my coworker doesn’t follow her own fragrance ban, my mentor got fired, and more

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

1. My coworker doesn’t follow her own fragrance ban

I have a coworker who’s sensitive to smells. It’s so bad that our entire office is under a strict “no heavy perfume or scented lotions” rule. The person who’s “sensitive” is so sensitive that she claims to get asthma from strong scents. She has been known to stand over people with her hand in front of her face “gagging” or complaining of migraines from a smell she smells.

Here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. She herself wears a perfume DAILY. And it’s not just a light pleasant aroma that’s barely detectable. Oh no — it’s actually gag-inducing and lingers for a half an hour if she’s used a room for something. She’s hugged me for various accomplishments and then I was stuck with that scent until I walked outside to air it out for 15 minutes.

Is there a tactful way to approach her, because the rest of the building adheres to a rule in place FOR HER, but yet she doesn’t adhere to it.

People who have bad reactions to fragrances don’t always have those reactions across the board — one scent might set someone off while another doesn’t. So the fact that she has at least one fragrance that she knows is safe for her doesn’t mean that she’s misrepresenting her fragrance sensitivity in general (which I think is what you’re implying, based on your language here).

However, if there’s a fragrance ban in your office, she needs to follow it. She might be figuring that it was put in place for her and she knows what will and won’t set her off so she can wear things she knows will be fine for her — but that’s not how this works. There may be others there who need the ban as well but who didn’t think they needed to speak up about it because it already existed … but even if there aren’t, it’s an office rule and she needs to follow it. And really, that’s in her best interests anyway, since otherwise other people will figure they can get lax about it too.

Ideally you’d talk to her directly: “Jane, you’re wearing a scent that I seem to be sensitive to. Can I ask you not to wear it to work, in line with the office rule about fragrances?” But if you’re frustrated to the point that you can’t give her much benefit of the doubt, you’re better off having HR handle it. It’s reasonable to ask HR to enforce this kind of policy; just be sure when you talk to them that you frame it as “this is giving me a physical reaction” and/or “can you help enforce this policy?” and not as “Jane is a huge hypocrite.”

2. My mentor got fired and now I’m questioning what she taught me

I started a new job in payroll last July and on my first day got paired up with Jane, a current employee. Jane had been handling most of my job for a few months and also had years of experience with payroll even though she was in a different department here. At the time, Jane was presented as an excellent resource for me to find out about the job and the company as a whole. We even were given an office to share, so she would be readily available to answer any questions that I had. We had many long conversations about her experience and opinions of the company and her input really shaped my impression of my job.

Six months after I started, Jane was fired. Since then, I have heard snide remarks about Jane from others in her department that she was not a good employee.

I have not been able to reconcile the first six months of working with Jane with this new information. Even though I didn’t take all of her advice, I did listen to everything she told me and believed much of it because of her experience. For instance, she told me a particular manager was terrible at his job (a position that she had before), yet I have heard positive feedback about him from others now. Should I forget everything that Jane told me? How should I filter out the good from the bad?

Do what you would do if you’d never had those in-depth conversations with Jane: form your own impressions, based on your own experiences with people, and reserve judgment about people you don’t work with yourself.

It’s possible that Jane’s impressions were all pretty right on. It’s also possible that they were way off, or somewhere in between. You’ll probably have a better idea of how you rate her accuracy once you start forming your own impressions and can check how well they line up with what she told you. You might find you come to similar conclusions, or really different ones. Stay open-minded and see what happens.

One thing to think about though: If Jane was very quick to share negative opinions about others when you started, that’s actually a strike against her. People with good judgment usually don’t rush to dump negativity onto a new hire and will be more discreet. So if looking back, that’s what happened, I’d bring some additional skepticism to bear.

3. My boss cancels our check-in meetings because he has schedule conflicts

I have a recurring 1:1 with my boss every two weeks. More often than not, he’ll cancel or reschedule and just say, “I have a conflict.” I can see his calendar and it’s usually because he’s attending another meeting.

I’m an associate level employee but not new to the workforce (had a career change), so I’m not wide eyed and frightened to make mistakes and speak up like many of us were right out of college. I do understand managers get called into other priorities. But corporate culture also made me sit through a course on micro-aggressions and suggested that when people do things like this, they are basically saying “you’re less important than this other thing.” I don’t think it’s that extreme, but I’ve only been on his team for six months and I would think he’d want to do a bit more to help me feel acclimated, included, and comfortable. He often reminds me that he has an open door policy, which is fine, but he also agreed with me from day one that 1:1’s are a good way to check in.

Am I overreacting? Over-thinking? Or am I in good standing to say, “When you reschedule our biweekly check-ins so casually, it makes me think that 1) you can’t manage your own time so you can’t manage me, 2) you are making me feel alienated on this team and 3) I don’t trust you have time for me”?

I wouldn’t say it like that, but it goes along with that fact that I’m not brand new to the workforce: I have less patience for managers who can’t seem to manage and I don’t know how to politely say what I need anymore. The other wrench is that in six months I barely have any work assigned to me, so the 1:1s aren’t really necessary other than a forum for me to say that I’m waiting for work and doing my best to stay busy. I don’t have a reason to visit him otherwise (open door policy) so I feel I personally need these scheduled sessions to check in.

Your take on this is way more aggressive/negative than it needs to be, to the point that it’s slightly alarming.

By all means, if you want to meet with your manager more regularly, tell him that! It’s fine to say, “We’ve been canceling a lot of our 1:1s and I’d really like to make sure we meet regularly. Can we make a point of rescheduling for the same week if you need to push it back?” Also, when he cancels, you can reply with, “Can we reschedule for tomorrow afternoon?” or “When is good for you to reschedule?”

But seeing this an indication of disrespect or an inability to manage his own time or you is reading way too much into it, and is way too adversarial. Frankly, if you don’t have a lot of work going on (which is a separate issue), it’s not surprising that he figures there’s not a lot to meet about (you acknowledge in your letter that they’re barely necessary!), and he’s probably relying on you to speak up if you do need the meeting that week.

The lack of work is a legitimate concern though. If you haven’t already, I’d address that head-on, say that you really want to do the work you were hired for, and try to find out what’s going on and when that’s likely to change.

4. My coworker keeps texting me about non-emergencies

I work at a small nonprofit that’s recently experienced a lot of staff turnover. When I was helping to onboard two new admin colleagues, I explained that my work email doesn’t forward to my phone once I’ve left the office but that they could have my cell phone number so they always had a way to get in touch if there was an emergency after hours or on weekends.

One of them has only texted once, with something both time-sensitive and important. The other texts me regularly on my day off, or early in the morning and late in the evening on work days, about things that are work-related but not even close to being emergencies. At first I tried not responding to non-emergency texts that came on my day off, but got more texts and an in-person “are you getting my texts? I’m not sure if they’re going through.” I explained that they’d come in while I was busy with other things, which took priority because it was my day off.

The last time I got a text before 7 am, I replied, “Let’s talk about what to do about the problem when I get to the office.” Which worked for that day, but hasn’t stopped the bigger issue of getting woken up by work texts. My colleague is retired and working for us part-time, while I’m newly married and work 50-hour weeks. I mention this not as a judgment or competition, but because I expect that she may have more mental/emotional space to devote to our organization outside of our set work hours. (This dynamic, though, also makes addressing this more complicated — I’m in my mid-20s, but have been at this job for years and have a relatively senior position on our small staff. But I feel like a little kid around her, and don’t know how much of that is me feeling self-conscious about my youth, and how much of it is me actually being treated like I’m more junior here than I am.)

I like her! Do I just ignore texts that come in at all odd hours? I’ve tried subtlety in explaining that any work that *can* wait for office hours will have to wait for office hours, but to no apparent success. If I have to have a more direct conversation about this, what do I say?

Stop with the subtlety and just tell her directly! You can be really matter-of-fact about it: “I apologize if I wasn’t clear when I gave you my cell number. It’s for emergencies only. Please always email me rather than texting, unless something is true an emergency like (example) or (example).” That it! She might feel a little embarrassed to realize she’s been doing it wrong, but so be it — a little embarrassment isn’t the worst thing in the world, and there’s no getting around that if you want this to stop.

Then if you get another non-emergency text, ignore it until you’re back at work, at which point you can say, “Like I said, please do not text me unless it’s an emergency. Instead, please email me about things like (latest example).” And if it still continues: “For some reason we’re having trouble straightening this out! I really don’t want work texts unless it’s an emergency, so going forward I’m not going to respond to texts until I’m back at work.”

You’ve been expecting her to pick up on hints — which would work with many people. But it’s clearly not working with her, so you have to be more direct.

5. Will I look like a jerk if I clean my new office’s disgusting kitchen?

I recently started a new job and the office is less than glamorous, which is usually the nature of my job. However, the shared kitchen space is disgusting — and everyone seems ok with that. The microwave isn’t cleaned — like it REALLY isn’t cleaned, there are food crumbs all over an old tablecloth, and the room just smells like dust.

Do I come across as a jerk or someone who thinks they are better than those existing in a gross space by discreetly cleaning out the appliances I intend to use to heat up lunch once in a while? I’ve been trying to tackle small stuff while I heat up lunch when nobody is in there, so I am being discreet so as not to come across as uppity while I am new and forming a reputation.

It’s unlikely that people will think you’re expressing contempt for them through cleaning; if anything, they’re likely to appreciate someone is cleaning, or they might feel mildly embarrassed (sometimes when someone new arrives on the scene, you suddenly realize what your office must look like to a newcomer’s eyes).

I wouldn’t go in there with a mop and cleaning bucket and wipe down all the walls or anything, but wiping out the microwave and sweeping crumbs into the trash aren’t likely to come across as Making A Statement.

{ 578 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl

    #3 – you’ve kind of made this all about you. And you’re also expecting the boss to put in all the work to make the relationship work.
    It looks like the timing isn’t working for the 1:1 meetings. Go to your boss and say: “Several of our 1:1 meetings have been cancelled due to conflicts. It looks like the time slot isn’t working. When would be a better time?”

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah—I’m a little worried OP has misunderstood the microaggression training and is now incorrectly taking the cancellations personally or attributing them to incompetence. It’s way more likely that, from the boss’ perspective, a one-on-one with a new employee is lower priority than the other meeting. That’s not personal, that’s just the reality of how differing roles have different demands and orders of prioritization (and sometimes those differences fail to align or actively conflict).

      That doesn’t mean the boss disvalues OP or is trying to make OP feel excluded. The way forward is to reschedule in the moment and/or to ask to reset the standing meeting time, as you and Alison have advised.

      [Sidenote: At six months, I don’t think a manager bears the same burden of making sure OP feels “acclimated, included, and comfortable” beyond the regular level of 1-on-1 engagement with any other report. OP’s still new, but they’re out of the “brand new” window at many jobs.]

      1. BeeBoo

        I agree. Also, if the boss knows that LW3 isn’t as busy, they may assume their 1:1’s are easier to reschedule.

        I’ll be honest, if I’m trying to meet with a client or my boss who only have limited availability, I’ll often offer times that include when I have 1:1’s with some of my employees, bc I know their schedules are more open and we can often reschedule the 1:1 for another time the same day.

        1. snowglobe

          I do think, though, that the boss shouldn’t just cancel the 1 on 1’s, but should attempt to reschedule himself. I’m used to Microsoft Outlook, which allows the you to propose a different time; why wouldn’t the manager just do that? It does make it seem like he doesn’t value the 1 on 1 at all, if he just cancels.

          1. Anonysand

            If the LW’s boss is anything like my last supervisor, they genuinely might not have time. At LastJob, it was pretty common for my boss to be booked from 7 AM to 5 PM solid with back-to-back meetings, and some weeks you were lucky to find an open hour of her time. It was also pretty common for her to get double booked, and I can’t tell you how many times she’d send an email out at the last minute that said “sorry, got called into another meeting and can’t make X meeting with you this morning. Can we reschedule?” As a director, she didn’t have the excess time or energy to personally reschedule every meeting she had a conflict with when it was easier and faster to just send an email or decline the Outlook request. It wasn’t personal, and if LW’s manager truly has an open door policy, they are probably assuming that LW can stop by later if there’s anything important or time sensitive to discuss.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I have a bi-weekly 1:1 with my supervisor. If they have a call/meeting etc…. at that time they will usually reschedule for the same week, they always “ask” if the new time is okay. To me the “asking” is an implied we are moving the check-in to this time and date unless there is some dire emergency that we need to meet right away or you have a conflict with the new date and time.

              There have been a few times where my supervisor has been so busy that rescheduling for the same week is impossible for them. If that is the case they will usually explicitly ask “Can we cancel this weeks check-in or is there something urgent that you need to discuss.”

              Like Alison said my supervisors time is way more valuable than mine, it is just the way it is, they have a lot more going on at a much bigger scale. I don’t take it personally.

              My supervisor also has an open door policy, and I frequently make use of it. I always knock and ask them “Do you have a few minutes?” if they have the time they say yes.

              Sometimes if they are busy with other things they ask “Can it wait?” again because I don’t deal with anything near as high level as they do my things can almost always wait. But I do feel comfortable telling my supervisor actually this can’t wait, but I really double and triple check to make sure it is something time sensitive if I say it can’t wait.

          2. NotAnotherManager!

            I don’t know why the manager would reschedule a meeting for which it doesn’t sound like there is much content. If OP’s boss is cancelling, I would suspect the other meeting is more pressing. If OP’s boss is not rescheduling, it’s likely that the boss doesn’t have anything for OP that week that can’t wait until the next scheduled meeting.

            My boss cancels about 25% of our weekly 1:1s, and I just send her a short bullet list of any status/needs I have before our next meeting. If there is anything urgent, she’ll slot me in somehow (sometimes just a phone call). If there is something *I* need from her, though, I think that the responsibility to flag it/ask for it falls on me. In OP’s position, I would send a short note with a status update on their work and a request to discuss taking on more work at the following meeting.

            I understand that not all managers are the same level of busy, but mine oversees five departments and is often booked into meetings from the beginning of the day until the end. I am here to take work off her plate, and I feel like part of that is using her time effectively. I value the face time that I have, but I can’t imagine interpreting oft-cancelled meetings as microaggressions against me. I am sure that, when someone in my department sets something on fire, she cancels on my peers as well.

        2. Dust Bunny

          I would be weirded out if my supervisor canceled a meeting with a patron to meet with me instead, *especially* for a routine, non-emergency, meeting. I work there. I am far more available to reschedule than our patrons are. I would always expect a meeting with them to take scheduling priority.

          1. J.

            I hear what the OP is saying, though. It’s not a matter of canceling another meeting, that would definitely be weird, but that her boss is not respecting that it’s a bloc of time that was already reserved on his schedule for their 1:1 in the first place.

            1. Red Carpet Red

              It has nothing to do with respecting the original meeting. 1×1’s are important but not detrimental to the office where as getting the work done is.

      2. Operarius

        Good points, I would be concerned if OP was still getting trained or working on a project/tasks where regular supervision is needed. I wanted to add that whether you meet frequently or not isn’t a good indicator of whether you’re being iced out by a manager. Should something like that ever happen, there will be greater indicators from a change in tone, body language, behaviors. This change might also be imperceptible to everyone but you. I wouldn’t note myself as having a high or average EQ and I noticed.

        1. President Porpoise

          The boss may feel like OP has a good handle on things and can be trusted with less oversight and freer rein, and may be willing to drop those 1:1s accordingly. So, it may be a subtle compliment rather than a microagression.

      3. cmcinnyc

        Yeah the microaggression thing jumped out at me too. I schedule for a couple of hella busy people, and yes, new-ish hire at the associate level, I moved your 1:1 because you ARE less important than the people/topic in the other meeting. It’s not dating, it’s business. The judgement that your 1:1 can move or can wait is not hostility, it’s practicality.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management

          “When people do things like this, they are basically saying ‘you’re less important than this other thing.’”

          Well, yes. That’s the way business works. Often, the other thing IS more important. Unless the 1:1 with a junior employee is to discuss an urgent or high-priority matter, is almost always less important than a client meeting, working on an urgent project, etc. It’s not a microaggression. It’s the reality of working in any organization with a hierarchy.

          That being said, if cancellations occur on a regular basis, it’s up to you to handle this as Alison suggests. Your boss may not even realize this bothers you. Yes, a good boss should know that, but if yours does not, you should bring it to their attention as a business matter, not a personal one. Making it personal is likely to backfire, as you will be communicating that you do not understand how business works. Give your boss good business reasons why you need regular 1:1’s (e.g., confirming you are doing work correctly, ensuring you are prioritizing projects appropriately, etc.).

          1. Lily Rowan

            Or even if you wouldn’t characterize them as more important, the other meetings are probably harder to schedule! It’s way easier to get two people’s schedules to align, especially if one of them isn’t that busy, rather than a group. I reschedule 1-on-1s all the time, for exactly that reason.

          2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

            Some bosses would think that you are happy to get the time back, especially if there is no pressing reason to meet, and some employees (like me) would be happy. I love it when non-essential meetings are canceled.

            1. NotAnotherManager!

              Ha! Yes! I am rarely disappointed when meetings are cancelled (unless, of course, it was about something *I* wanted other people to get working on :). I have a day off for my next 1:1, and I am fairly certain the note I put in the cancellation message was something like, “giving you back your hour as I will be OOO”.

          3. Yorick

            But remember, they’re saying “this meeting with you is less important than this other thing,” not that YOU (or managing you) are less important.

            1. Elsajeni

              Just what I was going to say! It feels like the OP is personalizing the “you are less important” idea, in the way that you might if, like, your friend was always canceling plans with you to hang out with someone else. But your boss probably isn’t thinking “I don’t really care about OP, I can put this off,” but rather that your work is pretty routine and they can afford not to do frequent check-ins, or that it’s easier to reschedule with one person than with a group, or that your WORK (not you as a person) is, yes, less important to the business than some other meeting that has come up.

