my boss thinks I’m his graphic designer, how to salvage my reputation at an internship, and more

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

1. My boss thinks I’m his graphic designer

I’ve been working at this chocolate shop for about six months now. It’s pretty slow and easygoing so I have a lot of free time. I remember the owner asking during the interview what I do for fun, and one of the answers I gave was drawing. He got really excited for some reason.

So he comes by the shop one day and starts talking about all this graphic design related stuff he needs to get done, but he can’t afford a proper graphic designer. Then he asks me if I’d come up with some ideas for this package design project thing, and I said, “Sure, why not.” So I did it, but oh my god it took forever. He’s so picky. Now he wants me to do his business cards, brochure, and logo. He’s says it’s hard work and her feels bad for me, but “Oh well, that’s the life of the designer.” That’s not my job though! I’m only getting paid minimum wage. And he’s a horrible “client.” He wants me to come up with everything from scratch because he doesn’t know what he wants, then basically has me start all over once it’s almost finished because he doesn’t like it. He says he’s giving me life experience but I think he’s just taking advantage of me because I’m young and he’s cheap. Am I wrong for thinking this way?

Nope, you are right. He is taking advantage of you. It’s not necessarily because you’re young though; people run into this at all ages.

If you’d be willing to do the work if you were compensated appropriately, say this: “I was willing to help out a bit for free, but if you want me to continue doing graphic design work, my rates for that are higher than what I earn for retail work here. If you’d like me to work up a pricing proposal, I can.”

If he tells you that since you’re doing the work on your chocolate shop time, you’re already getting paid, then you can say, “My rates for design work are very different! I wouldn’t have signed up to do design work for $Y/hour — that’s much lower than I’d charge for that work. Let me know if you want me to proceed with a pricing proposal.”

Alternately, if you just don’t want to do this work even if he pays you more, then you can say, “I’m actually taking a break from design work and not doing it right now. Sorry I can’t help!” Or, “I’m actually not interested in doing design work professionally. I was willing to help out with one project, but it’s not something I can do more of.” If he pushes you to do it anyway, say, “I can’t do it myself, but there are a lot of design firms that could help.”

2. My coworker told me he used too much medical marijuana one day

I work customer service at a financial tech startup and have been there for about six months. Since the startup world moves quickly, that already makes me a senior staff member and I’m actually up for a promotion to management.

We hired three new agents about a month ago and while I remember what it’s like to be new at the company, one of my new coworkers is really going about attempting a friendship with me in a strange way.

We do some of our work from home and especially on weekends it can be a more relaxed environment. Recently, this new coworker and I were working from home and he reached out to confide in me that he uses marijuana for anxiety and depression and since he was working from home he says he “miscalculated” and took too much.

I found it to be completely inappropriate for him to be smoking weed while at work, even though we have a laid-back office environment and a beer-stocked fridge in the office. Also, I don’t know how to handle his confession considering I might soon be his manager.

I feel like he’s put me in a weird position and I want to be super empathetic and not blame him for medicating for very real issues, but I just don’t see a world in which smoking weed during the work day will ever be as normalized as having a beer.

Assuming you’re not doing work that involves safety in any way, I’d treat it the same way you’d treat it if he’d confided in you that he took too much cold medicine and now felt loopy. In other words, ignore it. If he brings up the topic again, you can address it at that point by saying, “I’d rather not hear about this — it puts me in a weird position.”

I would think seriously about why a beer-stocked fridge at work is okay but using something that is legal medicine in 33 states and D.C. is shocking (and that’s before even considering the relative safety of each). Of course people shouldn’t use substances that impair them at work (including over-the-counter medications), but if you’d cut a coworker slack for a one-time dosage misjudgment with Benadryl, you might as well do that here too.

I assume, of course, that part of your concern — maybe even all of it — is the legality. Even if you’re in a state where medical marijuana use is legal, it’s still illegal at the federal level. But how your coworker manages a medical condition is just not your concern as long as he doesn’t make it your concern by continuing to raise this (which you can then stop him from doing) or appearing to allow it to affect his work.

3. How to salvage my reputation at an internship

I’m in law school and ended up with a remote internship this semester. My boss is talented and has an amazing job, so I was hoping to not only learn from her but also to gain a good reference and professional connection. The problem is that I keep dropping the ball on this internship in ways that I never have before. My work product has been good and I’ve gotten high praise for both the amount and the quality, but I have a recurring problem with our phone check-ins: I’ve missed one entirely and been late to call two other times (one slightly, one significantly). We have a standing meeting time but only use it sporadically, and they have been honest mistakes that I’ve promptly apologized for.

The meeting I missed was just because it had been set a few weeks in advance and I hadn’t put it on my calendar for some reason. After that one, I immediately made sure it was a recurring event on my calendar and set two reminders. The first late call (the slightly late one) was because I was in a meeting with the dean of the law school that ran over — I’ve since tried not to schedule meetings so close to our standing call time, although that can be tough given my packed schedule and the fact that our calls are only sporadic. The most recent late call (the significantly late one) was because I, exhausted after a long week, accidentally fell asleep while sitting on my couch waiting for our call time.

My boss also been nothing but kind and patient, and has acknowledged several times that I’m a full-time student with a full plate. At this point, though, I think my apologies are wearing thin. Is there anything I can do to salvage my reputation? Not only are these mistakes deeply embarrassing to me, but it’s unprofessional, and I worry that it’s (fairly!) coloring my boss’s impression of me. I’ve already vowed to myself to be flawless as possible from here on out, but these are basic mistakes and I feel stupid to have squandered such a wonderful opportunity by making them.

Your last two sentences — say them to your boss.

She’s probably wondering if you’re cavalier about the situation or don’t realize it’s unprofessional or inconveniencing her, and it can go a long way to simply say what you said here: “I want you to know that I take these mistakes seriously, realize being late to calls or missing them is unprofessional, and this has been deeply embarrassing to me. These are basic mistakes, and I don’t want to squander such a wonderful opportunity by making them. I’m going to be working to ensure they don’t occur again.”

If you were my intern and you said that to me, I’d feel relieved that you were taking the situation seriously and impressed that you addressed it so head-on.

That said … make sure you’re being honest with yourself about whether you have the time in your schedule to do this internship. If the reality is that you don’t, these mistakes are likely to keep happening, regardless of your intentions. If that’s the case, it’s better to be honest with yourself and your boss about the situation now, so you can discuss alternatives (like a pared-back version of the internship or dropping it altogether).

You could also look at whether the timing of your meetings is contributing to the problem. For example, if you can’t reliably know you’ll be out of other meetings in time to meet with your boss, would she be open to scheduling your calls for first thing in the morning, so that you don’t have anything on your calendar before them?

4. Our office is switching everyone to exercise ball chairs

Our office is undergoing some changes in a few months, transitioning to an open office plan with hot desking and telephone booths for privacy-sensitive calls. We’ve just received word that they’re replacing all chairs with the exercise ball model found here.

As these changes don’t affect my department, I’m silently enjoying the show. I was just wondering what your take on “active sitting” is in general.

My take is that it’s great to offer to people who want it, and ridiculous to force on people who don’t.

They really, really need to let people opt out of those chairs with zero hassle. At a minimum, they’re going to have people with health conditions that will make these chairs inadvisable or impossible, but there will also be people who just don’t want them — and everyone should be able to opt out with no questions asked. It is not an employer’s place to push their idea of “health” on employees.

5. My coworker complains constantly

I work for a large company on a close-knit team. We recently had a few members leave, and are slowly replacing them. We have a new guy on our team … and to say that he is annoying is an understatement. Much of it is likely just personality differences, but the thing that really rubs me the wrong way is that he COMPLAINS CONSTANTLY. He is new to our work but has worked in a related industry for 15 years previously, so he should understand why some of the things we do seem silly on the surface. They’re like that for a very specific reason, and whether you think it’s dumb or not, it’s part of our job.

He took over one of my tasks after he came on board, and now he likes to complain to me about the details, despite the fact that I had nothing to do with creating them. I’ve already said to him, “Well, that’s our job.” And he still continues. I’ve started just walking away when he starts complaining, because if I don’t then I might yell at him. This is just one example of the things he complains about. He also complains about a type of online training he’s currently doing to learn to use a specific type of computer system, our security meetings, etc, etc. Anything mundane he can complain about, he does. How do I deal with this without lashing out?

One possibility is to just be very direct about it: “Have you realized how often you complain? It’s really exhausting to hear so much. Could you rein in around me?”

And then, if he keeps doing it: “You’re complaining again, so I’m going to walk away.” Or, “If you have a specific question for me, please ask it — but I’m not here to hear your complaints.”

It’s possible this will shame him into stopping, or at least pulling way back on it. Or he might be annoyed with you, which is fine if it means he complains to you less. Either way, you’re going to make it very awkward for him to continue doing this, and that’s likely to lead to a lot less of it, which is the outcome you want.

{ 434 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, you’re right to take this seriously and be concerned. For a lot of attorneys, keeping someone waiting even one minute is a problem, and completely missing a call can only really happen once. (There’s greater leeway for interns, but only if they stop repeating the mistake.)

    First, it sounds like you came up with a system to ensure you don’t forget by leaving this off your calendar—keep doing that. Use more than one calendar (I have three), set ample and adequate reminders, and make it easy to “comply” with getting on the call. Do whatever you need to do to get mentally on top of this. For example, before I go to bed I preview my schedule for the next day. I revisit the schedule periodically during the day-of, and doing both those things keeps my brain focused and primed on all the tasks I have due. I schedule in time for completing those tasks. I set obnoxious reminders/alerts for myself because I’m a “one last thing” late person. Figure out what tactics work for you, and use all of them.

    Also, start blocking off time for the calls before they actually begin. Dial into the conference line 5 minutes ahead of time and stay on hold. Don’t meet with the dean or anyone else in the 30 minutes prior to you needing to call in. If you have to extricate yourself from a meeting, even with the dean, let them know that you have a “hard stop” and that you’re very sorry you cannot stay over. Build in a buffer so that you’re not panicked when things run over.

    And do exactly what Alison said. Acknowledge that you realize this is a big deal, you’re mortified, you respect your employer and their time, and you have an action plan to ensure these mistakes don’t happen again. As long as you actually improve, your supervisor is going to be inclined to work with you and give you more leeway for the “growing pains” of learning the weird and specific professional norms in law practice.

    1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

      Why do you have three calendars? That surely just means more upkeep.

      1. valentine*

        OP3: Treat the call time as sacred and perform a ritual, even if there’s no meeting. Set a phone alarm to ring and vibrate 30-45 minutes before the call time; hold the phone or stick it in your shirt. Cool the room and go down one level of sleeves (long to short, short to sleeveless). Move to a table and enjoy a cool beverage while you review the agenda. Improve your sleep hygiene and, if the call is at a time your body would love to sleep, surrender: schedule a nap to end at the alarm time and put the phone by your chin so it knocks you awake.

        1. Anon For This*

          Yeah, I’m not sure this is helpful. I’m not in law, but she fell asleep waiting for that phone call she missed completely–if I had 30-40 minutes to kill doing nothing waiting for this call, I would…fall asleep again.

          1. valentine*

            I didn’t see a point in suggesting activities OP3 possibly isn’t into or might become so engrossed in, they still miss the call.

        2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Wow. I don’t think I’ve done such an elaborate ritual for ANYTHING at my current job, not even when I was proposing to change the entire defense sector in my country. Law truly is a different world

          1. BatmansRobyn*

            I have literally never heard of this, or anything like this, either as a law student or as an attorney. When I was a student and worked remotely, I never in a million years would have had the time or inclination to block out a huge chunk of my “work” day to perform what looks a whole lot like a bedtime wind-down ritual.

          2. pancakes*

            It truly isn’t. I’ve been a lawyer since 2004 and have never heard of anyone using three calendars, nor have I worked with anyone draconian about being a minute late.

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

            I don’t think I’ve done such an elaborate ritual for anything, PERIOD.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I liked this first sentence, but not the rest.

          What I *thought* I’d see was a recommendation that you make that space in your schedule, and be ready, and even if you find out it isn’t happening, you still take at least 10 minutes to do SOMETHING in that time slot.

          Maybe that’s when you write out the stuff you would have said or asked in the meeting. Or you write down the things you learned in the past week, or similar.
          Do you have some sort of “report on my internship” that you are supposed to do? Maybe “canceled meetings” is the time in which you do that work. But something that always happens then.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have eight – my personal stuff, my work stuff, my school stuff, my husband’s stuff, our shared stuff, stuff that affects my whole household (we have a housemate), bills I have to manually do something with, bills that are automatic. But they all show up in the same calendar app, they’re just color coded so I can distinguish at a glance between my doc appointment and my husband’s.

        That said, on rereading, I wouldn’t put anything on more than one of them, so I’m not sure my way of doing multiple calendars is the same as the Princess’s. So maybe irrelevant.

        1. Busy*

          Yeah, I don’t think it is. Color coding is a really fast way to mark things visually on a calendar. I definitely use this for different parts of projects and what not. But yeah, you can be “too” organized. haha I once had a coworker who spent, literally, 70% of her time “organizing” and never got anything done.

          I don’t think upkeeping three calendars is too hard or time consuming, but I know it would be for me. I am way to absent minded for that upkeep! I use the color coding in the same calendar like you do.

          1. TootsNYC*

            then again, it IS appropriate to spend some actual time on your calendar. Every morning, review it for the day, week, and month. Give yourself time to think about those items on it, and what prep work you’d need to do, what kinds of conflicts might occur with them, etc.

            Doesn’t have to be long, but it should be MINDFUL.
            Because it’s IMPORTANT. and you shouldn’t be passive about it.

          2. OhNo*

            I think it depends on your situation. I have three calendars – one personal, one for my morning job, and one for my afternoon job. It honestly doesn’t take all that long to update them all – about 30 min for each, once a month.

            I need to split it that way because if I tried to fit everything on one, it would be unreadable. Plus having that definite split between work(s) and home means I’m not worrying about one job while I’m at the other, or work when I’m at home, or vice versa. Mostly, though, I use this multi-calendar system because it works best for my ADD.

      3. Cindy Featherbottom*

        Google calendars allows you to set up multiple different calendars. You can color code them as well. I keep my work, school, and personal stuff on 3 different calendars (I also have one for home maintenance but it gets used less). If I want to look at just one of them, I can turn the others off temporarily so I can see what I have going on just for one aspect of my life. They are all also different colors so they all stand out from each other. It really does help keep things in better order. And its not really more upkeep. You’re using the same app but just keeping the calendars separate to keep things in better order.

        1. Emily K*

          We do this for our marketing calendar at work. Each channel (Facebook, Twitter, Insta, email, direct mail, events, phone) is a separate Google calendar, but the whole department has access to every channel’s calendar. So if you want to see the full spectrum of what people are getting from us, you can toggle them all on, or you can toggle just the channel(s) you are interested in at that moment.

          It’s really helpful, because it means each channel can also color-code within their channel for different types of messaging because the other colors aren’t taken by other channels. And it also makes it less likely that there will be so many things on one day that in month view you only see two messages at a glance and “5 more” that you have to click to pop up the full list and can only do so for one day at a time.

      4. Aveline*

        FYI, most malpractice carriers require you keep calendars in two separate formats. One online in w backup isn’t enough.

        When I tried to tell them I use an online system that is failsafe and syncs to devices, they would not insure me unless I also printed everting out and kept a paper calendar as well.

      5. Oryx*

        It’s only more upkeep if the system doesn’t work for you. I also have three—truly three, two paper and one computer. The computer calendar is Outlook for work, but relying on just an electronic calendar doesn’t work for me so I also have a bulletin journal for day to day weekly schedule and a wall calendar for big monthly things like upcoming appointments or events or trips.

        I don’t see it as extra upkeep because this is the system that works for me.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Three is easy.
        1. Family calendar on the kitchen wall (so someone else can kick you out of bed?)
        2. Hardcopy for notetaking in meetings (in the backpack)
        3. Computer/phone calendar for automated updates

      7. Choux*

        I have four calendars at work – a page-a-day with cute kittens that I use pretty much exclusively to look at cute kittens, a desk blotter where I write down all upcoming deliverables and their due dates, a wall calendar I use to track more personal appointments that may conflict with my workday, and an online calendar with scheduled meetings. I like keeping everything separate and because with all that, one calendar would quickly run of out space and look messy.

      8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I have to have at least two under my malpractice insurance, and for me it isn’t more upkeep. It’s much less of a burden than the cost of missing something or turning up late.

      9. Janie*

        I am also a lawyer and also have three, maybe four depending on how you count them. I have Google calendar for social/nonwork events, Outlook for all work events (which syncs to my phone so that both Google and Outlook show up on the same app), an internal work calendar system that gets printed out each Friday for the following week, and I also will (usually) create a sort of chart/list of upcoming deadlines that I print out and tape to my wall just behind my computer. Deadlines in law are crazy important.

    2. Arctic*

      I’d be interested to know what kind of law you practice?

      Missing calls or meetings with your supervisors is something that happens ALL THE TIME when you are a lawyer. For the exact same reason it is happening with OP. So much is packed into a day, an hour, and a minute that things run over. You can never really time how long you’ll be in court. Never really predict how long that client meeting will run.

      This intern is a full time student in law school. We all remember how hard that was.

      It’s a great learning experience on how to juggle it when that happens. And it should be addressed with the boss. But if the boss doesn’t understand they are misleading the intern on what it’s like in the field.

      1. Aveline*

        Really? That’s not been my experience at all.

        I’m very, very rarely late or miss a call or meeting. I don’t over schedule in court days where I don’t know how long I’ll be in court. I don’t double book. I allow plenty of time between meetings. I have contingency plans if I have an emergency. I have colleagues cover matters rather than sacrifice the client’s time.

        And when I have to miss something, I call at least an hour in advance.

        Also, she’s not a high-powered senior litigator who missed something because of too many commitments. She’s an intern who will be viewed as someone didn’t keep track of time properly or failed at follow up. It’s not a deal breaker she should beat herself up over, but she needs to figure out how to improve.

        It is recoverable, but telling her not to sweat it based on how your legal experience has been probably won’t help her. I’m not sure how typical your experience is v mine. But I don’t think either is applicable to someone who is an intern with fewer time commitments than a seasoned lawyer. And someone who will be evaluated by different standards than an in demand litigator.

