asking job candidates to go scent-free, baggy clothes at work, and more

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

1. Asking job candidates to follow our scent-free policy at interviews

I know you’ve covered scent-free office policies in the past, and that usually has to do with employees who are already working in the office. What about applying that same policy to candidates who are invited to the office for an interview?

The admin team at the front of our office is very sensitive to strong smells (good or bad). Our company is currently hiring for an off-site position, but the interviews are happening in our office. The last few candidates who have come in for interviews have been *bathed* in perfume, to the point where the scent lingers for an hour after they’ve left. Our office has a stated scent-free policy for employees; I’m suggesting that managers who are bringing in candidates for interviews advise them of our policy up-front. I asked if those managers could include the following statement with with their invitation to the interview: “Our workplace observes a scent-free policy, and we’d appreciate it if you would refrain from wearing any perfume or other scented products for your interview. Thank you.”

The managers pushed back, stating that they can’t impose an office policy on non-employees. I think that out of respect for those who are impacted by those scents, and can’t leave their desks or shut their doors to mitigate the smell, we should make the request to applicants. I would go so far as allowing my admin team to leave their work area for the duration of the visit if the impact is too severe.

What you’re suggesting is perfectly reasonable, and in fact is done by plenty of offices with scent-free policies. If you’ve got someone with a serious fragrance sensitivity, you’ve got to let everyone who comes in know that, not just employees who are there every day. (This isn’t perfect, of course; you’re still going to get the occasional delivery person with heavy cologne — but controlling where you can is smart.)

I’m not sure why the managers in your office are pushing back. This isn’t “imposing an office policy” on non-employees; it’s letting them know about a situation that most job candidates will want to be considerate of. Who wants to go to a job interview and inadvertently cause the receptionist’s throat to close up? (And frankly, it’s useful to give them a heads-up at this stage, since if they feel Very Strongly about their raspberry-scented body lotion, it’s good for them to find out now that it’ll be prohibited.) It’s not clear from your letter how much authority you have in this situation, but it sounds like you might be the manager of some of the people with the sensitivity. If so, you have a lot of standing to push here (and if you don’t prevail, allowing them to leave their work area if the fragrance is too strong is a good route to take).

2. Can I wear baggy clothes to work?

Here is a low stakes question for you. I work in a business casual office, with the occasional need for business formal. Mostly I wear dresses, skirts, dress pants and tops. I’ve been semi-rapidly losing weight, in part due to a medical condition (I am under the care of a doctor so weight loss is being monitored in case anyone was concerned). My issue is many of my work clothes no longer fit — especially pants. I’m just struggling to decide between wearing baggy clothes (some are just way too baggy to pass muster), buying new clothes now for this weight, waiting until my weight levels off, or basically switching to dresses every day, which mostly still look fine. I can afford to purchase some new things but would hate to waste money for some work clothes that only fit for a short time (what am I, a toddler?).

I want to continue to look professional, which baggy clothes kind of prevents, but am wary of needless spending and consumption of clothes. I am happy to report, btw, that none of my coworkers have commented on my weight loss! Maybe they all read AAM :). Any advice would be appreciated.

A little bagginess isn’t the end of the world, as long as you don’t work in a field that puts a big premium on an especially polished appearance. But it definitely depends on how much bagginess we’re talking about. If you look like you’re wearing someone else’s pants, that’s not great. If it’s more toward that end of the spectrum and you have enough dresses to switch to those, that might be your best option. Or you could buy one or two pairs of pants to get you through this period, going cheaper than you normally would since you don’t need them to serve you long-term. (In other words, if you’re normally shopping at Eileen Fisher, go to Old Navy for your interim pants. If you’re normally shopping at Old Navy, check discount or consignment stores, etc.)

3. Can I ask to be excused from active shooter training?

I am the survivor of a mass shooting that took place in 2017. I am still dealing with the trauma in therapy. The time has come for annual safety training at my workplace, including active shooter training. Is it reasonable to ask to be excused from at least this portion of the training? Having gone through it last year, I know that it is a triggering experience for me (I didn’t ask to be excused last year because I didn’t realize how hard it would be). Is this a reasonable request? I’m sure my therapist would provide me with an excuse if needed. The only issue I see is that there is an argument that I need the training to know how to respond to such a situation, know the evacuation plan, etc. But I’ve done it once and I know the gist (run, hide, fight, etc.). Would appreciate your thoughts!

I’m so sorry. Yes, I think that’s a reasonable request. You can point out that you did the training last year, that it was incredibly difficult because you’ve been through this for real, and that you’ve mastered the info. You can offer to bring in documentation from your therapist if they want it.

If that doesn’t work, you’re certainly ethically in the clear to have a conflict on the day of the training (out sick or so forth).

4. How do you frame a cover letter when the hiring manager had your job in the past?

I’m applying to a job that I’m very excited about. However, I’m stuck on how to approach my cover letter. The hiring manager at the new company used to work at my current company and in fact held my very same position (let’s call it a “teapot producer”) for quite a few years.

I’ve been at my current job as a teapot producer at for nearly a decade, and so it will be the position I’m drawing from most in my cover letter. For example, I might talk about how I grew our social media account from X followers to Y followers, but this the very account was started by the hiring manager when they were a teapot producer here. How much do I acknowledge that the hiring manager had my position and therefore knows much of the role and the work experience that I’d be bringing to the table? Do I use phrases like, “As you may remember . . .” or “As you probably know”? I’m also feeling stuck because, while the hiring manager will be the main decision-maker, I’m sure the cover letter will be shared with others involved in the hiring process. If it’s relevant at all, we never worked together but have met and chatted in the past.

I’d include at most one acknowledgment that she has familiarity with what you’re discussing, having done the role herself. Don’t keep repeating it though — it’s unnecessary and besides, who knows, maybe she’s forgotten a lot of the details since she was there. A single “as you know firsthand” will convey that you’re not oblivious to her former work, without making a major focus of the letter.

5. Does my need for quiet in our break room trump my coworker’s need to make phone calls?

I’m an hourly retail employee, and most of my shifts are too short for me to receive a full unpaid lunch break — typically over the course of a nearly five-hour shift, I’ll get one 10-minute break. It is typically the only chance I get to actually sit down, not to mention take a break from having to accommodate customers and listen to the unrelentingly repetitive playlist on the floor. The break room is the only place inside the store that sales associates are allowed to sit and rest. We can leave the store on our breaks but there isn’t really time to do anything more than just stand around outside.

We recently got a new employee who uses nearly all of her breaks to make personal phone calls in the breakroom. I know that her time is her time and the breakroom is ostensibly the place to, you know, take breaks, but having my one moment for peace interrupted by her catching up with her friends (from what I can hear, these are not particularly urgent calls) is really aggravating me, but I don’t think I’m necessarily justified in complaining about it. This especially because I posed the question to a different forum and was piled on, even after being careful not to make an indictment of my coworker — I was told I needed to “learn to live with other people” and that “the break room is for taking a break” and “clearly this is the only time she has to make a call” so I needed to respect that. (for context, she doesn’t work on the floor like I do — she works in the stockroom and therefore gets to listen to her own music, sit down during downtime, generally avoid talking to customers, etc). I just know that whenever I’ve needed to make a call at work, I sacrifice the chance to sit down and instead do it outside so I’m not disturbing anyone and I just really wish she would do the same.

I guess ultimately my question is, does my need for relative quiet take any precedent over her need to chat, or vice versa? Am I justified in being annoyed by what she’s doing? I’m not at the point where I would complain to a manager or anything, but I don’t know if even having a gentle word with the chatty coworker would be appropriate.

Yeah, I hate to say it, but she does indeed get to use the break room for phone calls on her breaks. The answer would be the same if there were two people in there talking to each other; break rooms aren’t inherently designated as quiet rooms, just as a place you can go to relax when you’re not working.

I get why hearing the phone calls is annoying though (especially if they seem like just-to-chat calls, rather than calls for a specific purpose), so if you want to avoid them, the best thing to do is probably to take your breaks outside.

{ 593 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – Can you get with her manager and your manager and arrange for breaks at different times?

    1. Zombeyonce*

      This could work, but there are sure to be other employees that take breaks at the same time and aren’t silent. OP could use some noise cancellation to solve this problem.

      1. SignalLost*

        I’m projecting from my own experience on this, so I may be off base, but I bet the occasional call isn’t an issue – it’s that EVERY shared break involves calls. In other words, if the person using the phone wasn’t always on the phone, it would be easier to accommodate someone else making a call; not that total silence at all times in the break room is the goal.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I get this. I even support the thinking…why does she need to take/make non-urgent calls every single time she takes a break? However, it’s the break room and she is entitled to do that (barring some company policy against it of course) and OP does indeed need to deal with it. Work is work and the majority of us don’t work in a place where we can go get quiet…even ‘relative quiet’ during working hours. We have to wait until we can get home and hide in our personal cones of silence.

          1. LJay*

            Because if her schedule and that of her friends and loved ones doesn’t line up, talking to them on her breaks might be the only time she can talk to them?

            Like, if her friends or whatever work a 9-5 shift and can’t socialize during it, and then she works a 4-12 shift, and all her friends are sleeping when she gets home, and she gets Tuesday and Wednesday off and her friends get Saturday and Sunday off, then chatting on her breaks and maybe seeing each other for brunch on weekend mornings is really the only time they have to talk to each other.

          2. Lucette Kensack*

            There’s nothing mysterious here. Coworker likes to connect with folks on her breaks. She has a solitary job, and it sounds like she needs to fill up her social energy on breaks (just as the LW, who has a highly socially-interactive job, needs to fill up on her quiet energy on breaks).

            1. Just Visiting*

              Maybe they should switch jobs! (I’m only being partly facetious. When I worked retail I begged to be reassigned to the stock room because I couldn’t handle the social overload — didn’t tell them that was the reason I wanted to switch, of course — and was practically laughed at. The workers in the stock room were 100% male which I now know was why I was refused.)

              1. TardyTardis*

                Besides, if you worked in the stockroom with guys, you might want to be paid the same as them, and obviously that’s right out.

        2. Rui*

          Office etiquette is one thing, and entitlement is another. OP has no entitlement to stop the chatty person making phone call just because he/she is annoying, unless there is a quiet policy for the break room.

          Now is that chatty person considerate? Definitely not. And I think there is ground for OP to have a friendly chat with him/her to suggest making calls outside; that said person might not even be aware of his/her action causing annoyance, and might feel embarrassed by that.

          But without explicit ‘be quiet’ policy, complaining to management just make one seem out of place.

          1. Antilles*

            And I think there is ground for OP to have a friendly chat with him/her to suggest making calls outside
            I don’t think this is possible. If you’re wearing the uniform on the premises and not in the break room or bathroom, it’s often assumed that you’re on the clock – being on a personal phone call chit-chatting gives the impression to co-workers, managers, and customers (if any see you) that you’re slacking off.
            Especially given that OP said the store only allows you to sit down in the break room, they’re absolutely going to go with the “it looks bad to *~customers~*” argument.

          2. Wheatgrass*

            No, it’s a break room not a quiet room, it’s there for the employees to make phone calls, have a snack, rest, chat, etc. It’s not ok to ask others to do their stuff somewhere else because your annoyed.

            1. Washi*

              I don’t know, in the current arrangement, the chatty coworker is having her need for a phone booth met 100% of the time and the OP is having her need for a quiet break met 0% of the time. The OP can’t just storm over and demand that Chatty Cathy vacate the premises for her phone call, but I think she could ask politely if there’s a way for them to compromise – taking breaks at different times, alternating use of the break room vs. being outside, etc.

              If I were the coworker, I would want to know that my phone calls were bothering someone, as long as that conversation were approached in a friendly way that didn’t immediately put me on the defensive!

              1. Wheatgrass*

                I get what you are saying, and I would want to know if I was annoying someone else. I Also wouldn’t ask someone to go take their break somewhere else because they are doing something that annoys me. If it annoys me it’s my issue not theirs.

                1. cmcinnyc*

                  That’s the thing: OP relaxes by having some silent time. Her coworker relaxes by having non-urgent conversations with friends. Different ways to recharge. I get that OP has too much public interaction and needs quiet. But a stockroom worker might feel very isolated all day and need to be social. Framing the stockroom job as inherently more relaxing because workers can sit down and listen to their own music is off-base–it’s probably stressful in its own way.

                2. Wing Leader*

                  Can they switch jobs so that OP gets the quiet stockroom all day and Chatty Cathy gets to talk to people? Seems like it would solve everything, haha.

              2. SignalLost*

                I enjoy that the AAM commentariat tends to be “I am an introvert and I would quit if you made me speak to my coworkers/attend in-person meetings/exist in the same physical realm as other humans” but they are ride-or-die for OP’s coworker to have the right to fill the break room with constant noise.

                In other words, I think you’ve said something very important here: this isn’t fair or polite, and defending the phone user’s right to call over the OP’s right to at least ask for a compromise is missing that shared spaces are shared, and we all have some ability to make them spaces we CAN share, through a respectful conversation. I wouldn’t go to HR, if coworker said no, but I don’t think sucking it up is reasonable either. That puts all the onus on OP to suffer.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Gosh, you’re just a bundle of joy today. Has it occurred to you that perhaps wild misrepresentation of other people’s words is not, in fact, the most ideal tactic to further a conversation that’s actually useful to the OP?

                2. Anon for this*

                  I understand wanting to call out people if they’re being unkind (which I don’t really think SignalLost is being, but YMMV), but making unnecessary sarcastic remarks towards them isn’t useful either.

                3. President Porpoise*

                  Especially since I think Jadelyn is being irritated at something SignalLost said on the polyamorous thread – and that kind of irritated bleedover isn’t fair. I see nothing wrong with what SignalLost is saying.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            According to this reasoning, though, the LW could just as easily go outside to get away from the talking.

              1. Sarah N*

                Maybe the coworker also wants to sit while making phone calls? The OP is assuming that the coworker gets to sit down a lot in the stockroom, but I wonder if she actually knows whether this is the case — stocking can be a pretty physical job, and the coworker really may need a few minutes to sit as well.

                1. Rainy*

                  I was operations manager for my retail store when I was working retail management and stockroom employees are never sitting down–they are standing, climbing, walking, reaching, bending, and all of it while carrying stuff around. My experience definitely supports you. :)

    2. Lucy*

      I think this is the most elegant solution – though depending on the precise nature of the work it may be impractical or even impossible.

      It might be more tactful for LW to ask her manager if it’s possible to take her break when others are working (more generally, not just PhoneLady) as she so highly values the peace and quiet opportunity of her break. Focusing more on “I need” rather than “other people are annoying”.

      Wherever I’ve worked that had a break room there has been a tacit agreement that it’s a quiet space, so personal calls would be taken outside. But clearly YMMV.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        Really obviously eavesdrop on her calls with a fascinated expression. But that would be evil me.

        1. zaracat*

          “Really obviously eavesdrop on her calls with a fascinated expression”

          LOL, making the caller uncomfortable is the tactic I used when another client kept talking loudly on her phone right outside my therapist’s ground floor office window. OK, so it’s a passive aggressive way to handle things and in a perfect world I would have actually just asked her not to, but I’m in therapy for a reason. And it did work. I stood REALLY close and just waited. Sure enough she went elsewhere.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Yes! I came here to suggest ear plugs. Maybe with noise-canceling headphones over them. (If you’re like me, neither is quite enough by itself to fully silence a nearby conversation, just muffle it. But together, you might get silence.)

        OP should do what she needs to do to regain her peace.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I recommend noise isolating headphones. If you want total silence, they often work better than the canceling ones.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I never realized there were different terms for physical vs electronic noise-dampening! Given that, I agree, I think noise isolating is probably the better way for the OP to go, since they’re not trying to replace one noise with another, but block noise out entirely.

    3. Holly*

      I think that’s a know your manager and know your relationship with your manager type of request because it’s going to come off as very “precious.”

    4. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I work part time at a grocery store with a laughably small break room. There’s a team member there who just has to talk to everyone and joins into conversations. Like the LW, I like some quiet when I’m eating, so I just bring my headphones and phone and listen to podcasts/music while I eat.

    5. charo*

      I’d take my break in the restroom. Going to a mgr. isn’t a good look for something like this.

  2. Zombeyonce*

    OP2: Thrift stores are your friend during weight loss! You won’t have the extensive selection of clothes you would at a regular retail store, but you might be surprised how much you can find there that serves you well.

    You’re actually probably in a great position here because in my experience, thrift stores usually have the best stuff in the smaller sizes. It’s a combination of the average size in the US rising so fewer people are buying small sizes, people donating too small clothes for the same reason, and that people getting rid of clothes as part of an estate or cleaning out their elderly relatives’ closets (and vintage clothes are almost exclusively smaller sizes.

    Get there to the Goodwill! Many also have certain days where certain colored tags are 50% off, so pay attention to save even more money.

    1. California Ltd.*

      I also recommend finding a tailor. That can be an economical way to continue using the same clothes and get them fitted during weight loss (or frankly to get clothes to fit properly any time). A good tailor is priceless.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        This is a good idea, but the economy of it is really dependent on location. I have been hard-pressed to find a tailor in my city that will take in my pants for under $25, and I could buy 3 pairs of pants for that at a thrift store. But OP may live somewhere easier for tailoring.

        1. valentine*

          OP2: If you feel better in clothes that fit well, the price of a few pairs of thrifted trousers may be worth it and will help you create a gradual change that may help keep your colleagues quiet on the subject.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          An alternative to an actual tailor is to seek out a dry cleaner that does alterations. Of course one needs to make sure that they know what they are doing, but lots of them have this service and charge a fraction of what a tailor would charge.

          I routinely need to have pants hemmed because the ‘petite’ (i.e. short) pants are just a little too short yet ‘average’ are just this side of too long/will drag on the ground which would ruin them. Unless I wear heels, which is not an option these days even if I desired to wear them.

          I pay like $5.00 per pair to have them ‘taken up.’ I am a frequent, long term, high volume customer (mostly for cleaning rather than alteration services) which usually results in lower per item prices for me. Even still, they’ve never been very expensive. Of course YMMV.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            But taking in the waist etc. of pants is probably a much bigger project than just hemming — not that the person at the dry cleaner can’t do it, but it will be more expensive than a simple hem.

            1. nonymous*

              The dry cleaners in my grocery shopping center charges $5 for hem, $15 to take the waist in. Fair warning at that price point, I doubt they are reworking the fit along the hips and thighs.

              But if OP bought her clothes at Nordstrom’s I think there’s a rewards program with benefits for alteration services (you get some amount back as points to spend later).

              1. JustaTech*

                Yup, and it’s not just for clothes you buy there. I had my wedding dress (that I bought on consignment) fitted at Nordstrom’s and they did a great job.

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I would reccomend Threadup! I got pretty much my entire maternity wardrobe there. Some really nice pieces – some of which I’m still wearing.

          1. Joielle*

            Yes! I got a couple pairs of work pants there for $6 each (with a coupon). Not like super fancy brands or anything, but functional black pants.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            ThredUp is fantastic! I am currently wearing a casual work dress that I found for $2.99 on the site (and it is from Loft, which is my favorite dress brand). Best thing ever.

      2. Observer*

        Good idea but some types of clothes are easier to take in than others, so that can also affect the cost.

      3. German Girl*

        Or try your hand at sewing. Trimming pants down to smaller sizes is not that hard, and if you don’t like the result, you can always say “oh well, I was going to throw those out anyway”.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It’s worth a shot, but taking in pants at the waist is tricky. I wouldn’t consider it a beginner skill.

        2. SignalLost*

          It’s a minimum of $200 setup fee for the kind of machine and equipment I would consider reasonable for this task, to say nothing of the hours of skill-building it takes to alter tailored pants. Otherwise, it’s several hours of handwork. Plus, the human body is weirdly shaped, and even experienced sewists have difficulty figuring out what a wrinkle here means versus one there. A lot of that weirdness is concentrated in the hip and waist of the female figure, due to the curvatures you’re dealing with.

          Unless someone already has the equipment and likes to sew, particularly sewing alterations of tailored garments, this is an impractical suggestion compared to buying cheap pants at a thrift store.

          1. Socks*

            You’re not incorrect about any of your points, but I just wanted to add that if OP did want to give it a try anyway, some libraries will have sewing machines you can use, and I think some maker’s spaces as well, if there’s any in your area. That way, there’s no/little upfront cost, and I like German Girl’s philosophy of “oh well, I was going to toss them anyway” if it still doesn’t work. Again, I don’t disagree that it would probably be hard and it’s not the most practical suggestion, but, it’s possible that OP could give it a try without having to go out and buy a machine, if they, like, think it sounds like fun or something.

            Plus, if they just try taking them in without cutting anything, and they mess up, you can usually just tear out the stitches and the pants should be roughly as good as new, if they wanted to still donate them.

          2. Romney Marsh*

            Actually, a machine is not a necessity for sewing – and if one is not particularly used to it, would be a positive disadvantage. Hand-sewing, with needle and thread, is cheaper, slower and much more controllable; it’s ideal for clothing alterations.

          3. Kisses*

            I hand sew everything so I don’t have to fuss with the bobbin which always seems to jam for me, even with a Bernina.
            A cheap notions kit runs about $2 at Walmart, and Pinterest has some excellent quick hand stitches to bring pants in, particularly at the side seams. So I wouldn’t see sewing as expensive- it just takes a little time.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              I’ve been getting there my friend… I like being able to take my sewing outside, like a nice colonial lady.

            2. Jayn*

              Yeah a machine is nice to have (and if you really want one you can look second hand—mine is used, relatively cheap even new, and does as much as I need it to) but for just the odd small project a needle and thread, maybe a thimble and straight pins, is quite cheap.

              1. Rainy*

                My machine was a floor model–a much better machine than I could otherwise have afforded, minimal wear, and the store threw in a tune-up. I’ve had it for 20 years.

          4. Myrin*

            I mean, I don’t think you’re wrong here in general but it’s totally possible that OP would be interested in learning how to sew or already knows how to and wouldn’t mind familiarising herself with these specifics. It’s just a suggestion, so let’s not veto it from the get-go – if it’s not applicable to the OP, she can safely ignore it.

            1. Annette*

              Some people above were saying tailoring = easy and cheap solution. Worth pointing out that’s often or usually not the case. It’s not a veto.

            2. SignalLost*

              The question OP asked wasn’t “is there an expensive and time-consuming hobby I can take up to fix my temporary wardrobe problem?” And it’s insulting for commenters to act like people who have spent years learning to sew, tailor, and otherwise hand-craft clothing are just doing the easiest thing ever and it’s super easy to get into the hobby and have the same results you would at my skill level, because you won’t. I have 3 corsets, two skirts, a Chanel coat, and a frock coat I’m actively making right now – sewing is a great deal of fun for me, and I derive a lot of pleasure from it. I could do this. (I wouldn’t, because I hate altering finished garments, but I could.) Novice sewists are unlikely to have reasonable results.

              If the OP wanted to take up a new hobby, I’m pretty sure she would have asked that question instead of the one she did ask.

              1. female-type person*

                I am right there with you. I have made heirloom sewing christening gowns. I’d rather stab myself than alter pants in the waist and seat or take in a jacket. Alterations are miserable, and I’m delighted to pay someone else to do an excellent job.

              2. Myrin*

                None of that contradicts my claim that we don’t know whether OP, too, is an experienced sewist. I personally doubt it since I’d assume that if this were the case, she’d already have thought of altering her old stuff herself. I’m with you in thinking that some comments make it sound like altering clothes is much much easier than it actually is (I could never do it) but I also don’t think it’s a horrible suggestion or something that misses the mark of the question – OP can take it or leave it depending on her situation.

          5. Slartibartfast*

            With today’s style of wearing your shirt untucked in most cases, a wonky hand sewn dart won’t be visible anyway.

            1. Joielle*

              This! I’ve totally done wonky alterations by hand on thrift store pants and like, does it look great if you’re staring at the pants, no – but if I wear a longer shirt or sweater, it doesn’t matter anyways and the fit is pretty good for a $5 pair of pants.

        3. eee*

          On this vein of thought, I’d recommend thrifting A-line dresses. There’s some variation in cut and fabric, but simple A-line dresses are fairly easy for a beginner to take in–you basically make two pleats in the back at the waist, and sew them down. No cutting required! Since they’re A-line, you can go down several sizes this way. YMMV with body type, etc, but this is what I did when my weight was going up and down and I had just gotten hired for my first office job. Since you’re not cutting it, just folding and sewing, it’s also really easy to use a seam ripper to undo it if you end up gaining some weight back!