        2. Lily in NYC

          I was coming here to say the same thing! I am an EA for very high level executives who have 1:1s with staff. I have to reschedule them 75% of the time. Big Effing Deal. OP, think about it this way. What is your boss supposed to to when the president schedules a mandatory meeting that s/he has to attend and it conflicts with your 1:1? Do you expect him/her to go to the PO and say, sorry, I have a 1:1 with a junior staffer so I’m going to attend that instead. You AREN’T important, you are not indispensable and if you complain to your boss about this it will backfire on you. I don’t recommend mentioning in at all and I think you have a lot to learn about office norms.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

              It’s perhaps a bit harshly phrased, but absolutely true. Honestly I don’t even have 1:1s with my manager because our schedules don’t align well (for complicated reasons, we’re in different time zones). If I need something clarified/have a question, I just ask, I don’t wait for a formally scheduled check-in. If you don’t need to discuss something urgently with your manager, it is absolutely understandable and normal that a generic check-in to discuss nothing in particular is a low-priority item. If you DO have something in particular to discuss, tell your manager that – but don’t expect them to cancel other meetings, which may be higher priority, in order to meet with you. From a strictly business perspective, it may be absolutely the case that your boss’s time (and the time of whomever he’s meeting with) is more valuable then yours.

          1. Kathleen_A

            Man, that’s a bit harsh, Lily in NYC! I agree that the OP is reading much more into this than she ought to, but IMO, you’re making this a bigger issue than it ought to be as well!

            Yes, of course the OP needs to be flexible, but it’s not unreasonable for him/her to expect those 1-1s to occur with some regularity. The OP just needs to figure out something with her boss – an expectation to reschedule, a change in the regular time, whatever.

                1. serenity

                  And her boss isn’t an exec, from the sounds of it.

                  It’s true that OP3 needs a dose of reality, but Alison gave her that. Nasty comments along the lines of “You are not important” are not helpful or appropriate, really.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  The EA part isn’t the point — Lily was giving that context to explain she’s someone with a lot of insight into people’s calendars and schedules. She’s right that it’s incredibly common for 1:1s to get rescheduled all the time.

                  The “you’re not important” stuff isn’t about his personal value. It’s about business value, and it’s very much the case that in a business context some people’s time is more important than others, and meeting scheduling is going to reflect that.

                3. serenity

                  I was responding to the tone of Lily’s comments and also “I don’t recommend mentioning in at all and I think you have a lot to learn about office norms.”

                  As others have said, OP3 has overreacted but she can and should ask to have 1-on-1s rescheduled. A single reasonable conversation with her boss can clarify this whole thing for her and she shouldn’t be dissuaded from that!

                  And frankly it’s also reasonable to point out that C-level execs having meetings rescheduled commonly (which is very true) is not really comparable to middle manager’s schedules and the expectations around them.

                4. Ask a Manager Post author

                  You wrote “the OP is not an EA,” thus my response.

                  Managers of many levels have ridiculously busy schedules; the same point applies.

                5. NotAnotherManager!

                  And frankly it’s also reasonable to point out that C-level execs having meetings rescheduled commonly (which is very true) is not really comparable to middle manager’s schedules and the expectations around them.

                  In my experience, ease of scheduling varies more by job than by title. I am easier to schedule with than one of the managers directly under me, because they have specialized expertise that is currently in high demand. I am harder to schedule with than an organizational peer in a different department by nature of our positions. I’m not sure where this blanket assumption about who is and is not busy comes from.

                6. serenity

                  I think we’re all in agreement there! It’s just feeling like some of the comments are ganging up on OP3 and regurgitation what you already said.

                7. serenity

                  FFS, C-level execs have schedules with often higher priorities than lower managers and scheduling expectations around them necessitate understanding this. This isn’t controversial or novel and doesn’t undermine the (mostly) good advice OP3 is getting here.

          2. JJ Bittenbinder

            Well, I think as much as the LW is overreacting a little, so are you. You may think you’re “telling it like it is” but your tone and words are pretty unkind.

            This is how small issues get blown up to Big Deals.

            1. NotAnotherManager!

              I actually think that this is a pretty fair assessment of the situation, if worded more bluntly than some would like. And I kind of understand Lily’s reaction because OP went out of their way to describe their work experience and that this is not their first time at the rodeo yet is having a reaction I’d expect out of one of my totally-new-to-the-workplace folks.

              There is good advice and context for OP #3 all up and down the comments – I particularly agree with those suggesting proactively reaching out to schedule a time to discuss procuring more work, which would also give more reasons the 1:1s may become more useful for Boss to keep.

            2. Hot chicken

              I think from OP’s letter that they need to hear a version that is not sugar coated. They are not new to the workforce and honestly pushing microaggression based on cancelling 1x1s for other meetings is so far over the edge. OP has been coddled way too long.

            3. Lily in NYC

              I didn’t mean to be harsh by saying OP was not important. I don’t think I’m important either, when it comes to the work-realm. Most of us aren’t.

              1. Aggretsuko

                I’m with you. If you’re a peon, you gotta know your place on these things.

          3. Dan T

            I 100% agree that the OP’s reaction was extreme. To the point where I was literally cringing when she got to the point where she asked if she had the standing to tell her manager that they are incompetent and making her feel alienated. I think Alison summed it up nicely by saying that the reaction was alarming.

            But I disagree with several points here. First of all, I think it is overly harsh. I think it’s fair to say that the OP may not be the top business priority, but to say that she isn’t important, full stop, is rude.

            Secondly, I strongly disagree with the advice that she shouldn’t bring it up at all. Obviously the OP should NOT bring up her concerns in the manner she suggested, but she absolutely has the standing to ask politely to have her 1×1’s with more regularity. Her manager then might say that she doesn’t have time for that, but it’s not an unreasonable request. I certainly would be very annoyed if the majority of my 1×1’s were cancelled – they are often very valuable. You asked what happens when the president schedules a meeting, and should we demand that our meeting take priority – obviously not. Certainly if an emergency comes up then things happen. But in your example you said that those meetings are rescheduled – in the OPs case they are just cancelled.

          4. chickaletta

            I’m an EA as well and while it’s true that 1:1s are less important than a lot of other meetings execs have and are much easier to reschedule…Part of my job is also to make time on my boss’s calendar for everyone and make everyone feel valued and important, including his direct reports. In many ways, I’m an extension of my boss, and my attitude towards others is a reflection of him. So, not only is it my job to manage priorities on his calendar and reschedule meetings, at the same time I’m also doing it with finesse, professionalism, and grace. That’s what we get paid for.

            Additionally, if my boss’s reports started to feel like they were not important and dispensable, that would create a lot more problems for him that what he even has now. And if OP’s manager doesn’t have an EA and he’s doing this himself, then he’s got an issue on his hands that he doesn’t want, whether it’s his fault or not, because now he’s got a disgruntled employee which can ultimately cost the company time and money. That’s a management problem whether he’s right or wrong.

      4. Kathleen_A

        My boss places great value on 1-1s with her team – sometimes just a bit too much value, IMO! – but even she sometimes cancels or reschedules them, and she’s OK with us sometimes canceling or rescheduling them, too, so long as we don’t do so very often or capriciously. I’m pointing out all of this simply to demonstrate that the OP really needs to reframe this in her mind because she’s making it a lot more significant – and a lot more distressing – than it ought to be.

        I agree that rescheduling and/or changing the meeting time is a good approach, but the OP might also do a little work to make sure those 1-1s are useful. So if she’s not doing so already, she might consider preparing a little list or agenda ahead of time of topics she needs to discuss.

        The problem with needing more work shouldn’t wait for a 1-1, IMO. I’d recommend setting up a special meeting with Boss to talk about that.

        1. InfoSec SemiPro

          I believe 1:1s are really important. I schedule them twice as often as they’re “needed” so that they can get cancelled/moved as both my staff and I are doing a lot of complex work and to allow for travel and illness.

          Having the time is vital. Having it at the same time every week is not.

      5. Jadelyn

        My boss would be up sh*t creek without me here: I have multiple mission-critical specialized skills no one else on my team has, and while I’ve put together documentation, a lot of it would be extraordinarily difficult for someone who doesn’t at least know the basics to pick up and follow. When I’m out, there are certain things that Just Don’t Get Done. We both know this. He says it all the time. He’s literally grooming me to be able to take on his job someday. I am as certain as I can possibly be, that my boss respects and values me greatly.

        He still cancels half our check-ins.

        Because he’s a VP, and winds up with a lot of sudden requests to join in prescheduled meetings, and he travels a lot, so he’s often gone when we had something scheduled. It’s got nothing to do with valuing me or my time – his time is more chaotic than mine and he stands a much higher chance of having to jump in on calls on the spur of the moment. We just reschedule to the next day, or check in briefly via IM – just him asking me, is there anything critical he needs to be aware of or that I need anything from him on? And me either saying “yes, I need X from you by tomorrow” or “nope, all quiet on the western front, talk to you later!”

        OP, if your boss is hard to schedule with, can you do an abbreviated check-in via email or something like that when he misses a check-in? My boss and I keep a running agenda with all our active projects, notes on how things are going, etc. A possible substitute for a check-in would be me sending him the updated document with my current notes, and him sending it back with anything he wants to tell me about those things. Could you and your boss maybe do something similar?

    2. Approval is optional

      This. Though to be fair to the LW, the training on micro-aggression (!!) has probably contributed to the way the she is responding.

    3. Annette

      Why all the hostility toward LW 3. The question is about her. So it makes no sense to say she’s making it all about herself. Calling her alarming also = a bit much. She asked if she was over reacting and said she didn’t think it was that extreme. Ok so say she’s overreacting a little. Not that serious.

      1. HomeSick

        Agreed! And if she doesn’t have a lot of work on her plate and the manager seems to be ignoring her, I don’t blame her at all for starting to question whether the manager respects her.

        Chances are the manager just does have other things on their plate, but he should be taking the time to show up to 1:1/reschedule 1:1s.

        I’ve had managers regularly cancel 1:1s on short notice, arrive 20 minutes late, etc and as much as these were just human frailties/quirks, it did make me feel undervalued as an employee.

        1. Anon, a moose!

          Agreed- it’s frustrating, and it made me feel less welcome to contact them even when I had specific needs, because it conveyed (even if unintentionally) that I was never worth their time.

          Mine often would just not show or would be gone/ busy if I went to their phone, and the fact that they didn’t respect the time enough to reschedule or even let me know certainly didn’t help matters.

          I don’t think it was malicious or even that they’re a bad manager, but it was a bad reporting structure for my position.

        2. Human Sloth

          Homesick and Annette – both great replies. I don’t feel she is taking the situation too personally. 1:1s are personal. Cancelling without rescheduling seems the manager isn’t making time for an new hire. If after six months with several cancelled meetings and a new hire still feels out of place, I do think that falls on the manager. I would feel aggressive and demoralized, too. BUT, OP doesn’t need to come out swinging. The “1) you can’t manage your own time so you can’t manage me’, does give me pause.

          1. Connie

            OP said cancelled or rescheduled, they didn’t say that they haven’t had a meeting in 6 months.

          2. Lily in NYC

            I’m an executive assistant would like to know how you would handle the president scheduling an important meeting over the 1:1. These executives have insanely busy calendars and 1:1s are always the first thing to move when you have to squeeze in an important meeting. I think it’s pretty odd to think that keeping to a strict schedule is important and that it’s some sort of personal affront when it’s moved. It is a complicated puzzle trying to manage a high-level calendar and guess what? We often reschedule 1:1s for senior staffers as well. Even SVPs have 1:1s with EVPs or C-level staff. Those move even more often but the difference is that the SVPs understand and never complain. Because they know it’s not about them. I would love to see what would happen if I told our president’s EA that my boss can’t attend a last-minute important meeting because she needs to keep her 1:1 with a project manager.

            1. Anonysand

              Scheduling the calendar’s of higher level managers/executives is The Actual Worst (I used to refer to it as “a game of Tetris from hell”), and these conflicts are an everyday occurrence for so many of them. I worked for a director at Last Job and everything you say here is so spot on. I understand wanting to have your manager make time for you, but many of the solutions being raised (like the ones you reference above or suggesting that the manager be the one to stop what they’re doing to find a new, workable time), would have gotten me laughed out of a job if I’d ever suggested it. There’s a “hierarchy of importance” when it comes to meetings, and unfortunately, 1:1’s often fall at the bottom of the list.

              1. Jadelyn

                I’m yoinking that “game of Tetris from hell” thing for if I ever get stuck doing that again. I used to have to try to schedule interviews for candidates with our top-tier folks, they always wanted to interview in specific combinations (Sam wanted he and Vanessa to interview the person first, then for Michelle to interview them with Esme, and finally for the candidate to meet with Annie and Petunia), it was The Worst trying to find time on six different executive calendars, in the right combinations, with a minimum of “and then come back the next day, and again the day after” situations because I didn’t like inconveniencing the candidate.

                Truly, it was the Tetris game from hell.

            2. Human Sloth

              I didn’t indicate 1:1 with the OP trump the meetings EVP or Cs, because they don’t. I also didn’t imply they never had a meeting in 6 months, I said several (not all) cancelled meetings. My issue is about cancelling and rescheduling. Absolutely, the OP’s meeting is less of a priority, but the OP stated the manager agreed 1:1 are a good way to check in. It seems OP understands about the schedule conflicts and ‘gets’ it, but the manager needs to step up, too. OP is underutilized, and that falls on both of them. OP doesn’t state how many meetings they’ve had, so, we are all speculating, but even one missed meeting means about a month between 1:1 contact. In OP’s shoes I have felt the same way. I wouldn’t, however, act in accordance with the 1,2, and 3 examples written. Basically, I empathize with OP’s feeling of uncertainty.

          3. TooTiredToThink

            I was in this same place – new hire and my management kept making it very clear that they didn’t have time for me (some would not show up for meetings – that they had requested be set up – , some would cancel at the last minute, some when I would have a question would literally roll their eyes and huff in frustration that I dare ask them a question (I wasn’t even communicating with them daily, so no before some jerk decides that I was bothering those ones too often; no I wasn’t, I might talk to them every other day at the most) – and before anyone says “Well they were in meetings all day” NO, they weren’t, actually. They might be in meetings up to 3 hours a day on an average day. And it was frustrating because I often had to have approval to do *anything*. Emails often would go completely ignored as well. Finally one day I had to say something because it was not only affecting my ability to do my job but taking a major emotional toll too. And once I said something it got a lot better – and after awhile I was finally able to suss out the best way to reach out to each piece of my management team so now I can handle when meetings get cancelled or forgotten about and know what to do about it. But at the 6 month mark? Nope; because I hadn’t had the guidance I needed at that point.

          4. JM60

            Business meetings, even 1:1s, aren’t usually personal. It’s not about you personally being worth less, it’s about your time being worth less from a practical business perspective. It’s only really personal if the manager is canceling the meeting because they enjoy exercisesing power over subordinates in that way, but the reason for managers canceling meetings like this is most likely a practical.

        3. Zennish

          Managers have priorities. I can’t cancel a budget meeting with my Director because one of my employees will be upset that I’d miss their 1:1. Part of the reason those meetings are recurring is so the world doesn’t end if one gets missed, and so you don’t have to go to the hassle of trying to find another time, since there will be another opportunity already scheduled.

          Also, if a manager is largely leaving you alone, it’s likely because they feel confident that they can, and having feelings over something as petty as a cancelled 1:1 is a great way to convince them otherwise.

          1. Tortoise

            Yeah. Here’s an example: my manager is on vacation right now and she’s been scheduled for an interview panel she can’t miss at the same time as our 1:1.

            Her boss who scheduled the panel has to prioritise between 2-3 conflicting meetings at any given time so she has to take the time he’s put in meaning we’ll reschedule.

            It would be madness if I took that personally!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I don’t think anyone is being hostile toward OP3. Alison noted OP’s reaction was “slightly alarming,” which is a fair assessment over which reasonable minds can differ.

        Alison and Engineer Girl are helping the OP reframe to realize that this probably isn’t about how the boss feels about one-on-ones with OP. In this case, saying “you’ve kind of made this all about you” is another way of saying, “You’re beginning to lose the forest for the trees by focusing on the wrong issue.”

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Yes, the whole thing seemed totally normal until we got to a hard right turn at “Do I have the standing to…” where no, not only do you not have the standing to tell him those things, those are very over the top things to conclude from this mundane circumstance.

          1. Kathleen_A

            Yes, exactly! Wanting 1-1s to occur regularly is totally normal, being a bit miffed when they’re often cancelled is also normal, but taking this situation and turning it into a perceived indictment of one’s entire value as an employee is…not normal and not good, and it’s causing the OP unnecessary distress.

            The OP simply needs to look at this as just a small problem that can be solved by a little flexibility (admittedly mostly on his/her part :-) ) and a little communication.

          2. Emily K

            Same – my exact thought, after LW said, “Of course I wouldn’t word it that way,” was, “There is no way you can change the wording to where accusing your manager of gross incompetence because they cancel a lot of check-ins is going to play well.” The framing was very negative and accusatory – you can’t manage your time, you can’t manage me, you make me feel alienated, I don’t trust you to do your job – and there just wasn’t anything in the letter up to that point to warrant taking that view.

            I think others may be right that the microaggression training may be partly to blame here. I’m actually wondering if the manager is white and the LW isn’t, because my understanding of the term microaggression is that it’s the ways in which dominant social groups demonstrate contempt and hostility to people solely on the basis of their membership in non-dominant social groups. It’s not meant to describe all unpleasant interactions but ones that are specifically social-group-based. Like someone said above, in a workplace, some things ARE more important than a junior employee’s check-in. But I wonder if LW is actually worrying that their manager is treating them differently than they’d treat a white report? That’s definitely a different question that would make LW’s reaction make more sense to me. Because the point isn’t that everyone in a workplace is completely equal, it’s that hierarchy is determined by skills and experience instead of race, gender, religion, and so on. If LW thinks they’re getting treated worse than others of the same skill and experience level and the only differentiator is race, that’s something to take a second look at.

            But in general, canceling 1:1s is pretty routine – your manager isn’t canceling meetings at you. They’re often just prioritizing a workload where a junior report with not much work going on is legitimately a low priority, and that’s probably what’s going on here.

        2. MtnLaurel

          There is one other possibility. What else do you know of the supervisor as a manager? If he’s otherwise a good manager, then I’d be as flexible as I could. However, you may want to talk to him outside the 1:1s to make sure everything is going OK from his end and ask about the workload to let him know you can take on more.

