so, are people supposed to take their dirty dishes home and wash them there?

        1. Janie*

          They’re saying the sink is too gross to wash their dishes in.

          But also why not? It’s not like if you took a lunch to school you go to the bathroom and wash the dishes. My mother literally works as a baker and she brings her lunch dishes home to wash.

  6. WKRP*

    Oooooh, I was sort of in OP 2’s position. I had expressed some specific issues I was having with my managers and we had scheduled a meeting to discuss it further with HR about 3 weeks after. Fortunately, I had received a job offer in the time in between, though it was only verbal and I wasn’t ready to confirm I was leaving yet. So I still had to go through the motions. I went to that meeting, which was essentially my managers telling me why they were right and I was wrong. I let them (lots of slow nodding to indicate listening, some raised/lowered eyebrows during the more ridiculous conversations, and well-placed hmmmms were made). I gave notice two weeks later.

    Congratulate yourself on realizing a no-win situation, pat yourself on the back for attempting to resolve it. Bear in mind that he wins too, since neither of you are happy with the current situation. Let it go at that and wish everyone well in their future endeavors.

    1. Safetykats*

      For OP2, this is why it’s generally not a great idea to provide negative feedback, even if constructive, upon leaving. If a boss never listened to or acted on this feedback while you worked for them, why would you think they would just because your’re now leaving? It’s always a trap. Best to smile and say thanks for the opportunities, but you’re now looking to grow in another direction, and you obviously with them all the best, etc etc.

      1. Op #2*

        Yes, I definitely learned that now! I guess, I was and am still feeling a bit guilty about leaving and really like my colleagues, so I felt obligated to provide some meaningful reason. A trap indeed!

        I still find it extremely sad, though, that this is not something you should do, as it deprives the manager of the chance to improve. You are right, though, that my departure is not the right time to want to imptove things.

        1. snowglobe*

          I think if you really want to leave feedback, it’s best to do it with HR, who can at least handle the info in an objective manner; they can pass the info up the chain to higher ups if they think the feedback is valuable. Giving feedback to the boss directly isn’t likely to result in any change, unfortunately, since they can just disregard it if they don’t like it.

          You have no reason to feel guilty; even if you weren’t leaving because of a bad boss, it’s perfectly normal for people to move on into other roles that might offer different skills or more opportunities down the road. You don’t need to prove to anyone that your reasons for leaving are ‘good enough’.

        2. EPLawyer*

          If your manager wanted to improve they would have done so already. You said you provided feedback throughout and nothing changed. The manager is not going to suddenly say “Oh darn you were right and I was wrong all along” just because you are leaving.

          You can’t change another person. You can only change your reaction to the person.

          Go to the meeting. Say as little as possible. Go to your new position with a light heart that you don’t have to deal with this person anymore.

          1. Gerald*

            This is it exactly. I have provided constructive feedback to managers and colleagues, and they appreciated it. But they asked for it, and not at exit interviews.

        3. No Mas Pantalones*

          My mother taught me years ago: Play the Game.

          Essentially, look out for #1 — that’s you. Giving negative feedback will bite you in the bum. Smile, play the game, and do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. That’s what the managers are doing. Instead of “I’m leaving because you suck,” you say “It’s an opportunity that really appealed to me; I’d like to grow my knowledge base so that I can be a better and more-rounded individual/employee.” BS? Sure, maybe. But your bum has no teeth marks.

          When my job or a specific coworker start to grate on me, I will chant it in my head: “Play the Game, Play the Game, Play the Game.” It helps me. (Your results may vary.) Going forward, just Play the Game. Good luck in your new position! (And good riddance to your current manager!!!)

          1. Quackeen*

            Yeah, this is what I had to do when I left my last job very quickly after starting (5 months). My then-boss was savvy enough to know that when someone leaves that quickly, it’s because the old job sucks mightily and/or the new job is extremely attractive. And I was savvy enough to know that no good could come of telling her that it was more the former than the latter. People kept encouraging me to be candid with her and “help the people she hires in the future” by giving her an opportunity to learn and change, but the risk/benefit analysis really made that not a road I was going to go down.

        4. Rebecca1*

          OP#2, what I do in unavoidable bullying meetings is to take notes and occasionally read them back to the bully. It puts them in a calmer mood so they shut up sooner.

        5. TootsNYC*

          Most exit interviews are w/ HR, not with the manager about whom you might have negative things to say.

          And the time for a manager to gather information to use to improve herself is WHILE you are working for her, at the earliest days under her command.

          So in those early days, that’s the time to see how things go, and what kind of feedback works traveling up the chain of command.

          1. TootsNYC*

            whether to be this honest to HR is a crapshoot. Sometimes it makes a difference–I know of a couple of cases where something positive was done because of comments to HR on the way out the door.

            Other times, people decide it’s not worth it, or they feel it would come back to bite them in some way.

        6. Close Bracket*

          > it deprives the manager of the chance to improve.

          It’s not your specific job to give your manager the chance to improve. In general, I don ‘t think it should be the direct report’s responsibility to improve their boss.

          Besides, your issues with him might just be your issues. There are objectively bad bosses, like the ones who expect you to donate part of your liver, and there are bosses who are bad for a couple people but work well with others. Maybe those others are just as bad and that’s why they work well together, but that’s not important. If everybody is dysfunctional in the same way, the well adjusted person is the one who needs to change or leave.

          1. Op #2*

            I agree that there are things that annoy me that are completely fine for others. But regardless of who is at fault, I very much want my manager to understand how he is impacting me and what I expect of him – it is his decision how to deal with my feedback, but it will hopefully (with a reasonable counterpart) always result in an improvement, maybe not in actions, but at least in understanding of how the other person operates and thinks. I find this extremely important for working well together and even more so for being managed.

            It is too late for that, though, once you have decided that this particular constellation is not working – regardless of the reasons.

        7. Bulbasaur*

          I would probably suggest you go with Alison’s “show up and give him nothing” approach. Another phrase that might be useful is “OK, so you disagree with the feedback.” He will probably expect argument after that, but actually that is fine as a standalone statement. You can repeat that as often as needed along with the “I have nothing further to add” line if he asks for your input, challenges you on something etc. Key themes: your feedback is your feedback, it won’t change, he is allowed to disagree with it, you are not interested in engaging or arguing further on any of the topics in question.

          Giving honest feedback is a courtesy that you extend to people who you think will receive it constructively and benefit from it. People who will take it as a personal affront or use it as an excuse to retaliate are not owed the courtesy. You are no longer obliged to share your views if you don’t think it will be productive. Your opinions can go back in the box. Respond with platitudes or content-free statements. Listen politely to him rant, reiterate that you’ve said everything you care to, and leave it at that.

          Personally I enjoy arguments and I’m good at picking holes in ridiculous positions, so I might be tempted to go in there and mix it up. But I’d only do that if I felt there was a chance of convincing him. If all it would do is make him angry because I embarrassed him in front of the team lead, there’s no point.

      2. Lisa B*

        This is one of those things that I absolutely hate that It Is The Way It Is. An exit interview with a bad manager is probably not going to do anything except make things more uncomfortable and awkward, and you might need to keep a reasonably good relationship for future references. An exit interview with HR, as a neutral party, is only good if you trust HR not to immediately turn around to Bad Boss and say “Sally said she’s leaving because you’re a micromanager and yell a lot.”

        But as a manager, there’s SO MUCH VALUE if employees are honest about struggles and frustrations they’re having. Maybe it’s something I don’t see or have missed or misunderstood how serious of an issue it was? How else am I supposed to improve the work environment for my staff when the common thinking is “it’s generally not a great a idea to provide negative feedback, even if constructive”?

        1. TootsNYC*

          I would say that as the manager, the time for you to communicate that it’s safe to share negative info is while they are still working for you–from their earliest days under your command.

          Most exit interviews I’ve known of have been w/ HR, not with the actual manager.

          As a manager, I did once ask an HR person, “Was there anything John said in his exit interview that would make me a better manager if I knew about it?”

          And got something interesting started–not about me, but about my boss, actually. And a little about me, but it was something I already knew (I didn’t stand up for him as firmly as I should have, but I was also sort of hamstrung).

        2. Natatat*

          Speaking from experience, it’s tough if you’re staying in the same organization to feel safe giving honest feedback about a bad manager. The person that you had issues with will still be a co-worker (albeit more distantly) so you’re wary of being honest just in case the negative feedback gets back to the manager and taints professional relationships/connections.

          I am glad I wasn’t fully blunt in my feedback about my bad boss when I left, as I still work in the same org but now assist her department from a different unit, so I still have regular contact with the bad boss. I would have been worried that the bad boss would know what I said about her in the exit interview. Plus, the bad boss is one of my references, so if she took the feedback badly, it would affect me with future jobs.

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        Exactly. I think exit interviews can be opportunities for bosses/orgs to trip up employees and set them up to be fired for insubordination/not being a team player so they can sabotage people for leaving.

        The employee should either sing the org’s/management’s praises to the skies (if they haven’t already given negative feedback) or follow Alison’s suggestions (if they gave negative feedback).

    2. TootsNYC*

      I let them (lots of slow nodding to indicate listening, some raised/lowered eyebrows during the more ridiculous conversations, and well-placed hmmmms were made).

      Here’s your tactic!
      Your transfer is a done deal, so you don’t need to participate; you don’t need anything out of this–not any acknowledgement from him, not any change in department, nothing.

      Add to it the cut-and-paste of “I’ve already given my feedback, and I don’t really have anything more to add. I wish the team well.”

  7. Airy*

    I think “clean up any crumbs or spills before taking your food away to eat” but the bit with the reused containers is just the boss being a class snob. She’s using “unprofessional” as code for “a dirty poor person.”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My grandmother was adamant that things with logos didn’t belong on the table where we were eating — dish it up at the counter and bring it over. But even she understood re-using things for storage. Like the special molded-glass jars that Tang and Maxwell House sometimes used, her rice & cornstartch were in those.
      If I were OP, I’d get a mesh bag for my clean damp containers and a Command hook to hang it under my desk, because this just isn’t a hill to die on.

      1. Quackeen*

        I’d never read the logo thing before. How interesting, and I can appreciate where she’s coming from if she’s from a generation where preparing an attractive table was part of a woman’s work.

        I hardly ever read the open threads on the weekends, but wonder if there has been/could be Advice Your Grandma and Grandpa Taught You. Would be really fascinating, given the diversity of commentators here.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          My mother is the same way. (Also no pots and pans on the table, either.) She didn’t make us transfer mustard and ketchup to special dining-room-table-ready containers, but just about everything else was.

          She’s not a house-proud person, either, nor is she fussy in other ways. And she’s worked full-time her entire adult life, too.

          Having us all sit together at the table was (and is) important to her, and I think she just thinks it makes the table look nicer and more inviting. Maybe it’s some sort of subtle Mom-enabled brainwashing, but I pretty much agree. I don’t always transfer everything…but I do still transfer most things.

          But she has no objections to reusing the containers. She considers that thrifty and environmentally responsible.

        2. TootsNYC*

          it isn’t about “a woman’s work”

          It’s about “people should have a slightly luxurious, indulged space when they’re eating–it’s not just about the food, it’s about the experience, and the stage setting is part of that.”

          1. biobotb*

            And historically it has often been considered a woman’s job to provide that in the home…

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Sure, but, I think TootsNYC’s point is that just because it’s traditionally been women’s work, that doesn’t make it less important. I mean, a lot of people still think it’s important for the whole family to sit down to dinner together fairly regularly, and if a pleasant, inviting table setting makes that nicer, well, why not? The definition of “pleasant, inviting table setting” varies, of course – it doesn’t have to include “no container with a label.” :-)

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        My mother is 73 and also followed these rules at holidays or other special occasion meals, in which the good china was broken out. And she also refuses to reuse things like margarine tubs for storage. She says you never know what’s in it and have to open 10 butter tubs to find what you want. She now insists upon paper plates for virtually all occasions….LOL. I must admit that I do enjoy the appearance of nicely set table in which the food is presented in serving dishes. Remnants of a time gone by.

        1. Chocoholic*

          The day my husband opened a yogurt container expecting yogurt and got chili instead was the day we invested in some containers we could see what was in them. OOPS! :) LOL

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          This is why I keep a sharpie in the kitchen. Easy to write contents on reused jars etc but also easy to scrub off.

          1. Janie*

            You can also cover it with a dry-erase marker and then rub it off with a dry erase eraser/paper towel. Or a little rubbing alcohol usually takes it right off.

      3. TootsNYC*

        that’s classic Miss Manners–you deserve a nice table to eat at, you deserve to be a bit indulged while you’re eating your meal, and storage containers are not indulgent.

      4. Massmatt*

        My grandmother was the same way! If there was a bottle of ketchup on the table she would say “get that shade tree off the table!” I have never heard anyone else use the term, maybe it’s regional.

  8. nnn*

    For #3, if you haven’t done so already, it would probably be strategic to drop the fact that you’re converting to Judaism and/or the fact that you are Jewish into the office rumour mill – like Alison mentioned referring to it like you would another big life event, or small-talking that your weekend plans included preparing for / observing whatever Jewish religious holiday is currently relevant.

    This is specifically because a tichel, naturally, reads as religiously marked to people familiar with it. Before we even get into people’s response to covering your head, people are not going to think well of you if, in their eyes, you’re wearing what appears to be another religion’s head covering for what appears to be no apparent reason. Best to get that possible misinterpretation off the table.