        4. Jadelyn*

          Bless the “Well, I was going to throw them out anyways” mentality. I had a pair of work sandals I LOVED, but the straps were terribly worn at the buckle and I needed to do something about it. So I wound up cutting off the ankle straps and replacing them with chainmaille straps I made myself using a combination of aluminum and stretchy rubber rings so they no longer needed to buckle, but could be worn as slip-ons. It was nerve-racking, but I just kept reminding myself that it was this or throw them away, so even if I screwed up irreparably, all it meant was doing the same thing I’d have done without attempting the fix in the first place.

          (The fix worked, and I wore them for another two years until the soles gave out, since that I couldn’t fix.)

      4. M*

        OP is specifically concerned that the weight loss is temporary, so modifying clothing she likes seems a poor fit for the specific circumstances. Just means she won’t have them if/when she’s able to reverse the weight loss.

        1. Psyche*

          Yep. I had weight loss due to a medial problem recently. I regained all the weight when the problem was fixed. I went the thrift store route.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I may be wrong but I read it more as the current weight is temporary because she expects even more weight loss upcoming. She’ll likely need to buy all new clothes soon enough but is trying to figure out a way through this interim where everything is baggy but if she buys now soon enough that new stuff will also be baggy. It’s possible she’s also expecting to eventually come back to her original, which would still rule out altering current clothes, but I think that’s a farther away problem?

        3. OP2*

          I don’t know what my weight will be when it hopefully levels off. It could continue to go down, but it may go back up if my issues are resolved. Luckily its summer (almost) so I have some dresses and skirts (as opposed to pants which would most benefit from tailoring) that work ok still.

          1. Rainy*

            I’d probably see about a couple of pairs of cheap Old Navy or Target paper-bag waist trousers with a self tie–many of the ones currently fashionable are meant to be baggy, and the self-tie means that you can adjust the size if you keep losing.

      5. Quickbeam*

        I lost 50# a few years ago and had a very conservative wardrobe requirement at work. I took an alterations class and with a few YouTube videos learned to make pants alterations that got me through the middle weights. Mostly it was waistbands and darts. I also wore a lot of longer open sweaters that disguised some looseness. I did have a few key pieces altered professionally but it was really expensive and took a long time.

        My costs were a few spools if thread and a needle. I did the alterations by hand.

      6. Saberise*

        For a cheap alternative to altering, I would strongly suggest looking up how to make waistbands smaller by using buttonhole elastic (can be found on amazon). There are tons of videos how to do it. Basically you cut small slits on the inside of the waistband in the back close to the sides. Sew buttons on either side and run the elastic through. Makes it adjustable if you continue to loss weight and honestly it’s not that noticeable especially if you have something untucked covering the waist. A lot of women even do it just because their waist and hips can’t both be accommodated by standard sizing.

      7. Glitsy Gus*

        A combo of Thrift stores and tailoring your current favorites was going to be my suggestion as well.

        Especially if you do have pants you really like that you want to keep in your rotation, you’ll probably be surprised at how inexpensive most basic alterations are. Sure, you can probably find something cheaper at a thrift store, and I wouldn’t suggest getting everything altered, but it’ll let you keep your favorites around for a lot longer.

    2. Willis*

      I’ve been in similar situations to the OP (both due to gaining and losing weight) and have also had good luck at Goodwill and discount places like Ross when I’ve needed some “I probably won’t be this size for long” pants. I think I’ve found some decently priced stuff at JCPenney too. Dresses are definitely easier but it may be worth buying a pair or two of pants that fit well to tide you over for a little while and give you some variety.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Target’s work clothes is usually fairly priced and lots of the stuff is on clearance on a pretty regular basis.

        1. Jadelyn*

          One word of caution on Target, though, if OP is still in some level of plus size Target’s plus-sizes tend to run weirdly small (or did last time I shopped there – I haven’t in awhile, since I got tired of needing to find a 3x when I normally wear a 1x anywhere else).

      2. Me*

        I recently bought some work clothes at JCPenny and was severely disappointed with the quality. The blouse was pilled badly after one wash and the pants didn’t fair much better after a few wears.
        The material for both was highly synthetic and lighter weight, so I’d suggest looking at things with maybe at least some cotton in it and a more substantial feel. Although for me, I won’t buy there again and risk wasting my money again. It’s a shame because I used to like them for a lot of things.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        My mom has become the thrift store queen. She’s in the process of (intentionally and with medical supervision) losing weight for health reasons. She’s found really great clothes at thrift stores, wears them for as long as they fit, and then turns them back in when they’re too big (assuming they’re still in good condition; she takes good care of her clothes).

      4. Michaela Westen*

        I’ve also had weight changes and IME skirts are the easiest! I’ve pinned them at the waist and worn them that way for months. I once had a vintage 1957 skirt that was so well cut I could wear it with a 25-pound weight difference. They can ride a little lower or higher according to your weight, and that helps a lot!
        They’re also relatively easy for the tailor to take in. Where I live the tailor works out of the dry cleaner and IRRC taking in a skirt with a waistband and zipper was $15-$20.

    3. Genevieve in NZ*

      Yes! When I was deliberately losing weight and my pants slid down so far when I was crouched over at the photocopier that my boss saw my underpants I decided it was time to hit up second hand/thrift stores. It was especially useful when I was at a size that wasn’t my true goal but obviously I had to wear something non-exposure causing!

    4. Sups*

      OP2: I don’t know your dresscode, but maybe you can look at pants/ skirts with elastic waists or paperbag trousers which typically are worn a little slouchy & are adjustable for a couple of sizes up or down, no additional tailoring needed. Those were my go-tos when I started losing weight and was at an in-between size (still am).

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Paperbag trousers are so great for this. I also like adjustable wrap skirts/dresses, if you’re a dresses person.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          My boss bought a fancy expensive wrap dress when she was pregnant and had to go to events. She was able to wear it to multiple events at different stages of pregnancy. She recently wore it to an event and it still looks great on her not-pregnant, quite skinny body! So if you can wear a wrap dress to work…

    5. Artemesia*

      I’d buy one pair of inexpensive black pants that fit — and vary the look with tops and alternate with skirts and dresses. You can literally wear the same black pants every day; black pants are black pants. I empathize as I have a huge drawer full of expensive black pants that no longer fit since I lost 25 pounds. At some point it might be worth your while to have the old stuff you really like or that is expensive tailored. Tailoring pants is expensive but with a newish pair of expensive pants it might be worth it once you know where you are going to land.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yup black pants are the way to go. I have something like 25 pairs in varying sizes. If I find a pair that fit, particularly if they have pockets (!!!) I will buy several pairs all at once because…well you just never know if you will ever find them again. I can wear them with any top and pretty much any shoes other than my PF Flyers.

      2. Anonyish*

        + 1 One pair of easily washable, plain black trousers to tide you through, plus the dresses that are still working.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. Get your Macklemore on, and also, just wear dresses for a bit – far more forgiving, and easier to cinch with a belt.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I will volunteer that I’ve been told of clothes exchanges set up in support groups for those who have had bariatric surgery. It is possible that some of those groups spin the clothes-exchange into a side-group that is unrestricted for the reason for weight loss.
      The BuyNothing groups in many communities and Freecycle are another venue.

    8. Celeste*

      OP2, I think you need to set a budget for smaller clothes and just find the best pieces you can for what size you need. Consignment stores often have a nicer selection of fresher items, vs Goodwill. I think you will feel so much better in clothes that fit you better, and you won’t have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions at work (never a good look). I agree with others’ suggestion on black pants, and suggest a black skirt, too. If you have a lot of shrugs, cardigans, jackets, or other top pieces like that, a black tank dress in your smaller size would get you a lot of mileage as a basic piece. I wouldn’t alter any of the waistlines on anything you own. It’s a tricky thing to get right as the garment has to be sized all over to get the right look. Those garments are better off left alone for someone to wear later, whether it’s you or someone else. I think you are right not to overspend at this time, because if your weight loss continues, you will need new undergarments and probably shoes, and we all know fit is critical there and it means buying new.

    9. kittymommy*

      As an outside the box suggestion, consider clothing rental site. I started doing one in December (4 articles of clothing for 1 month at $89) for some events and kept it up for work clothes. It’s pretty good clothes and a nice price. They dry clean them for you too.

    10. OP2*

      These are all good suggestions, I am so used to being the same size, shopping at the same stores that I know work for me that I feel a bit lost at the moment. I live in a city with tons of thrift stores so I will definitely try that. I also appreciate the point that a pair of blank pants works wonders, my wardrobe is relatively simple and many of my tops still work fine. Thanks everyone!

      1. wittyrepartee*

        As someone who inherited her body proportions from her South American mother- thrift stores are great for people with bodies different from those expected by retailers because they have clothing from so many sources.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          +1. My favorite shopping has been in thrift/resale stores. There’s a much, much better variety of styles/colors/fabrics than any retail store I’ve seen.
          For ~15 years I bought my work clothes at a good resale shop – not exactly thrift, they didn’t take donations or buy from the public, but they had similar to a good thrift store. When they decided to focus more on furniture, I was a little lost too and ended up buying from LL Bean because I wasn’t finding what I needed at resale/vintage. When they have sales you can get some good deals.
          Last year an excellent thrift store moved close to my work and it’s such a treat to shop there! I’ve found several excellent things I wouldn’t have found retail.
          In fact, I don’t shop retail much at all. It’s resale, vintage, or online.

        2. Aleta*

          This is super dependent upon where you live, though! I’m also South American, and I have a HORRIBLE time finding any clothes that fit me period, thrift store or regular store, in my US city. I have options in I’m smaller boned than most of my family because of stunted growth, which puts me right into the ideal size for Asian retailers, but it’s incredibly rare that I can ever buy something in person. My brother’s into Japanese fashion and when I visited him in LA he took me to where all the fashionable Japanese immigrants thrifted, and I bought more clothes than I had in the past year.

      2. Combinatorialist*

        Another option is a service like Gwynnie Bee or other clothes rental service. Then you can have a temporary wardrobe and maybe try new styles and what not while your size fluctuates.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          I was just going to suggest this! It’s not necessarily a great deal, but it will let you hit pause on rebuilding your wardrobe until you’re confident in what your “new normal” will be. (Plus, it will let you check out how a bunch of different brands fit on your, which could be useful if you do end up needing to buy new clothes in your new size.)

      3. KS*

        I had the same problem. When my daughter dropped her daytime nursing sessions, I lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks. I had no work pants that fit (shirts were still fine). The baggy-pants-with-a-belt look wasn’t professional, and I was getting comments on my weight loss which weren’t comfortable.

        I tried thrift stores, but they hardly had anything in smaller sizes that was work appropriate. I did find jeans for $7 which was nice. I got 2 pairs of black dress pants on sale for $20 each at Ann Taylor Loft. They’re great for interim wear until my weight bounces back up.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, I find thrift stores are really hard for small sizes, so depending on the scale of weight loss/OPs initial weight, they may find less success.

          There are some very inexpensive faux wrap dresses available on Amazon. I got a fair number when I had some health-related weight fluctuations. The same dress could look okay on me at 95lbs and 110lbs, and hid how thin I was at my lowest weight (It is very much Not. Fun. to get compliments on one’s weight loss when it’s a sign that something is very wrong. And I find it kinda gross that people don’t me I looked “great” with a BMI of 16).

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, I just loved when strangers were jealous while I was wondering if I’d waste away and die!

      4. Gina*

        OP, I’m in your exact situation right now and yesterday I finally buckled and bought pants in a smaller size to get me through to my goal weight. Old Navy ankle-length Pixie Pants in black. One pair, on sale at my local store for $5. You may not be able to get them that low (it was a clearance sale), but with the copious amounts of coupons Old Navy offers, I’ve never paid more than $25 for a pair of Pixies. 100% worth it, I feel so much better at work today not constantly hoisting up my baggy pants.

        1. OP2*

          Wow – what a deal! I’ll definitely check out Old Navy for in-between pants, as well as thrift stores as so many have suggested.

      5. Ada Doom*

        Thrift stores can be exhausting, and do some trading of $ cost for time cost, because it often takes a few visits to find what you want. I share your situation, but the other way (had a baby, for now none of my work clothes fit), so here’s what I’ve done.
        1. Pick one item of clothing and just look for that on a visit: Today is pants/blouses/cardigans/jeans–I don’t need to look at everything!
        2. Most thrift stores have mark downs and super mark downs, like Goodwill has one barb color a week that is $1! say you’re only going to look at green/pink/grey barbs today. Other stuff will catch your eye if it’s worth it.
        3. Minimize the changing room. I’m not sure what size I actually am, and I can’t trust myself to hold stuff up and go “yep, s’good,” like I did for the previous 20 years. So I measured my waist (I should do the same with bust…) and and go along just measuring the waistbands on the rack. Saves the crazy inaccuracy of womens’ sizing, and as a bonus, I can tell my mom to look for stuff without me being there. Then you can either try on those more likely successes, or you can take them home and return if there’s a return policy.
        4. If you have friends who are into thrifting, apprentice yourself to them! They will know the best stores for different things, the best days, the quick in-and-out, the worth-the-digging… If you have measurements, they will even look for you, because it is the joy of the hunt!
        5. not so thrift store: If you have friends, family, or close coworkers, they might have clothes that they have grown out of the other way, or “temporarily” would lend you things.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Matching up the side seams can also be a good way of guessing what to try on. Some tops will fit me, but when I go to match the side seams up to my own sides, the fabric stretches so much, I know I will not like it. I put that back and find something else to try on.

          I have gotten some nice things at tag sales. If the person is only asking a dollar or two for an item, I just make my best guess and buy it. Coats can be tried on at tag sales. I have picked up coats worth around $200 for a couple of bucks. They were in like-new condition. Once in a great while I guess wrong, so I take the bad guess and put it in my donation bag. I’m not worried about losing a dollar or two.

    11. E*

      Thrift store and a capsule wardrobe plan! A pair of black pants, khaki pants, and a few nice tops can be a weeks’ worth of outfits when mixed and matched.

    12. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      Yes OP, Thrift or consignment shops are your best bet. I love how Alison mentioned Eileen Fisher, at my local consignment shop I found a pretty Eileen Fisher blouse for $20! I was in the same boat as you, and a few pairs of basic black and tan pants and a few different blouses/sweaters got me through that period until my weight leveled off.

      1. Nancy*

        I would also suggest shopping the maternity racks in thrift shops/consignment stores for slacks or maybe getting a pair of maternity pants from Old Navy. You can wear an untucked blouse over black maternity pants that may be stretchy but still office-appropriate fabric, and pull off a more tailored look while disguising the forgiving waistband. They are designed to be as fitted as possible to a changing physique and can be found for a bargain second hand.

    13. Ama*

      I have been in a very similar situation as the OP, where a health issue caused me to lose a great deal of weight in a short period of time (thankfully the issue has since been resolved). One of the great things for me was skinny cut work pants — normally they don’t work for me because in regular health I have a lot of muscle tone on my legs and are a little tighter than I am comfortable with for a professional setting. But while sick the closer cut of the leg made me feel a little more put together.

      I will say if you don’t expect the situation to last, dig into your closet and see if you have any items you’d normally never wear to work might work okay for now. I was lucky in that I had a couple of old pairs of work pants and a few work blouses from when I was just out of college and a little closer to the weight I was during my illness, as well as some “date night” clothes that, because they were no longer as body hugging as I intended them to be, worked just fine for work for a few months.

      I also acquired a lot of long, drapey cardigans at the time, which can really help hide pants that are looser in the backside than you’d like and can make outfits look a little more put together. Plus, the weight loss and my illness meant I was cold all the time, so I really needed that extra layer.

    14. FormerFatty*

      I echo what others say above and will add – get a slide belt! They come in almost every color and can adjust down as your lose weight. I lost a lot of weight over a year and was able to hold onto pants longer with the slide belt.

    15. Oh So Very Anon*

      I am also losing weight. Here’s what I’ve decided to do.

      I wear pants every day, so I have two pairs of dress pants. I repurchase two more pairs with every downsize. Since I can wear jeans on Fridays, if I do a mid-week wash I can wear clean pants to work every day.

      Tops and jackets are easier — I can usually drop two, sometimes 3 sizes before it looks sloppy. I wear a jacket, vest, or sweater over a blouse, so that helps hide the larger sizes. I wear black as my basic color (black pants, black jacket/sweater) with colorful shells or sleeveless blouses, so even as I buy new pieces everything goes together. Once my weight settles, I’ll get more creative with my choices. In the meantime, I don’t look like I’m wearing the same thing every day, even though my pieces are limited in number.

      Shopping at Goodwill certainly makes this much more affordable.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I found a similar thing when I lost a couple sizes. I could get away with buying something just for every other size that I lost. If I tried to skip buying clothes when I had gone down a second size, the clothes just looked like someone else’s clothes, not mine. It was too much of a difference.

        However, I found I could keep old sweatshirts for around the house and old tee shirts made good pajama tops as they don’t bind too much.

    16. Alanna*

      OP #2, I’ve been where you are – and I highly recommend dresses! I wore dresses for pretty much the duration of my weight loss, with varying weights of tights underneath as the weather required. I did some bargain shopping and got a nice selection of pretty dresses, and they’re so much more forgiving and look less baggy – and you generally don’t lose weight in the chest as fast as you do elsewhere, so if you make sure you’re getting mostly A-line ish dresses, they won’t get baggy as fast, and can be very very easily taken in when they do. I basically wound up switching my life over to dresses this way, and I’ll never go back!

    17. charo*

      Also, consignment stores, which carry designer labels and can be a step up from thrift shops. They even have sales on clothes that are already a third of their orig. retail price.

      I actually buy comfy black knit pants in Target’s “lingerie” section where they have loungewear w/elastic waists but they look OK to go to the store in, with a jacket or top. Stretch knits will get you through changes in weight. And then you can wear them at home, after.

      A scarf distracts people from focusing on your clothes and looks pulled together, too.

  3. anon moose, anon mouse*

    For #1 I wonder if the “any perfume or other scented products” is throwing people off because scented product could be interpreted as shampoo or soap. I think perfume or cologne is reasonable, but I’d be a bit taken aback if someone asked me not to use something like scented shampoo or body wash. I’m not going out to buy a new bottle of fragrance free shampoo for an interview that may not lead to a job.

    Anywhere I’ve seen scent free has usually been nixing perfume, cologne, scented sprays, or very strong hand lotion. OP, does the employee in question have an allergy affected mainly by perfumes or is it extreme enough to require fragrance free shampoos, etc.? If it’s only perfumes and colognes, I wonder if the other managers would be more okay if you took out the “scented products” and just asked for no perfumes or colognes.

    1. Observer*

      I was going to say much the same.

      Realistically speaking, this is also a more realistic expectation, simply because most people don’t really think of their scented body wash as “scented”. Once someone comes on board, you can spell it out.

        1. valentine*

          I wonder if the “any perfume or other scented products” is throwing people off
          I understood it to include all scented products, so the request should be detailed, down to talc or other powders, lip balm, laundry detergent, and dryer sheets, maybe even clothing laundered no less than x hours ago because I use scent-free products when possible, but they still have a scent. The company may want to have something in place to help rapidly dissipate scents in case the candidates end up traveling with a perfumed menace.

          1. Annette*

            This crosses the line into unreasonable. I’m not going to pay to replace all my products for a job i likely won’t get. Especially if traveling.

          2. LegalBeagle*

            This is extreme. You really can’t ask a job applicant to change how they launder their clothing just to come in for an interview! I’d be put off by such a burdensome and intrusive request by an employer. At the offer stage it would be appropriate, although I still don’t think you can reasonably ask people to commit to this level of fragrance-avoidance.

            1. Dragoning*

              I agree. No scented body products is one thing. No scent whatsoever is another!

              1. cmcinnyc*

                As a candidate I wouldn’t consider “please no scent, we’re a scent-free office” to be burdensome or a red flag, and I’d be happy to comply. Laundry detergent? CLOTHING LAUNDERED NO EARLIER THAN X HOURS AGO?? I’m cancelling the interview.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  those scented mainstream laundry detergents have very strong scents. There was a discussion here last year, I think, where several people said they have to avoid colleagues who use those because the scent makes them sick.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  I’d cancel the interview too and I find scents irritating to my system. There is only so much a person can do, I cannot keep track of how long ago I washed something. I do a load every few days so it’s all a guess for me.

            2. Dontlikeunfairrules*

              Yeah I’d be passing on the interview faster than you can say “Gain pods.”

          3. Sylvan*

            I’d withdraw.

            That sounds unreasonably controlling. And – getting into sandwiches territory here – I can’t smell well and honestly can’t be sure that so many things are odorless.

          4. Dust Bunny*

            Some scents linger a lot longer than others, though. I can only smell my shampoo if I bury my face in my own hair, and it fades a lot after a day or two. It’s not the same degree of smell-able as perfume or most lotions. Laundry soaps vary: Some are really strong but if the clothes haven’t been washed in the immediate past, the smell may have dissipated (I don’t use one of those “long-lasting scent” detergents, so my clothes seem to smell pretty neutral after a couple of days). So I don’t think you need to require that people change all their habits, but it’s not unreasonable to request that they not wear perfume or scented lotion.

          5. boo bot*

            I haven’t dealt with extreme scent-free policies in the wild, so maybe others would read this differently, but to me the suggested wording, “Our workplace observes a scent-free policy, and we’d appreciate it if you would refrain from wearing any perfume or other scented products for your interview,” seems pretty reasonable.

            I would take it to mean, “don’t wear perfume or scented body spray,” or maybe a really strong-smelling lotion if I happened to have one; I wouldn’t extrapolate it to laundry detergent or shampoo without someone spelling that out.

            I know some places have policies that are that stringent, I’m just saying I wouldn’t read that from the wording the OP is suggesting.

            1. JustaTech*

              One place I keep applying for jobs at (sadly no bites) says pretty much exactly this. I don’t wear perfume, so my only concern when planning a possible visit was riding the bus next to someone soaked in perfume, or a Lyft drenched in air freshener. That set of job postings also makes it clear that the office is permanently scent-free, so if it’s something you can’t do, you’ll know in advance.

              (True story, my SO took a Lyft home that used so much air freshener that not only did he stink so badly I had to ask him to take a shower, but his jacket and bag reeked for the entire weekend. It was astonishing.)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                It’s amazing what it takes to get rid of some scents. A friend had given my husband some shirts. I washed then SIX times to get the heaviest of the fabric softener scent out of them. And that was with vinegar each time. Unbelievable. It made me wonder if people even realize how many different scents they are wearing each day.

          6. Tardigrade*

            If her situation requires such extremes to include dryer sheets, etc. then she and the company would be better served getting an air purifier or something to dissipate scents as you suggested.

      1. LJay*

        It sounds like the person being interviewed will not work in the office they are interviewing at (OP says in their letter that it’s an off-site position) so it may not ever need to be spelled out fully if the person hired won’t be at that office ever (or only for training once a year or something).

    2. Kinder Teacher*

      It would have never occurred to me that other scented products could include body wash or shampoo/conditioner, but maybe adding in a couple extra words could help if that is indeed a concern of the other managers. Something like: “…or other scented products, such as hand lotion.”

      1. Miso*

        See, I’m just the other way around – whenever I read scent free here (I’ve never encountered it in real life) I assumed it meant _everything_ including shampoo, deodorant and whatnot.

        I have no problem at all using no perfume, since I do that 99% of the time anyway, and my hand cream doesn’t smell luckily, but I always wondered where I’d even get a shampoo that doesn’t have any smell at all.

        1. Beepboop*

          Is that a rare thing in the US? I’m in Europe and can find cheap scent-free shampoo and body was in any discount supermarket (all of them allergy tested).

          1. Myrin*

            Miso is in Germany, so she probably can’t speak for the US. ;)

            Where I also am and, now that I think about it, I… also don’t think I’ve ever really encountered something truly scent-free. And I’m a shelf stocker at a drugstore. Surely I must have handled something like this at some point? I’ve never thought about it and now I’m doubting my perception of reality.

            Of course every product line has a “neutral” option – the packages are usually some shade of blue – but that still doesn’t mean it’s completely scent-free, it’s just very discreet. And I can think of one hairspray by Wellaflex which is “perfume-free” but I don’t think that’s the same as completely scent-free? Dangit, I don’t need that kind of google-everything-about-this-now!! tempation right now!