        1. Aveline*

          i just queried two friends who are lawyers in different states from mine. One is an immigration attorney in a major city. The other is in house at a major firm. Neither think that missing meetings or running late should be an acceptable norm. The immigration attorney says it happens to her too much, but that she always calls or sends one if her junior associates. No one is ever left waiting. No phone call is ever missed. If it can’t be made, it’s rescheduled politely w profuse apologies. The in house consul works like I do. You be where you say you will be when you say you will be there.

          I don’t know what type of law you practice/size of firm/jurisdiction or what the intern wants to do, but time slippage and missing meetings aren’t universally accepted as routine.

          Also, I know my state bar where I currently practice has disciplined several attorneys in the past few years for chronic lateness to court and client meetings.

          I suspect that LW won’t know from talking to any lawyer on this site if it’s a big deal or not. She’s got to have a tough conversation with her supervisor. If it is a problem and she’s not meeting expectations, she can either set up mechanisms to get her on track or decide that a different area of the law with last time pressure is more in line with her skill set.

          There are attorneys who thrive in the chaos of too much work and too little time and others who thrive in more structured, stable environments. Neither type is better than the other.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            There’s a big difference between court and client meetings, and an internal discussion with a supervisor, though.

            1. teclatrans*

              Yes, but these meetings aren’t the equivalent of you meeting with your supervisor. As CTT says below, its much more like a client meeting, both because OP is an intern and because of the long-distance nature of the job (which is going to make these check-ins carry a lot of weight).

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Not when you’re an intern or junior attorney, though. Over time, you get leeway with your supervisor, but in the beginning, your supervisor is going to assume you don’t have adequate time management or organizational skills.

              But Aveline is right that none of us know how OP’s supervisor views the situation. The only way OP can determine if they’re burning credibility is by having a tough conversation with their supervisor.

      2. CTT*

        I would think of these calls as being the equivalent of calls with a client; when you’re a student and the first few years as an associate, your clients are the people you work with. Missing or being late for calls with clients happens, but you should always let them know that you have to reschedule.

      3. Ra94*

        This is my experience as well- lawyers talk a lot about how precision and organization is everything, and then turn up late 90% of the time. That doesn’t mean OP should bank on that, especially as she wants to make a good early impression at this stage of her career, of course.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m in federal litigation and transactions, I’ve worked with firms and in the nonprofit sector, I’ve been a junior attorney stuck in court or client meetings, and I have never worked anywhere (geographically or employer-wise) or with anyone who thinks missing calls or meetings with your supervisor—without any notice—is acceptable. I’d be interested to know what practice area or geographic region is blase about meetings with supervisors, because I don’t want to mislead my interns and junior attorneys who struggle with this!

        When you’re junior, including an intern, you have to treat every meeting with a supervisor like it’s a client meeting. You have to tell people if you’re running behind. You have to build trust in your reliability. You get more leeway as you gain experience and become more senior, but even junior partners are not going to blow off a meeting with the managing partner.

        It would be better for OP to develop skills for a world where timeliness matters, and then to get to relax those norms in the future, if appropriate. And if OP is having a hard time juggling all their obligations, they may want to consider their load and take on an internship when they have more bandwidth.

        1. Overscheduled Lawyer*

          EXTREME agree. I’m in litigation and if a junior attorney ghosted me for a meeting that I had blocked time off for in MY busy day, I’d think very poorly of that person’s professionalism. Getting stuck in court is one thing, but I’d also expect that person to give me a heads up that they have a hearing prior to our meeting or something like that. There’s a huge difference between getting a text saying “running 5 minutes late!” so I can do some work or get some coffee while I wait vs. making me sit and wait for a meeting while you nap or meet with someone else.

          This person sounds severely overscheduled, and I empathize, but this is a big deal and needs to be addressed and NEVER repeated.

          1. Micklak*

            It’s also possible to tell the person that you’re currently meeting with that you have to wrap things up for your next meeting. It might be hard if you’re meeting with the dean, but if she heard that you had a call with your internship supervisor, she would probably understand.

      5. Lady Lawyer*

        I’m a legal aid attorney and this sounds like my life. Internally, we give each other a lot of leeway because everyone is overbooked and overworked. With clients and external partners, however, you do need to be more careful.

    3. Aveline*

      If you have a smart phone, set up alerts. I have found these invaluable for my husband who is very, very over-scheduled.

      1. Aveline*

        I also have an online to do list for my week, a task list for each client, and a calendar that has work and personal in several color coded calendars.

        But I also print out a monthly schedule at the end of the preceding month, then a weekly one each Friday at 4. I review next week before I leave. I review my month every couple of weeks.

        I review my weekly task list at my first free opportunity on Monday. Usually that’s iced lunch as I’m in court Monday mornings. I review daily task lists over breakfast.

        Irrespective of how naturally gifted one is at organization, using systems and structures are invaluable. Even if only removing some mental load and active worry in ones headspace.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Honestly, I don’t know if this is really a big deal or not. IANAL, but there are some scheduled status calls where if I don’t hear from the person, I just shrug and get on with my day. They must not have needed anything. It’s slightly annoying, but I’m fine with it if I trust the person and get an explanation after the fact. Some of my attorney friends are the same way. And honestly, a recurring scheduled check-in with an intern is a service to the intern. Most attorneys I know would be busy with their work and may not even notice that the intern missed the call until later.

      I’m not saying this is universal, though. To some, this would be a huge deal. You really have to know your audience on this one. But even a stickler for this would likely cut OP#3 some slack. They are an intern, and learning the hard way to leave time for meetings with important people to run over is the type of lesson that I’d expect interns to learn.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Another thing to consider–make it a routine that every morning, you look at your calendar.

      Also consider whether paper calendars might actually be more effective for you.

      And build in time to create your calendars, to review them on a weekly and monthly framework, etc. It is totally appropriate to spend maintenance minutes on your calendar, instead of being passive about it and having it remind you.

      This is what I’ve done, and it’s the only thing that really makes a difference.

      (I’ve had experiences where my digital calendar loses something, or my phone isn’t logged into the right calendar, or the notifications aren’t set the way I thought they’d be, or the notification function gets turned off bcs my phone got flexed and I didn’t realize, or I turned it off for something and forgot to turn it back on…)

    6. Anonymeece*

      Seconding the preview your schedule the night before. I also write out my appointments for each day on a notepad so that I can reference it throughout the day. Something about paper makes it a bit more tangible to me than my phone calendar (and also occasionally my calendar will forget to sync or something, so it’s more reliable!).

  2. Deign to design*

    OP1 did not say she was a graphic designer who freelances. She said enjoyed drawing as a hobby. There is a difference.

      1. AnonForThis*

        The thing about a hobby is that you do it for fun and often to relax, when you start being forcing to do it by someone picky with financial pressures on top of you, well it stops being fun. I used to write fiction for fun and it was an absolute joy in my life, until someone with a lot of sway in my community pushed me write for them with the intent to publish. Just like OP’s employer they didn’t know what they wanted, changed thier minds, backtracked constant, and then springed a change that would mean I have to write a dozen more things for them. Writing isn’t fun anymore, now it just makes me miserable.

        1. MK*

          Sure, that’s always been my main problem with the common “do what you love” career advice. But there are also plenty of people who have turned a hobby into a side job successfully; it’s up to the OP if she wants to try it.

          1. boo bot*

            Even if the OP wants to turn this into a side job, it’s wise to turn down this particular client if she can’t establish and hold boundaries that work for her. Often the difference between “now my hobby makes me miserable” and “now my hobby is a successful side job” is who you’re doing it for, and it’s reasonable to realize this boss is going to weigh on the side of misery.

      2. Sir Freelancelot*

        Trust me, you wouldn’t if you realize your boss is taking advantage of you paying you for one job ( the cheapest one) and requires you to do two works acting like a client who paid you regularly for the second.

        1. PB*

          Exactly. I like to crochet in my free time. If my boss told me I was expected to hand-make blankets for everyone in the office, however, and chalked it up to “the life of a crocheter!,” believe me, I would not be jumping at the opportunity.

          1. KHB*

            Ultimately, I agree with you – but if someone offered me the opportunity to get paid even minimum wage for the time I spend crocheting, I think I’d be at least a little bit tempted.

            1. Phoenix Wright*

              But OP isn’t being paid minimum wage for her designs. She’s being paid for her retail job and asked to do the design work for free, probably on her spare time, while also having to deal with an incredibly annoying “client”. The boss is totally taking advantage of her.

            2. KRM*

              Except then since you’re being paid, you suddenly find that your leisurely pace of crotchet is no longer good enough, suddenly you need X (insert item here) by Y date that means you can’t just do it while you’re casually watching TV, you need to really buckle down and go fast, etc…
              Once money enters the equation, it’s usually not “we’re paying you to do your hobby”, it’s now “you work for us, so there are requirements and deadlines”, which is much less fun.

            3. Drax*

              Plus what if they said they want 12 adult sized blankets in a week, wait until you had 6 and then went “Oh, we want them in blue not green”, which is basically what they’re doing with the graphic design. It becomes a massive PITA instead of a relaxing hobby

            4. Allie*

              I wouldn’t want to do it on demand. I like to crochet but I have wrist issues and have to take breaks. The pressure on time and quality would turn a relaxing activity into a stressful one.

              1. Emily K*

                I’m not too familiar with crochet, but I have some knitting background, and I know there are some patterns I would be completely uninterested in, either because the stitch is so difficult I know I’m going to spend a lot of time correcting my work, or the stitch is so simple that I’ll get bored. I also wouldn’t want to knit several identical copies of anything because it would bore me. And that’s before even getting into things like – is bossclient going to pay for high-quality yarn that performs well and looks great, or am I going to have to use cheap yarn that snags and pills and maybe makes my hands itch a little?

                Bottom line, I may enjoy knitting, but not all knitting is equally enjoyable to me, and clients don’t usually say, “Here’s $X, surprise me!”

      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        If you were given the opportunity to devalue your hobby by being paid for it at a shockingly low wage, would you jump at that as well? I mean, of course the OP is getting LiFe ExPeRiEnCe and ExPoSuRe, which we all know pays the bills.

        I suspect if OP’s boss does end up talking to any design firms, he’ll find out pretty quickly that it’s not a minimum wage job.

        1. Perpal*

          — if you don’t like the “Design work” your boss is giving you, then absolutely back out of it
          — you’re not doing this as homework, are you? If you do want to continue for some reason, absolutely make sure any design work you do is “on the clock”, no taking it home to work on it unpaid!

          The trouble with “how much should I be paid for graphic design work”, well it varies wildly. I used to do a lot of hobby/online commission work. There are a lot of amateurs out there, and there’s a lot of griping about commanding professional prices but; it doesn’t really make sense in that context because frankly they aren’t professionals. The professional price is paying for time, experience, efficiency and possibly degrees/training. What I’m getting at is, if OP doesn’t consider thsemselves a graphic designer, doesn’t have a professional job as this, boss isn’t necessarily getting some kind of awesome deal out of this. I know as an amateur illustrator, I was much slower than professional illustrators; so it probably evens out; if boss is paying minimum wage for someone who isn’t a pro, then that non-pro is probably taking 2x or 5x as long as someone who does this all the time. Maybe.
          Anyway, not trying to justify doing the work if OP3 hates it. In that case, OP can refuse, or say ” if we’re adding this I need a higher salary”; just make sure to charge the owner for the time spent, not the project cuz they are clearly the type to drag this out. Usually being paid for all the indecision can make it not so bad.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            No problem! I really liked your answer.

            I think a LOT of people mistakenly view design work as “just drawing” or “making something look pretty.” To be, it’s something more akin to magic, as I have no talent for either the art or the science of it. But it feels like OP’s boss falls into that first category and needs some education on the value of OP’s design work.

            1. Foreign Octopus*

              One of my students was showing me a series of faces she had drawn for a project at college and I was in awe of them. She’s a very talented artist and she says it’s just hard work and practice but as I can only draw stick figures and suns with top hats, I thought it seemed really magical.

              1. The Original K.*

                I feel that way about both drawing and sewing, since I have no aptitude for either.

            2. Perpal*

              Worse, a lot of people think art is some magical “talent” when in fact, the adage “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” applies. Yes that 1% spark/talent/je-ne-sais quoi must be there, but the vast majority is practice/learned skill, even with that talent.

              And when I say OP should do all work on the clock, I mean ALL work. Ie, if OP needs to look up information on “logo design” to figure out what elements might work, do that on the clock. TAKE NOTHING HOME. If boss objects, tell them to hire an actual designer. If OP just doesn’t want to do the work, then say “sorry I just draw llamas for fun, not logos, I won’t be able to help” etc. If boss mentions exposure, casually leave some of the multitude of “artist dies of exposure” gifs around ;) (yes artists HATE being “paid in exposure” or “paid in future profits” because… no. The only time to work essentially for free as an artist is because you want to do it for free, no strings. Which is usually pretty rare)

        2. poodleoodle*

          Yes, this. You can definitely turn a hobby into a side job but people who do that get paid fairly and gradually build up a client base of people they actually want to work for, you can be picky when you have another job paying your bills. I mean, not too picky, but you get what I’m saying. OP’s boss is just getting work done on the cheap that he’d have to pay a designer far more $$ for and I’m sure he/she/they know(s) this.

        3. Reliant*

          Got disagree. OP is not a professional designer and has time on his hands. If it were me, I’d rather be doing something useful for the company rather then twiddling my thumbs during work hours. However, it sounds like OP isn’t happy. But it’s more about that the boss is not happy/ not communicating well. That’s a different problem.

      4. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

        But it wouldn’t be time to practise your hobby. That’s not at all what’s been described.

      5. Hosta*

        Graphic design is not drawing! I enjoy embroidery, but I’d be pretty resentful if my boss demanded that I start sewing uniforms.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking. Drawing and graphic design aren’t the same thing.

      6. AdAgencyChick*

        Rant time: It’s still work. OP’s boss’s attitude — and this response, I’m sorry to say — are symptoms of an attitude that we creatives HATE. What we do isn’t really work, right? So you’ll do it for free or for a song, right? Then OP’s boss has the (not uncommon) gall to add a raft of comments and revisions on top as if he were a client paying top dollar.

        Work that you like doing is still work that requires skill and training to do well, and when you add parts you don’t like (dealing with the vagaries of clients who don’t know what they like, but they sure can tell you what they hate), all the more reason to get paid, and paid well.

        OP, your experience of the boss who doesn’t know what he wants but then hates whatever you deliver and wants to change everything is all too common. If you want to deal with that as part of a career in graphic design, by all means go for it — but then ask a rate that makes it worth your time and frustration.

        See also the For Exposure and Clients From Hell accounts on Twitter.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          +100. Shoutout to the ExBoss who legitimately threw a tantrum (and then tried to steal my blanket that my mom made me!) because I refused to knit her a king size, multi-stitch, multi-color, multi-part blanket in sport weight yarn for $50. Yeah, the yarn alone would cost much, much more than that, not to mention the excruciating amount of time it would take. Nooooo thanks, and especially since it’s “just knitting!”.

          1. facepalm*

            That’s why I don’t let casual friends or coworkers know I knit/crochet. No one understands or cares about the amount of time or cost involved in creating something and they all want something. Learn on YouTube and make it yourself, then!

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Tbh, the only reason she knew is that a coworker at that place and I discovered we both knit, so we started a Lunch Knitting Club. It was a good fun thing until ExBoss decided to insert herself and ruin it with oodles of useless & often offensive suggestions.

          2. Cassandra*

            KING SIZE IN SPORT WEIGHT OMG NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That’s years of work!

            (For non-knitters: that’s “build a two-story house with popsicle sticks” territory.)

            I’m cringing. I have a queen-size blanket as my next project, but wow, did I EVER go way bulky on the yarn. Your boss is bad and should feel bad.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I laughed until I realized she was serious.

              I am making a full-size knit quilt for my grandma right now…in super bulky. And it’s still taken me nearly a year!

          3. Anonymeece*

            Oooh, I am so sorry. I don’t think people who don’t crochet/knit know how much time it takes! I made a beautiful baby blanket for my partner’s brand new nephew and then had people asking me to make them (GRATIS) for theirs. Or offered to pay like, $10. NOPE!

            I gave out crochet scarves to coworkers and I have done some work for pay, but it’s MY rates.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I do sell for profit….but definitely at my rates. Or I originally knit it for me, and have decided to clean out my closet. It’s still at a normal price though – if the yarn’s $30, I’m not going to sell it for $20!

          4. Sally*

            Yes! The first thing I say is ask them what they think a fair hourly rate would be. Then once I say it will likely take me 100 hours…interest wanes.

        2. Deidre in finance*

          Also, let’s be clear; he should be paying professional rates because he is making a profit from LW’s work. That is part of the difference between amateur and professional.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Eh, I don’t think the end use has anything to do with how the work should be priced. If I were a graphic designer (I’m a copywriter, so fortunately I don’t get as many of these requests), I wouldn’t do wedding invitations cheaply or for free just because the bride and groom aren’t making money from my work. I’d price myself based on how good I am as a designer and how much of a pain in the ass I expect the client to be, regardless of whether the work is commercial or for private use only.

            1. submerged tenths*

              I sew. I do alterations and make costumes professionally; I also do small repair and alteration jobs for co-workers. I price my work by the hour, because that way, if somebody is being a PITA, I can claim that the job took three hours when, really it was twenty minutes of sewing and two hours forty minutes of dealing with the jerk.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          It sounds like you all need to stop telling people about your creative hobbies, especially at work.
          It sucks that so many people try to take advantage.

      7. Environmental Compliance*

        I’d love to sit and knit at work, but I’ve often found that knitting to a deadline, especially for someone who doesn’t quite understand the skill behind that pattern they chose, and how much time it actually takes to complete an item. It would very quickly go from enjoyable hobby to miserable work.

      8. Dragoning*

        This isn’t being given time to practice your hobby at work. This is being underpaid to perform work you barely agreed to do (I do wonder what would happen to OP’s job if they started refusing).

      9. Moonbeam Malone*

        OP isn’t even getting the opportunity to practice their hobby in this case! From what they wrote, graphic design isn’t their hobby. The projects they described probably aren’t going to involve much, if any, drawing.

      10. Rusty Shackelford*

        Is your hobby drawing/designing what you enjoy, on your own schedule? Because that’s not the option the OP is being offered.

