my coworker uses all-caps for everything, can I ask my office to stop swearing, and more

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

1. My coworker uses all-caps for everything

My team recently hired a new employee to help pick up some of the slack when it comes to the admin tasks we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Our new employee (Sansa) is enthusiastic about the job, a quick learner, and well liked by everyone in our organization. Her work is also very consistent and accurate. However, she does have one habit that drives me and my counterpart absolutely mad — she prefers to TYPE IN ALL CAPS.

Now, this wouldn’t be a huge concern if it was just on internal communication (emails to staff, messages on Slack, etc.), but one of her tasks is to draft the letters and memos that go out to our clients and the public. All of the letters she drafts use templates where the writer can fill in the blank on the particulars, meaning random words will be capitalized in the middle of a paragraph. There is nothing about the details she’s entering that warrants the use of all caps (or even bold, underline, or italics). Ultimately, this means either my counterpart or I have to re-do all the work she’s just completed (defeating the point of bringing her on the team) or the letter is sent to the client looking sloppy or poorly generated by a computer.

My counterpart and I discussed this with Sansa early on. We gently questioned if Sansa prefers to write this way because it’s easier to read, hoping we could find a way to adjust her computer screen to increase the font size. She told us that it’s just her preference. I’ve even made a joke (it was appropriate in context of the conversation) about how Sansa “yells” at me through email; to which she giggled, said that’s just how she types, and that I know she’s not trying to be “shouty.” The way I see it, it is an understood rule for anyone using electronic communication THAT ALL CAPS MEANS YOU MUST BE UPSET OR YELLING OR TRYING TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THE MESSAGE.

I hope that we’re not making a bigger deal out of this situation than need be – maybe we need to hear from an outside perspective that this isn’t a big deal and we should move on. But if you think our concerns have some merit, can you offer any advice on how we can address this with Sansa? I know from reading your articles that the next step is to very directly discuss this matter with her. However, I’d hate to go into the conversation where my only defense for asking her to change is “because it’s not how you should do it” or “it looks more professional to type normally.” To me it seems like we’re trying to push our stylistic preferences on her even though our way is the conventional format. Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated!

This isn’t stylistic preference. If she were just doing this in internal emails, then maybe — although even then, it would be reasonable to ask her to stop because it’s harder to read. But doing this in materials that go to clients and the public? No. That’s not okay, and it’s not just a stylistic preference. It’s the same as if she’d decided to send all your materials out in white font in pink paper — you would presumably simply tell her to stop. And you need to do that here too — without the hints and the jokes — just a clear, direct “we need you to do X instead of Y.”

I suspect you feel like you can’t say that so bluntly because you’re not her manager, but actually you can! She was hired to take work off your plates, and you’re having to redo it for her. You 100% have the standing to say to her, “We do need you to stop using all caps so that our materials are consistent and professional and easier to read. Please start using standard case on everything you’re producing for clients and the public.” Then, if she gives you any more work in all-caps, tell her that you can’t use it that way and ask her to re-do it. Not only do you have the standing to say that, but I’d argue you have an obligation to say it — because right now you’re wasting your own time cleaning up her work (which your organization and your manager surely don’t want) or allowing materials to go out looking like they were created by a hostile loon (which they also surely don’t want).

Talk to her today, and enjoy the soothing feel of standard case on your eyes tomorrow.

2. Can I ask my whole office to stop swearing?

So, maybe I just need to adult a little, and this might seem really nit-picky, but I work in a very casual, small office environment that houses different departments (eight office workers and eight yard workers and drivers who are in and out all day), where the majority of people cuss like sailors. The big boss does also; we don’t see him often, but when we do, he’s a sailor as well.

I get there is foul language everywhere, but honestly, hearing the F-bomb a half dozen times before 6 am is difficult.

I have a very good job. Is this just something I need to accept or is changing it possible in your opinion? I have thought that being the one person to say something about it would most likely put me on the “outside” and I’m not sure if it is worth it.

Well … my guess is it’s something you’ll have to decide if you can live with or not. Your situation is different from, say, this letter from someone who had one coworker who was constantly dropping F-bombs. In your case, if it were just one or two people, you could tell them the language bothers you and ask if they could rein it in. But when it’s an entire office of 16 people … that’s the culture, and they’re allowed to have a culture that uses adult language if they want to. (To be clear, there are some things where you’d have standing to ask 16 people to change, like if they were creating a sexually hostile workplace or so forth. You’re not required to live with centerfolds taped on the walls just because other people like it. But profanity isn’t in that category.)

If you feel really strongly about it, you could try saying something to the most frequent offenders, or the ones you’re most comfortable with — and even if they’re the only ones who rein it in, that would at least lower the amount you’re hearing each day. But I don’t think you can single-handedly tell each individual person there that they need to stop, and this is going to be more about whether you can be happy in this culture or not.

3. Is it bad to step back from a management job to a less senior position?

I’m currently a manager of a team of 28. I’ve been with my current employer for nine years, and I’ve been a manager for the last three. I work in the financial services industry in a very high-stress, fast-paced, cutthroat, high-stakes environment. The job has taken its toll on my health over the years. I’m 31 years old and am currently on two medications to control my dangerously high blood pressure. I work 12-hour days and sometimes I even have to work on Saturday mornings to catch up on my reports and other behind-the-scenes tasks that I cannot complete during the standard work week.

I’m about to accept a job offer at another company where I think I would be a great fit. I really like the role that they’re offering me. The thing is, I would not be a manager. I would be starting from the bottom again as an individual contributor. Part of me feels embarrassed and like it’s a sign of failure, because I’m currently a manager and I would be moving down to an individual contributor role. However, I don’t really think being in a management role is doing my health or work-life balance any favors. I like the idea of coming in every day, sitting at my desk, focusing on my own work and being responsible for myself, not other people.

I went through multiple rounds of interviews with the new potential employer and they were very impressed with my work experience and skills. They do not seem to be fazed by the fact that I would be trading down to a lower level role. Part of me still feels weird about it because I’ve grown so much and made so much progress at my current employer, but I just simply cannot stay in this stressful role anymore. Is it common for people to step down from being managers and go back to being individual contributors?

It’s very common! Some people stop managing because they realize they don’t like it (lots of people don’t like it!) or aren’t great at it, some people stop managing because there’s just another role that appeals to them more, some people stop because management just doesn’t happen to be part of the next thing they do.

Management is a huge pain the ass — stressful and often thankless. It sucks that it’s often the only way to move up in your career. But if you’ve found a job that you’d like and that gets you away from a work environment that’s destroying your health, don’t have qualms about taking it. People move around and career trajectories aren’t always perfectly linear. And if you decide you want to move back into management in the future, you’ll be helped by having management experience in your past.

I also wouldn’t think of it as “starting from the bottom again,” unless you’re taking an entry-level role, which I doubt you are. Plenty of individual contributor roles are quite skilled, senior, and respected. I think the management vs. non-management distinction is messing with your head more than it should — and that you should take the job, lower your blood pressure, and revel in the fantastic joy of not being responsible for other people.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I have to pay for an assessment test in an interview

I am in the second step of an interview process. The first was to watch a few videos the company posted on YouTube, then submit a video with your opinion of the videos, detailing why you’re a good fit, what does the future look like with you employed there, etc. The second was to take the Kolbe assessment test, that the applicant has to pay for. All of this has been done via email, no phone.

I’ve been out of the interviewing process for a while now, but it just seems as though we should not have to pay to interview. Is this normal now? I’ve tried googling if this is common but nothing is coming up on the matter at all.

No, this is not normal. You should not need to pay for assessment tests. This is either a scam or a company that doesn’t know what it’s doing (I’m leaning toward the latter, given the inept-sounding first step of their process). I wouldn’t pursue this.

5. Vacations when I’m resigning and starting a new job

I’ve been in talks with a new company and it is likely I will be offered a position in early to mid April. I would like to give three weeks notice to my current employer, but I have one-week vacation booked April 20-27. This week would fall in my notice period. Is that okay?

Also, I have a trip booked for two weeks May 15-29, which would be in the first month at my new company. Is it bad etiquette to take this, and do I need to cancel (I would lose $600 and an amazing trip!) or do most employers understand and accommodate if they are told this in the interview stage? I want to set myself up for success and leave my old company in a good state, but also have had these trips planned for months and would like to take them.

I tend to do all my travelling in the spring and late fall, and it just happens to be bad timing this year.

Some companies won’t let you take vacation time during your notice period because the point of the notice period is to give you and them time to transition your work, and that can’t happen if you’re not there. But because you’re going to give three weeks, that should help — you can frame it as “since I already have a trip booked for part of this time, I’m going to give three weeks notice so I’m still here for two weeks before I leave.” That said, the timing of your resignation could matter. If the trip would be the third week of your notice period, they may tell you to just officially wrap up the week before, leaving that vacation week unpaid (if you’re in a state that doesn’t require employers to pay out accrued vacation time). So factor that in as well.

For your May trip, the time to bring this up with the new employer is once you have an offer but before you’ve accepted it. At that point, explain that you have a pre-planned trip that’s already been paid for and offer to take the time unpaid. Lots of employers will be fine with this; others may not, especially if, for example, it would mean you’d miss important training. But it’s a normal thing to ask about. (They also might just prefer to have you start after the trip is over, but that’s something they’ll suggest if so.)

{ 607 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m baffled that she knows her use of All-Caps is problematic, but laughs it off and still does it.

    That said, Alison is bang on, as usual. You need to tell Sansa, directly, that at a minimum you need her to use standard capitalization when she’s preparing any outward-facing communications. It’s not a style preference—it’s the prevailing norm for communication in your industry (and frankly, in all others). This isn’t Elle Woods printing her resume on pink paper and spraying it with perfume. Sansa’s love of caps is not a sufficient to trump the prevailing norms at your company/team regarding business correspondence.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I’m going to remove this because it’s so derailing (and as far as I know untrue). – Alison

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        I once worked with someone who used all caps and did have some psychological problems but there are so many others with similar problems who type normally that it surely must have been an individual quirk instead of a ‘sign’. Let’s not try to diagnose the employee but just solve the problem.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        I had it from a long-time editor, who noted a writing style among her submissions which included important words in all-caps plus some other stylistic tics, which to her clearly indicated a neurochemical disorder. She said the style of writing was obvious and well-known in the publishing industry, something like, “The most HAZARDOUS of all INTERPLANETERY ALIENS are the LIZARD PEOPLE, who DISGUISE themselves as HOMO SAPIENCE in order to pursue their DEVILISH AGENDA.”

        1. Sylvan*

          I saw writing like that before my escape from journalism. You just brought it all back. :(

          I assumed these were people who didn’t write much doing their best to present occasionally off-beat ideas. It’s not really noteworthy unless they raise the aliens/worldwide conspiracy/threats red flags.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          “I heard it from…” is not evidence.

          The original statement is inaccurate and offensive to many people.

    2. Editor*

      Using dictionary spellings, standard capitalization, and good grammar are essentials of professional business correspondence. Sansa may be the anti-e.e. cummings in private life, but the conventions regarding English in U.S. business settings are so universal that she needs to accept them without any caviling about an in-house style sheet.

      I suppose if she argues you can invoke the Chicago manual, AP style, or even Words into Type, but she really should stop pushing back on this. Using the shift key is not nearly as difficult on a keyboard as it was on a clunky old manual Underwood. (Which makes me wonder — is she a two-finger typist or does she touch type? My son recently noticed that he is one of the few touch typists out of the dozens who work in his office. If you have to ditch Sansa, a typing test would be a legitimate skill screening for the replacement.)

      1. Editor*

        P.S. — If you still have some documents to repair, Word has options for changing all caps to other cases, and I think it can be done in other software products such as Excel. If you aren’t already using these shortcuts to reduce revision time, googling “change case from all caps” and the name of your software may help.

        1. Scarlet2*

          This. Sensa 100% needs to correct it, but it’s generally not necessary to actually re-type text in order to change the case in most text editing software. (And when you can’t do it directly in the software, you can jsut copy-paste the text in Word, change the case and then re-paste it in whichever software you use.

        2. Antilles*

          True, though it’s worth noting that OP still needs to read the paragraph after the case change. Not only are the functions not perfect at catching everything, but the automatic methods usually change all capitals to lower case at once, which is what you want…but it won’t catch product names or other proper nouns which you *want* to be capitalized.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            True, which is an excellent reason that Sansa should just do it correctly to begin with instead of doing the extra work of writing it in all caps, then changing font, then proofing, and then OP needing to proof it yet again.

            Twenty or so years ago my dad, who was actually younger than I am now but who I thought of as “old” used to write me emails in all caps. It hurt my eyes, but he was my dad and not all that savvy about the whole caps = shouting vs lowercase = normal thing. I let it go … because it was only personal email and because…he was my dad. If he’d been some guy that worked for me, regardless of his age, I would have expected him to write professional communications professionally.

            1. MtnLaurel*

              My dad used to do that too (and still does at times). I remember in the dawn of the email age, he wrote an email to our Senator in all caps. I made him retype the whole thing as change case wasn’t an option then. What I told him was a version of “if you want the Senator to think you’re an idiot, fine. leave it that way.” He re-typed it perfectly. The point is, audience matters.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            Yes, changing a document from all caps to sentence case isn’t difficult, in theory, but it’s still a pain in the butt because you’ve then got to go through every sentence and check for proper nouns and all that jazz. It’s truly a pain. Sansa needs to be told to cut this OUT (if you’ll forgive my shouting ;-) ).

            1. Artemesia*

              Sansa should be told clearly that nothing goes to clients that is not perfectly formatted and spelled; how can this have been allowed to go on more day much less indefinitely. She doesn’t get to decide what the public face of the business is. AND SHE should be the one who has to reformat her all caps missives with the OP merely following up to make sure it happens. When the OP redoes her work, the consequence doesn’t fall where it needs to. And with any push back the manager needs to be brought in — she is there to lighten the OP’s load not increase it.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                “…she is there to lighten the OP’s load not increase it.”

                1. OP was doing the work.
                2. They brought in Sansa.
                3. Sansa isn’t doing her work properly.
                4. OP has to take time to go over Sansa’s work.
                5. OP would spend less time just doing it correctly in the first place, and not be stressed at Sansa’s intransigence.
                6. Now…Sansa who is supposed to help is actually making more work for OP.

                All the nope

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Sansa might be able to work the other way around — type everything in lower case and then edit to sentence case and capitalizing product names. Regardless, I agree with Alison that SHE should do the work not OP. Just give it to her as markups like you’d do if she misspelled the CEO’s name.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah, if Sansa really prefers it, she could write this way and boop! it down to sentence case instead of CAPSLOCK. I don’t know that I’d suggest this to her, but it is something she could do as long as she proofed it. She could also use sentence case with a all capsy looking font and then a simple font change could fix it. Again I wouldn’t suggest this to her, but if an all capsy preferred reader is here they could do that instead.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Or she could just do her work, the right way and not waste spend the extra time fixing the caps into standard business format. It strikes me as “this is your job, it needs to be done X way, period.” But…I’m kinda not tolerant of this kind of BS, so there’s that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        4. Ada*

          Yes, Shift+F3 is your friend. Life became a LOT easier once I figured out that little trick for Word.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Yes, Shift+F3 is great, but as others pointed out, it doesn’t help with proper nouns and names, which you would still have to Shift+F3 separately to capitalize.

            It just seems a little lazy to me that she would write in all CAPS…maybe she’s just not sure of her own writing abilities/spelling abilities, despite being able to complete the writing sample and having a professional resume. I work with bilingual people, and they often have random words capitalized.

          2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

            I did not know this. Just tested it. OMG it is fantastic. And if you push the combination twice: the first letter becomes a capital again.

            So this:

            Becomes this after the first time I pressed Shift+F3:
            i like to type in full caps, not! let’s see if i can use a shortcut to change all cap sentences in lower case.

            Use the combo again, it becomes this:
            I like to type in full caps, not! Let’s see if i can use a shortcut to change all cap sentences in lower case.

            You still need to manually change the i into I where necessary, but this is an amazing trick! :D

      2. Sylvan*

        +1. OP, this is a normal and basic thing to expect from her. I’m surprised it’s gone on this long. I’m also wondering about typing skill, which should be a reasonable thing to expect.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I’m wondering how she got through the application process. Were her cover letter and resume in all caps?

          1. OP #1*

            Her application materials were actually all normally formatted. We even had her complete a small writing sample and it was formatted correctly, so this entire scenario was completely unexpected and bizzare.

            1. KimberlyR*

              So she definitely knows the correct way to type for business. She just thinks she’s too special for it.

              1. CM*

                This seems a bit snarky — she’s never actually been told “This is the way to communicate professionally.” It seems to me like one of those things you do early in your career and cringe at later, the equivalent of writing memos in pink sparkly pen before someone tells you that blue or black is standard, and then at the same time you feel like “oh, I should have noticed that” and “but who cares anyway??” and “how was I supposed to know that?” and “does everyone think I’m dumb now?” And then you switch over to the standard way and it’s not a big deal.

                1. LQ*

                  But she has, because she did communicate professionally in her application materials and writing test. So she knows that this isn’t ok. If she really had never been told then she would have done all of that in caps too. I’m not saying the answer isn’t just to tell her that she has to do it in sentence case, but she absolutely knows what she’s doing.

                2. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Nah, I think the snark is deserved. If she knew not to use all caps in the things she wrote in order to obtain the job then she clearly knows already that it is the way to communicate professionally.

                3. KimberlyR*

                  She’s been told not to use all caps and she applied and completed a writing sample correctly. I don’t think she can use the ignorance card on this one. She just wants to use all caps because she prefers it, whether or not it is appropriate. I think the snark is deserved in this circumstance.

                4. sheworkshardforthemoney*

                  I used to write my checks with green ink but they wouldn’t scan so after a rejected check or two I learned to use blue or black ink.

                1. Observer*

                  Which means she has enough background to know better.

                  You simply can’t say that this is a kid who is not only new to the working world, but also doesn’t have anyone who can clue her in.

              2. ChimericalOne*

                It could be less “I’m above all that” and more “I went above & beyond in my interview & application materials but I don’t think that’s necessarily what I have to do in my day-to-day work.” Most people labor over their application materials far longer and more intently than you’d expect them to labor over a page of writing in their daily work. Also, you “dress up” for interviews more than you dress up for daily life at your job. So it wouldn’t be shocking if she thought that typing “correctly” (what we acknowledge here to be correctly) was typing “fancy” and not really worth the extra work for the typical task. It needs to be reinforced to her that this is standard, this is the minimum, this isn’t a matter of preference — she *can* do it. Now she needs to be told that she *must* do it.

            2. JJ Bittenbinder*

              I have to wonder if someone else did her application materials, but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve gotten great advice on how to shut this down, so I hope it won’t be a problem for much longer.

            3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              First off, sit her down and tell her clearly to type in standard style.
              Secondly, I think you should stop thinking you are imposing your personal preference on an individual contributor. You are not. You are giving format guidelines/corporate branding parameters to a team member. This isn’t simply that you think it looks bad (btw, I’ve set type for 25 years and it does) it’s not clear, precise communication.
              What if Sansa were to channel ee cummings?
              would you like to get a letter from mycompany that doesnt use punctuation that would be really annoying maybe thats just my opinion but standards are standards for a reason save your self expression for your blog sansa

              1. Kathleen_A*

                Besides, even if this were a mere stylistic preference (which it most certainly is not), the OP and her company are allowed to have stylistic preferences and to enforce them. Sensa has zero standing here.

                Also, she makes herself and the company look like loons.

                1. RPCV*

                  Yes, exactly. Our company has a designated font for any official documents and a color palette and everything. I may love hot pink & comic sans*, but that doesn’t mean I get to use them when creating customer-facing documents. This is no different from something like that.

                  *I don’t actually like hot pink & comic sans, FWIW.

                2. OfOtherWorlds*

                  Would you work for a company where the official corporate style was something like hot pink comic sans? I wouldn’t. It would drive me insane.

                3. RUKiddingMe*

                  @ RPCV Exactly. We have a default, TNR, 12 point, standard black, normal lowercase/capital as appropriate. Granted I set the standard, but it’s a “normal” style.

                4. Observer*

                  @OfOtherWorlds I certainly wouldn’t want to, either. But a company has the standing to enforce that. Let’s face it, companies do have standing to enforce a lot of very weird and stupid stuff. And some do.

                  But that’s not the issue here. Even if something is just a stylistic preference, if it’s well within the norms of business communications, it’s not just “acceptable” and “within their rights, but it’s actually reasonable and arguably positive to promulgate that through out public facing communications.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Exactly. When I read in all caps, I hear it as the text equivalent of people shouting at me, and I think that’s prtty common.

        If that’s not what Sansa means by it, and she wants to reclaim it, she’s welcome to do so in her own space. But in most correspondence, all caps has a particular connotation and communication with clients isn’t the space to experiment.

        This sort of reminds me of when people have decided that they want a word to mean something different than it means to most people and refuse to recognize that this can be confusing for other people.

        1. Scarlet2*

          And I don’t understand why her reply that “OP know she’s not shouting at her” seems to have gone unchallenged. Even if OP “knows” she doesn’t mean to shout, the clients who receive her documents certainly dont.

          1. LQ*

            And even if the OP knows and OP is redoing all the documents that go out to clients, any emails (etc) that would go to clients need to not be capsed either. It may be that everyone internally knows, but if they deal at all with outside clients that needs to stop. Your coworkers may like you enough to forgive your constant shouting at them but clients won’t.

          2. Zephy*

            “All caps means shouting” has been a convention of electronic communication for literally twenty years. Nobody, but nobody, should expect to get away with “but you know I don’t mean it like that!” anymore.

        2. PhyllisB*

          To me, the only thing worse than all caps is NO CAPS. My grand-children don’t seem to have learned the basics of sentence structure. They will send me texts that say something like, “gram i need to come to your house to pick up my hoodie i forgot” No caps, no punctuation. It drives me batty, but since it’s informal texts I don’t say anything. I can only hope they don’t submit school papers like that.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            My bet is that they don’t–that they have adopted the conventional style for texts and use it there.

            I was surprised to read that kids-these-days don’t use periods on their texts–then looked back at the ones from my kids and they don’t use periods. Apparently it comes across as “so there” at the end of a single sentence in the texting format. Both produce normal essays for school that include periods, capital letters but not all caps, etc.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Yup! “thank you” is a fairly neutral, off-hand comment. “thank you!” is genuinely enthusiastic about it. “thank you.” is appropriate for “thank you for finally putting out this fire that you set in my kitchen”.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Ok, I laughed at your example. This is a great way to explain it.

                FYI people who are interested in this kind of thing should check out Gretchen McCulloch. She’s a linguist who talks about the language of the internet and she’s covered capitalization and punctuation on the internet/in texts.

            2. Arctic*

              I’m an adult in my 30s who mostly uses proper grammar in my texts (and always in real life.) But if it’s a short text I’d never use a period. It’s basically like saying “F you”.
              By short I mean one sentance. If someone texted back “OK.” I’d assume I had done something wrong. (And I’m usually right the person is mad.)
              I know it’s all so crazy but it’s how texting has evolved.

              1. Shad*

                Yup! If a text contains multiple sentences of content, it does get a normal period terminating all but the final sentence. But a period at the end of a solo or final sentence reads very curt to me, from anyone except my parents or grandparents, who are old enough that I don’t expect fluent code-switching.

              2. Kris*

                This is a generation gap issue between my 18yo son and my 50-something self. I was sending him texts that said “OK.” thinking that I was communicating approval to him and the texts apparently were freaking him out!

                1. AMT*

                  This is why I both hate emojis and use them frequently. Sometimes, there’s just no easier way to say, “Don’t freak out, I’m not mad, and this smiley represents my attempt not to sound blunt!”