          I was in a similar situation a few years back with a bad manager.She kept cancelling the 1:1s and I assumed it was just because higher priority things kept coming up. In fact, she was frustrated with me and avoiding and I had no idea! Not sure how likely this is as the manager was way way strange… (I have so many stories!!) But I don’t think it’s a bad idea just to quickly check in to see if there is any additional work.

      3. Willis

        I interpreted Engineer Girl’s comment to mean that OP was making the cancellations all about her (that the boaa is implying she’s not important, isn’t trying to make her feel welcome/acclimated, etc.) vs just that he has a schedule conflict and is attending the more pertinent meeting. Not to mean that OP’s question shouldn’t be about her situation.

      4. MK

        That’s your perspective, but obviously not everyone’s. I strongly disagree that the OP is overreacting “a little”; in my view she is overreacting A LOT, to the point that, if I was her manager and found out how she feels, I would be alarmed that I hired a person with unreasonable expectations.

        1. Marty Marts

          I agree with you on this. The other thing that bothers me is she is coming off like she has a sense of entitlement because she has had a job before. Not being new to the workforce doesn’t mean you can insist you are a priority as a new hire or entry level associate or make your boss’s schedule about you. It sounds like she has a chip on her shoulder about something. I get it, I’m 30 and just started as a first year associate as a law firm, it’s definitely annoying to be back at ground zero but such is life. That’s part of a career change.

      5. Tortoise

        They meant that she is making the situation about herself.

        I would be alarmed too if I managed her. She’s taking this all far too personally.

        1. Susie Q

          Agreed.

          She’s not new to the workforce but doesn’t seem to understand that her boss has other priorities that trump a pointless 1:1.

      6. Busy

        I agree. I do think there is a level of hostility coming out towards this LW.

        I think there are two camps on this: managers who have done this vs people who have had to experience this as a new-hire. After 6 months of it, I think it is really really common to start to believe that your boss is not valuing you particularly coupled with not being assigned enough work. Some people react with self-flagelations, some people get sad, and some people get angry. LW is just showing her anger.

        I think that, and I hate to say this, the reason why Allison and others are reacting so strongly here is that they do this themselves a lot, and probably do not like the feedback. Sure this alone isn’t going to make someone feel isolated, but this coupled with not enough work will. I think people are being too harsh here, and I think that is happening out of defensiveness opposed to coming from a place of being helpful. People are really under-estimating the impact that this can have on morale.

        1. Myrin

          For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a manager and I still agree with Alison et al. I sympathise with OP’s frustration, both regarding the one-on-ones as well as the little work, but I also think that she’s viewing this as a personal affront when it likely isn’t.

          1. Flinty

            Yeah, I’ve only managed one person once, very briefly, and I agree with Alison. Sometimes we compare job stuff to dating, but this is one area where they are very different. If someone keeps cancelling your dates, they are not that into you. If your manager keeps cancelling your 1-0n-1s, they are extremely busy, and if anything, are paying you the compliment that you can keep chugging along independently.

            The real issue is lack of work, and I think if the OP gets that addressed and feels more secure in their position, they’ll feel better about the cancellations.

            1. Marty Marts

              This is SUCH an astute way of putting it. We go so crazy trying to figure out what is going on for other people and so often it just is not about you at all!

              My thing with the lack of work is that if his door is open, then she needs to go talk to him about it now, not just holding off til the one on ones. That seems like a very appropriate thing to take advantage of the open door policy for.

          2. Aleta

            Yeah, I’ve never been a manager, and only been entry-level/very junior in an office setting, and I agree completely with Alison et al. Of course there are other things in my manager’s day that are more important than me!

            I also think some of the misreading of the microaggression talk is peers vs. superiors. Rescheduling a meeting like that reads very differently when it’s something a peer is doing vs. your manager. Your manager is above you and has other priorities that are also above you. But your peer is more likely to have similar priority levels to you. Constantly rescheduling for things that aren’t more important than your thing is different than constantly rescheduling because of things that ARE more important than your thing.

        2. Antilles

          I think the hostility is primarily driven by OP’s phrasing. Phrases like “micro-aggression”, “rescheduling these meetings says I’m not very important”, “boss can’t manage his own time”, “I have less patience for managers who don’t know how to manage” are all *incredibly* strong ways to describe what is a very common and run-of-the-mill scheduling situation.
          If OP had instead used a much less emotionally charged phrasing, I think the comments would be a lot gentler.

          1. pancakes

            I agree that some of the language in the letter was rather strong, but the term “micro-aggressions” isn’t in and of itself incredibly strong. Nor is it inconsistent with common, run-of-the-mill situations. Being commonplace and maybe too low-level to justify instantly pushing back on are what set micro-aggressions apart from more direct or unambiguously aggressive behavior, no? I know there are people who find the term triggering but that’s not a license to be hostile.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

              It’s pretty dramatic to describe rescheduling a meeting as a microaggression, though. It’s not – it’s just a normal thing that happens in business. OP is interpreting it as an insult, as a devaluing of their time, but it’s not – it’s just “I got busy, sorry.” If boss simply failed to show up for the meetings without notifying OP, *then* I could see this kind of reaction being justified.

              1. pancakes

                It’s a dramatic way to describe a single rescheduled meeting, less so if there’s been a series of meetings, and/or other factors besides meetings. In any case, seeing something as overly dramatic doesn’t necessitate an equally dramatic response—I was responding to the idea that it does.

            2. Elsajeni

              I think it registers as overly strong here because it’s normally a term used to describe bias — it doesn’t just mean “a small negative thing that someone does to you.” Like, is the boss rescheduling meetings with women willy-nilly while treating 1:1’s with his male direct reports as sacrosanct? Okay, yes, that sounds like a microaggression. But the OP hasn’t described any context like that, so using the term comes across as reaching or trying to add extra importance to something that’s really pretty normal.

            3. Genny

              It’s unreasonable to jump to microaggressions when the boss’ actions are pretty standard, impersonal business stuff. If she had reason to believe the actions were tied to something discriminatory (e.g. her meetings get cancelled far more often than her male peers’ meetings or if this was one thing out of many that seems off about how she’s treated compared to others), then I could see describing it as a microaggression. It sounds like she’s been primed to think about microaggressions from the training and is misapplying what she heard to this situation.

          2. TSG

            Agreed, I don’t think the question itself was “alarming” but there was definitely language in the question that seemed… out of place for what the issue is. OP also mentioned a few times that they aren’t new to the workforce but just changed careers. I wonder how much of this “I’m not being treated as important as I should be” perspective comes from having to start over at a lower point than they may have left their last job at and having some feelings about that.

            1. VelociraptorAttack

              That’s what I read into it as well. I think it’s possible that some feelings about their career change and current position are compounding with rescheduled meetings to make them inadvertently make a mountain out of a molehill. I don’t know how else you can go from a rescheduled meeting to they don’t respect me to they can’t manage their time to they’re unable to manage me. And then to (seemingly) actually consider saying that to them. I’m not currently a manager but if I had a new employee come up to me and tell me that rescheduling 1-on-1’s (or outright cancelling them) led them to doubt I could effectively manage them, I’d be extremely taken aback.

          3. Busy

            These responses are all well and good, but still missing the mark. I am going again suggest taking a look at defensiveness here.

            Allow me to explain. Harsh responses here, as you say, are due to LWs tone is out of place. But what happens when you meet an out of place tone (my manager doesn’t value me with) and equal out of place tone (alarming).

            You’re just meeting over the top language with additional over the top language where neither are needed. For instance, OP is being a bit irrational in her choice of words in this letter (she even stipulates she wouldn’t use this language when speaking to her boss), but describing that LW feeling this way is some how alarming is also an over reaction. It is completely rational for OP to feel this way as a new employee in a new industry given little work and not a lot of facetime with her boss.

            You see what I’m saying? My advice here isn’t to OP; my advice is to the reactions by people here.

            1. JM60

              I don’t think that ‘slightly alarming’ is an out of place tone. The OP made a series of over the top statements about the manager rescheduling the meetings as of yet were personal. ‘Slightly alarming’ is a fairly mild way of describing it.

          4. NotAnotherManager!

            Yes! I was having trouble putting my finger on why I had a stronger WTF reaction to that letter, given the fairly benign content, and I think it’s exactly what you highlighted. It is entirely possible that OPs boss is indeed bad at time management or doesn’t know how to manage, but I don’t think that the 1:1 cancellations are necessarily a direct indicator of either of those.

          5. Kat in VA

            I’m an EA for a CTO, two SVPs, and a VP. The last one reschedules the most often. Everyone understands it. I don’t just reschedule 1:1s, I reschedule all KINDS of meetings for all of them. Unless they’re critical, everyone gets that the calendars are these multicolored rainbows and it’s my job to deconflict them. I haven’t had anyone complain about a shifting 1:1 – sometimes they get shifted a couple of times within a week due to customer meetings, a sudden fire that needs putting out, or whatever. Rescheduling meetings is a fact of life when you’re dealing with busy execs.

        3. Tortoise

          “I think that, and I hate to say this, the reason why Allison and others are reacting so strongly here is that they do this themselves a lot”

          No, I’m not a manager and I’m reacting that way because I think it’s correct. Sorry.

          1. Perse's Mom

            +1 Have not been and never will be a manager. Am entirely fine with my busy boss prioritizing other things over our check-ins.

          2. Busy

            I’m sorry. I always forget how rigid people can be with speech.

            What I was implying was that OR haven’t been in this particular position before.

            Sorry for the confusion.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              You’re being kind of condescending here (“I always forget how rigid people can be with speech” and assuming people object to something because they must do it themselves). The assumption was just wrong.

        4. cmcinnyc

          I totally get what your saying about the lack of 1:1s/constant rescheduling impact on the LW’s morale. It IS a problem balancing keeping the people who report to you engaged and happy while also responding appropriately to the demands coming from above you, and yes, the junior staff get stepped on, a lot. I have to say, though, if the LW or someone in her position came at the manager with hurt feelings, hostility, a sense of entitlement, or “this is a microaggression” it would be a huge mistake. Go have your hurt feelings, sure. But park them far, far away when you reach out to say, “Hey, I REALLY would love more regular check ins” and be prepared to make some creative suggestions like coming in early, or doing walk-and-talks on the way to manager’s next meeting, staying late. If you need the face time, you’ll have to figure out how to get it in a friendly manner. A contentious 1:1 doesn’t serve the LW at all.

        5. Ramblin' Ma'am

          Have to disagree here. I’m not a manager and has never been one. I read OP 3’s letter and thought, “WHOA!” Part of being a good employee is recognizing your role in the larger organization and accepting that you can’t always be your manager’s # 1 priority. If the boss is rescheduling her meetings to attend other meetings, it’s likely those are simply higher priority, and that’s not personal.

          I agree that canceled meetings are a bigger concern *if* there are issues that need to be discussed and are constantly being tabled.

        6. Hot chicken

          1. Every manager on the planet has had to reschedule meetings, and busy managers reschedule them more than non busy managers. (In a post later OP acknowledges that this isn’t happening every time just more than they want)

          2. It is not ok to be angry that your manager is busy and needs to reschedule things, because this is how an office works. This is why people are irritated at the OP and you because you are not understanding how offices run. Your feedback is wrong.

        7. Jadelyn

          That’s…a heck of a narrative you’re spinning out of thin air here. FWIW, I’ve never people-managed in an office setting (did some shift supervisor work in retail, but that’s very different), my boss cancels 1:1s pretty often, and I’m still on Team Whoa, Maybe You’re Overreacting A Little Bit.

          No one said it’s *good* to cancel 1:1s all the time. What people are saying is that, especially by framing her question within the narrative of “I took a training on microaggressions recently and think that applies here”, OP seems to be over-personalizing the cancellations and might want to reframe how she looks at the situation a little bit.

        1. Tortoise

          Nobody would be doing this LW a favour if they encouraged her to make those comments to her manager

      7. StressedButOkay

        One of the things that I’ve learned reading AAM is that managers/bosses read way more into our reactions than I really had ever thought about. So, if OP3 had been overreacting like this to, say, a personal matter, that’s one thing. But the fact that they’re overreacting to a work matter might paint them in a different light to their boss. One who, very likely, would not appreciate that OP3 is thinking that they can’t manage their time very well. (Which might very well be TRUE but not something you can say to your boss without expecting a backlash.)

        So OP3 has every right to be frustrated but I think taking a step back and trying to reframe the situation in their head, if only for their own benefit, is a good idea.

      8. smoke tree

        My take on this letter writer is that she’s really internalized the message that as someone experienced in the workforce, she should be assertive and have self-respect and not let anyone walk all over her. But I think she’s perhaps overshot a little and is approaching interactions more aggressively than is in her best interest. For assertiveness to be effective, it has to be tempered with the judgment to know which battles are worth fighting.

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Boss probably also doesn’t see the need to do these meetings so often. Ask if he’d like to drop them to once a month.

        1. Tortoise

          This is a good point.

          I have a very busy job and I am fine with a monthly 1:1. Why do you need to meet weekly?

          1. Jadelyn

            My boss and I do biweekly, as does most of our team with their respective managers. Long enough apart we don’t feel like we’re wasting a lot of time doing them, close enough that I don’t usually need to call a special meeting if something comes up, since the next check-in is only 2 weeks away at most. Maybe that spacing would be a good compromise for OP and her manager?

    4. Rose by another name

      I might try reframing this: if your boss is rescheduling, he probably thinks you’re doing well enough that close monitoring isn’t his highest priority. It’s a sign of trust that you can work independently and continue to succeed without strictly scheduled check-ins.

      1. Person of Interest

        Agree, and the way to handle that from the OP’s perspective is to be vocal about when you actually do need to meet. If the boss cancels on you at a time when you really need to talk, say that. “I was actually hoping to check in with you this week because I really need to discuss A, B, and C with you before I can move forward. Can we pick another time today/this week?”

    5. Outofhere

      I’d be a little concerned were in in #3’s position, to be honest. Mostly because of that comment about not having much work assigned to them. It suggests the role (I’d stress ‘role’ rather than ‘the person’!) might not be fully understood or used, and that means higher risk of the role being deleted in the future.

      To put the meeting cancellation in perspective – what is the office culture around 1:1s? Are they ad hoc, fairly casual and just a catch up as needed? Or considered a fundamental part of HR and line management practice? I’ve definitely started off managing new teams with great intentions of having a quality hour a month with each team member, on top of general availability to discuss work issues, and then found that time ruthlessly stripped away by a variety of crises! But it’s good to let people know if that’s happening, and it’s not very fair if specific people end up without access time.

      As a manager, I’d probably appreciate the writer dropping a short catch up into my diary (at a sensible time when it’s not likely to conflict with other things!) and for them to use that to run through ‘this is what I’m currently doing, it means I have some time to help with other things.’

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management

        This is a fantastic comment. I especially like your differentiation of “role” and “person”. OP’s boss shows many signs of potentially undervaluing OP’s role, but this says nothing about their view of OP as a person. That doesn’t make the repeated cancellations right, but it completely underscores that OP should treat this a business problem, not a microaggression.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever

        The issue of not having enough work assigned I think is similar to having too much work assigned. I think most managers are not carefully tracking how much or little work each person has. I think most managers expect individuals to speak up and say I need more work or I am getting too much work. If a manager gives you 1 task per week and first they probably don’t realize how much work they give you each week, but if you don’t say anything they assume you are happy with the level of work you have. Same thing if the manager gives you 6 tasks per week, if you don’t speak up to say it is too much they assume you can handle it and are happy with it.

        My partner in an old job was frustrated because they felt that they were being overworked and that their supervisor was giving them too much work. It took a little bit of time, but I was able to encourage them to gently push back on certain assignments or when they were feeling really underwater. They pushed back and the supervisors were okay with it.

        We often thing our managers remember everything we tell them, but they can’t and shouldn’t they have a lot higher priority things to deal with.

        1. Emily K

          By far one of the hardest parts of being a management is finding that sweet spot of the right amount of work to keep someone busy without overworking them. I often would say about my first-ever report, that it was like there was a black box around his desk and I couldn’t quite figure out how to see inside it short of sitting over his shoulder watching everything he did (obviously not a solution).

          It took gaining more experience over time to learn how to see inside the black box, what questions to ask my employee to get the kind of information I needed to be useful to them in helping control their workload.

          One of the most useful things I ever did was ask a report I’d been managing about 6 months to track her time for two weeks. I stressed that she wasn’t being graded on how she spent her time, and that she didn’t need to be precise or detailed – it was fine to write “answering emails” without listing every email/issue. But having that high-level view of her workload allowed me to see things like – she’s spending a lot of time on X thing that is ultimately one of her less valuable functions, so I should talk to her about what resources I could get her that would help her spend less time on X, or maybe just tell her it’s OK to lower the bar and do less X if it means she can do more YZ valuable things with the time instead. Or, when I gave her three campaigns in the first week she spent 8 hours on campaigns, and the next week when there was only one campaign she spent 2 hours on campaigns, so a campaign probably takes her 2-3 hours of work on average – that helps me avoid giving her too many campaigns now that I actually know how much work goes into them without having to rely only on her to speak up if she’s overloaded.

    6. Murphy

      That may not work. I’m in the same situation as #3. (My boss will just not show up, or will email me less than an hour before the meeting, and say “I won’t be in at 9.”) I’ve asked him about choosing a different time because this happens so often, and he just sais “All times are equally bad” and continues to cancel on a regular basis.

      1. Engineer Girl

        Then you wrote back and say “If all times are bad then how do we handle our 1:1 meetings? BTW, I have no work!”

    7. The Very Worst Wolf

      I’ve sat on both sides of this equation, so I get why OP #3 is feeling frustrated. Having a standing meeting repeatedly rescheduled is a nuisance, and ideally, her manager would have given her a heads up to expect this and simply reschedule when it happens. But that’s about where my sympathy shifts to OP’s boss.

      I’d be pretty frustrated as a manager to think one of my direct reports sat back without addressing an issue until reaching a point of being *this* frustrated (ie “you can’t manage your own time so you can’t manage me”) without speaking up in a constructive way.