            1. AcademiaNut*

              There’s a difference between ‘unscented’ and ‘fragrance-free’. The first is intended to be a neutral scent, and typically has scents added to mask the natural scent of the product. The second means that no fragrances have been added. It’s the second you need to get if you’re dealing with allergies to scents.

              I don’t know about Europe, but in North America the former is easier to find than the latter. Truly fragrance free products also tend to be more expensive.

              1. Antilles*

                Correct, but this really highlights the issue: If you don’t have a sensitive nose, you’re probably not aware of the difference and use the terms interchangeably. And brands targeting the mass market usually don’t emphasize the distinction, so if you’ve never really looked into it, they sound pretty similar.
                And if you hear that “no strong scents”, your natural inclination would probably be that “unscented” (i.e., no smell) is better than “fragrance-free” (which still smells like soap). Even though the reality is probably opposite – if someone has sensitive allergies or lungs, the chemicals that are added to neutralize/mask the natural odors often induce a worse reaction than the natural soapy-smell.

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  “Unscented” doesn’t mean “no smell”: It means that the company has not added scent. It’s the same as fragrance-free.

                  Everything has a smell. Water has a smell.

                2. fposte*

                  @Dust Bunny–right, that’s where I would get confused by the proscription as currently written. And I know some of this is because people sensitive to odor don’t necessarily know in advance what odor is and isn’t a problem, but for the sake of the poor candidates, spell the policy out.

                3. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @Dust Bunny, there are actually legal standards around this stuff. Things can be labelled “unscented” if they have what is considered a neutral scent added, and then the chemicals are still there to be an issue to someone who reacts to this stuff. (I am well-educated b/c my wife gets migraines from scents.) “Fragrance-free” means there is nothing ADDED to the product that is there only for scent. Yes, the ingredients have odors, but that is okay.

              2. Not Me*

                Fragrance free products aren’t that hard to find, and they aren’t really more expensive than “normal” products. I get mine at Walgreen’s, CVS, Target, Amazon, and almost all of it is the same price or cheaper than other products.

                1. fposte*

                  Sure, but are you really saying a job applicant should have to buy all that stuff just to interview?

                2. L.S. Cooper*

                  I have dry, curly hair; if I want to look presentable (because curly hair requires an awful lot of wrangling), I have to buy very specific products. Sure, I could probably find a reasonably priced fragrance free shampoo, but what about one that’s sulfate free, curl friendly, and color safe? What about the three different creams I have to use post-shower to convince my hair to look neatly curled, instead of poofing up like a poodle that’s just been struck by lightning?
                  I would happily refrain from wearing my perfume to an interview if asked– and I would prefer to be told not to do so in advance, because I would feel legitimately horrible if I triggered a migraine or allergic reaction in someone by doing something I thought would help me come across as more professional. But spending the time to find unscented replacements for ALL of the products I use? No way.

                3. Not Me*

                  fposte and L.S. Cooper – I didn’t say anywhere in my post that it’s reasonable to ask candidates or even employees to wear fragrance free products. I’m merely responding to the post saying that they are expensive and hard to find.

                4. L.S. Cooper*

                  Yes, I understand that. My point is that they *are* expensive and hard to find, if you have any other specific needs. Maybe you can easily find scent-free products for cheap, but as soon as any other needs come into play, the ease and cheapness rapidly fade.

            2. Miso*

              Exactly, even the hypoallergenic sensitive liquid soap I use because my hands are crap still smells like something.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It can be annoyingly difficult to find the unscented products, but the mighty WalMart has recently gotten on board for some products at least. And at the same time, some standard old soaps have started smelling strong that didn’t used to smell of anything but, you know, soap. (Dove face bar I’m looking at you!)

            1. IScentItAway*

              Don’t get me started on safe products that change their formulas! (Seeking Second Childhood– do the Dove for Sensitive Skin bars work for you? They saved me when the original beauty bars changed. I have a large Costco stash as back-up and will be hating life if the next batch I buy has changed again.)

        2. Jay*

          We are a fragrance-free household because of my husband’s allergies, and we have no trouble getting truly fragrance-free products. These days I buy them on Amazon; I used to go to the health food/natural food stores, and I don’t live in a major metropolitan area.

          Soap and shampoo isn’t a huge problem, because the scent from those is difficult to detect unless you’re physically close to the person. It’s perfume, cologne, and hand lotion that’s much more of an issue and that’s what I’d focus the policy on. I used an elevator last week that REEKED of musky cologne despite the fact that I was the only person there at the time. Don’t do that.

      2. Artemesia*

        There is a huge difference between using perfumes and using scented shampoos. It seems really off putting to try to ban ordinary products with minimal scents that linger for job applicants. Perfumes and body sprays absolutely. To expect people to have to buy a whole new set of ordinary hygiene products and laundry products is IMHO inappropriate unless we are dealing with someone who is so allergic that it is a serious health issue. I doubt the whole ‘front office’ is medically challenged by people’s shampoo and such although they may not like scents.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          OP says “the admin team” — it’s entirely possible the admin team is two people. I know that in my group of 6 there are 2 of us who get regular migraines…my old desk was near three more, several of whoma re scent-triggered.
          Regardless, it’s not a problem to ask someone to skip perfume and “try to avoid” added scents so they know to at least avoid the body spray that day!

          (Ironically a relatively new manager just walked past my desk trailing a CLOUD of Axe. Apparently it’s time for me to ask HR to remind new employees about the fragrance policy. Again.)

          1. EPLawyer*

            I like this framing. Since the people being interviewed will not be in the office long, just telling them no perfumes or lotions and try to avoid scented products would probably work. That way it’s not an outright ban but does convey the message.

            Of course, this assumes that short term exposure will not bother the admins too much as long as it is only a light smell. If this is a major health issue, then the ban needs to be explicitly spelled out. The admins health trumps the interviewee’s right to wear whatever they want to the interview.

            1. boo bot*

              Yeah, I think this is good, and I don’t actually think the OP is trying to get interviewees to change up their entire panel of grooming products.

              The issue described is candidates who come in “*bathed* in perfume, to the point where the scent lingers for an hour after they’ve left,” which probably isn’t the result of people using scented detergent and shampoo; just asking them not to wear perfume or cologne should take care of the worst of it.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                Who does this? If I were hiring I would hard pass on anyone that left a perfume trail lingering behind them, because I just wouldn’t want to deal with smelling that all the time. I never wear perfume to interviews – I feel like noticing how you smell is not something that will put me forward professionally. But then I have worked with two different people (a man and a woman) who liked to re-apply scent in vast amounts in the middle of the office so I might just be closer to bitch eating crackers with anyone that is over scented.

        2. LegalBeagle*

          Yes. I don’t wear perfume or use lotion so I’d just assume I was fine. It would never occur to me to think about shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. Regulating down to that level is a bit much unless there’s a true medical need.

          What if someone in the office is severely allergic to cats? (I am!) Do you ban cat ownership by employees or have a rule that people can only wear freshly-laundered clothes to work, so they don’t bring in any cat hair? Of course not. There’s a limit to what you can ask people to accommodate; the burden is on the employer to make it work fairly.

          1. iglwif*

            I am almost never bothered by shampoo, and I didn’t think I was bothered by laundry detergent either … until last week I acquired some hand-me-down clothes from a friend and when I took them out of the bag, I almost fell over from the smell.

            These clothes have now been washed twice (in the fragrance-free detergent I didn’t realize was so unusual because I’ve been using it since my mom taught me about laundry as a child) and THEY STILL REEK. I’m grateful to my friend for the hand-me-downs but I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wear them!

            1. PetticoatsandPincushions*

              Try soaking in Oxi-clean or Borax overnight before you wash again! Also run your wash with about 1/4 cup of vinegar thrown into the softener section of the detergent draer . That stuff should help neutralize lingering scents so you can wear your new clothes :)

            2. Allergic to scents*

              You will probably have to hang the clothing outside on a sunny and/or windy day to get rid of the scent. I have to do this multiple times for my hand me downs my kids have received.

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              I do a lot of second-hand clothing, and I find that there is some heavily-scented brand that a lot of sellers seem to use on their clothing that I just cannot stand. My spouse is highly sensitive to scents (we had to have the kids stop using an industrial bottle of warehouse club shampoo because the smell was causing issues), and all that stuff has to be relaundered, sometimes with vinegar, before I can bring it near him.

            4. Half-Caf Latte*

              put vinegar in your fabric softener dispenser, and run a load!

              you can use soap but since you already have, theres no need!

            5. DJ*

              I don’t know if you’ve ever tried any of these, but there are laundry detergents you can find in sporting goods stores marketed to get rid of odor in sports gear and also to get rid of scents for hunters. My dad always used them on his gear and they would smell like nothing. They might help. One brand I’m aware of is Scent-A-Way.

            6. iglwif*

              Thanks for all the suggestions, y’all! I don’t have any borax or Oxi-clean but I do have white vinegar for cleaning so I’m going to try that next! :) :)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Do you have a soak cycle or a top loader? Perhaps you can let them soak for a bit, that would be less tiring than washing and rewashing.

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Yeah, most people aren’t bothered by shampoo/detergent because you’d have to be really close to the person to smell it. I’m very sensitive to scent, but really can’t smell other people’s shampoos (although I’ve certainly been annoyed by my own, lol). Our office policy even extends it to smokers, but I’ve yet to hear of it being enforced.

        3. jDC*

          One would also think interview clothes are likely dry cleaned. How does one avoid their scents? I use very special shampoo to keep my hair healthy and I won’t be damaging my hair for someone when I know the scent is minimal, just a shampoo smell not lilacs or anything.

      3. 1 years until retirement*

        I had to ask a student employee to change antiperspirant as his was triggering my migraines. You never know which product will be a trigger.

      4. Coco*

        I’m the same way. Without explicit examples I wouldn’t know how to interpret that. And different people will have different interpretations. Sending the entire policy and offering a list of what scented products are banned would be very helpful (detergent, fabric softener, lotion, shampoo, hair styling products, soap, not being in the presence of scented candles before showering, etc ) helps. The more information, the more comfortable the candidate will be. Otherwise I’d spend more time thinking about ‘is this acceptable ‘ than the actual interview itself.

        1. LJay*

          All of this is insane for an interview.

          If any place I was going to go interview sent me a list talking about the laundry detergent I could use or whether I could walk past a scented candle before interviewing I would 100% not go, and I think that is true of about 99% of the population as well.

          And you can’t expect candidates to not wash their hair before an interview (when they want to look their best) or to go out and buy scent free products for one interview. We talk all the time about how some things like expecting travel are an undue burden on candidates and can affect people who don’t have money. Expecting someone to either come in unbathed and unshampooed, or to shell out money on scent free products in order to interview is definitely going to have a disparate effect of people with less money who can’t afford to go out and buy new laundry detergent, new shampoo, new soap, etc.

          If you’re working closely in an office with someone with scent issues, then maybe all of that is reasonable. But this isn’t for someone working there. This is for an interview. And the employees being interviewed will not work on-site anyway.

          Honestly, it seems like maybe since they will be off-site employees management should be holding these interviews off-site somewhere instead of bringing people into the office. Either via Skype, at wherever the candidate is going to work, in a coffee shop, or in like a hotel conference room or something. Then the admins don’t need to be subjected to the scents, and the candidates aren’t scared off by a giant list of requirements to set foot in the office.

          1. professor*

            I mean….I feel for you if you have such strong scent related issues that my laundry detergent or shampoo bothers you, but I find it invasive to dictate what I wash myself with in my own home. No perfume or scented lotion put on that day, fine. Telling me to change all my products? Telling me nope, no more lavender bath salts to relax at night, etc? Nope.

            I mean, seriously, if you’re super allergic to peanuts, I can’t bring them to the office, but you can’t tell me to not have them for breakfast cause the particles could be on me (I recall seeing a case where a mother of a school age kid wanted that enforced….it wasn’t of course, because that is insane)

        2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          Truth be told, if I got an extensive list of products I had to sub or replace before doing an interview, the only thing I would be comfortable doing with this interview is canceling it. No perfume or scented lotion? Fine. Change your detergent, soap, shampoo, don’t wear freshly dry cleaned clothes, etc. for a job interview? Oh hell no. For an actual job, no problem, but that much effort for a job I wouldn’t even be sure I would accept if offered? No

      5. KS*

        I’m sensitive to scents. The 90s’ obsession with Herbal Essences shampoo was awful for me.

    3. Yvette*

      That is what I was wondering as well. How far does it need to be taken? No perfume or cologne is easily doable, but do I need to change soap, shampoo and conditioner, hair products laundry detergent? I have very dry skin and if I don’t use lotion I itch like a dog with fleas. Most of these products, if not imbued (is that the right word?) with a specific fragrance, do have a scent. I have never had to deal with a scent free environment so I have no idea how specific and extensive the restrictions.
      I am not trying to be difficult, I honestly have no idea.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        I’m wondering the same thing. I’m allergic to perfumes myself, ao I don’t use any kind of perfume or cologne. I also use unscented bath soap, antiperspirant, and laundry products. However, I have bever even seen unscented shanpoo/conditioner in a store and have a hard time finding hand lotion that doesn’t have some kind of scent added. While I would love working in a perfume-free workplace, I don’t know any way to have clean hair or smooth skin without using any scented products whatsoever. I’d loce to kniw what other people really nean by the term “scent free.”

        1. Cheshire Cat*

          You might have to buy fragrance free hair products online, although I’ve seen Free & Clear shampoo at Target.

          1. KHB*

            If only it were just about shampoo and conditioner. The only hair-care products I’ve found that even remotely keep my hair from turning into a giant frizzball in the summer are scented, and they don’t come in unscented versions. I don’t think the scent is overwhelming (although I know nobody thinks their own scent is overwhelming), but I assume they’d fall under “…or other scented products” and thus be forbidden. I suppose if they want me to show up to my job interview with frizzball hair, I can do that, but…

        2. Kaffeekocherin*

          @Pomona: If you can get it, try out O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Hand Cream. It is truly unscented and is really effective without being greasy.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            If one has dry enough skin, even O’Keeffe’s doesn’t do it. Ask me how I know… :-/

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Mary Kay makes a nice line of unscented hand creams. I don’t know anyone who sells it, but I’ve picked it up online a few times. I have one that is marketed as a night cream that doesn’t smell and works really well.

              My spouse is highly sensitive to scent AND prone to contact ezcema, so he carries a bottle of Cetaphil cleanser (because industrial bathroom soap kills his hands) and one of the heavy-duty Aveeno lotions.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                The best solutions (and really they are more like band-aids on a gaping wound) are Vaseline and Ecerin cream. The heavy duty “for alligator skin” cream. I might try the MK creams though. What have I got to lose?

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For me, the key isn’t tto try for “SCENT” free — because even raw soap smells like soap. It’s avoiding the intentionally added fragrances.
          My migraines & I settled on “intensive care advancedrepair unscented” from Vaseline brand — it’s a lovely non-greasy hand cream and it doesn’t smell like artificial flowers.

          1. iglwif*

            That’s what my kiddo and I used, too. It’s very effective and doesn’t make us sneeze!

          2. Ooh That Smell*

            YESSS! Omg, that stuff is a life-saver! I have very sensitive skin and particular fragrances, like citrus and eucalyptus really irritate me, while other fragrances don’t. So, some of the products that work for my skin are scented while others aren’t. I’d be hesitant to change my complete combo of products (shampoo, lotion, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, etc.) just to sit for an interview. Though, if that’s the employer’s expectation, I’d appreciate knowing it upfront before deciding whether to work there.

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Makeup, too. I don’t use scented products, but I have no idea where I’d go about finding unscented foundation or pressed powder. It all seems to have this generic “makeup” scent to it.

        5. Michaela Westen*

          Whole Foods has their store brand shower gel, lotion and shampoo (I think) in unscented.

    4. Grand Mouse*

      I was wondering this! Because of my skin and hair type, I don’t think I could ever find non-scented products that could work for me. And if it extended into laundry detergent, I would definitely have to do some work to make a change. So I think some guidelines would be really good- both for the interview, and then expectations when they become an employee so they know what is expected.

      I hope this isn’t too off-topic because I am relating it to the question, what ARE the expectations of scent-free? I’m mildly scent-sensitive myself so I never wear cologne or strongly scented products, but if I had to find alternatives for my shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant and lotion, I’m not sure I could. Obviously I wouldn’t apply anything right before the interview, but what would be the expectation in working there? Both for my own education and future employees?

      1. D'Arcy*

        I would say that a scent-free policy would mean no wearing any added scents like perfume or cologne, but it’s unreasonably intrusive to ask for more than that.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, for this particular instance, it sounds like the employees with the biggest sensitivity to fragrance are not actually in the interview or necessarily interacting with the candidates for extended periods of time, so the main issue is candidates who arrive in a cloud of perfume that permeates the entire office. I got the impression from the letter that a candidate who had used a slightly scented shampoo (which doesn’t linger for hours) would not be a huge problem, and if that’s the case, I would just note that candidates should refrain from wearing perfumes, colognes, or scented lotions/sprays. Those are low lift for a candidate and probably would have the biggest impact in reducing smells.

        2. blackcat*

          I would also put lotion (applied at work) into that category.
          One time, I shook someone’s freshly lotioned hand and wound up in urgent care.

      2. Venus*

        I think it depends on the person and the situation.

        I had a colleague who was very sensitive to scents, and did IT, so generally the rule was no colognes / perfumes and to minimize other smells (deodorants, hand creams). If anyone was really perfumed then they had to wait for IT support (someone else from another building to visit), or if they were only slightly problematic then they would leave their cube while he fixed their computer. Most importantly, work gave them a room all to themselves, so their primary work spot was controlled by them.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have a colleague in another department who is extremely sensitive to smells as a lasting side effect of her lymphoma (she’s been in remission, but the sensitivity persists). We were guest panelists for a lecture series, and she asked the other panelists and a class of 100 students to please go scent free, which we all understood covered all scented personal hygiene products and laundry products. The entire panel adhered to the most comprehensive scent-free-ness, and 75% of students accommodated the request with most folks refraining from using scented personal hygiene products.

      Which is all to say that I think OP is right, the wording should be as broad as possible and not limited to colognes/perfumes. I think it’s fine and probably best to ask for the most comprehensive scent-free-ness knowing that not everyone will comply, and some will interpret the request to be more/less inclusive of things like shampoo, body wash, lotion, body spray, etc.

      My perspective may be skewed, but I wouldn’t be put off by the request—it feels somewhat analogous to ensuring a nut-free office for people with severe nut allergies. It’s just an opportunity to be conscientious, and as long as non-compliance doesn’t ding candidates in the hiring process, there’s no harm in making the ask.

      1. MK*

        It really isn’t analogous to not having products with nuts in the office. Going scent-free to the extent you describe is going to affect a person’s everyday life to a significant degree; also, many people don’t live alone and it might not be easy to do it. I personally wod hesitate to take a job that required this kind of comprehensive change in practically all the products I use.

        That being said, if this is what is required by employees in the OP’s workplace, they should make it clear to candidates beforehand, so I would say it’s appropriate, even advisable, to inform them before the interview.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        “It’s just an opportunity to be conscientious”

        Seriously? It’s something that will have a significant impact on many candidates lives in a very personal way, with a real financial impact if they have to replace these products with unscented alternatives. This is particularly the case for female candidates as they’re more likely to regularly use cosmetics, haircare and skincare products with scents. Asking them to switch all of these products – even if you don’t think they actually will do it – isn’t an opportunity, it’s a significant ask.

        1. Grace*

          If I was asked to go scent-free for a single day for an interview, I would avoid washing my hair day-of (for conditioner scent) and not apply perfume or scented hand-cream. But buying new hair products, new laundry products, new everything? For an interview? Not to mention that some of those products may be next to impossible to switch out.

          I use Aveeno lotion, which is the only thing I’ve found that lessens my keratosis pilaris on my arms and legs – I even know someone who gets Aveeno on prescription from the NHS (aka free rather than £8-10 per bottle) because it’s the only thing they’ve found that doesn’t make his eczema flare up. Even the Aveeno without added scents (I’m a big fan of the sweet almond oil, personally) still has a very distinctive scent. If I was told not to use it before an interview, I’d spend a week looking like I’ve suffered a bad heat rash; this one guy would probably be cracked and bleeding. Not a good first impression in an interview.

          Other products off the top of my head that can’t easily be switched out if the candidate still wants to look professional for an interview is if they use Curly Girl or Deva products on their hair (or any other hair products specifically meant for certain hair types, but those are well-known), medicated deodorants for extreme sweating, etc. If you’re going to be working there, you can put time and effort and money into finding something that’s unscented but that keeps you looking and feeling professional, but asking someone to put that much effort in for an interview is a little far.

          1. stefanielaine*

            Totally agree, and I’m a person who absolutely cannot go a day without washing my hair (very short, very oily hair, dry shampoo does nothing for me and that would add a scent anyway) especially on a day when I need to look my most presentable. A lot of people are underestimating what a big ask it is for people to switch out ALL of their products even for a day.

            1. goducks*

              I’m a person who has worked very hard to find the products that work for my hair and skin, which has been no small feat. While none of the products are use are heavily scented, they’re not all fragrance-free. If I were presented with an office that had a policy beyond a perfume/cologne rule that extended into shampoos, soaps and other personal grooming items, I’d decline the interview and move on. My issues are medical issues, too, but I’m not interested in the doing the battle of the accommodations.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, seriously.

          I have all sorts of scented products, and I don’t have to incur significant costs to go scent free (although it probably helps that my laundry supplies are already scent-free).

          If it feels coercive or economically burdensome to candidates, then of course folks can make whatever personal effort to avoid the biggest smell offenders, which sound like perfume/cologne in this case. OP can also frame the request in a permissive way to make it clear that this is an optional “doing us a favor” request at the interview stage, but that if someone is hired this is a real accommodation they’re going to have to make going forward.

          Here’s another example. At an old job, my boss had a dog at work. Whenever he posted about his position, he mentioned the dog and that the dog would be in the workplace. Does that mean that people who were allergic or scared of dogs wouldn’t apply? Absolutely. But it was also important for them to know ahead of time so they didn’t end up in a harmful situation.

      3. lawyer*

        I think part of the problem is that these are job candidates, which means they will likely feel under pressure to go as far as possible. That is a pretty significant burden to put on people you may or may not hire. Personally, my view is that if this office is scent-free to the point of laundry detergent, body wash, etc. they probably need to interview offsite or find some way to excuse the affected individuals on the interview days – it’s just not fair to ask candidates to go to those lengths when they don’t even have the job. I also think they need to explain the policy, with specifics, in the interview so people can decide if they are willing to take the job if offered.

        1. anonagain*

          I agree with lawyer. Replacing things like deodorant and laundry detergent (and re-laundering one’s clothes) is time consuming and expensive. Plenty of people just wouldn’t be able to comply with that kind of request in time for an interview no matter how much they wanted to.

          I think looking for a different solution, like doing interviews elsewhere, is a better option depending on the severity and scope of the sensitivity. It makes things a bit easier on candidates and, crucially, the admins won’t end up sick when a candidate uses a scented product by mistake/out of necessity.

    6. Emilia Bedelia*

      If there is a written policy, perhaps the manager can provide the exact text to applicants, and say something like “We are a scent-free workplace to accommodate those fragrance sensitivities. For your reference, here is our policy on fragranced products – if possible, please refrain from wearing scented products during your interview”. Might even be a good opportunity to include other relevant policies/information (eg, driving directions/how to get to the building/benefits summary/etc)

      1. fposte*

        But if you’re going to do that *name what you mean by “products.”* Do you mean shampoo and laundry detergent? Do you just mean perfume and lotion? Do you mean panty liners and antiperspirant? Especially if this goes so far as to ask job applicants to buy new household products in order to apply, it’s hideously unfair to make them guess exactly what products you’re requiring.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Exactly – I’m envisioning that the policy that the company already has is descriptive of what exactly “scent free” means, so providing that will clarify what is allowed and what isn’t.

          As Alison mentioned, if someone feels Very Strongly about using raspberry lotion, or scented dryer sheets, or deodorant, or whatever, they should know the level of prescriptiveness from the start and be able to determine if that’s a standard they are willing to follow.

          1. LJay*

            But the employees being interviewed are off-site employees.

            Depending on what that means they might need to follow the standards.

            Or they might never come to that office after they begin working there (or very rarely) and be fine with their scented dryer sheets while actually in the job.