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yes, also 50 and my kids assured me they don’t take my texts as “she stated levelly” (which I think is how periods on one-sentence texts morph as tone) because I’m their mom and they know I just have a thing for periods. But both weren’t just “huh, really?” when I mentioned this factoid, but had thought about it and explicitly cited that it sounds deliberately abrupt with their friends.

              3. Mr. Shark*

                Well now I’ve learned something new today. I never realized there was that connotation with having a period at the end of a short text. I don’t usually add periods to my short texts, but anything that’s a complete sentence I usually use punctuation (I just checked, and I think I do it automatically).

              4. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

                If there is no other answer possible than “OK”, I usually follow it with a smiley and a thumbs-up emoji, just to make sure that the recipient knows I am not angry.

                1. OhNo*

                  Same. I was trying to explain to my dad once why I always include emojis in short texts, and it was like trying to explain a different language to him. I did finally get across that exclamation points are basically the text version of the Customer Service Cheerful Voice nowadays, but he still doesn’t quite get the selective use of emojis to convey tone.

            3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              I honestly think that is the modern equivalent of the old story about the man who asked his wife why she cut the ends off of both sides of the roast. Jump ahead if you’ve heard it “my mother did it. It makes the meat juicer and the gravy thicker.” He asked mother in law, “my mother did it. It makes the meat juicer and the gravy thicker.” Great grandma, “my pan was too small.”
              The punctuation is on a different screen. Iphone lets you add a period by hitting the space bar twice and then it makes the next character capital, but you know how legends continue.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Thank you for this. I’ve never heard this before but I can envision so many times I could have used this and will be able to do so going forward!

              2. WakeUp!*

                Maybe I’m being dense but I have no idea what this joke has to do with typing or punctuation?

                1. Carrie*

                  The joke’s point is that a legend had arisen about why to do a thing, when the actual reason was very simple and practical. Similarly, people have decided that you don’t use punctuation in texting because it reads as curt, but HK,Oh’s theory is that it actually started because phone screens make it annoying to get to punctuation and caps.

              3. Carrie*

                I use standard case and punctuation in my texts…but that’s much easier because I’m almost always typing on a standard, full-sized keyboard. Trying to type on phone screens is frustrating as heck, in large part because all the formatting stuff needs five steps to get to.

              4. Observer*

                The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they are related.

                I was thinking about this – there is a reason why this happened with the advent of texting, not in other on-line communications, even in the days when you were paying for connectivity by the minute. If you notice that people who came of age during that period tend to use the same kinds of abbreviations that texters use. The one difference is this. That’s because a period doesn’t add much time when you’re at a terminal and using a decent keyboard. On a phone, especially the old dumb phones where you were using T9 and similar methods a period meant a lot of extra effort. So why would someone do that? It’s conveying something.

            4. TexasRose*

              Depends on the student. Speaking from my experience as a volunteer grader for the Calculus class at the local IB high school, some kids simply don’t bother with punctuation or proofreading any more than they bother with turning assignments in on time, per instructions.

              Comma splices, on the other hand, seem to be a universal problem except for the true polymaths.

              1. whingedrinking*

                When I was in university I had a professor who forbade us to use semicolons because, according to her, we all used them wrong. On the handouts she gave us, she used them herself – incorrectly.

            5. De-Archivist*

              I teach first-year composition at a mid-sized university. A lot of my students don’t capitalize proper nouns or use punctuations, many of them because they’re used to autocorrect doing it for them or because they just don’t think about it.

              I have a list of comments for repeat mistakes that I just copy-paste. “Make sure you always capitalize ‘I'” gets used all the time.

              I’m not saying it’s the end of civilized society, but I’m not saying that it’s not. XD

            6. TootsNYC*

              (I have an iPhone, and I don’t know how Android works, so this may not apply there)

              I’ve decided that the reason for the “no periods” and especially the “periods make me think you’re mad” is that you double-tap to get a period, which is physically very emphatic.
              Or, you have to switch to a different screen, so that’s more work.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yes, most people are able to distinguish between appropriate conventions for text messaging versus formal communication, just like they are able to code-switch between how they talk to their friends and how they talk to their boss.

          3. Anonny*

            I don’t know how old your grandchildren are, but I started sending texts in no caps when I got my first mobile phone and it had a T9 keyboard. (I mean, I’m in my late 20s, so…) If you ever tried to use ‘proper’ grammar on a T9 keyboard, you probably know what a pain in the neck (and thumb) it was.

            More recently, people have started doing commentary on social media posts in tags, and on mobiles that tends to default to no caps even with autocorrect. The no caps thing here indicates a relaxed tone, or something similar to an aside in theatre.

            They’re probably not submitting school papers like that, unless they’re writing their school papers on a T9 keyboard.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Good point, Anonny. The three oldest are in their teens and the youngest three are just learning how to use phone/text (so I give them a little more slack.) But the thing that gets me is, the first word you type is capitalized by default and their messages don’t even have that. They all use I-phones. Mine is an android so I don’t know how much difference there is, but my last phone had a T9 keyboard so I know what you’re talking about. I just learned to deal with it. My inner proofreader/editor just will not let me send out improperly formatted messages. (Note, I’m not saying I don’t ever use incorrect sentence structure and such. I probably do sometimes, but not on purpose.)

          4. MM*

            Multiple registers. We text/IM differently from how we write on social media; both of those registers are very different from how we write articles or papers. If they’re texting you like it that, it just means they’re comfortable interacting with you in a way that feels open and informal to them. If they were texting you “Dearest Gram, I forgot my hoodie at yours; might I come by this afternoon?” I’d tend to think they felt obligated to be formal and unnatural with you, which I doubt is what you want.

          5. CDM*

            It’s also because it’s two taps to capitalize or punctuate, vs: one tap to type a lower case letter when using a phone keyboard. It’s literally twice the effort to capitalize a letter. It’s easy to decide it isn’t worth the extra effort for low stakes, causal communication. and then to turn that into “if someone made the extra effort to add two more taps to put in a period, that sends a message”

            Conversely, there is minimal extra effort required to capitalize or punctuate on a conventional keyboard, and periods and commas are single keystrokes.

            It is simply human nature to not do two steps if you can do one. I was told that decades ago as it relates to storage, and my kitchen and my work desk are organized so that the things I need daily are reachable in one step, not two. And why my kids had laundry hampers in each of their rooms (not in the closet) so it was just as easy for clothes to go in the hamper as on the floor.

            (yes, I do capitalize and punctuate my texts – mostly. But I don’t text extensively, and I will send an all lower case text if I’m rushed)

            1. Emi.*

              Is this an iPhone thing? My Android and my previous dumbphone automatically capitalize at the start of a text and after sentence-ending punctuation.

              1. boo bot*

                My iPhone does automatically capitalize at the start of a text and after sentence-ending punctuation. It’s pretty old, but the OS is up to date?

            2. schnauzerfan*

              I’m reminded of an old family story about my gggGrandfather walking 12 miles to the post office every couple of days to mail letters to his future wife.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              “if someone made the extra effort to add two more taps to put in a period, that sends a message”

              This. The roots of the style lie in ergonomics, but the meaning has evolved separately from that.

          6. MCMonkeyBean*

            I highly disagree that that is worse than all caps. That is pretty standard for texting, and for general informal communication online.

          7. ThatHat*

            Most kids are pretty good about code-switching. Most people are, really.

            I tend to do no caps pretty often because it conveys a certain tone on some social media sites (tone, like so many things, depends on context, but usually I see it as either deadpan or an aside).

            It’s pretty fascinating the way GenY and GenZ have found grammatical ways to convey tone through text. But since one of the *first* text-tones ever was “all-caps=shouting” it absolutely blows my mind that this new hire just keeps doing it.

            tbh, if someone constantly messaged me in all-caps, I’d view that as hostile. Even if they don’t intend it to be, it’s still basically shouting. It would be very uncomfortable to read.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Particularly if it’s been mentioned that it sounds shouty. I think the issue here is mainly that OP has been reluctant to tell Sansa she must do it in a standard way/joked/hinted about it and therefore Sansa has been able to get away with it for the entire time she’s been working there. If she is there for support then she needs to do the support in a way that OP et al. deem appropriate, full stop.

            2. Observer*

              tbh, if someone constantly messaged me in all-caps, I’d view that as hostile. Even if they don’t intend it to be, it’s still basically shouting. It would be very uncomfortable to read.

              Yeah. It’s hostile. It’s a bit like the “get off my foot” thing. If someone tells you to stop shouting at them, you stop shouting. You don’t tell them “Well, I don’t mean it that way.”

          8. PhyllisB*

            It’s interesting that someone mentioned e.e. cummings because I did tell my oldest grand-daughter one time that she wasn’t e.e. cummings. Kudos to her that she picked up my reference, but she just told me I was an old fogey. So I let it go with the others.

          9. Zephy*

            It’s only been in the last few years that iOS and Android have made punctuation easier to put in a text message. 5-10 years ago, you had to tap a key to switch to a whole different keyboard, find the punctuation mark you needed, tap it, then tap that first key again to switch back to QWERTY mode. Even now, the solution they’ve come up with is to tap and hold a key to open a menu that has alternate characters (like accented letters) and punctuation, which adds precious seconds to the time it takes you to fire off that missive. Especially if they use speech-to-text, it’s still not quite sophisticated enough to infer punctuation from tone, so if you want to punctuate that sentence, you need to either go back and manually add it (very fiddly on a touch screen), or verbally say, “Gram comma I need to come to your house to pick up my hoodie I forgot period,” which also doesn’t always work.

          10. Anonymoose*

            Late 20s person here, and my level of proper grammar in text really depends on my familiarity with the person I’m texting with.

            Boss and coworkers? Perfect grammar and spellcheck. To my friends? Nah. If something actually ends with a period then we are suddenly having a Very Serious Conversation.

          11. Jack V*

            I think this is just the way things are. In the late 90s, it was normal to send text messages in “TXT SPK” because that was convenient. Then phones started making whole words and capitalisation automatic, but punctuation a pain, and THAT became convenient.

            But because humans are humans, “using less formality than expected” is what people use to show a lack of respect and “using more formality than expected” is what people use to show annoyance. So when people have different norms, there’s no easy way to fix it, either one person has to adopt the other person’s standard, or both have to accept the other will type the way they type and don’t mean what it sounds like to them.

            I have different bugbears, but not found any way of fixing people. Most people DO know how to code switch: it may be more common that people need to be taught how to write in business-speak than casual than it used to be, but people have been making that adjustment in spoken communication forever, so it will probably work itself out.

        3. Gymmie*

          Yeah, it’s not really an interpretation of all caps – it’s literally how you yell or signify something super important in modern typing. As such, it’s completely unacceptable and they do need to be direct as I feel like there has been a lot of dancing around and joking hoping that this woman will change.

        4. Jaid*

          `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

          `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

          `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.’

          Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

          `Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice `what that means?`

          `Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

          `That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

          `When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.’

    3. Autolycus*

      I will say, I’m currently in an industry that uses all caps as a stylistic standard in all of our tickets and messages (call center/dispatch), the argument being that it is easier to read and is able to be transmitted over a variety of mediums with fewer formatting issues (pager, texting, email, etc). The efficacy is definitely debatable – my coworkers keep telling me it’s faster to read things that way, and it’s… not? at least not for most people, anyway – but there is the VERY faint possibility that she’s actually coming from a workplace in which this was the accepted standard and it is now a habit. Now, any reasonable employee should quickly pick up on the fact that this isn’t the case at her new workplace and change her style accordingly, but I did want to put it out there that there could be a more benign explanation, at least in a different employee who is making an obvious effort to improve in all other areas.

      1. HannaSpanna*

        On the other hand, confident readers don’t just look at the letters they look at the shape of the word (search for The Science of Word Recognition for the evidence.) We recognise the shape of shape not SHAPE.
        Reading all caps is slower (although we are more likely to catch spelling errors in caps apparently.)
        (Not disagreeing with you – it makes complete sense why your company does it.)

        1. valentine*

          Regardless of her reason, Sansa needs to use standard case for all her work communication. All-caps is a modern-day magazine-letters ransom note. I don’t see why her preference enters into it. If she were the marketing person and had leeway to change things, maybe this would fly, but a good professional knows they need to conform to company style. (Official sites are useless when I need to know the proper spelling of a product name, only they’ve gone and put it in all-caps.) OP1, why do you see telling (not asking) her to type properly as oppressive and why wouldn’t you automatically return her work to her for correction starting the first time she pulled this?

          1. OP #1*

            I think my main hesitation with it is that I’m not her direct supervisor, so I feel like it’s not my place to offer this kind of direct feedback where I can “instruct” her to do something rather than “ask”. But now seeing all the support and reasoning for standard formatting, I will be more confident in bringing up the issue with her if my manager refuses to do so.

            1. LQ*

              I don’t think you need to wait for your manager. Next time she gives you something in caps, just say, that it has to be sentence case and give it back. It’s really not a huge thing. If you wanted to say something a little bit more you could say that you don’t have time to redo it in sentence case and you’ll need her to send her drafts over in sentence case from now on.

              1. Oxford Comma*

                “Sansa, every time you use all caps in external communications you are causing us extra work because we have to redo all your drafts. I need you to use sentence case as this is the conventional way in which our industry communicates. Thanks for understanding.”

                If she doesn’t comply, I’d say you take it to her manager.

              2. AMT*

                Exactly. OP #1 is assigning her work and therefore has standing to provide feedback if that work isn’t being done correctly.

            2. Lance*

              No, you’re not her supervisor… but you are the one fixing this every time it comes up. Given that, I’d say you absolutely have standing to say something, if for no other reason than to make your job easier. And, for that matter, has anyone complained, or just in general said anything, besides you and your co-worker cleaning up this… ‘stylistic choice’?

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              I think regardless of whether you are someone’s supervisor, if they are doing work that you review in any way you absolutely have standing to ask them to do it differently. My team has had a big push for cross-training recently which means I review some things my coworkers do and they review some things that I do. If someone does something wrong we let them know, otherwise they’re not really learning how to do it!

            4. Joielle*

              You can still frame it as an “ask” even though it’s an instruction. Like “I actually can’t use this in all caps, can you please redo it in sentence case and send it to me by the end of the day?” I, too, feel kind of uncomfortable giving orders to admin staff, but it should be well understood that asking someone to do a specific thing in a specific time frame is not a suggestion even though it sounds nicer.

            5. Foreign Octopus*

              When I initially read your letter, my first reaction was that you just need to tell her and this isn’t a problem. But now that you’ve said this, I completely get your hesitation (and this teaches me not to read the letters first thing in the morning). I would feel uncomfortable talking to a peer about this as well and may view it as a stylised preference and maybe if it wasn’t impacting your job, I would let it slide.

              However, since it is impacting your job, I’d say you definitely have the standing to raise it with her.

              “Hey, I know we’ve spoken about the capitalisation in the past but I really need you to type in lowercase and appropriately as I’m currently editing your documents to the correct format and that can’t continue. Thanks.”

            6. Dust Bunny*

              No, she’s creating extra work for somebody else, who has to convert her all-caps, and she’s just doing it wrong. That’s not how communication works in any but a very few situations. It’s functionally no different than if she insisted on setting her font color to hot pink–it’s ridiculous and she needs to cut it out.

            7. Jana*

              I totally understand that feeling like you’re instructing someone who isn’t a direct report can feel uncomfortable. However, in this case I think we’re talking about something you have standing to correct Sansa—you’re being directly inconvenienced by her actions. Honestly, her insistence on all caps is so outside the norm that telling her to stop doesn’t need to come froma direct supervisor. I’m a writer and I have lots of stylistic preferences, but, when I’m writing for an employer, I follow the employer’s chosen style…even if it grates me to skip a serial comma!

            8. Gymmie*

              I would say something direct “oh, I actually can’t use this in this format, can you please change it”

          2. Emily K*

            That’s really the crux of it for me – if someone at the company is redoing her work, she needs to be told to do it differently so that it doesn’t have to be done.

            If she were just, say, using dark purple font instead of black in her emails, I could see feeling like as a manager you might not have standing to be like, “Actually, black is the standard color for business emails, please change your font.” But you’re actually redoing her work! That means it has risen to the level where you have standing to say, “Your work produce is unusable in the format you turn it in, taking extra staff time to correct. Please use standard case so that your work doesn’t have to be redone.”

        2. Autolycus*

          No, you’re definitely agreeing with me! I’ve always been a much faster reader than most people because of that shape recognition, so it drives me nuts that my coworkers are so set in their ways about it – for us the benefits are technological, but as soon as the human reader gets involved again it’s just annoying and slow. For me at least – apparently most of my coworkers disagree with us!
          I mostly wanted to push back on the ‘one right way to do it’ with regards to formatting. As usual, everything is industry-dependent, but this seemed especially like something the office workers in the community may not realize without a little context!

          1. ElspethGC*

            See also – why directional road signs aren’t in all-caps, at least in most countries. I remember reading that when the UK switched from all-caps signs to standard caps for directions on road signs it really improved the traffic situation, because it’s much easier to recognise the name of the place you’re going rather than slowing down slightly and deciphering the all-caps names.

        3. Paperdill*

          There has been so much research into this which is why the “gold standard” for most readable text is capital/lowercase (with serifs.

      2. stump*

        I’ve had a few coworkers that all caps’d all the time because their clients’ systems required them to use all caps so when they went back to using, say, company emails and things, they just left the all caps on because, in their words, “I have to type in all caps 90% of the time and I don’t feel like turning it off and back on.” Which I don’t really like being SCREAMED at, but it’s an internal email and I get the SCREAMERS very rarely. Whatevs.

        Buuuuuuut they also understood that Official Letters and things Absolutely Could Not be in all caps and didn’t fire off dozens of screaming letters because “Well, I’m in the habit.” or “I don’t feel like turning off the all caps.” or whatever. They knew that a “Well, it’s Just My Style.” Just WOULD NOT fly for that.

        Ngl, I think it’s kinda weird Sansa’s pushing back on the all caps for external letters/memos/documents (especially the fill in the blank ones that end of looking like weird screamy ransom notes), for any reason. I mean, that’s the hill she’s choosing to die on? “Don’t all caps in letters and stuff.” is like, writing 101 stuff. And even if she doesn’t care about the Correct Writing aspect, OP1 still can lightly beat her over the head with “Don’t create more work for me, you were hired to do the opposite!” part.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “I can’t expend all the time and energy it takes to hit that caps lock key” is in its own way a proud achievement.

          1. Antilles*

            Yeah, that’s a really strange reason. If you really type in caps 90% of the time or whatever for client systems, then I could definitely understand an argument based on you forgetting to turn it off and/or not even noticing.
            But “I just don’t want to hit a single key press” is dumb. Especially since on a standard keyboard, the caps lock button is *directly adjacent* to where one of your left hand pinky finger rests – you’re literally saying that you’re too lazy to stretch your one finger an extra quarter-inch.

            1. Yorick*

              I have encountered people who want to measure their workload in clicks and key presses, so there you go

            2. stump*

              Those coworkers are rare and the last one I had was Something Else for Many Reasons and has been gone for months. 99% of my coworkers aren’t SCREAMERS!

              1. stump*

                In other words, yeah, I’m with you 100%, but when I have to do the math of weighing the pros and cons of Making It A Thing with the Something Else coworkers and their stuff is correctly formatted where it counts, I just roll my eyes and let it go.

        2. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

          This. We have clients that require our notes be in all caps so they can differentiate between our notes and theirs. Never mind that the note says who wrote it. Ugh. So I do get the occasional email or IM from my team in all caps, but when they email outside the org or to someone higher on the food chain, they definitely get case, tone, and style correct.

          1. Emily K*

            There’s a very senior person on my team who edits documents that way. Everyone else uses Track Changes in Word, or if it’s in an email body they’ll just use a different color font or highlight where they make edits, so it’s pretty easy to copy and paste the final product into a Word doc and set all text to black and remove all highlighting. But every time I get edits from this person, who is so close to retirement and so senior to me that I have absolutely no grounds to complain, I have to spend 5 minutes going through and double-clicking to highlight every ALL CAPS EDIT and replace it with standard case. (As others have noted above, there are automated ways to do this, but unfortunately the documents I produce use a lot of acronyms so it ends up being a similar amount of work to fix the acronyms if I use an automated way of setting things to standard case.)

            1. I've got Nothing*

              I’m nearing retirement, which has noting to do with being an all caps user. I don’t think Sansa is nearing retirement. So much ageism on this site.

              1. Emily K*

                My reference to her retiring soon was not about her age nor was it meant to be an explanation of why she edits in all caps. It was an explanation for why it’s not politically feasible for me as a mid-level manager to raise a complaint against a very senior exec that will become moot in a year when she’s gone.

              2. Robots*

                I believe the point is that, because the person in question is so close to retirement, there is a time limit on how long this will be a problem. So Emily K might as well wait it out rather than try challenging someone very senior to her over their capitalisation. Emily isn’t saying that their age is related to the way they type.

              3. MsChanandlerBong*

                I did not read that as an ageist comment. My interpretation is that Emily K. does not feel she has the standing to insist that someone who has been there for years and is close to retirement change the way he edits his documents. Basically, he’s retiring soon, so it’s not worth spending any political capital to try to convince him to change. She’s not saying “My coworker is old, so therefore he doesn’t know how to use Track Changes” or whatever.

              4. Someone Else*

                I don’t think the point was “this is an age thing”. The point was “she’s so close to out the door, there is no point in correcting this specific person who has this habit.”

              5. Nicole P*

                I don’t Emily K was being ageist. I think she meant that because the person at her job using all caps is retiring soon (and also quite senior to her) it’s not worth using the political capital to try and get them to change since they will be leaving soon anyway.

        3. Turquoisecow*

          I work in a system where I need to type some things in all caps (and so do many of my coworkers). I’m frankly quite shocked that I don’t get SCREAMING emails, but I guess everyone recognizes that’s what all caps means in email.

          Odd, because I thought my coworkers were lazier than that.

      3. Emily K*

        I’m actually old school enough that I primarily write in cursive when I’m writing by hand – which is mostly notes only for myself but sometimes a postcard or greeting card. But I switch to printing in all caps when I’m filling out forms at a doctor’s office or whatever so that the poor admin who has to enter my data into their system doesn’t have to decipher my handwriting. Printed text is clean, but handwriting gets way messier and it really is easier to transcribe an email address that was written as HEBECCA @ WHITEFEATHER . COM than when it’s all lowercase with the way people often squish their letters together, and getting one character wrong in an email address renders it useless!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My husband prints in all caps, and fairly small, hah. (Years of filling out D&D character sheets, he says!) But the handwriting-to-text features on his tablet (which I desperately love on mine and use all the time) are totally wasted on him as a result, because sure ’nuff, they come out in caps lock.

        2. ThatHat*

          I’ve used block capitals since college. My major was in sequential art, and we had to take lettering classes. Most comic lettering is in block capitals (unless there’s a compelling reason for it not to be), and once I started practicing it, I just found it so much easier to write and to read than cursive.

    4. PokeTheBear*

      I agree totally, you really cannot just randomly decide to do this in a professional context. She has to be advised to change this more directly, I guess. Norms should likely trump personal preference here.

      However, in my own stuff (that sometimes gets shared around work if someone requests it) I have to admit that I write and sometimes type in all caps, and it may go to someone like that if I forget to convert it before I pass it along. Not stuff going externally, just informal meeting notes or something that someone might request to check a date mentioned, or something. The reason is because most of us on one side of my family (including myself) are dyslexic to varying degrees, and this was a strategy that was taught to some of us in order to help in situations where we do not have a dyslexic font installed on the computers to help us out. I would not share that fact with my coworkers. That is why I do it, though, because it does seem to help.

      That said, this does not necessarily seem to be the case here. Even if it was, it would probably not be an acceptable excuse to consistently not convert to the norm in post-editing for professional documents that are going out to other people. It is usually not too difficult to do. I hope the OP finds success in applying Alison’s method, because it sounds like a good strategy, and it is an important lesson for “Sansa” to learn.