      OP mentions repeatedly her past work experience and willingness to address issues, but it doesn’t sound like she’s addressed anything yet. So it’s at least ‘slightly alarming’ that she thinks a reasonable first conversation is to dress down her boss, as opposed to suggest a solution or ask for clarification regarding future meeting expectations. As a manager, I would expect my more experienced new hire to be proactive and constructive in solving this problem. More importantly, I’d expect my new hire to have addressed the issue of her insufficient workload by now as well.

      My final takeaway from reading this was: This sounds like a problem solved by a single conversation, so why is OP so angry?

      1. Sparrow

        Here’s the thing, though: if your boss is sending the consistent-if-unspoken message that her time is extremely rare and valuable and your needs as an employee aren’t important enough to squeeze into that busy calendar, how comfortable are you going to feel approaching them about that?

        I admit I’m particularly sympathetic to the OP because my relatively new boss cancelled so many of our 1:1s (that I had to ask for in the first place and only took one hour a month) that I was left with the strong impression that she didn’t find giving me feedback a good use of her time. Now I don’t bother trying to schedule one unless things are really critical. Which…whatever, I can operate independently, and I don’t consider it a personal sleight. But if we get to my first annual review and she has any complaints with my work, I’ll be extremely irritated.

        1. The Very Worst Wolf

          And that’s why I am sympathetic…to a point. The truth is that standing 1:1s are different from specifically requested meetings like you scheduled. Standing meetings are more prone to cancellation or being rescheduled. OP made a point to tell us that she isn’t new and isn’t afraid to speak up. But she hasn’t spoken up, so how can her manager know what she’s thinking?

          Where I think the issue is concerning regarding OP is that she’s ready to go on a full-offensive – “you can’t manage your time so you can’t manage me” – rather than simply saying “I’ve noticed these meetings keep getting canceled. Should we set a new time that is more convenient for you, or should I reschedule with you on a case-by-case basis? Also, I actually do have something I wanted to address [her workload], so could we get a meeting on the calendar soon?” It’s the attitude and approach that would concern me, not that she thinks the canceled meetings are a problem.

      2. LCL

        Maybe the micro agression training was a bit over the top? I have read some information that encourages the reader to view every human interaction through the lens of possible micro aggressions.

    8. iglwif

      Agreed!

      In addition, it’s worth noting that when there’s a conflict, a 1:1 is often the easiest thing to reschedule because it involves a maximum of two people. If Boss has finally managed to round up half a dozen people at three different organizations for a planning session or something, and the only time that can happen is during that one person’s 1:1 slot … it’s not hard to figure out what should take priority.

      LW3, you are taking the rescheduling of meetings waaaaaay too personally. If you want to be worried about something, be worried about not being assigned enough work! That’s a pretty serious issue IMO

    9. SierraSkiing

      It sounds like the OP’s real frustration stems from their lack of work, but they’ve channeled that frustration into being angry about their one-on-ones.

      I was in a similar situation to OP #3 in my first job – the project I’d been hired to work on was a “hurry up and wait” sort of project, so I’d be underworked for weeks at a time. It was very frustrating! My manager was overworked (and most of her work was too high-level to hand off to me), so she’d just make sympathetic noises when we bumped into each other but didn’t do much to increase my workload.

      Things improved for me when I started talking to my coworkers and learning where people needed help. So I went to a one-on-one with my boss and offered, “Hey, it sounds like Jadzia’s project is coming up against a big deadline – perhaps I could help her out with that this week? Also, Julian mentioned that we tried to design an automatic llama sorter a year back, but the project got shelved because people were too busy. Since it’s not time sensitive, how about I work on that when my main project doesn’t need anything?” My manager was happy to let me pursue those projects since she didn’t have to do the work of finding them herself, and I became much happier with my job. When I had stuff to do, I was much less upset that my boss rarely checked in with me!

    10. OP for #3

      Hi everyone and thanks for the comments. I am the OP for letter #3. A few thoughts:

      – I agree that lack of work may be the main issue; if I’m busier then I wouldn’t feel the need to keep getting in front of my boss to remind him that he’s not assigning me work, nor are my colleagues.
      – Please know that I continually ask for work from my boss and colleagues and I have also rescheduled the recurring bi-weekly meeting to be later in the day so it doesn’t happen in the morning when he’s usually running in late.
      – Please also imagine where I’m at a bit further: I was told there’s tons of work, tons to learn, tons to do and yet I sit around and have to search for ways to be self directed with training materials and books related to the subject of my work (I’m in software development). Most developers want to, well, develop and code. I think I’m fair to say my boss has a responsibility to get me on-boarded appropriately whether it’s assigning work and training to me directly or having me work with specific colleagues on specific work and training.
      – Regarding tone: remember that my letter to Alison is not a letter to my boss. Maybe I shouldn’t have explicitly said “Am I in good standing to say,” and rather emphasized that that is the script that’s running in my head. It was me trying to be honest in how I was feeling so you could understand and help me think through this.
      – I hope some of you aren’t the same people posting those inspirational quotes or articles I see on LinkedIn about what makes a good boss or employee, because it seems folks believe as a subordinate you somehow aren’t allowed to value yourself and time.

      Based on my letter and responses here, I’m worried this may hit more nerves. Please know I’m not intentionally aggressive. If you’ve been a job with false promises and with teammates you haven’t met and a boss who doesn’t seem interested in helping you grow in the position, I think you’d be a bit frustrated too. You’ve also probably been one of those people who say “you don’t know what else is going on in that person’s life.” While things are generally good, sometimes you have a bad day or week at work and write askamanager.org. Don’t you?

      1. a1

        I’ve seen a trend where some people tend to read the letters as if that’s how a writer would actually talk, rather than venting an issue at whomever they are writing to. I may say to people outside of work “so-and-so is so annoying, some days I just want to scream at them”. I have never actually screamed at anyone, and never would. But some how if you write it down in a letter for advice people assume you would. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. Observer

        Maybe I shouldn’t have explicitly said “Am I in good standing to say,” and rather emphasized that that is the script that’s running in my head. It was me trying to be honest in how I was feeling so you could understand and help me think through this.

        So the thing is that your script is way out of kilter. I get your frustration, but so far there is nothing here that remotely hints that your boss is engaged in micro-aggressions, is an incompetent manager or isn’t managing his time well.

        If you’re being given the runway to be self directed – USE IT! Seek out training that’s relevant to the work you are supposed to be doing, find projects you could do that relate to it, etc. Pay attention to what people are talking about, and see if you can find data on user requests, tech support issues, etc. There is a good chance that you’ll be able to come up with something useful.

        1. Wendie

          Well hold there. I can see my son writing this letter and this response. It seems to me like this person was trying to speak their truth and people are focusing too much on these little details. They sound like they’re working as hard as they can and should be proud of themselves for this. And for putting themselves out there to be judged by people on the internet who have never misstated a thing in their lives! Maybe I’m just a momma but it’s how I feel!

          1. Joielle

            I think that’s exactly the problem, though – if the OP’s truth is that they’re this frustrated over something so small, they’re really overreacting. That’s not a detail, that’s the whole point of the letter.

          2. Engineer Girl

            “Speak your truth” is actually what we called “my opinion”. It may not be rooted in facts. Indeed, it is usually rooted in emotions. And our emotions can be anywhere, in spite of the facts.

            And yes, if you “put yourself out there” then some will criticize. That’s how the real world works.

      3. Hostage Negotiator

        You are definitely aggressive or you wouldn’t have tossed in the comment about inspirational articles on linked in. You may want to take a step back and read what you wrote both the original letter and this response as if they were written by someone else, and then maybe you will see what the rest of us see. That you are going over the edge of reasonable.

        I don’t think you need to talk to your boss now you are far too bitter and angry for that. It will not go well, I wonder how much of the hostility that you are typing here is present in your daily life at work. This is far too much for 6 months in. Your best option is to make a list and send it to your boss (only 3 things) the day before your 1×1 that you want to discuss, if they are not able to make the meeting send them an email with a brief (no more than 3-4 lines/sentences) of what your question is.

        1. OP #3

          Yikes talk about aggressive. I will pass on your advice as I feel you are aggressive right back.

          Don’t you just love the Internet!

          1. Deb Morgan

            OP: just my two cents, but the last time I was this angry about a job, I had to quit for my own sake. Justified or not, your frustration is clouding your thinking and it will be very hard for you to move forward in this job with your boss if you carry this level of anger all the time.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Honestly, you are coming across as aggressive, or at least defensive, to me as well. That’s understandable when you’re getting this many people telling you that you’re wrong, but the input here will be far more useful if you can emotionally distance yourself from it and take it in more objectively.

            The big problem you have is that you don’t have work. That’s the thing I’d focus on, not your 1:1s getting canceled. You also don’t need your 1:1s to discuss that — you can book a separate conversation with your boss to try to figure out what’s going on and if it’s likely to change or not.

            1. OP #3

              I think you all have this picture of me sitting here red-faced at my desk, near tears and angrily typing on my keyboard. It’s not THAT deep. I’m actually amused on how it’s making more people here emotional than I am about it. Obviously, I thought the conversation would go differently (we always hope for the answer we want, that’s what people do), but the tone of the response and comments has been overly harsh considering I wasn’t writing about them, I was writing about my boss.

              It does strike me that many people on this blog comment on how work culture could be better and different and smarter, yet not many people agree that a manager (someone who was hired to manage people) who de-prioritizes their employees is a problem. Instead many are defending their over-busyness and throw their hands up to “that’s just how business is.”

              1. Ethyl

                OP3, I think you really, really, really need to take a step back. You’re still coming across as aggressive, and are clearly not hearing the feedback people are giving you. Your reactions are extremely, extremely off-base, here.

              2. Emily K

                not many people agree that a manager (someone who was hired to manage people) who de-prioritizes their employees is a problem

                And from further up-thread –
                it seems folks believe as a subordinate you somehow aren’t allowed to value yourself and time

                The thing is, the only reason any of us have jobs is because we provide value to the company we work for. Your personal value is not the same thing as your value to a business and it would be very bad for your self-esteem to conflate the two. Managers get more salary than associates because their work – and by extension their time – is more valuable to the company. Being less valuable in a workplace than someone else isn’t a bad thing, it’s a value-neutral reality, and there’s only one person in every company who isn’t less valuable than somebody else.

                Recognizing that your company would rather pay your manager $150 an hour to meet with a big client than pay them $150 an hour to meet with you isn’t a reflection on your worth as a person. It’s a reflection of the value of the work you do for the company, and that’s all it is.

                “Less valuable” doesn’t mean worthless, either. Your job wouldn’t exist if the work you did didn’t have value. Being de-prioritized by a senior colleague doesn’t mean they don’t value you or that you shouldn’t value yourself. Priorities are a thing and unless your manager’s sole job is people management, it’s unlikely that people management is his highest priority. Remember that he gets a performance review from his own boss, too, and if he failed to perform well on what his boss considers his most valuable work because he made managing you his top priority, that’s going to hurt him. His job requires him to de-prioritize you when there are legitimately more important things that require his time.

                1. Wendie

                  OP IS valuable as a person no matter what. That is how the world works. I did not vote for Bernie Sanders if you know what I mean but we do not need to degrade OP who has just as much worth or dignity as you or I or Annabelle or anyone. OP I hope you know that you seem to be on the right track and are making yourself very vulnerable here. Maybe it’s time for me to bow out because frankly I don’t like what I’m seeing from people who are usually kind.

                2. Emily K

                  I think you may have misunderstood my comment. I explicitly said that her value as a person is different from the value of her work/time/labor to the business. Her work/time/labor being deemed less valuable by her boss isn’t related to her value as a person, and it would be really bad if every junior employee in the world thought they were being devalued simply because their work isn’t the most valuable type of work in their company. You are not your work.

              3. DKMA

                For what it’s worth, I do feel like you are operating under a flawed mindset of the role of managers in an organization. You are correct that managers are hired to manage people…to deliver on organization goals. Well managing employees is not the final purpose, it is the tool to achieve a greater goal.

                So in defending “busyness”, I’m actually defending the needs of a manager to prioritize their time to ensure that they are delivering the optimal ability to achieve organization goals. Sometimes that may mean focusing attention on some people rather than others. I think your specific focus (cancelling 1:1 meetings) is an example where it’s common and reasonable for that prioritization to impact things. External clients are inherently more important and inflexible than internal meetings; 1:1s without clear timely purpose are often less important than other pressing needs.

                All that said, your overall situation does contain some massive red flags that within this framework there are real problems. Having an employee sit around and do nothing valuable is a waste of resources. There are possible exceptions, e.g. Seasonal business where it makes sense to staff for peak need and accept downtime; critical functions that require a trained person for when work is needed even if the need is infrequent.

                In your scenario, I would encourage you to reframe your thinking from “I’m being devalued and disrespected” to “my manager is not making good use of my talents for the organization”. Managers obviously owe their subordinates baseline levels of courtesy and respect and if you read this site you will see many examples of that not happening, but canceling meetings does not rise to this level. Not working with you to effectively use your talents is a professional problem (whether his or yours depends on the details) and you’ll better serve your career focusing on that problem.

          3. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

            Op3, you mentioned that you switched career tracks, is this your first job in your new field? I’m wondering if might want to tease out whether or not the dead time is part and parcel of your new industry or just this specific company? Do you have a network of people in your field you could ask whether the normal work pattern is boredom->HOUSE ON FIRE!!! PROJECT DUE!!!!->boredom or if it is more a steady state workload is the norm and your situation is the anomaly.

            My field is one where we cycle between mayhem and crickets, with each staff person cycling through it on a different schedule so at any given time 1-2 of us are counting ceiling tiles and the rest are working themselves into the ground. When I first entered it I didn’t realize that and was in a situation a lot like yours where my boss constantly canceled meetings and I had nothing to do and felt somewhat the same. Then it was my turn to be worked to the ground and I saw more of my boss and I realized this was how this gig works.

      4. BuildMeUp

        I think part of what’s going on here is that you’re understandably frustrated about the lack of work and lack of growth opportunities, but since you focused more on the cancelations in your letter, it came across like you were overly frustrated and fixated on something that is (unfortunately) just a fact of life in some companies.

        People aren’t saying you’re not allowed to value yourself or your time. They’re saying, specific to the cancelations, that your boss has a lot of things on his plate and has to prioritize.

        I think this phrasing (“aren’t allowed to value yourself”) points to one of the things people are noticing – you’re taking things personally when a lot of the time they’re just business decisions. Your boss isn’t canceling a meeting *at* you, you know?

        But sometimes there are letters here where the lede gets buried a bit, and I think that might be what’s happening here. It sounds like there’s a lot of other stuff going on outside of the cancelations.

        1. DKMA

          Seconding this and Donna above. OP #3, I’m re-interpreting your letter now as “I am bored and frustrated at work because I do not have any of the work I was hired to do. I’m finding myself feeling annoyed even about minor things like cancelled 1:1s with my boss, and I just feel like screaming (which I obviously won’t because I’m a professional). I’m feeling demotivated and devalued. How do I address this effectively?”

          If that’s the letter my advice is: 1) Feel permission to spend your spare time on self-directed self development. 2) Have a really frank discussion with your boss that makes clear the problem (no work) and asks to come up with a plan for a solution (work) and includes specific follow-ups to ensure progress is being made. 3) Look for another job / prepare to look for another job. 4) Monitor your emotions / communication because there’s a good change your frustration will show through and present a professional persona that is not the one you are aiming for.

      5. Tinker

        I also work in tech, and I found your problem and the way you framed it in general fairly relatable; it makes me think that there may be some sort of cultural clash in play that is causing people who are often otherwise reasonable to have issues with your tone.

        Things what I note:

        IME tech quite often has a very weak sense of hierarchy, such that “manager” and “developer” are almost like “developer” and “graphic designer” rather than “big boss” and “worker bee” — as people whose specialized skills are each needed for the success of the project, and where depending on context it is somewhat expected to say to a manager that they are not doing their part effectively. There are a fair number of commenters who come from backgrounds where a lot more attention to displaying subordination is normal, and I think that might be the source of the particularly snappy “you’re being treated as if you’re not important because you’re not important; get over yourself” type answers.

        I’m less certain about this, but I also have the impression that 1:1 meetings with one’s direct manager in tech are expected to be closer to the everyday flow of tasks than they are with other relationships or in other industries — that in other places a 1:1 may be more often like an “informational interview” than a “strategy meeting about the work, with two attendees”. With that context, and in light of the foregoing bit about hierarchy, that would make your statement read like you’re expecting a person above you to neglect substantive parts of their job to have coffee and social bonding with you as an individual — and I think, if I’m right about us sharing similar cultures, that your intent is more like “I’m having an issue with my work with this near-peer, and they keep rescheduling the meeting in which we would discuss such things”.

        And also, the “remember that my letter to Alison is not a letter to my boss” thing is a longstanding pitfall of advice columns that as far as I can tell must be lived with. There are definitely some people around here that I would not let into my Secret Essay Zone, including sometimes myself.

        1. DKMA

          Really interesting perspective. I think “strategy meeting about the work, with two attendees” is a reasonable description of 1:1s in a more “business” context. But, “the work” means the subordinate’s work, which is generally only a portion of the focus for the manager. So, it’s not strange for a manager to sometimes be too busy to have that strategy meeting and either trust the subordinate to make-do without their input, or to put the work temporarily on the back-burner.

          The second element of a 1:1 is often “manager checking in to make sure subordinate is doing their job appropriately”.

          Sometimes a canceled 1:1 is actually a sign of trust, because it implies “I believe you can do this on your own without my advice and I don’t need to check on you”.

        2. Ralph Wiggum

          I largely agree with this comment. The most prominent view of management in software development right now is that its main purpose is to enable individual contributors to get work done better. In this mindset, valuing managers’ time over individual contributors’ time is backwards.

          The flip side to this is that management enables individual contributors by maximizing their autonomy. This puts more responsibility on the OP to find his own ways to contribute.

      6. Ralph Wiggum

        How are tasks tracked on your team/project?

        In any well-run software development team, you should have a system tracking upcoming features / discovered bugs that need investigation / support tasks such as improving tooling. It is common for developers to select their own next task from the list of upcoming work.