    1. Róisín*

      Would like to point out that while people (especially in the US for some reason) may think otherwise, no religion owns a particular style of head covering, or the practice of head covering in general. I’d love to see less insistance that people are “allowed” to cover for whatever reason, and more insistance that people are able to dress how they want without justification.

        1. Mookie*

          no religion owns a particular style of head covering, or the practice of head covering in general.

          Are you setting up a straw man or did you not mean to agree with Róisín when they wrote this?

        2. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Back in the old days women wore head scarves over here. And upper class women wore hats and bonnets and the like. No woman would go out with her head bare.

          That’s only changed in the 50ies. Some elderly women still operate like this.

          I always wear a hat myself when out and about, but that’s due to my sensory processing disorder. Hiding behind the brim of a hat helps.

          And I was talking about Austria and the predominantly Catholic parts of Germany above.

          A lot of the head covering was practicality. To keep the hair contained when working and protection from the elements. The only time when head covering was compulsory for women were church services.

          1. londonedit*

            Totally true in the UK, too. I don’t believe the Church of England requires any sort of head covering in church (could be wrong on that but I don’t think so) but it used to absolutely be the norm to wear a hat to church, for men and women.

            On a practical note, my grandmother always wore a headscarf if she was out shopping – she’d have her hair ‘set’ once a week, and she’d wear a scarf to keep the style in place while she was out and about. Just a square scarf folded into a triangle, placed over her head and tied under her chin. Absolutely no religious connotations to that, and it’s definitely dying out as a practice, but it was very, very common and it’s something that you do still see some elderly women doing.

            1. Asenath*

              It was certainly socially – well, almost required, and extremely common – in rural Canada up to the 1950s for all women to wear hats outdoors, and although the Catholics were stricter about it, Anglican women also invariably wore hats (or something hat-like, warm wooly hats were more popular in winter than headscarves, but scarves would do in a pinch) in church. I remember when the rule changed, or rather, it was announced to Anglicans in Canada that women no longer had to cover their hats in church. My grandmother listened to the announcement politely – she was always polite – and kept on wearing her hats. When I asked her about it, she said that she didn’t feel comfortable without a hat. I, on the other hand, gave up wearing hats or scarfs unless one was needed to keep my ears from freezing. We (small girls, that is) used to get special new hats at Easter, with frills and other adornments, attached to a tight hairband that really pinched your head. People thought we looked cute. I hated them, always having been one to favour comfort over beauty, or even cuteness.

              Anyway, OP. Yeah, let it drop that you’re Jewish, cover your head as you wish, and if anyone asks, well, you’ve already given them enough information for them to figure it might be a way of expressing your religious beliefs.

            2. DataGirl*

              My grandma always did that. Sometimes she’d be running around in curlers under that scarf too. I do it sometimes, mostly when I’m cleaning or sometimes if I’ve just washed my hair and want to keep it nice.

          2. One (1) Anon*

            Yeah, my grandma wore a scarf over her hair when she went out. Many, many societies did this. It isn’t always linked to religion.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            A lot of times even if it wasn’t linked to religion, it was linked to modesty though. If you always cover your hair, not covering it seems like a statement.

            1. londonedit*

              To me, ‘modesty’ still has religious connotations…I think in the UK it was always more to do with ‘propriety’ and social/societal norms. We’ve historically had a LOT of importance placed on dress and behaviour as signifiers of social class, and I think wearing hats in public was, historically, more about confirming your place among ‘polite society’ than a desire to appear ‘modest’. The style of your hat would absolutely mark you out as being a member of a certain social class, and not wearing one would mark you out as being ‘slovenly’ or low-class.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m white, raised Protestant — and I’m appropriating my own ancestors when I wrap my head. There is a photo of my Great-grandma B* sweeping her front porch with her hair tied up in a scarf. Plus, I spent years of weekends in a medieval history club. It’s second nature for me to wrap my hair when doing yard work & other hard work.
        (*Her family was English Catholic immigrants to Brooklyn, NY, late 1800s. There are no pics of my Jewish great-grandma with her head covered. Go figure.)
        A few 15th c European drawings in links in my next comment.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Turbans in 15th c Europe…yes it’s possible the practice came home from people who were in the Middle East on crusade. They apparently said “DANG that’s a good idea!”

          1423 Italian
          1489 German
          1458 French

        2. Lara*

          And actually quite a few Protestant women still practice headcovering to keep with their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11. Some do it only for church, while others cover full-time.

          1. Asenath*

            Sometimes women who wear hats or scarfs for other reasons are assumed to do so for religious reasons – I was asked if I wore what my 1950s female relatives would have called a “bandanna” (square scarf folded diagonally as described above) for religious reasons, and said, truthfully, that it was windy and cold so I wore it to keep a bit warm. I didn’t get into the details of which Christian women are more or less likely to wear head-covering for religious reasons. The comment from another friend that I was taking fashion cues from the Queen I took as intended, as a joke!

            1. Kelly L.*

              And I’ve come to appreciate the virtues of a bandana in the summer, to protect my scalp from the sun! I probably look like a hipster, but I like the look better than a ball cap.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                I often wear one under my hard hat at work. Keeps my hair from getting tangled, keeps my ears covered from sun or wind, and also acts as a sweat band.

          2. My Cabbages!!*

            As an atheist, I wish that it was more common to cover the head for no particular reason, because picking out pretty clothes for my head would be so much less work than having to style my hair every day.

            1. Róisín*

              I made pretty much exactly this comment three days before I started covering my hair. Go check out Wrapunzel! You can cover just because you want to!

        3. xarcady*

          Well into the 1950s, there was a long tradition of women sometimes wearing a scarf or bandanna over their hair when engaged in messy housework. Hair was washed once or twice a week, and if you were dusting or sweeping, you didn’t want the dirt getting in your hair. And the bandanna would also keep your hair out of your face.

          1. Asenath*

            It was also really important to wear a bandanna when cooking – especially, for some reason, baking. The idea was to keep one’s hair out of the food (so I don’t know why it was more important when baking bread than when frying eggs), and to this day I don’t like seeing people brush their hair in the kitchen – or have their long hair sweeping around as they cook. But I try not to say anything.

            I remember one lady who seemed like a real old lady to me then, although she was probably not more than 40 or so, talking about how she didn’t feel civilized if she didn’t go to the hairdresser every week! I’m sure she was the type to have a scarf over her head to keep her curls in place.

            1. Slartibartfast*

              When you’re frying and stirring on the stove, there’s a really good chance you’ll see the single stray hair as you work and pick it out. In baked goods, it’s not going to be seen until you’re chewing on it.

              (Fair cook with a shedding problem)

        4. ThatGirl*

          Lotta Anabaptist women have covered their heads in various ways for various reasons over the years, the Amish being the most obvious one – but then, there are often plain/modest clothes to go along with that.

      2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        Nobody “owns” a particular style of anything. People are indeed free to pretty much wear whatever clothing they want. But some styles are very strongly associated with certain groups, and other people are free to make assumptions based on that clothing.

        Not to mention the fact that some people want to be immediately, visually associated with their group.

        1. Observer*

          Both of these statements are true, and it’s not helpful to pretend otherwise.

          The OP is utterly free to dress as she sees fit. But it is not helpful to insist that people are not going to draw conclusions, or even that they “should not” draw those conclusions, at least tentatively.

      3. Annie Moose*

        Nevertheless it is evident that specific styles of scarves (fabric, color, etc.) and styles of tying/folding them are closely identified with certain religions and cultures. A Protestant woman who covers her hair is likely to wear a very different style of scarf in a different manner than a Muslim woman, and both will be different from the stereotypical old granny wearing a colorful silk scarf tied under her chin.

        1. Asenath*

          There’s leeway in style choices, though. My bandanna was interpreted initially as a religious head covering by the Muslim friend (she knew it was unusual among non-Muslims, and it was apparently similar enough to some versions of Muslim head coverings to read as “religious” to her) and “granny” (well, specifically the Queen looking at horses) to a friend of mine with a similar background to me.

      4. hbc*

        While I agree that something as simple as a scarf or the concept of covering the head is not owned by any group and does not need to be justified, I think it’s a little too far the other direction to say that anything goes. Yarmulkes, feathered headdresses, and rasta hats, for example, are pretty strongly correlated to one group, and you’d get some well-earned side-eye if you wore them with the attitude of “Whatever, it’s just a hat.”

    2. Tupac Coachella*

      Head coverings in general are pretty uncommon in my immediate geographic area, so I don’t tend to make any assumptions about religion when I see one. I wasn’t familiar with the tichel at all, so I Googled it, and I actually went in another direction with why it might make sense for OP to mention her conversion. To me, the tichel photos looked like fashion coverings, which would be inappropriate in many workplaces. In my town, wrapping up one’s hair would give a casual bordering on unprofessional vibe (“I didn’t want to do my hair, so I tied it up in a cute scarf”). Knowing it was religious would cancel out that assumption for me, and I’d probably stop noticing it pretty quickly. YMMV obviously-as I mentioned, head coverings are usually not religious in my area, so the default assumption may be different in areas where it’s a clear religious marker to the general public.

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      I think that, unless the OP is in an area with a lot of Jewish people, she can wear her tichel without that happening. The average Gentile, at least in the US, will not even have heard of a tichel. I’ve never heard of one until today.

  9. CatCat*

    #4, an applicant asked about this at ex-job. Weirdly, bosses didn’t think to talk to me before saying, “Sure, talk to CatCat. Here’s the contact info. ” They just let me know that they had done so.

    It was at a time when the team was under a lot of stress with no real assistance from the bosses. So I had an honest, professional conversation with the candidate. The candidate declined bosses’ offer in favor of an offer from a different organization.

    1. Media Monkey*

      did you get any push back from that? Did they realise it was your honest feedback that contributed to the person turning the role down?

      1. CatCat*

        I think they suspected, but no real push back. There was nothing they could really prove here other than they told me to talk to her. In additon, we were short staffed (they did not get that they might be part of the problem of people leaving), I was a top performer, and I was not at-will. Even if they could try and push me out over something they merely suspected, who would do the work if they were down yet another person?

        No candidates were referred to talk to me again though I also don’t know if any others had asked to talk to current employees.

    2. Rebecca*

      Thank you for doing that. I thought I had done all my due diligence before accepting another job, and I talked to two of my prospective team members, accepted the job offer, and promptly jumped from the frying pan into the fire. They spouted the company line, not what really went on in that weird office. After 12 weeks, I learned of an opening at my former employer, applied, and went back. If they would have been honest like you were, I wouldn’t have upended my job life. I’ll never, ever apply there again.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think the best way to get the truth is to find someone who just left to compare their comments. LinkedIn can sometimes help, but it’s not always easy.

        I did once have to give a reference for a boss–that was interesting! She got the job.

    3. Triplestep*

      I took LW#4 as asking about the possibility of speaking with previous staff-members of the hiring manager – not prospective teammates. It’s totally normal to speak with prospective teammates, but you’re not likely to get the truth out of them with respect to hiring manager, culture, etc.

      Before accepting my last job (from which I recently ran screaming after just over a year) I got to meet with teammates, and they all talked the place up, as well as the manager. In short, they were not giving their true feelings. They’ve all left except one who had only been there about 12 weeks when I interviewed and now he’s looking to leave, too. No one wants to get thrown under the bus by a candidate as they are declining an offer, so even if they have one foot out the door, they’re not going to tell a candidate.

    4. Inadvertent slacker*

      During an interview process I was directed to speak to someone who would be a peer in my department. One of the things she said to me was, “The hours are great. We’re 9 to 5 with an hour paid lunch. It’s only a 35-hour work week!” Fast forward one year. I’m in my first annual review. I say, “I love our 35-hour work weeks!” And that’s when my (somewhat absentee) boss told me we are expected to work 40 hours—ie, come in at 8 or leave at 6. She had just never noticed that I—and my colleague—were working so little.

  10. Rich*

    OP4, doing this is, in my experience a great idea. I try to frame it as asking to talk to a couple of people who would be peers to get a day-in-the-life understanding and first hand perspective. Managers are supposed to know what’s up, but framing it like this it tends to come across as more interest in learning about the role rather than wanting to check up on the organization or the manager. I both do this myself and encourage it in candidates I interview.

    But, it’s also good to remember that the manager’s “references” are going to be as carefully chosen as your’s are. You’re not going to give as a reference a supervisor who gave you bad reviews, and they’re not going to connect you to disgruntled employees (even justifiably disgruntled ones). That’s OK, you can still learn a lot from the process. Just remember that it’s curated rather than unvarnished content.

    1. Minocho*

      It’s crucial! I had a two jobs I was pursuing, and during the third interview i was with a potential future colleague and the customer, with no management (they were….affiliated organizations? It was strange.). And the potential future colleague was very two faced with the customer, because as soon as they left she started telling me about how horrible they were to work with. And how the job that had been presented as mostly technical was actually going to be mostly soft skills trying to keep these “horrible” customers happy while I worked with potential future colleague.

      So I turned down that job offer. The skip level, who I had briefly met in one of the first two interviews, called to ask why I had turned the offer down. I explained that given what happened at the third interview, the job description was not accurate, and that I would not be skilled at the job as described to me in the third interview. He complained a bit that the job description used to be accurate, but they couldn’t get any applicants, but he then professionally thanked me for my honesty.

      If it’s a job I can’t succeed at or enjoy, you probably can’t pay me enough to take it. I took the second job, even though it paid less and had a longer commute, and I’m absolutely convinced I made the correct decision!