    5. Triplestep*

      I have come across more than one person at work over the years who uses all caps because they are unsure of when to capitalize words and this is a work-around. It’s a cover for something they have not been able to master for whatever reason. (Learning disability, Dyslexia, or something else.) This is not to say someone should not speak to her, just something to consider.

      1. Observer*


        I doubt that’s the reason. But, what if it is? It still is not acceptable. If producing documents is a core part of her job, she needs to be able to produce documents. Producing non-usable documents to hide the fact that she can’t produce usable documents is not a viable solution.

    6. Lynca*

      I can understand it. I spend ages correcting the grammar and spelling of others before it ever gets to the style review. I’m just reviewing for content and half my edits are improperly constructed sentences, fragments, etc.

      I get weird push back about it too. “That’s just how I write.” Well you’re violating multiple style guides, aren’t conveying what needs to be said in a clear format, and you need to change.

      1. Dragoning*

        “How you write is bad.”

        Sigh. As a former English major, it’s very frustrating that so many people view my degree as worthless, and also cannot communicate their points effectively in writing.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          It’s not even difficult if one takes a half a second to proofread. I just sent a quick, informal note to my doctor about a prescription. After I wrote it, before I sent it, I double checked spelling, punctuation, and clarity. Thirty seconds…tops.

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m baffled by the amount of people who can’t just speak up for themselves and feel like they need to dance around an issue in the work place. Being direct does not equal being mean, and if someone is doing something they shouldn’t be, tell them to stop. In this instance it’s not just an annoying habit, it’s unprofessional.

      I had a micro-manager once who provided a special pen for me to write titles on project folders, then asked me to stop writing in cursive (even though I have easy to read handwriting), and then wasn’t happy because when I print, I print in all caps with the first letter being bigger. He asked me to print normally, and while I thought “what difference does it make”, I rolled my eyes when he left and changed my writing.

      1. KimberlyR*

        A lot of times it’s hard to know when you can correct a coworker if you aren’t their manager. When I have corrected someone’s work, I’ve been told, “You aren’t my manager. I don’t have to listen to you.” So there are valid reasons to ask a professional advice columnist about what is appropriate or not.

        Plus, and I think this was covered very thoroughly in a recent column, a lot of us were raised to not be direct in daily life. It was seen as rude to make a direct request in plain language without softening words. OP is working on that by writing in and asking for justification and scripts.

        1. Lance*

          Also, in this case, OP’s looking for what method they can use to correct this issue, going by the context of the letter explaining that they don’t know how to really bring it up.

        2. Foreign Octopus*


          I used to work shifts and the co-worker who replaced me was late about 70% of the time. I asked her to please either a) be on time or b) call in to let me know. I got a tirade of abuse from this co-worker who said I didn’t have the authority to tell her to do anything and that I wasn’t her boss. She complained about me for a good week to the rest of the staff and the customers. Our manager was useless and didn’t do anything but it has made me hesitant to approach these things in the future.

        3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I had a group of dingdongs who felt that I, as their manager, couldn’t correct them.
          “Hey, could you move your teapots over to the next bench, to make room for Sansa?”
          “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!”

          That was fun.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        You say you are baffled at why people sometimes feel uncomfortable speaking up… and then provide an anecdote of a time where someone speaking up really annoyed you? That’s kind of exactly what people are afraid of. They don’t want to be the person that people are rolling their eyes at.

        I think 90% of the time, when people write in to an advice columnist they already know what they need to do but want the encouragement of a neutral third party to confirm it. OP even explicitly says in their letter that they are pretty sure they need to just speak up directly but wanted to make sure they weren’t making a mountain out of a molehill first.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          He was my boss, and my point was that while I thought his request was a little ridiculous, it’s the way he wanted me to do it, so I did it because he was direct and told me what he wanted.

      3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        You are lucky that you haven’t (I’m guessing, correct me if I’m wrong) suffered consequences for being direct with coworkers. I’m direct with my husband because we know each other and can communicate with little self-editing, but that’s not always welcome in the professional world in my experience. I think this is a great instance where it’s absolutely fine to correct the person, but it’s not always that easy.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I never said it was easy. But people shouldn’t walk on eggshells because they’re at work.

            1. Gymmie*

              Because life is full of tough stuff? And being professional at work is not easy, but…you do it.

      4. JB (not in Houston)*

        It’s not at all baffling, if you mean confusing. There are perfectly reasonable explanations for it, which people on this site have explained many times–and you yourself acknowledge that being direct often isn’t easy and can invoke annoyance in the recipient. If you mean that you feel a little frustrated that people don’t get past those legitimate reasons to do it anyway, I’m sure a lot of people would agree with you. But it feels a little patronizing to letter writers who struggle with this to say it’s confusing to you why they haven’t, like it’s the most natural and easy thing in the world for everyone. I’m sure that’s not how you meant it, but if it is, I hope you’ll go back and read past comments on this kind of thing to learn about why it’s not always easy for people.

      5. WakeUp!*

        Ugh. I feel like someone makes this exact comment on every other post these days. If people were born knowing how to be direct *while adhering to workplace norms*, this site wouldn’t exist. Plus there are a lot of workplace situations where speaking up directly *won’t* solve the problem, and it takes experience and sometimes an outside eye to tell which ones are which. The “just be direct, it’s so easy!!!” brigade is getting really old.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          And don’t forget that only senior white men have this privilege. Those who are women, POC’s , or junior usually do not.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            The privilege I’m referring to is being direct without having to fear repercussions/retaliation.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Speaking as a woman, I heartily disagree that that’s true as a general rule for women. Certainly at times it’s a problem, but not the majority of the time, and I really, really don’t want that message repeated to people here. It’s contrary to my entire purpose here and it’s false. (I’m not speaking for POC here, though.)

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              I apologize for being offensive. Thank you for taking the time to correct me. I appreciate it.

      6. OP #1*

        It’s not so much that I can’t or fear speaking up for myself, it’s just that I’m not her direct supervisor. I can’t “direct” her to do something because I don’t have the authority to do so. If it were something supported by company policy or stated clearly elsewhere, I wouldn’t have a problem pointing it out and correcting it. The fact that this is more of a soft skill and something that is understood within our office made me want to approach it as tactfully as possible. Good news is, I’ve mentioned the issue to our manager. If he isn’t able or willing to address the issue, then I will gladly follow Alison’s advice and make sure this stops.

        1. valentine*

          I can’t “direct” her to do something because I don’t have the authority to do so. If it were something supported by company policy or stated clearly elsewhere, I wouldn’t have a problem pointing it out and correcting it.
          You’re making up too many rules to stop yourself helping her do her job properly, which is something you should do and also a kindness. If she preferred to kick doors open so hard that doorknobs embedded in walls, you would presumably tell her to stop and to use her hand and a minimum of force, despite there being no written policy on the subject. The all-caps BS is the same. Anytime someone new does something egregiously off-brand, it’s best to stop it ASAP yourself, giving her no more than two chances to toe the line before you involve your manager, in part to help her avoid a formal talking to and in part to save your manager time.

      7. MsChanandlerBong*

        Being direct does not equal being mean.

        No, it doesn’t, but a lot of people sure think it does. I had a huge problem at work a few weeks ago because I wrote a freelancer a message that said “Hi Writer: The client has asked us to XYZ. We need you to do A, B, and C. If you are ever unsure of an assignment’s requirements, feel free to reach out and ask for clarification to save yourself some time.”

        The writer sent my coworker an email with four paragraphs about how critical I am and how quick I am to condemn people. All because I said “We need you to do this, this, and this” and suggested that he let us know if he’s ever unsure of what he is being asked to do. When I told the writer my intent was not to criticize him, but to let him know that he can always ask us for help if needed, I got four paragraphs back about how I need to adjust my communication style.

        I’m not one to think that everything that happens is the result of sexism, but I can guarantee you that he would not have sent the same initial email to my male colleague, nor would he have had the gall to tell my male colleague how to adjust his emails so they sound nicer.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Ugh, these types of people infuriate me. Surely there’s probably sexism at work here, but there are also a lot of people out there who cannot, for the life of them, accept constructive feedback no matter how gently it’s given. Frankly, if you have the professional capital to spend, I would have forwarded that email to the person in charge of the freelancer.

      8. Armchair Expert*

        I could happily read a million AskAManager posts and never read another “I don’t know why people don’t just use their words” comment again.

    8. Karen from Finance*

      I was just talking about this yesterday on this site about how our HR lady, of all people, has this nasty habit. Except I have no idea if she knows she’s yelling at us or not because no one is going to tell the head or HR anything other than the CEO, who is her friend.

      Improper use of all caps is one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever seen. OP, if it helps you to frame it this way, think of it as you doing her a favor in the long-term if you get this habit out of her.

    9. CJM*

      Shouting aside, random all caps words in the middle of a document is terribly unprofessional looking. If it a was a hard copy, it would still look bad.

    10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Agreed, it’s baffling.

      Is there any chance this is a habit of hers from working in a field like medicine or law enforcement, where it’s common to type in all caps? Getting her to understand that it’s appropriate and normal in one environment, but totally not appropriate in her current environment, might help her change.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, generally speaking, managers prefer employees who have some level of introspection and who understand their own skills, strengths and weaknesses. It sounds like you’ve done some soul-searching, you’ve taken stock of your skills, and you’ve decided you want to play a different role. That’s normal and totally reasonable! And your reasons for wanting to step into a different role are also reasonable. This makes you sound like you know yourself, you’re confident in your abilities, and you’re an adult. Those are all good things.

    People make the same decision you’ve made every day, and it doesn’t serve as a scarlet letter. Be kind to yourself—this isn’t a failure. It isn’t “starting at the bottom,” or symbolic of a lack of ambition or leadership. Everyone in an organization plays a role, and each role has different expertise and makes a distinct contribution to the overall project. You’ve just decided that for your overall happiness, you want to make a different kind of contribution.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Agreed. I knew someone at my last employer who was a manager, hated actually having to be responsible for other people (she also had to manage one of the worst employees of all time), and when the opportunity arose, she “stepped down” into an individual contributor role that was at the same pay grade as her management position. She was a thousand times happier after awhile, and I think once OP reframes the narrative in her head about what this transition means to her, she’ll be happier too. There’s no shame in playing to your strengths.

      1. Blue*

        I worked for a number of years with high-achieving students at an elite university. Many of them were used to being the top of their classes, to doing all the “difficult” things available to them with relative ease. In a lot of cases, choosing not to take the harder (and, in their mind, more prestigious) path didn’t come easily, and changing the narrative really did go a long way in helping them deal. I’d always approach these conversations by stressing, “This isn’t about what you’re capable of; I’m confident that you *can* do this, if you want to. It’s a matter of priorities.” Deciding that this isn’t how you want to spend the limited amount of time you have is in no way an indication that you’ve failed or are giving up. It’s a sign that you know what’s most important and valuable to you, as an individual, and I think that’s far more likely to lead to satisfaction in life.

    2. CM*

      I had the same reaction as in Alison’s last paragraph, wondering if the “starting from the bottom” thing is in OP’s mind. I’m an individual contributor but also pretty senior, as are several people on my team. From the letter I got the sense that OP equates seniority with managing people, but it doesn’t have to be.

      1. OP3*

        Yes this is true. I work in an environment where the managers are pretty much at the top. Senior Management and leadership are at a completely different location in a different state. So in my particular office, management is the only place to go unless you want to stay in the same role forever. I didn’t exactly pursue a management role. But I have been a very high performer over the years and they just continued to bump me up. Over the years it just became more stressful. Of course the financial services industry is hit hard with layoffs, and my company is no exception. So now we are expected to do more with less resources. It’s just a bad situation all around and I’m glad to be getting out.

        1. alh*

          I made the move in January from a supervisory role to a non-supervisory role (in the same institution, at the same level and pay grade, but as a contributor at the senior level, not a supervisor), and I have to say it was the best professional move of my life. I am so much happier, I am still working at a high level and considered a “rock star” (direct quote from my grandboss after a presentation I made this week) but I am doing the work, the work I love and got into this profession to do, and not supervising other people who do the work. Managing people is hard, and some people are very good at it and should be doing it. I was not one of those people. Good luck in your new position!

        2. KTB*

          Totally agree that individual contributor does not equal a step down. I recently went from a manager position with a small firm to an individual contributor at a large corporation. It was definitely a step up in some ways, and a lateral move in others. That said, I am VERY happy not to be managing people right now, and my stress level is much lower. Best of luck in your new role!

    3. SarahKay*

      OP3, Princess CBH is quite right; lots of people try something (including management) and decide it’s not for them. I should know, as I’m one of them.
      I managed a team for three years (and a much smaller team than yours!) and made the decision that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t bad at it, but I found it very hard work to even be average at it (although if I’d known about AAM at the time I’d have been a lot better!). The fact is, managing people is just not where my skills and preferences lie. I’m now a very happy (and less stressed) member of a team, with no intention of ever managing anyone again, and doing a lot better than just average in my work.
      It really is about making the choice that’s best for you, not what ‘society’ tells you that you should want.

    4. NW Mossy*

      Absolutely! One of my direct reports is a former manager, and it’s a much better fit for him. He has a lot of high-level knowledge and skills that are super-valuable to the organization, and it was getting lost under the trouble he was having with the day-to-day “keep track of all the things” of frontline management. Now, he can work within a structure rather than being responsible for creating and maintaining it, which plays much better to his strengths.

      In a lot of ways, managing self-selected former managers can be much easier because their experience has helped them calibrate reasonable expectations of their bosses. Having been faced with employees who were defensive and/or unreasonable in their professional past, they tend to try pretty hard not to be like that in their non-managerial roles.

    1. Ashley*

      This is what my husband did when he was in a similar situation a few years ago. We had a trip booked months in advance that would have fallen on his 2nd week of work at his new company. When he got the offer, he explained the situation and said “I can start on the day you want (aka one week before being off) or I can just start when I’m back, which would you prefer?” and it worked out better for everyone involved for him to start after the trip. They had more time to get some of the behind the scenes onboarding stuff sorted out, and he got an extra week of “vacation” just hanging out around the house before our trip! We were fortunate that we were able to afford him being off an extra week, as well.

    2. OP#5*

      OP#5 here – If the offer comes through in the 1st-2nd week of April as expected, I would likely start May 6, and my trip is May 15-29. It would be quite a stretch to ask to start 7 weeks after an offer, but also I don’t love the optics of being there for 1.5-2 weeks and then leaving for 2 weeks.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Definitely ask – it might not be a big deal! My husband just went through this, and the company opted to set his start date after he returned from a previously planned trip. It was about 5 weeks between offer and start date, and it worked out well.

      2. TeapotSweaterCrocheter*

        Hey there, OP#5 – speaking as someone with an HR Generalist background, I don’t actually think 7 weeks after an offer is that bad. Would that be the ideal length of time? Probably not, but I think you should let your new company make that decision for themselves. It’s up to them whether they want you to work a week or two and then take time off, or just have you start after that. And, keep in mind that the hiring process may not proceed on the timeframe you’re thinking. You might get the offer the 1st or 2nd week of April, or you might get it another week or two after that. Or perhaps you negotiate something and go back and forth for a little bit.

        All that is to say – follow Alison’s advice to mention it after the offer but before you start, and you’ll be fine. It’s pretty understood that people plan trips well in advance, and you don’t necessarily know that you’ll be job searching or in a new job when you book them.

      3. Autumnheart*

        Maybe you could frame it as an A/B choice: “I’ve got a vacation that’s already been paid for from May 15-29. If you prefer, I could start May 6, but if you think it’d be better to wait until after the trip, I could start on June 1.”

  3. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    #3 my husband did this, successfully.
    He had a stressful upper level management position that put him on high blood pressure meds. Once he left, he no longer needed the medication. He went on to several management jobs, eventually overseeing an entire division. Eventually he decided to consult for a while and was offered a full time position by one of those companies. It was for a senior analyst slot. Less travel, the buck doesn’t stop with him, he’s working on stuff he enjoys and there’s more family time. He was farther along in his career but at your age, I can’t imagine that this would be a problem.

    If your job is giving you medical problems, it’s time to get out.

    Good luck!

    1. WellRed*

      Especially since she’s only 31. LW, two BP meds at such a young age. Run! Take the new job and take back your life.

      1. OP3*

        Thank you! I am very much looking forward to getting out and reclaiming my health and happiness again. The blood pressure medications have some very bad side effects (liver damage & chronic sore throat in my case) and my doctor said we’ll give it a couple more months after I’ve been at my new job for a while before we start trying to taper me down off the meds.

        1. Jay*

          I’m an MD. There is probably no reason you need to continue on medication that is causing side effects; there are literally hundreds of medications available for high blood pressure. You might want to consider a second opinion.

          1. OP3*

            Jay the MD: Thank you! I will definitely ask! I’m on Lisinopril currently & I have to go in for lab tests to make sure it’s not affecting my kidney function. I also have idiopathic intracranial hypertension, so with that added into the mix, my medication situation is also more complex. My neurologist may put me back on acetazolamide, which I absolutely hated when I took it before. I sincerely hope that a less stressful job and me trying to live a healthier lifestyle, diet and exercise wise, will help me out all around.

            1. Jay*

              Ah. Yes, that’s more complicated. Still worth asking. Make sure the doc knows how bad the side effects are. And YES, reducing your stress will help. My husband left a toxic job about 18 months ago. His BP was pretty high (I was annoyed they didn’t start him on meds because I was worried) and he wasn’t sleeping. He’d gained a lot of weight. BP is now normal (no meds), weight is down 70 lbs, and he is happier than I have ever seen him. Go for the happier job.

        2. run_sunshine*

          OP, I am SO EXCITED for you to start this new job and hopefully begin a happier and healthier phase of life. Sending you my best wishes!

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I was, not a manager, but a supervisor for a little while, and I’ll dig ditches before I do it again. I’m not a people person. I just do not have the temperament for roles that involve that many humans.

  4. SignalLost*

    OP 5, I’ve had planned travel or vacation at the start of two jobs because the timing just worked out that way. It wasn’t a problem in either case, though I only had one day of vacation at one and had to take the other four days unpaid. Make it a factor in negotiating start date; they may want you to start after or it might be a deal-breaker for them in which case you would rather cancel it, but I think it’s pretty normal to have planned your life with the thought you’d be at your current employer longer. It’s a bit different from accepting a new job and then three weeks later scheduling a round-the-world trip.

    1. KimberlyR*

      We had a crappy employee. She had a pre-scheduled vacation in her first few months with us, which was totally fine. No one side eyed her. Then she told everyone about her other “pre-scheduled” vacation. Which she scheduled after she started with us, because she asked me about the timing of my vacation and planned around it. So she took 2 different week long vacations in her 6 months with us. She also lost clients because she did her best to do no work during that timeframe.

      OP-one pre-scheduled vacation is fine and I don’t think anyone will look at you funny. Just make sure you’re working hard and doing your best to learn, both before and after, and no one will give it a second thought.

      1. OP#5*

        Thank you for the encouragement. It’s an exciting move for me and I want to set myself up for success, so longer hours and eager learning will be a must with or without the vacation.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I’ve had a big vacation planned just after starting each of my last three jobs! I almost wonder if the fun of planning the vacation makes me a better interview, but either way, it’s been fine every time, and they have always let me go negative with vacation pay, even though they didn’t have to.

      Good luck, OP!

  5. Kitty*

    I had a Japan trip booked a year in advance before I started my current job, they don’t usually like people to take unpaid leave but they acknowledged that it was already booked and let me take that time unpaid.

  6. Someone Else*

    #1 your colleague needs to know “her preference” is irrelevant to the discussion. Does your company have a style guide? If so, give it to her and let her know in no uncertain terms, she needs to follow it. It’s part of the job. If you don’t have a company-specific style guide, you could point her at basically any style manual in the world…or 6th grade English class. You can still be kind, but she needs to know she’s basically on another planet with this stuff. Doesn’t matter what she does for personal communications. The job is to do what office-normal is, and on this, while office-normal may vary slightly from company to company, it will never vary to the point of “generally understood as yelling”=”but it’s not because you know I don’t mean it that way.” She’s not only writing oddly, she’s speaking nonsense.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Very good point. For communications you do as part of your job, your company’s preferences trump yours – they are paying you. Do it their way.

    2. Rockhopper*

      Hmm. I’m in charge of maintaining our company style guide but I’ve never thought of including a directive to use standard sentence case. Maybe I’m assuming too much common sense in our employees?

      1. JediSquirrel*

        I had to write a style guide that said to only bold the most important directive (i.e., verb) in a sentence. I inherited technical writing that looked like a ransom note.

    3. Batgirl*

      Yeah it’s not a style guide when it’s pretty universal. As well as being expected in all businesses using standard paragraphing, it’s the style guide of every schoolroom!

  7. scmill*

    OP#3, I went back and forth between management and individual contributor several times before acknowledging to myself that managing people was a miserable experience for me. I was much happier and more productive as a Sr Analyst.

  8. Jess*

    OP#1, if you’re using Microsoft Word I’d be tempted to see if there was a way to force templates to run the document through “Sentence Case” on its way out the door!

          1. Observer*

            The difference here was two-fold. The more important – and crucial – difference – is that the coworker was actually producing correctly capitalized work. The only (potential) issue was speed – and given that that OP was an intern barely a month into the internship, there is no way to know if it actually slowed her down.

      1. Sam.*

        It would work, you’d just need to proofread afterwards. I wonder whether that’s something Sansa can do? Even if not, I’d personally find it faster to switch everything over than to retype it all, because I’d be checking for typos either way.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          You could just Shift+F3 the whole document as soon as you get it, but then you definitely would be searching for names and proper nouns before sending anything out. My issue with that is when you have to worry about little things like capitalization, you risk missing other things because it changes your focus.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Except that doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Writing in all CAPS in unprofessional, and trying to configure Word to fix this is just putting a band aid on a gun shot wound.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        This. Style guides and task requirements exist for a reason. Our first art designer ignored our requirements for filename formats. The filename was built up in code from attributes of the thing being displayed: “device type + size + state”, so we should’ve just been able to drop in the art and go. No, we weren’t going to “just rename” the files for all 60 permutations of attributes! Back it went.

        Our second designer got all that right the first time (and was a much better artist). We loved him.

      2. Elise*

        So true. I work in a position where I’m system administrator from some products where we’re making time consuming changes so staff don’t have to learn anything. It’s frustrating and backwards.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        I still use verbs in between asterisks for my actions. /nerd

        Also html tags, obviously.

  9. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

    OP2, I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of advice, but I do have a boatload of sympathy for you! One of my old jobs was similar (though from the sound of it not quite as bad!). It can be very unpleasant to be around, even when everything else is great. Like Allison said, I could never say anything as it was the culture, but I did find that by steadfastly continuing not to swear (that’s just not how I talk) and smiling politely instead of laughing at sweary jokes almost everybody mostly stopped swearing during our one-on-one conversations.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’ll admit I have a potty mouth, but I’m not dropping F bombs 10 times in one sentence, and that would bother me too. I cuss when I’m mad, or to emphasize something, but some people use it like saying the word “and”. And I’m also very aware of the other people I’m around, and will tailor my language accordingly so as not to offend anyone. Unfortunately Alison is right though…if this is the culture, OP needs to figure out if she wants to remain there and deal with it, or look for another job.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hi OP2 —
      If it’s ever directed *AT YOU*, speak up immediately. “Don’t curse at me. I put up with the general level of swearing in this office, but I do not want it directed at me.”
      You may also want to try and figure out a way to have a conversation *about* swearing in general so you can say you’d prefer not to hear it in your office. You wouldn’t be specifically asking them to stop, but giving them a chance to clean it up on their own.
      Good luck!