    7. Asenath*

      I work in a building complex which is run by two different entities (which is a story in itself!). Both have anti-scent policies; my employer’s is more strict than the other organizations. Technically, we ban scented shampoos and other substances that mostly wash off; the other bans substance you apply – perfume, aftershave etc 0r use, like candles. (I have never seen anyone burn a candle here, but I suppose someone somewhere might burn one, and it might be scented! There’s probably a fire prevention rule about candles.) Both rules apply to anyone who steps foot on the property, including members of the general public. So, really, I don’t see a problem having job applicants follow the policy. But in practice, no one seems to worry much about shampoos and such; it’s the actual perfumes, lotions, aftershaves, deodorants etc that cause concern. And scented candles.

      1. Ellex*

        I’ve worked in several different offices where people burned scented candles and every time I had to ask that they not do it so I didn’t have to sit around with a massive headache/constant sneezing/runny nose. “No open flames” is a rule that is, or should be, common to pretty much every office, but I suspect it’s not always enshrined as a specific rule because it wouldn’t occur to a lot of people that they actually had to tell people that.

        But I’ve had enough experience to have learned that there’s always someone who doesn’t get what seems obvious to the rest of us.

      2. LJay*

        How do you enforce that with the general public?

        Delivery drivers?

        Cable and internet repair?


        1. Asenath*

          Enforcement isn’t very rigorous, but there are posters to inform the general public – and I think that enforcement is reactive. That is, if a member of the general public or a contractor or whatever ignored or didn’t know the rules, but nevertheless, didn’t smell strongly of something, they wouldn’t be examined for compliance. If they do obviously smell of perfume, they could be asked to wipe it off. There have been at least a couple cases – maybe more, it’s a big place, and I can’t speak for all of it – when there were serious reactions to the scent of something someone was wearing, so enforcement isn’t perfect and some people do ignore all the notices about the rules.

          1. LJay*

            That makes sense. Thanks.

            I feel like I might have come off hostile in my questions but I was legitimately wondering, so thank you for answering.

      3. Not Me*

        I can’t imagine dictating what type of shampoo or deodorant an employee uses. That’s going pretty far in my opinion and very difficult to enforce.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think the bottom line is that people who aren’t scent sensitive need to realize that it’s not about being overly dramatic, and it’s not just about having an allergy. I get migraines, and they can be triggered by scents. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scent I like, if it’s too strong I will immediately get a migraine. I personally have never been triggered by someone’s body wash or shampoo/conditioner, probably because you generally can’t smell it unless you’re very close to someone, and I feel like washing it out/off of your body mutes the scent significantly.

      If the office has a scent free policy, then they need to pass this information along to interviewees, and specify it to the degree that they do to their employees.

      1. LegalBeagle*

        I didn’t see anyone accusing people of being dramatic; of course it’s a legitimate issue! But the question is how much can employers reasonably ask of job candidates who are going to be in the office very briefly. Refraining from using perfume for a day is easy; finding and purchasing new products (shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.) is not.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I never said anyone here is accusing people of being over dramatic. I was making a general statement about those who seem to be unwilling to accept that this is real problem for many, like the managers in the letter. I stand my my original statement.

          1. LJay*

            I don’t think the managers are unwilling to accept that it’s a real problem. If they were, the building wouldn’t be scent-free at all.

    9. kittymommy*

      It sounds like in this instance the issue is just the overwhelming nature of the scent. If one is just using scented shampoo or soap, or heck just even a quick one spritz of perfume, the scent is not going to linger for hours.

      Tangent topic, what is it with people seeming to pour the perfume/cologne all over them??? I was always told that you should spray 1-2 quick spritzes at the most and if you can smell your own perfume you are wearing too much.

      1. fposte*

        1) people get nose blind and 2) many perfumes are way too strong for even 1 or 2 quick spritzes.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Oh – do not get into some perfume is ok but not a lot – that is not a good line to try to draw. Just tell them no perfume. That is a much easier line to draw. Most people do not need to wear perfume at all. And I was always taught to spray it in the air and wave your wrists through the cloud. Never to spray directly on.

    10. Remizidae*

      You guys are way overthinking this! The employer should make a reasonable request to avoid unnecessary scents, and the job candidate should make a reasonable effort to comply. No one needs to buy extra products and no one should be micromanaging the candidate’s personal hygiene.

      1. paperpusher*

        Seriously. The correct response to people leaving behind clouds of fragrance is to ask candidates to not wear perfume/cologne, not to send them a list of acceptable brands of laundry detergents. The perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

        1. Sarah N*

          Totally agree here! If the receptionist is still having issues after asking people not to put on perfume, then that can be addressed then. But maybe wait to cross that bridge until you get to it? Asking people not to wear perfume/cologne is an easy ask, totally free for job candidates to do, and may completely solve the problem. So at least start there, and then if this does not work, you can think about other solutions.

      2. Ooh That Smell*

        And a reasonable request from the employer should specify what products fall under the scent-free policy. As the above threads show, some folks interpret “scent-free” to mean every single household product including laundry detergent and dish soap, while others interpret it to mean just applied fragrances like perfume. Only if the employer spells out exactly what it means by “scent-free” can the candidate reasonably comply.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I agree!

        I think the request is reasonable, and as a candidate I would do the best I could.

        I’d avoid perfume; I might avoid conditioner if it was really scented. I’d avoid body lotion.

        That’s it. I wouldn’t in a million years think the employer wanted me to change my laundry detergent for the interview. Just that they wanted me to “keep it down to a dull roar.”

      4. Washi*

        I agree! Even someone without a very nuanced view of what scent-free means would almost certainly interpret it as “no perfume/cologne” and the OP specifically said that clouds of perfume are the biggest problem. If there continue to be issues, the employer can get more creative with offsite interviews, etc, but it seems quite likely that a simple note at the end of the email will solve 99% of the problem.

    11. CarrieKidney*

      My take on the scent-free issue is nuanced. I get migraines from strong scents. I do realize that standard products like deodorants and body lotions have scent. My compromise is this: with your ordinary scent profile, stand at arms length from a good friend with an excellent sense of smell. If your friend can smell you at arms length (not hugging you), that is probably too much fragrance. Scent boosted products, scented laundry boosters, they all leave a trail of fragrance that would affect me if I spent an hour in a room with ya.

      If I can smell you after you walk through a room, or if the elevator smells like you when you leave it, that would affect me too.

      Your scented body wash or shampoo, which I could only smell by getting up close and personal, is just fine for a business setting.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I don’t think CarrieKidney was suggesting that all this info be given. I took it as input saying that it’s not necessary for candidates to do more than avoid the obvious culprits.

          1. fposte*

            But that’s suggesting everybody would know what the obvious culprits are, and we don’t. And also people forget–it’s easy for them to lotion up in the morning out of habit and not realize they did it. For that and the complexity of the rules, I think LJay’s “interview offsite” idea is the best one.

    12. Save One Day at a Time*

      Oh gosh, and here I took other scented products to mean something like lasagna. D’oh!

    13. fhqwhgads*

      I think they key is with interviewees, right now they’re not mentioning the policy at all. So the goal of mentioning it to interviewees needn’t be “spell it all out as specifically as we would for someone who needs to be here every single day and abide by the policy”. I think with interviewees it’s fine to mention the policy in succinct terms and let the applicants use their best judgement. I think most reasonable people would interpret the request as avoiding the most obviously scented products they normally use just before the interview. I don’t think most reasonable people would take it as the company telling them they had to go buy all new products to comply with this just for the interview, especially if the position itself won’t be in that office. It’s more of a minor heads up, and trying to minimize the effect on the fragrance-sensitive person. You’re not doing some kind of covert test to see if the applicants can comply 100% in a way they’d need to if this were their everyday. You’re just trying to loop them in to basic considerateness since the office does have this policy for a known reason. If they make basic attempts to comply but – say- the handsoap they used happened to be particularly triggering, it’s not like you’d dress them down for it. The solution would be what they’re already doing: letting the affected person go elsewhere.

      But I think there’s very little harm in giving the applicants a nutshell version of the policy as a “by the way, please try to do x” given it might make things significantly more tolerable for the affected person on interview days. It’s OK that someone who is only coming in once for a few hours be held to a more casual standard than the everyday staff.

    14. Memyselfandi*

      I know someone who was admonished because the scent of her shampoo was too strong. She was returning from a trip and had used the hotel products in the morning. It is the scent, not the type of product that is the problem.

    15. some dude*

      Also, I really appreciate the heads up, because in general when I go for an interview, I’m going to wear cologne because it is part of being ‘formal’ for me, and I suspect a lot of people do the same.

      And like the other commenters here, I’d be super put off if they told me what kind of laundry detergent or soap to use. It is hard not to read that as invasive, controlling, and kind of judgemental.

    16. OP1 Here*

      I’ve read most of the comments–thanks to everyone who has chimed in!–and I agree that there is some wiggle room in the interpretation of what “scent-free” means. I see it as more in the vein of not adding insult to injury. Nearly every shampoo, conditioner and soap/body wash is scented, and that can’t be helped. I’m not counting things like detergents, either. What I’m focused on here is the addition of purposefully scented products, like perfume and body lotion. The recent candidates have worn heavy perfumes, to the point where one of our directors literally developed a headache in the course of the interview. Do I expect that candidates will refrain from washing their hair or body with a scented product, or use a scent-free detergent before arriving for their interview? Of course not–that would be unreasonable. But it’s the intentional addition of layered products that sends my admin team spinning (and yes, there are two of them, and yes, I’m their manager). I’ve forwarded the link to my letter to our managerial team, and I’m anxious to hear what is said. Thanks again for being such an awesome tribe for this working lady. :)

    17. OP1 Here*

      Thanks for your comment. We’re not looking to go to extremes here. I made this point below, but with 100+ comments, I’m afraid it’s going to get lost in the mix.
      This is more about “wearing” scented products than “using scented products.” You don’t WEAR shampoo, conditioner, detergent, etc. You do, however, wear perfume, cologne or scented lotion. Our intent is to manage the unnecessary addition of scents without doing away with scents that are embedded in personal care products like hairspray or detergent.
      This thread has resulted in some great thought-provoking ideas, and I’m excited to find a middle ground with management, candidates and my admin team.

    18. charo*

      I question why someone works the front desk if they’re so sensitive. I was constantly getting sick when I did, the germs were really strong there, when I usually didn’t get sick much. It was nice to move.

    19. charo*

      The thing to be sure of is that your clothes don’t carry the scent you used to wear.

      Otherwise, it sounds like a neurotic problem of the complaining coworker.
      You could tell mgr. you’re going to buy something new and bring in the receipt secretly, so that when you two meet w/mgr., if she says she can smell scent on brand-new outfit, you can whip out the receipt. And ask mgr. if s/he smells anything.

      It may be that this person has mental issues or a grudge.

  4. Engineer Girl*


    The managers pushed back, stating that they can’t impose an office policy on non-employees.

    Not to get technical, but the policy is for the office, not the employees. The employees happen to be in the office so are expected to follow office policy.

    For example, I’ve been told to wear low heeled shoes because of safety issues in some work areas. On one interview I was told to dress casual. In short, as a potential employee I was expected to act like one.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      This us a great point and provides perfect language for OP to push back with the managers.

    2. JunieB*

      I used to work in schools and daycare centers for kids with disabilities, and in that field it’s pretty standard that you’re asked to avoid scented products and wear sensible clothes in an interview, because interacting with the clients is often part of the interview. I assumed it was standard to expect applicants to follow applicable office policies while in the office.

    3. Observer*

      Yes, but there is a limit to this. You can’t, for instance, expect someone to wear a uniform. And if, say, short hair were a requirement, you’re not going to expect someone to cut their hair for an interview.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        That’s not totally true. For example, if you need to wear a bunny suit then they usually provide one.
        I also know that one place had a “no beards” policy (wins ago) and potential candidates were told during the interview that they would have to shave off the beard as a condition of employment.
        Let’s not take the extreme case.

        1. Socks*

          But they didn’t have to shave before the interview, which is more like what Observer was suggesting- no one would have expected them to come in clean-shaven before they’d even interviewed.

          Although, also, that’s kind of a nitpicky argument, since clearly requests that are about safety (including the safety of employees with scent sensitivities) or about being able to complete the interview (so, wearing practical clothing for an interview where you’ll be working directly with kids) are different from expecting people to conform to the dress code of a job they have don’t yet have.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            At some places they are required to shave pre-interview. For example, Disneyland (which was finally sued over this) had a clean-shaven policy, among other aesthetic requirements, and they expect successful candidates to show up to the interview clean-shaven. Although it’s not a common example, there are lots of sectors where there are implied norms or even outright policies regarding personal care and attire, and in those workplaces, complying with those norms/policies during hiring can be crucial to a person’s success.

            But I think OP’s request is even more reasonable than the beard scenario because it doesn’t require the candidate to alter their appearance—it just requests that they make a good faith effort to limit their smells.

            1. Observer*

              Well, that’s really part of the question – how far are they expecting people to go. Asking for no perfume – totally reasonable. Telling people that they cannot use ANY scented products? That goes a lot further and really is a big ask.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I agree that it’s a big ask, but I also think it could be tempered in the framing so that it doesn’t seem as coercive or invasive. Or as lawyer suggests upthread, it may make sense to do interviews at a different site and give candidates a head’s up about the scent-free office policy for employees so that they know that if they’re successful they’ll have to make a fairly significant accommodation.

        2. Observer*

          In neither case that you mention were the CANDIDATES expected to make significant changes *as candidates*, though. You give the candidate a bunny suit to wear, you don’t expect them to buy one; and the guys were told they’d have to shave if they took the job, not that they had to shave to get an interview.

          Expecting a candidate to not wear perfume is one thing. Expecting them to change all of the hygiene, personal care and laundry products for an interview IS actually an extreme case. At least as extreme as expecting someone to buy clothes or to shave.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Yet PCBH agave an example where candidates were expected to shave their beard.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, and that’s totally an outlier. Also, if you noticed, they got sued.

              In general, I don’t think that Disney’s HR practices are a good benchmark for anything.

          2. OP1 Here*

            I agree, Observer, that’s a big ask–and that’s not at all what I’m angling towards. I’m asking that candidates refrain from wearing scented products such as perfume and body lotion. People don’t “wear” shampoo, conditioner or detergent. They do, however, wear intentionally scented items like the ones listed above. That’s what we’re going for–don’t add anything that adds a scent. And if they can’t abstain from wearing perfume, cologne or body lotion for the duration of an interview, they may not have the type of attitude we find attractive in a candidate.

            1. Observer*

              Then you need to change your language. What you propose can be read far more broadly. Something like “please refrain from wearing products like perfume or scented lotions” is far clearer, and also far more likely to get cooperation.

              And, at that point, I’d agree that if someone is unwilling to cooperate, that could be a good filter.

      2. Chaotic Neutral*

        My husband’s job you literally aren’t allowed on the site without appropriate footwear and certain safety gear- that’s a uniform of sorts, and it’s a requirement no matter if you’re an employee, potential hire, client, or just a visitor.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s why most sites with PPE have visitors gear available. You suggest in your pre-interview setup to bring your steel toed boots, hardhat and eye protection or you get the stuff in the supply closet, which may be clunky or tight depending on your options!

          1. Mike C.*

            Not to mention the fact that such sites and workplaces go out of their way to make sure everyone knows what is expected.

          2. LJay*

            And, if you’re interviewing for a job in that type of environment, the successful candidate most likely is going to know that protective equipment etc is expected because it’s industry-wide.

            Whether they’re interviewing at this warehouse or that warehouse, they’re going to need to have appropriate shoes, a safety vest, safety glasses, etc. So even if they did have to buy them for the first interview it wouldn’t be buying them for that job specifically, it would be buying them for employment in that field.

            In the OPs case, it’s not likely to be an industry-wide thing that all offices are scent-free.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            It has an overlap. Flat shoes or block heels may be required for safety yet they are not considered PPE.

      3. charo*

        But you can ask ALL to wear a hard hat in a construction area. That’s like a uniform.

    4. Free Meerkats*

      When we interview treatment plant operators, the information about the interview notes that they will get a treatment plant tour and to dress appropriately. If someone showed up in high heels (hasn’t happened yet that I know of), their chances of passing the interview would be much lower.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah, I was going to say this as well.

        I work with aircraft parts. If someone shows up in open toed shoes or stiletto heels for the interview in a warehouse, it tells me something about their fit for the position.

        It wouldn’t be an instant disqualifier, but it would certainly be something I asked about during the interview, and unless they had a really good answer it would probably wind up being a dealbreaker; all things considered if I had two completely equal candidates I’m going with the one who showed more adherence to industry norms and common sense.

    5. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. I’ve actually been (as a patient) to a doctor’s office where the appointment confirmation requested that we refrained from perfumes for the comfort and safety of other clients. It didn’t strike me as an unreasonable request, as long as it’s made with ample time.

      1. Observer*

        Were you asked to refrain from perfume or from “any scented products”.

        This is a significant difference.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I think the OP may need to think about whether just banning perfume and cologne will cover this situation (since that seems to have been the source of the problem) or whether she wants to go into the minefield of other scented products.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          When I visited an allergist, I was instructed to avoid any scented products, but it didn’t say anything about my laundry detergent, at least not that I remember. I believe it specifically mentioned lotion.

          1. charo*

            The thing is, you pile on a variety of scents from shampoo to soap to conditioner to deoderant, etc. It’s not just cologne.

  5. Gaia*

    OP 3, I just want to support what Alison said here: if your company will not excuse you, you are well within ethics to have an unavoidable conflict on that day. Having had a close friend survive a workplace shooting, I am firmly of the stance that while training is important nothing, and I mean n.o.t.h.i.n.g. should supersede the self care of people who experience these horrors in real life. I think there is also a strong case to be made that many of these have taken a very graphic turn which can be detrimental to anyone who has experienced any real life violence. It is really terrible that, in an effort to train for safety, we could actually be doing real harm to people’s mental health.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I think it’s reasonable to skip the full training part except for the stuff on how to alert others and also the evacuation routes. Those two things have the potential to change yearly so should be reviewed.
      Could you ask for a modification as an accommodation?

        1. valentine*

          OP3: In case they want you to give a talk or Q&A, be prepared to say you can’t share your experience.

        2. Angelinha*

          If they say they are required to show that everyone participated or got the training or whatever, suggesting that you review some handouts and sign off on those instead would be a good modification!

          1. ClashRunner*

            That’s what I do. It’s not a big deal for anyone involved, and as I pointed out to my manager, that means I have the procedure on a document right there if I ever need to refer to it (again).

      1. JLB*

        I agree about talking to manager/HR about an exemption but skipping may not be an option. At my company this is MANDATORY training. If you miss one the main day, there are others. And then HR badgers (as is their job) about attending a different session. The training we get is VERY emotional (and very good). As a small child, I was traveling with my family in the middle east when our plane was boarded and held for awhile with gun-wielding soldiers. I thought I only remembered that more as an “interesting fact” than a trauma, but the training brought back memories and feelings I didn’t even realize I had!

        1. Red 5*

          At my office our training is mandatory too, and they offer second and third sessions. And for good reason, I work in a location where it’s particularly important.

          I still 100% believe that if any of our employees was the survivor of an violent event like this and asked to be excused, there is not one person there who would say no. Everyone from the CEO down would agree to it without hesitation. Especially considering how recent the trauma was.

          So if by some chance OP’s manager or HR or whoever they approach is that heartless, then honestly I’d say keep taking it up the chain as far as you have to. But yes, conveniently having another appointment does become harder when there’s three dates to have to bow out of. I still think there’d be a way to make it work though, and honestly I just hope the OP understands that there’s nothing wrong with putting his/her foot down and saying “you know what, no, I’m just not going to do this. However we make sure I don’t do this is fine, but I’m not going to.”

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        The evacuation routes and “notify others” should be pretty similar across emergencies, though. I’ve been in charge of Emergency Action Plans, and the one for fire, active shooter, tornado, lightning, earthquake, etc., are all near identical. Use the closest safe exit/entrance to get outside/inside the building as fast as possible, notifying others and locking/securing sensitive areas behind you as much as is practical and safe.

      3. Mockingbird 2*

        Yeah I would do this. I would think it’s something that could be covered by the ADA? (I could not fully participate in one of the trainings where someone pretends to shoot others, because I’m not supposed to run. Obviously I would do it in an emergency but I’m not doing it for “practice” and risking serious injury. I actually know someone who got hurt at one of these trainings! I don’t think mental health should be treated any differently.)

      4. Red 5*

        If the evacuation routes or methods have changed in a year (which is feasible, but not really likely) then it’s really simple to convey that information outside of a training session.

        The building I work in does have some changes to the evacuation routes because of changes in security (it’s a very large, very secured building with different access to different areas). We do hold regular trainings for emergencies, but in general they just convey the information through email and posts on our internal sites.

        But for most buildings, the egress is baked into the actual design of the building itself. So any changes would be even more minimal that what I deal with I’d imagine, so even easier to just explain.

        I mean technically, not going to the training and having someone just email them any changes to the procedures IS an accomodation, and a super reasonable one.

    2. Cactus*

      I agree on skipping it. Work from home that day if you can, or say you have some type of appointment. I lost family in a natural disaster a few years ago, and I will skip the required drills for this type of disaster.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I think a lot of employers don’t realize how traumatizing these role-playing trainings can be. At my workplace, instead we watched a professionally made video as a group–which was plenty hard enough–with an email summary sent to us all afterward. Those who wanted to engage in an additional role play opted in for that individually.

      You already went through the training last year, and could read any updated communication protocols that may have been added. I am deeply sorry you had to go through this in real life.

      1. Sharrbe*

        I work in a fairly high profile building and we’ve had a couple of presentations about active shooters given to us by local police. Circumstances didn’t allow it that day, but one time the police had planned to run through a drill where they fired blanks in various parts of the buildings so that we’d know what shots would sound like. I would have flat out left if they did that. I mean, I want to be as prepared as I can be, but, seriously, is this where we’ve gotten to today? The fact that I’ve spent time planning where I would hide, where locked closets and rooms are and could I get to them in time if a shooter was in this area, that area, etc. is enough for me. These are insane times.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          No different then the air-raid drills in the 50’s. Drills have been present for decades, and each of their causes has potential to be just as deadly as a shooter (Tornado, earthquake, fire, etc.). Yes those are not necessarily man-made, but the effects can be just as devastating.

          1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

            There is a difference–most of the people going through air-raid drills in the 1950s weren’t survivors of a recent air raid.

            As far as I know, earthquake drills don’t try to shake the building they’re happening in, and fire drills sound alarms but don’t fill the hallways with simulated smoke. Most office building fire drills don’t involve leaving the building; there’s a large gap between “we’re going to make this feel a lot like a real fire” and “there will be a fire drill this afternoon. When you hear the alarms, put down your work and assemble at stairway B so someone can explain the fire safety procedures.”

            1. Goya de la Mancha*

              I realize that, just pointing out that drills are not a sign of the times. Drills, like insurance, are something you have and hope you never actually need.

          2. Mike C.*

            The air raid siren isn’t the sound of the actual thing causing harm. The gunshot is.

            Maybe folks can quit cosplaying and scaring the crap out of people and find more effective ways to show people where the exits are.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            I think it’s much different than the air raid drills. How many people in the US were actually killed in air raids? How many have been killed by shooters?

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            When I was a child, I had to participate in active shooter drills in school because drive-by shootings were increasingly common in my hometown . I also participated in earthquake and fire drills, and I’m used to hearing weekly air-siren tests.

            I have seen and heard people shot. An active shooter drill is categorically different, for me, than a drill for a natural disaster or an emergency warning system siren/alert. I don’t experience the level of triggering that OP describes, anymore, but I think there are ways to train people for active shooters that don’t require drilling through re-creation or simulation.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Honestly, I can see needing to demonstrate the sound of gunshots! A good number of suburban/urbanites don’t actually know what guns sound like, and can’t tell the difference between a gunshot and a firecracker. It comes up in my neighborhood fairly often, and based on social media posts, it’s a 50-50 tossup as to whether someone identifies it correctly.

          1. Red 5*

            That is a valid point.

            I don’t want to take away from the fact that if you don’t want to hear that in your office building for ANY reason, even if it’s just “I don’t want to” that’s okay. You shouldn’t have to, that is absolutely true.

            But my area had a massive problem a few years back with people incorrectly reporting gunshots to police/on social media because we had one single incident where a weapon was fired and suddenly people were hearing shots every night (only a slight exaggeration, it was probably every other night for a month). Not a single one of the subsequent reports actually turned out to be a gunshot.