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree about the current manager’s references being carefully chosen. That is why if possible I recommend and try to find out who was in the role before (if they are already gone) and connect with them on LinkedIn and see if they are willing to talk to you about the job. It is possible for the person to be a disgruntled former employee who was fired, but I think you would usually be able to tell based on what and how they say things. Even a disgruntled former employee might have some grains of truth in their complaints.

      Hiring managers would conduct informal reference checks if they know someone at an old job of yours you should too.

    3. Ama*

      When I was a university admin, it seemed to be standard practice at the institution I worked for to have candidates speak not just with the department head but the other administrative staff in a separate interview (not sure if it was particular to that institution’s culture, which liked to encourage internal transfers). It was particularly helpful on one occasion as the staff’s description of working with their department head made it very clear it was not a role I would want (they spoke of doing more executive assistant type work including dropping by the boss’s home to pick up things, and it really wasn’t what I was looking for).

      In that case the employees were both fine with what the role entailed but they described it much more clearly than the department head did (she didn’t even think to mention that the role included running personal errands for her) so it was still incredibly helpful to help me realize I didn’t actually want that position.

    4. Jennifer*

      It’s a great idea and I wish I’d thought of it before. That’s why sites like Glassdoor have cropped up. It’s not fair that they get to dig into our background but there’s only so much information we have available to us.

    5. Gerald*

      I interviewed at a place where after the in-person interview there was a tour of the place by someone junior from the team. We were told that any questions or comments would not be told to the interview group. I think confidentiality would have been broken if there was really bad behaviour, but I took the job and later did a few tours and it was truly done that way (it was a good workplace so they could afford to be honest).

  11. nnn*

    In #1, I think food spills (carrots in sink, mustard on counter) should be cleaned up before you eat, just because, for your co-workers, they’re someone else’s gross mess. It’s not just that there’s mustard on the counter, it’s that there’s someone else’s mysterious substance on the surface where you need to prepare your food.

    Thought experiment: if you didn’t know what the substance was and whose it was, would it be gross? If yes, wipe it up immediately.

    Washing dishes could more reasonably wait until you’ve finished eating (unless other people immediately need the sink for food prep) and of course the thing with the containers is ridiculous. But drips and spills should be looked at through the lense of Someone Else’s Mysterious Mess in a shared kitchen.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      We seem to permenently have bits of food in our break room sink. Despite the horrible smell when the plumbers have to come and unclog it, and the warning emails, it keeps on happening.

      Whether this is connected to the fish microwavers is another matter.

      1. CJM*

        Is there a decent screen strainer in the sink? If so, there really isn’t an excuse for this. If not, a trip to Wal-Mart and a couple of bucks should solve your problem.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          People always pull the strainer out of the drain in office sinks, in my experience. I don’t understand why!

          1. BadWolf*

            Yeah, we have strainers and either people leave them full of food bits (urk) or take them out to wash their food bits down…until it backs up.

          2. TootsNYC*

            because it gets food in it and stops draining. And rather than take the food out, sometimes they toss the whole thing.

          3. Koala dreams*

            Well, there are sinks with built-in strainers for that! They can’t be removed, haha. There are also those plastic scoopy strainery things that makes it easier to remove food bits without getting all dirty — when I was a student, all the students had those.

        2. DivineMissL*

          Then we end up with a screen strainer full of disgusting food scraps that no one will empty.

      2. Starbuck*

        I wish more office kitchen sinks had garbage disposals; they seem pretty common where I live even in the cheaper rental housing kitchens. So much simpler.

    2. TechWorker*

      I have a thing about leaving dirty stuff in the sink – if it fills up quickly it gets gross and then no-one wants to empty it. Plus if you need to use the sink in that time it’s usually more difficult. We have dishwashers so basically no excuse not to put stuff straight in there but if not then I’d say you either need to wash as you go, stack neatly next to the sink, or hell take your dirty prep stuff with you when you go to eat and then wash it up all together.

      1. Lucy*

        I’m so glad this isn’t just me. It seems absolutely absurd to store dirty dishes in the sink, only to have to remove them before you can wash them.

        1. Psyche*

          Yes! At home I have started to refuse to do the dishes until the sink fillers empty the sink.

        2. nnn*

          I’m super curious, from your POV, why do you have to remove the dishes from the sink before you wash them?

          I ask because, when I’m hand-washing dishes, I put the dishes in the sink, put dish soap and water in the sink, and wash the dishes.

          What are you doing differently that precludes the dishes being in the sink?

          1. Le Sigh*

            Typically in these situations, the sink is so full there isn’t any room or everything is stacked so precariously, you risk tipping over a pile of dishes (and possibly breaking them) when trying to move things around.

          2. PizzaDog*

            Sink is too full – or worse, the dreaded ‘water from the tap hits a dirty spoon and flies up onto your face or clothes’

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            I remove the dishes from the sink so I can wash them in order: glasses, then plastic cups/ceramic mugs, then silverware, then cookware, then plates and bowls, and finally pots and pans. I learned this as a child so the dishwater doesn’t get dirty before the pots and pans are washed.

        3. Janie*

          That isn’t how I do dishes. For me it seems absurd to float your dishes in a soup of old food bits and then call them clean, but to each their own.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Um, you wash them off after you take them out of that soup?

            They soak, so the food is liquid or dissolved.
            You take them out of the “soup” and wipe them with a soapy rag (clean).
            You set them aside and pick up the next dish.
            After you’ve accumulated enough clean dishes to call it “a batch” (based on space, patience, etc.), you rinse this batch and set it further aside.

            1. Janie*

              You wash dishes how you wash them. I’ll wash dishes how I wash them.

              To repeat, to each their own.

    3. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

      I’m seriously thinking of printing extracts of this thread to post in our office kitchenette. Departments got moved around and a maintenance guy quit and the formerly clean kitchen is now starting to be a problem kitchen.

      1. Ginger*

        Don’t be the person to leave passive aggressive notes around a shared space. It never works out. Just be direct and clear about expectations.

    4. Annie Moose*

      On washing dishes–I’m with you that people can wash those later, but in that case, at least remove them from the kitchen counter. Take them with you wherever you’re eating your lunch, then take them back to the kitchen and wash them.

  12. TL -*

    #3: Several of my Muslim friends have changed how/if they adopt various tenants of their faith and they’ve used a really good line about Islam allowing you to choose which tenants are right for you, so as they grow and change, so do their religious choices. (Moving to/from more modest dress and to/from handshakes with people of the opposite sex in particular.) It was also great when people would ask why person A wore a hijab, person B was in modest short sleeves and jeans, and person C was in spaghetti straps and shorts, because it came off as super non-judgmental of other Muslim women.

    So I think OP could say something similar (since you’re moving into very visible Judaism) – “I’m converted/recently converted to Judaism and through the process realized that covering my hair was the right step for me in expressing my faith” or something like that. Or more casually, “The tichel? I’ve recently converted to Judaism and it felt like more modest dress was right for me.” I think framing it as a personal choice and giving a nod to it being about *your* relationship with *your* religion will explain it in a way most people can relate to, if not understand.

    Also, the Christian term for this would be ‘called to’, as in “I was called to dress more modestly” so maybe there’s a similar Jewish term you could use or modify?

    1. Jasnah*

      Oh I like this approach a lot. “This is how I express my religious choice” would offset any comparisons to “other Jews I know.”

      1. Quackeen*

        Great point. There will always be those people who met one Orthodox Jewish person and extrapolate that person’s habits and norms as what All Orthodox Jewish People do.

    2. Jotpe*

      Yeah, this is the way to handle it if it comes up, and you can avoid using the word “Judaism” if you decide that seems prudent. All that anyone really needs (“needs”) to know is that it’s a religious expression that is right for you at this time. Among other things this might evolve for you and you don’t want to feel like you locked yourself in.

      I spent a couple of years observing the more strict dietary restrictions of my particular tradition. I was working in an office with a lot of proud atheists and people “recovering from religion” — they were all very nice but I didn’t really want to have a big conversation with them about my beliefs, much less “but my neighbor/friend/postman is ___ and he doesn’t do that”. And especially not “I took an intro to ___ class in college and only the real extremists follow those rules”. My choices became obvious at an office lunch and I was asked about it. “Oh, it’s kind of a spiritual thing I’m doing, it’s an old practice and I find it helps me with mindfulness” followed by a subject change did the trick. A bit fluffy/waffly but it’s not wrong really and no one could argue with me or accuse me of forcing religion down their throat.

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      Using a term of art particular to a religion could be confusing to others, though. I’m familiar with “called to,” but others may think, “Who told you that you had to dress more modestly?”

    4. CanCan*

      I wouldn’t use “called to.” That sounds to me as if you want the person you’re talking to to accept that a higher being communicated with you, – which requires that person to accept the existence of such higher being. I’m not religious, and your clothing is your choice, as far as I’m concerned, – and should be framed that way to anyone who doesn’t share your religion (or your version of it).

  13. Róisín*

    #3 Ooh! Hi! I am not culturally or religiously Jewish but I do wear a tichel about half the time because hair covering makes me feel safe and beautiful and centered. I definitely recommend looking at Wrapunzel if you haven’t already. There’s an amazing Facebook group where women who are Jewish, Catholic, Pagan, Muslim, Wiccan, pretty much every religion and philosophy under the sun, talk about hair covering and share tips and styles. Most of the advice for covering at work starts with “just start doing it” and ends with “prepare some polite and succinct responses to questions you expect to get” like “why do you do that” and “don’t you think you look better with hair” and “who is oppressing you” and stuff like that.

    Honestly, I found most people in my life didn’t even say anything when I started covering. And “because I think it’s nice” basically didn’t receive any pushback from anyone. Also, it covers pretty much any other reason if you don’t want to get into specifics. (Pun unintended.)

    1. TheRedCoat*

      Same- I cover my hair when my trichotillomania gets really bad- usually due to stress. I got a few questions at first from a couple people, but most people just took it in stride. I hope LW has an easy time doing what works best for her!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      (For anyone else checking it out, it looks like Wrapunzel is undergoing site maintenance but should be back up tomorrow!)

      I cover sometimes, but usually just by tying a wide scarf over my head and under my hair in the back. (Definitely curious to branch out though, made myself a note to check back on Wrapunzel, thank you!) I went onsite to a work thing that way at one point, and one of the women running the event pulled me aside to ask me if my covering was religious (no, not exactly religious, but personal) and if I had ever had problems with it at work (no, I work remotely, so nobody ever sees it). She told me she’d been pondering it for a while, but was nervous about taking that step. Last time I saw her, she still apparently hadn’t done, at least not at work.

    3. Have you tried rebooting?*

      Would that facebook group happen to be OF?

      Also, I have my Wrapunzel shaper on today. Seems very fitting.

  14. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I just wanted to say that speaking with at least some current members of the team you’d be joining should be totally normal, but a request to speak with former employees is a bit more challenging. I would have no problems asking people who have moved on to other positions in our company to make themselves available to talk to a candidate, but I would not ask people who have left the company to do this (not afraid of a bad reference, just not going to impose when we have people in house).

    If your goal is to ensure that anyone you speak to is far beyond my reach (so they were finally free to share the horror!) I would suggest that you should be able to pick up on some warning signs by speaking to my actual team. I still remember interviewing a vendor who reluctantly ceded to our demand that they bring the person who would actually do the work (in addition to the executives and sales team) – but made it completely obvious that they were terrified that he would speak (the worker too!). We chose another company where all members of the team acted like a team, and “management” trusted the worker to speak on their behalf.

    I would expect it to be equally obvious that members of my team are not at all afraid of me – nor are they shy to voice their opinions. The mere fact that they may be interviewing without me and choosing who to advance should tell you something if you trust yourself to make an assessment based on current employees rather than past ones.

    In addition to questions directly about management style, you might also ask about our business priorities, operating system, challenges in our function or industry – in short, almost anything you would ask me. If I’m doing a good job, my team should be giving you answers pretty close to mine.

  15. Not A Manager*

    Obviously this is my own personal issue, but it distresses me that several remarks to LW#3 seem to be about How To Jew. First of all, in my experience many converts know a lot more about the details of Halacha than do some people who just grew up doing whatever their aunties did on the holidays. Second, most people who are planning big important changes in their lives know more about why they are doing it and what it means to them than a casual observer might. Third, it’s her freaking hair so how about we not police her choices, thanks?

    Covering your hair is not “too frum,” and being frum does not automatically mean being right-wing or anti-queer or anti-woman. While some Jewish communities expect married women to cover, none of them forbid unmarried women from covering. Finally, every community has its own standards of covering, with some women wearing hats, some wigs, some wigs AND hats, etc. so just because you once met a Jewish woman who wore a wig doesn’t mean that other Jewish women don’t get to choose a tichel. It’s not “flaunting” anything.

    Finally, people re-appropriate formerly oppressive symbols all the time. To the extent that head-coverings have sometimes been used to control women and their sexuality, I would find it charming and refreshing if a queer Jewish woman chose to, for example, honor her same-sex marriage by covering her hair.

    Sorry to derail, clearly this is An Issue for me.

    1. Ann O.*

      I was also wondering about the assumption that the OP is unmarried. I re-read her letter and didn’t see anything that established that.