      11. LunaLena*

        I am a graphic designer who draws as a hobby, and have found that many people tend to think “art = design.” It is not. Art and design overlap to some extent, but they are two very different fields that require different knowledge and skills, and being good at one does not automatically mean you will be good at the other. I have known graphic designers who are superstars at design but wouldn’t be able to draw a straight line on their own, and artists who produce amazing works but couldn’t design a business card to save their lives.

        If OP1 is planning to go into design or considering it, I would say that it wouldn’t hurt to do a little design work for her boss, if only to build up her portfolio. But otherwise, this isn’t the golden opportunity that many “clients” think it is. It’s really kind of up there with “I can’t pay you, but I’ll tell all my friends about you and you’ll get lots of work in no time!”

      12. ThatHat*

        Maybe, maybe not. I draw for fun, and sometimes for money, but when I was doing graphic design as part of my job, it was awful.

        There’s also the simple fact that drawing =/= graphic design, and a lot of folks, employers especially, don’t get this. They figure “Oh, you can draw things? Great, you can design this!”

        At work, I keep getting tapped to do a lot of graphic work because I have an art background. Some of it, I don’t mind (updating our map was a fun and involved project), but anything involving handwriting or poster design is excruciating to me because I’m *not* good at these things.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, there is a difference. But it doesn’t really change the advice — if she’s willing to do it for the right price, say that, and if she doesn’t want to do it at all, say that.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        That ship has sailed. I will bet my paycheck against yours that as soon as the OP pushes back they get fired.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I doubt that very much. She might be told it’s part of the job now and she has to do it, but instantly fired is unrealistic fear-mongering.

        2. Antilles*

          Rather than an outright firing, I think it’s far, far more likely that he instead argues about it, then ‘accepts it’ but not really…then tries to get around the “no, I’m not doing that” in some form. Maybe he keeps asking for advice, maybe he does a bunch of comments, maybe it’s just trying to worm his way back through minor requests for “we’re really slow this week, so could you…”.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Knowing small business owners and how retail workers are treated, I can see it ending badly as well. Not necessarily fired immediately but schedules changed, hours cut, etc.

          1. poodleoodle*

            Yeah she won’t get fired, but she might realize her hours have mysteriously been cut in half, or she’s given shifts that don’t work for her, or the grocery store I worked at liked to punish people with 3-4 hour shifts, twice a week, rather than the usual 18ish hours, barely making it worth the 20+ minute drive for some people.

        4. facepalm*

          Well there are a million other places you can get a minimum wage job with absolutely zero expectations of graphic design, so she’d probably come out ahead

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Without knowing any more details about the situation, I’d just advise the LW to be realistic about an appropriate rate for her design work. As a person without any design experience, that rate should be quite low.

        More than minimum wage? Maybe. But maybe not, depending on the minimum wage in her region. If the LW is asking for a per-project rate (which would be appropriate) l, because she doesn’t have any experience, she’ll likely spend a lot more time than an experienced designer.

        1. Janie*

          OP is not going out in the world putting their rates against others to compete in the market. OP is saying specifically to one person, “If you want me to do this, it costs this much.” And this much can be however much OP wants, even if it’s a million dollars per project. If Boss doesn’t like it, he is free to take it somewhere else.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yes, but she has an interest in not sounding ridiculously out-of-touch when she does so.

            1. Janie*

              Why? It’s not like he’s going to be recommending her to other people for graphic design.

        2. animaniactoo*

          As an experienced designer, my friends and family rate is $40/hr. If I charge you at all.

          A younger inexperienced designer… I wouldn’t go below $22/hr, on a freelance basis. Unless it’s a client who walks in knowing exactly what they want. I will taking a shocking amount of paycut for not having to interpret vague instructions and repeatedly revise the project because the client can’t figure out what they want until I finally hit the magic combination.

          There is no universe in which as a new/amateur designer the OP should accept something close to the maximum minimum wage anywhere ($15/hr) as a reasonable rate UNLESS they really suck at what they do and it’s going to take them 8x the number of attempts it would take an experienced designer.

          She also should not accept a flat rate without an agreement for additional fees for change orders. The number of revisions should be built into that flat rate (2, max, and only if they are revisions, not complete reworks), and every change order, complete rework, is a new agreement based on the projected scope of the work.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            And have all this in writing with the boss’ signature. I would not be surprised if he agrees to it and then tries to weasel out. Have it in writing so you can take him to court if necessary.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              THIS. This is what I tell new artists all the time. Always, always, always have a contract!

              It’s not too late, OP. Say “I cannot do any further revisions to this design without a contract.” Hand them a contract. (You can download them for free online– there are many out there that will suit your purposes! Google around or check out the DrawnAndDrafted website for free educational pdfs on this and other art business topics.)

              In this contract put:

              (1) Your hourly rate for graphic design. This is important. No more work for him for free. If you want to charge him a project fee instead of an hourly (say $500* for the logo + $x for business card layout + $x for whatever), fine, as long as you charge hourly for the revisions in (2).
              (2) A maximum number of revisions, usually 3 rounds– one at sketch phase, one at drawing approval stage, and one just before finalizing– beyond which any further revisions will be billed at (punishingly higher hourly rate).
              (3) A kill fee! Put it in writing that if he decides not to use the work you did for this project, he still has to pay 50% of the total you agreed upon. This is to protect you from spending a ton of time on a project only to have the client turn around and say, “Oh, we’re not going to use it after all, too bad for you.” With a kill fee clause, you still get some money for your efforts! I’ve seen a lot of artists stung by lack of a kill fee clause.

              *Yes $500. Minimum. Even a newbie beginner deserves at least this much for the hell of designing a logo! Pros get even more for it and he is getting a deal! Download the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook if you want a look at the actual rates for this sort of thing. It’s a good rule of thumb!

              Good luck, OP!!! I hate seeing new artists exploited.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                *I am not affiliated with Drawn + Drafted, but I love the work they do to help artist negotiate the business landscape!

              2. Michaela Westen*

                I hate seeing artists exploited too. Anyone exploited.
                I live in a city with a big, well-known art university and several other art and design schools. There’s a big annual art fair near my neighborhood with more than 100 booths of artists and crafters selling their work. And that’s just one of hundreds of fairs every year with artists and crafters.
                Art supply stores make a killing – their prices have always seemed too high to me.
                The city is teeming with young people who think they can make a living with their art, and they can’t. The market is beyond saturated. There are only so many paintings, sculptures, crafts, handmade jewelry, etc. that will sell.
                And in addition to all that, 2/3 of the people they meet try to get them to work for free or very low wages.
                I wish they understood art is better as a hobby, and to not let the art supply stores and would-be clients exploit them.

              3. animaniactoo*

                Good resources, thanks! I’ve actually been with the same company for a very long time, so I know some of my info is not the most current for somebody breaking into the market now.* I’ll keep these in mind when talking about this kind of stuff in the future.

                *But still up to date enough to know that charging $15/hr for anything but bare-bones basic design work is a non-starter.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Maybe your rates make sense. But maybe not — we just don’t know enough about the situation.

            The LW describes herself as “young” and “likes to draw” — that’s all we know. That could be a teenager who enjoys sketching pictures of her friends, or it could be a highly skilled artist of any age who, even without training in design, has a skillful eye and can turn around a great product.

            The second person could charge your “inexperienced designer” rate. The first person could not (or rather, she could try, but clients would reasonably think she is way off base).

            I know there has been a useful changing of the conversation around the importance of paying artists (in my sector, that means not asking artists to do work for free just because we’re nonprofits; we don’t ask our accountants to work for free, after all), but I do think that it has had an unfortunate side effect of causing (some) artists to overestimate the value of their work. Not all art is (commercially) valuable. Not all artists (illustrators/designers/performers/etc.) produce work is that of value to clients, or of the same value as other artists.


            I paid $500 for my wedding pictures. They were done by an amateur (although I suppose by paying her I turned her in to a professional, but I trust that everyone know what I mean by the distinction). It shows; they just aren’t as good as the $3,000 photographs made by the photographers at my friends’ weddings. That’s fine — I made that trade off consciously, as did the person who took our photos. I knew I wasn’t getting a full professional setup, backup equipment, experience with weddings, or the same amount of skill in taking or processing photos. She knew she wasn’t getting the same amount of money that professional wedding photographers command.

            1. animaniactoo*

              …UNLESS they really suck at what they do and it’s going to take them 8x the number of attempts it would take an experienced designer…

              This guy is trying to get professional level quality from the OP, and he should pay for it. If paying OP those rates is too much, then he should source somebody who can do it right. Given the round robin that this guy is trying to do, I am quite comfortable with him ending being overcharged if it turns out that OP is not up to the job.

              In truth, the primary issue is that the inexperienced designer rate is what anyone looking for design work should be willing to pay, at a minimum. Having an inept designer charge less because they’re inept rather than inexperienced devalues the work for everyone – people try to get better quality work for those rates because they know somebody is charging them. They don’t expect inept work for those rates. Ever. If OP is not good enough to charge those rates, they’ll lose clients. Period. And that is what should happen. Because then the real truth is that they’re just not qualified to do it at all, no matter what rate they charge.

              On another note… I opened my post by stating I’m a creative person, professionally. I’m not sure why you would think that I wouldn’t be aware of the difference between inexperienced and inept, or that I hadn’t accounted for it in my post.

              1. boo bot*

                I agree with a lot of this (I work in a similarly situated profession) and I think the logic of paying less for someone with less experience is kind of the backward extension of a more rational idea, which is to pay MORE for more experienced/successful people.

                But, it shouldn’t actually work like that: if you need an accountant, or a plumber, or a lawyer, you’re not going to hire a bad one for half the going rate. You need the work done to a minimum standard, and there’s a minimum rate for that – and the minimum standard isn’t, “just barely squeaks by,” it’s “does the job as a competent professional.”

                Creative professionals, especially ones who don’t have credentials that will impress people outside their field, often get subjected to the assumption that anyone hiring them is doing them a favor; I think the idea that, “you’re not very good so I’ll pay you less and accept the crappy results gracefully,” is an outgrowth of that mindset.

          3. A Cita*

            Yes, to all of this. Professional design project pricing does not include infinite revisions. Even though this isn’t freelance, OP might want to use freelance business techniques of offering an estimate for the project, down payment upfront, language in the estimate about fees for late payment, work stop, and re-adjustment of estimate if project goes over. That’s if she wants to continue.

            My issue with amateurs diving in without any experience is they can end up in a bind if they are doing print design (which it sounds like they are). My niece did this because she like to dabble in photoshop, and some friends referred design work to her. She calls me in a panic because she can’t figure out why if she resizes the logo for printing, it’s coming out lo-res. Because it was designed in photoshop (!), and because she also didn’t understand resolution (she also used images she pulled from the web, so besides the resolution issue, there’s the you know legal issue). Even if she designed in illustrator, there would have been so many print problems.

            1. animaniactoo*

              btdt. Including a newer employee at my job who didn’t understand the difference between a general use license and commercial license for stock images. Fortunately, I happened to be talking to them and they mentioned that they’d pulled that artwork for the product — not drawn it themselves. We were able to rescue it and get the commercial license to cover it before we got hit with legal issues.

              Fun one for you: A former old school art director who had little to no experience or understanding of digital design/output – we were trying to explain to her the difference between file types of artwork that a licensor had provided and what could be scaled up without pixelating and what couldn’t. Ultimately, based on their catalog, we told her that if it was .eps it could be scaled as much as she wanted. One day she walks over to me with a printout that she has increased 600% on the copier and says “I thought you said if it was .eps, it wouldn’t pixelate.”

    2. 2230*

      OP1 -whatever happens, don’t forget you can put this mishap on your resume going forward as a graphic designer. And don’t feel obligated to do anymore of this kind of work without getting paid properly for it – check for graphic design pay rates online and then punt up a number – it sounds like he won’t pay the going rate but at least you can legit put on your resume graphic designer – if nothing else it shows flexibility to future employers.

      1. Flightless*

        Yes, save samples of everything you designed for your boss. It can all go in your portfolio in case you ever do want design work.

    3. hbc*

      I might argue that the minute she started getting paid for graphic design work, she became (to some degree) a graphic designer. I became a purchaser when that became part of my responsibilities.

      Whether anyone would hire her or me solely for that skill, we’re any good at it, or it’s something we have any interest in doing is beside the point.

    4. Someone Else*

      But as soon as her employer started having her do design work and she agreed to it, she essentially became a freelance designer. Except he’s not paying her as a freelancer for that. Which is a problem. I have programming skills and customer service skills. If I took a strictly customer service job, for customer service-only pay, and were suddenly asked to write an app, I would not just do it during my customer service downtime. I’d point out, that’s a totally different job, which normally involves a significantly higher payscale. It’s unethical to “other duties as assigned” in that kind of context. She’s right to feel like dude is taking advantage.

    5. poodleoodle*

      I think there’s a huge difference, there’s more to graphic design than drawing. I like to cook but I’m far from a lavish restaurant style chef. Whipping up a quick dinner is so different from a 7 course meal with perfect food plating and presentation. I’m not sure if that’s a similar comparison, but it seems like it?

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Though it would probably be fruitless, OP1 could try logic. “I draw as a hobby, I’m not a graphic designer, as we both discovered when I tried it. It’s a very different skill set. You wouldn’t ask Wakeen over there to be a chocolatier because he bakes cupcakes as a hobby, would you?”

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I have one of those chairs and, along with my standing desk, love it. I would be livid if my employer forced it on everyone. Folks should be able to opt-in or out of certain office furniture mandates, and there should be a variety of chairs/desks available to accommodate the variety of bodies and medical needs in the office.

    In general, employers should make it easier, not harder, for folks to have appropriate equipment at work.

    1. Shoes On My Cat*

      Yes!! They are great for short amounts of time for people with poor sitting posture, or for people with great posture for longer periods. However, once the individual’s body gets a bit tired, things go awry and the body makes unconscious compromises to stay aboard da ball. Then there are mild to severe injuries from the extreme incorrect posture due to fatigue. There needs to be opt in/out with modifications (ie. Proper chairs, standing desks, etc). Our office almost banned them completely due to safety concerns. It took pointing out that I was an accomplished equestrian and was unlikely to fall off a mere ball to get a guarded ok. First injury would have been the last for the entire office, so we who chose to ‘ride’ were motivated to be careful and sit correctly.)

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yeah, my understanding is that they’re like those ‘barefoot’ running shoes in that they’re something that, if you choose to, you need to work up to. It’s not like you can get rid of your chair on Friday and on Monday sit on the exercise ball for 8 hours. I’d be lying across it on my stomach, laptop open on the floor, if someone got rid of my chair completely and gave me one of those.

    2. lammmm*

      This. We have a backless office chair that I love and use regularly, as it forces me to use good posture (can’t slouch if there’s nothing to slouch against!). However, as there are at least two other people who is my office occasionally when I’m not in there, I keep a regular office chair in there as well. My preferences shouldn’t be forced upon others.

      1. Janie*

        See now I’m the opposite. Not having something to lean against makes my posture terrible.

    3. Anon Today*

      Our office has one of these ball chairs, that everyone thinks is a great idea until they use it for an afternoon. Without fail everytime someone grabs it it will be back up against the wall up for grabs within three days – because it does take a lot of energy to use them, and they are not comfortable at all after a few hours.

      I can also say these do not mix with hemmorrhoids at all, and you don’t want to put workers in a position where they have to admit why they find them unusable.

      1. Busy*

        Haha. Hemmorrhoids. I was thinking the same thing. These chairs create pressure in different spots that more traditional chairs.

        They are good for maybe a couple hours, but they wear you out after awhile.

    4. I Took A Mint*

      Yeah, I’m sorry, but… what is wrong with regular old office chairs as the default chair for an office??

      I’m sure there is an ergonomic reason that it’s better for some people to have it, but I feel like it’s safe to say that the default office chair should have a flat (or concave, not convex!) bottom, a back to lean against, and maybe even some arm rests. You know, chair basics.

      Next thing you know they’ll replace the toilets with a hole in the floor (squatting is better for you!) and your computer monitors with pieces of cardboard (blue light is bad for your eyes!) and your desks will be a clipboard attached to a music stand (adjustable height!)

      1. valentine*

        what is wrong with regular old office chairs
        People have gotten too comfortable. Next: literally keeping you on your toes.

        I think these things have a specific or time-limited use, but someone decides it’s just the thing for everyone, all the time, like standing desks. If standing for an entire shift were better, retail and grocery clerks wouldn’t be in so much pain.

    5. PB*

      Yes! It’s great to offer these to people who might want them, but those chairs would not work for me. I have back issues, and really need a back on my chair. I have never requested a formal accommodation for this, because generally, chairs with backs are standard office equipment. If I was suddenly told I was going to be using a ball chair going forward, I would be having a talk with my manager immediately.

      My previous office was a mess in most ways, but one of the best things they did was to let everyone custom-order the chair that would work best for them. The chair I had there was the most comfortable in my life.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Smart people at your old office. Not sure if there’s ever been a study on it (probably; there’s been studies on just about everything), but I’m sure that there’s a metric for measuring the degree to which pain or discomfort reduces productivity at work.

        1. Phrunicus*

          “degree to which pain or discomfort reduces productivity at work.”

          I took a half-day off work the other week for this, because I managed to hurt my lower back the weekend before, and yeah, after trying it for the first half of the day that Monday, I was like “nope. I can’t get squat done” and went home.

      2. only acting normal*

        Ditto. My back/neck issues require me to sit very reclined. It is far from the usual recommended desk posture (very upright), but it’s what physios and occupational health have agreed is correct for me.

        As with most things health related one size does not fit all.

      3. Black Bellamy*

        I’m lucky to work at a place that aggressively accommodates ergonomic issues. They’ll build you one of those stand-up workstations if you want one. The default office chair has like 10 adjustments. If you need a lumbar cushion, gel pads, wrist supports, angled device stands, feet risers, whatever you need to be comfy and pain-free, you can get that. We have common spaces and some meeting rooms with a variety of chairs so you can use whatever you like – we have beanbags, djinn-like chairs, couches, bubble chairs, kneeling chairs, and if you’re not happy with your chair you can swap it out with whatever is available.