            It really is a sound that most people don’t have a concept of because what you’ve probably heard is in movies/through pop culture and those sounds aren’t correct or realistic. I can see where the trainers were coming from.

            But again, I also agree that nobody should have to be in the building while this is happening if they don’t want to.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree on skipping the event. That said, both times I’ve had to participate in active shooter training, the training facilitators announced in advance that people who may experience medical distress (e.g., PTSD, a heart condition from the stress, etc.) were excused and did not have to attend that day.

      Given OP’s prior experience, this sounds like it may also be an ADA accommodation situation, where OP makes clear that participation would trigger their disability and unnecessarily put OP at risk.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        We also did that at a previous job – and there was no ‘proof’ required of what distress you may experience. I’d say about 70% of the office showed up.

        To be honest, the video that we watched was enough. I’m pretty comfortable with guns themselves, but then having an active shooter role play was…..just too much. *Especially* since they allowed an employee to be the ‘shooter’ instead of a police officer, and my crazy boss volunteered, and was just a bit too gleeful in how many people she ‘shot’. Then once we got back to our office section, she got very dismissively condescending that we (the entire office) were a little concerned that there was one door in and out. I was county health department condemning houses. There was a real actual threat that someone would get pissed off that I condemned their home (especially with the number of meth cases in the area).

        Very happy to no longer be in that job.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OMG, that’s so disturbing—I would be really upset.

          When I worked for the feds, we had a simulation/training in the federal building. They hired students from the nearby college’s criminology program to play the shooter and victims (we were a public building, so it’s normal to see bystanders). Those students had extensive counseling and training ahead of time, and were allowed to drop if, during pre-runs, they realized they were too triggered. Each office in the building was given a briefing with best practices a week before the drill, had time to prepare and implement a safety plan, and then were subjected to the drill at a known time on a known day, and had an immediate debrief with a psychologist available for anyone who had had an unexpected but harmful reaction.

    5. NW Mossy*

      My company introduced similar training last year as a response to a national-news incident that took place at a building we rent space in, and here are some things we did with our training:

      * Made it clear from the outset that it was entirely voluntary. Employees could opt out for any reason or no reason at all, no questions asked.
      * Leaders got a preview of the training so that we were familiar with its content and could answer questions employees might have about specific triggers
      * Employees were encouraged to watch the training video in groups rather than alone at their desks
      * Immediately after the group viewings, we held Q&A sessions open to anyone, whether they’d watched the video or not – this was a good option for those who wanted some exposure to the content but weren’t comfortable with potential triggers in the video
      * HR asked afterwards for employees to indicate through our normal training portal whether or not they’d attended, but responding to that was also voluntary

      It’s hard to know if it’s better not to do these trainings and avoid the harm they can cause to employees that have already been through traumatic experiences or do them in the hopes that people are better prepared if the worst were to happen. They’re both terrible, and I hate that we’re in a historical moment where this is the choice we have to make.

    6. Mayati*

      Not only that, but OP has a legitimate medical reason not to be there. Mental health is a legitimate medical issue. If OP knows this event is likely to be triggering, that’s the same as bowing out of a teambuilding event with a ropes course if you have arthritis and can’t grip ropes.

      Just wanted to make it clear to OP3 and other trauma survivors — using a sick day to avoid an event that will trigger you isn’t faking sick, it’s using your leave for its intended purpose. And just like with a physical illness, a good employer generally won’t ask for documentation, and even a mediocre employer won’t ask you to prove that you’re “really sick enough” if you have a basic doctor’s note.

    7. Peter the Bubblehead*

      If OP3’s job is like mine, and is associated in any way with the government (either directly or by contract) then training like Active Shooter is 100% required by 100% of employees or the company (or agency) can be fined and (if a contractor) lose the contract. My company is required to complete this training on an annual basis, and there is no excuse to avoid or not complete it.

      Likewise, ‘Active Shooter’ training does not consist of someone playing a shooter walking through the office and pretending to kill people. It consists of procedures to recognize potential violence prior to it happening so it can be reported and prevented or – in extreme cases – the actions required of all employees to protect themselves and others should the unfortunate situation of workplace violence occur at their place of work. Taking this training can save your own life and the lives of your co-workers.

      I sympathize with the OP for the trauma she has undergone in the past (though I wonder if she and her co-workers underwent such training prior to the 2017 incident, which may have mitigated some of what happened) but am confused as to how training for such a possibility can be triggering and recommend such training NOT be avoided!

      1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

        That sounds more useful and less traumatizing than what many workplaces have. (As you’ve probably noticed from the comments describing training that absolutely does consist of someone playing a shooter.) But it could still be triggering for someone who has actually been through an active shooter incident.

      2. Margo Win*

        Active shooter training can absolutely involve an active shooter simulation. In my field – public k12 eduction in the US – this is happening more and more. In fact I just had to have the opt-out conversation with my boss as I have PTSD and my school is moving to ALICE training, which often uses an active shooter role play. At another school in my county this included teachers hitting the “shooter” with baseball bats they now have to keep in their room. Other schools across the country have made the news when their teachers were shot with air-soft pellets during ALICE training.

        Yes, I want to know how to secure doors and rooms, proper evacuation routes, procedures for quickly accounting for students, and keeping communication channels open. But that is not the reality of the training in my workplace. I know it may be true for some places, but it is not universal.

        Luckily my boss is sympathetic and will allow me to skip as much of the training as I need to. OP, I hope you are met with similar understanding and compassion. But either way, take the sick day for what is clearly a medical accommodation, whether our jobs want to acknowledge that or not.

    8. TaylorSaysSo*

      Taking the day of the drill (or the morning or afternoon) off isn’t unreasonable. I would probably avoid asking, as getting a “no” in response would either mean you are going to have to go through triggering events again or be in defiance of clarifying instructions to participate. This is especially true if you have previously participated and management has no knowledge of adverse circumstances resulting thereof.

      It is reasonable to assume that in the day or hours leading up to the drill one would have anxiety or other symptoms of the stress. These are grounds to use sick leave or other personal leave, and ones you could discuss with your therapist or physician in advance. Depending on the state, you may have to disclose your reason for taking leave, but the most that the employer can require is documentation from a medical professional (which you will have initiated by bringing it up in advance with your therapist). In some states (yay, California) the employer cannot even inquire about the cause of your sick leave in most cases.

      If your employer continues to insist that you “missed vital training,” they should provide you with a written curriculum to review in its place, and also provide sufficient time to review the materials with your therapist or other support networks. This is a reasonable accommodation, that they would be required to make if they required the training as terms of your employment.

  6. Zombeyonce*

    OP5: It sounds like you want not only quiet but that getting off your feet is really important. I recommend spending a little bit of money if you are able and buying some earbuds to listen to your own music or just a white noise app, and something collapsible to sit on outside.

    Your storage matters for the latter so if you don’t have room for a $10 camp chair somewhere close by, you can buy a small tripod camp stool that would fit in most lockers/tote bags/corner of the break room to use outside.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      I was wondering if either white noise or OP’s favorite music on headphones would help. That way, OP could sit and use something they find relaxing to drown out phone coworker.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        I was thinking just plain headphones to drown out the sound and make a visual statement that you prefer not to listen to whatever else is going on in the break room.

    2. Pommette!*

      Good earphones and loud white noise or loud and good music may be the OP’s best hope here.

      I like the collapsible seat idea a lot. That said, depending on how the OP’s workplace is set up, it may be necessary to cover all evidence of a uniform if s/he wants to have any peace while outside. In my experience, customers will find you and ask you questions even if you are obviously not currently working. Which is fine if you have a longer break and can redirect them to someone who can help, but definitely too much of an interruption when you only get ten minutes.

    3. Leela*

      Used to be retail here:

      In my experience, outside (unless they have somewhere out back where no one would see them but in my experience these areas tend to be kinda seedy) isn’t a great option for retail employees because customers always, always think that they should have access to you. When you’re clearly on a break they’ll come up and ask you about specials or to do something for them, ask you to watch their child outside, etc, and throw an enormous tantrum to management if you tell them you’re on a break and management won’t back you at all. At a previous job we had someone take a break outside and she was nearly fired for telling a customer she was on a break when she (outside, with sunglasses and headphones on, sitting on a bench) was asked questions by a customer who saw that there was a line in the store with only me and didn’t want to wait until I was free.

      1. valentine*

        customers always, always think that they should have access to you.
        This is only a problem when management agrees and forces you to miss your break.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Or when the customer complains to management that you were rude or unhelpful, so you get in trouble for that. And, frankly, even if you have great management that backs you up, it’s still a problem to have your one short break taken over by someone haranguing you to get up and help them — especially since the OP’s problem in the first place is that she can’t get a restful break.

  7. Sami*

    OP #1– Please do make sure job candidates don’t wear scented products. One of my doctors has a terrible allergy to scents and I know his employees don’t wear fragrant products and when I make an appointment and/or get a reminder they make sure to note that.

  8. German Girl*

    #5 While she’s absolutely entitled to use the break room for her phone calls, I think it wouldn’t hurt to ask if she’d be willing to take the calls outside on days when the whether is nice enough to do so.

    Hey Jane, I’d really appreciate having some quiet time during my break. Would you mind taking your phonecalls outside when the weather permits it?
    And then accept whatever she says and learn to live with it.
    If I were Jane, I’d assume you’re fine with my phone calls unless you speak up about them and I’d accommodate your need for quiet time as long as it’s easy for me to do.

    That said, could you take your break at a different time than Jane?

    1. sacados*

      Yeah, I think the OP would be within rights to make one gentle request, with a caveat like “of course I know you’re entitled to use the break room too, but if you wouldn’t mind…” kind of thing.
      But at that point, if the coworker refuses/ignores the request, there’s not much more to be done.

      OP5 — you definitely don’t deserve to be piled on! It may be true that this is something you have to just learn to deal with, but being annoyed by the phone calls is still completely understandable!

    2. Auntie Social*

      You could also ask if she could text instead, for some of those calls. The break room is for everyone, including those who need quiet. When I worked for a pediatric dentist we’d all be quiet in the break room, in deference to the receptionist who went thru hell each morning.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This has to be something that’s universality accepted though.

        Many people don’t text. If you have 10 minutes a day to get to check up on your sick mom or check on your kids/spouse/bffs, it’s to be spent as you see fit within the one breakroom that’s given to everyone to use.

        I’m kind of ticked everyone wants to suggest Chatty Coworker leave when the OP says it’s the only space that’s not completely out of the way and a waste of precious break time to get to.

      2. Laura H.*

        I rarely make calls when I’m at work (on break or waiting for go in) for 2 reasons 1. Break rooms aren’t soundproof and it could bother others, and 2. I don’t know how long the phone call will take (not usually personal when I have to make them- personal scheduling, but not personal personal.)

        Definitely agree that broaching it gently (and as close to un-annoyed as possible) is a viable option that would keep the civility between you and your new coworker.

      3. TootsNYC*

        If what she wants is contact with people who know her and love her (as opposed to customers who demand stuff), a text may not give her the emotional lift she gets from a phone call.

        I like the idea of asking a manager to stagger these two people’s breaks. Sure, other workers may also talk on the phone, but I think our OP is at jerk-eating-crackers stage with this situation, and that OP would be OK w/ other people having conversations.

    3. Retail*

      OP and Jane most likely do not control when their breaks are if they’re on register or whatever.

      I controlled my breaks on stocking or tag hanging shifts but everything else required relief and permission. (This hit crazy levels one summer and i was getting about 2.5 hours of OT a week not getting lunches – overworked but man nice money)

      I’d wear headphones!

      Also going outside can leave you exposed to customers (!!!!!!!!) and/or your smoking coworkers!

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #2 One of the women in my Sunday School class just lost a lot of weight and is in the “in between”.

    Her solution was to safety pin the back of her dresses (like they do in the stores). Then she puts a jacket or cardigan over it. Of course she can’t take of the cardi but she’s OK with that.

    I’d also suggest a teeny tiny capsule wardrobe of just a couple of pants and maybe four tops. Then go crazy with accessories making the outfits look different. If you keep the pants and tops as solids no one will notice.
    2 pants x 4 tops = 8 outfits. Plus accessories.

    1. in a fog*

      I was going to go for the pins/belts angle as well. It seems like cinching baggier clothes is back on trend these days!

    2. Confused*

      I lost 100 lb over the last few years and totally sympathize with OP2.
      I like the safety pin + cardigan solution. You could also try shift dresses/tunics and belt them. I found I could get away with wearing dresses, skirts, and tops that might be a little too big. I also tried using a belt to keep pants in place but if they were more than one size larger, they looked weird, esp in the hip/butt/crotch area. Weird and sloppy.
      I found I just needed to accept I was going to have clothes of varying sizes in my closet. It’s just a part of the weight loss process.
      I’m a fan of the clearance section, store of your choosing.
      Good luck!

      1. Jay*

        Tops that are too big are fine as long as you don’t have to bend over. Seriously. I’m a doctor and had weight loss surgery about 18 months ago. At one point I leaned over a patient to do an exam and looked down and realized my too-large blouse was hanging way too loosely. I invested in a lot of camis and got to know ThredUp really well.

      2. OP2*

        Thanks for the suggestions! I already kind of do the capsule wardrobe thing for my work clothes, so I think a really small temp capsule wardrobe would be doable. Luckily most of my dresses still look fine, they are far more forgiving than the pants I currently have. I’m a pretty good bargain hunter so I will probably try to snag an inexpensive pair or two of pants to get me through the immediate future.

        1. Anonysand*

          If you can (and aren’t already doing so), I would look for some pants that have some sort of stretch to the material. I lost about 30 pounds in the last few years and on my petite frame, it was a big enough difference that almost none of my clothes fit at once point. Like you, I didn’t want to invest in a bunch of new clothes since I didn’t know if I would keep losing or gain it all back. I’ve since leveled out in the middle and gained some back, but during the weight loss period when my clothes were getting wonky I found a few pairs of clearance/sale black pants for work that had some decent stretch and managed to fit when I was fluctuating between two sizes. They were a total lifesaver and since they were on sale, it didn’t break the bank.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Seconding the thrift/consignment store angle! Especially if you can find a Goodwill or similar that’s nearish a wealthy neighborhood, you should be able to get great work clothes for cheap and can always donate them back when you can’t wear them again.

          I regularly toodle out to the wealthy suburbs outside my city and hit up all the thrift stores.

        3. fposte*

          In case you want them for dresses, OP, look up “dress clips.” It’ll depend on the kind of dresses you wear, but they’re great to Elaine Benes up an oversized dress.

  10. OG Karyn*

    Only problem with taking breaks outside is that if customers can tell that you work in the store (uniform, etc.), they can bother you while you’re on your break – and from experience, I know it’s not easy to push back because you’re worried you’ll piss them off. I recommend getting some headphones and using the 10 minutes to listen to ambient noise!

  11. Talia*

    3. I really, really wish more workplaces would consider the impact of active shooter training on employees. I found our drill incredibly triggering and my PTSD comes from domestic violence– something which, statistically, I cannot possibly be the only person in a workplace of that size who has experienced. There needs to be some obvious way for employees to remove themselves from such things on mental health grounds– yes, the training is important, but it’s *probably* not worth traumatizing your employees over.

    1. Chaotic Neutral*

      And yet we ask small children across the country to do it. Have you ever done active shooter training in an elementary school? I have. It’s horrible. Nobody should have to do it at all.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Yes, as a teacher, I have had post 911 training, fire drills, bomb drills, chemical attack drills, active shooter (training ) and drills all with classes of elementary children in my care and as a ptsd survivor. Find out where you are supposed to be. Request that you are not responsible for others and take the day somewhere else.

      2. Sharrbe*

        Ugh. I mean if its hard for adults, what must children think? “Hey kids, we’re going to stop our art project and have you huddle in the back of the classroom in the dark as practice for not getting gunned down.” I mean I know its probably presented to them in a less scary way, but the fears it must in kids’ minds regardless is really disturbing.

        1. Kira*

          FWIW, I don’t remember it being presented in at all a scary way when I was in school (~10 years ago). Of course there were fewer attacks and fewer talks about attacks so it all seemed very abstract, but it just seemed like an annoying drill that we had to do like we do fire drills or whatever.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          There have been a number of articles recently saying that the lockdown drills themselves are causing trauma and PTSD in children, such that during drills kids are writing goodbye letters to their families and writing their names on themselves in Crayola marker so the police can identify their bodies.

      3. Dragoning*

        I’ve seen the suggestion floated that we’ve normalized this so much at this point and traumatized so many kids we might just…be causing some of the violence with this role play nonsense.

        It’s not like the role playing is actually going to save anyone. Our tactics when faced with a shooter at this point are “take as long to die as possible so they can kill fewer people.”

        1. fposte*

          To be cold, though, that does save people.

          I think there are problems with the trainings, but it’s pretty inarguable that people respond better in situations they’ve actively practiced for. I’m just not sure if this is enough practice to be worthwhile and if the collateral damage is higher than credited.

            1. fposte*

              They were in mine, actually, especially on the “fight” part of “run, hide, fight.” But that may just be a reflection of an education mindset.

          1. Mike C.*

            Is there data out there showing that these training exercises are actually effective? They feel like garbage some consultant came up with to make more money.

            1. Myrin*

              I’d be really interested in that! I’m from a place where drills like that don’t exist (I mean, fire drills exist but AFAIK only in schools, and even there they might as well just have told everyone where the exits are; on the other hand, we did have a real small fire once and everyone was very chill because we thought it was just another drill so it might have helped, even if differently than intended?) and I’d really like to know if there’s any data on whether people from here reacted “worse” to a shooting incident than people from places where these drills are the norm.

            2. LJay*

              I wonder about that myself.

              Especially because when I was in high school (shortly after Columbine) the drills they had us do seemed to be aimed at a completely different situation than the one that usually presents itself.

              They all seemed to be aimed at preventing a complete outsider from entering the school and finding and shooting people.

              Nothing about what to do if a current student (especially a current student who will have gone through the same training and will know exactly what you plan to do/where to hide) is the one doing the shooting.

              1. fposte*

                Right. It’s an information arms race, and some of the people on your team may be your opponents.

            3. Elaine*

              I don’t know if there is data or if there is whether it is helpful. But we practiced fire drills extensively at school. And then there actually was a fire, by which I mean a major fire that burned the school down completely – not just a wastebasket fire. They didn’t even use the fire alarm for fear of scaring the kids (middle school age), and kids not on the floor where the fire started weren’t even told what was happening. They were just led outside.

              So I’d have to see some evidence that drills more elaborate than just taking very basic actions are actually helpful before I’d be convinced.

            4. Red 5*

              I don’t know if there’s information about these specific training exercises but at least the guy who ran ours was up front about the fact that his rationale and how he structured the class was because he was a firefighter and there’s years of data and experience showing how training for emergencies is done effectively for what they do and why. There was a lot of “in emergencies, the body does X and Y and this chemical is produced by the brain which does this thing…” And then he would talk about how even people who aren’t going through firefighting training can think through and mitigate those fear reactions.

              So on that front, I think the training we had was effective and useful. The trick is can you actually correlate data from say, fire safety drills in elementary schools to active shooter drills in high schools? I don’t know, but I do think that’s the bulk of the data they’re running on. “It’s good to be prepared and drill in this situation so it must be good for this one too.”

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I mean they did atomic bomb drills with kids back in the day.

        Kids see the news too, they’re already traumatized before the drills get started in many cases because you see media coverage of bloody kids running for safety. I had a former classmate splashed across all the newspapers way back when with blood on them from our local mass shooting. It’s not just the drills that damage us.

        1. fposte*

          And not a single kid in the U.S. died from an atomic bomb at school, so those drills worked!

          1. the Viking Diva*

            They didn’t call them atomic bomb drills, either. ‘Civil defense’ – as kids we really had no clue what that meant. In fact it was so abstract it required routine discussion to distinguish fire drills from tornado drills and civil defense drills – is this the kind of drill where we go outside or is this the kind where we get under your desk?

            1. fposte*

              My parents did explain to me what the yellow “radiation shelter” signs meant, and they scared the crap out of me.

            2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              When I was a kid in the 90s, they were still in our school’s emergency plan, labeled as tornado drills. (Thanks, bureaucracy!) I spent a good portion of third and fourth grade trying to argue that a tornado drill next to the floor to ceiling gymnasium windows made absolutely zero sense because the windows would shatter on us in an extreme weather event, and that we should have all instead crammed into the basement or windowless hallways

    2. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      Agreed. So far, my workplace hasn’t gone beyond siting in a room and discussing what to do. (We don’t have an evacuation plan because of the risk of someone using that against us. We’re just supposed to get out however we can, hide if we can’t, attack them if that fails. The usual run, hide, fight thing.) But I have severe anxiety and am not sure I could deal with active shooter training that involved acting out an incident.

      Do we even have any statistics on whether active shooter training makes any difference in an actual incident? It seems like such a vastly different sort of danger than fires and other things one practices for that I have some doubts.

      1. Amandin*

        I think it’s a uniquely dangerous training to have, because often active shooters are people who are currently students/employees or left very recently. So any training they witnessed just helps them make a better plan of attack.

        I’m also biased because I work in special ed. My kids aren’t physically or mentally able to “run, hide, fight”. We technically have a safety plan, but every adult in the room knows that the REAL plan is “put your body in the way of the bullets. Hope it’s not fatal. Hope your own children survive, but protect these vulnerable babies at all costs.”

        1. Someone On-Line*

          This comment made me cry this morning. Thank you for protecting the children, but I’m so sorry you have to.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        There is a This American Life episode, Before the Next One, that talks about active shooter training in schools and cites research from a small sample size. There isn’t a ton of research so the episode didn’t really have a big definitive takeaway, but I think it suggested that training didn’t help much. And that simulations of active shooter drills were traumatizing to participants.

        1. pleaset*


          I’m thinking about how to get my kid out of active shooter drills if they hold one at his school.

      3. Red 5*

        I also have anxiety and would definitely bow out of an actual drill or role-play, but I also know my boss would be okay with it and not try to force me.

        As for if we have any statistics, I don’t think we do for a lot of reasons, but This American Life did an episode about the fact that the teachers and students in Parkland had actually really recently gone through trainings and drills. It’s episode 659: Before the Next One if you want to look it up. The takeaway of the story is kind of complicated and hard to sum up.

    3. Bulldog*

      I understand your point. But, the flip side of that is that in today’ climate, employers would be facing huge liability issues if they failed to provide such training. Imagine the worst happening and several casualties result. If the company hasn’t offered training in how to react, escape routes, etc., they would definitely be opening themselves up to massive amounts of litigation.

      1. pleaset*

        “in today’ climate, employers would be facing huge liability issues if they failed to provide such training. ”

        Can you point to evidence/examples of this?

        1. Bulldog*

          I don’t think it is at all a stretch to think that if a shooting happens in a workplace, especially one with multiple casualties, and it can be shown that the company had an opportunity to train its employees on how best to handle the situation but failed to do so; a huge liability problem exists. Any halfway decent lawyer should be able to make that argument. It is really no different than hotels posting fire escape routes on the back of room doors or theaters pointing out the exits before a movie.

          1. pleaset*

            So you’re speculating. Reasonable perhaps, but speculation. Got it.

            “It is really no different than hotels posting fire escape routes on the back of room doors or theaters pointing out the exits before a movie.”

            I’m pretty sure that in most places, including the US and Europe, fire escapes, emergency signage, etc are mandated by building codes. So actually it is different.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            It is really no different than hotels posting fire escape routes on the back of room doors or theaters pointing out the exits before a movie.

            It’s very different. Posting an escape route on the back of a door is nothing like exposing people to a mock scenario.

          3. Nerdy Library Clerk*

            Role playing an active shooter drill is vastly different from posting fire escape routes or pointing out exits. It’s not even in the same ballpark as a fire or earthquake drill. (Or even an air raid drill from back in the day – I’m pretty sure they didn’t play airplane dive bombing sounds on loud speakers during those, or otherwise try to simulate the event.)

            Do you think a workplace would have no liability if someone had a heart attack during a role played training? Not to mention that the training is a two edged sword to begin with, since one big source of active shooters is the staff of whatever workplace is doing the training. (Hell – and this is probably just my anxiety talking – I wonder how long it will be before someone decides to do an active shooting during a drill. Sure, that would be risky, but it would also be exactly the kind of horrifying chaos that the people who decide to mass murder seem to like.)