      1. Emily K*

        She mentions “yard workers and drivers” in her question which makes me think it’s something along the lines of a warehouse or trucking/hauling business where you have a lot of people doing manual labor. In my experience workers who do hard manual labor in their jobs tend to have this kind of informal swear-like-a-sailor culture she describes. If that’s the case it might make her look a little precious or stuffy if she objects to it – for some reason the parallel that’s coming to mind is the LW a while back who wanted everyone to call her Mrs. Lastname in an office where everyone went by their first names.

        Now if her coworkers are decent people they won’t antagonize her over it and may even do their best to tone it down around her, so I’m not saying that asking them to lessen the swearing around her is a total no-go idea, but she isn’t too far off base when she says she’s worried that it might mark her as an “outsider.” Maybe not quite as explicitly in-group/out-group as that, but it could still mark her as someone they feel like they can’t be relaxed and informal around – which could have consequences like, for example, informal work conversations she gets left out of because folks think they’re doing her a courtesy by socializing away from her so they don’t bother her with rough language.

      2. WakeUp!*

        I would roll my eyes out of my head if someone said the “I put up with…” comment to me. Nobody likes a coworker with a martyr complex.

      3. Busy*

        There is a big difference between peppering sentences with colorful swear words and swearing “AT” people. When you swear at people, you are calling them names and/or purposely being abusive. And really swearing “at” people isn’t really a thing. It is just adding an extra layer of insult to what is already meant to be insulting.

        Where the F%$# is that pallet?
        What the F%$# is wrong with you?


        How the F$#% are you?
        What the F$%^# do you want?

        See how removing the swear words doesn’t really change how rude, offensive, and hostile the sentences sound? Swearing is arbitrary.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Swearing definitely does change how hostile a sentence sounds. “Where is that pallet?” is a lot softer-sounding than “Where the F#$@ is that pallet?” — especially if you’re talking to another person, not just wondering out loud to yourself. I found this out (in part) when I discovered that even self-directed swearing caused fights with my partner to escalate in tone & language a great deal faster than when I didn’t swear (for example, if I said something like, “I’m not trying to be a b%#$#” or “You’re acting like I’m trying to be a b$%$# here — I’m not,” as opposed to when I said, “I’m not doing this to be mean” or “I’m not trying to attack you here.”)

          1. Someone Else*

            Sure, but from a workplace culture standpoint, if everyone around her is saying things like “ugh this fucking printer” or “can’t wait for the fucking weekend”, that’s the sort of thing she probably can’t push back on without seeming weird if it’s everyone and that’s the culture. Whereas if someone tells her to fuck off, or is otherwise directing the swearing at her specifically (rather than at inanimate objects or concepts), she does have standing to say she’d prefer not to be spoken to that way. I think that’s the distinction in terms of the “AT her” vs “in front of her”.

    3. Busy*

      It sounds like OP works in a small, blue collar type of environment. Not all, if not most, blue collar jobs swear like sailors, but it sounds like she works in a more trucker/warehouse environment. There is a reason the saying “swears like a trucker” exists; it is literally ingrained in that culture. We also are living during a time where swearing is radically becoming not a big deal.

      My advice is that you have to view swearing in certain industries like you would formal speak in a very conservative industry like finance. If you come in and don’t feel comfortable being formal in speech, people are not going to take you seriously. The same goes with industries that rely on swearing as communication. It might be best if OP considers the industry as a hole as not quite a fit. That may *sound* controversial, but I have worked in a professional capacity in lots of blue collar industries, and this is really common.

      1. CM*

        I like the first part of your advice — think of swearing as work-speak, just like corporate buzzwords at another type of office — and I think OP#2 can use this advice without necessarily taking the second part and deciding the industry as a whole isn’t a fit. OP#2 said she really likes her job.

        1. Busy*

          Yes. The second part is IF she cannot get past the swearing, because it really is a part of that industry’s communication style.

        2. LQ*

          I agree. If you look at it as these are the words they say instead of “We are leveraging the synergy to utilize the game-changing nature of this product” they say the f word a bunch of times. It might help to frame it in your head that way. You can hate it, but it is the culture and viewing it as that, eh, it becomes an annoying part of an otherwise fine job. Or the thing that pushes you over the edge and you want out. (And that goes for the buzz word culture too, people definitely opt out of a buzzword culture because they don’t buy into it too.)

          1. Busy*

            Hah yes! I like the buzzword culture as an example too. It is the communication style of the industry.

      2. Clisby*

        Good comparison. (I would find a constant stream of corporate buzzwords a whole lot more irritating than swearing.)

    4. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#2 — I, too, have a lot of sympathy for you; this would bother me, too. But it sounds like it’s part of the culture of this industry, or at least, of this company. You’ll have to decide if the job is so good you’ll put up with it, or if you really need to move on to someplace else.

      That said, I agree with Seeking Second Childhood: You do have standing to push back at swearing directed AT you. But it sounds as though unfocused background swearing is just something you’ll have to put up with at this company.

    5. Wafflefries*

      They probably don’t realize they’re doing it. I was part of an office culture where employees used swear words liberally. One day during a particularly colorful conversation, a manager playfully and calmly said, “can we f***ing stop saying f*** so f***ing often, for f*** sake?” It was a non-confrontational (and hilarious) way to illustrate and help mitigate the problem without alienating anyone.

      1. KC without the sunshine band*

        I have also used humor to help people understand it’s not what I want to hear. Just this week the major offender in my company used the f-word 3 times in one sentence. I pointed it out in humor: “Wow. That is a talent right there. Dropping the f-bomb 3 times in one sentence. You should fly for the air force.” He said, “No, I was in the Navy.” We had a lovely conversation in which I thanked him for his service. He stopped short of apologizing for the language and instead said it was a leftover from the Navy and he only did it when he was really passionate about something. But the rest of the conversation was relatively F free.

        Find a connection point where the person knows you care about them, and they will care more about what they can do for you. You actually can change a whole company this way as an influencer, one person at a time. But it takes a while.

        1. Blerpborp*

          But wouldn’t it just be much easier to stop viewing curse words as anything special instead of trying to forge a personal bond with each person so they censor themselves around you? I’ll admit, I’m usually relieved when I hear someone curse because I can relax and not worry if a stray curse word slips out of my mouth. But truly, learning to strip random words of their power to rile you (when they are not being used toward you or in an aggressive way) would go a long way to to just being more comfortable in an industry where it’s the norm.

  10. Karen*

    OP3 – Good on you for recognising the damaging effects of your job, and doing something about it. So many people don’t put two and two together until they suffer complete mental burnout, or have a heart attack, or just die and leave their family to deal with their choices. I think a lot of people get caught up on the career ladder without really stopping to think if this is something they want, or if it is going to be the right thing for them long term.

    1. OP3*

      Thank you! Everyone’s comments here have really helped me see the situation through the right lens. At this point, I need to put myself, my health, and happiness first. I’m really hoping this will be a positive turning point in my life!

      1. DivineMissL*

        OP3, I did this years ago and never regretted it. I was great as a manager but I hated it, not only for the stress but because I was constantly working. When my mother became ill from cancer, I couldn’t be there because of work responsibilities. I decided my family and health were more important. I remember being asked in an interview why I would want to take a step back and wouldn’t I get bored; and I just told the truth. I got that job (I’m still in it) and while occasionally I miss the higher salary, the trade-off of time to spend with my family and friends is definitely worth it. OP3, you have to make what’s right for YOU your priority, not what others may think. Good luck!

  11. Robin Bobbin*

    OP2, I would feel like I was living in a sewer if I had to listen to swear words all day long. I’d be looking for a new job where people actually had a larger vocabulary that included more adjectives. They may revel in foul language and think “everybody does it,” but decent people don’t. They won’t change for you and are more likely to gas light you on the subject (“Everybody does it, the problem is you.”). Run.

    1. Wehaf*

      This seems like an extreme position to take. Plenty of decent people swear, plenty of very good people swear a lot, of plenty of people who swear also have and use large and varied vocabularies. If the swearing bothers OP enough to make her want to change jobs, then she should consider looking for another job, but telling her to “Run” is unreasonable.

      I do agree with you that her coworkers are very unlikely to stop swearing, whether she brings it up or not, but I disagree that they would gaslight her if she discussed it with them. They might express the opinion that most people swear, but it wouldn’t be gaslighting if, in their experiences, most people do swear – for many people, almost every adult they interact with swears, so this isn’t terribly unlikely.

      1. Robin Bobbin*

        Some people let go with an expletive when they drop the tool box on their foot, they realize they just made a big mistake, when they see an accident in the making, or they’re just tired and frustrated. Other people use f***/f***ing/f***ed up 6+ times to describe their routine trip to the doughnut store for coffee and a doughnut. It’s all you hear, f, f, f no matter the conversation, punctuated by a few other choice words. If they know any other descriptive words, they must save them for special occasions. Group #1 doesn’t bother me. Group #2 could never be described as decent or very good people. They may think they are just good ol’ boys and girls, but the rude and vulgar language reads very differently. Unless “polite” has been re-defined, these folks just don’t make it. I would not willingly spend one unnecessary moment around people whose only language skills can be classified as offensive to civil conversation.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Not to mention it must be difficult to clutch the pearls and paint with the broad brush at the same time.

        1. Scarlet2*

          It’s absolutely possible to be rude without using vulgar language, as you’ve just demonstrated.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Exactly. I would prefer to be around someone who used the f word twice every sentence than someone who is unpleasant and rude with no profanity.

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          “Group #2 [i.e., people who use the F word frequently and freely] could never be described as decent or very good people. ”

          Wow, this sounds REALLY judgmental. (I hope saying that isn’t considered a violation of the posting rules about being nice, because it’s just flat out true.)

          Brb, gotta go tell my daughter she can never be described as a very good or decent person! (Me, neither, for that matter–I don’t drop F bombs nearly as frequently as I’d like, out of respect for social norms and the sensibilities of others, but I definitely think it a lot.) I guess all this time, daughter and I have both been no good, indecent people, and we didn’t even know it. How about them apples!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            You could pretty easily find, say, military or firefighting or police units where lots of profanity is used AND they are described as decent and good people.

            “Nobody has a more profanity-free vocabulary than an army drill sergeant” is not a popular aphorism.

            1. Sunshine Brite*

              Myself, correctional officers and other prison staff too. Not to mention the offenders or other clients I’ve had over the years.

            2. anon24*

              Yeah, if you won’t spend any unnecessary moments with people who swear then don’t ever call 911 (or 999/your equivalent). Fire, EMS, PD, we all swear. I’m sure we would all hate to let an F bomb slip and offend you while protecting you/putting out your house fire/saving your loved one. Guess you are on your own.

            1. Anonymous 5*

              The first American woman in 40 years to win the NYC marathon is equally famous for shouting (and being totally lip-readable), “f*** yeah!!!!” as she came toward the tape. :)

              1. SusanIvanova*

                The first time Neil Gaiman won a Hugo award, his entire acceptance speech was a very surprised and pleased “F***! I won a Hugo!”

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          You know, saying that being around people who speak a particular way is like living in a sewer, that you couldn’t stand to be around them, that they could never be good people, that they’re more likely to mentally abuse you (which is what gaslighting is, unless you’re just using the term to be dramatic) – that’s really, really rude. Making these kinds of extreme judgements of someone based on their vocabulary is a lot more off-putting to me than someone saying “fuck” a lot.

          1. londonedit*

            I was just thinking ‘Better not come to Britain, then’ – but Australia beats even us for sweariness.

            1. Lonely Aussie*

              I’m in a blue collar job in Aus, I once counted the C word (which I’ll admit to not being a fan of, though it has a little bit of a different local context out here) 27 times in less than half an hour from the team of blokes I was working with.

              For the OP I will say, if you are worried about being a stick in the mud or whatever that it might be better to pick the words you really can’t stand and ask for them not to be said around you. I made it clear to the guys I disliked the C word but was okay with the F one.

        4. Margaret*

          I’m in group 2. It’s how I was raised, I’m from a farming community of blue collar workers. Would you like to tell me again how everyone I know is indecent and not good?

          1. EPLawyer*

            I wasn’t raised blue collar. But I have talk drunken sailors how to cuss (true story). I’m now a lawyer working with low income victims of domestic violence. I don’t swear in court because that’s not allowed. Do I swear around the office? Damn right I do. But go ahead and tell me how I am not smart, not decent and not a good person.

        5. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sweeping generalizations that people who speak differently than you “could never be described as decent or very good people” are really problematic, and I hope you’ll rethink them. If nothing else, that’s startlingly rude! It’s also going to make you look very provincial. (And I am sorry to tell you that you’re reading a website run by someone you’ve categorized as not decent or good.)

        6. One (1) Anon*

          You have strange standards of decency and goodness. Being polite has nothing to do with either except in some very specific circumstances (like someone dropping f-bombs at a funeral, for instance; but even that would be less about the actual word used and more about not disrupting people’s grief). Language itself isn’t the point. It’s how you act towards other people that matters.

          1. LQ*

            I’ve definitely been polite and sweary at the same time. “Thank you so fing much! You are brilliant and I am so fing glad you were here!” And a whole lot of other things. Polite and swearing are not opposed to each other at all.

            (All that said I would say that language can be part of the point, like if you are incredibly rude to someone with just language, you are acting rude. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who are “polite” and say their pleases and thank yous while harassing and being incredibly vile. But language can be a part of that. I think that calling people garbage for instance, is a part of how you behave, and certainly says a lot about the person doing that.)

        7. stump*

          I’d think the bigger mistake would be dropping the toolbox on my foot than dropping an f bomb. Or feeling comfortable enough to drop some rather bizarre and archaic beliefs about a person’s worth as a human decreasing every time they slip a swear into their sentences.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I came down the stairs at choir practice very badly and broke my ankle. The F-word definitely escaped my mouth. But what really made me feel bad later was that the *sound* of it breaking scared our very adorable retired English professor/alto, who’s at the age where breaking bones is a constant worry.

        8. quirkypants*

          This is HILARIOUS to me.

          My partner works for a charity that helps some of the most marginalized people in our large city. The entire team of people work long days for relatively low pay and many “volunteer” after hours to help folks. This team includes social workers who are out all night to make sure people living on the street have food, have blankets, haven’t DIED, and these people are as patient, lovely, compassionate, and more. They ALL swear a fair bit (both at work and outside of work). Some of them have quite advanced degrees and left other careers to take on this kind of work because they wanted to make a difference.

          Robin, you’re really missing out knowing some quite lovely people by being so narrow-minded. And to be fair, you’re coming across as not a very good person by making such sweeping judgements about people.

        9. MM*

          I would not willingly spend one unnecessary moment around people who make moral judgements about language in exactly the ways used to justify every form of eugenics for the past couple of centuries, but here we both are on Al Gore’s internet just the same. Amazing!

        10. Emily K*

          “Polite” hasn’t been redefined, but “politeness” isn’t always the most important value to bring to a situation.

          To be frank, your comment reads somewhat classist. Formal, restrained, polite speech has always been a class marker that indicates membership in a middle-to-upper class and white-collar (or back in the day, aristocratic) world. In fact, the word you chose here, “vulgar” – which my dictionary defines as “the quality of being common, coarse, or unrefined” or “lacking sophistication or good taste” – speaks a lot to the classist prejudices you’re employing here. “Vulgar” is the word by which the upper classes turn “common and unrefined” into “offensive.”

          I would encourage you to examine why you think being common, coarse, and unrefined is an indicator of moral deficiency.

          1. JKL*

            This seems unnecessarily nitpicky. The term “vulgar language” is commonly used to describe swear words. It’s pretty obvious that this is how Robin is using the word “vulgar.”

            1. Emily K*

              Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Vulgar language does commonly refer to swear words. It’s the additional shade of meaning, that vulgarity/swear words are offensive, that I’m calling attention to here. It’s a form of classism to declare as fact that the language commonly used by working class people is offensive, or that using the prevailing language of their class makes them rude, un-decent, or morally deficient. “F*** you!” is offensive. “This f***ing car won’t start!” is a working class colloquialism. I’m suggesting that the commenter above give some thought to why, exactly, she’s making this connection between swear words and moral character. Because often the reason is something like, “That’s how I was raised,” or “I was always taught those are ‘bad’ words,” which again, would hint at the fact that this is a form of classism, being raised to look down on the way lower classes speak.

              Note that I’m not suggesting that all and only poor people swear and no rich people do and all rich people are scandalized by it – I’m talking about the historical roots of classist language and how it often influences the moral judgments we make without us consciously realizing it. As William Golding wrote, “language fits over the experience like a straight-jacket.” As we grow up and learn to use language, it shapes how we view the world, which might lead us, for instance, to the unfounded and factually incorrect belief that swear words are associated with moral deficiency.

              1. JKL*

                But Robin’s comment didn’t mention social class at all. You’re inferring all of this based only on the word “vulgar” which, as I said, is commonly used to describe swear words without the class connotation.

        11. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          I guarantee: if you ooze prissy judgment in the real world as much as you do in these comments, people don’t consider you as “polite” or “civil” (or, um, intelligent) as you think they do.

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

          I grew up in a family full of FANTASTIC people- kind, polite, loving, compassionate, generous, open minded, progressive, intelligent, funny, excellent conversationalists…a family who I feel *incredibly* lucky to have ended up with (I was adopted). They were also all born into an era (1900s—1930s) where swearing was considered improper.

          Guess what? They all swore like sailors! Especially my dad, who was a polymath, an autodidact, an incredibly gifted artist & mathematician with a white collar, high security clearance job in the aerospace industry.

          Whenever people pull out the tired old stereotypes of what kind of people pepper their conversation with swear words, I think of my amazing family, and then all I can do is laugh.

    2. Wild Goose Chase*

      I think this is a tad extreme. Certainly, saying f***, s***, etc. all of the time is impolite (and I’d discourage it), but I don’t think it automatically marks a person as indecent or morally corrupt. Some fields of work and cultures accept language that wouldn’t be acceptable in other cultures. For example, an engineering company is more likely to have frequent swearing than say, a preschool. That doesn’t mean engineers are all awful, it means that there’s a difference in workplace norms in each field. I also think there’s a lot of variation in swearing; not all expletives are created equal. If OP’s coworkers were swearing at her (calling her an f-ing idiot or the like) or using racist/sexist/ableist epithets, that’s a wholly different problem directly indicative of bigotry and/or indecency. Describing a bunch of tedious work as “filing paper and all of that crap” (or other mild variation)? Not so much.

      1. Not Australian*

        I worked in one particular high-stress setting where we were all exceptionally foul-mouthed all the time; it was a great way of dealing with the amount of tension we were under, so describing a client as ‘a f***ing idiot’ (out of his hearing, of course) was the rule rather than the exception. Some workplaces just *are* like this, and whether one can or should attempt to change it is very much a matter of evaluating (a) why it’s the case and (b) why you want it to change. I’d argue that the best you can generally do is make your own particular corner – your desk or office – a ‘no swearing zone’ and ask people to moderate their language *around you*. You probably can’t ask them to do so at other times unless you have someone very senior in the management structure who feels the same way – and if they did, I’d imagine they might have taken the task on themselves before now.

      2. Antilles*

        Some fields of work and cultures accept language that wouldn’t be acceptable in other cultures.
        In fact, in certain fields like engineering and construction, it’s so widely accepted that being judgmental or visibly offended by language would immediately make you seem out of touch with the industry. Basically a “seriously? have you never actually been to a job site before?” kind of thing.

        1. Emily K*

          There also may be a generational/changing times component to it. I’m in my 30s and “fuck my life” and “what the fuck” are such extremely common expressions of frustration among my peers that it barely occurs to me to classify them as swearing when they’re abbreviated as fml and wtf.

          I would venture to say those expressions are part of the common dialect of Gen X and Millennials. In fact, I’m pretty sure the movie Superbad that came out when I was in college was the origin of FML – so it’s a phrase that the younger you are the more likely you’ve grown up with it as a popular expression, but if you were 50 when Superbad came out maybe not so much.

          My workplace is pretty informal but not quite trucker/sailor-level. I rarely hear someone say “what the fuck” in a meeting, but it’s not uncommon to hear someone muttering it to themselves when they get stuck on a problem they can’t figure out or exclaiming it in casual conversation when they’re told a story about something ridiculous…and actually, I do hear people speaking out the acronym “double-you tee eff” in semi-formal contexts (like internal-only meetings) when something particularly crazy or unbelievable happens. So we’re refined enough not to swear directly in formal contexts or in front of outsiders, but swearing semi-privately or alluding to a swear is not really a big deal in our culture.

      3. LadyL*

        I’ve worked in a preschool and I can assure you we also love swearing there, we just have to wait until the kids go home to really flex our profanity muscle.

        Also, a lot of us has perfected the art of non-curse word swearing, for when you drop something heavy on your foot and there’s a bunch of 4 year olds right there, so you growl out some nonsense words that *feel* almost like real swearing but won’t get you in trouble in kids repeat it. That can be a fun game on its own.

        1. JJJJShabado*

          For what it’s worth, the name of this is a minced oath. (I’m a fan of a well placed shut the front door).

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          I love reading Tintin comics. The captain swears like a sailor, and yet never uses a word that you couldn’t read to a 4 year old.

        3. LizB*

          For my entire childhood, my mom swore by saying “G-d bless it!” in the same tone of voice you’d say “G-d damn it!” Got the point across, technically wasn’t anything negative.

          1. Three Dogs in a Trenchcoat*

            Ha! My husband (who has been in the military and law enforcement his whole career) says GOD BLESS AMERICA in the same tone when he’s trying not to swear. I’m just waiting for our toddler to start doing it and then my amusement will be complete.

        4. SusanIvanova*

          Science fiction is a great source for that. Frell! Frak! By Klono’s titanium teeth and iridium claws!

        5. L. S. Cooper*

          I’ve been known to just say “Curses!”, as if I’m a villain in an 80s cartoon, if I’m at work or otherwise among people who I don’t want to properly swear around. When I’m with my friends, however, I’m definitely the most profanity-prone of the bunch!

    3. Bagpuss*

      Robin, you are free to decide that it is a dealbreaker for you, but how much people swear is about social norms in a particular environment, it has nothing to do with whether they are ‘decent’ or ‘good’.
      And for what it is worth, research has shown that the idea that people who swear a lot have a limited vocabulary is wrong. In fact, on average people who swear a lot have larger vocabularies, both profane and not , than those who don’t..
      Of course, people with limited vocabularies will tend to overuse the same small number of words, but that is true whether or not they swear.
      Your comment comes over as pretty narrow minded and judgmental, to be honest.

      And in case you are wondering, no, I very rarely swear!

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Often people who swear have an extensive and varied vocabulary, with the skills required to select exactly the mist appropriate word for the circumstances, and have decided that the best and clearest manner of communicating their meaning at that time IS a naughty-naughty word!

        Also frequency of profanity has nothing to do with a petson’s basic decency. THAT is rude.

        (Anyone else twitching when they put a word in caps after OP1? )

    4. Mike C.*

      You know what? There’s really no need to classify decency by something as shallow as whether or not they say “naughty words”. What gives you the justification to judge the merit of people like that?

    5. Roscoe*

      Wow, you seem like quite the judgmental person. I have a very wide vocabulary, and I let the curse words fly when I want. Stop being the morality police. I’m sure you are a peach to work with too. You seem like the type that judges others by what they wear and other pointless things. Get over yourself

    6. Hiring Mgr*

      Who is swearing in a sewer? To my knowledge, the rats or other creatures don’t speak in words that we as humans can understand, so while they may be swearing (or their version of it), we wouldn’t understand it anyway. So you see, your entire premise is flawed.

      1. Hold My Cosmo*

        Indeed. The extended metaphor is…laborious, at best.

        (Apologies…my Babel fish appears to be malfunctioning. It seems to be stuck on ‘pompous bloviator’.)

    7. Jin*

      Oh wow. By what standard are you measuring “decency or goodness”??