        I think the difference is that I work for a huge established corporation that has a deliberative process for solving ergonomic issues. My startup experience was that some bright and enlightened being would issue a directive as to what was best for all of us and all of sudden hello pile of dried kale to sit on.

    6. Thankful for AAM*

      I am just 5 feet and I need a smaller ball than most people. I worked with a physical therapist once who suggested a ball and she was very careful to find one that fit my height. Will each person get a ball chair sized just for them?

      1. DataGirl*

        That’s what I was thinking of. I’m 5’3 with a long torso and very stumpy legs, so almost all chairs are too tall for me unless they are adjustable. I’ve tried those ball things and my toes barely touch the ground, I couldn’t sit comfortably on one.

      2. Clorinda*

        No, because they’re hot-desking! One ball fits all is the plan. It sounds catastrophic.

        1. Zephy*

          That’s what I thought. This office sounds like it’s turning into an awful place to work.

        2. Phrunicus*

          Ball chairs, hot desking, open office… forget catastrophic, sounds more like my idea of Hell.

      3. Librarianne*

        Fellow five-footer here and this was my first thought. I can’t even get onto most of those balls.

        Also I wear skirts to work 95% of the time and can’t sit on one of those things in a skirt without showing the whole office my underpants.

    7. CheeryO*

      This is one of those things that employers do to pretend like they care about people’s health. If they really care and aren’t just in it for the optics, give everyone one to use in addition to their normal chair, or, I don’t know, find out what they would actually WANT, be it a standing desk, locker room facilities, a gym subsidy, or a flexible schedule so they can go to classes, and work on ways to implement those things.

    8. 4Monitors*

      No lumbar support? My back would be in agony after a couple of hours. And my work would suffer.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I loved mine — but I had to give it up when I got pregnant because my balance kept changing and I couldn’t stay centered. Even when I was using it on a daily basis, I was NOT using it for the full work day.
      And when I came back from maternity leave, someone had played with it and it had a deep gouge in one side — ie it was now weakened and couldn’t be used for full weight. I haven’t replaced it yet.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      (allcaps completely intentional.)
      When I used a yoga ball as a chair, it moved. Spheres do that. If I had to move from my computer station to a flat desk for paperwork, I sort of scooted and rolled it to the new direction.
      A stationary chair would have been useless for all but a few of my early temp jobs.

      1. Observer*

        On the other hand it does slightly reduce the chance that most people will actually fall off it and it does slightly (in theory) reduce the need to balance quite as much.

        1. valentine*

          So it’s just a backless, soft or squishy seat? If you can’t bounce, what’s the point?

          1. Observer*

            That’s a good question.

            As far as I’m concerned these are just stools made more uncomfortable.

    11. BelleMorte*

      I have a ball chair and a standing desk as well, and honestly even after a year I haven’t gotten up to a full eight hours on it without some compromise in my posture eventually. If the department swaps out the chairs without phasing in, they are asking for quite a lot of injuries to happen. As well, those chairs can’t really be adjusted up or down, so unless your desk can move up or down, they are asking for a lot of injuries there too. Tall people don’t work on short people chairs, short people don’t work on tall people chairs, etc.

  4. Renamis*

    I never understood the ball chairs. If you want one, great, but I know people with no medical conditions that have the grace of an eagle piloting a blimp. Isn’t this going to cost more in workman’s comp from people conking their heads?

    1. Lulu fall down*

      I cough hard sometimes and get dizzy enough that I wait before trying to stand. If my office tried to put me on one of those balls, OSHA might notice since I’d be falling off and hitting my head on something regularly. My doctor would be very unhappy with them.

    2. Amelia Pond*

      Yeah, I can guarantee I would fall off multiple times a day, on a good day. On a bad day, I’d fall off considerably more. There are some totally healthy people that are clumsy too. Offering these as an option is great but forcing them on people is not, and I’m 100% sure this will backfire.

      1. On Fire*

        I would fall off, too – IF I ever sat on one. But I wear skirts on my in-office days, and skirt + ball chair would not be a happy combination.

        LW4, you said you are not affected and are just enjoying the show, but what happens when you *are* affected? The changes your workplace is implementing sound all-around horrible. I’ve never worked in a hot-desking environment, but I’ve read enough commenters who have, to know it’s generally unpopular. I would probably start examining *why* all these changes are happening and evaluate whether leadership has a clear picture of where they’re going or are just following trends without looking at the company’s actual needs and consequences.

        1. JustaTech*

          Excellent point about skirts. My co-worker and I veto’d a lab chair because it was saddle-shaped and you simply could not sit in it wearing any kind of snug or short skirt.

          And frankly the person in the picture doesn’t look like she is sitting comfortably at all.

        2. pancakes*

          I was going to mention the incompatibility of ball chairs & skirts too. Ball chairs became a bit of a trend in one office I worked in — one person brought one in and then another three or so of us who’d tried it bought our own. I found it very comfortable to sit on for 8 – 10 hours a day but it did tend to make me avoid skirts & dresses. Making them the only chairs in the office is a terrible idea.

    3. Mookie*

      Yeah, this is like thinking you’re not “really” lifting free weights if you’re not always doing so while balanced on an exercise, stability, or BOSU ball. It’s really not for everyone and even if it were as effective as just lifting heavier, or sitting in this case, you don’t have to impose weird “optimization” equipment like this on people who have a job to do that doesn’t necessitate feeling an endless mind meld with your abdominals. Spend money on things people want and need as employees and then save or intelligently invest what’s leftover for those who’ll require different accommodations in future. If you can’t reasonably anticipate what that might look like, you’re undereducated on the subject and in no position to start imposing quasi-ergonomics on your current staff for their own supposed good.

    4. Knork*

      As someone with major back problems, my exercise routine is quite carefully planned with a PT. My workplace does not get any input.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        The only input my workplace gets is speaking with me about any ergonomic accommodations I need and how they will be procured/paid for. Other than that, they’d be way overstepping.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Same here! My PT works with me to plan my workouts, and my ortho tells me what I can and can’t do overall. Any recommendations for office equipment come from the ortho; it’s not up to my employer to decide for me.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Not just that, but I have old muscle injuries that would really preclude sitting on one of those full time. A few minutes, sure. Beyond that, I will re-injure things and then I will be stuck semi-mobile for weeks at least, with flareups for months or even years. And I WILL make the company pay for my pain. I’m nasty like that.

    6. Liz*

      I giggled at your description. I am that person. I don’t really have any medical issues except snap, crackle and pop from old age, but i am about as graceful as a baby hippo. So yeah, this would NOT work for me. not at all.

    7. Observer*

      but I know people with no medical conditions that have the grace of an eagle piloting a blimp.

      LOL! That’s such a great image!

      Yes, if their workers comp people come in and see it (assuming the OP is in the US), it’s going to cost them. Even if they don’t doing thing that increase your injury rate is a good way to drive up your overall costs.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I remember those! They were great!

        For a five year old. Not for an office professional.

    8. Free Meerkats*

      I’m not too proud to “fall” off one multiple times to make the point. I could use a week or two vacation on L&I for soft tissue injuries.

  5. mark132*

    @lw4, that chair looks awful. I could see it being useful for a couple of minutes to help posture, then switch back to real chair. I brought my own chair to work years ago. My tailbone was aching and switching to a proper chair made a huge difference.

    1. Not Australian*

      There’s a reason that the basic office chair has evolved to the shape it is today – i.e. because it’s both comfortable and practical. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t exist. If these ball chairs were both comfortable and practical, they wouldn’t just be coming along now; there would be antique examples in museums everywhere.

    2. Liane*

      Yes, I have no idea what the claims are about them–and don’t care to know–but they look like some “trendy” home accent piece, not useful office furniture.

    3. Proxima Centauri*

      As someone who wears dresses often. This would be…challenging. And I’m not opposed to alternate seating situations as I work at a standing desk most of the day. But it is nice to sit down, without the worry that I’d be exposing myself.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, sometimes people who complain often get stuck in a complaint cycle where they start doing it and then can’t stop. Your coworker has effectively reprogrammed his brain into this loop of complaint-o-rama, and I suspect he doesn’t realize he’s kvetching all. the. time.

    So using Alison’s scripts have a double benefit: they let you articulate your boundaries in a very clear way, and they help your coworker realize that he’s become Eeyore. I went through a complain-y phase, and having friends flag it for me helped me realize that I’d gotten into a bad habit of wingeing… and it also helped me stop, refocus, and reframe. Letting him know that he’s acting like Eeyore may help him pull out of his downward complaint-cycle.

        1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*


          I just mean it’s naive to assume they’ll catch on that quickly as that’s not what I’ve seen happen.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Regardless, it’s worth a shot. I’ve been that person. I was very unhappy with my job, and once my manager pointed out that others on the team asked her why I was still there if I hated it so much, a light bulb went off and I got my butt in gear and found a new job (and stopped complaining so much). It can work both ways. And even if he doesn’t stop complaining, she can stop it from being pointed at her. Nobody wants to work in a constant world of negativity. It’s draining.

    1. Anonymouse for this*

      Yes – same thing happened to me. I wasn’t aware of how much I was doing it – it was like a reflex to, in my mind, half jokingly complain about stuff. It wasn’t until a friend asked me why I was being so negative that I realized how I was being perceived. Made me stop and think twice about my reactions.

      1. Asenath*

        Yeah, it happened to me. I stopped when a friend told me, in a really nice way, that they didn’t want to hear any more – and it wasn’t until then I realized quite how much I was moaning on about work problems.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I once got my mom to stop with the constant complaining during my wedding planning by pointing out that all of her emails (not to mention conversations) were filled with negative things. FTR she was all for the wedding itself, just nitpicking everything to death and I hit my limit. And she probably didn’t stop complaining altogether, but at least she didn’t do it to me anymore. In any case I took the win. :-)

      3. WhoKnows*

        Same – what some people perceive as complaining, I perceive as “making conversation.”

    2. IHaveAnAnnoyingCoworker*

      Hey, thanks for posting my letter! Between when I sent it last week and now I did manage to say one thing directly to him. I was explaining the training to our newest team member and he barges into the conversation to say “don’t lie, it’s really horrible!” So I just said “yeah, but you’re just really negative” and it at the very least felt good to say, unsure if it has worked yet, but we’ll see!

      I suspect his former line of work is at least partially to blame for his attitude, so perhaps being out of that environment will help.

      Then we’ll just have to work on his constant personal phone calls in the office. :|

      1. IHaveAnAnnoyingCoworker*

        Oops, that was originally a reply to Allison’s post, hence the thanks.

        1. valentine*

          Good for you. Don’t let him sour the new person. Is he doing troubles talk? Does he want to chat, but has nothing else to say?

          1. IHaveAnAnnoyingCoworker*

            It’s hard to discern specifically, but he does seem to like to chat, but yes, it’s often negative. Mention how you’d love to own a Tesla? He thinks they’re ugly. Get a poutine, he says how much he hates it when they don’t have cheese curds. Just. Constant.

            I’ve been having a frustrating few days at work because of things unrelated to him, and today realized that I myself was being kinda negative, so I decided to start making a concerted effort to not complain, or if I had to complain, to at least make it positive/constructive, and hope that maybe somehow finds its way I to his brain through is osmosis or something. It might not work, but it’s worth a try!

      2. nonymous*

        I like that you responded lightly in the moment. My advice would be to follow up by deliberately engaging Eeyore in short, neutral-to-positive convos every so often. You may have to go through cycles of both, but what you are really doing is showing “Coworker, here’s how I want to interact with you.” Depending on personalities and work culture, those deliberate convos will be some mix of stuff getting done and building camaraderie.

        Why I suggest this approach is because I think it’s important to prevent the seemingly obvious solution that you two should avoid each other to minimize being around the negativity (minimizing exposure is generally a very healthy coping mechanism for mental health). Unfortunately, doing so could be a losing proposition for you if he has legitimate insight or knowledge that supports your own work. What you want to do is train him to be less negative in his interactions with you generally, but still comfortable enough to bring up legitimate concerns.

        1. IHaveAnAnnoyingCoworker*

          Thankfully I don’t think he has much experience that would be helpful for me that isn’t accessible through one of my other close co-workers, but being able to have neutral to positive interactions with him would be nice. I have started just trying to respond to each of his negative statements to me with something positive, although it can be difficult!

          And if worse comes to worse, I’ll be out of there on mat leave for a year in the next 6 months or so!

      3. QEire*

        I have a similar coworker. Literally every day, he walks in, says hi to our boss, then immediately launches into whatever is bothering him that day. He’s so loud that I hear him over noise cancelling headphones. If I clocked him, I really think he would spend two hours per day complaining to our boss. Much of which is complaining about how much work he has to do. Like, dude…if you stopped whining about everything you’d get two hours back every day.

        He’s been something of workplace bully to me (lots of attempts at public humiliation under the guise of ‘teaching’ me), so I don’t speak to him unless necessary.

        I’m sorry you have to deal with someone like this, I know it’s a pain.

    3. DustyJ*

      I went through a complaint-o-rama phase myself. Partly that’s how I’ve always been – but I realized slowly that it’s not a healthy habit to have. It’s far too easy to let oneself devolve into complaining all … the… time…, and having that become your standard conversational style. It’s possible to change, but it has to come from the complainer himself. One has to force oneself to stop, think, and re-set to a more positive outlook

      It also helped me to realize that complaining accomplishes nothing in the workplace. My new motto is Don’t Complain Just Leave.

  7. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

    Please keep in mind medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are not the same thing! Medical marijuana is not used to get high. I don’t want to act like an expert (I’m not, I’m just in the process of applying for a medical marijuana license. Fingers crossed that I’m approved and that it works on my pain) so I encourage people to google to learn more. Alternatively, there may be some other commenters with more knowledge about it than I do. Please don’t think too harshly of your coworker- people aren’t on medical marijuana for funsies, they’re on it for medical reasons. It’s generally not the first stop on the treatment train, either, and usually not a decision people take lighty.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Oh dangit! I apparently hit the wrong auto-fill and didn’t notice until it posted. I wasn’t trying to hide who I was. If either of my comments need to be deleted, I can repost under the correct name. So sorry.

    2. sacados*

      Yeah, I really like AAM’s suggestion to reframe it as a medicine comparison vs a beer comparison.
      In this case, it’s the “medical” part that’s more important than the “marijuana” part. Like if a coworker confided that they’d just been switched to a new kind of antidepressant or anxiety meds and were having a bad reaction.

      That said, I can definitely understand OP wanting to not be in a position to know that sort of thing to begin with. No matter what it would be awkward to be managing someone and know some private medical info about them that you don’t actually need to know.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I take an opioid pain medication every single day. It’s necessary. I take it under a doctor’s care and per prescribed instructions. However when people hear the name of the drug that I take they immediately go to “opioid addiction” and then (usually) start in on telling me how I should in their non-medical, non-expert opinion do This or That instead to manage my chronic, full body, 24/7 pain. Because yeah I’ve never tried anything else.

        I could see OP with her views on marijuana (!!!) thinking likewise about my medication just because opioid addiction has become a Big Thing in recent years. OP needs to realize that their coworker, whose manager she is not at the moment, is taking medicine.

        If she doesn’t want to hear about his medication(s) at all that’s fair, but dollars to donuts she wouldn’t have the same reaction had he said “Claritin” instead of “marijuana.” OP is making a moral judgement here.

        1. Amber T*

          My boss, coworker, and I were just talking about cold medicine, and I told them about the one time I took Dayquil and was so groggy I nearly passed out. Dayquil is perfectly legal to buy over the counter, but is not something I’ve learned I can’t take when I want to work.

          Fully agree – this is an issue of someone oversharing and being a bit too personal, *not* a “drug use” issue.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Haha, I caught a cold with fever once right before an ice show. I took a giant slug of Dayquil and the combination of the medicine and an elevated temperature mellowed me out to the point where I wasn’t even nervous. I was high as a kite instead. I have no idea how I managed to skate. I probably wouldn’t have been able to work properly.

            1. Ra94*

              The only time I’ve taken Nyquil in my life, I had a fever while sleeping over at a friend’s house and just wanted to get to sleep. She woke up to me softly crying because “the bed was making mean faces at me.” I was absolutely off my tits.

          2. ThatHat*

            Yup. I found out the hard way that pretty much any amount of Nyquil will just Mess Me Up until noon the next day

    3. Maria Lopez*

      I also thought it interesting that the OP thinks drinking beer while working is a normal situation. It isn’t unless you’re in an episode of Mad Men.

      1. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs*

        A drink at lunch? Possible. Where I live also equally possible to be consuming marijuana.

      2. Emma*

        Yes! Even if we were talking about weed as a recreational drug, which we’re not, I don’t understand the implication that using weed at work is in a whole different class of inappropriateness from drinking on the job, when in fact they’re in *exactly the same class of inappropriateness*!

        1. I Took A Mint*

          Yes, this part was really confusing to me. “Using marijuana for medical purposes while working at home is worse than drinking beer while working at the office.” Uh…what? No, they’re just as bad! Or at least, one is for a medical purpose even if it’s not legal everywhere (and are your employees driving home after that work beer?)

            1. I Took A Mint*

              Where I live the legal limit is 0 alcohol, so tipsy/not wouldn’t matter.

              But either way I don’t think encouraging employees to flirt with the legal limit is being a responsible employer. And I don’t see how a company that does that can claim the moral high ground re: marijuana.

      3. Obelia*

        That startled me too, even as a Brit living in a really alcohol-friendly environment.

      4. sacados*

        I mean, OP mentioned it’s a tech startup so I’m not entirely surprised. Those kind of companies can become kind of frat-like pretty easily.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Yeah, I was going to say this is possibly an industry-dependent thing. If you’re a creative startup in London, a beer fridge is practically de rigeur (although in more of an ‘occasional beer on a Friday afternoon’ way rather than a ‘drink every day’ way). I imagine tech is much the same.

          1. Psyche*

            I worked somewhere that had a case of beer on hand, but no one drank it while working. Sometimes everyone would stick around after work and have a beer instead of going to a bar.

          2. londonedit*

            It’s not so common now, but in publishing it used to be a totally normal thing to go to the pub for a lunchtime drink, or to have Friday wine in the office. We’ve got a wine fridge downstairs where I work, for events and things. It’s fairly normal to see alcohol around the place, although it definitely wouldn’t be acceptable to just randomly have a beer in the office in the middle of the working day – it would have to be as some sort of management-sanctioned thing.