            Given that a lot of workplaces opt not to make plans more specific than run, hide, fight because a shooter could use the plan against them, I’m not sure how much help practicing would even be. Every exit, every hiding place is practice both for the people trying to live and any potential shooter among them.

            There has got to be a better solution to the nightmare world we currently live in.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          Pleaset is right to be skeptical — the U.S. is not nearly as litigious as we’ve been portrayed (by big companies with incentives to make us think they’re all being unfairly sued by unreasonable people all the time). No one is going to sue their employer for not imposing active shooter drills. Most of us probably figure they’re about the same (in terms of escape) as fire drills: as long as you know where the exits are, what more do you really need to be told? Hide when it seems sensible, run if it seems possible, fight back if there’s nothing else you can do. It’s not complicated. And it doesn’t change from employer to employer.

          1. Bulldog*

            Maybe I am jaded from my years spent in insurance, but I assure you that the US is a very litigious country. I personally handled several claims where employees were attacked either by coworkers or strangers off the street, and the employer was sued for failure to provide a safe workplace. This was long before workplace violence and mass shootings became a hot topic. Attorneys loved to point out if there was simple training that could have reduced the severity of the attack. I think everyone can agree that employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace. I guess the question is what lengths should they go to in order to do that. At current workplace, it basically involves watching a short video that most people probably forget five minutes later. Ultimately, I guess, the courts will decide.

            1. fposte*

              I would agree that employers should provide a workplace free from “serious recognized hazards,” in OSHA terms, but I wouldn’t agree that a workplace is obliged to make sure everybody there is safe from everything.

              It also sounds like you’ve got some confirmation bias going. Most countries have weird lawsuits, and per capita there are several countries more litigious than the U.S.

              1. Bulldog*

                You are probably right. Seeing weird cases on a daily basis for several years no doubt skews one’s perspective. I still say it is only a matter of time before an attorney makes the argument. Families have already sued venues where shootings have happened. Employers would seem the next logical step.

                1. fposte*

                  I certainly don’t think it’s impossible that it would happen, and I know companies run in fear of litigation (it’s funny how people talk more about the prevalence of litigation in the U.S. than the prevalence of lawsuit fear, which I think is more significant) and might enact policies as a result. I just hope they consider if they’re hurting themselves, via their employees, more than they might be helping.

          2. Batgirl*

            Hmm, I wouldnt describe my school’s drills as common sense/do what comes naturally. It has changed how our boys would react. Without the lockdown drill, they would run out into the open where they’d be visible or they’d run to a central part of the school looking for authority figures or news. They’d go looking for friends or try to go home. With the drill they know NOT to flee or run; but to stay put, lock all doors, block doors with furniture and to hide underneath furniture. They know that staff have a plan and that we know the all clear code and that we will cover up all windows so shooters can’t see which rooms are occupied. They even understand the unspoken detail that we are prepared to protect them.

            I don’t say this is necessarily a good idea because shooters are very often former students and a big part of ‘act against instinct’ strategies involve subverting the shooters expectations to mess with their plan and slow them down until police arrive. It also affects the boys.

            But I can’t say it doesn’t give us any instructions on ways to stay safer other than general common sense or instinct. For one thing we’d have nothing to cover up the windows with if there were no drills or forward planning.

            1. fposte*

              I think you’re making a compelling argument but there’s a missing piece here, which is how much people have been able to put that training into action in a real situation. (Then also, as you suggest, ways in which such trainings have empowered shooters need to be considered.)

              And to get more granular, is there an optimal interval/frequency for training? If it’s more often than once a year (and I bet it is), what will get let go to make room? What positive/negative consequences have there been to student and staff morale and productivity from the trainings?

              1. Batgirl*

                It’s once a year for 15 minutes, we do a lot more firedrills than that; half a dozen. I wouldnt say they miss anything other than their second or third registration. The discernable impact is kind of impossible to measure. For my part, I’ve noticed markedly better behaviour and more ‘solidarity’ from certain students (I guess they think it’s only fair if I’ll protect them!) But I’ve also seen some anxiety from a few. This can be mitigated by taking out the students who we know to have anxiety, or violent backgrounds as we have two buildings.
                I’ve often wondered if we should keep the drills staff only but the boys behaved in very dangerous, loud ways in early drills.
                But there’s all kinds of stuff I can’t know. Will we ever actually need this? Are we simply giving boys in this area (gangland) a new idea? Or turning them off it?
                How many staff and students are traumatised by it and simply keeping a stiff upper lip?
                Hopefully people who do have issues with it and see problems, will speak up, like the OP has while we figure this stuff out.

      2. fposte*

        Even if that were true, which I don’t believe it is, that’s a problem to be solved, not a reason to do training that has a considerable emotional cost to employees without necessarily making them safer. Of course security theater has invaded a lot of our lives, but that’s no reason to get on board with “to hell with the harm it may do, it looks like action so we’ll do this.”

    4. CheeryO*

      I think my agency does it right – we have annual active shooter training given by law enforcement, but it’s 100 percent voluntary. It usually gets a fairly good turnout and starts some good discussion about areas where we could improve our building security. That said, it’s always a very emotionally draining day. I can’t imagine going through it as someone with personal experience with a shooting event.

    5. Me*

      I work in emergency management and can speak on this a bit.

      You’re absolutely right. Drills need to be done thoughtfully and carefully with considerations for people who just can’t. There is zero need in my professional opinion to simulate anything. When we do fire drills we don’t simulate the burning being on actual fire with people screaming and such right?

      The difficult part is we know from studying events that have occurred that instinct to hide is strong and even was, and still is, used as language in some circles even among professionals. And it’s usually not the best course of action. And there’s a lot of “professionals” that mean well but aren’t up to date on the subject and those whose shill this stuff to businesses to make a buck. My instructions to my daughter were not consistent with what the school system does. The school system has now changed their entire process for the good, but for 7 years it wasn’t best practice. It’s a lot to get into here, but the intent of any training and drills should only ever be to let people know that they are empowered to take actions to protect themselves and share types of things they can do. Discussing, in non-graphic more general, situations and what actions might be possible are useful. Just like fire drills, the point is so that should the unthinkable happen, people have tools they can fall back on in. Audience always matters.

      1. Me*

        And to add I am in government emergency management. we’re not perfect but we do operate under a vested interest to protect people, not sell stuff.

      2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        This reminds me of when I worked in Manhattan and the fire drills actually involved an ex-firefighter explaining how unless you were on the floor involved, or two above, you actually should stay where you were, because you were safer and not having a 50+ story building evacuating in the street made it easier for the firefighters to actually fight the fire.

        But there was no “fire simulation drill” involved.

        It really is one thing to explain to people what to do so they know. It’s another to just simulate it. The only people who need simulation drills are probably military/law enforcement who have a higher likelihood of such an incident and really can’t afford any mistakes.

      3. Genny*

        One of the most helpful aspects of my company’s active shooter training was the video the security team put together demonstrating them going through the run, hide, fight sequence. They would pause it along the way to share tips like “if you find yourself trapped in a room and need to get out, the dry wall is very thin and you can easily punch a hole in it” to get you to think of options you might not normally consider. It was informative without being traumatic.

        1. pleaset*

          In contrast, during a non fire emergency training the instructor started holding up his hand as if it was a gun pointing at us, and I just said “no, stop.”

          Tell me run, hide, fight (this guy called it ABC) but I’m not into any role playing. Particularly since there was a deadly school shooting at the school were someone in our office the previous day sent their child.

  12. Amandin*

    OP #5: I’m a special ed teacher AND an introvert. I love my job, but the performance aspect (and the social aspect, since I work closely with 4 aides) easily overwhelm me. I used to take my lunch in my classroom alone (since the teachers lounge was always full of teachers wanting to chat) but this year there are kids and aides in my room on my lunch.

    …honestly, I now eat in my car. Sometimes I will aimlessly drive around listening to the radio, sometimes I will eat quickly and recline my seat to rest my eyes for a few minutes… I’ve learned that the 20ish minutes of quiet and relaxation totally outweigh any guilt or shame I have about being the weird lady who eats in her car.

    I hold out hope that next year I can have my empty classroom back, but… it doesn’t look likely.

    1. Ayla K*

      I too take my lunch breaks in my car! I used to sit in the break room, but people are chatting (which is totally their right) and I prefer to read my book in silence or with some very light music. I managed to tune out for a bit, but then people started coming up to me and chatting AT me. “Oh, reading a book, huh?”

      OP, if you drive to work and have access to your car during the day, it’s not a bad idea. Otherwise, I agree with the commenters saying that headphones are your best bet to drown out noise and to signify that you want to be left alone.

  13. Nobody Here by That Name*

    OP #2: To add to the suggestions, depending on your budget you may want to look into briefly getting a membership with a clothing rental/subscription service if you find that you’ll be dealing with a lot of size adjustments. They typically work by you paying a monthly fee for X amount of clothes per month. You wear the clothes, send them back, repeat. Since you pick the clothes for them to send, you can easily adjust what sizes you get without making a commitment to a size by purchasing something.

    I won’t mention names b/c I’m not trying to advertise, but you can find them if you Google.

  14. Taylor the Latté Boy*

    My store has banned phone calls from the break room (there are closed door locker rooms nearby, or they can take the call outside). So just know it is possible, OP5, and I don’t think it would hurt if you politely asked the manager if that would be an option.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      Interesting possibility. OP would probably need to make the case to her manager (rather than just say, “Can we do this?,” she’d probably have to lay out a bit of a case for it being disruptive, hard to unwind, a relatively small/intimate space, and something she’s encountering every day lately), but it’s definitely a possibility.

  15. Caitlin Burrows*

    The only time I’ve ever used unscented body wash (Ivory makes it) is when I’ve had a fresh, healing tattoo and I need to clean it.

  16. Princesa Zelda*

    I feel for you, #5! I also work at a big box store with only a 10-minute break most days. I usually take my break in a room that opens up into a freezer that’s not used for much; it’s closer than the proper break room and nobody bothers me. It’s cold, but I don’t have to hear anyone. I don’t know the layout of your store, but is there an alternative like that for you? Another alternative might be taking your break behind the building, if your store layout permits it. You might even be able to leave a chair out there if you do it inconspicuously enough.

    Good luck!

    1. wafflesfriendswork*

      I worked at a hospital for a year, and it was often hard to find places to really get away and take a break–I used to take my lunch breaks in the surgery waiting room (it was a small hospital, and only about 5-8 surgeries a day, at most, all first thing in the morning!)

      1. wafflesfriendswork*

        (It was also in my southern hometown, where almost everyone else who worked there knew me and my parents and *always* wanted to chat. Being a southerner *and* an introvert is rough stuff.)

        1. valentine*

          If you said, “I couldn’t possibly disturb you/take up your time,” would they double down or would they back off so as not to make you feel rude? Also, what is there to say if there’s incessant chatting? What all can possibly have cropped up since the last chat?

  17. cncx*

    OP2: i have lost 60 pounds and need to lose 60 more so i sympathize with the baggy clothes. i don’t want to spend big money on clothes to fit me now at what i see as an intermediate weight, so i generally buy two pairs of work pants every twenty pounds. That’s a compromise for me in wanting to look put together but also not to waste money on clothes i might wear six months max. FWIW i can still wear knit tops from my high weight, button downs had a little more leeway but that may be because of my chest.

      1. 2 Cents*

        If you’re fortunate to live near a Talbots clearance outlet (not a regular outlet store, a clearance one) pants can be dirt cheap there. My favorite pair (RIP) I bought for $5 and they were originally $90 or something.

    1. WinnaPig*

      What an excellent idea. I think of beautiful clothes that I used to own, of any point of the weight continuum, that I discarded in a flurry of tidying up, and feel sad. Obv. can’t keep everything, but having even some of those vacuum-press bags with a few items, not taking up much space, would be a great solution to protecting the investment (I prefer to buy locally made, fair trade, etc., so a little pricier) and having things to choose that fit well and are loved.

  18. Required*

    Hey, OP 5.

    I understand you completely. I have colleagues who almost always have phone conversation. It’s not against the rules, but it is a little jerky (we work in a call center, so we do need some quiet time away from phones). I can’t even imagine how they can be more on the phone having the headset on you all day long. We complained and they reserved one of the feedback room and made it a silent room, which is not even sound proof so you can still hear the colleagues talking with customers right outside it, but still ,it’s something.

    Before that I used to take some of my breaks in the bathroom (yes, I know how that sounds)

    1. hbc*

      I was going to recommend the bathroom, assuming it wasn’t preventing other people from using it for its intended purpose. 10 minutes is not that long to sit there, people (usually) don’t talk, and it’s a pretty reasonable place to go on your break.

      As an introvert with three siblings close in age, I got over any weirdness about hanging out in the bathroom for solitude long, long ago.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        OH DEAR GOD I thought you were suggesting having phone calls in the bathroom.
        So yeah…. as long as it’s a rest room with an actual chair and you’re not tying up a porcelain throne, that is typically a quiet place. But if she wants to have a snack, the bathroom’s right out because of the squick factor.

  19. Corporate Goth*

    #3: Make sure you’re clear you aren’t willing to discuss your experience. My organization has a (difficult to find and often pseudo-banned unless you know better) similar opt-out policy for our sexual harassment training (which typically goes way too far). The question has come up for that. Anyone who asks you to stand up in front of others and describe your experience presumably isn’t thinking on a temporary basis, but recommend you prepare yourself.

    1. Dragoning*

      Oh my God, they aren’t sexually harassing people to provide training examples, are they?

      1. Bostonian*

        I’m also a little curious about what “way too far” sexual harassment training looks like. Without any deets, my imagination is going to fill in the blanks.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I worked somewhere where the Child Sex Abuse Prevention Training included graphic descriptions of children being sexually abused, as well as surveillance video of pairs and groups of people walking out of range of the camera to commit child sexual abuse. It would be pretty triggering to someone who was sexually abused as a child (about 20% of the US population.)

          1. Tom & Johnny*

            My god that’s utterly horrifying, just your description alone.
            Just your description is going to hover with me today.
            I cannot imagine having to sit through that.
            (Obviously I know such things happen, I know all too well.)

    2. Corporate Goth*

      It’s varied over the years, because it’s not just sexual harassment training, but also sexual assault prevention. So you essentially get harassed while being trained on how not to get raped.

      “Gone too far” has included:

      – Insisting everyone must take the training, sign-ins and accountability, no opt-outs. You could sometimes successfully sneak out early by saying you had to go to the restroom and not returning, but if they realized you skipped it, they’d make you go to another session. Once I think they didn’t let people out at all.
      – An “opt-out” where you didn’t have to directly watch the video of a young female getting drugged at a bar, followed by date rape…but you heard about the video word for word in graphic detail, as a room full of horrified females who’d clearly been through *something* kept asking for it to stop.
      – An “opt-out” of similar detail while we had to listen to something less graphic and detailed from one of our coworkers (every office was forced to “volunteer” a trainee), plus our options to report it. My coworker was thankfully understanding and let me work with my back to her, blasting music with headphones on, while she blathered on in a whisper, so we could say we’ve done it without lying.
      – A lecture on how rap music incurs sexual harassment just by listening to it. We’re an organization that in part defends rights, including freedom of speech. What the…? Everyone hated that year.
      – A presentation where rape survivors were asked to share their experiences. Yes. Really.
      – Cancelling the opt-out because people figured out it existed and a few offices opted out en masse because can we please not talk about sex at work?
      – A friend last year asked for help getting the alternative method. She was shaking for ten minutes because it took a while to find it. To this day I have no idea what the heck happened in her session.
      – An “opt-out” video, but each year it’s redone. It’s never released at the same time as the regular training, so we get badgered to sign up for a class for months before getting a chance to take the alternative method.

      In order to take the opt-out method, you have to:
      a) figure out who the local POC is. Inevitably, they don’t work in the same sub-unit. They’re really, really hard to find, and once you do, usually ask if you want to talk through all your problems with them in person as a different “alternative.” Because everyone wants to talk about this at work, to complete strangers. Sure.
      b) tell your training monitor so they’ll stop harassing you about signing up for the regular session and help you find the POC.
      c) tell your immediate supervisor and get their specific permission. Last year, my supervisor changed halfway through thanks to a reorg. I had to talk to seven different people, six of whom were male, about (basically) what a problem child I am, because I went from a sub-sub-unit to working directly for the grandboss’ office (but no one was really sure who in that office, exactly, and half my records were still in the old office that didn’t exist anymore…). Everyone in the grandboss’ office knew, down to the (male & quite supportive) admin.
      d) do this every. single. year.

      It’s just so inappropriate and disgusting. I wish I was joking.

      I love my job, but someday I’ll leave over crap like this.

  20. Edie*

    I recently had an interview at a special needs school, and so of course there are going to be children with sensory issues. It was explicitly stated in my email to not wear any scents for the comfort of the students. If you all have clients in your office perhaps you could frame it as not wearing scents for the clients’ comfort? Either way, they can make a specification like no scents.

    Even then I found it kind of funny they even had to say that, only because I’ve always thought scents at work were inappropriate, let alone interviews.

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      You don’t need to specify it’s for the clients (since in this case it isn’t, it’s for the comfort of people there everyday), but you can alert them to the office policy.

  21. Lilo*

    For OP 4, I would write it neutrally because there is an extremely good chance people other than the hiring manager will read your cover letter and too much emphasis on it will be off putting. One acknowledgement is probably fine, but no more. You also want to be careful because the same job at different times may have some significant changes.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes, I was thinking that I would recommend leaving out references to the hiring manager knowing the job completely in the cover letter. You just never know who else is going to read that letter, and in my experience it’s *always* more than just the hiring manager. I’d save the “as you may remember” for an in-person interview where you can obviously direct it to that person.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        If you’re starting with, “Dear Hiring Manager,” it’s going to be clear who those references are for, though. And if the OP sticks with just one, “As you know firsthand” (or whatever), as Alison suggests, it’s really not overdoing it. Multiple people might read the letter, but they’re not going to expect that you entirely refrain from personalizing it for their sake.

    2. Lindsay Gee*

      Agreed. I once interviewed for a job internally (it would have been a promotion) and I was interviewing with my bosses, who would also supervvise this other role. They basically advised me to assume they didn’t know anything about my experience. Of course they knew all about my work output and my achievements etc. but that it was up to me in my application materials and interview to demonstrate I was a good candidate just like everyone else. Obviously slightly different from your situation, but you never know how your role has changed from when this hiring manager held the position. Maybe you have fewer or more responsibilities, who knows.

  22. Lynca*

    OP2: I went through this losing weight before I got pregnant. Thrift stores are absolutely the way to go if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and the weight loss is temporary.

    If you’re in a relatively urban area there are generally a ton of them.

  23. Asenath*

    OP 1 – this is a really odd response. My workplace is scent-free, and it’s made perfectly clear with signs, information on websites and so on that this applies to EVERYONE, not just employees. Not just job applicants, either, but any member of the public who happens to need to come in. I haven’t done any kind of a formal survey, but I got the impression when going to other places that their policies too seem to apply to everyone.

      1. Asenath*

        There’s a special department that handles deliveries – we’re not supposed to get people from outside delivering directly to our offices, although it still happens sometimes. And Receiving, as they’re called, are employees of and located inside the facility, and so are under the scent policies.

        I expect that outside delivery people who did enter the building would be be under the policies, just as members of the general public, visitors, clients, and members of outside branches arriving for meetings are. This place has a LOT of non-employees coming and going, and there are extra notices up in the areas most of them visit – plus extra notices in spaces used by people who are sensitive to scents – so even first-time visitors are supposed to know about the policies and follow them.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            That’s my question – if your office is open to the public, how would you prevent that?

            1. kittymommy*

              Yeah, I mean, how is this logistically enforceable? I cannot imagine that every single one of the visitors knows prior to this and what would happen if someone did come in and had used scented shampoo or laundry detergent?

          2. Asenath*

            It’s generally assumed that people will know, I think – although if they have business here, it’s probably mentioned on the email or letters. But there are lots of members of the general public who just come in, and the best they could do is wash off as much as they could in the public toilets. I don’t suppose anyone sniffs visitors on entry, but there have been cases when people ignored the posters, and someone got sick as a result – I don’t suppose the offenders would do that again, but ideally it shouldn’t have happened once. One employee ended up in the ER as a result of a visitor to the office ignoring the posters. So many places are scent free these days that most people seem to avoid strong scents anyway, although they might shampoo with something with a scent.

        1. pleaset*

          “And Receiving, as they’re called, are employees of and located inside the facility, and so are under the scent policies.”

          How would a delivery person know about this? Would they have to turn around and not complete the delivery?

          I would imagine that only way for this to work is if all your staff inform every company they deal with – from takeout food to the postal service to many others – of the policy when they are ordering something. Is that the case?

          1. fposte*

            If it’s really scent-free in American terms (I know in Britain, at least “scent”=”perfume”), you’d have to inform them a few days before, in fact, to give them the chance to buy different shampoo, conditioner, laundry products, wash their clothes, etc.

          2. Asenath*

            All the courier companies, the local suppliers for needed equipment and Canada Post know the rules and automatically go to Receiving. The occasional delivery person who doesn’t go to receiving and actually goes to an office isn’t stopped at the entrance for inspection and sniffing, but we don’t get many of them – mostly flower deliveries. If you want to have food delivered, the usual procedure is for an unfortunate admin to meet the delivery person at one of the entrances, with a trolley if necessary. This, to be honest, is probably because the delivery person would be wandering the corridors for hours trying to find the right delivery location and not because the delivery person might be wearing perfume. Personally, I loathe waiting in the freezing cold at one of the exterior doors with my trolley waiting for delivery people, so for any event I’m involved in, I strongly suggest getting food from the in-house cafeteria. They deliver to the room and clean up afterwards. And they, too, are required to use unscented products.

            1. pleaset*

              “If you want to have food delivered, the usual procedure is for an unfortunate admin to meet the delivery person at one of the entrances,”

              Got it. Makes sense.

            2. Cog in the Machine*

              Just out of curiosity, your scent free office allows flower deliveries? I would think flowers would be one of the biggest culprits for aggravating scent and allergy issues.

              1. Asenath*

                You’d think so – but they are sometimes delivered for Admin Professional’s Day – and one of the facilities in the complex is a hospital, so patients sometimes receive flowers.

                1. Cog in the Machine*

                  Huh. Interesting. Flowers are my major trigger, so even though I think they’re nice and all I can’t be in a closed space with them.

  24. SezU*

    I am dealing with the rapid weight loss by purchasing less expensive clothes with some stretch so the bagginess isn’t quite as obvious. I only bought a few pair of black pants and rotate them through. I have tons of jackets and tops that I can still get away with for the most part. I get you OP, it feels weird when you know that your pants are getting too big (again) but I think most people don’t notice as much as we do.

  25. Luna*

    LW#1 — Sounds sensible to ask job candidates/potential *employees* to please observe and follow the rules of the workplace during the interview. It’s not rude, and it does let them know that this is an aspect of this particular workplace. And if you want to work here, that includes following this rather simple request, even for just an interview. It’s a bit like dressing appropriately for an interview and being on time — it’s basic politeness and decency. And any candidate that refuses to follow this request/rule could already tell you a lot about the candidate themselves.

    LW#5 — I would suggest to get a pair of headphones and put those on for your break. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, even if it might look goofy, it will at least dampen the noise going on and give you a chance to wind down for your break. I’m similar to this, I know that I feel slightly less comfortable if a colleague is also in the break room while I am on break. I’m the introverted type, I need to be by myself to recharge a little for the rest of my shift. You cannot, and should not, tell her to take her phone calls somewhere else or expect her to, but you can at least do something on your end to make a compromise and things a little easier on you.

    1. lawyer*

      Yeah, but “scent-free” isn’t necessarily simple. It’s simple if it means “no cologne/aftershave,” but if you’re asking a candidate to go buy unscented detergent, lotion, bodywash/soap, cosmetics, and shampoo, that’s another story. They need to be clear about the ask and if they are the most extreme version of scent-free, they need to consider if that’s an appropriate ask for people they may not even hire. I would not be prepared to replace all my toiletries and personal care products for a single interview.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I hadn’t really thought of that – I just think of ‘scent-free’ as no perfume and I wouldn’t care about skipping perfume and already use unscented detergent, but the hairstyle I wear requires hairspray and setting lotion and I wouldn’t want to change it, and I wouldn’t want to have to change my shampoo/conditioner either.

  26. Nerdgal*

    When I was in a similar situation, I was able to get some of my favorite clothes altered. A tailor should be able to tell you which items can be successfully taken in and which not.