      I also really don’t think this is an appropriate use of “gas lighting”, and at this point it comes across like you are co-opting the language of abuse survivors to make this weirdly repressed and Victorian statement.

      1. Jin*

        I would also add that making snap judgements about someone’s intelligence or character based on their vocabulary is a surefire way to make people wonder if you might be classist, ableist, racist, or all of the above. I would really rethink this mindset if I were you.

    8. EventPlannerGal*

      I think everybody has covered how objectionable your view of swearing is here, but I do just want to reiterate that saying “everybody does it” is not what gaslighting is. Gaslighting is a term usually used to describe a particular and insidious form of mental abuse. A colleague saying something that you think is an exaggeration or that you disagree with is not gaslighting. (And while “everybody does it” might be an exaggeration, “a lot of people do it” is just a fact. Many people, including good, kind, moral people, swear a lot at work.)

    9. Baby Fishmouth*

      I think this is way too dramatic. Swearing is a very, very cultural thing, and it’s not indicative of ‘decent people’ vs. ‘indecent people’. OP has wound up at a workplace that swears – which is not uncommon, especially in a blue-collar environment. It does not mean that those people are horrible people with small vocabularies. Scientists have actually found that swearing is indicative of a larger vocabulary and more intelligence, so your stance is coming from incorrect assumptions to begin with.
      OP can decide if she wants to continue working at this job or not, but you are being far too harsh on people who swear.

    10. Eukomos*

      You don’t have to like swearing, but it is inaccurate, unfair, and damaging to consider people who swear frequently “not decent.” Especially since many people who are in the habit of casual swearing are from underprivileged groups; taking a type of language that’s more common among lower SES people than higher and declaring it inherently indecent is a pretty common method elite groups use to keep those low SES people disempowered. You should try judging people by their actions rather than by their social markers.

    11. Rafferty*

      I used to win state-level competitions for the breadth and precision of my vocabulary. I can intuit the right word for most situations. That’s how I know that sometimes the right word is orders of magnitude stronger than a pearl-clutching gosh darn it. Vocabulary size cannot be estimated from the frequency of swearing.
      Also, interestingly, you seem to think that those who swear are likely to judge or even criticize those who don’t – gaslighting, as you put it. In my experience, people who swear could not care less if someone else chooses not to. It’s only ever those who ascribe moral superiority to a squeaky clean vocabulary who see the diction of others as a “problem”. Funny, that.

  12. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: You need to just tell her.

    ‘Sansa, use standard capitalization for all materials that go to customers and/or the public.’

    If she argues things like ‘it’s my preference’:

    ‘Your preference doesn’t matter for official materials that are published outside the company.’

    Be blunt. I’m German, we’re always blunt. But you need to out right say what you want. So far it seems you’ve been beating around the bush.

    1. EPLawyer*

      It’s not her communication that’s going out to the public, it’s the company’s. Regardless of who actually wrote it, this is the company speaking. The company does not speak in Random Caps.

    2. Samwise*

      “So far it seems you’ve been beating around the bush.”

      Agreed, and I don’t understand why! She’s hired to do communications for you, OP. Tell her plainly what the standards and expectations are and hold her to them. It is not rude, mean, or even blunt.

    3. Marthooh*

      “We gently questioned if Sansa prefers to write this way… I’ve even made a joke… I hope that we’re not making a bigger deal out of this situation than need be…”


  13. Emma*

    #2, this does depend on your company, as well! I also work for a 16-person company and we have our fair share of swearers (me included) – there’s one team that’s especially notorious for it and have been reprimanded a few times for going overboard. We also have one person who’s uncomfortable with swearing for religious reasons, and it’s not a problem at all – everyone just avoids swearing around her. Of course people mess up sometimes, but we just apologise and move on, and it’s not a big deal.

    I don’t know what my coworker’s approach was to get this in place – I just got told the first time I swore when I was new. And it may be that your coworkers are more precious about their freedom to swear than mine. But it’s not completely pie in the sky!

    1. Bagpuss*

      I find that a lot of people who swear a lot are perfectly well aware that not everyone does and that some people find it offensive, and will typically tone it down if they are interacting with someone who doesn’t swear.
      I think most people are not setting out to be offensive or upset others,

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I think you very quickly learn to gauge a situation when it comes to swearing. I generally tend to swear a lot, but whenever I start a new job, I obviously don’t swear in the office until I’ve got a good grasp of the general culture around swearing. In my industry people are pretty relaxed, and people tend to swear a fair bit, but again it depends on the situation – you wouldn’t swear in a meeting, but you’d swear among colleagues in a casual office conversation. If I knew there was someone who didn’t like swearing, I’d try to be mindful of not swearing around them (I make sure I only use the mildest swears around my mum, for example, who believes the word ‘bum’ – UK for ‘butt’ – is offensive).

        1. Gray Coder*

          Absolutely — tolerance of swearing is a facet of culture. I live in a part of the UK known for its, um, rich tapestry of colourful metaphors. These were freely used in the last office I worked in, but never in an abusive way, and not in meetings with outsiders.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            In my next life, I need to live in the UK. I so appreciate the clever use of language to convey disapproval or frustration. I have a few coworkers based in London and Australia who crack me up with the simplest phrases.

      2. Arya Snark*

        I tend to swear quite a lot but once worked with a woman that does not, mainly due to religious reasons. We were coworkers who turned into friends and still maintain that friendship 7 years after no longer working together. I temper my swearing in front of her as I always did, even when we worked in a place where it was part of the culture.

      3. LJay*

        Yeah, I work in an industry where people swear a lot.

        However, since I’m a women, usually they will tone it down around me, and apologize to me if they swear in front of me. (At least until I make it clear that it really doesn’t bother me, and that, in fact, being singled out to not swear in front of because of my gender bothers me more.)

      4. TootsNYC*

        I agree w/ Bagpuss. And I think our OP could just start asking people, individually, to cut it down.
        Or she could comment, “Wow, that’s twelve ‘fucks’ just in one office visit!”

        She may never end it, but people can amp themselves up without realizing, and even without intending to.

    2. Cindy Featherbottom*

      Agreed. Swearing frequency depends on A LOT of things: region, office culture, type of job, if its client facing, etc. I work in healthcare and I can assure you that when patients aren’t around, there is usually a fair bit of swearing. Healthcare is a demanding and stressful field so a lot of people swear (when/if its appropriate). My spouse works in engineering and there is even more swearing in their industry than mine. I’ve heard my spouse on conference calls with clients and their clients swear more than I do.
      As for your particular issue, if you’re in an industry that is known for having more people swear and this is the industry you want to be in for a while, you might just have to find a way to deal with it. If you don’t swear along with your colleagues, they will probably get the hint after a while that you dont speak that way and will tone it down. I definitely use colorful language in my life, but if I notice that someone doesn’t swear, I dont do it around them (or at the very least, try to tone it way down). If it really makes you that uncomfortable, then finding a new job/industry might be appropriate. If you do decide to change jobs, try to keep in mind the type of industry that you are going to end up in. For example, if its construction based you are definitely going to hear that type of language. If its more office based, you’ll hear it, just less often (generally).

  14. Gleeze*

    #5 – I just accepted a new role and negotiated my start date to accomodate a trip (one that I hadn’t even booked yet, just wanted to take between finishing my old role and starting the new one)
    If the company really wants you, they might be willing to compromise.

  15. I heart Paul Buchman*

    #1 is so much fun! I just tried writing normal business type things in caps and it makes them seem much more interesting.

    ‘I’LL BE OUT UNTIL 12’

    Yep, I may write this way for ever :). Only I won’t because it does make me look ridiculous and one of my life ambitions is not to look professionally ridiculous. If you haven’t already OP perhaps printing out one of these documents so that Sansa can see how strange it looks would help? Perhaps she finds it easier because she can easily see the areas of text that she has filled and hasn’t realised that it doesn’t work if you are trying to read the whole document? A work around for her may be to type in a coloured font and then once all the fields are filled highlight the lot and turn it back to black text? I’m trying to identify why she is doing this…

        1. PB*

          If someone lied to me about cake at work, it would not be pretty. I’d be swearing like I worked at the office in letter #2.

      1. OP #1*

        Funny you say that because I actually brought a cake in to the office today for a baby shower. Maybe I’ll just tell her, “STOP USING ALL CAPS, HERE HAVE SOME CAKE!” :)

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      It’s even worse than writing everything in Comic Sans, which could make a threat like “I will find you and murder you” look like an invitation to a preschool Valentine’s day party.

      I think trying to identify why she does this, while interesting, is pretty much beside the point. She’s handwaved it off as her preference, but it’s one her workplace needs to shut down.

        1. Alfonzo Mango*

          I like how it looks- the bold is beautiful.

          It doesn’t yell when I read it in my head, either, so I don’t really get offended by that part. It just says PAY ATTENTION. I tend to write in all caps, too.

    2. boo bot*

      I was thinking either she finds it easier to see the text she’s filled in, or it’s literally easier for her to read all-caps writing for some reason. Either way, as suggested above, she needs to do whatever thing works for her (caps, all-caps style font, colors) and then change the document to its final format before sending it on.

      The OP might actually have more success with, “You need to change documents to regular format before sending them to other people,” than with, “the all-caps thing makes you look like a shouting loon.” I’d way rather say the second thing, though.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    “It looks more professional to type normally” is an absolutely valid reason! If that were your only “defence” (but there is nothing for you to defend) it would be completely enough.

    Especially with external communications, many companies have style sheets. Anything from “always refer to our product as x” to “no more than 1 exclamation point per email” or “this is our standard signature” – these are all things which a company can reasonably insist upon to keep its image consistent. And “don’t use all caps” definitely comes under this.

    So no, you are not making a big deal. She is potentially famaging the image of your company and product to customers and clients.

    Not to mention no-one likes it to be pointed out so blatantly that the charming email they received is a form letter. And the marketing department that crafted it would not be impressed either at their work’s being diminished.

    Tell her it must be done in a professional manner (looping in your manager is a good call too). Send the unacceptable letters back with a note “we need this in standard case before sending out to customers; please fix and return”.

    And tell your manager if you have to spend time fixing her work.

    Lastly – you are not being mean! You are doing her a favour which will help her in the future.

  17. Tarra*

    #1 If Sansa pushes back just tell her that you hear she feels x but this is not how you do it, end of story, and she needs to do y.

    1. Mongrel*

      Yes, there are some things within the work environment that aren’t optional no matter how much you may dislike it.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – is there a reason she insists? It occurred that maybe she doesn’t know the rules for capitalisation? I don’t know if this is something you can pursue, but maybe a link that explains it and say “this is an example of the style we need you to use” might help?

    1. Ginger*

      This was my first thought too, that she doesn’t know proper grammar.

      OP, she’s not doing a good job if you have to redo her work and if she was brought on to take load off your plate and you’re not addressing this, you’re going to start to look bad for not managing it.

      If I were your manager. I’d ask you why poor work was being tolerated because now you’re wasting your precious time and taking energy away from more important activities all to fix something that should be a business norm.

    2. CM*

      I didn’t read the letter as Sansa insisting on her way — OP#1 said that she gently asked why Sansa preferred to do it that way and Sansa answered the question, and then the next time she made a joke and Sansa laughed. I do think maybe OP#1 is avoiding this conversation because she’s afraid Sansa might push back.

    3. Arctic*

      Sounds like from Sansa’a POV she’s only had friendly ribbing about her preference. No one has told her to stop. So I wouldn’t say she’s insisting.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Fair enough – it’s difficult to read tone! I felt there had been more pushback than you read in it, but either way, it’s time to be plain.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      She used standard on the applications.

      I find the ‘tool for dealing with dyslexia’ theory more interesting.

    5. Lilysparrow*

      Grammar auto-check isn’t perfect, but it will catch random caps.

      Also, basic rules of standard grammar are a normal job qualification for admin work – especially anything involving external communications.

      I mean, knowing standard capitalization is an elementary-school skill. If Sansa doesn’t know them, she is only semi-literate.

      I suppose she might have some kind of disability, but “making your co-workers redo all your work because it is completely wrong” is not an appropriate ADA accommodation.

      If Sansa does not have the baseline qualifications to do this job, she needs to finish her education or get a different job that she is qualified for. Neither of those things are her co-workers’ responsibility.

  19. Róisín*

    #1: Oooooof. Related story time: I had a summer job at a very dysfunctional pizza place a few years ago. One of the problems was when the boss went on vacation, a few of the employees just didn’t show for their shifts and then retroactively wrote their names on the request-off calendar to make it look like they’d asked off those days in advance and hadn’t gotten them. A few left their shifts midway through without asking permission from the shift leads. Upon his return, the boss proceeded to email all of us (including those who showed up on time and stayed our whole shift!) IN ALL CAPS FOR HALF A PAGE OF TEXT (I pasted it into Word to check; it was half a page single spaced) ABOUT HOW WE NEEDED TO BEHAVE PROFESSIONALLY AND NOT DO THINGS LIKE THIS. It was exhausting, especially since I was not one of the offenders. Pretty sure the moment I opened that email to text-speak screaming was the moment I decided to quit at the end of the summer.

    Another anecdote: A guy I went on two dates with went off on me over text about how I WASN’T PAYING HIM ENOUGH ATTENTION… and when I called him out on yelling at me, he proceeded to explain that all-caps was not yelling and I was making a bigger deal out of things than I needed to. I did not go on any more dates with this guy.

    Summary? All-caps is a *major* turn-off both personally and professionally, and it’s going to harm Sansa’s standing and your company’s standing in the long-term. It’s in everyone’s best interest for her to cut this the heck out, at least at work. You’d be doing her and yourself a huge favor to put your foot down on this front. You can also ask her to stop doing it in internal emails if you are as exhausted with it as I would be — if she says “oh it’s just a personal preference” you can respond with “and it’s my personal preference not to be digitally yelled at every day, so I’m asking you to stop with the caps please”. You are allowed to have needs!

  20. London Calling*

    *The job has taken its toll on my health over the years. I’m 31 years old and am currently on two medications to control my dangerously high blood pressure.*

    Do it. Move now. Your health is way, WAY more important than any perceived loss of status. As I’m sure your doctor has told you, hypertension is a killer. I’m in exactly the same situation (albeit nearly at the end of my working life) and my priority is taking care of myself and staying alive.

    1. OP3*

      Thank you! You have a very good point, the perceived loss of status really has been holding me back and keeping me in this job longer than I should have stayed. Both of my parents, now deceased, suffered from Strokes during their lives and had high blood pressure and all the trimmings that come along with that. My doctor said I have a very limited window of time to turn this ship around, so I’m doing all I can to reduce stress in the meantime while being compliant and taking my medications daily.

      1. London Calling*

        Oh, and I’ve been non-management all my working life. I probably haven’t earned anywhere what I could have, but I’ve been happy enough and I have a decent life. My father dropped dead from a stroke brought on by stress and overwork aged 40, leaving a widow and 3 young children – I don’t intend to go his way if it can be avoided.

        You take care of yourself.

    2. Samsoo*

      I have done both… supervisory and non. I am now in non and quite happy. My job title makes some people think I’m “just a secretary” (not that there’s anything wrong with that in my mind) although I am not, but I honestly don’t give a crap. I am paid very well for my expertise, I can go home and forget about work, and I really love my job.

  21. Competent, I swear!*

    #3 – I’m doing the exact same thing, dropping down from management to a role with lower responsibility in a new company next month. I’m really happy with the upcoming move, but finding myself “justifying” it to a lot of people who ask about my upcoming new job. Funnily enough, all the experience, professional managers etc. are totally unfazed, congratulate me, and focus more on the fact I’ll be changing from 12 years of wildly flexible working hours to a strict 9-5 schedule (which, yeah, ouch). :) It’s the junior and younger staff who seem a little fixated on the job titles. But I know my reasons, and I’m happy with the move. So yes, it’s absolutely fine! go ahead, do what’s right for you, and good luck in the new job.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve done the same thing. Ended up with a ridiculously high-powered job title in a toxic workplace, basically thanks to other people leaving and not being replaced (‘Hey, seeing as you’re still here…we’ll make you head of the department’) and eventually ran for the hills and freelanced for a while. I had to fend off a lot of ‘But…are you still looking for a proper job?’ attitudes from some people, who couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to keep climbing the ladder, but the fact is I didn’t want to manage people and I didn’t want to be fighting fires the whole time – I just wanted to do the work that interested me. I think the freelance gap has helped me in subsequent job applications – I frame it as being something I’d always wanted to try (which is true), and say that getting stuck in to the hands-on work again made me realise that’s what I want to do. Thankfully there are non-managerial jobs out there where the employers still want someone with a lot of experience – they take a bit more finding, but they are there. And I get to use my experience to do a great job at the things I enjoy doing.

    2. Samsoo*

      Yeah, I got off the hamster wheel about six years ago and have never regretted it. As you note, other management types are unfazed and maybe even a little envious (I am still paid at a grade similar to a lot of them but don’t have all those headaches).

  22. cierta*

    OP4, Alison is right, this isn’t nice or normal, particularly for something like a Kolbe test, but I thought it was worth mentioning that there are some application processes for large systems that do make you pay for your assessment tests (the one that springs to mind is that in the UK everyone wanting to train as a teacher has to pass Numeracy and Literacy professional skills tests, and has to pay to sit them themselves.)

    1. cierta*

      I accidentally lied! They’re free to sit the first three times, and you have to pay for them if you want to take them more times. My bad memory…

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Is the UK or just England/England &Wales? Unless changed recently, in Scotland you have to be a graduate, which takes care of that requirement.

        (It may have changed!)

        1. londonedit*

          I had a friend who (in England) did GCSEs and A levels, went to uni and did an English degree, then decided to do the PGCE course afterwards to become a teacher, and discovered that she hadn’t got a high enough grade in her Maths GCSE to automatically get on to the course (I think? Or to pass the course when she was doing it?) At any rate she had to take a separate maths exam and pass that before she could progress.

    2. JKL*

      That sounds like a professional certification that’s required in order to work in a certain field. We have those in the US too and its common to have to pay for them yourself, but that’s not what the letter is about. The letter is about paying for a skills assessment that would only be relevant to this specific job.

      1. Marthooh*

        I don’t think this is a skills assessment test either; more like “cross the Kolbe test’s palm with silver…”

    3. just a random teacher*

      Yeah, we have exams for teacher licensure in my state, but they’re something you take while applying to schools as a student wanting to get your teaching license (or possibly during such a program). You’d have to pass them to get the license you need to hold a teaching job in the first place.

      Teaching jobs themselves would just say something like “candidate must possess a valid [that particular state] teaching license with an endorsement in [subject area/grade level]. It would be theoretically possible, but not something I see often, to hire someone with a valid license but needing an additional endorsement and expect that person to then go take that subject area test (for example, hiring someone with a teaching license who has a chemistry endorsement, and telling them that they really need to pick up a physics endorsement as well since science teachers at that school end up covering multiple areas of science), but that’s something that would be done after you decided to hire that person anyway rather than during the interview process.

  23. Jen RO*

    #3 – My next job will absolutely be outside management. My job is much lower-stress than yours and I still know that I would be much happier as a Senior Whatever. I could do all the enjoyable parts of the job as an individual contributor at a senior level, so that’s my future plan.

    And I found that, in past interviews (before I ended up managing), employers actually seemed happy when I said I have no management aspirations. Most companies only have a couple of people with my job title, which does not justify a manager, so they were probably happy that I was satisfied with reporting to a different department head and wouldn’t feel like it stifled my career aspirations.

  24. AliceBD*

    OP 5 I just accepted an offer that included a six day trip 12 days after starting work. I’ve been trying to fly across the country to see a close family member and finally had to just pick dates, knowing this would probably happen. I mentioned it in the phone call where they offered me a job and my future boss immediately said they would figure out how to handle it, and then HR put approval for it in my offer letter. I don’t love that the timing worked out like that but I have had to postpone this trip multiple times before due to troubles accruing enough vacation time, and I finally had enough at the job I was laid off from last month that I was able to schedule the trip and then whoops lay-off.

  25. londonedit*

    In the UK, certainly, it’s fairly standard for companies to honour existing pre-booked holidays when you start a job. Some bosses may kick up a fuss about it, but it’s generally not a problem. I went on a week-and-a-half’s holiday a month after starting a new job, and while my colleagues did joke about how I’d only just got there and was already doing a runner, it was totally fine – I’d notified HR and my soon-to-be-manager about the trip when I received the job offer, and it was all agreed before I started. But we (certainly in every job I’ve worked in) don’t have to ‘earn’ or accrue holiday before we can use it – you’re generally given a set number of days (usually around 25) at the beginning of each calendar year/company fiscal year/whenever you start (that would be pro-rata depending on your start date) and you can use them as you wish, with the approval of your manager. So it was fine for me to start a job and use 9 days’ holiday within the first six weeks – I still got paid for those days.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah, it’s a standard question I’ve always been asked when at late interview or offer stage “do you have any hokidays booked?”. Said yes once, and wasn’t an issue!

      I wonder if difference may be that uk standard is to get a year’s worth of holidays to use during the year, whereas in us (from my possibly flawed understanding) you have to earn/accrue days first?

      1. JKL*

        This is actually standard in the US as well. I’m not sure where you’re getting that it isn’t standard. As Alison said in her response, most employers would be fine with taking a pre-planned vacation soon after starting a job if its brought up during the offer stage.

        1. Whoop*

          I think it’s more that in the UK you start off with paid holiday – you don’t need to earn or accrue it, so you wouldn’t need to take a pre-planned holiday unpaid. I may be wrong, but the impression I’m getting is that in the States you’re probably okay to take a pre-planned trip, but you probably wouldn’t be paid for the time.

          1. JKL*

            Actually, its common for professional employers in the US to give employees an advance on some of their PTO or allow their PTO balance to go negative, so you could get paid for it.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              That’s cool :) I think the difference is that there’s not really a concept of getting an advance on days off, or going into negative (except if you want to borrow from next year but that would be unusual).

              When you leave the job, it’ll get sorted in last pay (if used more than due for that portion of year, that will be reduced, if used less, get paid more).

              1. londonedit*

                Yes – I mentioned it being standard in the UK just because I wasn’t sure whether it was also standard in the US (we hear a lot about how people in the US don’t get much holiday, and the idea of having a negative PTO balance isn’t something that happens here).

      2. Asenath*

        It probably does have something to do with accruing holidays. If I were to leave my current job, I would need to use any holidays I was owed (there MIGHT be a possibility of getting pay-in-lieu, but my employer is in the process of putting more restrictions on how many days we can carry over year-to-year, probably partly to avoid having to pay some of them out….) Anyway, if I started at a new employer, I couldn’t bring my old holidays with me, I’d have to start accruing them from scratch. Sometimes I think there’s a possibility of negotiating that when you start if you have a good reason, but approval isn’t guaranteed.

        And I’m not complaining about my employer’s policies, even if they are pulling back a little on some aspects of them. I’d say we get a bit better than average for similar work in Canada, and far better than that offered by some of the US employers I’ve seen described here. We start at 1.25 days per month up to 15 days per year – with both accrual and total days increasing with seniority. And we get a few extra paid holidays that aren’t on the statutory holiday list, plus separate sick leave.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah – we don’t count it as days per month unless it’s time to leave when it gets tallied up. You get legal minimum of 28/year, and use when agreed. Many companies don’t let you book holidays in probation unless you’ve pre-booked (but a lot are flexible if it comes to it!).

          1. Asenath*

            We usually talk of weeks per year, although when we get statements of how much time we’ve used and got left, it’s in hours. And the accrual is calculated per month, but mainly used if you retire or resign with time still owing. The employer doesn’t much like paying out cash for excess holiday time, but so far, still allows it within limits. There’s already a cap on how much you can carry over year-to-year – that’s why, if we’re over the limit, we get a statement from HR with all our usage on it, and saying “Use this time by March 31 or you’ll lose it”.