      5. Hiring Mgr*

        Having a beer at the end of the work day is extremely common in some industries and environments. And just about every industry conference/event has some type of drinking available.. IMO should be the same with weed, but we’re not quite there yet.

        I’m in the tech startup world and have smoked weed with my CEOs at my last two jobs, so YMMV. To me, it’s really just like having a beer at the end of the day. If it’s impacting the job that’s one thing (same as with alcohol or Rx)…but if not, I’d ignore it as AAM says

      6. Samwise*

        Unless it’s a Heineken in season 2, those dudes were not drinking beer. Vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch…

      7. DataGirl*

        At first I wondered if this was a late April Fool’s joke, because I’ve never worked in an industry that would be okay with drinking on the job, not even one beer. And when we go out to work lunches, people will joke about ordering an alcoholic drink but no one ever actually does it. But I guess the culture in a start-up can be different. I still can’t understand though why someone would have a problem with a person’s medication, yet be okay with casual, recreational use of a substance during work hours.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I work in a company that is not a start up by any means, and lunchtime beers are fine as long as you’re not impaired at work and you don’t try to drive one of the company vehicles. But usually once a year someone will bring in a ton of beer and share during lunch, usually during festival times or for celebrating something.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah, having an alcoholic drink at lunchtime – in the context of everyone going out for lunch or to the pub, rather than just randomly at your desk – is totally fine in my industry.

        3. Ra94*

          At my current job, having a beer at lunch would be very weird on a normal day, but every few months we celebrate someone’s birthday or a case win, in which case we go out for lunch or order in, and our boss encourages everyone to have a drink. It does make it painfully hard to go back to work.

        4. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, it definitely varies, even within industries. On teacher work days — prepping for the new school year, setting up classrooms, infinite meetings — I’ve gone out to lunch with groups of teachers and most of us would get a beer or margarita, and I can neither confirm nor deny that, when working in our classrooms one summer when the AC was broken, the kindergarten teacher brought in a bottle of premixed margarita and we all drank it out of our school-branded travel mugs as we sweated.

        5. Sarah N*

          I agree it is very industry dependent. I work at a university and while there is rarely beer in our department fridge…it has happened. Some coworkers keep bourbon in their offices and we’ll have a drink together at the end of a hard week (occasionally, not regularly). People will definitely get a beer a lunch sometimes if they don’t have an intense afternoon (certainly not if they are teaching, but otherwise…maybe). And there is plenty of wine/beer at university-run events like receptions and happy hours. So, where I work it would be pretty normal, with the caveat that you are NOT GETTING DRUNK. No one is having enough alcohol that they would appear drunk or couldn’t drive a car, and it would be very inappropriate if they did. Similar to the marijuana example here, the problem wasn’t marijuana use, it was BEING HIGH while you’re supposed to be working.

      8. Drax*

        It’s fairly common in some industries and areas to have a beer on a Friday afternoon.

        I used to work for a company that did “Beer O’Clock Fridays” which was literally when we’d all shut down around 3 and have a drink and decompress from our week, usually about once a month. It was basically a team meeting where we’d all give status updates and group decide how to deal with issues, especially as our satellite office were coo-coo-bananas so they were super difficult to deal with – like all of us at one point or another were brought to tears by rage, frustration, or just how stupid a group of people could be kind of difficult. It’s considered a “team bonding” experience, not get drunk at work thing.

        The thing is with medical marijuana is that opinions are still colored by the stoners we all knew in high school. There’s a lot of people that think that everyone who smokes pot automatically gets so stoned they forget how to human which isn’t really the case.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          That’s what I thought until recently, when I became friends with a wonderful group of people, one of whom uses marijuana as an anti-depressant, and others use it sensibly to unwind. I think it was a self-fulfilling thing all these years – The people I knew who did it were hard-core stoners because the ones who weren’t didn’t mention it and I didn’t know.
          If you think high-school stoners were pathetic, they’re even more so when middle-aged!

          The thing that bothers me though, is the smoke. I really hope there’s no trend of smoking it in offices because it makes me depressed and I would not be able to work there. It has bad effects on many people and I hope users, medical or not, will be considerate of their colleagues who don’t need the fumes.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I live in a country where marijuana is legal, and there are many options other than smoking. The latest stats seem to indicate that a lot of people prefer gelcaps to joints – they don’t smell and you don’t need a lighter!

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yay gelcaps and edibles! Have to have it in a non -gelatin formula for the vegetarians though!

          2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            There are other options besides smoking, thankfully, because there’s no way smoking would work for me. I’m guessing anyone that would use in the office (if they felt they could) would probably not choose smoking as a delivery method. They would probably pick whatever is the most discreet, so they’d fly under the radar so they didn’t have to deal with the biases around medical marijuana.

        2. Drax*

          Plus there are the folks that abuse the medical marijuana in order to justify smoking it not because they need it which was a pretty big media focus (remember all the features of the iPad doctors when it became legal in California?) which I’m sure triggers a lot of knee-jerk reaction when people hear medical marijuana

          and I am allergic to marijuana so I really get the aversion to the smell!

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Now that it’s legal in some areas of the US, it’s being documented that it’s a common allergen. There was an article in Annals of Allergy about dispensary workers getting hives and users getting asthma.
            I know how you feel – I’m allergic to tobacco smoke and I notice the smell instantly.

            1. the cat's pajamas*

              Thanks for sharing. I’m allergic too, and this is the first comment thread I’ve come across where I’m not the only one saying so.

              I wish we’d done more research on the effects of allergies and putting a substance into our air and water (from grow facilities)with no knowledge of the long term effects and no way to easily test if someone is currently impaired. The “pot should be treated like alcohol” camp conveniently overlooks this, also the smell. My house doesn’t reek when my next door neighbors are drinking…

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yes, exactly! It’s the same set of problems as cigarettes.
                If users would stop smoking it and take it some other way, there would be no problem.
                Maybe one day.
                But research, forget about it. Users keep pushing for legality regardless of how it affects others.

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

              Yeah I’m another one that’s highly allergic to tobacco smoke. I don’t have a reaction to marijuana smoke, but I can definitely sympathize with the allergy issue!

      9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It is a startup thing. I’ve seen work fridges stocked with beer. Personally, I could never do that – any amount of alcohol goes straight to my head and I would not be able to work until it wore off. But even all that aside, I’ve never heard of beer being prescribed by a medical doctor to help with anxiety and depression, so comparing the two in how necessary it may be to consume them in a workplace, the beer is not exactly coming out a winner here.

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. I once *did* actually take the wrong cough medicine before heading into work, and I also had to pull in a coworker and be like “so I accidentally took the drowsy stuff and *wow* is it kicking in – can you handle X for the morning?” It didn’t seem like a difficult or inappropriate thing to ask. Now, if I started regularly showing up blitzed on cough syrup, that’d probably be another story, but messing up your meds once isn’t that big a deal.

      Similarly, so long as pot is legal medicine, you should treat it same as you would any other medicine your employee takes. Regularly showing up high on prescription meds, allergy pills, cough syrup, etc? Cut it out. Accidentally messing up your prescription meds, allergy pills, cough syrup, etc? Hey, accidents happen, just don’t do it again.

      1. Rebecca*

        I took the wrong cough syrup once! I got up in the middle of the night, was sick, coughing, etc. and grabbed what I thought was Robutussin. It was my daughter’s prescription syrup with codeine. I didn’t do it on purpose, I was exhausted, nearsighted, and grabbed the cough syrup bottle that had the red stuff and chugged it down. I was terrified that I’d be pulled for a random drug test over the next few days, and actually thought about calling in sick, but I was in my first year on the job, no sick time, no vacation time, and I couldn’t afford to be without pay for as long as it took to get the codeine out of my system. This was an office job, I was not endangering anyone, but they had a zero tolerance policy for any drugs. I had to pass a drug test to even get hired (discovered that on my first day on the job). It was a one off thing, a dumb mistake, but had I been tagged for a random test, it would have resulted in being suspended, mandatory drug treatment classes, then repeated random testing for who knows how long once I was allowed to return to work. There was no saying “hey, I did this dumb thing, so I need a pass on it”. I kept my mouth shut and luckily things turned out OK. And, thankfully, I now work for a company whose policy is “no drugs or alcohol consumption on company property” and no drug testing, unless you’re a heavy equipment operator involved in an accident.

        1. The Tin Man*

          Wait, you would have been fired for having taken prescription cough syrup? Or would you just have been in trouble if you couldn’t produce the prescription to show it was prescribed to you? Because it is Not Okay to punish employees for a drug test revealing they took prescribed medication.

          1. Rebecca*

            It was my daughter’s prescription, not mine :( so not OK, because it wasn’t prescribed to me. They were so weird about that stuff! And yes, one of my coworkers was fired because she got pulled for a random test and they found that she used pot, but not at work and her work was stellar. In an office. Not operating equipment or endangering anyone. Yet we had numerous people with obvious alcohol problems, coming in to work late, reeking of booze, etc. and they were not fired. It was ridiculous.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              It was my daughter’s prescription, not mine :( so not OK, because it wasn’t prescribed to me. They were so weird about that stuff!

              Not that weird, actually. A prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed for you, but for someone in your household, isn’t any different from a prescription medication that you bought on the street. (I mean, in a legal way, not in a finger-waggy way.)

            2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              Rebecca, that happened to a friend of mine! She had just returned from a vacation (to Vancouver, no less) and they tested her because a patient attacked her. They fired her because she tested positive for cannabis (duh, I just got back from Vancouver) and then blocked her attempt to collect unemployment, which I personally would have fought, but she didn’t. I am glad you now work for a company with a sensible policy.

          2. VelociraptorAttack*

            Aside from the ridiculousness of random drug testing in environments where there is no safety risk, I’m presuming the concerns are a) not prescribed to them which is a big no no and b) being cough syrup with codeine, the screen would likely be a generic positive for opiates and that opens a whole big door if you have no medication with opiates prescribed to you.

      2. Jamie G*

        Once I took extra-strength Dayquil on an empty stomach and didn’t realize until I started feeling loopy. I had to ask a coworker to cover my position for a few minutes while I grabbed something to eat, and it was fine.

        1. Amber T*

          Is taking it on an empty stomach what’s wrong? I had *the worst* reaction to Dayquil (loopy, incredibly sleepy, pretty out of it). I’ve been afraid to take it for a few years now because honestly, feeling sick felt better than that reaction. I honestly can’t remember if I ate something, but considering I lived alone it’s pretty likely I didn’t have food on hand. Hmm..

          1. Amber Rose*

            Did it have DM in it? Some cold medicines do, and a fair number of people are particularly sensitive to it. If I have it I am exactly as loopy as you say, and once I ended up in an ambulance after taking too much. I didn’t really need the ambulance, that was an over reaction, but I guess I was being loopy enough to worry a security guard.

          2. Parenthetically*

            FWIW I can’t take any of those multi-medicine things because they almost all contain dextromethorphan and/or pseudoephedrine which both make me feel CRAZY TOWN. If I’m congested I go for guaifenesin (Mucinex) 100% of the time because it’s the only thing that doesn’t make me feel like my brain and spinal cord are about 6 inches apart (and it’s a miracle drug).

          3. Nessun*

            I can’t take anything with pseudoephedrine in it, including Nyquil and Dayquil and most OTC cold meds, because they all give me vertigo! Similar feeling – loopy, dopey, sleepy, completely lost, plus the room doing a lovely spinny thing that makes it virtually impossible to stay upright for more than 10 seconds at a go. …a cold at work SUCKS because there’s only 1 med I’ve found I can take, and it’s not always effective.

          4. Michaela Westen*

            I stopped taking Dayquil when I realized I almost always got a sinus infection.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had to take a sick day once after taking cough syrup (that was prescribed to me, because I had a cold and a cough). It was the kind with codeine. I took some and went to bed (did not cough all night) and in the morning, I only managed to stay awake long enough to call in sick. Slept all day. These things happen. Other than my teammates making fun of me for it for the rest of the year, I did not get into any kind of trouble at work for it. Everyone understood it was an honest mistake.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      There may be an overarching ethics problem. I could be mistaken, though. I know for judges in my county they have to report themselves if they are on certain types of scripts. And they cannot be making judicial decisions while they are on the script. So while, the drug is legal and being used correctly there still can be an ethics problem.
      What is interesting here, is that the list is pretty specific as to which drugs.
      OP, I don’t know if this ethics issue is something that applies to your arena. If so, you can find out about the ethical standards for your profession. If you find a list then you can see which drugs are on your list. Next step, you can tell your cohort about the list and warn them if medical marijuana is on that list.
      Once you become their boss, what to do is pretty clear. If they are taking X then they need to self-report and remove themselves from whatever processes. If they do not then it becomes an ethical conduct issue. While I understand there is a larger discussion here until TPTB rewrite their ethical standards we pretty much have to follow those standards whether we agree or not.

      OTH, if there is no ethical issue for your arena, then you can just skip what I am saying here.

    6. No Beer for Me, Thank You*

      It depends very much on the type, so medical marijuana (if not cbd) might get a person high. What I find most amusing about the post is “smoking weed.” It’s more likely to be edible or some other means of consumption, and it is not generally called “weed” in this context. Second most amusing, the pearl clutching about “weed” in an office that appears to condone alcohol consumption on the job. My suggestion: tell your coworker that you’re not comfortable knowing the details of his medical situation, since you might be his boss someday (or he yours) and it’s TMI.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I’m so glad it’s not smoked! I really don’t want the fumes!
        However, I did once know someone who said he smoked weed at his office.

      2. Magenta*

        Let’s not forget the fact that beer is more likely to result in a death than weed. Not that it doesn’t have its own problems, but it’s not the same as alcohol.

    7. WellRed*

      Thanks for this reminder. I was confused by Alison’s answer but now it makes sense.

    8. Safety Specialist*

      On this note I will add: as a safety specialist, I believe EVERY job involves safety! Some jobs do involve more risk than others.

    9. Alyssa*

      I do think it’s rather bizarre told their coworker / almost boss that he had taken too much.

    10. Sick Civil Servant*

      Chronic pain sufferer here. I’ve tried various types of medical marijuana and many narcotics over the years. If you are taking the medication for legitamite treatment, you don’t get high. (Unless to add alcohol!) If someone “zoned out” because they are medicating for their condition, they need to talk to their doctor. It sounds different if you’re a short term user, eg you get 6 Tylenol 3s after your wisdom teeth extraction, but all of my pain doctors have always said real pain patients don’t get high.

    11. Sarah N*

      I think this is actually pretty different in different communities/situations. When I was in grad school in California, I knew MANY people who got medical marijuana prescriptions from shady doctors for vague complaints like “A history of glaucoma in my very extended family!”, and then very much used their “medical” pot to get high. (I am not personally judging their medical diagnoses, this is exactly what they told me.) In states where there is both recreational and medical marijuana, this is probably less likely to happen (at the time, only medical was legal in CA).

      Anyway, I think your scenario is sometimes the case, and the “get a prescription because it’s an easy way to legally get high” is also something that happens, and it’s a little unrealistic to pretend that the latter never happens. That said, as a coworker it doesn’t make sense to try and judge it because you do not actually know the full story (and you don’t have a right to know the full story). The important thing is — if this person is regularly high at work, that is a problem; if there is a very occasional issue, let it go, as with any medical issue.

    12. JM60*

      When you say that they’re different, do you mean that it matters why the drug is taken, or that they are different substances? I was under the impression that recreational marijuana and medical marijuana are the same things, just taken with different purposes (except for maybe better assurances that it’s not laced).

  8. CouldntPickAUsername*

    I bet 20 dollars that management isn’t requiring to shift to balls and gets to keep their chairs.

    1. Mookie*

      Or somebody high up and with no sense has become an evangelical on the subject and now wishes to save the worker bees from themselves.

  9. nnn*

    Unless those chairs are way more adjustable than they look, they’re really going to mess with some people’s ergonomics!

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      You have to have one that is sized properly based on the length of your legs (not your height). In particular knee to foot measurement is key. And woman wearing heels can mess that all up daily. This plan doesn’t seem properly thought through.

      1. Serin*

        Now I’m hearing the T Rex in “Meet the Robinsons”: “I have a big head. And little arms. I’m just not sure how well this plan was thought through … Master?”

  10. nnn*

    For #1, you could counter his argument that he’s giving you life experience with “Yes, thank you! And this experience has taught me that I don’t actually like doing this kind of work / that this kind of work is more difficult than I expected, and I wouldn’t consider doing it for less than $X.”

  11. elemenohp*

    Just curious… For OP1, if the LW pushes back and declines to do further design work, is this something that the manager could use the “other duties as assigned” card to cover?

    I was in a similar situation in my first entry-level office job, and my boss asked me what I do for fun– I told her I wrote poetry. Suddenly, I was doing all the copywriting for the website (hundreds of products a quarter). At the time, I felt like I could not decline because it was my boss, and this was “other duties as assigned,” but also, I was kinda semi-interested. I went along with it, and it actually worked out in my favor– it was good portfolio-builder. But looking back, I wish I had listened to my first instinct and pushed back.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, the manager can try that, and the OP can hold firm and say she’s not up for it. From there, it’s a question of who’s willing to push the issue harder. It would be awfully ridiculous for a manager to fire someone for not doing design work when their job is to ring up chocolate sales, but there are ridiculous managers out there and it could happen. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. If the OP sensed it was going in that direction, they might be better off approaching it with something other than just a flat no (for example, suddenly being really bad at the design work, being told by their doctor not to draw for a while because of an old injury, or so forth).

      In your case, it doesn’t sound like you did try to say no, and just assumed you had to do it … but there’s a decent chance you could have gotten out of it if you’d tried.

      There’s no particular magic to “other duties as assigned.” It’s not like it holds special legal weight or anything like that. Whether that’s in your job description or not, your boss can tell you that your job now includes doing X and you can decide whether you’re willing to do that, or if you want to try to push back, or if you’re willing to walk away over it.

      1. elemenohp*

        Yeah, I definitely did not try to be assertive at all, so applause to the LW for being willing to set healthy boundaries.