    2. Jasnah*

      I don’t see most of the comments as policing her choices–what does “frum” mean?–but it sounds like you have received a lot of rudeness on this topic, and I’m sorry. Of course OP can do whatever she wants with her hair and believe whatever she wants with her religion. I think her coworkers might be curious about the reasons for her change, especially if they don’t know much/only know stereotypes about people who cover their hair, and while OP doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, she might WANT to share this big decision with coworkers she says she is close to, same as if she showed up pregnant or with a cast on her foot or wearing black for mourning or some other visible life change.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        From wikipedia’s entry on “FRUM”
        To be frum (Yiddish: פֿרום‎; also transliterated frim; meaning “devout” or “pious”) is to be committed to the observance of Jewish religious law in a way that often exceeds the bare requirements of halakha, the collective body of Jewish religious laws.

    3. OP 3*

      Thank you for this! A not insignificant part of why I want to do it is as a way to take something that is very much associated with heterosexuality and making it queer.

      1. Not Alison*

        Thanks for the additional info. For myself as a co-worker, I would prefer to know that it was a choice that you made, and not adherence to a requirement. {Not that adherence to a requirement is necessarily negative, but just in response to what would help me process the info that you are now wearing the head-covering.}

        1. Quackeen*

          Interesting. My initial reaction to reading your second sentence was that your preference shouldn’t matter here (not meaning that as downright rude as it sounds when I type it out), but your bracketed sentence makes more sense of that. I think I reacted in that way because I once had a coworker who shaved his head and our boss said something like “I really wish he had told me before doing that.” In that case, it was pretty clear to me that she meant it so that she could have a vote in whether or not he went through with it and not “It would help me make sure my reaction is supportive and affirming.” (I know this because she is the same boss who told me that she would have preferred knowing I was pregnant before promoting me, and the unspoken second half of that was “…because I would have found a way to NOT promote you, illegal though that may be.”

          Anyhow, just clarifying that an initial read of what you wrote made me react one way, but I can see that sometimes people need fuller information to help them be present for their coworkers in a way that’s affirming to the coworker.

        2. Emi.*

          I think even this is kind of overbearing. It’s not your business why OP is covering her hair, and anyway if it’s because of a requirement, it’s because she’s choosing to adhere to that requirement (and even to the religion at all).

        3. KeepIt*

          why does she need to explain her choice to you at all? She doesn’t owe you anything and honestly the comments like this on this thread are the ones truly showing a lack of “judgement”

        4. Jennifer*

          Choosing to adhere to a requirement is also a choice. Also would be none of my business if I were her coworker.

      2. Teapot Librarian*

        OP, I am so distressed by the negative reactions you’ve been getting here. I have many queer, lefty, modern-orthodox-practicing Jewish friends and I assume that you’ve found queer-friendly communities, but in case you haven’t, 1. they exist, and 2. *I* am supportive. I don’t have any specific advice on how to address the hair covering change at work, but congratulations on your conversion and happy Adar!

      3. Have you tried rebooting?*

        As another queer woman who covers, right on! I am not Jewish, but it’s also traditional in my religion for married women to cover. I know married lesbians who cover as well.

      4. curly sue*

        From another queer Jewish woman, I love this. (I still feel like a rebel wearing a rainbow tallis at services, even though it’s very normalized at my current shul.)

      5. neeko*

        That’s awesome. I’m surprised/saddened by how many comments were diminishing/questioning your queerness and/or commitment to your religion.

      6. Jessen*

        If you want to have some extra fun, combine head covering with a shaved hairstyle and watch the confused looks. The combination of a traditionally queer/nonconformist hairstyle and a head covering frequently does not compute for people.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          If someone had a shaved head combined with a head covering, I would automatically think that person suffered from cancer. Then I read your comment, Jessen, and got educated! Thank you!

      7. Clay on my apron*

        Hey OP! Welcome to the tribe :)

        I converted about 5 years ago, to Orthodox Judaism. Where I live, those who affiliate Orthodox follow a very diverse spectrum of observance.

        I consider myself pretty frum (keep kosher, keep Shabbat, wear dresses) but I never went through your particular dilemma. Covering my hair is one mitzvah that I haven’t (yet) taken on, except for specific situations. I would love to hear more about your experiences with this, and also why you chose the tichel over other head coverings?

    4. Duck Duck Goose*

      I (a woman) am married to a bisexual Muslim woman who wore hijab until maybe about a year ago (for safety reasons), so I appreciate this. Being LGBTQ and practicing the traditionally “conservative” parts of religion are not mutually exclusive.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      I agree with all of this! (And none of it is my personal issue…)

      If nothing else, maybe this is helping the OP think through her responses to what she may hear out in the world.

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I found this a bit strange myself. I’m not particularly religious but my first response to someone telling me they were considering adopting a particular practice from my family’s religion would not be to tell them that it’s not necessary. Sometimes the responses in the comments are surprising and distressing.

    7. Pilcrow*

      Thank you for this as well! I’m not a Jew or queer or have any stake in head covering choices and I’ve been rather annoyed at the comments that, as you put it, were telling the OP “how to Jew.” It’s really coming across as prescriptive and patronizing.

    8. Cath*

      Re #3, my work dress code doesn’t allow hats/head covering unless it’s for religious reasons, so at some point it would have to be a conversation with the boss. Probably not a big deal, but would have to confirm if I were to convert and start wearing something.

    9. Massmatt*

      Excellent post, the OP gave us a specific issue and quite a few commentators decided to make it about something else.

    10. Toastedcheese*

      Cosigned, a lefty atheist from a mixed-faith background who is delighted to see anyone engaging with Judaism in a thoughtful way. OP, you’re awesome!

  16. Chloe*

    OP #1: I invested in a set of name stickers for my lunch containers – the kind that normally gets put on children’s lunchboxes to go to school – and my container always get returned to me now. Definitely worth the purchase.

    1. Clay on my apron*

      I have those too, with my name and phone number in rainbow letters :) they actually were for my kids originally

  17. Madame Secretary*

    OP2, I don’t have any advice, but please provide an update when you can after the situation plays out.

  18. Electric Sheep*

    OP1, I do think it’s reasonable to ask people to clean up before eating, because mess on prep space makes it harder and less enjoyable to use the kitchen. If you spill something and go eat, there’s a spill taking up counter space unproductively for the entire time you’re eating, and during a time of day other people probably want to use the kitchen. Especially if more than one person does it, it would quickly add up to multiple places in the kitchen temporarily offline, but not actually in use by anyone.

  19. Batgirl*

    OP1, I bought myself a cooler lunch bag to eliminate the need for a fridge. My dirty containers go straight back in for washing at home. I’ve never looked back!
    While my work kitchenette is too dirty to use, yours sounds too clean. I super appreciate having facilities to use in a pinch, but it’s too easy to lose your stuff or step on toes to use every day I think.

    1. Peachkins*

      Yes, this is what I do too. I do have one cup that I keep at work as I reuse it daily, but I wash and dry it each morning before use- it doesn’t sit in the sink. We had so many people leaving their random containers in the sink in our breakroom for hours on end (seriously, sometimes you’d see the same things in there the next day!) that someone finally put up a sign telling people they couldn’t just leave their dirty stuff in there. I wouldn’t throw the stuff out like the OP’s boss did, but maybe that’s why she’s a stickler.

      I do have to say I wouldn’t be happy about people leaving messes and not cleaning them up. It takes about 5 seconds to grab a paper towel and clean up a small spill. There’s no need to wait and finish their lunch to take care of that, especially when others need to use that space they messed up.

  20. Zena*

    It IS reasonable to expect people to clean up after they’ve prepared lunch and before they eat, but calling your entire workforce into the kitchen to demand that whoever left a drop of mustard in the sink ‘fess up? Totally unreasonable, and I’m surprised Alison didn’t pick up on this. It’s one thing to expect a clean kitchen, but another thing altogether to treat your employees like naughty children.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, this is so weird. I bet she’s horrible in many ways but maybe the LW doesn’t even realize.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ve been wondering if she’s FRUSTRATED in many ways.
        There’s a certain “not my job” and “I just didn’t see the mess” that could be indicated by these trends, and maybe that’s showing up back on the office floor as well. And this is the most tangible place she’s seeing it.

        But yes, she should be addressing that directly.

      1. Zena*

        No, the boss isn’t asking the question, OP is, and OP provided the info about the boss hauling everyone into the kitchen demanding to know the culprit as part of their question. Knowing this aspect of the bosses behaviour provides additional context to the type of manager their boss is, as does the ridiculous idea of reused food containers being unprofessional – a good manager would send an email round reminding people to keep the kitchen clean, rather than take up time on people’s unpaid lunchbreak to chew them out over a spot of sauce that someone probably missed cleaning up because they were rushing to get their food to their desk before it went cold or to enable someone else to use the kitchen, and a good manager wouldn’t give a second thought to the type of containers their employee uses.

        1. Colette*

          But we have no way of affecting the boss’s behavior, and neither does the OP. If the boss is ridiculous in other ways, maybe that should affect the OP’s enjoyment of the job, but this is an easily solved problem – clean the kitchen before you eat and put your containers away as soon as you wash them.

          1. Bostonian*

            The OP specifically asks what is normal and proper office kitchen etiquette, and what is or isn’t unprofessional. IT’S IN THE QUESTION. It’s more than appropriate to point out that treating direct reports like children is both unprofessional and not normal.

        2. TootsNYC*

          people ignore those emails.

          Our OP was apparently bothered enough by the disruption that she’s asking the question, and being told “clean up the counters” is reasonable.

          So maybe she’ll do it. All because the boss hauled them all in to make a stink about it.

        3. Jennifer Juniper*

          Would that boss get in trouble if employees can’t eat because the boss is chewing them out during their lunch break and they’re not allowed to eat at their desks? Someone who is diabetic, for instance, could pass out from not eating and get hurt on the job.

    2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      Then employees shouldn’t act like naughty children. If you make a mess, clean it up before you eat.

      1. Zena*

        I really don’t think leaving a few crumbs on the worktop or a spot of sauce in the sink is acting like a naughty child, and it certainly doesn’t justify hauling everyone in to the kitchen and patronisingly demanding to know who left it there. It’s like that one teacher at school who wouldn’t let anyone leave class until the person who drew a penis on the chalkboard confessed. Completely unproductive and over the top, and indicative that the boss might be a jerk in other ways. I go to work expecting to be treated like an adult, bosses using tactics akin to disciplining children to manage employees is totally unnecessary and disrespectful.

        I also think a breakroom with no chairs in is odd – it’s not a break room, it’s just a room if there’s nowhere to sit when you’re on your break and instead are forced to eat lunch at your desk! Perhaps another thing indicative of a overly fussy work environment.

        1. londonedit*

          We have office kitchens that are just kitchens, not break rooms. There isn’t any space for tables and chairs, so it’s just a kitchen, and people eat at their desks. We don’t have any sort of communal break room. It’s not unusual, in my experience, and it definitely doesn’t mean that the working environment is particularly fussy.

          1. Zena*

            OP’s letter refers to “a break room with no seating” and then they also refer to a kitchen, which implies (to me, at least) that there is a break room separate to the kitchen. I know it’s not unusual for companies to have kitchens with no seating, but to have a room specifically referred to as a “break room” but that has no seating is weird to me – what do they do in there on their break? Gymnastics?

            There’s a ton of studies into the negative effects of eating at your desk and the benefits of stepping away from your desk at lunch. It might not be unusual, but it’s not healthy, and a company that doesn’t provide adequate spaces for its employees to take a break isn’t a great company in my opinion.

            1. mochazina*

              can attest that not having adequate break room seating wears on morale. my org built a shiny new building about 12yrs ago with a cafe and adjacent seating area that absolutely does not fit everyone and no other kitchen-y areas, yet also “banned” personal microwaves and coffeemakers. about 3yrs ago they finally installed kitchenette rooms on every floor that has a fridge, sink, mics, and toaster ovens – still no additional seating. i’m likely jaded by now, but i feel like the main thing that keeps folks here is the job security.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, thank you for raising this, as that was my immediate reaction on reading that. I am currently managed by someone who behaves like this – example: calling her entire team together to demand to know “who was going to own up” to having accidentally dragged and dropped an incoming work email into the Completed folder (it was most likely someone doing it by complete accident and not even realising they had done it, could have been anyone including her) – it’s like being in Professor Umbridge’s class. She’s off sick at the moment and I’m trying to get transferred to someone else if she returns (there’s a long story behind that which is a whole AAM post in itself).

  21. Mookie*

    re LW1

    It’s not great for someone else to come in to prepare their own lunch and have to work around that.

    Unless co-workers have privately asked the manager to police this issue on their anonymous behalf, it doesn’t seem like this is the case here. If the person who ends up discarding the carrot / wiping the mustard isn’t the person who made this minor “mess” to begin with and they only take on the duty in order to please / quiet the manager in the most expeditious manner possible so they have enough time to finish their own lunch, it stands to reason the mess didn’t interfere with their ability to make said lunch. This is a solution in search of a problem. The manager is creating an unnecessary disruption that robs the office as a whole of its unpaid break and its opportunity to collectively manage its time the way it likes and by means determined to be most productive for it (arrived at by an unspoken consensus).

    1. Myrin*

      I think I get where you’re coming from in general but I’m not quite following the argument – Alison didn’t say “interfere”, she said “work around that”, and just because someone does end up being able to prepare and eat lunch doesn’t mean they didn’t have to work around others’ food residue first. The level of mess OP describes doesn’t seem to rise to the level of “I need to dig through a gallon of crusty mustard dumped on the counter before I can even reach the microwave”, so it’s not like people are literally unable to prepare or reach their food, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t prefer to do so without fearing their sleeves will accidentally get soiled with leftover mustard, for example.