    1. Lilysparrow*

      Yes, I was going to suggest this. Ask first at your dry cleaner. The more expensive the garment was to begin with, the more likely it is to take alterations well (and the more it’s worth it). It saves a lot of time shopping, too!

    2. OP2*

      Good idea (as others have also suggested this). This would help address my wastefulness concern!

  27. Nerdgal*

    OP1: I would never want to accidentally cause an unpleasant reaction. Depending on how severe the sensitivity is, could you possibly provide a little kit with travel size bady wash, shampoo, etc and ask candidates to use it as part of the interview prep? Then they wouldn’t have to buy new stuff. As Alison said, if they really don’t have the flexibility to give up their favorites for one day, it’s best to know that.

    1. Ret*

      I’m sorry, no. Giving job applicants products to use would be incredibly inappropriate.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      I appreciate the impulse to try to reduce the burden on candidates, but this would come across as incredibly controlling and invasive. If I were a candidate with other options, I’d exercise them

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      “Dear Alison: I have a job interview coming up, and the company has sent me a set of body wash and hygiene products and asked me to use them before coming to the interview. Is this normal?” [1200 comments]

      1. Important Moi*

        -How do they know I’m not allergic to the products?
        – Personal anecdotes about being allergic to products.
        -What if the products they send are from company’s that engage in practices that are in direct conflict with my beliefs?
        – Personal anecdotes about companies with practices commenters don’t agree with.
        – Did someone tell them secretly that I smell? I’m going to feel very self-conscious the whole time I’m there for the interview. How do I find out who did that so I can confront them?
        – Personal anecdotes about feeling self-conscious because someone said something and commenter didn’t know who.

        [Remaining 50 comments]
        – This is great! I don’t have to buy anything and now I know what’s considered appropriate.
        -Why is everyone being so sensitive about this? Just use the stuff the company sent?

        1. fposte*

          That’s just spooky. I don’t think we need comments anymore. You can just do the notes version.

    4. Angelinha*

      WHAT? This would be extremely weird. What would you even do, mail it to them when you set up an interview?

    5. Observer*

      This would certainly creep people out. Which should show just how NOT “simple” this request is.

    6. Kiki*

      I understand where you’re coming from, but this would be very off-putting. You also wouldn’t know if the products you’re offering would work for them. I have textured hair– most shampoos and conditioners are not designed for my hair. People may also have skin sensitivities, etc.

    7. Dragoning*

      This is…an option….if you want to creep our your candidates, but even that aside, are most scent-free products even available in travel-sizes? Usually it’s the bigger names and the most popular SKUs that produce them that way–which is rarely, if ever the scent-free ones.

      And if you’re *manually filling* tiny bottles with the stuff from larger containers, oh by.



    8. Nerdgal*

      Clarifying that I intended this to be entirely optional! And of course it would be new, sealed travel size containers.

    9. pleaset*

      “Depending on how severe the sensitivity is, could you possibly provide a little kit with travel size bady wash, shampoo, etc and ask candidates to use it as part of the interview prep?”

      This is a joke, right?

  28. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP #2 – I’ve lost about 40 lbs and dresses have been my saving grace. I did buy one new pair of jeans in a smaller size and most of my tops still fit okay, but dresses are so much more forgiving when your body is changing.

  29. Half-Caf Latte*

    Geez. I could have written 2 or 3 today.

    OP2: intentional weight loss, pregnancies, I’ve been there. In addition to all the suggestions upthread, here are two more: look for a local “buy nothing” group on Facebook. It’s hyper-local sharing, i.e. neighbors who are expressly interested in giving away things for free. You can post your outgrown stuff, and ask for things in your (current) size. My group also likes to do a “round robin”: one person starts a cardboard box of all size medium women’s stuff, for example. The next person goes through, takes what they want, and adds anything they want to get rid of, and the box makes its way through interested members.

    Also, maternity pants! Old navy in particular has some inexpensive ones. You can buy a little snug, and rely on the elastic for both weight above and below the stated size. The ones I’m thinking of are not the “full belly panel” pants, but are usually marketed as 1st/2nd trimester or “under the bump”, and either have elastic just near the front pockets, or all around but just look like pants with a wide waistband. With an untucked top you can’t tell.

    Some kid-focused consignment sales have a section for maternity clothes as well.

  30. Half-Caf Latte*

    Also, OP3: in my experience, folks have been universally kind, sympathetic, and thoughtful going forward once they understand what the situation is.

    All my best to you.

  31. MsM*

    #3: I have no advice to add. I’m just sad this is something you – and we as a society – have to deal with.

  32. Lazy Sock*

    #5 – If you have good rapport with the other employee, I think you can ask her if she’d mind going outside to take calls. Obviously she might say no, which you’ll have to respect 100% and the conversation might be awkward – then again, the worst that can happen is she’ll say “no”, you’ll say “thanks anyways! Just thought it would be worth a shot.” As an introverted person, I noticed that other, oftentimes more extroverted people, sometimes don’t mind doing things a little differently (e.g. phone calls outside instead of in only quiet place). However, as Alison said she’s absolutely entitled to talk on the phone in the break room, so don’t expect too much

    1. Me*

      You know this is such a valid point that I know I’m guilty of overlooking a lot. Sometimes we get so incensed by the things that get under our skin that we are just certain that the other person is a rude vile horrible jerk of a person who doesn’t know how to respect others because WHO DOES THAT. And we seethe.

      But most people are reasonable and nice. We all do things that piss at least one person off in the world. If I was doing something that was nails on chalkboard to someone and I could somehow remediate it, in most cases I would. Asking nicely without expectation is always an option and a good one at that.

  33. Faith*

    I just lost a ton of weight due to having a baby, and I’m struggling to dress myself too. All of my maternity stuff is too big. Buy I’m still about 10 lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight, so my pants and skirts are uncomfortably tight and my boobs are busting out of everything because they doubled in size. So, I pretty much live in wrap dresses. Bonus points to them for being pumping friendly.

  34. Pescadero*


    I would be willing to refrain from using any scented products before an interview – but expect me to change shampoo, laundry detergent, etc?

    Not going to happen. Make that request and I just won’t interview with you.

    I would be willing to do it for a GOOD job – but not for an interview, and with the job market the way it is… you’d definitely have to be paying a premium/have better benefits.

    You can have this policy – but you need to understand it WILL cost you potential employees. If the scents are that big an issue, you may need to hold interviews off site.

    1. OP1 Here*

      Thanks for your feedback.
      Nope, not going so far as to have candidates change their shampoo/conditioner/detergent. Just requesting that they not *intentionally* wear a heavily scented item like cologne, perfume or body lotion.
      I would hope that their good judgment would prevail once they’re informed that we have a “Clean Air” policy in the office, and we’d like them to abide by that for the one hour that they will be here interviewing.
      I also would be turned off by something as intrusive as what you’re referring to, so no–as you said, Not going to happen.

  35. Anne of Green Gables*

    #3–if I was your manager, I would absolutely want to know that you aren’t comfortable in the training and I would do whatever it took to get you excused from that training. In terms of evacuation plans, we could easily talk about that after the training without you needing to be there. So if you feel like your supervisor is a decent human being who would support you, I’d take this to them.

    1. silverpie*

      Just to add, evacuation plans aren’t just for shooter situations. You also need to know about those in case of a building fire. So there’s a real logic to separating the two.

      1. Brownie*

        Honestly, the best thing to come out of the active shooter training that my office did was adjusting people’s thinking to start looking for alternate routes out of the building in case of an emergency of any kind. There were a lot of folks for whom it’d never crossed their minds that they could break a window* in the first floor offices to get out or break the second floor windows and walk on the first floor’s roof to get to a safer location if their office door or the corridor/stairs was blocked by fire. In my ideal world the current active shooter training at my office would be separated into “here’s how to get out of the building and to safety should anything happen” evacuation training and then smaller opt-out modules for active shooters or other emergencies because the real takeaway was how to evacuate, not how to hide or fight.

        * There were a few people who thought of breaking windows to create an escape path, but they’d internalized that they’d get in trouble for it and had to be assured that they wouldn’t get in trouble for saving their own lives if it involved breaking windows.

  36. Duck Duck Goose*

    #3: A friend of mine was in a school shooting over a decade ago and had to excuse herself from active shooter training this past year because it still affects her. I hope your employer will be as gracious as hers was in letting her take the day off

  37. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, your request is super reasonable. Plus, it would also serve as a good way to weed out candidates who either 1) Don’t read directions. 2) Refuse to follow reasonable instruction.

  38. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #5 – There’s a difference between people talking in the breakroom and a person talking on the phone in the breakroom. It’s harder to signal that you’re hoping for quiet when there’s only one oblivious human yammering their part of a one-sided conversation, and it’s also not particularly inclusive. Also, for some reason, people talk louder when they’re on the phone.

    So I’m totally getting your pain. And I’m a earbuds/audio book person in the break room for exactly that reason.

    I think that if breaks can’t be staggered, then some consideration of no calls, or short calls, in the break room is important to offer. And probably OP has to speak up about it.

    1. NKOTB*

      omg yes thank you! You’ve articulated all the reasons why talking on the phone in an enclosed break room is annoying and inconsiderate and two people having a conversation is not.

  39. Allergic to Weed Scent*

    I have one colleague who smokes weed regularly (it’s legal here). He reeks of weed, and the smell (or maybe one of the chemicals in it, IDK) give me terrible migranes and make me throw up. Since this isn’t a “scent” it’s not technically banned by our “odor rules.”
    Not sure how I can proceed here, because when I told colleague I thought the smell of weed on him was what was making me ill, he told me I better get used to it because “it’s part of his lifestyle.”

    1. Lauren*

      So you used your words back, and said, “I don’t care what you do on your own personal time, but I’m kindly requesting that you make some effort not to have that smell at work, because it’s both unprofessional and making me ill.”

  40. pretzelgirl*

    OP 2, I would maybe switch to dresses until your weight levels off. Old navy has some great dresses that are affordable that you could likely dress up for work and down for days off or going out with friends/family. Or as others suggested elastic waists.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, I think the request itself is ok, I would just be sure to be very specific. As someone who doesn’t have any idea about scent allergies, I would want to know does this mean just heavy perfume/cologne, or does it include more everyday things like deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream, etc..

    On #5, I agree with AAM on this one– to me it’s really no different than two people having a conversation in the break room.

  42. SigneL*

    OP1, it seems to me that if your office has a no-scent policy, those you interview would need to know, as it might factor in to whether or not they even want to work there?

    1. mark132*

      This is me. I don’t wear cologne. So if that is what they are asking for no problem. In fact, I would welcome that. On the other hand, if i need to change out my personal care products and laundry products, I’ve found ones that work for me and my family, and if changing my personal care products is a term of employment I’ll work elsewhere.

    2. Vicky Austin*

      I think this is a good idea. Some people have medical conditions that make them smell bad (i.e. incontinence) and so they have to wear perfume or cologne to cover up the stink. A scent-free office would not be a good fit for those people.

  43. Amethystmoon*

    I have, occasionally, resorted to sitting in my car during a break period. Not recently, I did this more often when I was younger and a lot more shy. The car is also sadly, the only place one can make a totally private phone call where I currently work. It’s a possible option for getting away from annoying co-workers, and getting some peace and quiet for a bit.

    1. CheeryO*

      Surprised to see this so far down! If it’s a far walk, that might be a stretch for a 10 minute break, but it’s a good option if it’s nearby. I used to do that a lot at my first job because the “break room” was a tiny table in a high traffic area, and that’s really not very relaxing.

  44. Me*

    I so sympathize with the break room phone calls op. There’s something about personal phone calls in a community space that makes me twitch in a way a conversation between to people wouln’t. Maybe because I can’t hear the other side it always kind of feels to me like I’m somehow forced to invade their privacy. Anyway…

    I know you prefer quiet, but would some earbuds and some relaxing music or white noise help? Especially for bad weather days you can’t really go outside to get some peace.

  45. Goose*

    LW #2 – Re: Baggy clothes. Over the last 10 years I have lost a significant amount of weight. Buy yourself some new clothes now! Don’t go buy a whole new wardrobe, especially if you definitely will continue to lose weight (I’ve made the mistake of buying essentially a new wardrobe and being unable to wear any of it anymore after a few months). However, you will not only look better but you will feel better about yourself, feel and look more professional. Do not wait until you weigh a certain number before you “earn” new clothes, and don’t wait until you’ve settled at one weight either.

    You’re probably right that dresses are better than pants at this point, also skirts with elastic waists that will still fit if you lose weight. You don’t have to drop a ton of money, but you should definitely get yourself a couple new things that fit your body right now and incorporate them into your wardrobe!

    One thing – if you do start wearing new clothes, coworkers are definitely more likely to notice any weight loss and may begin commenting on it. (I hate this so much. My body is open topic for discussion at my job because of my weight loss and because I don’t usually eat sweets when people bring them in, and I am not in a position to push back against it beyond shutting down convo about it by politely not participating.)

    1. OP2*

      Thanks! I will probably grab one or two new things so I can feel put together, and keep wearing the more forgiving items, like dresses for now. I have a semi-limited wardrobe now because I hate to “waste” clothes, as fashion is such a wasteful industry. But, I also donate or sell my old stuff pretty often so hopefully any temporarilly-fitting items won’t be wasted entirely.

  46. FlowerChild*

    Now we are supposed to only speak in an open break room on our time bc someone else might be bothered? I agree the coworker should not be loud and obnoxious but what if the color of my shoes bother you bc it brings up a bad memory? After awhile we need to use some common sense. There are noise cancelling headphones.

    1. Mel*

      Ideally no one wold ever have a phone call anywhere that other people are stuck with them. It is very annoying and I can’t imagine how people trick themselves into believing it’s an innocent activity when everyone around them is hating them for it. To me common sense would be to save it for somewhere else.

  47. boop the first*

    5. Holy cow, there is always one person who picks up the phone when they are in a quiet break room or on a bus. Always! And I wonder who on earth they are constantly talking to? Do they not also have a job or other work to do? I wonder if that kind of lifestyle is fulfilling or exhausting?
    But anyway, it’s not even remotely comparable to coworkers having a conversation, because a conversation doesn’t put you on full, constant alert the way a phonecall does. Is she talking to the phone or to me?
    I wouldn’t be surprised though, if OP hasn’t expressed any discomfort during these breaks. The advantage to retail/hospitality is that you can be direct with your coworkers. No soft-footing around is necessary.

    1. LJay*

      On their break from retail, no they don’t have work to do. That’s the purpose of a break and why they are in the break room. Yes, they have a job. That’s what they are on break from. I don’t see what having a job has to do with wanting to talk to people.

      They’re talking to their friends. Or their family. Or their significant other. You know, people usually have some sort of connections that they want to maintain. It’s entirely possible that they work schedules that do not allow them to see their loved ones regularly or to talk to them before or after work, so this is the best way for them to keep in touch.

      And yes, most people find that having friends and family and other people that they talk to on a regular basis to be fulfilling.

  48. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

    OP2: I’m dealing with a similar situation right now. I’ve (intentionally) lost 60 pounds so far, and I would like to lose 20 more so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes that won’t fit in a few months. My suggestion is to buy dress pants that have some stretch to them. (I like these ones from Amazon: I bought them 30 pounds ago and they’re just now getting baggy, but I carry a lot of weight in my thighs so it could be body type-dependent.) I’ve tried Goodwill with mixed results. If you have an outlet mall near you, the New York & Company Outlet is amazing. Just this weekend I paid $25 total for two shirts that were originally $40-$50 each. I’ve found some great tops and pants on the clearance racks at Target, JC Penney, TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory.

  49. yala*

    I remember working at a place where there were two break rooms–the active one, brightly lit, with tables for eating and vending machines and the fridge and all, and the quiet one with the lights dimmed and nice comfy chairs and couches (it was a well-known historical building and this room was like something out of downton abbey).

    I really wish more places did that. Maybe not to the fanciness level, but having a quiet and an active break room.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      What a great idea. I had a family member in a hospital recently that had an “active” and a “quiet” waiting room, and it was so helpful.

    2. LJay*

      This is a really nice idea. I imagine a lot of places don’t have the space for it, but it would be nice if they did.

  50. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: My parents’ church has antique pine floors, so standard, very neutral, wording on all their invitations and event posters is that they request people not to wear small-diameter heels. It’s not a moral or theological objection–their dress code only extends to being “acceptable for general wear in public”–it’s simply to prevent damage to an historic building. You’re welcome to wear the tallest stripper heels known to man, as long as they’re Cuban and not spike. Anyone who is even sort-of reasonable shouldn’t make a stink (ha ha) about a scent-free request.

  51. ClashRunner*

    #3: Me too. In my case, the…incident was actually one of the examples the trainers used, and I had no idea what I was walking into. That day I had a private conversation with my manager and the HR manager, and we agreed that I did not need to attend the yearly training if I didn’t want to (I could, but no questions would be asked if I weren’t there). Information about notification procedure and escape/shelter in place maps is distributed via handout, and I simply sign the bottom to acknowledge that I’ve been trained for the year. I conveniently absent myself for the afternoon in an inconspicuous way, and I made very clear to my boss that I’m not going to talk about my experience.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      How awful, to experience it, and then to have your experience be used in a training session. Thank goodness your HR and manager had some common sense and empathy. *hugs*

      1. ClashRunner*

        Thanks! The trainer was from an outside company, and it made sense that they would have used it–it was a “workplace incident” in the same field. But yes, it was wonderful to have the support!

  52. EmK*

    #3 – I was in your situation earlier this year. My boss was great about letting (actually encouraging) me to sit out the training. We were learning a new protocol though, and as my workplace is a high school where I’m responsible for students as well as myself, I wanted the information. I stayed for the training part and left during the actual simulation. Maybe that’s a possible solution depending on how your training is being conducted?

    (It was still very emotionally draining, so please make sure whatever you end up doing–even if it’s staying home that day–you can set aside some time/space to decompress, let yourself feel your feelings, talk to your therapist, etc. Sometimes even just having the conversations about these events can bring up a lot of emotions, whether or not you actually do the training.)

  53. Argh!*

    LW2: if you can sew or have a friend who can, you can take in pants at the rear seam. If they don’t have a fly closure you can do the same at the front. You can then take in the legs at the inner seam. The tricky part is not leaving too much rise. Your local dry cleaner may do that kind of alteration, too.

    I have intentionally lost weight, and have had the same problem. To make matters worse, it’s almost impossible to find pants in stores that aren’t skinny-leg pants that would be against my workplace’s dress code. I’m also still too large for Goodwill or other used-clothing outlets to have much that works for work. I check there regularly just in case, though. I have found a blazer and some blouses that I can use.

    So… it’s not impossible to adapt to this kind of change, but it does take work.

  54. Corky's wife Bonnie*

    #1, I just want to say thank you for considering the employees with that issue. I’m that employee, and one person coming in with that kind of heavy scent could give me a migraine within seconds and then cough with a thick throat for the rest of the day. I agree with everything Alison said, and hopefully you’ll be able to get the point across. Good luck!

  55. LaDeeDa*

    Baggy clothes- Look for a consignment shop in your area and take your best work clothes there, and then shop! Also, there are clothing swap clubs/groups of people who get together and swap/trade clothes. My friend who had weight loss surgery found a local group in her area and was able to get through 100# weight loss without buying a ton of clothes.

  56. Dana B.S.*

    LW2: Poshmark is very easy to use. It can do double duty for you – sell the stuff that definitely doesn’t fit and buy new items. You get the best bang for your buck by bundling (for buying & selling both). I’ve also had really good luck at Goodwill on their 50% of the entire store days.

    LW5: I completely feel your pain. I’ve struggled with many terrible retail break rooms. One was actually just a corner of a stockroom and I was a stockroom coordinator, so I wouldn’t even get a break to not look at my work. I would just go outside/sit in my car. Not the best option, but better than nonstop chatter.

  57. IScentItAway*

    I have pretty extreme scent allergies, mostly only to artificial fragrances, though. I had a friend I hired as a personal assistant for awhile who had very hard to control hair. Since I had to work closely with her, including share car space, I did have to ask her to try to alter her preferred hair care. She was able to make up something with aloe and glycerin and I might have supplied an aloe gel for her to use as an ingredient. I have to put up with the occasional delivery or appliance repair person who is over-scented, but I do make requests of anyone I will see repeatedly.
    Conversely, I never assume that what I can safely use (many natural essential oils) are safe for others and warn them if I’ve recently used (eg.) tea tree oil as a natural antiseptic. My bug-bear when working with the public is heavily scented laundry products! When I see (smell) a baby carriage wafting moonbeam fresh/dawn dew/cloud forest/meadow muffin/etc., I feel so sorry for the kid; it can’t be healthy for them. I even react to the dish formula that’s supposed to be safe for wildlife.

  58. Meg*

    I’m curious about scent free policies, from folks who have worked in those offices. I never have, but every time I read one I’m genuinely curious about the intersection of accommodating a coworker’s allergies/scent issues and my personal hygiene products. I’m happy to skip perfumer/cologne/even scented lotion, but I have dandruff and curly hair. When I find a shampoo that works for my scalp, you can try and pry it out of my cold dead hands. If I had to stop using it, I would be uncomfortable to in pain, and be dealing with visible flakes (at at it’s absolute worst I was losing hair–a short time and then a doctor got it under control, but still). And with curly hair, I’ve tried zillions of different products, and have absurd amounts of half used products in my bathroom because they didn’t work.

    I would hate to be the cause of someone’s reaction, but swapping out those products isn’t an option for me. Just curious how this plays out, or if anyone has ever experienced something similar.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      I am extremely sensitive to scents, my eyes start watering, I begin coughing, gagging and my throat swells. It is usually only if I am in a closed space with someone for an extended period of time. I can get through an elevator ride, or a walk down the hall, even a one-hour meeting I can usually manage if I have something to drink. It becomes a problem with I am in a conference room for the entire day, or when I am teaching in a smaller space. I put a small note at the bottom of the invite *Due to severe allergies, this is a scent-free environment* And I leave it at that. I have never had a reaction to deodorants or hair care products, it has only been to colognes and perfumes, and the occasional scented body lotion- it tends to be the ones who are made by the cologne and perfume manufacture. Lotions from the Body Shop or Bath & Body Works don’t bother me, but Lush will make me vomit.
      Most people I know with a scent allergy don’t report it being grooming products, although someone up thread posted they have had a reaction to someone’s hair care products. It really is a crap shoot. Just do what you can!

      1. Meg*

        thanks for your input! I’ve wondered about this often, and assumed it was mostly perfumes. I think I just spend a lot time thinking about hair and scalp products that actually work that it’s the first thing I think of when I hear about people switching to unscented products.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Same – I wear my hair in a way that requires hairspray, and while I’d be fine with not wearing perfume if asked, being asked to change my hairstyle or other products feels more invasive.

    3. fposte*

      There’s at least one previous column discussing it (if I find it I’ll post it in followup); it’s going to depend on the workplace and the severity of the reaction to the scents, but yes, it can be an issue. It’s not just about products people don’t like as much; it’s about the expense of buying a whole new set of everything for your house, which isn’t cheap.

      1. fposte*

        When things get tricky:

        And for when things go wrong:

        And for when things go very wrong:

              1. fposte*

                Thanks–I’m not really sick enough to merit that level of sympathy, just enough to find hunting down links entertaining.

        1. Meg*

          Thank you! The one about the conflicting medical needs is definitely interesting. I know that the shampoo that’s working for me now has a strong scent when I use it but that mostly dissipates after. I’ve wondered if other people can smell it, but the thought of needing to stop makes me panicky.

    4. skipjack*

      I’ve worked in several scent-free offices throughout the US. The policies have differed a little bit, but they’ve generally just been: no scented sprays or oil diffusers in the office, no perfume or cologne, no strongly scented lotion. Basically if you can smell something beyond a foot or so away, it’s a problem. I think that kind of ban is way more standard than the no-anything-scented bans people in the comments are worrying about.

      1. Meg*

        yeah that makes a lot of sense to me. I haven’t encountered it personally, so I was curious since I know there are varying degrees of sensitivity.