        That makes sense that there’s no legal magic to “other duties as assigned…” I think the reason why “other duties as assigned” takes on this magical-power feeling is because there are so many people in the retail community who’ve been in similar situations who have tried to set up healthy boundaries and have been basically told they’d be fired for not performing job duties. So, if you’re in a situation where you definitely cannot afford to miss even a single paycheck, you may not be able to immediately decide to walk away and feel pressure to put up with whatever’s being asked of you.

        But I’m sure the LW knows if they are in that kind of situation or not (there’s not any indication in the letter).

        Sorry for the ramble.

        1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

          Unfortunately I don’t think that’s even limited to the retail industry – I’ve had it happen to me in multiple non-retail past jobs.

          I think the LW should definitely approach this as if their boss is reasonable and attempt to set reasonable boundaries using Alison’s scripts/recommendation, but I do think the LW should be aware that (if in the US/with no contract) the manager can 100% say tough luck – this is what I’ve decided your job entails now, do it your or fired. Should manager take that stance? Of course not, but there are a lot of bad managers out there.

          In my career I’ve been hired to do administrative work, then told oh and now you have to do cold call sales work. I’ve had my manager switched less than a month after accepting a new role (a promotion) to someone I NEVER would have accepted a role reporting to them. I’ve been hired under the pretence that my job would entail a, b, c and a tiny bit of d, but then found out it would actually being doing 90% d and a little c. Each time I’ve pushed back how Alison describes and each time I’ve been told “tough luck. Do it or quit”.

          I don’t mean to scare the LW or discourage them from trying to set boundaries, I just think that they should be aware that a “tough luck” response is a very real (hopefully unlikely, but definitely not unheard of) possibility.

          1. ooo*

            Yep. It would be dumb for the boss to lose a good employee because they wouldn’t do a completely job on the cheap — then he has to hire a new staffer and find a designer — but this is the kind of thing some small business owners bristle at; I assume it’s a combination of fierce desire to save money and ego. And if he doesn’t let OP1 go, I still predict a regular drumbeat of passive-aggressive comments about not being willing to work on the cheap for him. The horrible client-ness, claiming it’s life experience, and refusal to pay a professional for essential business needs suggest a particular personality.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Especially considering that the boss found out about this skill during the interview, which means it may have been a factor in deciding to hire the LW.

        2. YoungTen*

          The good thing for OP1 is that retail jobs are pretty easy to get compared to other kinds of jobs so. Meaning if her manager is unreasonable, she stands a better chance of landing another job in a short amount of time. The chances of him finding another employee with graphic design abilities are less likely. At any rate, I like Allisons suggestion to become suddenly bad at it. When the boss is unhappy, remind him that he gets what he paid for.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            If he’s unreasonable, I hope she does get another job and quit. It would serve him right.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        If our LW’s boss did end up assigning it to her as a job duty, would she then be able to claim overtime for all those hours and hours working on his designs? (Still a raw deal for her, but maybe it would be something to deter the boss from making it a job duty?)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But the difference here is that she’s being asked to do work that generally pays above minimum wage and he’s taking advantage of her.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You really never know.

      I’ve seen bosses who would shrug and find someone else. I’ve seen bosses who will fire you or treat you poorly for refusing a job they ask you to do.

  12. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: I have taken the wrong prescription meds in the morning in the past. The first time I woke up in Thuringia, the second time I noticed before I left home and called in sick. And slept the whole day. Anti psychotics make you sleepy.

    Your colleague was working from home. He might have been a bit slower than usual. But as long as he isn’t driving or working machinery under the influence there is no problem.

    1. MayLou*

      Thuringia the place in Germany? Where did you fall asleep? (A friend of a friend got very drunk and woke up in France once, but we lived in the south of England so it wasn’t quite as implausible as if he’d have needed to get on a plane for that to happen. What was more intriguing is how he managed to get there without his passport.)

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I fell asleep in northern Bavaria, where I live. The train I take to work connects several cities in both regions. I only need to be on it for one stop, which is about 15 minutes.

        Which is enough to fall asleep early in the morning on any day and to completely conk out until the conductor wakes you at the end of the line when you accidentally took you anti psychotic in the morning…

        Good thing I can only take regional trains with my public transport pass. Otherwise I might have woken up in Hamburg!

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I stand on the train in the morning because if I sit down I’ll fall asleep. It’s not from medication, I’m just not a morning person.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I’ve had days where I had to take so much cold meds, I considered using my computer as working with heavy machinery.

      I have a basic rule: If I am having trouble remember what day of the week it is (not date so much), I don’t law.

    3. pleaset*


      And I have to say this from the OP is so hypocritical:
      “I found it to be completely inappropriate for him to be smoking weed while at work, even though we have a laid-back office environment and a beer-stocked fridge in the office”

      They judge a person using a medicine during working hours but think it’s fine for the company to provide alcohol.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yeah, I’m actually glad the LW reached out for input, because it really sounds like they need some education and reframing before they’re ready to be a manager. Removing personal bias from a situation where your employee has a medical issue is super important. It would be like not “believing in” psychotherapy and therefore trying to deny a reasonable accommodation for your employee to leave work an hour early twice a month for therapy.

        This is what the employee and their actual medical provider have determined is an appropriate course of treatment. LW doesn’t get a vote on that.

        1. valentine*

          This is what the employee and their actual medical provider have determined
          He didn’t say it was prescribed. Maybe she thinks it isn’t the medical formulation, either.

            1. Zillah*

              This – and while it’s certainly possible that “medical” is being used in a “this is how I medicate” vs. “this is what I’m prescribed,” I think the OP is much better off not trying to parse the difference.

  13. elemenohp*

    Re: the ball chairs…. what a terrible idea. Research has shown that there is no evidence of any “active sitting” benefits with these chairs, they are not ergonomic in any way, and they can actually *cause* lower back issues due to lack of lumbar support.

    That’s a workman’s comp issue waiting to happen.

    1. German Girl*

      Yeah, especially the models that don’t allow you to roll around – there is nothing ‘active’ in sitting on those.

      And those that do roll around are a safety hazard for anyone not used to using them and even if you are used to them they should only be used for short periods of time because it’s so much work for your midsection.

    2. BadWolf*

      And some people really need armrests to help sit and stand! And how do you scoot into you desk? The ones pictured don’t have wheels.

  14. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #4 yoga ball chairs: You say this was a recent announcement. Recent as in, say, Monday? Cause that sounds like an excellent April Fool’s joke.

    1. Triplestep*

      If that’s the case, it would be an even more misguided decision than actually forcing the chairs on people. People are already freaked out by changes to their space; why would anyone think this was funny?

      Having designed managed countless projects to move people to new workspace, I’m still baffled over how badly the change management can be screwed up, mostly by leaders not believing it needs to happen. Either real or a joke, this reeks of someone not equipped to deal with a project of this magnitude. This is what happens when ownership of the new office design project is given to to someone who thinks he or she would be good at it because they watch HGTV or spend a lot of time on Pintrest and have a flair for design.

    2. Urdnot Bakara*

      My thoughts, too! I really hope we get an update from OP on this. Also, I can’t stop laughing at the stock photo… that woman and her studded white cargo pants and 9 exercise ball chairs are going to come for me if I don’t like their product.

  15. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

    #1 Just FYI in case you do ever go into graphic design, this is actually really normal: “He wants me to come up with everything from scratch because he doesn’t know what he wants, then basically has me start all over once it’s almost finished because he doesn’t like it.”

    It’s normal to do some research and strategy and agree the brief together, and essential to ok things with the client at different stages so they don’t just see it when it’s nearly finished.

    I don’t disagree with anything else that’s been said, but this just seemed worth mentioning.

    1. Watson*

      The huge difference is of course that a professional designer has a skill set specifically tailored to working in that scenario – having a framework for helping clients define their communications goals, building consensus on a project brief, and managing that process with a client who may not recognise the advantages of working with a pro are all real skills, and a SUPER long way from “I like to draw in my spare time”.

      I think it’s very ok to decline to attempt a job you were not hired for that you don’t have any of the requisite professional skills in.

      I say this as a designer of about 15 years, and outside thumbnails and wireframes, I cannot draw a jot.

      1. skadhu*

        [stifles rant]

        OP, here’s an argument that might be useful if you don’t want to do the design work—it will be more or less relevant depending on the complexity of what you’re being asked to do. It will not be much of an issue if you’re just designing a bag sticker that you print on the office printer, but if you’re going to get a professional printer to produce custom boxes, for example, it will be a lot more significant.

        Designing for print requires an extensive, complex toolkit of technical skills and knowledge. Packaging design ditto, and it’s even more complicated because there are regulations governing it under some circumstances. If you are interested in working as a designer you can get the required knowledge from a design program at an institution, or by educating yourself. The latter is more difficult because it’s hard to know what you might be missing, but it’s possible. Just expect it to take a long time to acquire the skills either way.

        But the thing is, when it comes to print if you don’t have the required knowledge, it’s likely that you’ll make technical mistakes that will either result in something that looks awful or that the printer will have to fix or reprint, and either situation can be VERY expensive and may cost more than hiring a designer in the first place. (I’ve heard horror stories about designers bearing the costs of reprinting—often far more than what they were paid for the job, and in one case it put a design business into bankruptcy—though thankfully I never found myself in that situation.) Anyway, if the design work is going off to be professionally printed you can frame your reasoning as an effort to prevent the client from incurring expenses.

    2. Oryx*

      Yup. I work as a copywriter but I work closely with graphics and it’s similar. My manager mostly just wants something to react to. He doesn’t know what he wants until he sees what he doesn’t want.

    3. LunaLena*

      Gonna second Penelope Garcia’s glasses and Watson – I’ve been a graphic designer for almost 14 years now and this scenario is depressingly common, both in art AND graphic design. I highly recommend a blog called, which is basically user-submitted stories of clients, most of which are graphic design- or art-related. The comments are sometimes a bit harsh, but they often have good advice on how to prevent and/or navigate situations like this where people are trying to take advantage of you.

      I would tell OP1 the same thing I told a graphic design/art student when he got his first commission – if you decide to do this, make sure you have a contract that sets out a price, timeline, and delivery date, with multiple points where you check in and get approval before you continue. It should also have a set number of revisions. If your boss balks at this, explain that it’s for his protection as well, to ensure he’ll get what he wants in a timely manner (but really, it’s mostly for you). And if he asks why is this necessary, you’re already working for him, etc etc, explain that it’s standard practice for the industry (because it is) and you want to get into the habit of following those standards.

      I also don’t see anything wrong with doing this as a discounted rate (i.e. whatever he’s paying you as a retail worker) if you see this as a portfolio-builder or want to do this as a favor, but if you do, you MUST be clear with him from the beginning that that applies to X project only, and he’ll have to pay you an agreed-upon rate for additional projects not covered by the contract. And draw up a new contract if he does want additional work. You can Google templates for graphic design contracts if needed.

      1. LunaLena*

        LadyPhoenix’s comment below reminded me: also make sure you get 50% of whatever price you agree to upfront (I used to tell clients that I would not start on anything until I got the deposit), the other 50% to be paid on delivery. Being firm about this policy generally weeds out the people who are looking for a freebie, and it is also a very very common stipulation for freelancers in creative fields. And watermark EVERYTHING until you deliver the final product.

        All of this is, of course, assuming you’re looking to go into an arts field at all. If you do, even if it’s just as a side job, I would strongly recommend setting guidelines like these. :)

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I always say they don’t know what they want, but they sure as hell know what they don’t want when they see it!

      And yes it’s very normal when you’re a designer to go through this with clients.

  16. Kettles*

    I’m baffled by the idea that drinking on the job is ‘normal’ but accidentally taking too much medicine, and informing your supervisor, is a professional faux pas. Alcohol might be legal but it’s a mind altering substance that often affects people far more significantly than marijuana.

    1. EtherIther*

      And alcohol is not in anyway legally a medicine! I honestly don’t get how you manage to be okay with drinking at work (to the extent of a stocked beer fridge) but judge someone for doing something that’s for their health. I think that level writer seems to think that their way of things is somehow superior, which is wrong (because you are not) There’s nothing wrong if you choose to not partake in marijuana use, but to judge other people is pretty meh.

      1. Kettles*

        Yes, this was my entire point. Not the relative effects but consuming substances for fun versus consuming medicine.

    2. ooo*

      Sure, but the reality is that having a drink or even two has much less effect on most people than taking a couple of hits or consuming an edible.

      1. Kisses*

        Um I can out smoke Snoop Dog and no one would be the wiser. But any alcohol at all and I’m done for.
        A lot of medical use people are similar as well! Trust us to know our medication. It sounds like this guy did- that’s how he knew he overdid it and told her he had used too much.

      2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        I disagree with that. A couple of hits versus a beer or two is most likely the same for most people. You don’t take a couple hits of weed and become instantly drowsy/high any more than a beer makes you immediately tipsy.

      3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        I’m sure that’s true for some, but I’m curious what your basis for that conclusion is. Not the case in my experience in a social group who consumes much more marijuana than alcohol.

      4. ooo*

        I consume a lot more marijuana than alcohol! When I take a couple of hits, I feel high a minute later. When I drink a couple of beers, I feel… pretty normal, unless I pound them, which is not how most people drink two beers. Everyone’s mileage may vary, but I don’t think it’s really in dispute that the two substances are absorbed in different ways and at different rates. However, I understand that because this is the comments section, countless people will show up to announce that they can do twenty bong hits and fly a helicopter perfectly, but can’t tie their shoe after half a Miller Lite, and far be it from me or anyone else to invalidate their lived experience by noting a general truth.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I think it’s not so much a “general truth” but your opinion and experience, which is far from universal.

          1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            Agree, the comment everyone is replying to here says, “the reality is that having a drink or even two has much less effect on most people than taking a couple of hits or consuming an edible.” That’s a general statement about all people, not the commenter’s personal experience. Say it’s your personal experience and people can’t disagree, but generalizing so broadly will certainly get pushback from people with different experience.

            1. ooo*

              Specifically saying “most people” is absolutely not a statement about “all people,” but again: FAR BE IT FROM ME.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, “most people” seems pretty accurate here and doesn’t require individual accounts of how some aren’t in that category. Let’s leave this here!

              2. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Okay, I evidently misread and I apologise. Didn’t mean to derail or accuse.

      5. Janie*

        You should see me on sudafed. I take half a dose and have to lie down til the world stops spinning so fast and then fall asleep for ten or twelve hours. And that’s cold medicine.

    3. a1*

      Just because the fridges are stocked with beer doesn’t mean they’re slamming them back while working. It could be one at lunch, or drinking after work instead of going to a bar, or any other thing.

      1. Kettles*

        One drink affects your motor functions and other aspects of your brain. I’m not saying alcohol is inherently bad. I’m saying that acting as though day drinking for fun is ok and that marijuana for medicinal purposes is bad is really, really odd.

    4. Qwerty*

      I’ve worked in multiple places where there was beer in the fridge and if anyone was seen to be buzzed, tipsy, or drunk while working, there would have been a Serious Talk from the manager.

      Mostly the beer in the fridge is one of the gestures of the “coolness” of the company, but isn’t meant for just knocking a couple back while you are working. Similar to how tech companies with game rooms don’t intend the employees to spend long periods of their workday playing around. Usually the beer comes out during non-work style events like celebrating a product launch, hitting a milestone, or employeee appreciation events. The idea is that you have one together (if your tolerance allows) and what little alcohol you consume wears off by the end of the event.

      Being safe to drive is a good indicator. Many, many guys can have one beer and be safe to drive home an hour later when the event/meeting ends. Medication varies in how it affects people, but if it would impede your ability to drive, then the dosage should be reconsidered.

  17. EtherIther*

    >but I just don’t see a world in which smoking weed during the work day will ever be as normalized as having a beer.

    Ever? You don’t see how that could EVER happen? Despite the fact that weed is a legal medicine, and beer is not? You have some really weird ideas about this, and it’s unfair to judge your coworkers because of them.

    Also, to blow your mind a bit, I’ve worked lots of places without a beer stocked fridge….

    1. Asenath*

      I never have worked somewhere that provided beer, and the beer-stocked fridge at work seemed odder to me than the use of medical marijuana at home. Anywhere I’ve worked has been extremely rigid about alcohol at work, and about tobacco at work, and I’m sure if the idea of marijuana at work came up (which it might, because it’s now legal here), I’m sure that would be treated much like alcohol and tobacco. At one place, there were rumours of an on-site Christmas party (before my time) that went so bad that all alcohol on site was banned forevermore. At my current job, you CAN provide alcohol for receptions or other work social events if you comply with a very complicated list of procedures, or hire a service that will do it for you. Having a stock in the office fridge is so far outside the guidelines it would probably be a firing offense. Using medical marijuana at home would not be controversial

    2. PB*

      This. Anywhere I’ve worked, having a beer on the job would, at bare minimum, get you a very stern talking too. A beer-stocked fridge is very not common and very not normal. Taking marijuana for a diagnosed condition is a very different thing.

      1. elchinero*

        In 1963 the cafeteria at Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, had bottles of beer, on ice, for the employees to purchase and drink on-site. Saw a Test Cell tech bring a cup of Bud into the Control Room to run (a) jet engine. At the BMW/Rolls-Royce AeroEngines facility in Berlin they had an on-site “May Day” party with unlimited Bier .. I drank a cup of “Berliner Kindl” at my desk … just to say that I had!

    3. Thursday Next*

      Do you mean if someone is working from home, or in an office? I think *smoking anything* in an office shouldn’t be permitted.

        1. Thursday Next*

          If it’s legal in that state, and not prohibited by company policy, then IMO it’s no different from the beer they stock in the work fridge.

      1. Zillah*

        Agreed. Anything you bring into the office really shouldn’t have a strong scent, especially not one where it’s fairly common for people to have a really bad reaction to.

    4. Samwise*

      TBH, that beer-stocked fridge sounds like a trainwreck a-comin’. Employee drinks too much beer from company fridge, goes out, drives, gets in an accident that maims or kills someone. Employer can be on the hook for providing the alcohol and not cutting people off. Not to mention that someone is maimed or killed.

      Employee working at home who took too much of their meds? Not the same in any way.

    5. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      My husband works in tech and every job he has had since I’ve known him has had a beer stocked fridge. That doesn’t mean folks were getting drunk midday, but it was and is an accepted part of the work culture at those places. It would absolutely be unacceptable at my job, by the way.

    6. Michaela Westen*

      *Smoking weed at the office is not good*. The key word is *smoking*. I could not work in an office with weed fumes, and I’m sure I’m one of many. If it ever becomes normal to do that, I hope it’s long after I’m gone.