            I thought 28/year sounded really generous until I remembered stat holidays If I were starting off with my 15 days (after I’d accrued them, of course), I’d actually get close to that (29) if I added in stat holidays plus the extra days they give us as a kind of bonus during slow periods. Do your figures include stat (ie official government) holidays?

            1. londonedit*

              No, most of the time public holidays are in addition to your holiday allowance. It varies between employers but I think 20 days is the standard minimum (so 28 including the public holidays, assuming you’re in England), but many employers offer 25 days’ holiday. In my experience, in the cases where I’ve had 20 days’ holiday, the period in between Christmas and New Year has been an office shutdown that didn’t require the use of holiday days to cover it, and where I’ve had 25 days’ holiday, that period has been an office shutdown but you have to save 3.5 days to cover it. It does vary, though. Plenty of places stay open or run a skeleton staff in between Christmas and New Year (we get the 25th, 26th and 1st as public holidays in England) and then it’s up to the staff whether to book holiday or not.

              1. Asenath*

                Oh, Christmas, that’s a great benefit in my workplace. Most places, at least in my part of Canada, keep going through Christmas except for the stat days (December 25, 26 and Jan 1), but it’s a really slow period for us, and anyone whose job isn’t public facing or essential maintenance/security can usually take Dec 25-Jan 2 off with only a single leave day. And December 24 staff is usually allowed to go home early (but if you stay home all day, you lose another leave day). It makes a lovely long break right when the weather is getting bad, before the long, long haul through to March and our next extra long weekend (not a stat day, just an extra holiday). Some provinces have a stat day in February, but we don’t.

              2. Akcipitrokulo*

                We’re on skeleton staff christmas week, and you do have to use 3 days holiday for it – but you know from the start of the year so not so bad. Would love to have those in addition to holiday allowance!

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              Legal min is including all bank holidays – so where I am it’s 8 bank holidays (if the office closes for them) + 20 days. But that’s regarded as the bare minimum and would be entry-level – tbh, my first job offered 22 + bank holidays totalling 30, and where I am now starts at 24 + 8 and you get an extra day after 3,4 & 5 years.

              1. londonedit*

                Yeah, we have 25 + 8 and I think you accrue extra days for longer service. We do have to keep 3 days for the Christmas period, though.

  26. The Face of Boe*


    [ I know she’s not trying to be “shouty.”]

    She has chosen to type in a way that is commonly regarded as “shouty.” She knows that she will be perceived as “shouty.” Therefore, she clearly IS trying to be “shouty.” It’s really that simple.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, this is like saying “I’m not shouting, I just talk as loud as I can all the time!”

      1. Working with professionals*

        Ugh! I have a coworker who uses that excuse. “I’m not shouting, I’m from New Jersey!” Strangely enough, it did not change our perception of the shouting one iota. We continued to request the shouting stop and eventually he did modulate his tone when speaking with us.

  27. Asenath*

    # 1 – Just tell her not to do it, and do not re-do any unsatisfactory work. Have her re-do it. You don’t need any reason other than that your employer uses standard style – most especially in anything that goes outside the business, but it’s perfectly reasonable to use normal capitalization for internal messages as well.

    # 2 – As much as I dislike swearing, there are workplaces in which it is the norm, and it sounds like you’re in one. You’re unlikely to change the culture, so I guess you can get used to it (you probably don’t need to take up swearing yourself, just not put a lot of importance on their swearing) or find something else. A lot depends on how attractive other parts of the job are – the duties, pay, benefits, location etc.

    #3 – Lots of people move to lower status or lower paying jobs, often for very good reasons, many of which Alison lists. I’d say if your current job is affecting your health as much as you say, a move to a lower level role might literally be a life-saver. There are more important things in life than being a manager.

    1. SherSher*

      I once worked in a culture that is well known for its salty language. I was one of just two or three females at any given time. To a person, if someone swore not realizing I was in the room, they apologized as soon as they knew I was there. I’m sure it was because I was female, but I also don’t talk like that and they knew it. (I could blister you with my words if you pissed me off but didn’t/don’t swear at work.) I appreciated that they made some level of effort.

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

        Hahaha, if someone ever thought to apologize for swearing in front of me because I am a woman, I’d probably tell them to stop making fucking assumptions.
        I grew up in a family where both men and women swore frequently, despite all having grown up pre WWII and some even WWI. My husband and I joke that “goddammit” is my middle name because I use it so frequently (I picked it up from my parents, and now he’s picked it up from me, LOL)

  28. Bart on Film*

    OP#1 Tell her to stop.

    OP#2 No you can’t.

    OP#3 No it isn’t.

    OP#4 No it isn’t.

    OP#5 Yes it is.

  29. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

    OP #3, I’m in a similar boat. After a year in an upper management position I’ve come to realize that, in spite of what I’ve managed to accomplish, I’m not cut out for this type of work and it’s made me absolutely miserable (sleepless night, weekend spent crying, stress eating, you get the picture). My situation has also been complicated by the fact that a faction of our governing board thinks I shouldn’t have this position and undermine me at every opportunity. I’ve had several heart-to-hearts with the CEO and told him I can’t continue and would prefer to return to the position I had before this promotion. He seems willing to work with me to achieve that, but I’m also looking for jobs elsewhere in case we can’t work something out. I wish you the best.

  30. Bookworm*

    #3: “However, I don’t really think being in a management role is doing my health or work-life balance any favors. I like the idea of coming in every day, sitting at my desk, focusing on my own work and being responsible for myself, not other people.”

    I only quoted this because of how much it resonates with me, although I’m not a manager. I just wanted to write: THANK YOU (hope you don’t mind the all-caps here. ;P). So many people do not understand the responsibilities and duties of being a manager and so many don’t recognize (or don’t care) that they’re actually truly terrible at being one. I think a lot of people could really benefit from the experience and perspective you have, that it’s not good for their employees OR themselves and that many are better suited in contributor roles.

    There might be people who do see it as a downgrade but it’s better you know yourself than put yourself or others through needless misery. Good luck to you and hope you like this new role better. :)

    1. OP3*

      Thank you so much! You are very right, I’m definitely trying to get over the whole “downgrade” way of thinking. My direct reports deserve someone who is not miserable coming into work every day. I think there’s a lot of Truth to the statement that not every High performer is cut out to be a manager. I was promoted to management because I was a high performer in my prior role. Of course, being young and naive, I said yes to everything that they threw on my plate. I’ve also learned the lesson that I need to start pushing back instead of saying yes to everything!

      1. Samsoo*

        I took a “downgrade” to a non-supervisory position six years ago after about 10 years as a supervisor with two different employers. Funny thing is, I moved up faster once I left management and am now at a higher paygrade than some of the managers I used to work with. And I am happy happy happy!

      2. AnotherSarah*

        OP3, definitely take a job that you feel is better for you/you’re better for it. My mother took on a management role (for the money and because she was promoted out of her original role), and it made her miserable. It wasn’t worth it, and because she was miserable, it seems (from her stories) that she wasn’t a great manager either–which is something really worth knowing! I concur with Allison, it’s really aggravating that moving to management is often a promotion, when really, management requires different skills. Anyhow, my mother asked for a “demotion,” and was granted it, and was sooooo much happier after that. She went back to doing what she was great at and loved, and I admire her for it.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    I’d hate to go into the conversation where my only defense for asking her to change is “because it’s not how you should do it”.

    I’m a writer–“Do it this way because it is house style for this thing on this project” is an utterly routine thing for me to say or be told, with no greater reason than consistent style. Every once in a while, if we’re at an early point, I might push back once in a meeting–“I prefer the short, simple topline summary to the one that must fit in at least three key words”–but after that input I use whatever the style on that section is determined to be.

    All caps where you expect normal text is shouty, and one “You need to use standard font on these” followed by one “Is there a monitor issue where it’s hard for you to read standard font?” should have been all the set up you needed for a firm, flat, “Use standard font from now on.”

  32. LGC*

    Actually…LW2 reminds me of when my boss had a swear jar in her office. It depends on what LW2’s position is and her political capital, but if she can…if she made light and told people to drop – like – a quarter every time they cursed (and used the funds for something fun for the office), that might help cut down on the cursing.

    Or at least make it more bearable because you’re getting donuts (or whatever) out of it.

    (Disclaimer that LW2 is within her rights to be genuinely offended by her coworkers’ potty mouths.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t normally swear, and if you presented me with a swear jar I would stare quizzically at it, then at you. That’s not a way to treat adults, unless they have all signed on to it as a desirable goal incentivized by quarters–there’s a reason the swear jar is associated with a family where the parents can impose rules just because.

      1. TheRedCoat*

        I had an office institute a swear jar, and one of our admins with a colorful vocabulary just brought in two rolls of quarters, dropped them in the jar, and said “That’ll cover me for this week.”

        It went away after that.

    2. Scarlet2*

      I think using a swear jar is very infantilizing. It’s OK for your children, not your coworkers, esp. when you’re the new person. It’s a matter of office culture and it’s basically impossible to change when you’ve just arrived and everyone else is doing it, including the boss.

      1. curly sue*

        I have a relatively salty vocabulary, much of it picked up at previous jobs, and my kids are much more likely to institute a swear jar for me.

        1. Rebecca1*

          This happened to me and my husband. My son got a few video games out of us before we both managed to break the habit.

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

        I keep a quarter in my car & in my wallet so I’ll have it for the grocery carts at Aldi…and that’s IT.

    3. CheeryO*

      Yeah, we’re somewhat public-facing at my agency, and we have a swear jar to train ourselves out of dropping F-bombs. It’s a quarter per swear and the money goes toward a pizza or two a year. It definitely needs the right personality to implement, though – ours is only half-serious, and no one is actually going to force you to drop a quarter if you don’t feel like it.

      1. CM*

        This scenario makes sense because you all agree that you shouldn’t be swearing in the office, potentially in front of constituents. I don’t think it would work for OP#2 because she seems to be the only one who has an issue with the swearing. I think she can decide how much of a big deal she wants to make about it, but I think her choices are basically to tolerate it or tell everybody that she would prefer less swearing around her and deal with their reactions (which may be making an effort not to swear, walking on eggshells around her, feeling resentful and judged, or just ignoring her).

      2. Autumnheart*

        Yeah, the group basically has to agree that it’s for fun. If it’s something where management puts on their Mommy hat and wants people to clean up their language, that’s infantilizing.

        We had a swear jar that raised some money for charity. I put in $5 and joked that I was covered for the day.

    4. swearing is my oxygen*

      Based on OP2’s description of the office (either a warehouse or something related to logistics) – this would be a really strange even alienating choice. I work in logistics and it is a field well known to be full of swearing. From the truck drivers who really do swear like sailors, to the dock and warehouse workers who also swear like sailors, to the front of house staff (like myself) who swear less – but still tend to swear a lot as our job is literally to put out massive fires and do the impossible without clients knowing how crazy their requests are. Having a swear jar is really infantilizing and given that many of the swearers are likely more “blue collar”, could read as insulting and classist (even racist depending on demographics). Even if it is taken in relatively good spirits, it would waste a lot of capital in an industry where good capital is king and favors and connections are best way to solve a crisis and keep your clients happy. Now I swear and come from a state known for swearing, so working with potty mouths is the last thing to ruffle my feathers. But my advise to OP2 is to be very selective with pushing back on the swearing. “This is an effing good bagel” – let that pass. But slurs, sexually explicit/harrass-y comments, and the like are the ones to use capital on. People remember those who try to monitor their language and it can hurt OP2’s career relationship. They won’t be irked or put off by a person who is pleasant and converses with them daily but just happens to not swear in response. They will remember that person as a good colleague and someone they want to help out in a pinch.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 I support manufacturing, and it would be very weird to try to stop the Very Nice People on the floor / shipping team from swearing.

      2. LGC*

        So since a lot of the replies are similar: I did kind of think that it was logistics or something similar, just from the details the LW gave. So while I totally sympathize with the LW’s offense (which I noted), it also seemed like they worked in a field that might be less emotionally restrained than your typical white collar office. (Also, I said “quarters” instead of “dollars” just because I didn’t want to make it sound like too much money.)

        And the approach REALLY matters here, I’ll agree – it’d work a lot better if it were “gamified” as opposed to – like – imposed by fiat. (As a matter of fact, this might not be something the LW can implement herself – in my case, it was my boss who started it, and she can be…rather colorful behind closed doors.)

        Finally…yes, it is a bit immature, which is why the approach matters.

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

          For some of us, those quarters would add up into dollars pretty quickly.
          And in a work culture where swearing was NBD, I would be extremely insulted by one single coworker trying to implement something like this. And if they continued to try and push it after my my initial profanity laced rant telling them exactly where they can cram the swear jar and the fiery hot location they can head to right afterwards, I’m sure it would come to an end after I started coming up with creative alternatives to quarters that I could drop in the jar any time this coworker felt like clutching her pearls: pebble, button, gum wrapper, dead bug, bottle cap, etc.

    5. Jadelyn*

      (Disclaimer that I, and quite possibly OP2’s coworkers, would be within my/their rights to be genuinely offended by the infantilizing use of a “swear jar” in an adult workplace.)

      Honestly, I think most people would just refuse to “pay up” unless something like that came down from TPTB – I really doubt a regular coworker could get away with it successfully.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Exactly. If a coworker tried that one on me, I’d tell them where to stuff that swear jar…

    6. LJay*

      Yeah, I’m a manager in aviation of warehouse employees and there’s no fucking way I or any of my employees would play along with this swear jar.

      At best, we would ignore it.

      At worst, you’d get told exactly how stupid we thought it was, it would negatively affect our perception of you, and we would avoid working with you or near you as much as humanly possible, even if it meant getting other people to do things that your role was supposed to handle.

      It’s just so far outside of the norms of the industry and our workplace that it would have no chance of working whatsoever.

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    #3, are you taking a big paycut? Because if not–even if you were, but especially if not–this is just you taking a role that emphasizes the tasks you enjoy in the current one and removes the tasks you don’t. The new company has every reason to view that as a good fit.

    1. OP3*

      Hi! It’s actually a small pay increase at the new company. It’s in a completely different industry, thankfully!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Oh, that sounds like great news! Less stress, a bit more pay, something new? Great!

        Health insurance at new place okay?

  34. Hal*

    LW3: Your body is telling you to leave the management job. Unless you have a spare body you can use if need be, listen to your body and leave.

  35. Beth Jacobs*

    # 2 If I were OP # 2, I’d have bigger issues with being at the office at 6 am than the swearing :D !

    1. Alice*

      My thoughts as well, if I had to be at the office before 6am I’d be swearing like a sailor as well!

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Logistics / manufacturing, the shifts often start early. 6am – 3pm is pretty normal – it lets you get finished goods out the door during normal hours for the shipping companies.

    3. Sherbert*

      I love starting work at 6. In my office, that means I am alone for at least the first hour. Plus I can head out before traffic gets really bad.

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

        When my husband first started working where he does (warehouse) he went in at 5:30 AM. He didn’t mind much, but *I* hated it, because it meant he had to be in bed by 8 or 8:30! It seriously infringed on the time we were able to spend together.

  36. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2….do you have customers/clients that come into the office on a regular basis? If so, I could see this being a reason to address it, in that it creates a less than professional environment for customers and could potentially be offensive to customers. However, if you never deal with the general public or this only occurs in the presence of other employees, I don’t honestly think you have a good shot at changing it, especially if the big boss speaks that way. Quite frankly, if this is really bothersome to you, I’d consider looking elsewhere. However, I wonder, is there a way to reframe how you view it? If these people are cursing in a matter-of-fact way, not an angry way, could you view it as just their way of speaking or consider the use of the f word to mean “with emphasis?” I admit, I am a fellow sailor and most of my cursing is just everyday stuff, and not said in anger, such as “where are my effing car keys? I’ve lost them again.” If you could reframe your thinking in a way that would allow you to tune it out by just viewing it as another descriptive word, maybe that would help.

    1. Jadelyn*

      There was a great piece I read once about the history of the word “fuck” that talked about how heavily-used it was by soldiers, to the point where “the word “fucking” eventually came to mean nothing more than “here is a warning that there is a noun coming up next”.”

      It really is that meaningless for a lot of us tbh.

  37. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Years ago when I had no income and was desperately job searching, I had to kill my hope of working for a certain school board (as a secretary) as they wanted standard first aid, a less-than-six-month old TB test and a police records screening to apply for and work at their schools.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, all of that is completely fair to ask for these for a place with lots of kids but I didn’t have first aid yet, and I didn’t have $120 to take the course; and the police screen also costs money and and I had no clue if a TB test cost money. There was no indication that any of these costs would be reimbursed by the employer if hired (at least for the TB or police screen). So, I didn’t apply.

  38. OP3*

    OP3 here! Alison, thank you so much! The next role is indeed a senior analyst type position that requires someone with experience, not an entry-level role. You hit the nail on the head when you said the management vs non Management Factor is messing with my head. My declining Health has been a huge Wake Up Call for me. My doctor told me that I’m too young to be on the amounts of medication that I’m on. She also told me that if I continued like I am now, I will very likely have a stroke by age 35. I like the people I work with, and I feel a lot of loyalty towards my current employer. They recognized my potential early on, and promoted me at a young age when I did not expect to be promoted. Part of me feels guilty for leaving them because they really gave me the opportunity & stage to grow as I have . However, the nature of the work, the workload, the high staff turnover, and the daily fires that need to be put out are just well beyond me at this point.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing that you are not well suited to management. Or, rather, that management is not suited to your well being. Especially since a lot of places assume that being able to do something means you are capable of managing others to do the thing and that is just not the case. The culture of ‘rewarding’ high performers by promoting them to management positions is exceptionally problematic. Managing is a completely separate skill set.

      1. Anonym*

        Or even just management in what sounds like an extremely difficult and chaotic environment! The current role definitely does not sound normal.

        OP, if you wanted to transition back to a management role in a healthy environment sometime later in your career, I’m sure you’ll be able to do so. This won’t limit your options there.

        In the meantime, enjoy the new role and take good care of yourself!

    2. London Calling*

      Your last sentence resonates with me so much because it’s virtually identical to my experience. Add to that a brutal commute with unreliable public transport and I know that the hypertension and the anxiety are my body and mind screaming at me to get out.

      As for the loyalty, I admire that – but do you think if it came to layoffs there’d be any loyalty to you? I’m pretty sure that the answer is no. Please do what is best for you and your health

    3. Sans*

      Do NOT feel obligated to stay in a management role that makes you miserable just because management is what is considered “success”. Early on in my career, I realized I didn’t want to be a manager. When I went looking for a new job where I would again be an individual contributor, my new employer was actually impressed that I didn’t care whether the title said “manager”; what mattered was that I’d be happy with the job. I haven’t been a manager since then (decades ago) but I’ve had a very successful career with lots of responsibility and good pay.

      I see too many people going into management because they are “supposed to”. Do what is best for you and your well being.

    4. paxfelis*

      “Opportunity to grow” does not repeat does NOT mean that the direction of the growth is something that will be good for either you or your employer. I means you get an opportunity, and nobody knows in advance whether it will be a good opportunity.

      Speaking as someone who’s been jumped up to very junior management two or three times, and found out that I am a rotten manager due to lack of training and inclination.

    5. The Face of Boe*

      I work for a state agency, and I see plenty of people take voluntary demotions due to stress. I also see some management positions remain vacant for the same reason. (“Why should I take a 15% raise for a job with 25% more hours and 50% more stress?”)

      1. Sherbert*

        I am a fed. This is one (not the main) reason I don’t apply for management positions. I am at the top grade (before you get to senior executive service). Any move to a management position would mean ZERO increase but lots more headaches.

    6. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      You’re paying attention to your talents, preferences, mental needs, and your body. You’re not ignoring other valid factors, like loyalty and perceived prestige, but you’re rightfully giving them less weight.

      I’m really impressed with how you’re making this decision.

    7. Pink Shoelaces*

      I’m late to the party so I don’t know if you’ll see this. I think your loyalty is admirable, but you don’t have to take loyalty to a level where you are risking an early death. I would bet (hope) your company would not want or expect that.

      Good luck!

  39. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP #1 – where is Sansa’s manager in all of this. Do you have the same manager?

  40. Ms Chanadalar Bong*

    OP#3 – Your letter hit me right in the feels.

    A few years ago, I took what I thought was a major positive step in my career (more money, better title, more responsibility), and it was horrible. The job was nothing like I expected, I was constantly putting out fires (one week, we had 5 or 6 separate crisis issues) and my request to move laterally to a less stressful position was declined. I had chest pains, developed major anxiety (I was having 1-2 panic attacks a day), my hair started falling out, my BP went through the roof and I ended up developing a significant alcohol problem (thankfully now under control!), after I started drinking to deal with the stress.

    I ended up leaving for a job that I was overqualified for, with less money, terrible benefits and a fairly junior title. And if I could do it again, I would. I’ve rebuilt my career around the type of work and workplace that fits my personality and skills, and the paperwork is in for my promotion back to a management title (but the title is the ONLY similarity).

    You are worth more than your title! Please know that you’re not alone in this, and that some random internet stranger is SO PROUD OF YOU for doing what’s best for you and your health!

    1. OP3*

      Thank you so much! Everyone’s thoughts really mean the world to me. I’m so glad you were able to start fresh and that you’re now happier. My mother passed away last month . The realization that we only have one life to live has really kicked me in the butt. Everyday I spend Miserable is a wasted day that I will never get back. I really want to find happiness again!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Good luck, and I hope you get a happy and fulfilling life. Being a manager is stressful, and there are a ton of other ways to succeed and be happy.

  41. caryatis*

    LW2: “I get there is foul language everywhere, but honestly, hearing the F-bomb a half dozen times before 6 am is difficult.”

    Why is that difficult? It wouldn’t be for a lot of people. I wonder if you’re interpreting the swearing in a way that’s making it hard for you to hear (for instance, interpreting swearing as hostility). Change the way you frame it, and it may get easier to hear. Or start listening to comedy/TV that uses a lot of profanity, and you may get used to it. Because you’re not going to get anywhere asking adults to stop using certain words just because you don’t like those words.

    1. Asenath*

      It would be difficult for me to hear constant swearing, and I find it so unpleasant that I avoid any comedy based on it, so I’d be unlikely to engage in some kind of desensitization program like you suggest. I find constant swearing deeply disrespectful – even though I know in some cases it isn’t intended as such, either because it’s an automatic response to stress, or the speaker doesn’t understand that there are different levels and styles of language, and some people find some of them disrespectful.

      That being said, there are subcultures in which such language is not only acceptable, but deeply engrained and frequently used. I don’t think that the OP’s reaction should be to become accustomed to the language. I think she needs to decide if the job provides enough benefits to allow her to think of that and ignore the language, or to move on if the language is too disrespectful and exclusionary for her to tolerate, and there are other similar jobs with a subculture where she will fit better. Paying the bills often comes first, and she wouldn’t be the first one who was forced to tolerate an unpleasant work culture to keep the wolf from the door, if it comes to that, but she doesn’t have to assimilate to it.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        Why should she not try to acclimatize if it can be done? (And it can). You can prefer whatever you like, but there isn’t actually anything morally superior in clean language.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          And there isn’t anything morally superior about liking cussing or finding it inoffensive.

          The purpose of swears is for emphasis – it’s entire reason for existence is to amplify or intensify what you’re saying.

          It’s meant to register, to create some kind of “bump” in the brain.

          If OP doesn’t like feeling as if she’s having a bell rung at her or being picked in the shoulder all day, that’s a reasonable feeling.

          She doesn’t like it. Why would she want to surround herself with more of it?

          If someone disliked dogs and got a job in a dog-friendly office, the solution wouldn’t be “get a dog, then you’ll like them better.”