    5. JRose*

      I have curly hair and I need to use leave-in conditioner and styling product in order for it not to be a big ball of frizz. I have also worked in several scent-free offices including my current one and this…is an ongoing question for me. In a previous office that I worked in, someone complained to my manager about how I smelled due to my hair products. I stopped using them but was unable to find suitable replacements, so I stuffed all my hair into a tight bun so that no one could see it while I was at work (this was a temporary, ten-hour a week student position, so while I was unhappy about this solution, it didn’t cut that much into my life). Now, I work in a different scent-free office full-time, and I currently use scented products in my hair because I have still been unable to find fragrance-free products that will work for my hair (and believe you me, I have looked and looked and looked). I make an effort to stay away from products that have really strong scents and try to stick with ones that are milder. I also don’t work near the person in our office who has the sensitivity. This seems to be working so far (knock on wood).

      1. Meg*

        I feel you! When I find things that actually work for my hair I’m all over it! I finally realized that I need to just accept the DevCurl restocking sticker shock and stop trying to sub in other cheaper products that don’t work as well. I’d probably do the same thing as you in the short term, but I really wouldn’t want to just stop having good hair at work forever if it were permanent.

  59. Letter Writer #3*

    I’m letter writer #3. Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts. After seeing Alison’s response and reading all of your comments this morning, I have already spoken with my manager and we have been on the phone with HR to request that I be excused. The HR rep is looking into it but I know I have the support of my manager (who is amazing). I think I was hesitant to bring this up in part because, like many of you have noted, I don’t want to be asked to share my story or give details. Thankfully, my manager has been more than kind and has taken me at my word with no request for more details. Thanks to Alison and to everyone!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I’m very glad, OP. I’m glad your manager is behind you, but it’s the only reasonable place to be on this.

    2. TT&E*

      I set-up & run training and exercises for first responders AND the non-first responders in a federal agency in the US. Among the things we train and exercise are active shooter events.

      My opinion, shared by all but a few of my colleagues, is that there is no reason for anyone on the non-first responder side to participate in training or drills if they don’t want to, for any reason. Two reasons:
      1) the whole point is this is to help people by giving them tools they can use should they be in this horrible situation. Causing harm by forcing someone to participate is not helping them.
      2) Actual drills carry an inherent level of risk. As planners we do everything we can to minimize it, and that includes allowing non-first responders to opt out.

      If it’s a training, that is held somewhere other than the daily workspace, you should be allowed to continue your work. If it’s an actual drill, you should be allowed to take a day off, work from home, other location etc.

      I’m glad to hear your management is supportive – Any responsible trainer would not want you in the training if it will cause you harm. Unfortunately, there are crackpots out there who also put this stuff on.

  60. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    OP2 – I dealt with a similar situation by joining a clothing rental service. They can be surprisingly reasonable, and it is a good way to have work clothes to wear in your temporary size without committing to building a new wardrobe. You will still need a few basics, but I was able to get by for several months with two pairs of black work trousers and a white button-down, renting all the rest.

  61. Observer*

    #5 – I think that a lot depends on what your options are,and what options your coworker has.

    You do NOT get to decide that her calls are not “urgent enough”. There are just too many possible scenarios, and you have no way to know what’s going on with her.

    Is she allowed to be seen in uniform on her phone? Can either of you go outside in nice weather? Is there somewhere else either of you can go?

    If you’re stuck sharing that break room, then you need to invest in something like headphones and music / white noise. You simply cannot mandate that someone doesn’t make any calls during their break.

    1. NKOTB*

      While I agree there is no fair, objective way to determine what phone calls are “urgent enough” to make rules or exceptions, OP does have an idea of what is going on with her. She is forced to listen to her constant phone conversations every time she tries to get some peace in the break room.

      1. Observer*

        That doesn’t give her anywhere near enough information to make any sort of judgement. They still don’t know what the CW’s home and health situations are. They also don’t know much about the situations of the people CW is talking to.

  62. Mel*

    You have all my sympathy, because that would drive me bananas.

    Which is also probably why I have never used a company break room. Ever.
    I always go sit in my car (or go to the library, but you don’t have that kind of time).

    Sure, sometimes there is some jerk who thinks the whole world needs to listen to their music, but most of the time it’s pretty quiet in the car and you’re almost never going to be interrupted there.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most of my coworkers past and present also use their cars. It’s mainly because they smoke though.

      I take breaks in my car when my back is hurting so I can stretch out as well, it’s been a lifesaver.

  63. NKOTB*

    OP#5 – I really feel your pain. Constant talking on the phone, especially in an enclosed space like a break room, is really annoying and also inconsiderate. It’s definitely different than just two coworkers conversing. I guess I agree with Allison’s advice in that there is not really anything you can do without a formal rule. The petty part of me would want to start talking loudly on the phone myself while they’re using the break room as their own personal phone booth. But I think the other commenters are right. Noise canceling headphones can help and also hopefully politely signal to this person that you don’t want to hear their conversation.

  64. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    A lot of comments are breezing over the fact this is a retail breakroom and there are no other options for a place to sit for those on their breaks. So no, it’s absolutely out of line to even suggest once the phone calls be taken outside. Unless a common area is designated by management to be a quiet space, you are best left to not police others. The earbuds or even earplugs would be a good option to give you a break from the sensation of noise that you’re trying to escape.

    In many residential care facilities people catch a nap on the couch too. Nobody is asked to stay quiet, the napper wears headphones with their alarm set. Just like if I’m at home and my partner snoozes out on the sofa, I’ll keep it down but I’m still watching tv if I want to and he’s not going to ask me to stop because it’s not a bedroom. Just like a breakroom is not a sanctuary.

    It’s unfortunate that there’s such limited space and I feel for you but you seemingly get the same breaks for hours worked. She can’t be on the phone on the floor.

    If she is using speakerphone or shouting, then that’s something to ask nicely about because that’s rude in most instances.

  65. canamera*

    #5 It sounds like maybe (like me) you are an introvert. I have worked at places like this where people use lunch time to get together and have all kinds of LOUD fun on their break, while I was trying to read my book. I couldn’t really fault them for wanting to chat. But it would have been nice to have a quiet area for those of us who needed to recharge our batteries. Companies should look into providing spaces to accommodate all work and personality styles. Believe it or not, the company recently asked me to come back, and one of the big factors I took into account was that loud room and how there was nowhere to ever escape during the day. I live in a climate where standing outside is not always an option. In the future, knowing yourself like you do, it might be a good idea to seek out work that complements your introverted personality (in other words, not customer-facing). For now, I wish you luck in tolerating the noise.

  66. ZK*

    #5, as an introvert, I feel for you. But if you need quiet, it’s on you to get it. When I worked retail, I would go out to my vehicle for breaks/lunch to get the quiet time I needed to recharge. Yes, you only have a short break, and you don’t have time to do more than stand around outside, but it can still be that needed quiet time. I continue go out to my vehicle for lunch every day, because the break area is never going to be quiet.

  67. animaniactoo*

    OP1 – I wonder if part of the issue isn’t that the managers feel it’s unreasonable to request when the job they’re interviewing for will be off-site? Or at least that they feel it’s off-putting to candidates about the whole job since they will not be working in that office?

    If so, is it possible that a change of wording could help?:

    “Please note: Our workplace observes a scent-free policy. While you would not be working from this office, we’d appreciate it if you would refrain from wearing any perfume or using other scented products as much as possible for your interview. Thank you.”

  68. Michaela Westen*

    Re #1, I wonder if scent-free excludes natural scents also. I use natural products that are mostly unscented or barely scented, but one of my hair products has a strong, but not synthetic chemical* scent. Now I come to think of it, another product contains lavender and has a mild scent.
    Would such as this be banned in a scent-free office? Or is it more for the strong synthetic chemical scents which make many people sick?
    If so I’m not sure what I would use, it’s already hard enough to find products that are free of allergens and harmful chemicals.

    *Please don’t derail on “everything is a chemical”, etc. That’s not what this is about. And we really need a separate word for products that come from natural substances like plants.

    1. fposte*

      It is kind of what it’s about, though. People often don’t know what’s natural and what’s synthetic, and mostly synthetics exist to be louder at a cheaper price point, so often they’re noticed more because they’re more potent, not because they’re qualitatively different.

      So yes, natural scents would usually be banned in a scent-free office, because it’s about the existence of the scent, not about how much of it started in a lab.

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        And sometimes a synthetic scent is literally the exact same chemical compound as the plant one. Literally identical. It doesn’t matter if the compound came from a plant or a lab, the issue for many is the particulate matter in the air.

        1. fposte*

          Right. That’s why the “it’s all chemicals” thing is relevant and the natural/synthetic divide not so much. And commercial perfumes still use a *ton* of natural ingredients, and it really is likelier that people are reacting to the blast of patchouli in Chanel’s Coromandel rather than a small element of synthetic fixative.

          And, as has come up before when we’ve discussed the issue, the body gets more vigilant and you can end up reacting to smaller amounts or even when the substance isn’t there but you thought it was. (There’s one interesting study of asthmatics in the ER, for instance, that notes a lot of them are having anxiety attacks when they think they’re having asthma attacks. The body understandably gets really stressed about breathing.)

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I’ll refine my question a little.
        We’ve all noticed those loud, cheap, unnaturally clingy, and (to me) unnatural-smelling scents. And we all know they make many people sick, that’s been discussed here before.
        So I supposed scent-free bans were based on these unnatural scents (whether the components are natural or not, the strength and toxicity is unnatural)
        Would my hair oil that’s made of shea and other natural oils make the same people sick as the Axe body spray? It has a strong scent, but is it as toxic?

        1. fposte*

          It’s the same answer, because the question is based on incorrect information. There isn’t a simple divide between natural and unnatural scents, and a lot of strong scents are as naturally derived as your products–civet, rose, patchouli, tonka, etc. The difference is mostly one of wearer taste. While some people can have a reaction, especially if we’re talking an allergy, based on a specific fragrance, there’s no guarantee that that would be to a synthetic rather than to a natural (Lush loves to use almond products, for instance, and there are people allergic to almonds). And mostly when we’re talking migraines it’s the strength of the olfactory impact rather than an allergy to a small component of it.

          Scent discussion in some places seems to treat fragrance as if it were neatly divisible into “natural” and “synthetic,” so people often get the wrong idea about what “natural” smells like.

          1. fposte*

            And FWIW, “toxic” doesn’t really fit as a technical term here. There are the noted problems with some essential oils, whether it be pet death or growing breasts on young boys, but that doesn’t mean there’s no safe way to use those oils. It sounds again like you’re theorizing a toxic class and a non-toxic class, and scent ingredients aren’t so neatly divisible.

        2. L.S. Cooper*

          Something doesn’t have to be “toxic” or “synthetic” to cause issues; lots of people in other threads here about scents have attested to the issues they have with “natural” scents. If it’s strongly scented, it will likely cause trouble. It is still producing compounds in the air that produce a strong scent; it really doesn’t matter what it’s made of.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          Thanks fposte and L.S.! I understand what you’re saying.
          However, I think synthetic chemicals – maybe not the ones with scent, but the other ingredients in things like Axe – are a factor in making so many people sick. So when people are reacting to Axe and similar products, it might be to the synthetic compounds and not the scent itself.
          Of course there are also people who will have problems with the scent itself, it just seems to me there wouldn’t be as many as are reacting to these loudly scented products.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think that’s likely to be true, but it probably doesn’t matter; as long as we understand that our fragrances are as affected by a fragrance ban as anybody else’s and comply appropriately, our private thoughts on the issue can be whatever we choose.

          2. Observer*

            Well, you happen to be wrong. As fposte explained so well, you’re setting up a false dichotomy here.

            In any case, it doesn’t really matter. It would be insane for any employer to try to ban scents based on whether they are “natural” or not. It would also be impossible.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              That’s a good point, it wouldn’t work as a ban. I was more interested in whether my product would make the same people sick as the Axe-type stuff.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              I will give an example of what I mean.
              Several years ago, someone left an air freshener called Carrascent in our restroom. It had a pleasing scent that didn’t seem too strong.
              One day I went to the restroom after someone had sprayed the Carrascent in there. In 10 minutes I had a severe sinus headache that lasted for a day and a half. :(
              Checking the ingredients of the Carrascent, there were several chemicals and they had most definitely made me sick. I’ve never gotten sick from a natural, chemical-free scent.
              One of my colleagues also got sick from it, she got sneezing fits.
              This is the kind of thing I mean when I say people getting sick from the chemicals. Would as many people get sick from the smell of real strawberries being cut in the room, as would from the strong-smelling, chemically-enhanced strawberry body spray? I don’t think so.

              1. Observer*

                You’d almost certainly be wrong. There are plenty of people who will react far ore strongly to the natural scent that the artificial scent.

                Because one is not stronger than the other. They are BOTH things that can cause reaction, and there is simply nothing about them that sharply divides them, or that make one more reactive than others.

              2. Dragoning*

                I think you have a fair amount of confirmation bias coming into this question, though. You’re asking a question, but you seem to already be decided on the answer, based on the way you’re arguing with everyone who points out that your opinion on the matter isn’t exactly based on fact.

          3. animaniactoo*

            I’ll put it to you like this – I’ve had to ask my husband to find a different strain of marijuana, even if that means he needs to buy from someone else.

            Sadly for me, it turns out that the smell in general is a migraine trigger, but that the one he’d been using was ESPECIALLY potent as a trigger.

            My husband can deal with jasmine as a scent fragrance. However, he is allergic to night-blooming jasmine itself.

            There are ZERO synthetic things included in the things we are actually reacting to.

            For my mom and sister, they react strongly to ANY scent that tends towards overwhelming from an earth standpoint. Balsam, patchouli, and so on. They also react to strongly scented candles and perfumes of all varieties.

            So, while it is possible that the synthetic compounds are additionally making people sick, yes, your strong-smelling natural stuff is making some of the same people sick too.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Thanks, I understand! I’ve been told that medical marijuana users can get it in capsules. Or I think it’s fairly easy now to get “edibles”. Maybe your husband could switch to those? Then the fumes wouldn’t be a problem at all! :)

              1. animaniactoo*

                Thanks for the suggestion – for the moment, we split it by he manages to smoke in a way that drastically reduces any potential impact on me (which basically means he can never relax in his living room and do it, but them’s the breaks). The major issue with that was the especially potent one was easier for me to pick up if he’d been smoking inside at all. In general, he’s really good about it with me – right down to washing his hands to make sure he’s not coming near me with it. :)

    2. Burts Knees*

      I will say that in my own experience as someone very sensitive to fragrance the absolute worst trigger for me is essential oils, anyone wearing even a little of them will just ruin me and it smells so strong and stays on all day! But a lot of people think it’s natural and healthy and don’t think it’s the same as perfumes and will just spray it willy nilly even after knowing I have an allergy to scented things and it is very frustrating!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I got a large diffuser to use as a humidifier in my small apt., with only water, no oils.
        I looked online for maintenance instructions and found an article by someone who had put too much oil in her diffuser and got a runny nose, stinging eyes… yikes! Not a good sign! I would take that to mean I shouldn’t use it!
        I also wonder if the oils are really natural. Some of the less ethical or regulated manufacturers could be putting other things in them – things to make them smell even better, or make them addictive. The older I get and the more I see, the more I realize some people will do anything.

        1. Observer*

          Sure, there are lots of unethical people around. But that has nothing to do with this – you’re trying very hard to bend the evidence to fit your premise. But it’s just not the case.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Observer, I would have thought you’d be a little less critical. :)
            I’ve seen and read of people who behave like they’re addicted to essential oils. I read a study in which they found e-cig liquid that was labeled nicotine-free contained nicotine. It’s not such a big stretch to wonder what’s going on with the oils.

        2. Dragoning*

          Too much water makes people drown.

          Arsenic is so “natural” it’s on the periodic table as a base element occurring in nature. Doesn’t make it not toxic.

          1. Dragoning*

            (Lead is another one of those “natural” substances I wouldn’t want in any of my products whatsoever)

    3. Koala dreams*

      Some people are allergic to (certain) plants, so it would depend on the person. I don’t know if people generally would be able to give you a list of the specific smells that make them ill. I understand what you mean about strong smelling chemical scents, I’m not allergic but nevertheless I find certain laundry detergents and certain perfumes with weird smells really off-putting.
      I think when people say fragrance free or scent free they mostly mean without an added scent, not the basic things that make a soap, laundry soap, schampoo etc. So soap would be fine, but soap with added rose petals would not be fine. Perfumes are basically just added scents, so generally they are not allowed at all, including natural perfumes.

  69. LaDeeDa*

    Scent Free– a little bit of a stretch of the topic, but I hope Alison and all of you won’t mind.

    I mentioned above that I have a strong scent sensitivity. Last year an 18-wheeler carrying cans of Axe body spray overturned and then exploded… I got stuck on the highway for HOURS. The smell, my god the smell– BURNING AXE Body spray!! Axe body spray can be smelled for miles as it is, but in the explosion, cans were firing across the highway! I turned off the air, closed my vents, and I still threw up several times in my car…. it smelled.. it smelled like a middle school zombie apocalypse.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Bahaha! I’m sorry for laughing at your pain, but “middle school zombie apocalypse” is poetry! Vivid college memories of the Axe stench in men’s dorms… Yeah that sounds awful.

  70. cheese please*

    Re: #1

    In engineering / technical fields it’s fully appropriate to ask candidates to abide by a dress code/ general policy if they are visiting a manufacturing facility, getting a tour of a site etc as part of the interview. For example, we are often asked to wear long pants, closed toed shoes, sometimes even asked to not wear perfumes or makeup if the facility is food or medical related and very sensitive. While requests may be unheard of in other fields I don’t find it strange at all to make a simple request.

    1. Observer*

      The problem is that this is clearly not that type of facility. Also, apparently the OP is talking about going a fair bit further than “no perfume or makeup” to “No scented products”. That’s a much broader ask.

  71. cheese please*

    #2: Have you tried a local Buy Nothing group? They are often on facebook and great for getting misc. items. Maybe a few neighbors can give / lend you some interim clothes (you may only need 2-3 pairs of pants to get to the next “phase). I often see people giving away or lending formal evening wear, baby clothes etc.

  72. LJay*

    My concern with just having a conflict with the active shooter training is that it might not just be a one day thing.

    We do a bunch of computer-based safety trainings. One of them is active shooter training. And it’s not a situation where you could avoid it by having a conflict that day because the training isn’t on any specific day. It comes up in your employee dashboard and you have a few weeks to do it “on time” and if you don’t do it “on time” you just get nagged by the training department until it’s done.

    And really, even if it were a classroom based training, it seems like if it is something that is mandatory for all employees they would have a way to deliver it to people who were out sick, on vacation, had a flat tire that day, or whatever.

    I think the OP is likely going to have to go to their boss, and their boss will have to go to whoever in training or safety or HR or whoever came up with the training and explicitly work with them to get the OP out of this. If there is a way the OP can demonstrate proficiency with the concepts that is not too triggering that would probably be the best way to go about it – like if she is able to fill out the test at the end of the training but watching the videos is too difficult, or if she can send a short emailed statement to whoever is keeping track of the training or something.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      Compliance training falls under my department, computer-based mandatory training can have exceptions and if someone came to me to tell me they needed an exception for something like that, I would grant it right away, and I wouldn’t need permission from HR or their manager. I would just do it- they don’t need to show me proficiency in anything. And if I was questioned about it during our yearly audit I could defend my decision.

      1. LJay*

        Cool, good to know. It’s never come up for me or my employees but I imagine ir will at some point.

        I figured there would be a way out of it, just that calling out sick for one day wouldn’t work.

  73. LJay*

    It seems like for #1, the best solution for everyone might be to have these interviews off-site.

    The OP says that these employees will be off-site employees, so they will likely not be working with the scent-sensitive employees regularly. Nor does it seem like there is a need for them to see the office, especially on a first interview.

    It seems like the interviews could be done either whereever the employees will be working if they will be working from a different office, or via Skype, or at a local coffee shop or restaurant, or in the conference room of a hotel or something. At least for an initial interview.

    Then if there is need for another interview on-site, they can be informed verbally at the end of the first interview or when the second one is being set up that the office does have a scent-free policy, what that consists of, and what that means for them both for the next interview and ultimately if they do get the job (like, if they’re field workers who check in at the office daily or weekly they’re probably going to have to adhere to the policy in a different way than if they work entirely remotely or in a different office and only come to the main office once or twice a year).

    That way the admins aren’t exposed to a cloud of perfume from every person walking in off the street for an interview.

    Candidates who turn out not to be the right fit for other reasons don’t have to worry about it.

    Candidates don’t have to worry about their first impression being negatively affected because they can’t afford to go out and buy scent-free laundry detergent or hair-care products.

    Good candidates get the information presented in a way that allows them to ask questions about it, and in an easier to process way than just being handed a sheet of paper with rules on it.

    And if you seriously explain the scent policy to someone in one interview, and they show up not adhering to it in the second interview that tells you a lot about them.

    1. fposte*

      I like this idea a lot, especially if it does go beyond a perfume issue. It’s a way for management to put their money where their mouth is on support without asking applicants to foot the bill.

  74. PersephoneUnderground*

    #5- I’ve worked retail and totally sympathize! Alison is right, but maybe you could also bring little foam earplugs with you, or listen to your own music on a phone or CD/mp3 player you keep in your purse/bag with headphones. I’m not going to recommend particular noise canceling or anything because those are expensive and retail usually has awful pay (though that would be great) but I think music of your own could help a lot with maximizing your short relaxation time- maybe spa music or something extra soothing, and you just chill in the corner of the break room listening to that and reading or appearing to read something (so you’re left alone).
    (If this is repetitive, sorry, haven’t read all 300 other comments!)

  75. WinnaPig*

    Regarding the clothes – the top video on this page has a no-machine method for taking in pants, the second has a really easy method for adding darts to the back.

    Here is a video on how to easily slim down button-down shirts, that could work for any blouse. In the comments someone offers the fix for a shirt with back yoke tucks.

    Congrats on taking great strides for your health!

  76. Beth*

    LW #1: I would think that it would be worth finding out if a job candidate can 1) read and follow instructions, 2) make a modest accommodation without making a fuss.

  77. Brownies*

    LW#2- How about renting clothes? Or curated fashion boxes? You can use them for pieces to style up your clothes. For the curated clothes subscriptions, you can specify that you needs clothes with built in flex so that when you are larger, the stretchier material will work and when you lose weight, it won’t be so floppy.

  78. Burts Knees*

    So over the last year I’ve been losing weight really slowly, like four pounds a month. Which on one had is great and feels sustainable and all that jazz, but makes clothes and clothes super annoying because I went down a size, and then ever so slowly down another size, and it’s just a slow torturous process of “how much longer can I wear this? I think it’s still fine? It was fine last week. Nope, no longer fits. Is it worth buying something new when it’s not going to fit in four months?”. I personally have found the best way to handle it is to have like three or four pairs of pants that fit really well, and then just tuck in the large shirts. It’s still an added expense especially if you will keep weight fluctuating because you just have to keep eating it as you go down sizes, but if you can swing it, having a correctly fitted bottom makes it easier to seem like the over large shirts are just a fashion choice, and it’s a less expensive one than trying to redo a whole wardrobe.

  79. TN INFP*

    OP #5, I’m just like you, I need quiet on my lunch break. I started taking my lunch in my car years ago. It sounds odd if you’ve never done it, but I would never do it any other way now. Sure, in the hot months you’ll need to runt he A/C and in the cold months you’ll need to run the heater. But an idling car doesn’t use as much gas as you’d expect and the trade off is MUCH better than hearing chit chatting co-workers all day!

  80. Fiddlesticks*

    Noise cancelling headphones are the best thing ever, and I hope the OP will consider getting a pair.

    I do sympathize with the OP, however. WHY are people always so damn loud when talking on their phones (or even just in a group of other people)?! I admit to having sensitive ears, but an inordinate number of folks who are not hard of hearing consistently talk at a volume more appropriate for projecting across a crowded train station, even though the person they’re talking with is just on the other side of a table or a phone. It absolutely exhausts me to be around people like this; it actually feels like a physical assault after a while.

  81. Xarcady*

    #5. Don’t have much at add, but can I say I am so jealous of the OP that her store’s break room does not have the obnoxious music piped in? We apparently have to have it because our store announcement system is the same as the music and and someone might need to hear a page. The music is loud and relentless.

    And there’s a TV in our break room. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the break room quietly reading and someone will come in and immediately turn on the TV. They never, ever ask if I would mind, they just turn it on. They don’t have a specific show they want to watch, they just flip through all the channels until they find something they like. And then I have to sit there and listen to the music soundtrack and the TV with the volume turned up to be heard over the music.

    And going outside in northern New England is not an option for large parts of the year. I get home and just need to listen to silence for a few hours.

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