      Imagine what that society would be like! Little if any work getting done, no products or services…

  18. 2230*


    Yes that is frustrating and it sounds a bit like he has latched onto you. Personally I think taking a step back and not looking at this as a complaining issue but as a boundaries issue might work. So when he starts to complain, try saying (for eg), ‘I hear you but it’s not something I can fix at my pay grade and btw, how was your weekend? (unless you are at BEC level in which case just start with the ‘I can’t fix it and I’m really swamped right now, see you later’ type of scenario.)

    I’m not trying to blame you here but it sounds a bit like you are making his problems yours when you don’t need to (I had to learn this one myself) If he is not happy in his new industry (and to be fair to him, he probably had respect and networks etc built up over 15 years which he doesn’t have now which might be making him insecure and whiny) But this is NOT your problem. It’s his problem as an adult to resolve.

    There is nothing wrong with being firm and setting boundaries. It’s healthy. This doesn’t mean leaving compassion at the door, it’s just choosing where you will be compassionate and what is deserving or your compassion given your current circumstances. If he comes to you with a complaint in the future, just give him a hearing (but time limit it) then reiterate you are busy and have to get back to work. If this is really troubling you and you are having trouble working out what to say to him (and it seems it is) then get a friend or a loved one to sit with you for a couple of hours and have them feed the kind of crap he is feeding so you can practice knocking him back / resetting your boundaries in a safe place before you have to take him on in the office. And practice timing how much of your life you are willing to give him. (1-2 minutes is my rule – except if it is legit / people I respect etc)

    Good Luck!

    1. IHaveAnAnnoyingCoworker*

      Thanks for your comment! I think part of the issue is we share a cube wall, AND the environment we are in is small (16 very small cubes in one room together) so when he complains, whether it is directed at me or not, I hear it. But, I do agree that making it my problem isn’t a solution, and I am no more senior than he is, technically. I like to be a helpful co-worker, so when I’m asked for assistance I’m always there to answer questions, but as soon as it turns into “this process is a bunch of stupidity” I want nothing to do with it. The upside is he does have an assigned mentor who isn’t me, so he has be going to him more often recently.

      1. 2230*

        Oh you have my sympathy, sharing a cube wall makes it so much harder to switch off. Happy days, at least he has been assigned a mentor (who isn’t you :) Don’t feel the least bit guilty in redirecting him to his mentor. The fact they have assigned him one probably means you aren’t the only one feeling the pain!

        I always try to help as well but there are some people who’s idea of help is ‘just agree with what I say and make me feel better’ and that’s not a job description any of us sign up to. I will totally go out of my way for someone who is genuinely putting the work in for a job they took that turned out to be a bit over their heads.

        It sounds like your guy is looking for love and feels rather than how to learn his new job in a field he is not totally on board with. In the interim, maybe get some new headphones and load up you favourite music until his mentor sorts him out so you don’t have to listen (assuming that’s ok your end)

        Stay safe

  19. LGC*

    I kind of disagree with framing it as being like taking too much cold medicine – it’s more like he took too many opioids.

    (Here’s my reasoning: While both have medical uses – unfortunately in the US, it’s very hard to study marijuana’s uses because it’s federally illegal – both can be and are often also used recreationally.)

    I probably wouldn’t specify to a coworker that I’d ODed on Oxy and that’s why I was working from home, because of the stigma, but also…maybe I’m just VERY disposed to MJ use, but yeah – it is nowhere near as big of a deal as it seems to LW3.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Comparing them based on recreational use doesn’t make any sense. What matters is whether the person who OD’d needs medical attention or time off to recover or something. And comparing them to opioids just reinforces that they’re a “bad” drug, even though alcohol kills way more people every year, and both are addictive while weed is not.

      1. SuperAnon*

        Mostly I agree with you, just have to point out that weed can be addictive. I know it was for me in the past and I’ve met people in sobriety programs whose drug of choice was weed.

      2. LGC*

        I actually think it does make sense – the point I was trying to make is that people commonly use MJ and Oxy both medically and recreationally. So yeah, in that regard, they are similar. MJ is definitely far less dangerous, though, I’ll agree.

    2. otherOther*

      Cold medicine is also taken recreationally.

      Otherwise I agree with what you’re saying– the comparison might still be better, because cold medicine doesn’t require a prescription and is more common, while opoid/medical marijuana use is more restricted.

  20. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP4: Ugh! Those chairs would cause lots of backaches, for starters. Also, people could easily fall off of those. Get ready for lots of workers’ comp claims at your company. And lots of turnover, between that and the hot-desking.

    1. Rebecca*

      I can’t imagine having to sit on something like that all day! I get cramps in my legs as it is (for reference, I’m a bit older and have some issues with arthritis). I don’t slouch, but I like my chair arms, comfy seat, and nice padded back. At least I know I won’t topple over if I get a leg cramp!

    2. BadWolf*

      So distracted about the exercising that I forgot about the hot-desking. We were moved to an open workspace, we drew the line at hot desking.

    3. Observer*

      It’s not just the two things – it’s the combination. Because when people have assigned desks, you can make sure that people can have a normal chair if they “prove” that they need one, and you can, at minimum, insure that people have the right sized ball if they can’t “prove” their need for a chair. But with the hot desking you’ve just insured that even people who could actually manage with a chair like that are not going to be able to reliably get a chair that’s the right size.

      Anyone with options is going to start looking.

  21. cncx*

    re OP4, people of different heights and weights need different exercise ball sizes and inflation levels.

    Also two people, even of the same height and weight, need different inflation due to different posture needs.

    I could eventually see (but still think it was a boneheaded idea) exercise balls at fixed workplaces or everyone having their own ball…but hotdesking balls, no.

    Also, and this is my inner germophobe, i don’t particularly want to share exercise balls with people.

    1. Liane*

      These aren’t actual exercise balls, they are ball shaped chairs. There is a link to a picture in the question. But the chair version makes barely more sense, in my opinion, as a chair, than a real ball would.

      1. 2230*

        Correct, exercise balls have been round since the 1990s and didn’t take off cos the evidence didn’t stack up. The ones in the photos look like they got my Grandma to crochet over balls then got my brother who is a welder to put the feet in. In fact all that webbing and metal feet undermines all the original claims of what they were supposed to do – the whole point initially and what the studies were based on was an actual ball:

        It didn’t work either

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Correct, exercise balls have been round since the 1990s and didn’t take off cos the evidence didn’t stack up.

          OK, it took me longer than it should have to realize that you meant that exercise balls have been AROUND since the 90s and not that their shape was ROUND. I was struggling to imagine how you thought balls had anything but a spherical shape at any time…

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I now have a case of the giggles at the term “hotdesking balls”. Heh.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Honestly, imagining the force of that explosion, I might have had a heart attack as I startle very, very easily.

      My heart is beating faster just thinking about it.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        It’s not so much the noise as the sudden disappearance of support under your backside, the fall, and the sudden stop as your ass hits the floor. A Cirque du Soleil acrobat wouldn’t be able to avoid it as it happens without warning.


  22. Lioness*

    OP #1
    It is most certainly not because you’re young. My parents went through something similar.
    My parents work together as house cleaners, and one of their client’s has a dance studio and asked my parents if they can clean the studio and the office as well. They were paid on a monthly basis for the studio as opposed to each cleaning which is what they usually do.

    Let’s just say that when calculating the number of hours they were cleaning to the amount they were being paid, they were paid much less than half of what they would normally charge.

    Neither of my parents wanted to push back because he was nice, and neither wanted to lose on the work. I ended of writing for them, telling the client that on “such and such date, we’d no longer be able to clean the studio.” Took me about 3 tries for them to not go clean the studio because the client would try to hire other cleaners but they would quit within a couple of weeks since the amount paid was not worth the amount of work. So he would negotiate with my parents to clean the studio while he “looks” for another cleaning service.

    This is just to say, it is not about age, anyone can be taken advantage of, and it’s absolutely fine to just set an end date. You can say you just don’t have time anymore. And are you working on any of this at home? Because then, you’re not really being paid at all for it if he’s only paying for the hours at the store.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Interesting that your parents didn’t counter with “fine, but this is now a bigger job, and we need to be paid $X more.”

      1. Lioness*

        Eh. When he would talk to them to coming back. I did manage to for him to cut the amount of work. So it basically went from 4 days a week for $price. To 3 days, and finally to 2 days a week for the same amount they were making with the 4 days. So I did negotiate for them (English isn’t their first language so they needed some assistance).

        They probably would have stayed longer with the 2 day arrangement if it weren’t for the receptionist starting to expect my parents to clean her lunch dishes and making comments when they left them in the sink.

  23. Llamalawyer*

    OP #3- I am glad that you are taking this seriously and trying to address the problem. Being on calls with clients and other people is an Important part of nearly every attorney’s job, no matter what the practice area or setting. They are just as much an important part of your job as your other work product. And as a young attorney, your “client” will be the more experienced attorneys. Learning this lesson now is invaluable. You are lucky that the attorney that you are working with has been patient with you, especially after this has happened not once, but multiple times.

    I also wonder if you are involved in too much- it may be time to edit your activities. This internship should be a priority (as should your classes) as it will be on your resume and potentially be a gateway to a job upon graduation.

  24. SigneL*

    OP1, graphic designers use (expensive) software packages. “I can’t do this without Photoshop” is a perfectly valid argument. If I were you, however, I’d continue to try to do what he wants, just slowly and badly. And I’d look for another job.

    1. LunaLena*

      To be fair, most graphic designers can probably design something decent with (ugh) MS Publisher or (ARGH) Word. We, or at least I, just prefer not to, since MS programs feel extremely clunky and awkward when you’re used to Adobe products.

      There are professional artists who create amazing works in MS Paint. I even knew one who did vector art in MS Word, and to this day I have no idea how she did it or how she had the patience for it. I understand your point, but graphic design and art don’t come from the tools, they come from the designer/artist. Having nice software and tools certainly helps, but it isn’t the be-all end-all of art and design.

      1. skadhu*

        After designing a series of someone complicated books for print in Word as per a client’s request, my reply when asked to do so ever again became: “Yes, but I will charge you three times as much.” Because that was the reality of what was involved in terms of time. I would far rather not get the job—and in some cases I didn’t—than have to do it in a program that couldn’t do what I needed it to do without extensive workarounds and invariably caused endless technical problems. Luckily I was always financially able to make the choice to preserve my sanity.

        The only exception I would ever make was if it was something like a manual where information would need to be regularly updated by staff. That’s a good reason to make it possible for people without professional software to edit the text (though do NOT get me started on what happens with styles when multiple people can access a document, and how they are used or ignored and the consequences of that….)

        1. LunaLena*

          Haha, yeah, I totally understand what you mean. I sometimes design templates in Publisher for the same reason. To be fair, I didn’t say that it’s easy to do it in Word or Publisher, just that it’s doable. :)

          I should have been a little more clear in my post: my objection to SigneL’s post was mostly about the idea that you need expensive software in order to be a graphic designer. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but it kind of perpetuates the idea that the computer does most of the work, and the designer or artist is merely the operator, in the same way a forklift operator drives a forklift that does all the heavy lifting. That idea is part of the reason many people think that designers are interchangeable and therefore undervalue them. I used to see the same kind of mentality when I hung out in a community of professional artists too – new people would join and, when critiqued, would say “well my art would be better if only I could afford Photoshop/Paintshop Pro and/or a tablet!”, as if the software or tablet creates the art for you. Sure, digital painting is much more forgiving than traditional media, but it doesn’t magically gift you with understanding of anatomy, perspective, lighting, composition, color theory, etc. It’s simply a tool that takes time and effort to be mastered, like anything else.

  25. Paperdill*

    I think the correct response to a coworker saying they have had too much of ANY medication, be it marajuana, Benedryl, paracetamol or endone should be, in no particular order:
    – are you alright to keep working?
    – do you need to take the rest of the day off sick?
    – do you need medical attention?
    – do you need me to contact a friend or relative for you?

    1. fposte*

      Too much of paracetamol/Tylenol is a call to poison control ASAP. That will kill you faster than anything else on that list.

      1. Paperdill*

        Lots of definitions of “too much” – all the way from “accidentally took two more after only 4 hours instead of 6” all the way to “took 64 tablets”. Hence the 3rd question.

  26. RJK*

    OP 1: Something similar happened to my daughter. She worked as a waitress one summer in a resort community where many summer staffers are, like her, college students. Her boss found out she was an art history major–and set her to design the daily “specials” menu on the blackboard. She explained that art history is completely different from graphic design–but he set her to it anyway!

  27. EPLawyer*

    #3, I am going to take a different tack from other commenters. Follow Alison’s advice to let your supervisor know that you are taking managing your time seriously. Do so. But don’t dwell on it. Things happen. Client meetings run long. Court hearings ALWAYS take longer than planned. You got drafting an important document or prepping for a hearing and lost track of time.

    Because lawyers bill by the hour, we pack a LOT into an hour. Sometimes too much. So we get overbooked and things get overrun. Keep a good calendar. Keep a good to do list that highlights priority. If you can work with a program that is both a calendar and a to do list that is awesome. That way you aren’t planning on writing that brief (a 20,000 word document) on the same day you are scheduled to be in court all day.

    Then do your best. As long as you are consistently on time, the ocassional late won’t harm you. I was late to a hearing once (just misjudged driving time). The judge was so used to me being 15 minutes early she was about to call my office to make sure I wasn’t dead. That’s what she thought because of my reputation. Not that I was being cavalier about the court’s time but she thought it was something serious to make me late.

    1. Mike B.*

      Exactly what I came here to say.

      This is an important but relatively small problem set against your skill set and other work habits. You have the time and the inclination to address it, and you’re doing so. It should not be difficult to convince your boss to be understanding if it does indeed not happen again. I think suggestions that you prune down your schedule or take other drastic steps are a bit premature.

    2. Arctic*

      Exactly! Do your best to fix the problem. But if you are going to be a practicing lawyer it’s often just trying to manage chaos. Something always comes up. And this is actually a great learning experience for that eventuality.

  28. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    I commiserate so much with OP5. At my last job, a woman I worked with was WAY too open with me about how much she hated our workplace, how the first place she worked at back in the 80’s was so much better in every wa, how much she hated half the people where we worked and how unprofessional they were (I know, the irony), how much she hated certain family members, etc, etc. She would also almost always find a way to make things about herself in the most ridiculous ways and try to one-up people, like someone else we worked with was talking about how surprised he was at how expensive his son’s graduation pictures would be (just light venting, not going off the handle or anything), and she somehow turned that into an opportunity to complain about how her mother threw away all but one of her graduation pictures and how unfair it was.

    She was always nice to me and it didn’t ever directly impact my work, but there were days I wanted to blow up at her that if she hated it here so much, then to leave already. Plus, some of her complaints were pretty hypocritical and I couldn’t believe she never realized how ridiculous she sounded, like how she complained about how much other people in the department gossiped so much and made it feel like she was in high school…just before sh*t-talking people herself.

    I ended up never saying anything, partly because she wasn’t even close to being the worst person I worked with (which is another story in itself, plus she was otherwise good to work with and great at her actual job), but I think this is something reasonable to push back on. Like the grump letter yesterday, you’re entitled to working in a pleasant environment where co-workers don’t unnecessarily give you grief. Legitimate, actionable complaints are one thing, but this guy sounds like he’s complaining just for the hell of it. I LOVE your retort to him regarding the training!

  29. TellyGirl*

    OP5 – I wonder if, to a certain extent, your new coworker has a point. I’m not defending the complaining at all cos it’s annoying AF, but it might actually be rooted in something.

    My company is industry-leading in my particular field, but it has an on-going problem with inefficiency and doubling-up on workloads. A lot of people work for the sake of working. It’s something I live with because I’m proud to work where I do, but we do often get new workers who complain A LOT. They either work to effect change, or they leave.

    You say he’s worked in a related-industry for 15 years, so he clearly does have a lot of experience. I just wonder if maybe there are valid points behind his (admittedly irritating) complaining? Given that he’s new, he is coming at your workflows and processes with fresh eyes. Would it help to actually ask what he suggests you do instead?

    1. IHaveanAnnoyingCoworker*

      I will give you an example of the very first thing he complained about. His task is to confirm that some large televisions are mounted in certain rooms with certain requirements (televisions are X size, are fed from X server, and have padding on their lower corners so that if people hit their heads they are not injured). Televisions like this are already installed in other areas of where we work, and also have padding. They’re also installed in his former workplace, and also have padding. He called the requirements “a bunch of stupidity”. While I realize that the requirements seem simple and mundane and maybe the padding seems silly, the requirements exist so we can confirm we did our jobs correctly and we are getting paid for what we agreed to do, and the padding exists to help prevent workplace injuries. Does that make sense?

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        That makes sense. I didn’t get the impression from your letter than he was complaining to you (or around you) because you have the power to change things, but rather he complains about everything. Also, if you someone just complains and doesn’t offer a solution (don’t know if that’s the case here), that is NOT helpful and I would have a hard time taking those complaints seriously (for minor every day things, not like, rampant workplace safety violations or similar).

        1. IHaveanAnnoyingCoworker*

          Yes, exactly. He just kind of complains to complain, and it negative about things that… don’t make sense. There are lots of things he could make valid complaints about, but he’s currently focused on things that are just a major part of our job that he either needs to accept, or not work here.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good point…but OP5 specifically says it’s not something they had any role in creating. So the suggestion I’d make is for them to refer Grumpy up the management chain:
      “I’m not in a position to change any of the procedures. Have you asked $BossName about submitting formal recommendation for new SOP?”

    3. Blue*

      I did wonder about this, as well. When I started at my current organization, I was appalled at the amount of unnecessary bureaucracy. I’ve been in the industry for a while, so I understand how the processes developed and what they were intended to do, but wow. You could achieve the same end with far fewer bureaucratic steps. And the people who’ve worked here for awhile have either adjusted to it or have never seen anything different. I was complaining about this to a friend who’s in the same industry, and her response was basically: “You’re right, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also true that making the decision to change it would have to happen way, way over your head. Since you can’t really change the system, you have to decide whether you can work within it, knowing what it entails, or leave.” That’s not really what I wanted to hear (I want the system changed!) but she was right, of course.