        I’m not sure how your team is run, but it’s unusual for managers to be highly involved in distribution of work tasks in software. Usually, individuals end up informally owning components, but there’s a lot of bleed-over between the components and anybody is expected to be able to work on any other piece.

        I would recommend leaning on your peers for what to work on more than your manager. Does your team have regular stand-ups? What are your coworkers reporting themselves having difficulty with? Can you offer to help? What outstanding bugs exist that you can investigate?

        If you don’t have a clear list of upcoming tasks, figure out what’s driving your coworkers to choose what they work on next. At one former (disorganized) company, I finally figured out that one individual basically had final say on what we were building (and didn’t chime in until the project was almost done). Find the source driving development and get the next tasks directly from there. If it’s not written down, write it down. Also, read anything written by Joel Spolsky: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/

        There are a TON of supporting tasks with software development that don’t include directly writing the shipped code:
        * Writing unit tests
        * Testing weird configurations/environments
        * Requirements gathering
        * Spec writing
        * Documenting program behavior for the tech writers
        * Building automation scripts
        * Building CI/CD
        * Investigating bugs

        I’m sure there’s an opportunity to jump into one of these. And working on these will increase your understanding of the full product lifecycle, making you a better developer.

        1. Ralph Wiggum

          I just realized that my advice was assuming you were at a product-focused company — that is, building and selling/licensing software to end users.

          If you work at a services-focused company — building software for clients on contract — then the dynamics are different. In a services company, they care more about who’s working on which project, since those represent billable hours. It’s possible that Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD’s comment above about feast and famine may be accurate.

    11. Kendra

      This is exactly how 1:1 meetings go with my boss – they get moved around and/or cancelled ALL the time. It’s not personal and not because I’m not important, it’s because my job doesn’t require me to play Calendar Tetris and my boss’ job does.

    12. HollyWeird

      I have meetings cancelled with me all the time — usually it’s okay but sometimes there is stuff I needed to talk about in the meeting. In that case I’ll send an email to say, “I saw our scheduled time didn’t work out, but I would like to discuss X, Y, and Z with you. Would there be another time you can meet?” If there is any sort of time urgency on that then I let them know that detail as well. So I might say, “I know the CEO was looking to move forward with this proposal in the next week, can we go over it before that time?”

      In your case if there is nothing you need to meet about but are concerned about the workload, you should address that in your next 1:1. In my career, I have also looked for issues in the company that I can contribute a fix to and proposed it to my managers as a potential project for me to work on. This helped me develop from a generic entry level role into running my own department as I took on more and more projects of my own initiative. Maybe there is something like that you can do too.

    13. Cats and dogs

      A check in is not like a performance review. Check ins are by definition informal and should be flexible. Every two weeks is a lot! In the boss’s view this was probably a time slot to use as needed not a regular formal meeting.

    1. Annette

      Yes JenRN. It’s always better to be D.I.R.E.C.T. = Don’t imply, rather explicitly convey things.

    2. Working Hypothesis

      Nah, only 7/10. The other three are:

      -Yes, that is legal, but if you push back as a group you may be able to talk them out of doing it,

      -You need to be willing to fire your rock star no matter how vital he is, because he’s behaving like an asshole and that is a job performance issue, and

      -Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

      1. MsM

        Also, “no, you’re not crazy; that is a really weird thing for them to be doing.”

      2. Falling Diphthong

        -You need to be willing to fire your terribly performing non-rock star no matter how conflict avoidant you are, because they are going to drive all your good employees to get jobs elsewhere.

      3. Karen from Finance

        There’s also a good amount of times where the answer is “no you can’t say that (in that way)” or “you need to reframe it this way” as with OP3 here.

        1. Washi

          Yes! I find the “use your words” and “just tell them” comments that inevitably pop up to be over-simplistic and not very empathetic. If OP3 used the same words she used in her letter, she would not come across very well to her boss! Office culture can be very subtle and there’s an art to making your point without coming across as aggressive or clueless.

          There were sooo many posts on the blue collar open thread about what an adjustment it can be to navigate white collar office communication, and Alison gets like hundreds of letters a day, so clearly it’s not as simple as “use your words.”

          1. boo bot

            I think this is exactly right. A lot of the time, I think the letter writers that get dismissed as “gee, just use your words,” (in comments, not by Alison) are actually asking the right questions for navigating those subtleties:

            Am I perceiving this situation correctly? Is what I’m seeing common/normal? Am I right to be worried/upset, or am I overreacting? How do I approach this if I do bring it up? Who is the right person to talk to? Am I likely to hurt my own reputation if I speak up about this?

            I think a lot of those have intuitive answers to people who have more experience, and so the questions look really basic, but I know I personally have benefited a lot from seeing the responses.

            (Plus, in addition to #3, OP#1 wouldn’t be better off saying “you’re a fragrance hypocrite” to her co-worker, #5 would not be best served by telling her new office “I’m cleaning your disgusting kitchen,” and #2 doesn’t really pertain, which only gives “be direct” a 20% success rate on this post alone.)

          2. smoke tree

            Yes, I always find “use your words” pretty condescending too. If a substantial number of people struggle with the same thing, it’s probably because that thing is difficult and depends a lot on the nuances of the situation. Not that the world is full of sheeple who haven’t mastered the basics of communication.

            1. LawBee

              Seeing as it’s usually a phrase directed towards children who are stuck in a tantrum or dealing with really big emotions, “use your words” is super condescending.

    3. sb51

      Nah, it’s “tell them more directly and here’s how to do that, including a script”.

      1. boo bot

        Yeah, don’t discount the script! That is amazingly valuable, and not the same in all cases!

        1. JustaTech

          There’s so much value in a script! Even if you don’t follow it exactly, at least it gives you a place to start. If people *knew* what they needed to say they wouldn’t be writing in!

          1. Oranges

            YES! Social scripts are so hard to think up for some people (raises hand) and having them is awesome.

  2. Former Professional Computer Geek

    #5 The danger with cleaning the office kitchen is that if you do it more than once, others might start expecting you to do it regularly, even if they’re used to it being a mess.
    The flip side is that as a new person you’re likely not able to say something like “Can we set up a rotation to clean this?”

    1. Annette

      Oh well if they expect her to keep doing it. It’s not like they’re cleaning now and will stop. More likely their behavior will not change. No consequences but worth a try.

    2. Longtime Lurker

      Ha! I started writing that exactly before I noticed you’d beat me to it.

    3. Artemesia

      As a new employee and a woman, cleaning the kitchen is a terrible way to establish your reputation; do you really want to be the go to office drudge? It is slightly worse than baking cookies the first week.

      1. Zona the Great

        I went here immediately as well. I think this is a bad idea. I would avoid the kitchen at all costs. If someone asks, tell them it’s disgusting and you don’t use it. Hopefully it changes.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Hard agree. And it’s highly likely that cleaning will recreate a common-area-cleaning race to the bottom, where the space becomes disgusting until OP can’t take it anymore and cleans again.

        I worked at an organization with an absolutely disgusting kitchen because the dudes figured if it returned to its biohazardous condition, women in the organization would clean it up for them. One new employee made the mistake of cleaning the kitchen her first week because she wanted to be able to use it (totally a reasonable desire!). When dudes started to drop nasty comments about how she hadn’t cleaned the kitchen, a more senior woman shut them down (they still griped), and I took New Employee aside.

        1. Batgirl

          Yep. This is why I use a cooler bag for my packed lunch and snacks and swerve the kitchen entirely.

        2. StressedButOkay

          Oh yes, this! I understand the impulse – being in a mess created by other grown adults is nasty and not fun and I totally get wanting to make it usable for YOU. But, OP, the last thing you want to do is set up an expectation that you’re their cleaning person. Wipe down the microwave when you use it or a spot on the counter when you need space but do not set yourself up for their expectations.

        3. MatKnifeNinja

          This is the lesson I learned in my lab. I cleaned, and the men just expected it. They didn’t nothing to keep up the clean.

          My professor pulled me aside and said, “WTF? I pay you to do (X), not play den mother. ” His whole point is I was seen as less bringing in snacks and cleaning.

          Learn from my mistake OP!

        4. CmdrShepard4ever

          This is why I am glad I work in a small office (5/6 people) our kitchen generally stays pretty clean. Since we are smaller, I think people feel more accountable for keeping it clean. If it gets a bit messy we are not afraid to call each other out (not in a mean/negative way) but as in “who ever spilled the coffee ground please clean them up” even though we know it was John Smith we still say “who ever.” But we still also schedule semi-annual kitchen deep clean that everyone participates in from Big Boss down to admins.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            The office where I worked only had 6 people! But the dudes had all sorts of sexism and transphobia issues (I’m honestly surprised the org hasn’t been sued over it), including the intentional trashing of restrooms and the kitchen.

            But you’re right that having leadership from the top can also play a strong role in shifting expectations over common area cleanliness.

        5. Massmatt

          I am reminded of Alison’s excellent phrase from last week, the office is playing “filth chicken”. I swore I would use it and now I have!

          1. CmdrShepard4ever

            Just like real chicken there are not any winners just losers. Was/is car chicken really a thing or was it just used in movies for the drama?

              1. Zona the Great

                Yep. We farm kids had very little going on. Wrecking cars and playing dangerous games was all we had sometimes.

      3. RUKiddingMe

        This this this!!! My reaction was “don’t do it they will think it’s your job because…woman!”

      4. Hiring Mgr

        Agree, but we don’t know this OP is a woman unless I missed something in the letter..

        1. Tiny Soprano

          Even for a man this pattern is still a risk (albeit a lesser one, and without the sexism.) The person who ended up cleaning kitchens at my last job was a middle aged white man from IT. But because he did it, people came to expect he would just do it all the time, despite direct shaming about how this wasn’t fair.

      5. Hey Karma, Over Here

        Scrolled thru comments to make sure this was already here. Please give it a year at least to establish yourself as “the person who sees a problem and handles it” not “ the lady who cleaned the kitchen when she first started here.”

      6. WellRed

        I agree but I also like a hot lunch so would probably do what LW is doing, at least until I had some capital.

      7. Lily Rowan

        Yeah, THAT’s the reason not to (if you decide not to), not because people will be offended.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      You know, my original draft of my answer was all about that (and that’s normally a topic I’d harp on), but she says she’s doing it discreetly while no one is in there and mainly to clean out “the appliances I intend to use to heat up lunch.” If she’s grossed out by the microwave and needs to put her lunch in there, I don’t think it’s a big deal to wipe it down herself. I’d have a very different answer if she was doing a big production in there, but wiping out a microwave before you use it or getting rid of crumbs before you sit at a table isn’t a big deal. So while I’m in full agreement that you don’t want to become the office cleaner, I think this is more nuanced.

      1. Spartan

        An I missing something when I read this only on my phone? How do we know this is a woman? Men can be disgusted by a dirty appliance as well. Why the assumption that LW is a woman? I am hoping I missed something in the post it is late and it’s been a long day.

        1. Mystery Bookworm

          We generally defer to the female pronoun on the site. Also, Alison sees their names in the emails and generally corrects in the comments if it comes up or is relevant.

          I think people are just pointing out that there could be a gendered component here, not insisting that OP must be a woman because she values cleanliness.

          1. Spartan

            My comment did not end up where I intended it was in response to Artemesia’s

            As a new employee and a woman, cleaning the kitchen is a terrible way to establish your reputation

            I know that the site in general uses the female pronouns when referring to an unknown gender and that makes perfect sense. Never see a problem there. It was the direct comment that triggered my question.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I know she’s a woman because of of her email to me. Sorry, should have said that.

              Deleted a long off-topic thread here about clean men.

              1. Spartan

                Thank you I did not mean to derail anything. Love the site. I read daily but rarely comment.

            2. Mystery Bookworm

              I’m sorry, I misunderstood. Please ignore my explanation of what you already knew!

          1. BlueWolf

            I’m a woman and my fiance (male) and I are both slobs and our house is a mess lol.

          2. Grapey

            Same (well, I’m female but we’re both slobs.) I love not having fights about cleaning with him. Our routine is usually we look at each other at random times and say “yeah we should probably clean” then do housework together.

      2. Mockingjay

        I line our office microwave with loads of paper towels to avoid contamination.

        I did clean it once; it was late on a Friday afternoon and no one saw me do it. A couple of people remarked on the cleanliness, one person left a post-it thanking whoever did it. Anonymous is the way to go for these acts.

      3. boo bot

        I also suspect that, if the office is full of people who have let the kitchen get this disgusting in the first place, most of them probably won’t even notice that the microwave has been cleaned…

      4. Curmudgeon in California

        IMO, it’s perfectly fine even for the lone woman in the office to clean a thing before she uses it. Then, if some work bro makes a remark on “not cleaning the foo lately”, the response would be “I haven’t used the foo lately. I only clean what I personally use.” Heck, same applies to your desk!

        Example: I wipe down around the sink in the restroom after I use it, cleaning up my own water splashes. I don’t do all of them, just the one I used. No one has said “why don’t you wipe all of them down?”

    5. Language Lover

      Yes. Those are the dangers.

      But if the LW is solely worried about looking like a jerk, I can almost guarantee you that the answer to that is no. People will just be grateful someone caved and did it and it didn’t have to be them.

    6. Evergreen

      On the other hand, they’ve just spent time and money wooing her into the coming, probably struggling from being a person down – this might be a good time to suggest to her manager that this type of company should probably have a dedicated cleaner.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        If you mean a person currently on staff who gets the new duty cleaning the kitchen as part of their job, I disagree. If everyone or almost everyone uses the kitchen they should all be responsible for cleaning up.

        If you mean hiring a cleaning person to specifically clean the microwave/dishes/office I would agree, but that is probably not cost effective, and reinforces peoples bad habits.

        My current office building has a cleaning crew that comes in, I am not sure to what extent they clean, but I know they vacuum/sweep/mop floors and maybe wipe down/dust desks and other surfaces, but they do not clean the microwave, toaster oven, dishes etc…

      2. Ralph Wiggum

        I think people underestimate the influence they have early on. The more established you are, yes you probably have more authority, but processes and expectations may calcify and actually become harder to change.

        I remember a line from “Ender’s Game” where Ender explores forbidden areas immediately after arriving. His logic was that he could feign ignorance then, but not after he’d been there a while.

    7. DaffyDuck

      I think she should go ahead and clean the parts she uses if she wants. I think the chance someone would be offended is very small. I do, however, caution her not to expect them to thank you! People who live like slobs just don’t see the mess. It is very easy to do all the cleaning work and then feel resentful when they don’t even notice.

    8. LaDeeDa

      She could get it all cleaned up and then post a sign that said “Sign up for Kitchen Cleaning duty” and leave it unsigned, people might think it is coming from HR or management :)

  3. Engineer Girl

    #4 – it’s OK to text back “Hey friend, please reserve the texts for emergencies.”
    Other responses: “Is this an emergency? Otherwise can you put it in an email for tomorrow?”

    I had one of these in my life. She used to phone me up even when I was on vacation. Even after I left a whole package with “how to” directions. The response “it was easier to just call you”.
    That did it. I turned off my phone and gave my family an alternative number to reach me for true emergencies.

    1. Artemesia

      If she doesn’t stop after one very clear statement then block her number — and let her know you have done so.

      1. Phoenix Wright

        Yep. If you’re not on-call, a coworker having your number and being allowed to call you during emergencies is a privilege for them, not an obligation for you. If they don’t respect your boundaries and don’t listen after you directly tell them to stop, they deserve to be blocked. Not necessarily out of spite, but so you can have your peace of mind.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD

      What’s worked for me in the past has been transparency about my “I try not to work when I’m not at work” policy. I tend to say it in a joking tone of voice, but I think by now everybody I work with has heard a variation of “I get paid for five days a week, so that’s how many days I work.” There have been a handful of people over the years who have had to hear it more than once before they really got it, but I keep saying it until it clicks. If I don’t guard my work/life balance, nobody else is going to.

      1. Dust Bunny

        I will straight-up tell somebody (assuming a non-emergency), “I am off today. Please take this up with [other coworker], or I will address it when I return on [whatever day].” And then I do not respond again.

        1. Bunny Girl

          I tell people that before 8am, after 5:00pm and on the weekends that I cease to exist.

    3. Don't Ask Me PLEASE

      At OldJob they surveyed the support staff ahead of planning a major reorg, ostensibly to find out people’s best learning styles. One question was about how you *prefer* to learn something, and the options were (1) formal training (2) refer to handbook (3) ask someone else. A majority chose (3) so the company decided not to have professional trainers or detailed documentation, but just to designate certain people as the person to ask. Guess how much real work those people ever got done, or what happened when people moved on.

      1. irene adler

        I’m surprised management let option #3 remain a viable method. How short-sighted.

        I’m saying that as one of the “go-to’s” folks would [constantly!] ask for guidance. The whole thing gets maddening when folks refuse to retain information. Then when I ask “why can’t you look that up?” I’m told, “It’s just easier to ask you.”

        1. Phoenix Wright

          Would it be feasible to set a “1 repeated question max” policy? As in, coworkers are allowed to ask you once about anything, and you do them the courtesy of answering that same question a second time, because sometimes people do forget even if they meant to remember, or they were having a bad day, or whatever. While doing this, you tell them you’re not going to repeat yourself a second time, so they better write it down. If they fail to follow instructions and ask you a third time, you laugh and tell them to go bother someone else (in your head, of course! It’s better to be polite but firm).

      2. CmdrShepard4ever

        I think in a good organization all 3 methods should be incorporated. My previous job had a very good on boarding process. I went through 4 maybe 5 days of formal training, in a “classroom” with a formal trainer and handbook showing us how to do things. We were trained/taught how to do things, we read in the hand book how to do it, then we were allowed to practice doing it ourselves and allowed to ask the trainer questions. After the training was done we shadowed someone in the position to learn how to do the job.

        Even after the training there was so much info that I couldn’t remember it all by only practicing a few times. Once I was out of the classroom and on the job, most of the things I could refer and lookup in the handbook. But even then I still had to ask people about certain things a few times.

        This was a job that took about 6 months to start to get the hang of it, and about a year to be decent at it, and even longer to be an expert/go to person.

        But there is no way I could have learned everything from just a formal training, just a handbook, or even just asking someone.

    4. Mynona

      OP may also need to explicitly define what constitutes an emergency. My co-worker like this genuinely thinks every minor isssue can’t wait.