    2. Adhara*

      I agree; while I remember how frustrated I was at people leaving things out and making messes, it’s OTT for a manager to demand a confession like they’re all 5 year olds. Just firing off an email about cleaning while you’re cooking would have been enough.

      So my question to OP#1: are there easy to access cleaning materials on the counter? It’s easier to clean in the moment if you can just get a kitchen roll sheet, wipe up, instant bin. I know kitchen roll is wasteful, but I can see a kitchen rag getting nasty quickly.

      1. RandomU...*

        “Just firing off an email about cleaning while you’re cooking would have been enough.”

        Do I agree with the manager calling everyone in… seems a little over the top but whatever. I do know that a general email by the boss is not the answer. That’s about as effective as the sorry, tattered, stained, comic sans printed note with the words “Your mother doesn’t work here” with a picture of a woman holding a mop in the midst of a mess.

    3. Nobby Nobbs*

      Yeah, I’m surprised how many people here seem to think a drop of mustard or a carrot peel justifies stealing a whole office full of hourly workers’ unpaid breaks.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m not seeing that sentiment anywhere in the comments so far, it’s just that most commenters are only focusing on one of OP’s questions – “At what point should the kitchen be spotless?” – and not commenting on the rest of her letter.

      2. Birch*

        I’m surprised how many people think it’s not necessary to clean up their own mess immediately (or somehow create such a huge mess that would take a significant amount of their break time to clean up…?) when using a shared space. If you notice you spilled something, why would you not immediately wipe it up? It takes half a second, you don’t have to remember to go clean it up later, it won’t dry and get harder to clean, and no one else has to work around it or clean it up for you when you inevitably forget about it.

        1. londonedit*

          I do think that the boss literally calling everyone into the kitchen to admonish them over a bit of spilled mustard is over the top, as is trying to find the ‘culprit’, but I absolutely think she’d be justified in issuing a general ‘Can people please clean up after themselves when using the shared kitchen’ request. Whether that’s via email or a sign in the kitchen or a general ‘Hey, guys, can you make sure you wipe up your spills in the kitchen before you eat?’ verbal announcement to the whole room.

          Wiping up any crumbs or mess you might have left, and putting away anything you’ve used, takes all of ten seconds and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of your lunch break. It’s not that difficult or time-consuming, and it makes things nicer for everyone. I can understand the boss becoming frustrated to the point of ‘OK who KEEPS leaving a load of mess all over the kitchen???’ if this is the sort of thing that happens regularly.

      3. Oxford Comma*

        I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the OP scrub the kitchen down to sterile levels. It takes less than a minute to wipe up most spills or to pick up your salad fixings. You know what the yellow goo on the counter is and it won’t bother you, but it might bother the next person. I know it would bother me.

        As far as the rest of this goes, I think the boss sounds nuts. Yelling at your staff about who didn’t wipe up the salad dressing and believing that re-used yogurt containers are unprofessional is another story.

        OP: I know you said money is tight, but I would either invest in an insulated lunch bag or get in the habit of immediately drying your containers and putting them back in whatever bag you brought them in.

      4. Observer*

        No one actually seems to think that. What people are saying is that as unreasonable as the boss is being, in the case of the mess it happens to be an unreasonable response to a GENUINE problem.

        1. Psyche*

          I agree. And since the boss is unreasonable and unlikely to change, not triggering her tirade is the easiest way to fix the problem.

        2. TootsNYC*

          a problem that is of long-standing-ness enough that our OP speaks of these messes, and the harangues, in plural.

          Maybe those emails were sent already, and proved ineffective.

      5. biobotb*

        Where are you getting that interpretation? Thinking that it’s reasonable for adults to leave the shared space clean and tidy is not the same as supporting the manager’s way of handling it.

    4. Observer*

      I totally disagree with you. Just because people don’t go to the boss with something doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

  22. LGC*

    So, I’m just curious…does LW3’s job have a dress code specifying whether you can start covering your hair? Some offices do, and while ideally they wouldn’t, I can see that being an issue. So if she does decide to start wearing a scarf and her office is one of those, would it be a good idea to let your boss know beforehand?

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      If she’s in the US, I think it would fall under Title VII, that discrimination based upon religion is prohibited.

      1. LGC*

        I totally agree (and yeah, you’re right about the law saying it’s kosher – pardon the pun), but…I can definitely foresee a hypothetical situation where LW3 shows up one day with a scarf and her supervisor tells her to take it off because employees are generally not supposed to have their heads covered (without recognizing that it’s religious and thus explicitly allowed).

        This isn’t right, of course, but I can see this happening.

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          Oh, absolutely. Sad, but I can see just about anything happening in this country right now. Oof.

          1. LGC*

            Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about that aspect! (I’ll say…you’re partly right, but I don’t think this is unique to this particular moment.)

            Part of it is me asking a question based off of my own company policy – technically, we’re not supposed to wear head coverings indoors, although (obviously) we allow religious headwear like hijabs, Sikh turbans, yarmulkes, and tichels. I’d like to think of myself as sufficiently aware to not goof up, but I know myself better than that (especially since the tichel is a little less familiar in my area). Mostly I’ve seen them when women are going to temple – my parents live in a Jewish neighborhood – or on ultra-Orthodox women.

            At any rate, the LW doesn’t need permission in any case, even if her boss disapproves personally. And the correct response from the boss is to back off immediately when they do find out that it’s religious.

    2. Canadian Natasha*

      I’m in that kind of office. At my workplace she would need to disclose it as a religious exemption because we are forbidden from wearing hats or head coverings for certain industry specific (but not safety-related) reasons.

  23. Kitchen Monster*

    #1 Boss sounds like has some trauma related to food poisoning. I got a nasty foodborne illness sophomore year in college due to nasty roommates and lost 20lbs. I can relate to the boss’s concerns of what a dirty kitchen can do to productivity but in my case I alleviated them with standard operating procedures. We have a contracted clean up crew that comes on Wednesdays and someone from the office volunteers to do a kitchen clean on Fridays. Any unmarked personal containers not containing the symbol of the week or prepackaged food/drink/condiments past their experation date gets thrown out in the dumpster.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Wednesday and Friday aren’t going to help with mustard and salad oil from Monday or Tuesday, and a gross disgusting carrot in the sink drain on Thursday.

    2. ello mate*

      She called her containers dirty and basically insinuated that it was gross that she was too poor to use a more “Chic” container. How that is related to food posioning I have no idea

  24. Tomato Frog*

    OP #1: There’s a discussion to be had around issues of kitchen cleanliness, but I think they’re a little beside the point for your letter. For the record, your boss’s behavior is messed up (interrupting everyone’s lunch and calling everyone on the carpet because one person left a small mess! throwing away your possessions and calling them dirty!). Please know that she’s the one being unprofessional here (also unkind and unreasonable).

  25. OP 3*

    OP #3 here, with a couple clarifications.

    I am married to another woman; should have included that, my apologies.

    I’m not converting Orthodox. My synagogue is Reform, which very explicitly doesn’t require head covering. No one is making or pressuring me to do this. It’s something I’m considering doing for myself because covering my hair makes me feel centered and safe and more like myself.

    1. Q without U*

      I absolutely get that, but I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that your coworkers’ assessment of you will not change. People are going to make a lot of assumptions, and many of them won’t be kind to you.

      1. Washi*

        I don’t know, I think there will likely be a lot of curiosity, since people are hardwired to comment on changes and covering your hair is a very visible change, but I don’t necessarily think people will make too much of it. If my coworker started covering her hair and said breezily that she’s converting to Judaism and will now be wearing a tichel, I would wonder about it for a bit, but probably then forget about it after a few days. If it’s not a particularly nosy office and literally nothing else is changing about OP’s work life/demeanor except the hair covering, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

        1. Nita*

          That’s the thing… this is not a hairstyle change, outs a change in appearance that has implications. OP will need to be ready for people wondering about those implications for her work, whether openly or silently. They may wonder if she’ll need special food accommodation in meetings. They may wonder if she’ll ask to leave early on Fridays. They may wonder if she’s no longer comfortable working closely with men – hair covering is generally a quite Orthodox look. It’s pretty intense stuff, and while OP is probably quite sure where she stands on these matters, others may be confused at first.
          I’m very interested in the discussion – I’ve grappled with something similar, and the idea of having to explain my appearance change to coworkers is basically THE reason why I have not changed it so far.

          1. Washi*

            It’s not just a hairstyle change for the OP, but it kind of is for the coworkers (since they do not need to have anything to do with her spiritual inner life.) I definitely agree that people will be wondering at first, but I just can’t imagine that phase will last that long once people see that everything else is business as usual.

            1. Observer*

              Yes and no. For her coworkers, this is likely to be seen as an expression of faith and belief. And given the typical (and not totally unreasonable) associations, people are likely to have some reasonable questions. The OP doesn’t owe anyone answers to many of them, although it might make her life easier to share, but some of the questions actually DO have the potential to affect others.

              That’s why I suggested some scripts above. This lets the OP figure what she does, and does not, want to share, and respond briefly and appropriately to many of the inevitable questions.

      2. EmilyG*

        This seems unnecessarily pessimistic to me, and I’m also wondering if we’re not seeing a lot of geographical variation in these responses. For example, where I live, some people who cover their hair in various ways are on a continuum of Amish and Mennonite practice. The Amish are pretty conservative but some Mennonites I’ve met definitely are not. I also see a lot of Muslim women wearing headscarves that don’t seem indicative of opinions beyond the wearing or not wearing of headscarves. So where I live, I don’t think it would be immediately apparently what religion was even involved unless OP said, or what it “meant.”

        1. londonedit*

          I live in quite a secular and multicultural place, so I’m used to seeing people dressing in all sorts of ways, and half the time I’d have no idea whether it was to do with religious observance or not. I’m very familiar with the different styles of Muslim dress (from niqab to hijab to those who wear headscarves and cover their arms and legs with jeans and long-sleeved shirts/jumpers etc, like GBBO winner Nadiya Hussain for example) and if I see a woman wearing flat shoes, long skirt, long-sleeved blouse, long hair and a small headscarf, I can recognise that as being to do with a certain religion, but I don’t think I could actually tell you what religion it is. Otherwise, if a woman was wearing a headscarf that didn’t look like the small square ones or like a hijab, my first thought probably wouldn’t be religion. I have short hair and sometimes like to wear scarves in a 1950s sort of style, and that’s been quite fashionable over the last few years. I guess I just wouldn’t think to ascribe a particular religion to anyone based on what they were wearing, unless it was immediately very obvious.

        2. jdog*

          I think it’s less geography and more that the folks saying they’d have these questions are probably Jewish or have a lot of experience with Jewish people. As a Jewish person myself, sure I wouldn’t interrogate a coworker who converted to Judaism and started covering her hair, but I would notice and wonder about the kinds of things people are bringing up.

        3. Indigo a la mode*

          I live in California, far far away from most U.S. places that have large populations of Plain or orthodox-religious dressers (though I did go to college in Maryland where it was much more common), but I’m quite sure no one in my office would give someone a hard time about covering their hair. I can’t imagine saying anything more to a coworker than, “Pretty scarf!” or, if told about the conversion, “Oh cool, congrats on that.”

          I think I would recommend mentioning your conversion a few times just so people don’t speculate behind their hands, but if you’re breezy about it (“I finally finished my conversion to Judaism, and I decided that headscarves are for me!”), everyone else should be, too.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Q without U, I say those assumptions are the co-workers’ issue, not the OPs.

        1. Q without U*

          Women having to cover their heads in Judaism is related to a whole number of other practices in Judaism where women are treated differently (read: worse) than men. The coworkers may be wondering if OP has suddenly made radical changes to her lefty stances on gender equality, among other things. You can call that the coworkers’ issues, but there’s a strong chance that assumptions will be made and I think the OP needs to be realistic about that.

          1. Emily K*

            I’m not saying this would *never* happen, but it’s really an awfully big logical leap considering they work with her and will be seeing her in action every day so it’s not like they’re just looking at a picture of her in a headscarf and making a whole bunch of judgments based on a static image without any additional context. OP also says she’s in a same-sex marriage. I can’t imagine suddenly thinking my lesbian coworker had become some kind of patriarchy-lovin’ “a woman’s place is in the home” Phyllis Schaffly type just because she started showing up in a headscarf one day but was otherwise acting exactly as she always has. It would require me to put a ton of importance on what the scarf is communicating while ignoring all other information I’m getting about her.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            It really depends on how many of the coworkers even know what a tichel is and how many of them might know other liberal Jews reclaiming traditional practices.

    2. TL -*

      Honestly, I don’t think any of that changes any of the advice. (But glad you shared)
      Your religion and your expression of it are between you, your god, and sometimes your rabbi. I think if it makes you feel closer to your god/religion or better, than that’s all the reasoning you ever need to give.

    3. Jess*

      Thanks for the clarification, OP. That’s helpful.

      So why tie it to Judaism at all? It’s not part of the denomination you’re converting into, and your reason here isn’t a religious one. I wear a baseball cap a lot of the time for some of the same reasons.