      Since I’m partially responsible for implementing these processes within my unit, I shifted my attention to the pieces I did have the ability to influence and focused on improving and streamlining the experience for my colleagues. I’ll still speak up if a higher-up comments about how the system seems inefficient, or if my counterpart tries to enforce unnecessary steps in the stages of the process we can influence, but on the whole, I laid off the commentary. I haven’t changed my mind, but I did take the point that complaining about it accomplished nothing. Not sure how valid this guy’s complaints are, but either way, I think it’s a good idea to pointedly remind him that the situation is what it is – he can decide to take it or leave it, the same as everyone else in the office.

      1. TellyGirl*

        That’s exactly it – we have TONS of people who start at our place and then get really demoralized and start complaining. It is annoying, but it helps me to re-frame it as “they’re adjusting to the system” rather than “they’re unnecessarily negative”.

        And he maybe thinks that complaining to OP will lead to her suggesting who to speak to – in fairness, if I was unhappy about something and a co-worker just said “That’s our job”, I would maybe read that as inertia/resistance to change. He maybe expects her to go “I know, right? You should speak to such-and-such!”

        TL/DR: I just think that while he probably complains about some really pointless things, he may have the occasional valid point.

    4. Observer*

      Well, complaining is not a good way to deal with an issue. What you do is, as you put it yourself, “work to effect change”.

      Also, the OP says that there are certain things he should already be aware of in terms of the issues he’s bringing up.

  30. Kisses*

    OP2, I use it for anxiety as well- and trust me, you’d only be able to tell on a day I didn’t have my medicine.
    It literally is one of the only ways I can function at a normal level. Other treatments have not worked (make me sleep 14 hours a day, prevent me from being able to swallow, and causing incontinence (!)).
    It’s a pretty usual thing in medical use states and I sincerely hope to have this country and the world change towards acceptance.

  31. boop the first*

    1. Wow, graphic design is such a specific skill, though. Just because someone can draw or even illustrate, doesn’t mean they have any background or even interest in marketing. People need to stop pestering others with logo commissions unless they specifically do logos. Tattoos are another common ask, but uncommon hobby. Not everything is the same!

    1. boop the first*

      (I also kind of wish people would stop spreading the idea that doing your hobby for a profession only destroys passion. Getting paid minimum wage IS nicer than being paid nothing, which is what usually happens. Not everyone hates paid work, and some of us actually thrive on deadlines and direction. This fearmongering drives a LOT of young people away from their fields of interest. I’d hear that reasoning from kids in high school all the dang time, and even I didn’t consider art careers an option because of it. Just like telling people they’re “selling out”, it’s heartless and cruel.)

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I don’t think it destroys passion but it certainly changes the relationship you have with the thing you love doing.

        When you begin to do your hobby for work there is a shift in your thinking and there’s an application of pressure that wasn’t there before: deadlines, quality etc. So passion can dim and it can change but I think it’s also realistic to tell young people this.

        I want to be an author who can support myself through writing books. However, I am acutely aware of how difficult that is so whilst I work at it (some days hating it, some days loving it) I also work in a field that provides me with a stable income. Not everyone has the resources to pursue their hobby and they shouldn’t be maid to feel guilty for working a job that pays more than the minimum wage in order to work at their passion in their free time.

        We need to get rid of the idea that suffering is a pre-requisite to art.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah I don’t usually hear this framed as an If/Then statement of getting paid for your hobby = destroyed passion. Normally I think it’s a caution that as Foreign Octopus says, making a hobby your livelihood results in a different experience than doing it a few times a week in the evening for fun. Because there are very few of these things where you just get paid to do exclusively the thing you love. If you’re an artist, you’ll have to think about marketing yourself, if you’re an actor or musician, you’ll have to deal with constant auditions and crazy schedules, etc. I’m interested in doing therapy in private practice, but I don’t know if I want to have to deal with the business side of things.

          It’s about being realistic of what that life will look like, not about squashing anyone’s passions.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think doing your hobby for a profession is fantastic if you want to do that. It’s not selling out. But it is changing your relationship with an activity you love. I’m thinking of my kid, who is a very talented artist, but ends up giving up on art for a while every time she attempts to take a structured class or do art for money. Because that makes it stressful for her rather than fun. Not everyone feels the same way, obviously, and those who enjoy creating under someone else’s constraints (or can do it and enjoy the money) should absolutely go for it.

  32. Psyche*

    LW#1: If you become his manager, you could tell your coworker that in the future if he accidentally takes to much of any medication that causes impairment, he should take a sick day. But I would suggest rethinking the policy on the beer fridge. You are sending the message that it is fine to work impaired. You could always schedule some days where everyone ends early and gathers in the break room for a beer.

  33. Jennifer*

    #2 Seriously? Drinking beer at work is okay but someone using weed for medicinal purposes is not? It sounds like he was just sharing a funny anecdote with you. Unless you’re using heavy machinery, which it doesn’t sound like you are, I’d let it go.

  34. JustKnope*

    I recently went through ergo training at work, and they actually highly discouraged sitting on exercise balls! The trainer said they are dangerous to ergonomic health and leave people much more susceptible to injury – and also don’t help your core that much.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I used to have one and it was sort of fun to bounce on but they’re uncomfortable and, yeah, they do diddly-squat for your core.

  35. Shannon*

    #2 – since he uses the marijuana for anxiety and depression, he’s using it medicinally. In your mind, substitute Xanax for marijuana and see how’d you react. It’s the same thing in this instance. And plenty of people have over-estimated how much Xanax they need for a situation. (Without the societal bias that marijuana stokes.)

  36. Shannon*

    #4 – OMG. What a nightmare. My husband has had 2 back surgeries and is vigilant about where/how he sits on anything (couch shopping was fun) and this would be a nightmare for him, not to mention dangerous. This is a bad idea. Is there anyone who can say something to whoever is in charge of this situation? This is great if someone wants it but it isn’t for everyone.

  37. Dust Bunny*

    Intern: The way to salvage this is to come clean with your boss and then to stop making these mistakes. Either you need better reminders or you need to see if you can reschedule them to a time you’re less likely to miss.

  38. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP5: I would love some kind of active desk setup! Then again, I am like a horse on the Sims: one of my basic needs seems to be “exercise” and some days I basically walk a half marathon.

    But I’m aware that just hearing about how dad I go (average just over 10 miles) makes people tired, and that I am unusual. So I wouldn’t want the company to force them.

    NGL, my greatest ambition is to somehow find a way to safely and effectively play the Sims and other PC games while walking.

  39. Observer*

    #4 – If you are in the US, someone might want to point out that these chairs could turn into a huge and expensive morass. Between the the sudden need to deal with ADA requests, the possibility worker’s comp costs going up and dealing with legal liability if (or rather when) someone gets hurt or claims to have been injured they are not looking at something that’s going to be good for their bottom line.

    And, no matter where you are located, this is a terrible, terrible idea.

  40. Choux*

    In regards to OP 1 – would asking the employee to do graphic design fall under an “other work and duties as assigned” clause in a job description?

    1. Joielle*

      I mean, maybe, but a job description isn’t a legal document so it doesn’t actually matter (unless it’s part of a contract, which I’m assuming it isn’t in this case). It’s not like you are legally required to do everything in the job description, or not legally required to do something because it’s not in the job description.

      If you don’t do something your boss considers a condition of having the job, you could be fired, but not because it is or isn’t in the job description.

  41. Foreign Octopus*

    OP2, I think the culture of your company should inform how you respond here.

    You say that there is a beer stocked fridge and that says that they will (probably) be fine with recreational marijuana use, let alone medicinal.

    I get the feeling that you feel that marijuana is in a different category to other medicines and that’s fine but it’s important to remember that it is legal and it’s no different (to me at least) than if your co-worker took the drowsy medicine instead of the non-drowsy and told you about at.

    Is it possible that there are other issues regarding your co-worker that you haven’t mentioned? Or are you discomforted by their attempt to get a closer relationship with you?

    I completely understand if it’s the latter but that’s a different kettle of fish to the marijuana usage and needs to be dealt with separately.

  42. kellyalleyne*

    OP#4 I work in commercial furniture, am familiar with that exact model of chair, and those are not manufactured or intended for sitting on more than an hour or two, maximum. Their original intention was for collaboration spaces, and flexible meeting rooms. Sitting on a ball is ergonomically appropriate for very few people, and your organization will cause so many back, butt, neck, hip and other problems with these. Not to mention they won’t hold up for constant use 5 days a week. These also are not rated for people over 250 lbs.

    If they are working with a commercial furniture dealer to order these for all employees, that dealer is probably begging your office to consider something, anything else. If they aren’t, that furniture dealer isn’t doing their job in directing how a product should be used. It’d be like selling a corvette as a family car someone who has six kids. It. Won’t. Work.

    Additionally, It doesn’t make financial sense for your organization to be even considering replacing a standard task chair to this with no alternative. You can spend a similar amount of money as what these cost and get a great chair that will fit 90% of the population, and still look modern and interesting. I know you wanted just a take from Alison on this, but I implore you to talk to a decision maker about this if you have any influence at all (or even if you don’t). You could be saving people from a workplace injury. I’ve been reading this column for years, and this is the only time I’ve ever commented because this is so concerning to see something like this.

  43. AccountantWendy*

    OP#3 – I was having a similar issue at my full time job where I was missing a regularly scheduled call; not even a sporadic one! I solved it by getting an app called “Just Reminder” that would sound a loud alarm 5 minutes before the call time.

    I used this app solely for this call reminder, so I would confuse it with the many other alarms or reminders popping out of my phone. And having it be loud solved the issue of things like falling asleep.

    Maybe a simple and straightforward solution like this will help you.

  44. Denise*

    OP#1’s situation is similar to one I’ve recently encountered. I agree with the advice, but also, depending on what OP is ultimately interested in doing professionally, it could be something of a resume-builder. So that’s something to keep in mind.

    In my case, the organization typically outsources all design work. I had a project specific to my role and put together something well designed, using professional software with a personal license I paid for. I was asked by our communications VP then President if I’d be interested in doing more design work.

    I could have done the work, but I turned them both down. Here’s the thing. They weren’t offering more money. They weren’t offering a professional opportunity in communications–only the option of taking on work that they otherwise would have had to pay for. And they don’t appreciate how time consuming that kind of work can be. Plus, design is very far away from what I was hired to do and where I would like to go professionally.

    Nothing happened as a result. I wouldn’t assume OP1 will experience a negative outcome if she turns down this type of work from her boss or sets a higher rate for it. You have to know the value of what you bring to the table; and if they aren’t offering that, it becomes an issue of self-respect.

  45. EmmaBird*

    OP 1 – I apologize if this has been mentioned but as a designer myself, the other thing I might suggest is pushing back by pointing out the type of work you’re doing for him is no longer of interest to you (since it sounds like that’s the case), *in addition* to everything Alison suggested. There are so many directions that your drawing could take you that this is a really reasonable thing to say as a creative. It’s perfectly reasonable to say you want to keep your drawing a hobby or that what you’d really rather do is use your drawing to illustrate books or what have you.

    Though from personal experience, I would be prepared to walk away from the job entirely– as a young creative I made the mistake of mixing my creative work into non-creative jobs and I definitely did not get compensated fairly for it and it just became a part of my job description after a time, no matter what I said. Creative skillsets are just devalued that much by the general population.

  46. SigneL*

    When people tell me they can’t afford to pay a real graphic designer to make a logo/website, I always tell them they can’t afford NOT to.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    #5, I live with two people who I love more than life itself, but GOOD LORD they can be negative sometimes. So I instituted a dinner tradition where we each have to say something good about our day. If you have the kind of relationship with this guy that allows for a bit of gentle teasing, I might tell him “Okay, Fergus, you’ve been complaining a lot lately and it’s bringing me down. So from now on, every time you come to me and complain, you also have to tell me something good.” At the very least, it might help him realize what he’s doing.

  48. Serin*

    OP#1, retail operations treat minimum-wage employees like they’re interchangeable, but that goes both ways — minimum-wage retail JOBS are also interchangeable.

    I recommend following Alison’s recommendation, with the backup plan, if the boss won’t be reasonable, of resigning and finding work elsewhere.

  49. Database Developer Dude*

    All of you saying that it’s unlikely OP1’s boss could be dumb enough to fire him/her for pushing back against the graphic designer duties have either not read Alison’s column, or never worked retail. When I first left high school and had jobs while trying to put myself through college, I worked so many different retail jobs and saw so much arbitrary and capricious behavior on the part of retail managers it wasn’t funny.

    Retail management treats its rank and file like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoes, and is offended when the rank and file don’t fall in supplication for them deigning to actually give them a job.

    That column Alison had about the writer’s little sister or cousin who got written up by her manager over having her period and needing an extra break as a cashier? I’ve seen a young girl get her period unexpectedly and get fired ON THE SPOT over it.

    I’ve seen someone get fired from a fast food place because they had the wrong politician’s bumper sticker on their car.

    I’ve seen people get fired for who they were related to.

    I’ve seen managers who get offended when the employee doesn’t want to go to their church.

    I’ve seen managers fire people for the most insane reasons, or no reason, to include rejection of sexual advances.

    Don’t use kid gloves with this, OP, because the boss doesn’t deserve the kid gloves. Be prepared to be fired, but the boss does not deserve consideration.

  50. Miss Muffet*

    For the complainer – I would suggest asking him if he has proposals for improvement. Maybe there IS another way, but at least putting the onus on him to think of a solution instead of just griping about it might shut it down. If he comes back with proposals, you can always say, this won’t work because it doesn’t allow X to happen, which is necessary (or whatever) but who knows – maybe you can fix something!

  51. Nicki Name*

    For everyone wondering about the fridge of beer at workplace #2: There is a part of the tech sector where this would be considered normal, mostly small companies which are startups or trying to maintain a “startup mentality”. These tend to be the places that say they “work hard and play hard” and stock the workplace with food and games because you’re going to be spending a lot of late hours there.

    (This probably isn’t what actual workplace #2 is, though, because that part of the tech sector tends to be pretty relaxed about marijuana too.)

  52. Narvo Flieboppen*

    OP #4 – One consideration your employer may not have taken is fire code. We used to have several employees who used these chairs until the fire inspector came through and noticed them. The exercises are not properly rated for fire safety in our area and it was required that we remove from the offices and face future fines if any work their way back in.

    This could be a legitimate issue which just makes this poor decision making go away in a manner that isn’t super confrontational. You’re just watching out for the company by making sure they don’t accidentally break the law or get fined, right?

    1. Narvo Flieboppen*

      Right, that should say ‘..exercise balls are not properly rated…’ not ‘exercises’. Oops.

  53. Memboard*

    Instead of complaining should OP1 use this increase of responsibility as lever to ask for a raise?

  54. Lady Phoenix*

    OP1: As someone who IS paid to be a graphic designer, your question makes me rage.

    My answer will be long, but bear with me
    1) Make a contact. This contact will include how much payment it will entail (do it hourly or a large flat fee). It will also include how many approvals.
    2) Approvals are basically how many times the boss looks at something and goes “yes/no/do change”. Once he use them up, he has to take it or leave it
    3) Include a deposit. He has to pay at least x%, and you keep it—even if he drops the project.
    4) if he approves it, he has to pay in full before he gets the product. No if’s, ands, or buts.

    This will proof to be a madsive wakeup call about how he treats you… or a wakeup call for you about whether you want to keep doing these projects or working for him.

    I say this because guys like your boss will SLWAYS take advantage of young graphic designers. Always get your sh1t in print so that he doesn’t weasel his way around you.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Too true Lady Phoenix!
      Been there done that many times. And yes, some people will try to take advantage of designers and writers whether young or just young at heart.

  55. Rezia*

    OP #3, what’s helped me not miss meetings is reviewing my planner the night before. That helps me catch potential conflicts and know what’s coming up. If I see that there’s a meeting that I might need an extra reminder for, I’ll set an alarm for myself.

  56. Office fan*

    No one has referenced The Office and Dwight’s experience with the fitness orb!?

  57. JelloStapler*

    I had a #5 at work, funny enough she actually had one of the names used in internet jokes about annoying women (“Carol, Susan, Karen, Etc”). She also did not carry her weight at work and we ended up doing some of her work WHILE listening to her complaints. I called her out on it repeatedly and then eventually just started cutting conversations short and reducing my contact to necessary and polite. She got the hint- and at least stopped coming to me to complain.

    I was happy when she left her position about a year ago.

  58. Luna*

    The ball chairs from #4 look highly uncomfortable. Just looking at them already makes my back and waist hurt.

  59. Robyn*

    I’m quite sure the jury is still out on ball chairs, especially as an all-or-nothing solution. The existing evidence appears to show that changing positions is the best – so maybe a sit-stand station, or use a ball for 20-30 minutes every couple hours. But I believe there is evidence that “active” desk situations (maybe ball if you have to use it all day, but definitely treadmill or bike desks) actually create a lot of distraction and reduced productivity. You shouldn’t have to be actively engaging your core for 8 hours straight on a ball chair. Someone is going to get injured. If you can do an academic literature search for evidence that might be the best way to convince the powers that be that this is a bad idea because all the Ergo companies out there aren’t going to be telling the whole story.

    Sorry, didn’t have time to read all the comments, I’m sure this discussion point is likely buried somewhere made by someone else but this is my two cents as an OHS professional.

  60. Introvert girl*

    #4 switching from chairs to balls has to be done gradualy. First an hour a day, then one in the morning one in the afternoon. When I got a herniated disc I wasn’t allowed to use them for a couple of months. This is a health risk situation. You have to bring it up with HR. By the way, this combined with switching over to an open space will lead to people leaving.

  61. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I’m not sure why LW #2 thinks their employee told them this in an attempt to build friendship. I’d interpret, “I messed up my medication” as “I’m not going to be at my best working today”. The employee was almost certainly trying to explain slowed productivity or possibly any obvious symptoms (if they were using something like Skype where they could hear or even see each other).

    I think I’m with Allison and the majority of commentors on this: It doesn’t make sense to compare medication to alcohol and it really doesn’t make sense to provide a legal mood-altering substance at the office and then be surprised when someone takes a legal mood-altering substance when working from home.

    More generally, I also think that if your office is going to be significantly more laid back than most others (re: providing beer at the office) you probably have to be more explicit about where the boundaries for that are.

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