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            I don’t think anyone has suggested that OP needs to start swearing herself. I don’t like when people speak in sing-song, but the answer is not for me to look for a job where people don’t do it OR for me to feel obligated to start sing-song-ing myself. It’s for me to do my best to get over it, recognize that there’s nothing inherently superior in my preference over theirs, and carry on.

            “Honestly, hearing the F-bomb a half dozen times before 6 am is difficult” combined with “I have a very good job” indicates that this is an irritation, and not a dealbreaker. Irritations can be adjusted to.

          2. Alison Green Fan*

            +1 This is very well-stated. Many people would find it tough to work peacefully in a work environment in which people continually drop F bombs. It sets a tone that feels the opposite of professional and peaceful. There’s nothing wrong with preferring something different, and it doesn’t make you a classist or racist. She will probably feel a lot better in a different workplace culture.

            1. London Calling*

              I worked with someone who used the F-bomb almost every other word. It was a verbal battering, all day every day, and was one of the reasons I left that job.

          3. Close Bracket*

            The purpose of swears is for emphasis – it’s entire reason for existence is to amplify or intensify what you’re saying.

            That’s where re-framing comes in handy. For you, the purpose of swearing is emphasis. For some people, the purpose of swearing is more similar to “like” or “you know.” It’s filler, nothing more. If you can train yourself to hear swearing as filler, then it won’t cause that bump in the brain. It’s the equivalent of seeing your coworkers’ dogs as akin to cube decorations that you don’t care for yourself, but which brighten their day, lower their stress, and make them easier to deal with.

            You have choices in how you interpret things. Pick the interpretation that makes your life easier.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think it’s possible to change your comfort level with swearing without this type of exposure therapy if one wants to. When I was about 12-13 I used to have an intense dislike for swearing (and was horrified to discover that my parents swore!). I would, at the very least, make a face and, more often say something. The problem was that people still swore and, when I thought about it, I realized that I disliked the way people were seeing me because of my no swearing campaign a lot more than I disliked hearing expletives. When I reframed it that way, it didn’t take long to move from “Oh my gosh! Cussing!” to “meh”. It made my life a lot easier.

        3. Asenath*

          I think you’re assuming that if I (or OP) refuses to acclimatize, I am claiming moral superiority. No such thing. There are a vast number of social characteristics or situations which are probably more or less morally equivalent, but which I might find so uncomfortable that I’d rather find a job more suited to my personality than “acclimatize”. Or my discomfort might be more moderate, and my need for a job so desperate that I’d do my job and ignore the aspects of the workplace that drive me crazy. Or even take up swearing, only in the workplace, as a kind of protective coloration. These aspects are things like cursing, gossip, certain assumptions about socializing outside work hours, attitudes about extreme company loyalty or skimping on the work, required dress styles – there are innumerable possibilities even though we as a society try to have common workplace standards (at least within industries and regions) as to what sort of behaviour is acceptable to minimize the number of people who don’t fit in and maximize work efficiency. Changing one’s preferred behaviour in something as unrelated to productivity as swearing seems like a lot to ask of someone. My reasons for thinking so have nothing to do with the morality or otherwise of swearing.

          1. Scarlet2*

            Well, yes, it’s a matter of office culture. And like any type of office culture clash, the new person has two options: either get used to it or leave. Everyone who doesn’t fit in with the general culture *is* pretty much expected to change their preferred behaviour, not the other way around. Whether it’s a lot to ask is up to each individual person to determine.

      2. Jadelyn*

        “or the speaker doesn’t understand that there are different levels and styles of language, and some people find some of them disrespectful.”

        …or the speaker is just not choosing to prioritize your hypothetical feelings over their own preferred speech patterns. “Obviously they just don’t understand How Language Works” is such a ridiculously condescending way of framing this. I majored in linguistics, ffs, I am well aware of how conversational register works – but my usual mode does include a moderate amount of profanity, and unless I have real reason to shift register to a more formal one – such as, my workplace specifically is one which doesn’t tolerate profanity well, not just “hypothetical people around me might find it ~~disrespectful~~” – I’m not going to expend the effort just because some people might dislike the way I normally speak.

        You’ve got a serious case of My Way Is Obviously The Singular Right Way To Look At This Situation going on here, and I really don’t feel like that’s helpful to the conversation in the slightest.

    2. Bostonian*

      It’s difficult because a lot of swearing that is out in the world is meant to be either harsh, angry, offensive, or disrespectful. Yes, not all swearing is used that way, but you can’t just “forget” all the swearing you’ve heard during your life that IS nasty. So, it’s not unreasonable to expect that all swearing, even swearing that isn’t meant to be offensive, will have a grating effect for some people. You can intellectually know that the person speaking is meaning no harm, and still have a visceral reaction to the word(s). I don’t think it’s as easy as “oh, just change the way you frame it”.

      1. Close Bracket*

        No one is saying changing frame is easy. It is quite simple, but simple and easy aren’t the same thing. If that were true, Ask A Manager would go out of business.

  42. OP #1*

    OP #1 here, just wanted to offer a brief thank you to everyone who’s leaving comments on my piece. I appreciate all the support and feel a sort of vindication in my insistence to correct this issue. I should have an update for everyone later today. I brought the issue up with my manager yesterday after another error came to a head with Sansa’s work. I think this might be good timing to critique her writing “preference” when he is reviewing proper procedural things too. Fingers crossed for a happy update!

    1. Didi*

      Please be sure this is truly a preference and cluelessness, and not a way to deal with dyslexia! She may not want to acknowledge that she has dyslexia and needs an accommodation!

      1. Alice*

        If she does, she ought to tell her employer so that a suitable accomodation can be worked out. Using all caps is not a solution because she’s not doing her job properly.

      2. LQ*

        If she needs an accommodation then she does need to ask for one. And that accommodation may be something like one of the dyslexia fonts, but it is unlikely to be someone else has to redo all of her work for her.

        I’d say that the OP should not ask the person if they have dyslexia and it sounds like you think that they might hide it anyway. So what are you suggesting here if the OP can’t (and shouldn’t) ask, and you think that the Capswriter doesn’t have to ask for an accommodation? What would you suggest they do?

      3. MaureenC*

        Maybe she could use Small Caps or a different font while composing, then switch it over afterwards? With All Caps you can’t properly capitalize things, but with Small Caps you can.

      4. Holly*

        There’s nothing that OP has stated that indicated that might be the case, and it doesn’t actually make a difference in how OP #1 should handle it. They need their work written without all caps – that is an essential job duty.

      5. I've got Nothing*

        It’s not our employer’s jobs to do this emotional labor for us. Adults in the workplace must advocate for themselves, and Sansa has had plenty of opportunities to discuss dyslexia, which she should have done if it applies as it looks far less weird than just wanting to type in all caps just because.

      6. Observer*

        Why? The bottom line is that Sansa’s work is close to useless (or worse) as long as she’s not using correct case and format. If she really CANNOT to it correctly, then she’s in the wrong job. I feel bad, but it’s like a person who knows no Spanish expecting to work with a primarily Spanish speaking population and using Pig Latin to hide the fact that she can’t speak Spanish.

    2. nnn*

      If it is, as others have suggested, a way to deal with dyslexia, you could show her the function in Word that lets you change all-caps to sentence case. That way, she could write her documents in all caps as she prefers, and then switch to something comfortably legible for everyone just before she sends them out.

    3. JSPA*

      Chiming in on having worked with a kid who used this as a dyslexia simplification tool. And to say that there are “caps to regular” converters that Sansa can and should use, after composing. Google “all caps to lowercase” and pick the relevant program. There are also online tools to do the job, if it’s not something needing secrecy. Will post in follow up.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Change, not critique. =) You aren’t giving an opinion, you are instructing on the correct business style to use while at the company.

  43. Didi*

    OP1: There’s a possibility that Sansa has dyslexia. People with this disorder are sometimes advised to write in all capital letters, since it’s harder to confuse them. For example, lowercase d and b are easy to reverse, while D and B are not. My college roommate did this and I didn’t know why until she told me one day. She would use a font on her computer to write in all caps and then would change the font to a regular one before sending her papers out.

    1. JKL*

      If she has dyslexia, its up to her to request an accommodation. This isn’t an appropriate way to deal with dyslexia.

      1. Arctic*

        It’s an entirely reasonable accommodation if she has dyslexia as long as she uses the program software to switch it to normal. They just have to tell her to do that.

        1. LQ*

          Having her coworkers redo all of her work is not an appropriate way to deal with dyslexia. If she was using word to switch to sentence case. Or using a capsed font or a dyslexia friendly font and then switching that would be an appropriate way to deal with it. But she needs to speak up. No one here gets to not ask for what they need. OP needs to ask that documents not be done in all caps. And if your internet diagnosis is correct then the caps user needs to ask for accommodations.

        2. JKL*

          But she’s not using a program software to switch it to normal. She’s using her coworkers to do that and that’s not reasonable.

        3. Observer*

          No. It’s reasonable to let her do her work how she wants it as long as she hands in correct work. It is NOT a reasonable accommodation to allow her to hand in incorrect work and have someone else fix it.

          Also, the issue is not just whether it’s an appropriate accommodation for dyslexia. The issue is that the OP (and probably not OP’s and Sansa’s manager) to treat Sansa as though she has dyslexia if she’s never disclosed and asked for an accommodation.

    2. Lilysparrow*

      And if Sansa were doing that, the OP wouldn’t even know about it, because she would have corrected it herself.

      Nobody cares how you write a rough draft. It doesn’t matter. It does matter if you’re sending rough drafts out as company communications.

      There’s an essential step missing here, which is Sansa doing her job correctly instead of her co-workers picking up the slack and doing it for her.

    3. OP #1*

      This is a good point and we will be cognizant of it. I’m not sure if it is the case here because I have seen work of hers that doesn’t use all caps, but I have no reference of how long it took her to write or if it required extra effort on her part. Either way, pointing out some of the formatting tricks people have pointed out here (i.e. selecting all text and changing to sentence case in Word) might make it a win-win situation for all.

      1. Observer*

        Please keep in mind that you do NOT want to assume that she has dyslexia or imply that you think that she actually has dyslexia.

  44. LadyByTheLake*

    #1 You are doing Sansa (and yourself) a disservice by not being direct. Allcaps is not acceptable in business writing — it is difficult to read and it is understood as shouting. Be clear with her — external communication must be in acceptable business font. This is non-negotiable and she needs to fix it. For internal communications, she needs to understand that allcaps is perceived as shouting. It’s her choice if she wants to shout at her coworkers, but let her know that that is what is happening and that she will be viewed accordingly.

    1. Mike B.*

      Yeah, confronting the situation with tact is really an act of kindness here. She’s somehow categorized this as a normal and acceptable variation and doesn’t realize that she looks foolish and unprofessional.

      I would go so far as to add something like “and while it’s your own business what you do outside of the office, I’d think hard about how it looks to other people; one reason it’s considered unprofessional is because most people find it irritating to read.” But then, like a contestant on a reality TV show, I’m not here to make friends.

  45. Name of Requirement*

    Swearing, two thoughts: f-bombs are such a wonderfully flexible part of language, make your own! Use codswallop or something fun. Swearing is a creative endeavour that starts young.
    For some, swearing is a signifier of rage and frustration. It might be worth reflecting in which it is where you work- the language wouldn’t both me, but constant anger would.

  46. Clawfoot*

    OP#5: HR is used to this kind of thing, because it happens all the time. When I started my current job, the initial job offer had my start date on the 14th of the month, but I had a pre-planned/booked/paid for vacation starting on the 21st, and going to the 26th. Before I signed the job offer, I contacted the company and basically said, “I plan to accept your offer, but I have question about the start date. I have a vacation planned for the 21st to the 26th. The way I see it, we have three options: 1) I can start on the 14th, take my vacation (unpaid), and return on the 27th; 2) I can cancel my vacation altogether, starting on the 14th, or 3) we can delay my start date to the 27th. I would prefer the latter option personally.”

    They chose the third option. I was told later that they were impressed with my flexibility and willingness to cancel if they wanted me to (and I was willing; I’d rather accept the job than take the vacation if it was one or the other).

    1. OP#5*

      These are my exact options, and I like the idea of framing it this way when responding to their offer. Delaying my start until after my vacation would mean starting 7 weeks after they hire me, so I doubt they will go that direction. It’s most likely they would ask that I start working for 2 weeks, take the trip unpaid April 15-29, and then resume on April 30.

      I think I am the one more likely to make the call to cancel the trip than them. It is a big step up, and an exciting one, and the idea of coming back to a new role with 2 weeks worth of work not completed makes me feel anxious and concerned that I could fall behind and have it reflect poorly on my probationary review.

  47. LaDeeDa*

    One of the things I have learned most from reading Alison’s advice is how many people seem incapable of making a direct request or having a conversation. OP1’s issue shouldn’t be an issue “Using all caps isn’t acceptable in communications, please don’t do it anymore.”

    1. OP #1*

      I agree, but this sometimes has to come from the right person for it to be heard and followed. My counterpart is a no-BS kind of guy and works more closely with our All-Caps Colleague. Although I didn’t hear the exact exchange he had with her, I imagine he didn’t sugarcoat it as much as I did. It seems like it will only sink in if my manager makes a point of it. I’ll be sure to update once we have our team meeting today.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Have you ever sent her stuff back to her to make the corrections herself? That would drive the point home. I suggest making that standard operating procedure.

        One problem with relying on the manager to give these messages is that it undermines your own authority to instruct her.

      2. Observer*

        That or you constantly sending her work back to her. You are not her manager, but you do get to decide if the work is done enough for you to use it. Use that capacity, regardless of what your boss does.

        Do let him know, though, so that he doesn’t get blindsided if she complains.

  48. LaDeeDa*

    OP3 – all that stress and unhappiness isn’t worth a title and money. If you have a few minutes Google Joe Burton Mindfulness and watch one of his talks and the changes he made in his life. I saw him speak recently and I am currently reading his book, and now I think I am going to bring his program to my company. I am in the planning/pitch stages right now.
    Good luck! I really hope you like your new position!

  49. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    OP #3, take the new job, you will not regret it!!! You have the management experience on your resume, you in fact did manage 28 people, but it’s not a life sentence.

    My partner was in a very close field to yours in his early 30s, and he worked too hard and had a major heart attack and triple bypass at 35. Some of that was genetic bad luck, but he had ignored the job stress and blood pressure stuff and didn’t go to the doctor a ton or take care of himself much in his 20s and early 30s, and it really set him back for several years (and that high powered job went away when he was laid up too long anyways, even though they gave him good benefits and severance for a while).

    I used to manage a smaller team and ended up in a more free-standing role that doesn’t have manager in the title or direct reports, and to be honest, you may not miss the pressure of having to manage anyone. Being responsible for only yourself if you’re making a decent living is pretty great sometimes.

  50. Delta Delta*

    #3 – You get one life. Here’s how I think about this: you can chase titles and advancements, and if that’s your jam, then go for it. If you decide you want or need something different, then do that. I worked in a super-toxic environment for a long time and left a couple years ago. I lost a lot of weight and my hair was falling out by the time I left there. Fast forward a few years and I feel like an entirely different person. I have a different outlook on things. I do what makes me happy. I have (perhaps unfortunately) gained the weight back. I left when I realized chasing a fancy title wasn’t worth how horrible I felt all the time.

    I don’t know what industry you’re in. I think for future positions if someone were to ask why you made the change you did, you can say what’s true: the job you left wasn’t for you.

  51. IHeartProofreading*

    To me, #1 is a no-brainer. You cannot have RANDOM capitalized words in the middle of documents for no reason. If the intent is to draw attention, that is fine but, otherwise, it MAKES the business look bad. I would have had a direct conversation WITH her a long time ago.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Especially if it’s been carefully worded:

      Dear JANE,

      We are delighted to inform you of our upcoming conference which we think will be of particular interest to you and your colleagues at TEAPOTS INC. This should be an exceptional event; of particular interest is our guest speaker WAKEEN who will be giving HIS insights into recent developments in the industry!

      Thank you,


      1. London Calling*

        Oh, you left out the continued use of the target’s name!

        Dear JANE,

        We are delighted to inform you, JANE, of our upcoming conference which we think will be of particular interest to you, JANE, and your colleagues at TEAPOTS INC. This should be an exceptional event, JANE; of particular interest is our guest speaker WAKEEN who will be giving HIS insights into recent developments in the industry!

        Thank you JANE,


      2. OP #1*

        Your example is basically spot on with what we’re dealing with. It’s a mixture of two issues:
        1. She keeps the caps lock on all the time. So if she is filling in the blanks on these letters, she just doesn’t remove the lock.
        2. She is tasked with a lot of data entry (think names, DOBs, addresses) for which she also uses all caps. So, when another user auto-generates a letter or copy-pastes the information, the capitalized information is all auto-populated.
        Scenario #2 is more common and makes it becomes difficult to “send the work back to her for correction” because she technically didn’t create the document. I would have to ask her to go back to the client’s profile to fix everything – which may seem out of context when the profile was entered weeks ago.
        Regardless, this issue will be addressed today. I’ve brought it up with my manager, so if he is unsuccessful I will take charge and correct the issues. We’re at about the 4-5 month mark with her anyway, so it is a good time for my manager to check in with her, see what’s going well, what’s giving her trouble, and provide feedback on the work she’s been doing.

        1. Asenath*

          I think it might be a good idea to have a simple system for updating the database – Jane and Fergus report to OP1 that their letters to Customer Brown are coming out all caps, OP1 adds “making corrections to the database” part of Jane’s job, and adds “Fix Customer Brown’s listing” to the corrections she has to make.

          It really annoys me when people create inconsistencies in databases – even very minor inconsistencies.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          I can see it makes it more removed from when she originally did it, which could make it more awkward for you. I think I’d still err on the “send it back” side, but yeah, is an additional layer.

          I am glad you’re taking it to your manager on it! I hope it goes well for you and it gets resolved.

        3. Close Bracket*

          I would have to ask her to go back to the client’s profile to fix everything – which may seem out of context when the profile was entered weeks ago.

          Do it anyway. If she is the person who updates the database, then she is the person who needs to make the corrections, regardless of when the mistake was made.

          Maybe you need a limited period of oversight for her data entry. Do spot checks, and when you find problems, have her review all the entries since the last time she entered data and correct whatever she finds.

        4. Observer*

          Out of context or not she MUST go back and correct the database.

          That, by the way, is something that should have been pushed on IMMEDIATELY. And, it should have been brought to the boss as soon as you realized that this is a pattern. Errors in your data base are poison – they mean that you are not just redoing half of her work, which is bad enough. It means that EVERYONE’S work is now at risk. Essentially, you might as well not have the database to merge with.

    1. SarahKay*

      Or, as a cheaper alternative: OP#1, did you know it’s possible to disable the Caps Lock key? Google may be your friend on this one.

  52. Honeygrim*

    OP#3, I’m so glad you sent in this question. I’ve been in a management role for two years, and am right now serving as the interim head of my department while they search for a new head. So right now I’m not only responsible for managing the staff, but also the building, as well as doing all of the other “important” tasks in my own job and my previous boss’s job (and what’s “important” seems to change minute-by-minute). This job has always had some stress, but over the past two years my health has definitely deteriorated, with the past few months being even worse. I too am on medication for high blood pressure, as well as for acid reflux and two different anti-anxiety medications. I have an additional med to take when I can’t sleep (which is often). I have no energy to do anything when I am not at work, so my housework, pets, friendships, and self-care have all suffered.

    But I have been afraid to look at jobs that aren’t “management” because I felt like I was trying to “demote” myself. Reading your post and Alison’s response have helped put things in perspective. I enjoy the parts of my job where I get to complete my own tasks and be responsible for my own work. And those parts of my job do have room for professional growth (except I don’t have time to take advantage of it) and are very important, in my opinion, to my profession. I even enjoy (somewhat) working with and managing the staff (I’ve done this for a couple of years). But right now I hate coming to work. I get headaches all the time, I’m exhausted all of the time, and I feel on the verge of tears at least once a day. It sucks.

    Congratulations on finding a role that you can enjoy! I hope to find one as well.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      I am going to post about this tomorrow in the open thread. I am desperate to leave my senior management role and go back to doing what I love, but I haven’t had any luck when applying for jobs that are several levels down from where I am currently. Maybe some people will chime in tomorrow with their experiences.

  53. Justin*

    re 1: Yeah, you need to talk to her and tell her she can;t do that anymore. If she says you’re not in charge, then rope in her manager (who is… where?)

    5: Give as much notice as you can (within reason), and tell the other job upon receiving an offer.

    I went month’s notice, end of job, honeymoon, (moved apartments!), new job and it worked out alright. It may not for all, but if you tell them ahead of time they won’t make you cancel your trip.

  54. the one who got away*

    OP3: I did this! While my team was smaller, my stress level was similar: 12 hour days, weekends, administrative tasks eating up my office hours, work email/calls eating up my off time, etc. Then I had a few things happen all at once:
    1. In the space of six weeks I had a ferocious sinus infection, a perforated eardrum, and then…mono. I got mono when I was flippin’ 30 years old.
    2. My relationship with my now-husband was suffering.
    3. I started job hunting and then my boss, my wonderful, supportive mentor, my dear friend, had a stroke and almost died. When he was 39. THIRTY-NINE. He survived and had a full recovery, but his doctor was like, this job is going to kill you if you stay.

    So eventually I ended up moving to a whole new state as a trailing spouse. When I interviewed for the job I currently hold, the manager was very frank that this was not and would never be a management role. I said that was fine, as I was ready to use my skills as a contributor instead of spending all my time managing.

    And it’s been wonderful. I’ve been here for years in the same role, and it took a while to recover the salary I’d given up, but it happened. So now:

    1. I make more money.
    2. I have fewer responsibilities. I actually get to leave work at work and enjoy my off time.
    3. But my favorite thing is this: the experience I brought to this job quickly put me into a kind of senior advisory role with my manager. She relies on me for input and perspective on so many things, so I feel my skills and experience are not wasted — and I still get to spend the bulk of my time on work that makes a difference.

    Sometimes I miss having a team to guide; I truly enjoyed helping my folks grow and develop skills. And I miss the budget and the official influence. But overall, the change was so, so worth it.

    You’re going to do a great job and be so much happier and more relaxed. I just know it. Good luck!

    1. OP3*

      Wow. Your work experience is very very similar to mine. My doctor told me the same thing, she told me that this job stress will either kill me or severely disable Me by way of stroke if I stay here. I’m a nurturer, so I love nurturing and helping my direct reports grow into their roles and Beyond. But the ever-present dysfunction, stress, and crisis mode in this place is really taking its toll on me. the negatives outweigh the positives. I’m really looking forward to the new chapter in my life. Thank you so much for your response!

  55. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – echoing everyone else! Management is not the only way to excel. I hope you love your new job and let us know how it goes :)

  56. Much too young to feel this damn old*

    OP #3, this hits really close to home. I get it. I feel a great deal of loyalty to my employer, too. I’m not managing 28 people — which sounds completely unreasonable, by the way — but I’ve been in management for two years now and realllly don’t like it that much. And I have a really good team around me, honestly! I miss being the go-to senior person and being responsible for my work, and my work only. I don’t like feeling responsible for other people’s careers. In my current position, I’m constantly exposed to the dysfunction throughout my senior leadership team and have to shield my team from the madness, which is emotionally stressful. I’m 38 and feel like this job drains all the energy I could put toward things that matter to me more. I want out, but I’m also afraid of “demoting” myself and losing face.

    I’m gonna give you the advice I should be giving myself: You are so much more than your job. You’re only 31 — that is so young to be dealing with job-induced health issues. You can always try management again *someday,* but you need a change immediately.

    1. OP3*

      Thank you! For some reason, it’s been ingrained in me that being a manager equals glory and success. And demoting myself is somehow a failure on a personal level. I’m trying to get out of that mindset! My organization is also extremely dysfunctional. I really hope you can take that leap eventually so that you too can find happiness again! It is very scary. I am very terrified of the unknown.