      I guess I have a problem with people converting into my religion and immediately changing it for themselves and then claiming that the change is part of the religion. It feels really uncomfortable to me, and disrespectful to the conversion process, and given the history of the religion and the millenia of persecution, not automatically free of danger. And that is true even though there are a gazillion ways that individuals who grew up in the religion practice it. If you’re not on board with the religion as it is — don’t convert. There are reasons why the conversion process is hard and potential converts are supposed to be dissuaded, and this is one of them. Once you’re in, you’re in and treated like any other Jew (granted that’s a little more law than social behavior), but if you’re already out of alignment with its practices and trying to change laws and practices to be more queer-friendly (as you acknowledged in another comment), maybe it’s not actually the religion for you.

      I’m sure I’ll get flamed for this, and I don’t mean it disrespectfully, but I do mean it.

      1. I wanna be a rock star*

        Thank you for sharing your view; I hadn’t thought about that side of it, and I appreciate your courage.

      2. Not A Manager*

        Well, I won’t flame you, but I think you’re very wrong. And I do think it’s pretty disrespectful to essentially accuse the LW of hypocrisy and cultural appropriation.

        I would, however, LOVE to hear your summary of what “If you’re not on board with the religion as it is — don’t convert,” actually means. Please explain to me and to the LW “Judaism as it actually is.” I’d love to have a definitive roadmap of How To Jew and clearly I’m in the right place.

        Can you do it standing on one foot?

      3. KeepIt*

        “If you’re not on board with the religion as it is don’t convert” – where…did OP EVER give the indication that she was not wholly on board with the religion. Why are so many commenters starting with an assumption that she’s not taking this process very seriously (which the letter and all of her comments indicate that she is – I mean the process of converting has been a year already, that indicates to me that she’s very serious about this??) At what level does the OP have to justify herself to you, a complete stranger on the internet, about her choice of religious or personal expression?? You might not “mean” it disrespectfully but it IS disrespectful. Incredibly so. Also why a preoccupation with being the sole gate keeper of a religion? I hope the reaction she gets in her real life is no where near the awful reaction some of the commenters are having here

        1. KeepIt*

          also the OP wrote in for advice on how to handle making this change at work/the questions that would come from it. Frankly, she’s not asking for permission here and it’s not really our concern why she’s chosen to wear a head covering nor how she chooses to handle it with her personal and religious life

      4. OP #3*

        So, this was definitely a difficult comment to read, but I’m trying to approach this with an assumption of good faith.

        I don’t really want to get into my conversion bonafides. Fundamentally, I began converting knowing that there were going to be people who would never see me as Jewish and I’ve long since made peace with that. The only thing I will say is that this isn’t something I’ve done on a whim. Converting at all has been the culmination of several years of thought and question and wrestling with a lot of these questions.

        I’m not converting to change Jewish law and practices to be queer friendly. I’m a queer person that is converting and figuring out how to adopt practices in a way that resonates and feels authentic to who I am.

        I don’t know what your background is, but the Reform movement that I’m from focuses hard on looking at tradition and interrogating practices to find the one that works for each individual person. Part of my individual journey has been thinking about wearing a tichel.

        I’m not wearing a baseball cap because covering my hair is inspired by my conversion at the same time that it is not something I feel like I have to do. It’s fundamentally entwined with my religion. To me, it’s not unlike wearing the magen David. Nothing says you have to — many secular Jews wear them, too.

        There is no part of me that doubts that Judaism is the right religion for me. And I accept that means wrestling with many thousands of years of tradition, much of which isn’t historically friendly to me. Part of the joy I have gotten is in finding the resonance for who the person I am in those traditions.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          This is a very gracious comment, with a lot of helpful personal information you didn’t have to share, and I appreciate you for being willing to do so. Congratulations on your conversion and on making it everything it needs to be for you. <3

        2. Jess*

          Thanks for sharing this, OP. I appreciate this: “figuring out how to adopt practices in a way that resonates and feels authentic to who I am.” And I wish you well in your journey.

          I would suggest that being Jewish also comes with a responsibility to your fellow Jews (both built into the religion and derived historically/culturally from the unfortunate history of anti-semitism), which includes being aware of how your own practices impact others. Not that there is one right answer to this, or that someone else gets to decide how you practice. But there -is- an impact on the community to individual choices (which some of the commenters have noted), and I hope your journey is including thoughtfulness about that as well as about what resonates for you personally. Best, Jess

        3. Zev*

          Beautiful response. There are as many Judaisms as there are Jewish people, and that plurality is one of the things that makes it so lovely. If anyone tells you you’re “not doing it right”, remember THEY are the ones actually not doing it right. *ahem*

        4. Karen from Finance*

          OP, I’m sorry you are having to deal with this crap right now. Your journey is no one’s but your own, you shouldn’t have to be giving explanations to anyone.

          Thank you for sharing so much of your context with us, this is a very personal thing and I appreciate thst.

          Best of luck in your journey.

      5. Not A Manager*

        Also, this is inaccurate: “you’re already out of alignment with its practices and trying to change laws and practices to be more queer-friendly (as you acknowledged in another comment).”

        The LW said that she is taking an accepted practice (a married woman covering her hair), and “making it queer.” That’s quite different from CHANGING laws and practices to make them queer-friendly. In her denomination, gay marriage is accepted. She’s just as legit a married woman covering her hair as anyone else.

        She’s married, she’s covering, she’s queer. She’s also Jewish. Get over it.

        1. Not A Manager*

          Cross-posted with the LW. I’m getting too invested in this so I’m going to back out now.

          @LW – Mazel tov. Best wishes on your continuing journey.

    4. Kali*

      OP3, I hope things go well for you. :) Absolutely not the same thing, but I’m currently figuring out my feelings about being a Catholic atheist, and what parts of my religion have value to me, what I have a right to, which beliefs I agree with, what the Bible is to me and how I interpret it and so on. Also lefty and a stem undergrad, so a lot of people around me don’t really understand why I would want to maintain Catholicism, especially without a literal belief. I relate to your letter, because I feel like the journey may be similar, even if the details are different.

    5. Anonymous Poster*

      You have the best read on how this will fly in your environment. Where I am now, and my previous couple places, no one would have really batted an eye, even knowing your beliefs. I would just chock it up to personal style, really, and not want to ask more.

      I suppose if someone asks you can always say just for personal reasons and move on, though. Most people won’t really pry into this.

    6. KeepIt*

      hope things go well for you OP! It’s incredibly disappointing that some of the commenters here are insisting you explain what you’ve already clearly stated is a personal and religious choice.

    7. SPDM*

      Hey OP 3,
      I’m not sure where you are, but in some places where I have lived, there haven’t been a lot of Jewish women who covered their hair this way (maybe they were wearing wigs and I didn’t know, but I didn’t note Jewish women covering their hair at all in the heavily Jewish area where I grew up), and there were only a couple of Muslim families where women wore a hijab. As a cancer survivor, I would straight-up assume you had cancer rather than converted. Depending on where you live, you might want to have some ready explanation of what it means in terms of religion–even though nobody deserves/needs to know your motivations, it seems obvious from the comments that it would help friends and acquaintances and random internet strangers understand your choices. (And prepare for some people to think you have cancer and become bizarrely solicitous….)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, OP#3 —
        Depending on your circumstances, you may get fewer questions about religion and more about your health. Like SPDM, I’m a cancer survivor and when I see a head wrap, my first thought is “chemo” rather than “religion.”

        You’ve obviously given a lot of serious thought to your religious transition. Just don’t be rendered speechless if kind-hearted people start asking about your health.

    8. Ginger Baker*

      So, for completely-unrelated-to-religion issues, I wore a few different scarves on my head for maybe two or three weeks straight a few years back at my BigLaw, NYC firm. Exactly zero was said to me about it. Now, being in NYC I am certain had a lot to do with that, and also, I probably would have eventually gotten some comments had I kept it up long term, but fwiw there is nothing wrong – if you want and don’t work in a crappy work environment that demands a religious “excuse note” to wear anything covering your hair – with just replying “I just like wearing them” and declining altogether to mention religion at all unless you want to. It’s not a lie at all – they make you feel “more like myself” – also a GREAT response, and chances are good that if you have decent coworkers and environment to start with, folks will quickly accept that as your new normal and move on with their lives to things like “hey, did you send the TPS report yet?” and “love that teal scarf! it really makes your eyes pop”. (And definitely definitely go check out wrapunzel, recommended above, I just did and I am soooooo in love with some of these AND btw one of the recent posts, someone says almost exactly the same “centered and safe and ME” comment as you put forth! Love it.)

    9. Zev*

      HELLO my darling OP and welcome to the tribe!!! I am a Refirm queer enby and my spouse is in the process of converting so it had been a Grand Old Time. Have you heard about the new(ish) Reformadox thing The Kids are doing lately? It’s specifically about re-engaging with the more Orthodox-style rituals (ranging from dress to kosher to tefillin to shabbat And Beyond) but from a Reform theological standpoint. You can think of it as throwing modernity into theology, or throwing ritual into Reform, or something along those lines. So I have a good fellow queer enby friend who is deeply involved at their Super Queer Reform temple, who also wraps tefillin and wears their kippa everywhere. And I have another friend who is a trans man who wears a tichel on shabbat. Queerness is absolutely compatible with Judaism and wearing whatever you want / observing however you want to observe doesn’t change that. The possibilities and the ways you can engage with Judaism’s theology, ritual, expression, culture are limitless and I feel such joy for you as you begin to explore how to express yourself with it in ways that make you feel good.

      If you have not yet read Anita Diamant’s books, go for it. I also personally recommend Leonard Cohen’s poetry; he has a wonderful poem which goes: “Anyone who says / I’m not a Jew / Is not a Jew / I’m sorry / This decision is final.” Also there is a new book out last month I will have to look up the title for but it’s something Judaism + “queer bodies” and it looks amaaaazingggg.

      Personally: depending on my mood, I wear a crocheted tichel or kippa on Shabbat. It makes me feel good and is a great physical reminder to me that nope, today is Shabbat, and I am going to Shabbat this Shabbat like whoa. I already dress modestly (because, yknow, genderflocked).

      At work I wear my Magen David necklace, which no one has commented on other than to compliment it. I feel that if I were to wear a tichel to work, I would get 1 or 2 curious questions from the folks who know absolutely zip about Judaism, and I might get a raised eyebrow from the Jewish staff members, but I’m confident that “Because I like it” would be sufficient to quell discussion. Especially since my bag would still have the large “QUEER AF” button prominently displayed.

      For you, I feel like it really will depend on your office culture if people will say anything, or ask questions, or just compliment how nice it looks. If you have worries that people may assume you are less queer / lefty than before — can you express that through the fabric pattern of the tichel itself? Either bold pride colors (if you can get away with it in your office) or more subtle prints (small rainbows / unicorns / multicolored hearts on a solid background, maybe? Or a solid color with thin rainbow stripes?).

      Anyway — congratulations again, mazel tov, welcome welcome welcome! insert 18 heart emojis here!

        1. Zev*

          Honey! It’s ok, crying is good for us (science says so). I am emitting hug-type vibes at you right now!

          Here are TWO books you may like:

          A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969, edited by Noam Sienna with Foreword by Judith Plaskow

          Jewish Bodylore: Feminist and Queer Ethnographies of Folk Practices (Studies in Folklore and Ethnology: Traditions, Practices, and Identities) by Amy Milligan

          Also, the tumblr account yidquotes is very active and very beautiful

          (Also also, on the random off chance that you are possibly maybe slightly nerdy and know what AO3 is, please let me direct you to the “Jewish Bucky Barnes” tag, a treasure trove of awesomeness if you are into Marvel & fanfic).

            1. Zev*

              AND YOU GET A HUG AS WELL.

              (Go read some fanfic, you’ll feel b…etter?)

              My final rec of the night is for everyone to watch the music video of the song “Candlelight” by the Maccabeats, it’s Honka-tastic.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          ::queer Jewish convert fistbump::

          If there are any Reconstructionist shuls in your area, you might want to check them out as well — we do a lot of queering traditional ritual :-)

      1. Karen from Finance*

        This was fascinating to read, from the perspective of someone who knows little to nothing about Judaism but always wants to learn.

        Thank you for that. And congratulations on… Just everything. You sound awesome.

        1. Zev*

          “Living a Jewish Life” by Anita Diamant is a general overview of the lived experience of Judaism. It’s a very accessible read, written with a lot of love and good, clear prose. I recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about Judaism(s) and how it all works. <3

  26. Lena Clare*

    Wow my overly tired brain scanned that headline and came up with ”how to escape a kitchen interview”!

    I actually would like that, I hate being in the kitchen making my lunch when the boss(es) come in and having to make small talk while my pitta is toasting or my soup is heating up etc.

    Totally not related at all. Just thought I’d share the below about kitchen etiquette:
    A woman heated fish up in the microwave the other day and stank the WHOLE floor out, (the office I work in is next to the kitchen, her office is at the far end of the building on the same floor, grr) and then to make matters worse she then came into my office at the end of the day and sprayed some air freshener in the room without even asking if it was ok, which I hate almost as much as I hate scented candles for the impact it has on both my lungs and the environment. I managed, between gasping coughs to ask her not to do that and her response was ”I’m just trying to get rid of the smell of fish”. She then left the building to go home and I was stuck for another hour in an office which smelt of fish, choking on air freshener fumes!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Obviously someone complained about her fish — but air fresheners are one of my migraine triggers so I’d rather have kept smelling fish!

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh she knew about the fish, it stank even her office out although she’s at the other side of the building! Spreading air freshener was her way of trying to make up for the fact she’d made the offices smell of fish!… But I agree I’d rather have that than the air freshener.