    5. whistle

      Yes! I think a direct response like this to a non-emergency text when the text happens is the type of response that this coworkers needs to pull her out of this habit. I would use one of Alison’s scripts first, then respond to a text with one of Engineer Girl’s scripts, and then if that doesn’t work, it’s blocking time.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood

      OP4 Have you explained what YOU call an emergency?
      I am thinking of this exchange between a human and a Crow Girl in Charles de Lindt’s Newford:
      “Rory says we’re not supposed to wake people unless it’s an emergency, like if we really need some jelly beans and he’s gone and hidden them and we can’t find them no matter how hard we look.”
      “That’s what Rory calls an emergency?”
      “No. But we do.”

  4. namelesscommentator

    LW1, I would be frustrated too. Someone who’s sensitive to fragrance should know how obnoxious strong perfumes are. Go to HR and let them know that despite the fragrance ban, there’s still scents in the office that are disruptive, and are fairly sure it’s her.

    If that doesn’t work I would start gagging and complaining about migraines when she’s near. Not really, but I’d definitely want to.

    1. Public Health Research Coordinator

      I agree! AAM seems disdainful of LW1, but the truth is that her “I’m sensitive to fragrances so EVERYONE around me must RESPECT that and not wear them!” coworker is behaving like an entitled child. That said, we are now living in a society in which individuals feel perfectly ok making everyone around them adhere to their desires, and workplaces are too scared of being viewed as insensitive or, GASP, not sufficiently PC to challenge them. The cult of individualism triumphs over the well-being of the collective whole. Sad, at least to me, though I realize I’m in the minority on this site.

      1. Airy

        The fact that she’s being kind of annoying about it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t really get migraines or that migraines are a trivial thing she should have to put up with for “the collective whole.” It’s a medical issue, not just a desire.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          This. Scents can absolutely trigger asthma, just like smog can–your lungs are like “Hi ho fine irritating particles floating in the air–squeeze those bronchial tubes shut, release the phlegm, and cough like a maniac until the danger has been hacked out!” Which, if you are next to something that’s actually dangerous to breath, is a really useful reaction from your body. Just not when it’s “oh no lavender!”

          And people can be sensitive to a dozen variations on something but not the thirteenth.

          The focus should be on having the offender follow the no fragrances rule, not having the offender confess that she isn’t really sensitive to strong fragrances.

        2. KP

          Then she should follow the rules. Never mind the rules were made for her. The rules also are for the benefit of others in the office who might be sensitive to her strong fragrance.

          1. Airy

            I’m guessing that she hasn’t thought of it from that side. It’s not outlandish for her to think “the rule was made to protect me, so anything that doesn’t harm me is an exception,” and indeed to expect that if anyone has a problem with her perfume they’ll speak up about it, the way she did. It’s not the best way to handle it and someone needs to talk to her to clarify it, but these are not on the face of it unreasonable assumptions.

        3. Rie

          I agree, my wording is strong and implied that I don’t believe the scent sensitivity. I do believe it’s a medical issue, and that it’s very real. I have a hard time believing this individual due to her regular back pedaling and double standards. She was a smoker for 15 years, and I just feel that her in particular may, may, may be stretching the truth to make things easier for her.
          Could I be wrong, absolutely.
          Am I frustrated by the double standard, you betcha.

        4. Amber T

          Yes, this.

          I’m a migraine sufferer, especially this time of the year (weather is just unavoidable), but certain scents trigger awful migraines and difficulty breathing. And yet, I have a diffuser in my office with a scent I like (as do many people in my office).

          I don’t see “entitled child” here – I see exactly what Alison described. Yes, she’s still in the wrong, if there’s a scent ban, then even she should respect it, even if she was the one who wanted implemented. But I’m getting a sense from some comments that, idk, she’s faking? Or she’s obnoxious for not wanting scents at all? There’s just one problem here – the fact that someone is wearing a strong scent when there’s a scent ban.

        5. PB

          Yes, this. The coworker is saying “I need you to not wear scents so I scan breathe.” The ability to breathe is not a preference, and I fail to see how allowing performing is for the collective good of humanity. It’s perfume. Yes, coworker needs to follow the scent ban, but her desire to breathe or be migraine free is not entitlement.

        6. Burned Out Supervisor

          Truth. I was a heavy smoker for many years and could never really know what I smelled like. However, if someone was wearing a heavy perfume, UGH THE HUMANITY. I’m sure there were some very kind people near me that thought I completely reeked but were too nice to say anything. (I quit smoking when I started to get promoted and was in meetings with people from other departments…plus, I was scared of cancer).

      2. Weegie

        I didn’t read Alison’s response as at all disdainful of the LW – she simply (and factually) pointed out that not all fragrances will set off a reaction in someone who has an intolerance to fragrances. A person who doesn’t experience such an intolerance wouldn’t necessarily know this, so Alison was just giving the LW extra information. But the co-worker is certainly being thoughtless in not realising that other workers might be affected by *her* perfume.

        1. sunny-dee

          But then there shouldn’t be a fragrance ban. It’s one thing for someone to say they’re allergic to scents generally (requiring a ban) versus being sensitive to only musk oil or something (or, apparently, only scents on other people).

          If someone is allergic to peanuts, you ban peanuts. If someone just doesn’t like peanuts unless it’s in their own homemade cookies, then you don’t ban peanuts because that’s not the same thing.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever

            I think in this situation a fragrance ban is the best course of actions, because then people have to try and decipher what scents will and won’t trigger a reaction.

            I think the situation if more akin to coworker being allergic to only peanuts, so the job institutes a “NUT” ban. But the coworker brings in pistachios because they assume the “NUT” ban was just for them, and since they are only allergic to peanuts they can bring in the pistachios. But what the coworker doesn’t realize is that someone else is actually allergic to just pistachios. So yes the coworker does need to adhere to the “NUT” ban along with everyone else but it could be understandable why they thought they didn’t have to worry about it.

            1. fposte

              Yes, and it’s going to be almost impossible to determine that in advance. Aside from the fact that fragrances are complicated chemical concoctions where isolating a single irritating ingredient would be beyond most users, the dosage could be a factor as well.

          2. NotAnotherManager!

            I’m not following your analogy. If you don’t like peanuts, you can not eat the cookies. Smells diffuse through the air, and I can’t choose not to smell the guy next to me’s aftershave if I don’t care for it or have breathing problems when I come into contact with it, particularly if he’s bathed in it.

            If Sally has asthmatic symptoms in response to patchouli, Bob is thrown into sneezing fits by floral scents, and vanilla really sets Jordan into a migraine, then a fragrance ban is going to be the only way all three are going to work comfortably. Because the other options are (1) don’t ban scents because no one has a reaction to all scents (in which case Sally, Bob, Jordan, and goodness knows who else could be miserable at work) or (2) selectively ban the scents to which people have identified sensitivities (in which case, someone’s going to have to survey, maintain a list, distribute it, deal with whether employees have a current list of the banned scents – none of which will prevent the fact that some people don’t know what scents trigger them until they’ve got a nose full of it).

            Having a ban on perfume, cologne, and scented lotions is the most sensible option when certain scents will end up making certain employees miserable or sick.

            1. a heather

              Some nut allergies are so severe that having them in the same room will cause a reaction. (When you can smell peanut butter cookies, that’s because there are tiny peanut particles in the air.)

          3. SignalLost

            Just because I’m not allergic to “male” scents in cologne/aftershave doesn’t mean I’m also not allergic to floral scents in laundry detergent, fabric softener, deodorant, “female” perfumes, and pretty much anything with a light floral scent. I assume it’s actually about the base of the scent rather than the notes I can actually distinctly smell. And I am being driven mad by the thought that someone who requested and got a fragrance ban is flouting it.

            1. Curmudgeon in California

              This. I am sensitive to artificial scents, especially the stuff put into personal care products and bathroom “air fresheners. It seems that the cheaper the scent, the worse it affects me.

              I can wear essential oil based scents, except for lavender which I also react to.

              However, I never wear anything that is detectable by anyone not literally standing next to me.

              Plus, if a place has a fragrance BAN, then I assume it applies to ALL types of fragrance, natural or artificial, and everything from laundry soap to aftershave, plus “air fresheners” and Lysol.

              That last part is where her coworker is in the wrong. She’s not the only one, it’s just may be she was one of the first to complain. She should obey the ban, period.

      3. WS

        I don’t think that’s the case at all – the person in question has asked that their workplace is free of something that irritates them. It’s nothing to do with PC, it’s to do with the comfort of other people around you. “Not wearing scents” is not a big ask, if the alternative is an ill staff-member.

        (Is it possible she’s faking? Sure! Just like some people fake a gluten allergy in order to participate in a fad diet. But that doesn’t mean that you should make everyone eat gluten – it means you take them at their word and proceed accordingly for small things. And for big things, you get medical confirmation.)

        1. Aveline

          Highly unlikely she’s faking. She’s potentially overreacting.

          A ban of this magnitude is not going to be put into place without a doctor’s directive. Those aren’t easy to get, even from sympathetic doctors. I know this from personal experience and from being part of fragrance sensitivity support groups.

          Now, her gagging might be dramatic and “staged” in order to get people to realize that she’s sensitive. She really just should use her words.

          Alternatively, the gagging might be real. Fragrance sensitivities are known to cause some people’s throats to swell. Gagging is a reflexive reaction. It’s also something I was trained to do when I’m getting a certain type of reaction. LW has no idea if this gagging is real or “for dramatic purposes.”

          All LW knows – the only info she can act on – is that there is a ban. It’s not her job to judge whether the coworker has an allergy and whether the gagging is sincere. But she can say to HR that there’s a ban and that “coworker Sally Sparrow” is violating it. That’s it.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder

            A ban of this magnitude is not going to be put into place without a doctor’s directive. Those aren’t easy to get, even from sympathetic doctors. I know this from personal experience and from being part of fragrance sensitivity support groups.

            That’s not universally true. In my last job, a coworker was reacting strongly to certain scents without a history of doing so, and the HR director just imposed a fragrance ban. Wearing scented products isn’t a protected class, so it’s not like there needs to be strong documentation to enforce a ban.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I agree, personally at work I don’t wear cologne/perfume ( I wear deodorant) because I don’t feel the need to smell good for/impress my coworkers. Honestly it seems like a waste of cologne/perfume to me especially since the nicer scents my partner likes tend to be more expensive. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to smell bad for my coworkers, but I find that showering and using a body wash is enough to keep that from happening.

              I do keep cologne at my desk that I will put on right before I leave work and meet my partner for dinner or something, because I do want to smell good and impress my partner.

              1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

                Oh man, that reminds me of the one time I ended up triggering a coworker’s fragrance sensitivity. Our office had a fragrance ban and everyone was really good about following it, including me, and there were never any issues. One day a coworker asked me if I was wearing perfume because her eyes itched when she was near me. I wasn’t and we were confused. It kept happening and she complained to HR. I was irked because I wasn’t wearing anything, used all unscented products, and couldn’t smell anything. Things got a bit tense and we were on the verge of going BEC with each other. One week Mr. Gumption was out of town and coworker said, “I guess you finally decided to stop wearing whatever that was.” and a lightbulb went off. I said, “As I have told you, I don’t wear scent, but Mr. Gumption wears aftershave and recently changed brands. We hug every morning before I go. He is out of town this week, so I wonder if that is what has been going on?” I told coworker I was going to hug him the first morning he got back, but not the second and see how it went. She reacted day 1 and not day 2 and we exited BEC territory (but I do miss my morning hug).

                1. CmdrShepard4ever

                  I am glad you got it resolved. While I believe the coworker was sensitive to the smell, I think the true test would have been to not tell your coworker the plan. You hug your person day 1 and not hug them day 2 and see if your coworker had a reaction, of you tell them the plan but then do the opposite. You tell them you will hug day 1 and not day 2, but really you don’t hug day 1 and hug day 2. I have done experiments like this (not scent related) just testing the placebo effect and it is always really amazing how well it works.

                2. Aveline

                  & CMDR

                  As a real suffer, I have people test me like you did. It resulted in several thousand dollars of hospital bills.

                  It is morally wrong and legally wrong to risk someone else’s life and comfort like this.

                  Really, truly: shame on you.

                3. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

                  @CMDR Things were in such a bad place between us, and it had been escalated to my manager, her manager, and HR that I really just wanted her and everyone else to know I wasn’t doing something to her on purpose. Transparency and showing that I cared and was actively looking for the source of the problem did a lot to mend fences.

                4. CmdrShepard4ever

                  @Aveline I am sorry for what you have had to suffer. I do absolutely believe scent sensitivity/allergy is real. From what I have read and been told by people with scent sensitivity is that there are so many things with scents that can be triggering that people such as myself don’t may not realize it really has a scent.

                  I don’t normally use cologne, but I do use a body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, hand lotion, body lotion, hair spray/gel, bear wash, beard oil, beard salve, and deodorant. So If a coworker came to me and said that a scent I was wearing was triggering for them I would have no clue what was causing the sensitivity/allergy. I would want to solve and figure out what was causing the issue. My first reaction would be to test and use process of elimination to try and find the scent that is causing an issue. So I would systematically eliminate scents one by one. Day 1 no body wash still an issue (I know its not BW), day 2 no shampoo still an issue (I know its not shampoo), day 3 no conditioner still an issue (I know its not conditioner), etc…. until you get to day 6 no body lotion its no longer an issue (we have found and isolated the scent causing the reaction) I now know not to put on that body lotion before work, or try to find a new body lotion to use that is not triggering for my coworker.

                  When I used the word test I did not mean test if the person was really having a reaction or not, I do believe that they were. But to test if the partners aftershave was the cause of it or if it was something else that may have changed unknowingly to @Danger.

                5. Nessun

                  I had an issue when visiting a satellite office with a fragrance ban (my main office doesn’t have a ban). I had no idea what I’d done to set it off – I was aware of the ban and specifically didn’t bring anything that would trigger anyone. Turned out it was my laundry detergent! I’d washed all my clothes for the trip the night before, put them into my suitcase, and bam! Damage done. Once we figured it out, no more issue (I switched brands to something supposed to be more hypo-allergenic and non-scented, easy enough to do).

                6. Aveline

                  @CMDR

                  Thank you so much for coming back and clearing that up. I was really, really thinking you meant to test the allergy.

                  Thanks again for being kind and clarifying my misunderstanding of your meaning.

      4. Aveline

        As someone with fragrance allergies, asking people not to wear them is no more entitled than someone with a peanut allergy asking people not to bring them into enclosed spaces.

        For some, fragrances in enclosed spaces can kill.

        My reaction is not that strong, but if I’m in an enclosed space with someone with a strong fragrance, I will be in serious pain for DAYS.

        This is not entitled behavior to ask people I am around regularly in enclosed spaces to refrain. It’s a reasonable medical accommodation.

        Your attitude is deeply problematic and shows you have no idea how these work in practice.

        This isn’t an annoyance. It’s a matter of life or death for some. For me, it’s a matter of being able to do my job and enjoy my existence v. Being not able to do my job and being in excruciating pain for a while and derailing pain for longer.

        Please reassess, because it troubles me someone who is a public health researcher is so lacking in empathy for sufferers.

        What is entitled here isn’t the perfume ban. It’s having that in place and not following it. As a sufferer, I can say this woman is really, really wrong for doing that. N

        1. Aveline

          For those thinking “can kill” is hyperbole: when I last had a massive reaction cascade, my throat swelled shut so fast that an epi-pen made no difference. My doctor told me “all those sore throats” were my throat closing up and I was lucky I didn’t die.

          For some people, a fragrance reaction is just a migraine, for other’s it’s a reaction similar to a bee sting, for others, it’s like a peanut allergy. People can die from things such as fragrance allergies.

          Flying is always utter hell for me. Even if I drug up, if I’m seating near someone drowning in fragrance, the flight is hell and I’m in pain for days.

          And, no, I wasn’t too clean as a child. I was playing in the dirt and tending animals daily. So, it’s jus some weird auto-immune tick.

          The focus of this letter should not be whether or not the coworker has an allergy and whether or not the ban is reasonable. The job has already decided it is. The focus is should be on how LW handles the woman’s ignoring the ban she asked for.

          It doesn’t matter that it’s fragrances. It could equally be a ban on political t-shirts. The issue is the hypocrisy.

          1. Gyratory Circus

            Just wanted to reiterate that while a migraine isn’t life-threatening, it’s no walk in the park. I just got over a 3 day migraine that was triggered by using some wet Swiffer pads to clean my kitchen floor that a relative had left at my house from when they house sat for me a while back. I didn’t realize they were scented until I was using them, and didn’t realize that they were something that would set me off until a few minutes later when I started getting telltake throbbing behind my right eye.

          2. Amber T

            Last time I flew the soap from the airplane bathroom started triggering it for me. Of course I didn’t realize it was the soap (I thought it was the air freshener in the bathroom) until I washed my hands… I doused my hands with sanitizer after and tried basically rubbing the top layer of skin off my hands. It still sat with me for the remainder of the flight, which was awful.

        2. Fieldpoppy

          I concur. I am not as bad as you but some substances in some fragrances and scents cause my asthma to flare in a very acute and problematic way, and some give me migraines. I’m sure there are scientific categories for what triggers me and what doesn’t but I can’t tell what those are until I react. It’s distressing that other people don’t understand this.

          Because I know I can’t tell which ones bother me, I would never wear fragrance because I know it might bother someone else. I had an ex who just didn’t get this and was always trying to get me to name a “safe” perfume (I think he wanted easy gifts from the duty free — he traveled a lot). The LW’s coworker is being weirdly obtuse and self-centred if she doesn’t recognize that other people might be reactive to things she isn’t. But it doesn’t mean she isn’t reactive to many scents.

          1. Aveline

            Even people who suffer from something can be blithely cavalier about similar sufferers with different manifestations.

            We are flawed humans.

        3. Spencer Hastings

          It’s not entitled to ask people to stop wearing fragrances if you’re allergic. But it *is* entitled to ask people to stop wearing them (for your sake) if you’re not. I think that’s what those comments meant.