    2. Clisby*

      During my whole working life (I’m retired now) I can remember sitting across the desk from a manager and thinking, “Man, I never want a job like yours.” It didn’t even matter if the manager was great, good, mediocre, or bad – the thought of doing the stuff they did just seemed soul-sucking.

  57. cheese please*

    Op#1 : Maybe this will get lost in all the comments or has already been mentioned, but could you teach Sonsa the capitalization toggles in MS Word? Next to the font side arrows there is a function that says “Aa”. This way Sonsa can type in all caps and then highlight and click “Sentence case.” under this function to adjust the capitalization (assuming her punctuation is also OK so MS Word can detect it correctly).

    You can phrase this as “I understand you are more comfortable with all-caps but we need to be uniform in client communications so I want to help make it easier for you”

    1. I've got Nothing*

      This is so nice. I wouldn’t do this much unnecessary hand holding though. Sansa doesn’t need to type in all caps. I don’t know why I find this so irritating.

    2. Kathleen_A*

      The thing is that although it’s easy in theory to change all caps to sentence case, and in practice it’s kind of a pain, and the longer the document is, the bigger a pain it is. Once you’ve changed something into sentence case, you still have to look at each and every word to decide if it’s a proper noun or an abbreviation or whatever, and that can be tedious and time-consuming.

      (I know this from experience because I’ve had bosses who seem to think that all caps are easier to read than proper sentence case, and so that’s how they want their speeches printed. Fine, fine – readability data disagrees with this, but that’s their prerogative. However, I was the one who’d have to turn those speeches into news stories and other printed materials, and let’s just say that I found out really quickly that caps ==> sentence case is a lot more complicated than it seems at first.)

      Sansa just needs to cut it out. Like, now. I don’t know – maybe she really doesn’t know what needs to be capped?

      1. cheese please*

        I have never used the feature for more than a short section (mainly stylistic choices for section titles in a document etc) so I wasn’t aware it was so cumbersome.

        If Sansa has some legitimate reason for her use of caps, maybe this would be a way to help her correct herself. As some have mentioned, this is maybe unnecessary landholding, but if OP is already correcting the documents this may be in line with company culture and their style of communication. I would rather hand-hold a coworker for 5 minutes than re-do their work week after week and be irked by their job.

    3. Jennifer*

      Too wordy and way too much handholding for a professional adult. I appreciate that you are coming from a place of kindness, but this is a conversation that would be had in an elementary school English class. If she really doesn’t know what needs to be capitalized and what doesn’t, which may actually be the issue here, she may not be qualified for a job with so much written communication.

  58. drpuma*

    OP3, “management” can mean different things at different companies. At my last job I was a “manager” with no direct or even dotted-line reports. I was not alone; it seems to have been more of a salary level-set there. I found that I missed managing people; you may find that there are aspects of managing in a different setting or under different circumstances that you miss as well. 28 people is a large team.

    Your next job will care the most about what you’ve been able to accomplish. Keep on doing great work and you’ll be fine!

  59. I've got Nothing*

    Just tell Sansa to cut it out with the all caps. Let her know her performance will be dinged if she keeps it up. I don’t get this at all. Everybody knows all caps is yelling or for emphasis.

  60. Lygeia*

    I had a coworker at a previous job that would capitalize every word. So He Was Typing Like This. He thought it looked more professional (???) even after multiple people told him it most definitely was not. Management there was ineffectual so he kept doing it. Sometimes I wonder about him and if anyone ever did get through to him on that point.

  61. Third username*

    OP #1 -It might be helpful to point out that your business uses AP style (or whatever style) for all correspondence. It isn’t just a style choice, it’s incorrect. If she refused to capitalize proper nouns or ended sentences with a comma you would correct her, right? This is the exact same. You can say it warmly, but you definitely need to point out that this is not correct, and you need her work to be accurate. (Clearly this kind of thing gets under my skin)

  62. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1 She needs to be told to stop using caps. It’s not cute and she shouldn’t be given a choice.

    I’m a cantankerous lady at this stage and just recently snapped at a person who did this. They sent out an email to me requesting information from us, they’re not a customer or even a vendor and I told them that until their communicated with an appropriately formatted request, I wasn’t interested in assisting them. She’s going to need to grow up and turn off the capslock.

  63. Bossy Magoo*

    OP#3, I did the same thing. I quickly ascended to a director position in a function that I hated when I really wanted to be in an entirely different function. The thought of working another 30 years in a job I hated finally became more depressing to me than my own perceived embarrassment at being “just” a staff-level professional. That was 10 years ago and although I’ve been offered pathways to management in those years, I’ve always turned them down because I enjoy the hands-on contributions I get to do now. It does feel a little embarrassing when I see my high school friends in their Vice President or President or Partner positions, and I sometimes wonder if I’m a slacker, but frankly I’m not willing to trade my enjoyment of my job (and my ability to leave it at the office and go home to enjoy my family, friends and my own interests) for an impressive title. Good luck to you and I hope you find that same kind of happiness and satisfaction (and good health).

  64. 4Sina*

    If your office has an actual stylebook, make sure she’s aware of it and knows to use it (using the right theme and colors for presentations, having her email signature on lockdown, etc). If there is no office stylebook, make one, although I agree with everyone else that being direct and shutting it down completely is best. However, specific rules exist because somebody has tried it in the past, and going forward, apparently this is something to watch out for.

    Also, all caps is not acceptable in typing, period. There is definitely the connotation of shouting (having been a part of forum culture pre Web 2.0, I actually hear shouting in my head when I read all caps, and generally it takes a nasty tone even if none is implied), and it is also harder for some folks to read because of the kerning. Whether or not it’s her “preference”, which is so bizarre anyway, her way of writing is absolutely an accessibility issue.

  65. Fergus*


    any job that cost you money is not a job. a job is to make money. I bet they are making a profit off of this.

    1. Steve*

      Yeah from just what was written, to me it seems far more likely that it’s a scam than that it’s a poorly run company.

  66. Cat owner*

    I’m just kind of baffled that the all caps thing was allowed to go on for as long as it did. You shouldn’t have to ask an advice site for how to say “Please don’t use all caps for emails or form letters”. If you can’t handle that extremely basic and uncontroverisal level of giving feedback, how does any feedback get given in that office?

    1. Cat owner*

      I mean, LW would rather REDO the work THEMSELVES than tell Sansa that it’s wrong and has to be redone?! What?

    2. CM*

      My guess is that the office culture is very indirect, so that somebody who had worked there for a while would recognize a gentle, “Hmm, that’s interesting how you do this thing differently than everybody else” as an indication that they shouldn’t be doing that. But since Sansa is new, she’s probably more like you in expecting that if they want her to do something, they will say it very directly. There’s nothing especially wrong with either style — I have a strong preference for directness so the gentle and indirect style would drive me crazy personally, but it works for a lot of people and it’s a matter of understanding what kind of culture you’re in.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m floored at the fact it was brought up and the co-worker was able to away with a “lol yup I luv my CAPS!”

      The first conversation was approached as if there’s a reason she can ever use capslock in the first place.

      “Hi Sansa, I’m going over this form you helped with and see you have done edits with capital letters. Please don’t use caps, this document needs to be formatted correctly. Redo this and resend, thank you.”

      Not everything is a choice. It’s a business. Come on now.

  67. Workfromhome*

    #2 – You may have to accept that hearing swearing form those around you is the accepted norm if you want to continue in your job. I don’t think you will be able to change the culture and its a matter of if you don’t like to work around swearing then work where they don’t swear. that said one time you can and should push back is if someone swears AT you. If Joffrey is having a conversation with Bob and says “Hey Bob we need to move the effn ladder over to the effen wall” You need to tune it out.
    If Joffrey says to your face “you need to give me the effn TPS report fright effen now” you have standing to say “I don’t want to be spoken to like that. If we want to continue the conversation I’ll ask that we use more professional language”.

    1. londonedit*

      Fun fact: I used to referee football (soccer) matches. Men’s Sunday league, 11 v 11, pub teams and the like. According to the Laws of the Game, foul and abusive language is a straight red card offence. However, also according to the Laws of the Game, you can’t start or continue with a match if a team has fewer than seven players. If I’d sent off every player who swore on the pitch, most of my matches would have been abandoned before half-time. So I gave the players a rule before kick-off – general swearing among teammates or players swearing at themselves would be tolerated (‘Ah, f*** sake mate, I was free over here!’ ‘Heads up! Get the f****ng ball away!’ ‘F***! That shot was f****ng awful!’ etc) but swearing that was aggressively directed at another player, or at me, would result in a red card.

      1. Rebecca1*

        OTOH, strict rule enforcement would be a convenient way for a ref to knock off early and head to the pub, should the mood strike.

  68. Jennifer*

    Re: Profanity
    I feel your pain. I can deal with a few choice words here and there but I don’t really like being around people who drop f-bombs every other word. Probably due to the way I grew up. If that’s the office culture, and they aren’t doing it around clients, there’s not much you can do beyond reframing your thinking around it.

    Re: ALL CAPS I’m a bit flabbergasted that no one has simply said, please don’t type in all caps. It DOES make you look like a loon writing a manifesto besides the fact that it’s just plain rude. You don’t have to tell her that, but if she pushes back, just repeat it and say it’s unprofessional. This isn’t some great hardship. All she has to do is press the caps lock key. What if everything had to be handwritten and she wrote it in crayon?

    If you have trouble with being direct it might be a good idea to practice with a friend and have a few phrases already prepared and ready to go when similar situations arise.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Bahahaha, it would make me expect her to start ranting about how time is a cube and the scientific establishment is too educated stupid to acknowledge the truth….

  69. Bostonian*

    #2 As much as I do swear in my personal life, I wouldn’t like being surrounded by it at work. I prefer my work environment to be as professional and respectful as possible. I used to work in a place that swearing was the norm, and the environment was unprofessional and inappropriate in other ways. (Can you honestly say that NONE of the swearing has crossed into angry/disrespectful territory?)

    For OP, it depends on the level of comfort. If it’s the sheer volume of it, this might be a case of bad culture fit. If you only care about the swearing that seems particularly angry/disrespectful, then maybe call that out in the moment when you hear it.

  70. Batgirl*

    For goodness sake OP1 tell her it’s not correct English and she shouldn’t do it anywhere least of all at work; it’s like letting her walk around with her arse hanging out.

  71. Diabetty*

    This doesn’t address the fact that using ALL CAPS is not good professional practice, but as a Microsoft Word Nerd (TM) I feel obligated to tell you that you can in fact change the text of the entirety of a document from all caps to sentence case, or to capitalize each word, etc. It’s on the Home tab in the Font key, is called Change Case, and looks like “Aa”. If you hover you’ll see the options.

    After I discovered this I felt the need to shout from the rooftops, so here I am. Obviously follow Alison’s advice, but just in case you love Word as much as I do look into it.

  72. It’s raining its a** off today*

    #2 – “Profanity is the inevitable linguistic crutch of the inarticulate “ ~ author unknown

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

      Except that research has actually shown that it’s a sign of higher intelligence and larger vocabularies.

      The more you know!

    2. The Tin Man*

      …and the articulate. It’s like cayenne pepper in a dish – strategically used it can add flair and complexity (or humor, though the simile doesn’t work for that). A lot can drown out everything else going on in the dish/distract from the message. I say this as someone who almost never swears.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Actually, research has shown that the opposite is true. There’s a correlation between profanity and *larger* vocabulary, not poor vocabulary: So while that sort of claim may make people feel better about themselves for not swearing, it’s just not true.

      (and just anecdotally speaking, those with large vocabularies also come up with the most creative curses.)

    4. L. S. Cooper*

      Ah, yes, the immense gravitas of author unknown. I repeatedly score in the top 1% of vocabulary tests, and am perpetually asked to explain the definitions of words I have used to others, because I always opt to use the best-fitting word out of my undeniably large repertoire. So, if I decide to say that, for example, derisive comments about profantity are really fucking stupid, you can rest assured that that is the most articulate way that I could express my particular sentiment.

  73. TexasThunder*

    My counterpart and I discussed this with Sansa early on. We gently questioned if Sansa prefers to write this way because it’s easier to read, hoping we could find a way to adjust her computer screen to increase the font size. She told us that it’s just her preference. I’ve even made a joke (it was appropriate in context of the conversation) about how Sansa “yells” at me through email; to which she giggled, said that’s just how she types, and that I know she’s not trying to be “shouty.”
    “Gently questioned?”, “Preference?”
    Bloody hellfire.
    Just TELL her that she HAS to do it this way.
    (Appropriate use of caps)

    1. Batgirl*

      I get the impression that OP has a lot of second-hand embarrassment for her and was expecting a response of ‘Oh my goodness, I meant to change the capitalisation!’ not ‘Oh it’s fine!’

      I think initially OP went in with a ‘let her save face’ approach but I think the baffling and blase confidence she met with has weirded OP out so much they are now second guessing what they already know to be unacceptable.

      1. TexasThunder*

        Perhaps you are right…. I think the immediate response should have been. “No. Sorry.”.

  74. Emily*

    #2 reminds me of my college newsroom. I wrote for the student paper for a couple years, and it was a slight adjustment to get used to the loud, frequent cursing. I wasn’t bothered at all, it was just a new environment. That’s consistent with broader newsroom culture; one of my journalism profs even joked about it. But! A few years after I graduated, I was still on the paper’s email listserv for current/past staff, and an email popped up about too much cursing in the newsroom. My jaw actually dropped. Apparently a new reporter had complained to an editor, so they were asking everyone to reign it in on the basis that no one had ever had a problem before, but that was then and this was now. Makes sense for a college office, I guess, but I was cringing so hard thinking about how much that complainer had disrupted the “norm” and probably seemed childish to the established staffers. Because you just know everyone had to know who it was!

  75. voluptuousfire*

    OP#1–could it be that Sansa has poor eyesight and is stalling/too vain/embarrassed to get it checked out? I could see all caps being a lot easier to read than regular text.

    Also she may need to learn how to update her settings on her computer so the text appears larger. I have 20/20-ish eyesight with my glasses but even I bump up the zoom to 110% on Chrome to see better.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If so, she needs to grow up, get over it, and either enlarge her monitor font size or get some glasses. I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old, FFS.

  76. The Tin Man*

    #1 – This is a major peeve of mine. I have one coworker who, fortunately, I do not interact with much. She USES ALL CAPS FOR ALMOST EVERYTHING. This is one of several things that leads other people to not take her seriously. It sounds like Sansa is a good worker so it is also kind to talk to her about this even on internal communications because it could impact how she is perceived. Or maybe I’m just judgy – I do allow for that possibility on this topic.

    #2 – I agree, if hearing the swearing bothers you it may not be the right environment. I work in an office role in a construction-adjacent industry. There is pretty abundant swearing at all levels. There are people like me who don’t really swear and others who regularly drop F-bombs. Nobody gives me a hard time about not swearing and when I’m directly talking with them they seem to take the “swear less” cue from me. As for the conversations I overhear that is another matter. To note, nobody swears in e-mail, it’s always verbal.

    And from this response you can see I am much harsher towards someone who uses all caps than someone who curses like a sailor. I am not sure what that says about me.

    1. The Tin Man*

      Forgot to say – if someone asked others not to swear in my company it would come across as odd. The person/people asked would probably do their best to comply out of respect when in direct conversation with that person but they would probably feel uncomfortable dealing with the requester and get afraid of offending them.

      Though I’d want to be a fly on the wall if someone asked our regional president (my great grandboss) to please not swear.

  77. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #3, this is what my own former manager did! She was a great individual contributor, but didn’t really enjoy managing. She ended up going to a new organization to work as a senior-level individual contributor again. I think it’s quite common for people to get into a career field because they really enjoy the kind of work they do, get promoted to a management position, and find out that they don’t get to do that kind of work much anymore, so they think, “this isn’t what I signed up for!” There’s no shame in realizing a career path that includes management isn’t for you, and I think a potential employer would give you credit for knowing where your strengths and interests really lie.

  78. Liz*

    Re #1:
    I’m sorry, but anyone who doesn’t print important stuff like resumes on pink scented paper is a failure in my book and probably can’t even pass the LSATs.

  79. Aggretsuko*

    Google for something called “The DeHulkifier,” it’s a Chrome extension that de-all-caps.

  80. That One Person*

    The first story made me laugh because it reminded me of a forum chatbox where someone was typing in all caps and a friend tried to kindly ask them to not use caps lock…the person then thanked them because it was easier than holding shift the entire time. Had kind of forgotten about it until now.

    Makes me wonder though who she talks to that that’s okay to do 100% of the time or where she worked that this was expected before. For work I’m doing that with some data entry (and then trying to uncaps lock for emails because sometimes I spazz or backspace and it goes back to a place where caps lock was on?) and with friends its only when we’re having a silly excited moment or being derpy for our personal amusement. When it comes to talking to other people though I view it as “shouty” and since its harder to figure out tone at times it can lead me to wonder why someone’s “shouting” when I don’t know them very well. Even when my supervisor was having issues seeing things she simply increased font size (and then I figured out she’d accidentally zoomed out in her outlook, answering why her emails were coming in so large, and we both laughed it off), but she didn’t start using all caps.

  81. Jadelyn*

    Re OP #2, I have to say that if the big boss of the office is fine with it, and everyone around me is swearing that much, I’m going to join in, and a coworker who tried to scold me for my language would get absolutely fucking nowhere. If you’re the *only one* who is anti-swearing in an office like that, trying to badger everyone else about their language is just going to make you stick out.

    I mean really, this just comes down to office culture and norms. The culture is one that allows swearing. If you’re not okay with that, then maybe the culture there isn’t a good fit for you. I don’t think you have the standing to try to change the entire culture of an office to suit yourself.

  82. JustaTech*

    OP2, re:swearing
    It seems like swearing is a big part of your office culture, so it might be hard to get them to just stop. But if there’s a specific word that they’re using that really bothers you, you may have more success asking them to stop using that specific word.

    My office doesn’t swear a ton (and we occasionally entertain ourselves on long nights by inventing not-swears to call inanimate objects), but I have been able to get people to stop using one word (a slur against the intellectually disabled). It wasn’t a big thing, I just said “hey, can you please not use that word?” I didn’t even have to explain *why* I didn’t want them using that word.

    I also had a professor in college who insisted on “family lab” (ie, no swearing in the lab) because if there’s a group who swears more than sailors it’s college students who have only just been freed of “don’t swear in front of your parents”. He could get away with that because he was the professor, but it did cut down on the background cussing. (He didn’t get upset at people who swore when they spilled or broke something, because that’s what cussing is for.)

    1. L. S. Cooper*

      I definitely think that there has to be a line drawn between generic profanity and specific slurs– profanity is used generally for emotional emphasis, whereas slurs target specific groups, and I think it’s perfectly fine to point out that it’s not okay to perpetuate the usage of words that implies that being a member of that group is a bad thing.

  83. OP#5*

    OP#5 here
    Thank you everyone for your personal experiences with pre-booked vacations and for your encouragement and ideas. Here are the options I see and the most likely scenarios based on my knowledge of the company and your input:
    1. Offer made April 12, start date May 6, leave for unpaid vacation May 15-28, resume work May 29. This is the most likely scenario, but I don’t love the idea of being so new and then coming back to 2 weeks of work, potentially falling behind and that coming back to bite me. Especially since the previous person in this role will be leaving April 12 and there is no backup.

    2. Offer made April 12, start date May 29 after vacation. Highly unlikely they will take this option, which would mean 7 weeks without a person in the role. I will put this option on the table anyways.

    3. Cancel vacation. I am more likely to choose this option than they are. This new position would be a big step up, and I’d like to set myself up for success and be confident in my work the first 6 months while on probation. I will put this option on the table, knowing if they take it, I will be more likely to negotiate up a bit higher on salary given how flexible and ‘generous’ this would make me appear.

    1. valentine*

      4. Work the weekend 05/11-12, so you have nine full workdays before you leave.
      5. Working vacation. (Because I am all for saving the money and not denying yourself the experience. Is anyone even going to remember what you did in weeks 2-4 of your job?)
      6. Shorter vacation.

      I really think they’ll understand and approve, so don’t be quick to volunteer the sacrifice. Don’t jump to end a silence via phone or in person. Ride it out.

  84. Observer*

    Op #1 –

    However, I’d hate to go into the conversation where my only defense for asking her to change is “because it’s not how you should do it” or “it looks more professional to type normally.” To me it seems like we’re trying to push our stylistic preferences on her even though our way is the conventional format.

    Why? Why is insisting that she do things the conventional way “your stylistic preference”? And why would it be a problem to insist on it? Especially when you are dealing with client facing documents!

    If you need to, bring this to your manager. Talk to her first, but if she pushes back or just continues to do her thing, you NEED to kick this upstairs. She’s not doing what she was hired to do, and your manager needs to know that.

    1. Yvette*

      Exactly. And “To me it seems like we’re trying to push our stylistic preferences on her even though our way is the conventional format.” No, you are not pushing your stylistic preferences on her, you are telling her how it is to be done in this job. Most companies have rules as to how things are done and won’t put up with deviation. I am in systems and you better believe there are protocols that have to be followed. You can lose your job if you put something into production without going through the proper channels. This really isn’t much different.

      1. Yvette*

        And actually this isn’t even a case of it being the conventional way, it is how it needs to be done for this situation. People are re-doing her work, which is ridiculous.

    2. Scarlet2*

      A lot of companies have style guides in order to give a standard look to their documents. It is indeed a stylistic preference, but it’s her employer’s preference and therefore it should be followed, whether the employees like it or not. It’s part of the job.

  85. NamelessMass*

    OP #3 I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone. My dad refused promotions for decades because he didn’t want any more stress than he already had. Now he is a year from retirement and stepped down from a salaried corporate desk job to a supervisory warehouse job and he is insanely happier. Sometimes you just have to value your health and happiness over the socialized belief in climbing the corporate ladder.

  86. Betsy S*

    about #5 – Our team hired someone who had a MONTH trip planned a week after his start date! It actually worked out pretty well. We were able to make the hire and get the position nailed down, and we had him available when other folks were going out around Thanksgiving and Christmas. We didn’t fully onboard him until he came back, so it didn’t hurt our sense of his abilities. It probably would have been harder if he’d been here longer, because we would have wanted to get him started on projects.

    For the right person, a few weeks is not a big difference. And if it’s a big company, there’s always a certain value in getting a position filled. Unfilled positions have a way of getting cut, and there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that you have a good hire coming in.

  87. JediSquirrel*

    LW1: The problem isn’t that Sansa doesn’t know any better. It’s that she thinks she knows better. Put your foot down.

    Also, figure out where else she is violating corporate norms/policies because that’s her preference.

  88. Former Employee*

    I cracked up at Alison’s “…allowing materials to go out looking like they were created by a hostile loon…”.

    I look forward to using the phrase “hostile loon” in conversation.

  89. Trixie Belden*

    After reading this and taking in the earnestness of the LW, I feel like I’m in Bizarroland. Or is this letter some kind of parody of workplaces who provide accommodations and safe spaces for all cultural tics? If you’re truly thinking of allowing this badly misguided individual continue with this beyond-odd “stylistic preference” that means virtually everything must be redone, why continue to have her work there at all? I don’t know whether to laugh or shudder.

  90. Shoes On My Cat*

    Op#1: considering how good she seems otherwise, I am wondering if Sansa is not sure how to use capitalization correctly? Perhaps she never learned, got mocked at an OldJob and this is her default of doing the best she can. See how it goes using Allison’s advice above and if you then see that all caps is her crutch, there has got to be a style guide for capitalization -or create a short one!

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If she never learned to use capitalization correctly, I don’t think she’s qualified for a job that involves a lot of written communication – especially not client-facing!

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