      2. Emily K*

        A few weeks back I took a Lyft to the airport, about a 25-30 minute ride. The driver had FOUR air fresheners hanging from his rear view mirror and I developed a headache about 15 minutes into the ride and then spent the last 10-15 minutes wondering if I would look rude if I opened a window and wishing I was at the airport already. (I’m super conflict-avoidant so ultimately did not open the window or say anything. In the last 5 minutes or so I started to seriously worry that I was going to throw up. Couldn’t get out of that car fast enough!)

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        Oh for crying out, fish lady. If you want to spray something, get permission and spray unscented Febreze.

    2. Lemon Pledge*

      I would fully support banning microwaves in offices just so no one could microwave fish or burn popcorn. I dread boy scout popcorn season when everyone decides they can microwave popcorn and run to the bathroom while it pops. Adding in people who spray air freshener so that we have peony scented fish. This is my hill to die on, its lent in the US and its going to be a smelly few weeks.

      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I’m so paranoid about being the hated coworker that I won’t even bring tuna salad on Fridays. There are so many other meatless options I can pursue in a communal kitchen (hard boiled eggs, pasta, lentils, chickpeas) that it’s not worth taking the chance of microwaving something so universally hated.

        1. Lemon Pledge*

          I love Tuna Salad but I have made such a big deal about people microwaving fish and burning popcorn I cant bring it for lunch.

        2. Emily K*

          Wait, is tuna salad a thing people microwave and eat hot? I’ve always encountered it as a cold sandwich.

    3. Hold My Cosmo*

      Wow my overly tired brain scanned that headline and came up with ”how to escape a kitchen interview”!

      I turned “how to escape an exit interview” into “how to escape an interview” and was trying to figure out if people who did poorly got locked in a basement or what. ALISON, GAVE BAD ANSWER TO WHERE I SEE MYSELF IN FIVE YEARS, SEND HELP.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Maybe they get locked out on a balcony, to combine that with a letter from a while back!

  27. The Doctor*

    LW #1…

    If reusing yogurt and sour cream containers is “unprofessional,” then Picky Boss is more than welcome to provide Official Professional Lunch Containers to everybody and enforce their use.

    1. Lemon water*

      Or maybe just put your stuff up, its a shared space if everyone leaves their stuff out there is no room. FWIW if I saw a used empty sour cream container I would toss it too.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If someone leaves it dirty in the sink, I’ll support you — but I do not recommend you discard something that’s recently washed and on the drying rack.

  28. Yida Mala*

    “frum” is generally understood to mean religiously observant in the orthodox Jewish manner.
    Most likely a corruption of the German word “fromm” (religious)

    1. Yida Mala*

      Hmmm that was intended to be a response to
      March 12, 2019 at 2:28 am
      what does “frum” mean?

      1. curly sue*

        It’s definitely Yiddish, making it a word from a fusion language (German, Hebrew, Aramaic, and some Slavic influence, I believe) rather than a ‘corruption.’

  29. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Surely reusing yogurt containers is environmentally friendly? I fail to see how unprofessional comes in to this!

    1. RandomU...*

      Not condoning the boss, but I’ve seen break rooms that are awash in a sea of sour cream and butter containers. I get using them, but those things have a way of multiplying at rate higher than rabbits. Then nobody ever matches the lid to the container so eventually it’s a wasteland of mismatched brightly colored stained containers that nobody ever seems to own but yet never gets thrown away because nobody knows whose it is.

      1. Observer*

        If that’s the problem, then the boss should say so. And there are a lot of ways to deal with that other than just chucking anything you see.

      2. Moonbeam Malone*

        I’m the sort to reuse those kinds of containers, but also the sort to write my name on both the lid and the container in Sharpie so they aren’t accidentally discarded, haha. (Sadly what OP’s boss is doing doesn’t sound at all accidental. Boss is being overly punitive and fussy, but the best option probably is to just wash things immediately.)

  30. Cadbury Creme Egg's*

    #1 Calling everyone in to see who left the mess is over the top. However expecting everyone to clean up as they go in a shared space and not leave your belongings in a shared space is should be expected. Its a shared office kitchen when you walk away it should be clean, back in order, and nothing of yours should be there. There is usually one sink and 1-2 microwaves, a coffee pot, toaster on a small counter that the office or floor is using in a shared kitchen, be courteous clean up immediately or don’t use the kitchen.

    FWIW my husband eats out, or brings a sandwich and chips because he doesn’t like to clean the shared kitchen. He is a slob and understands he can’t do that at work.

    1. Emily K*

      I always wash up before eating because 1) it’s way easier to clean stuff off if it hasn’t had a chance for food to dry up on it and 2) when I sit down to eat I want it to be the moment I can finally relax because all my work is done, not have a pending wash up hanging over me. I’ve learned from friends and roommates over the years that my views are not universal but “clean up your mess before you leave the area” doesn’t seem like an unreasonable standard to me when you’re sharing space…to another person who encounters your mess it makes pretty much 0% difference whether you’ve abandoned it with no planned of returning or whether you plan to come back and clean it up in 30 or 45 minutes. They don’t know what your cleaning plans are and either way they have to work around your mess in the meantime.

  31. Not So NewReader*

    OP#1. This sounds like NYS health codes. Did your boss used to work in food service? Because, yeah, don’t leave a droplet of food in the sink, wipe the sink before moving on.
    And yes, do not reuse any containers for anything, ever. The idea is that you can never get the container totally clean even if you soak it in bleach water, so reusing containers is totally unacceptable. Additionally do not combine containers. If you have two partial jars of mayo you cannot combine them for any reason. Does not matter that they have the same expiration dates, you cannot combine them.

    I think that these standards are overkill. And I fail to understand why the likes of store bought storage containers of any sort don’t have the problem of cleanliness that reused containers would have. Honestly, I think someone was asleep at the switch when these standards were implemented.

    (Just to be very clear here, I think these standards are nuts. I am only relating what I have seen in food service as things places have been cited for and protocols that are part of training.)

    I would try to find out if there has been a problem with inspectors reviewing your kitchen. There has to be some reason why she is doing this.
    If it turns out this is nothing more than a pet peeve of hers, then my next suggestion is to use the kitchen as little as possible. Someone above said to pack your dirty containers in to your lunch kit and wash them at home. It’s good advice and it’s a routine that is not hard to adapt to.
    I also suggest that you guys take turns covering each other’s backs. Just watch the kitchen and wipe up anything that will trigger a rant.

    My ideal suggestion is that everyone band together and tell her that you all will not be using the kitchen any more because you are tired of being lectured on your unpaid time. But I know it’s hard to get a group of people on the same page so this is just my dreamworld stuff.

    I have had a couple of jobs where I just quietly stopped using the kitchen because of all. the. damn. arguing. Your last recourse might be to tell her privately that you will no longer be using the kitchen for any reason.

    1. Doodle*

      In our office the housekeeper has been hassled by her boss (an all-around turd) when we leave stuff in the sink, even briefly. So most of us are really scrupulous about cleaning as we go, and will clean up other people’s messes too.
      We have no pull whatsoever to get this bozo off her back. No union, either.

  32. Murphy*

    #1: Ahh! At my old job, some of the higher ups threw away my reusable containers (think like the cheap ziploc ones) multiple times. It was clean and in the dish rack. It was a nonprofit and we had a combination kitchen/break room/conference room, so when they cleaned up for board meetings, they’d clean off the counter an throw away my tupperware. I complained about it and they eventually bought me new ones (I didn’t ask them to do that) but their general attitude was that I was being ridiculous. Like…I’m being paid $9 an hour here, guys. I can’t afford to have my tupperware go missing all of the time.

    1. I don't get it*

      Why would you leave your dishes in a conference room when there was board meetings that is the height of rudeness? This is so disrespectful to your company.

      1. Murphy*

        Because as I said, it was the kitchen. And as a $9 an hour employee, I wasn’t really up on the board meeting schedule…

        1. I don't get it*

          It’s a shared space that is used as a conference room. Remove your stuff when your done it doesn’t matter if you make $9 an hour or $100 an hour your wages have nothing to do with putting your toys up. Your pay has no change on being respectful it doesn’t cost money.

          1. Galina*

            It’s a combined kitchen/break room/conference room. Its not unreasonable or disrespectful for Murphy to expect to be able to do normal kitchen things, like let dishes dry in the drying rack. Its actually pretty disrespectful of the board to take over the employees’ kitchen/break room for their meetings and expect it to be spotless with no dishes in sight.

            1. Murphy*

              Yeah, if I was working during a board meeting, I had to eat dinner at the clock-in/out computer in the hallway.

            2. Colette*

              I’m pretty firmly of the belief that you shouldn’t leave your dishes (clean or dirty) in or around the sink area in a shared kitchen. If you want to wash them at work, do so and then put them away. The drying rack is there for them to dry while you’re washing the rest of your dishes, it’s not a storage area.

              If you leave them there, you have no control over what happens to them, and if they get disposed of, that’s a lesson to put them away next time.

              1. Emily K*

                Leaving dishes in the drying rack until they are dry is a perfectly normal behavior even in a shared space. That’s what a drying rack is actually for – to allow dishes to air dry so you don’t have to towel them dry. If you were only supposed to put your dishes in the rack while you were actively standing at the sink, a drying rack would be close to useless and might as well not even be there. You can set a wet dish on the counter for the 10 seconds it might take you to wash a second dish if you even have a second dish just as easily as you could set it in a drying rack if you were supposed to pick it up again while it’s still wet.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Don’t leave your stuff in the kitchen.

          I feel like this is just basic. Why is there even a drying rack? People should just dry their dishes and put them away. Having a drying rack just invites people to leave their personal items in common spaces. “Clean up your mess before you eat” and “Put your dishes away in your bag when you’re done” would solve like 90% of shared kitchen spaces.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I’d rather something air-dry for half an hour than use the same drying towel as everyone else does – sure, you only use the drying towel on a wet dish, but Fergus wipes his greasy hands on it.

            And paper towels don’t dry things.

            1. RandomU...*

              Can’t you dry things on your desk? I mean, give the dish a good shake and it’s 80% or more dry already.

              Are dish rack people the same as ‘let it soak’ people? That’s one thing I’ve never figured out. Letting a dish soak only gives you cold wet stuck on food vs. a good scrub from the get go. I kind of view both the let it soak and the air dry as procrastination tools.

              1. Janie*

                No… letting a dish soak in hot soapy water gives the soap and water time to lift the mess instead of me scrubbing the same spot for 10 minutes and injuring myself.

              2. Autumnheart*

                Baked-on food often requires a soak to soften it. However, nobody should be soaking their dish at work either. Take it home and soak it there.

              3. TootsNYC*

                if you’ve soaked a dish, you shouldn’t have stuck-on food anymore (a cooking pan, yes, you might not get it all off with a soal–but not a plate, bowl, glass, serving bowl).

              4. Emily K*

                While both the dish racking and the soaking sink are widely abused by lazy people, they both serve a valid, useful purpose. I am borderline neurotic about cleaning and I use both.

                I soak any dish that food has dried onto – the difference is I soak for 5-10 minutes literally to give the water time to penetrate the food; I don’t put dishes in the sink to soak and then figure I’ll come back in 6-8 hours when/if I feel like it.

                And anything that can’t go in the dishwasher and needs hand-washing, goes in the drying rack until it’s dry enough to put away. Again here, the difference between me and a lazy person is I don’t keep piling new dry dishes on top of the old ones because I don’t feel like putting them away. From my POV if I put away dishes that are still semi-wet, I’m just inviting mold to grow in my cabinets.

                I’m really quite baffled by the concept of a drying rack not being an acceptable place to dry things when as far as I’ve always known that is the very thing they are designed for.

                1. Running with scissors*

                  At home that makes sense, in a office where you are sharing the kitchen including the drying rack with 20+ people it does not make sense. I’m not even going to go into the idea that you need to soak dishes at work.

            2. Autumnheart*

              Of course paper towels dry things. But so what if your dishes are a little damp, are you going to melt if you touch droplets of water bringing your dishes back to your desk?

            3. TootsNYC*

              paper towels dry things well enough that you can let them finish air-drying at your desk or in your tote.

          2. Canadian Natasha*

            Accordong to food safety standards, air drying is much safer than putting away wiped dry dishes because the residual dampness can breed germs. If their kitchen is anything like ours at work the paper towel is the only washing or drying tool (we got rid of the disgusting never-washed cloths) so it’s by far the best option to air dry.

          3. Emily K*

            My office is LEED certified and we make an effort to reduce our waste, so we have a drying rack because having 150 people use paper towels to dry their dishes ever day would be wasteful and ecologically harmful, and nobody wants to deal with the need to launder dish towels in a shared environment where the building-provided cleaning service doesn’t include laundry service.

            1. Dusty*

              How large is the drying rack for 150 people, hopefully its not the usual home drying rack that is in most office kitchens. If it is its not been put there with the thought for everyone to use.

      2. Apologies*

        But the conference room is also a kitchen, and the dishes were in a dish rack….which is a place where dishes are fully allowed to be. I don’t understand why you’d find this disrespectful?

        1. I don't get it*

          To start its a shared space its disrespectful to leave your things when your not there because other people use the space and need it to clean their dishes, there is no way there is enough room for everyone to wash and leave their dishes to dry. Its not your home, its not meant for you to leave your things out it is shared, meaning it is there for all not a few. Also its used as a conference room for the company, while they realize its a kitchen as well that doesn’t mean someone should leave their things there all day.