            1. pancakes

              There’s no reason to think she isn’t, though. The nature of allergies & sensitivities to scents isn’t all or nothing — people tend to be affected by specific scents / ingredients rather than all of them.

        4. sunny-dee

          Except she’s wearing strong fragrances. Extremely strong fragrances.

          So she is is demanding an accommodation from literally everyone else in the office that she herself does not follow — which begs the legitimate question of how severe (or real) her allergy is if she herself can wear strong fragrances without a bad effect.

          This isn’t the OP doubting the fragrance sensitivities exist. It’s the OP doubting that this coworker has a fragrance sensitivity since she douses herself in perfume.

          1. Rie

            Thank you!! As the OP, it’s the only point I was making, the double standard.
            I believe there is sensitivities, I believe it’s painful or can trigger so much more…. I just don’t like that im forced to feel like i’m gross, when all I want to do is work

            1. Free Meerkats

              Can you find out what scent she’s wearing?

              If so, get a tester of the same fragrance and wear it one day to see if she reacts to it. That will tell you if she’s overreacting or not.

              But that will just be another piece of information; the answer is still the same, if it’s a scent-free office, that means everyone and all things.

          2. Amber T

            Not all fragrances cause a reaction. There are certain perfumes/air fresheners/scents in general that would put me out of commission for a while. But I could take a bath with strong smelling oils, enjoy my own perfume or my diffusers, or candles, etc. I can’t tell you why certain ones do and certain ones don’t. Just because she wears strong perfume doesn’t mean she isn’t affected by others.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yes. Why not assume her reactions are real, but that she doesn’t react to every single scent? That’s the case for most people with scent reactions, and she’s probably just found one she’s fine with.

              She still needs to stop wearing it, but it doesn’t indicate she’s faking or exaggerating.

            2. anony-Nora

              You know those expensive-perfume knockoffs they claim nobody can tell apart from the real thing? I often can, because the knockoffs give me migraines and the expensive versions don’t. World’s worst superpower, that.

          3. JB (not in Houston)

            I have a sensitivity to most scents/chemicals. But I’m not sensitive to all of them. I can wear a type of deodorant, my shampoo and conditioner have a slight scent I can tolerate, there’s even one brand of scented hand lotion I can use. But many hair products and most scented hand lotions I cannot tolerate. That I sometimes use a lotion with a scent doesn’t mean I’m lying when I say I can’t tolerate my coworker’s.

            1. sunny-dee

              But you’re talking about light / minimal fragrances. If your perfume is lingering in the air 15 minutes after you leave, that’s not a light fragrance. That’s the difference. If you’re sensitive to strong fragrances but you can tolerate the smell of Downy dryer sheets or Dove antiperspirant, that makes perfect sense. If you claim to be sensitive strong fragrances, yet spray Glade Air Affects all of the office every 15 minutes (as long as it’s a scent you choose), I am going to doubt that you actually have a sensitivity and more likely just have a control issue.

              1. fposte

                Or you’re sensitive to, say, aldehydes, patchouli, and florals but it turns out chypre-type scents don’t cause you problems. I doubt a workplace would parse its fragrance policies so finely; it would just end up as a fragrance ban.

                I think it’s politically inadvisable of the fragrance-sensitive co-worker to wear a ton of fragrance even if it’s not scent that bothers her, but it’s perfectly plausible to have strong scents you don’t react to even if you do react to a bunch of others.

                1. Kelly L.

                  Right, I get headaches from ozone-type scents (anything that’s supposed to smell like “the ocean”), but I can wear rose or vanilla till the cows come home, doesn’t mean I’m lying about the ozone note.

              2. JB (not in Houston)

                I certainly am not. I don’t know where you got that from. It’s not “strong” versus “weak,” it’s what the scent is composed of. I can slather myself in tea tree oil and have no problem, even though the scent is strong in the sense that it has a smell that hits you right in the face and strong in the sense that there’s a lot of it present. But if my coworker way down the hall puts on Bath & Body Works hand lotion, I’m getting a headache even if it’s lightly scented and even though it’s not close to me.

                Please take the word of all the commenters on here who have reactions to some but not all scents rather than decide for yourself that you know what a “true” sensitivity is. I don’t want to sound rude, but you really don’t know what you’re talking about on this.

          4. Kyrielle

            I could slather myself in my favorite carnation-scented perfume oil and my suffering would be limited to how people around me reacted. But there are both commercial perfumes, and perfume oils that I cannot be around without triggering my allergies. Mine don’t lead to migraine or life-threatening responses, though they are miserable. But it’s not universal to be allergic to everything.

            That said, if there is a scent ban, she shouldn’t be wearing scents either. (I love my carnation perfume oil. I wear a small bit of it on days when I’ll be home or outdoors – and otherwise I keep it in a little personal diffuser thing that I can open and sniff. Because I don’t want to be That Person for anyone else.)

            She may very well have scents she can wear without issue, even slathered on. But she’s being unkind to do so at all when she should understand better than most people that it could be problematic for others, and she’s being *ridiculous* and inappropriate to do so at work with a scent ban in place, regardless of who originally requested it.

      5. pancakes

        I didn’t see any disdain in the reply. What I see is sensible advice to respond in a way that emphasizes what needs to happen (the office needs to be free of strong & disruptive smells) rather than how the letter writer feels about her coworker (i.e., that she’s an irritating hypocrite).

        1. Anon Today

          I think people are getting disdain from the line
          “So the fact that she has at least one fragrance that she knows is safe for her doesn’t mean that she’s misrepresenting her fragrance sensitivity in general (which I think is what you’re implying, based on your language here).”

          It’s directly calling OP out for maybe thinking the other employee is faking in a sort of “I ain’t accusing you of thinking your coworker’s faking but that’s totally what you just said” tone. Adding something like “based on your language here” to show the evidence is the giveaway.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            There’s nothing to give away; I thought I was pretty up-front that she’s implying the coworker is exaggerating (the scare quotes around “sensitivity,” the phrase “claims to,” etc.). (Some of this is probably influenced by the fact that the original letter said the coworker “whines” about migraines, which I changed to “complains” to avoid a massive derail in the comment section.)

            1. Anon Today

              Agreed. The reply was pretty direct as I read it. I was responding to the person above who didn’t see any “disdain” in the reply and pointing out where other people were getting it.

      6. iglwif

        I … don’t see that that’s happening here?

        If you have allergies or even sensitivities to scents (or more accurately, the compounds that produce them), then you have them, and you get the symptoms, and–this is important–you may react to levels of those compounds that people without your allergy/sensitivity can’t even detect. You are not going to be able to function well and do a good job in an environment that causes you to, at best, cough and sniffle and sneeze and get headaches or, at worst, go into anaphylactic shock.

        Lots and lots of places are scent-free or low-scent environments now and as someone with those kinds of sensitivities, I am a big fan of that. You’re framing it as “this individual’s whims are trumping everyone else’s … something” but isn’t it actually “this individual’s legitimate medical issue trumps everyone else’s desire to wear stinky stuff to work”?*

        The issue here isn’t that there’s a fragrance ban in place for the sake of LW1’s colleague, it’s that LW1’s colleague is flouting the ban, and doing it in a way that is causing the same kinds of problems for LW1 that the ban was designed to prevent for the colleague. And she will only know that she’s causing those problems if someone (whether LW1 or HR) tells her!

        *Full disclosure: in addition to having some fragrance sensitivities, I also have something wrong with me that makes pretty much all perfumes smell the same to me, and also smell terrible. I literally cannot tell the difference between perfume that’s still good and perfume that’s expired and gone bad. So to me, it’s all stinky stuff–but obviously that’s not how other people experience it!

      7. Some dude

        I think fragrance allergies, like peanut allergies, are something that many of us did not grow up around, so it feels hard to fathom. And everything these days is scented (which is probably why there are so many people with sensitivities), so it can be hard to avoid. Doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. I’ve cut down on a lot of artificial scents because my wife is sensitive to them, and when I am around them again it is amazing how strong and horrible they are to me. It is a bit like smoking – I was around smokers for much of my life, but ten years in a smoke free environment and I can smell a cigarette from a mile away.

        I would agree that Americans, while on one hand incredibly generous and altruistic, are also pretty self-centered and individualistic, and we love ourselves an underdog and to feel like a victim. The fact that our culture in general caters to stories of underdogs and victims doesn’t mean that everyone who feels like a victim is faking it or trying to get props. And while the left is frequently called out for being too PC and having a culture of victimhood and identity politics, I’d argue that the right’s whole schtick is one of victimhood and identity politics as well.

    2. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!

      I have asthma and allergies. I can’t cope with strong scents of any kind – bleach, Pine Sol, perfumes, floor stripper, the list is endless. I can’t BREATHE! My lungs just feel like they are closing up.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yeah, when my husband refinished our floors I took the kids and dog and went to a hotel in a different state.

    3. BadWolf

      My first thought is that coworker is not necessarily putting on perfume, but may be using a heavily perfumed detergent or other laundry product (the Gain commercials make me shudder) or lingering shampoo. And either is oblivious to the scent or somehow considers them different. I know some detergents are super strong to me.

      OP can address it all the same — just some ideas in case coworker claims she doesn’t wear perfume.

    4. C

      Exactly. I would think that someone who is sensitive to fragrances would be more aware of how others could be sensitive to them, too, and not douse herself in the scent she’s not sensitive to. If she expects others to be considerate of her needs, she should be considerate of others needs, and even if she isn’t a scent ban in the office means A SCENT BAN IN THE OFFICE and she’s not so special as to now be exempted from the rule that was created to address her needs.

      I mean, duh.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        Also not everyone is sensitive to the same smells to the same degree. There have been times where my partner and I both smell Scent A and to me is smells mildly unpleasant and not strong at all barely noticeable, but to my partner Scent A smells disgustingly horrible and super strong. But for Scent B the situation is exactly reversed it smells super bad and strong to me, but my partner barely even notices it.

        So it could be that for the coworker the scent they use might not bother them and they thing they are only putting on a slight amount for for the OP this particular scent really bothers them and smells strong.

        I do agree the coworker should abide by the scent ban.

    5. Malty

      The situation is frustrating but easy to clear up. I could see this being a genuine mistake where the coworker assumes the ban is in place for her and so since she knows the fragrance she’s wearing doesn’t trigger her it’s fine to wear; but since it is a fragrance ban OP you are well within your rights to have it enforced since her fragrance is causing you discomfort and Alison’s advice is spot on.
      It’s true that people are sometimes overly theatrical about medical conditions, and ‘migraine’ in particular gets over used when people actually mean slight headache, but as commenters let’s try to remember it’s generally unkind to speculate on other peoples medical conditions.

      1. Malty

        Yikes just saw Alison’s comment about the original letter wording and I wasn’t gonna say my personal experience but as someone whose suffered from chronic migraines ie a migraine every single day for the last year and a half if someone were wearing a scent that triggered them I’d ‘whine’ about it too. Perhaps your scepticism is warranted OP but it’s not your job to be the judge here, and her right not to be in pain outweighs your inconvenience. Focus on what you can control. (the scent ban), and let go of the rest

    6. Gene Parmesan

      My passive-aggressive imaginary response would be playing dumb and concern trolling.

      Scene: In the office with sensitive colleague (SC), OP, and other co-workers.

      OP: [sniffs exaggeratedly] OH NO, I think someone is wearing perfume today. COME ON GUYS, you know how sensitive SC is to it. SC, are you feeling okay? Is the scent making your asthma flare up?? Are you getting a migraine??

      [silence]

      OP: Now who is wearing the perfume today? It’s going to really cause trouble for SC. SC, can you tell who is wearing it? We need to get them to wash it off or something. [continues until the big reveal…it’s SC wearing the perfume!!!]

      OK, maybe that’s not the best response.

    7. Old Cynic

      We think of these fragrance bans for cologne and perfume, but people often forget fabric softener.

      I can’t get too close to people who use them, which is difficult in sales. My throat and lungs close up. And it’s frustrating walking on a crowded street because even in open air it bothers me. Fortunately outside it doesn’t get to a dangerous point for me.

      But I can identify who uses Downey, Bounce, Suave by the odor.

      1. Ego Chamber

        My sympathies. I don’t use scented detergents or fabric softeners because they make me break out in a scaly rash, but that’s nothing compared to a lot of comments I’ve seen here. :(

  5. nnn

    If, for whatever reason, you get the impression that cleaning up other people’s mess isn’t likely to go over well and you aren’t comfortable using the kitchen in its current state, an option is to take care of it under the guise of cleaning up your own mess. “Oops, spilled something!” and then diligently wipe the area clean.

    (Should you have to come up with a cover story? Of course not! But it is an available option if your read on the situation is that some face-saving would be helpful.)

  6. mark132

    @lw3, if you are barely busy, your boss probably has a point that one on ones aren’t really needed that much with you. If he really does have an open door policy I would pop in asking for work to do.

    1. Willis

      This what I was thinking. OP says she has nothing to see her manager about but I’d think the lack of work would be a good reason to pop in! (Or really, whatever she would have otherwise wanted to cover in a cancelled one on one.)

      1. mark132

        Yes, I mean the missed one-on-one are an issue but not much to do is easily 10x the issue.

    2. JJ Bittenbinder

      Or come up with some potential projects and pop in asking for the OK to commence working on them. Make it easy for the boss.

      1. Genny

        Exactly. Come in with ideas or at least with something more actionable than I need more work. Detail the specific problem (I was hired to work on X project, but that’s only taking up 10% of my time. Or Everyone is so busy they haven’t had time to properly hand off projects to me, so can we prioritize making that happen by scheduling a hand-off date?).

  7. Someone Else

    I’m sort of conflicted about #3 because on the one hand, OP seems to be taking this VERY personally. But on the other hand…I want more specifics. Say, for example, the boss cancelled the 1:1s six weeks in a row, then no-showed for two, then rescheduled two, then cancelled another. (and never acknowledged that this is a lot of cancelling) It’d be hard not to feel at least a little bad with that extreme a pattern. Sure these meetings aren’t the most important thing in the boss’s calendar, but if the boss chose the standing date/time to begin with, but then consistently schedules other things over it, the boss is pretty much sending the message that either this is never going to happen or this doesn’t need to happen. How the boss reacts to a request to reschedule to try to make them actually happen would fill in more context.

    I am not OP but those numbers I cited above literally happened to me with a new boss a few years ago, but in that case it really did end up being a short-term, all at once, flukey thing. At the time though when I was still trying to figure things out, it was hard not to feel a little bad.

    1. Norm

      My experience: New boss hired; I am an experienced executive in my org. I see her once in the first month, then weekly 1:1 is scheduled. It’s cancelled day before, or that day, about half the time. She’s late once, with a decent excuse. After a few months, this changes to a pattern where the 1:1 is almost never cancelled, and when it is, I have access to her same-day by phone.

      I think what happened was that my new boss thought that the area I run is kind of a backwater without much urgent action going on, and our section had a good reputation for taking care of business. Once she had gotten comfortable with the other parts of the org that she was responsible for(where there was more risk of drama), she turned her attention to us.

      Not sure if micro-agression was at work here or not. There was only one angle I played on that: When I received notice of meeting cancellations, I never responded to that email or text; I just didn’t show up.

    2. Murphy

      This is exactly what my boss does. It’s a pattern that’s completely unacknowledged even after I’ve brought it up. In my situation, I totally get that I’m not his #1 priority, but I definitely feel like I’m not even on the list.

    3. OP #3

      Thanks. The cancellations haven’t been that extreme, but yes, I think the general theme is I want to work and be busy and engaged and when your boss cancels on you, your team hasn’t noting for for you to help them with and when you’re just bored at work all day then yes, you start to get frustrated by the little ‘work related’ meeting cancellations you have.

      1. DKMA

        Being frustrated that you don’t have enough work is OK. I’d be really careful about letting that color the work interactions you do have, or translating that professional frustration into personal frustration.

        Addressing having no work is hard. There are three basic paths that can work:
        1) Direct conversation: Have you been vaguely hinting to your boss that you need more, or have you directly said “I have spare time at work, and need more, what can I do that would be helpful?” Even accepting grunt work outside your job title can be valuable in showing you can be flexible and willing to contribute, though that does carry some risk.

        2) Do the next steps on your work: Does you boss take the work you do have and then do something else with it? If so, take a cut at that. For example, say you run a report on teapot sales, and you boss reviews it and highlights what’s interesting and sends out a summary to teapot leadership. Next time, run the report exactly as asked, but at a “I know you often do X with this, so I took a cut at a draft for you in case it’s helpful”.

        3) Listen for problems people in your area that no one seems to be owning. “I had some time, so I dug into the problem with Teapot sales in region Y, I noticed A, B, C and suggest we could maybe to D to help resolve” or whatever. Choose problems that demonstrate the sort of skills you are good at / want to do more of. The downside of this is that you might be duplicating work / wasting time, but you already are wasting time, so you might as well be potentially useful and demonstrate your capabilities.

        1. DKMA

          Saw up above that you are a software developer. This probably makes it hard to do #3. #2 might still be viable, but I don’t know enough about software development to know whether you can take things off your boss’s plate by being proactive about the follow-up for your own work.

          1. Observer

            It’s absolutely doable for a software developer as well. And if they come up with a good idea or two, it would probably earn them a lot of capital.

    4. Super Dee Duper Anon

      Yeah – I’m with you on being conflicted. One thing that I’ve seen happen is that a boss who isn’t particularly confident in their own standing might not quite have a sense of how much pushback they actually can exert. Even on meeting requests from higher ranking folks.

      I did the scheduling for an executive (Jane) who was very new. When I communicated with boss’s boss’s (who I’ll call John) assistant on scheduling the exchange might go like this:
      Other Assistant: John needs to meet with Jane before the end of the week about x, how about Thurs at 2?
      Me: Thursday is a bit tight, does John have any availability on Fri?
      And then from there is John was available on Fri we set the meeting for then and none of the Thurs 1x1s (or meetings deemed to be of lesser importance) needed to be reschedule. If John was not available on Fri, then the Thurs 1x1s got bumped.