          1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

            But if the board had a problem with it, there are so many other options that are more respectful to their employees as already discussed below. Surely throwing away another person’s property is worse than an employee drying their dishes in a shared space.

            1. Autumnheart*

              Respect goes both ways. As people said, the break room isn’t one’s personal home, and personal belongings shouldn’t be stored there. If losing a few Glad containers drives that lesson home, so be it.

              1. TassieTiger*

                Whew. Cold.
                Also, the “if they have to lose a few containers” is sounding paternalistic…like… “I clean off the living room couch and if the kiddo’s toys get tossed, so be it.”
                Can’t help but wonder why you’re choosing to come down so hard on this.

                1. Batgirl*

                  Some people have a really rigid rule on this stuff simply because they assume it’s a universal law. No one in my workplace minds the drying rack being used for air drying clean dishes (they prefer it over providing drying materials) and if someone does… either don’t provide one or don’t use it?

              2. Delphine*

                This is nuts. You’re allowed to use a shared space for one of the purposes it’s been designated for. Don’t throw away people’s possessions. The end.

          2. Emily K*

            The refrigerator is also a shared space and people leave food in it when they aren’t there. Leaving something in a place designated for those type of things is not the same as just leaving things strewn about where they don’t belong.

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            Also the board members are higher-ranking, so they expect a certain amount of deference from the other employees.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It’s things like this that make me avoid the office kitchen as much as possible. I usually rinse out my containers and take them home, put them straight into the dishwasher. People might think that’s gross, but I’ve dealt with too much office kitchen ridiculousness to take my chances. I also don’t leave my mug in the kitchen. Ironically, perhaps, one of the consequences of my office kitchen avoidance is that I leave other people’s stuff the heck alone. I honestly don’t understand how grown people can’t see something that’s not theirs and simply leave it.

    3. EPLawyer*

      This is actually reasonable. You know the room is used for board meetings. Having dishes drying in the rack during board meetings looks unprofessional. Wash your containers and dry them immediately. Take them back to your desk.

      It’s about everyone being able to use the shared space. Be mindful of others, not just your own needs.

      1. Murphy*

        It’s reasonable to throw out other people’s stuff to clean up for a meeting they had no idea was happening? Those meetings were maybe once a month. I had a 30 minute lunch break that I often didn’t get to take until after 2pm and I didn’t have a desk. I mean, why have a drying rack next to the sink if people aren’t allowed to use it?

      2. Galina*

        If the board requires a dish-free space for their meetings, maybe they shouldn’t have meetings in a kitchen.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Or, you know, make an announcement the day before. It’s not that hard to say “Board meeting tomorrow, so the kitchen needs to be SPOTLESS. We’re cleaning everything out at 3.”

          1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

            Lily, this to me would make too much sense (which means that it probably wouldn’t happen). There is also the problem of maybe the higher-ups thought that message was going out and not realizing that the min wage workers weren’t seeing the schedule.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            YES. It’s no skin off their nose to let people know.

            If the company doesn’t have the space to have board meetings anywhere but the kitchen, maybe those meetings should take place off-site. Go to a restaurant that has a private dining room–I’ve worked for plenty of small companies that do this with employee luncheons.

          3. Tiny Soprano*

            And even then there’s no need to throw out clean containers that were on the drying rack. It’s easy enough to put them in a drawer or at reception and send around an email saying where they can be collected. Throwing them out is so weirdly passive-aggressive.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Or maybe they can toss the dishes into the cabinet below the sink?

          I mean, there has to be SOME storage space there, no? Chuck the “other people’s possessions” in the sink cabinet out of sight.

      3. Hiring Mgr*

        Having a board meeting in a kitchen is far less professional than having dishes where they’re supposed to be..

    4. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I would be annoyed that people threw out my containers, but I wouldn’t make a stink about it. And after the first time it happened, I would stop leaving them in the drying rack.

    5. LawBee*

      “I’m being paid $9 an hour here, guys. I can’t afford to have my tupperware go missing all of the time.”

      Theoretically you could have afforded to dry your tupperware and take it back to your desk after they tossed it the first time.

  33. The Doctor*

    LW #2…

    It’s not actually an “exit interview.” It’s a “Boss making himself feel better by yelling at you” session. Feel free to say so to your Grand Boss, then prepare your transition documentation, then get out of there and don’t look back.

    1. Minocho*

      Yes. I’ve gone to these both at work and in my personal life. Someone is offended and they want to yell at me for a bit. For work, the reason to go is obvious. In my personal life, they have been very good friends, and they were embarrassed by my asking to work through a problem they didn’t realize was a problem. I went, knowing that they would yell at me for a bit (if they hadn’t been super awesome in general, this would not have been something I did), and they felt better and we moved on.

      If you go in knowing it’s pointless and just making occasional noncommital noises, that reframing may help you. Don’t agree to or sign anything, though!

      Be like one of the robots for the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, except you’re not trying to keep the conversation going, but trying to end it.

    2. LKW*

      Yup, when I got fired (a story I’ve told before), my boss wanted me to be upset. He wanted to think he had the upper hand. And while getting fired was not ideal, I already had a new job lined up and had figured out I was getting fired at this meeting so I was totally emotionally prepared for it.

      So when he asked “So do you have anything you want to say?” I just smiled and said “Nope!” I mean, I could have easily ranted about how unprofessional this guy was, how I’d never had to lie to clients because he was having a temper tantrum and couldn’t be bothered to show up for scheduled meetings. How “brilliance” wasn’t an excuse for bad management, but it would have done no good and been totally pointless.

      The best you can do here is just reiterate that you’ve said what you needed to say, you’ve heard his justifications, and you’re still moving on.

      But I would invite HR to that meeting, because he’s ridiculous.

    3. Op #2*

      Fortunately, there will definitely be no yelling! The “making himself better” part will probably be achieved in a different, less loud way.

  34. always in email jail*

    I feel a theme developing this week, where the message from bosses isn’t necessarily wrong… but the delivery is VERY VERY wrong

    1. LKW*

      I had a manager try to ruin my career with skewed and venomous language on a performance report. I sat with his boss and said “He makes valid points, but the language is inflammatory and at no point does he acknowledge his contribution nor the progress I’ve made since then.” I asked him to think about my feedback and to come back to me in a week.

      He came back a few days later and he acknowledged that he knew the performance report wouldn’t be received well. However he also acknowledged that my reaction to it was unexpected, he expected me to get upset and instead I pointed out both the valid parts and the less than appropriate language choices. He agreed with my assessment of the language and he took responsibility for updating it, keeping me involved so that we agreed on the language.

      Did I mention boss dropped this on me the afternoon before he was taking a 3 week vacation? Boss came back from his honeymoon to find the client had requested I stay on and that I now reported to boss’ boss. I barely spoke to him the rest of the project.

    2. Observer*

      Uh, no. Yesterday’s boss actually did NOT have a “legitimate” problem. Being upset at your staff member for not sharing the medical information is not CLOSE to a legitimate problem. And given that this was the core of her complaint about the OP’s attendance, it’s hard to see that complaint as legitimate.

      Even today’s boss doesn’t quite meet that criteria. “Clean up after yourself before you leave the kitchen” is actually quite reasonable. But “reusing food containers is so unprofessional I’m throwing yours out” is totally NOT a reasonable complaint. Not just not a reasonable response, but not a reasonable issue to raise.

  35. LadyByTheLake*

    #5 I took a few months when I got let go from my last job — no one gave it a thought when I reported that I had been working on a house remodeling project.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I don’t understand why people wouldn’t assume that you and OP#5 had been job hunting unsuccessfully in that time!

      I mean, few people get a new job immediately.

      I wouldn’t even ask “what have you been doing in the meanwhile.” Or if I did, it would be casual small talk, like “had a couple interviews; cleaned out the garage; have enjoyed a bit of time w/ family without having to get up early and commute.”

      What else is there to say? It’s only when it gets to be 6 to 9 months that I might wonder.

    2. Gerald*

      Layoffs are almost always stressful and anyone who can afford to take a break and return to the workforce in a good mood should be appreciated. I’m surprised interviewers are asking! Maybe they are stressed and envious of the LW’s good attitude.

        1. Gerald*

          Maybe try to reframe the question as a positive one, if it is making you anxious? When I interviewed for a new hire, my colleague suggested that I ask about something people enjoy doing outside of work, to get them to talk enthusiastically about a topic (it didn’t matter the topic, the key was to try and get them out of the ‘anxious interviewee mindset’ in order to better judge their conversational skills). I can’t speak for your situation, but maybe this is a similar attempt to be a bit conversational? I don’t think their question is necessarily positive, although it probably depends upon the tone, as a few months’ break after a layoff seems extremely rational and shouldn’t be questioned, but I think an answer which says “I am in a much better mood now and am keen to work hard” would be great. Give them the impression that you are keen, not discouraged, by your job search. I recently moved jobs and have had a few people comment on how positive I am, and I have no problems saying “I came from a negative workplace, so am really excited to be valued!” (I didn’t say anything during the interview, but it’s a small community and no one is surprised)

          Best of luck in your job search, and based on your logic and insights I think anyone would be lucky to have you!

  36. Ali G*

    #5 – I took 6 months before I started looking after leaving my last job (for a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with now). My go-to answer was “I was lucky enough to be in a position where I didn’t need to jump right into my next job. I used that time to really narrow down on what I wanted in my next position. That is why I am really excited about this job…” (then you can pivot into what you decided would be a good fit for you and why this job is).

    1. Christa*

      Thank you, I have been trying to reiterate that I took some time to refresh, do home projects (which I did) and have now started to determine what my next steps would be. I guess having never been through this situation before I am getting anxious.

  37. LaDeeDa*

    Avoiding an exit interview is the worst!!! It is going to be so awkward and uncomfortable, even using the great scripts from Alison. They will try to wear you done and will keep asking the same question in multiple ways to try to get you to answer. Just hold strong!!! I hope you will post an update. Good luck!

  38. xarcady*

    #1. At OldJob, the owner made it clear that she didn’t like seeing dishes in the kitchen sink. Now, to be fair, there was a small group of people who ate lunch, put their dishes in the sink, and came back a couple of hours later to wash them. I suspect this was to kill time–there was no reason they couldn’t have washed the dishes immediately after eating.

    It was a small kitchen and even a plate or two left in the sink made using it more difficult. And beside, the boss was telling everyone not to leave dishes in the sink!

    We were in the process of moving to a larger space and I advocated for a dishwasher in the breakroom and the owner agreed and it was included in all the plans. But then something happened, I’m not sure what, but the owner must have seen some huge mess in the kitchen and gotten really upset, because the next thing I knew, she told me that the dishwasher was not happening–because the staff “didn’t deserve it.”

    People had really been looking forward to the dishwasher and they were upset when it was cancelled, but they brought that on themselves.

    The mess has to be cleaned up at some point. When your boss enters the kitchen, she has no idea who made the mess or when it was made or when it will be cleaned up. All she sees is a mess left behind. And maybe she’s noticed that they don’t always get cleaned up every day or something?

    I don’t agree with her way of dealing with it, but I do think that if she wants messes cleaned up when they happen, people should do that. It’s usually easier to clean up spills and such before they dry up, anyway. She isn’t asking for anything extra–just doing what you would do normally, but on her schedule, not yours.

    The containers? Yeah, she’s out of line on those.

    1. TootsNYC*

      this “they don’t deserve it” is sort of funny.

      The dishwasher wasn’t intended as a reward. It was intended as a solution, a tool to use to solve a particular problem.

      When the problem demonstrated that it really was a problem, instead of saying, “Now I KNOW I need that tool,” she threw the whole solution out.

      She’s really only hurting herself. She could have had a kitchen without as many dirty dishes.

      1. Emily K*

        Right, this is some Mr Miyagi crap…”it is only when you do not need the dishwasher that you will have earned the dishwasher!”

  39. LaDeeDa*

    I use the office kitchen as little as possible. I have a large insulated lunch tote with icepacks. I will heat my food in the microwave if really necessary. I take my dishes home dirty. I wash my coffee mug and my utensils, but I dry them and take them back to my desk. I don’t leave things in the cabinets, I don’t leave my dishes drying in a rack, and I don’t put anything in the refrigerator. It isn’t worth the annoyance of having people steal my stuff, throw it away, complain about it, or use it. It is easier not to participate in that weird little world of the office kitchen.

    1. Garland not Andrews*

      I do this as well. No lunch stolen, no dishes missing. Easy peasy.
      The only time I leave dishes (mug) in the sink is if I set them there and run to the ladies. Then right back to wash up the mug and back to my desk.
      If I do heat up lunch in the microwave, I will wipe up any mess while waiting for my lunch to heat, and wipe up any spatter in the microwave as soon as my food is out.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        Now I work remote, and my husband ate my lunch (dinner leftovers) for breakfast before I was awake. Do you have tips on dealing with that? LOL!

        1. TootsNYC*

          write your name on it with a Sharpie?

          Seriously though, designate a corner of the fridge that’s yours, for leftovers lunches?
          That’s what we did.

          It means you have to decide what’s yours when you’re packing up the leftovers. It might help to pack them in single-serve containers (you might be doing that already) as if you were going to take them in a lunch bag.

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah,I don’t think of the office kitchen the same way I do my own kitchen.

      I don’t “live in it.”

      I use the facilities (sink, coffee maker, microwave) only while I am actively dealing with lunch.