      But the problem (a minor one for me, but relevant to this issue) was that if my boss (Jane) was speaking directly to her boss (John) she was so eager to please that she just jumped at whatever he proposed right off the bat, because she didn’t feel comfortable even asking if there was any chance an alternative day could work. Obviously it’s a judgement call – if John needed to meet about something extremely time sensitive, then even a tiny bit of pushback was inappropriate, but sometimes John was trying to reschedule 1×1 with Jane or something else not necessarily time sensitive, and in those cases its perfectly acceptable to see if there’s a mutually workable time for both parties.

      Is this what is happening in #3? Who knows – there’s nowhere near enough info to say that. All I’m saying is if meetings are being cancelled/rescheduled at such a staggering rate then something definitely needs to change, and there’s a possibility that the manager could actually prioritize these meetings a tiny bit more than they are currently being prioritized.

  8. Language Lover

    LW#1 Unlike Alison, I didn’t feel like LW1 was necessarily implying that the person’s sensitivity was fake. I think the strong language came from genuine frustration that someone who has such strong, performative reactions like these:

    She has been known to stand over people with her hand in front of her face “gagging” or complaining of migraines from a smell she smells.

    Would then be so insensitive as to wear a heavy scent herself just because it’s one she can handle even though people don’t necessarily have to get migraines to be bothered by scents.

    LW1, you know this person better. Maybe they’re just oblivious and you can have an adult conversation with them. Or maybe they’re the kind of person who might take the news better from a neutral party-basically whoever it is at your office who enforces this rule.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD

      It really does come down to what you know about this coworker. Have you had the chance to observe her reactions to information she doesn’t want to hear? If she’s the type of person who adapts fairly well and doesn’t seem to take things personally, you may be able to handle it yourself using Alison’s script. But if you’ve seen her take other things really personally or get hurt feelings over smallish stuff—or if you don’t know her well enough to know either way—it might be better to talk to your manager or HR and ask them to handle it.

    2. Mystery Bookworm

      I only saw the implication in the quotation marks around “sensitive” and I agree with Alison that her approach to the co-worker and to HR will be stronger if she is able to keep that tone away. I agree with you that OP’s request here is totally reasonable.

      1. KP

        This, and it’s bizarre and offputting that an entire long string has developed to lecture everyone here about the reality of sensitivity to odors. Yes. We know. The issue is the rule is not being followed.

        1. DKMA

          Actually, the issue is how to the LW should deal with the rule not being followed. The language in her letter suggests that she thinks the person is faking or hypocritical. It matters to get that on the table, because an important part of the advice is that it will reflect badly on the LW if she says or implies this in her response *even if it’s true*.

          She can address the rule not being followed, and she can discuss the impact on herself, but if she maligns her coworker she will come off as insensitive and judgmental. In fact, the best way to get action is if she comes off as a whole-hearted supporter of the rule and the logic behind it, rather than suggest it’s BS.

    3. Akcipitrokulo

      I think the inverted commas very much implied that they felt it wasn’t a real sensitivity.

      In any event – the advice is valid. Keep it impersonal and professional, but everyone should abide by agreed policies.

    4. Aveline

      As someone with a fragrance allergy, we get told all the time “it’s fake.”

      LW needs to accept that there’s some medical basis for this. There’s no way the office would put in a ban without a doctor’s directive.

      As for the gagging, as someone whose allergies are discounted and denied all the time by people who claim to love me (such as my own mother) there are times I’ve been over dramatic (against my personality) to show I’m having a reaction.

      However, the reality of the allergy and the sincerity of the reactions aren’t really in question as far a the employer goes. The only thing they will care about is that there is a ban and that the person it was put in place to benefit is flouting it.

      As a fragrance allergy sufferer, I urge LW to go to HR and report this woman. Because, personally, I don’t want to be around her perfume either. She’s a hypocrite and she’s making it so that others who might want the ban for their own personal reasons can’t enjoy it.

      1. TexasRose

        My problem is not a fragrance allergy per se, but a sensitivity to the _chemicals_ used to make most perfumes. I find most all-natural essential oils delightful, but those dryer beads that stink up your clothes for weeks? Gag. I don’t go into anaphalaxis, but my lung capacity diminishes to where I cannot walk from my desk to my car without stopping to gasp twice. (and that’s after using my inhaler).

        1. Iris Eyes

          Most people scents don’t bother me but ick on bleach, Pine Sol (except lemon, that’s ok) and Fabuloso, etc. Yeah I really don’t get those dryer bead things, on the one hand people are more and more aware of fragrance sensitivity and most people have experienced fragrance overload or something that others like that they can’t stand. All natural and scentless products are much more available then they were a few decades ago and yet so too are long lasting scents.

        2. JB (not in Houston)

          I sometimes have a problem walking around my neighborhood if I walk past someone’s house where they’re doing laundry and running the dryer with a dryer sheet. That scent escapes out the vent along with the hot hair, and it is not a great experience for me walking past it.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder

        There’s no way the office would put in a ban without a doctor’s directive.

        I commented elsewhere on this, but I just want to point out that this is not necessarily true. It’s very dependent on your office culture. Some places I’ve worked had fragrance bans that weren’t created in response to any one individual; they were just a blanket policy to make the workplace accessible to all. No doctor’s note is needed there, because there’s no individual requesting the policy change.

      3. Dust Bunny

        That is what is obnoxious about this: That she’s being (childish, with the gagging, and) self-serving about it. If she’s sensitive to (x list of fragrances), she should be the most aware that other people might be sensitive to hers! I’m sure her allergies are real, but then turning around and doing the same thing to everyone else is just weird.

        (I’m not sensitive to fragrances/chemicals in general. Except for patchouli, which doesn’t cause an allergic reaction or anything but which I find nauseating. I wouldn’t have a doctor’s requirement to not be around it but I would honestly rather be trapped in an elevator with a skunk.)

        1. Gladiator

          I gag when I have an asthma attack. It’s a fairly common reaction. I don’t do it for kicks or looks. I’m seriously trying to catch my breath.

        2. DKMA

          Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter. It is not the LW’s job to generally police her coworker’s behavior or gossip about it. But, if she has a problem with a policy not being followed she can certainly address that.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      I disagree. And I can tell you as someone who gets migraines, smells are a trigger, and I never know what type of smell will trigger one. So it’s entirely possible that the perfume this woman is wearing doesn’t bother her, but other smells do. But the bottom line is that she’s not following the rule that was created on her behalf and that needs to change.

      1. Lily Rowan

        It sounds to me like the coworker isn’t thinking of it as a no-fragrance policy for the office, but rather protections just for her. So if the scent isn’t an issue for her, it’s not an issue! I would start with the assumption that telling her that it’s actually a no-fragrance policy for the whole office will fix this.

    6. Batgirl

      “so insensitive as to wear a heavy scent herself”
      She probably has no clue. I think what determines a ‘heavy’ scent is really subjective, especially to a scent sensitive person. I asked my new hairdresser for unscented product so as to avoid triggering my boyfriend’s sensitivities. I couldn’t smell it, nor could the hairdresser, nor could my mother.
      Yet he only managed to gasp the word ‘patchouli’ before running away from me. Sure enough there were trace amounts of patchouli in the inci list.

      I think the pineapple scent he wears is far more discernable but to him there’s no comparison! Yet if you didn’t like pineapple, or were sensitive to it, you’d call it heavy, where he would call it subtle.

      This is simply a matter of clearing the air (ha!) and making it plain that the scent free office is a one-for-all, all-for-one and not just a one-person accommodation, as she may have (reasonably) assumed. She’ll probably be fine with it.

      1. Agnodike

        I have a food allergy. Because I have a food allergy, when I’m ordering food for a group, I go around and ask if anyone else has a food allergy. I think about it because it’s part of my lived experience; it’s on my radar.

        I can’t imagine being someone who’s so sensitive to fragrance that a ban is necessary and not thinking to myself, “Hmm, maybe someone else in this shared space might be sensitive to this fragrance that I personally favour; I shouldn’t wear it.”

        1. Ego Chamber

          Counterpoint: Coworker sounds like kind of an asshole, just like everyone else I’ve known who ignored the fragrance ban at my workplace because they wanted to wear their essential oils or VS Love Spell or Axe body spray or whatever else.

  9. Librarian of SHIELD

    OP3, I had a standing weekly 1:1 with one of my previous bosses. At least once a month somebody higher up the food chain than either of us would schedule a meeting for our standing time slot that my boss needed to attend, so she would have to cancel or reschedule. It wasn’t because she didn’t think the work I was doing was important, it was just that this was the time when all the other players at the higher level meeting were available. Sometimes these kinds of things really are unavoidable. I think Alison’s right, the main thing you want to do is make sure the meetings are rescheduled instead of outright cancelled.

    1. Marion Ravenwood

      Agreed. I’ve had 1:1s cancelled on me in multiple jobs (the nature of working in comms/PR where things are wont to come up at the last second). An apology and offer to reschedule goes a long way in those instances.

    2. Catalyst

      100% This. I am a manager and with 7 hours of weekly 1:1s in my schedule. There are often other meetings where there are 10 people (sometimes across organizations) are requested for the same time as a 1:1 that I have, so rescheduling that is incredibly hard to do as opposed to re-scheduling a 1:1 because it’s one person I have to co-ordinate with. Since they are weekly, yes, I cancel them occasionally because it just doesn’t make sense to re-schedule due to my/the other persons schedule, etc. So I think this probably has very little to do with the managers ability to manage their time, and more to do with external factors. I do agree with come previous comments I have read about going to your boss and asking for a different time for your 1:1 and also asking for more work.

    3. Marthooh

      Usually, canceling a meeting does mean “…you’re less important than this other thing.” It’s not a microagression, it’s just reality.

      I hope the OP is as aware of their own potential misbehavior as they are of the boss’s. I think that’s what the training was actually about.

      1. OP #3

        The microagressing training was at my old company, not here. No one has sent me to class because I’m aggressive.

        The tone of my letter was because I thought this was a safe-er space to hash out some thought, but evidently I have been painted as an aggressive and entitled pedant. I’m not.

        Oh well.

        1. Observer

          I’m sure that you weren’t singled out for micro-aggression training. Nevertheless, Marthooh has a valid point. The point of the training was probably NOT to make people start looking at instances of micro-aggression towards them. It was definitely intended to make people think about whether they are committing micro-aggressions, even if unintentionally.

          Given your initial letter and your reactions in the comments, some reflection on your handling of your issues would be useful.

          Keep this in mind. You may not be in the best place for you, but it’s a LOT easier to find a new job if you don’t come off as hostile, aggressive, entitled or out of touch.

      2. Dan T

        Many companies have training like that for all employees. That is really assuming the absolute worst about the OP and is not fair.

      3. alphabet soup

        That’s unfair to the LW. And also not what microaggressions are about– microaggressions the ways in which systemic inequalities show up in small moments, for example, getting asked “do you speak English?” at the grocery store because you’re visibly Latinx. It’s not about an individual’s general communication style (whether that style is aggressive or non-aggressive).

        1. alphabet soup

          And extrapolating from the fact that the LW is in software development, I’m guessing that this training was done to address the ways that women and POC are held back in male-dominated industries. And while I agree with other commenters that boss canceling 1-1s most likely isn’t personal and is just the unfortunate reality of being a busy manager, there *is* an issue of men choosing sometimes choosing to not to develop/mentor women employees, for a variety of reasons. And I think maybe *that’s* the part that’s relevant to the mention of microaggressions.

          (So sorry if I’m off-base here. I’m just relating to this based on own experience as a non-tech lady in tech.)

  10. Alianora

    LW3, having to reschedule often really doesn’t mean that he can’t manage his time. If he’s busy, prioritizing is inevitable. At my office 1:1s are probably the first thing to be rescheduled, simply because scheduling an internal meeting between two people is much easier than setting up other meetings.

    So yes, your 1:1 probably IS less important/urgent than the other meeting, but that doesn’t mean YOU are unimportant. By itself, this isn’t something I would take personally at all.

    The microaggression piece of this is confusing me. Admittedly, most of my knowledge of this comes from social media, but I was always under the impression that microaggressions are behaviors indicative of some larger issue (like racism or sexism.) Not just anything that is annoying. Are there things he does that make you think he has a personal problem with you?

    1. Airy

      I wondered if they were conflating passive-aggressive behaviour with microaggressions which, yes, I understand to be little bits of coldness, unpleasantness, disrespect and exclusion based on prejudices like racism. Things like the sales assistant’s smile becoming a bit less friendly when you step up to the cash register, or when you’re aware someone is watching you more closely than they’d watch people like themselves. Each can seem insignificant on its own (and indeed might not bother you if they happened only rarely) but they have a cumulative effect. None of that seems to correspond to a boss repeatedly not making meetings as expected.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes, it’s the sort of thing you would shrug off if you get microaggressed twice a year, but that accumulates if you get it a dozen times a day.

        I think the training is helpful in having you look at your own behavior, and even more in understanding how someone might have a big reaction to a small incident–because that incident for them was part of a recurring pattern, not the one-off it is for you. (Like how polite you would be to a cold sales call if they happened once a year rather than once an hour–even if the person on the other end of the phone can say “Hey, all those other times weren’t ME.”) Probably a lot less so if they inspire you to start looking for ways people might be microaggressing you–by it’s very nature (micro) this is often going to turn out as finding a molehill to die on.

    2. Lilian

      Exactly, unless you’re on a pip for example, one on ones are probably less important than other meetings and easier to reschedule, moreover your manager probably expects you to know to signal to them if you need some time with them for a pressing issue. The only aggression I’m seeing here is from the OP.

    3. SarahTheEntwife

      It *could* be a microaggression if it’s part of a pattern of not properly managing DEMOGRAPHIC employees (does he always keep his 1-on-1s with men but not women of the same job class? etc.), but without a heck of a lot more context it just sounds like normal busyness. Annoying, and something the LW should address so she gets effective management and more to do and such, but probably not personal.

    4. CM

      OP#3 has the wrong idea of what a microaggression is.

      Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition: a microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”

      OP#3 did not bring up potential bias, and seems to think that small slights that accumulate over time are microaggressions.

      This is a case where the OP is attributing all sorts of bad intentions to the boss — and incompetence to boot — but if she actually sits down with her boss and says, “Hey, I noticed our 1-on-1s keep getting canceled, can we talk about why that happens and whether there’s anything we should change?” she will get a much better understanding of why this is happening.

      1. Ethyl

        Yes I’m glad a couple folks are pointing this out. I think LW3 may want to re-read the training materials on microaggressions, because unless there’s a heckuvaot of context, that just doesn’t seem to apply here.

      2. Parenthetically

        YES, jeezy creezy. Like, pal, your microaggression training was definitely designed to help ensure that YOU treat members of marginalized groups with active, intentional respect, and to see how words and actions that seem small can add up to folks being excluded from various professional advantages. It was definitely NOT designed to get you to mentally launch a suspicion-fueled investigation of everyone else’s actions as they relate to YOU.

        Mercy.

        1. Kelly L.

          Well, tbf, we don’t know that OP isn’t part of a group that experiences bias. She’s a woman; she could experience sexism in the workplace because of that. We have no idea of her race or sexual orientation, etc. So it’s possible that a boss (even if not this specific boss) could be biased against her for one reason or another.

          And I do think that the training is both to teach people how to treat marginalized groups with respect, and to tell people from marginalized groups that what they’re experiencing is real and that there are various types of recourse they can take.

          1. Alianora

            I agree (although like Jenny Grace said we can’t assume the LW is a woman), which is why I asked if they have reason to believe the boss has a personal problem.

            Since rescheduling 1:1s is really normal and the LW didn’t mention anything else that supports the idea, I think it’s unlikely that the boss is actually being microaggressive* towards them, but it is possible.

            *probably not a real word

          2. Parenthetically

            The thing is, canceling some meetings is not a microaggression unless Boss is singling out other women/POC/people with disabilities/etc., particularly because OP knows that Boss is in other meetings at the time. The easy, obvious answer is, “Oh, sure, when would you like to reschedule since we haven’t been able to meet for a few weeks?” not “He’s microaggressing me, I just know it!

            It’s in no way a reasonable assumption based on what OP wrote. “My boss cancels 1:1s with ME but not his white/male/able-bodied employees” is a very very different letter than the one we have.

  11. Arya

    Re: OP 5 – I really don’t get how somehow office kitchens got exempted from the responsibilities of the cleaning staff of the building. Just like office staff would not be scrubbing the toilet bowl at work or washing the windows on a ledge outside, I see no reason why they should be expected to clean a microwave. That’s what your paid professional cleaning staff should be doing.

    1. Miss Astoria Platenclear

      The cleaning staff probably vacuums the break room, but it’s not their responsibility to clean out the microwave or refrigerator.
      Employees use the microwave one after the other at lunch. Someone who spills food in the microwave should clean it up so someone else can use it, not leave it for the cleaning staff.

      1. Magenta

        Perhaps that is what should happen, but it has never actually happened consistently in any place I have ever worked. It is easier and much more pleasant to pay professionals to do it than to make the “good” employees have to cover for the slobs.

      2. Kara

        There’s a gradual build-up in kitchen appliances as well, though. People in offices can definitely be slobs, but even in offices where people are quite tidy there really should be someone doing a professional deep clean weekly (or monthly depending on amount of kitchen use). I agree with Arya that it is odd that so many offices insist that employees will be able to keep the kitchen appliances perfectly clean all on their own but they would never do the same about, say, toilets.

      3. Arya

        Re: Miss Astoria: If I hire a cleaning professional to clean my home, they clean every part of it that needs cleaning. Period. The idea that the office kitchen somehow exists in a bubble example from an office cleaning company’s purview is, to me, poor human resource management. Using the time of tech specialists, managers, designers, executives, etc.—whose time is compensated at an equivalent to $50-$200+ per hour—to wash a sink or clean a microwave, rather than professional cleaners paid around minimum wage for the task they actually are paid to do—cleaning—is a very poor allocation of resources.

    2. Bilbdoolpoop

      It’s the cleaners responsibility to do what the contract specifies.

      The actual issue is “why would you hire a cleaning company and exclude the kitchen to save a few miserable bucks”

      1. Yvette

        Exactly, most offices are cleaned by an outside crew hired for that purpose, and only do what is specified in the contract. Also, they usually come in only at the end of the day. Maybe the kitchen IS spotless in the am but gets filthy because no one cleans up their own mess.
        And I also think she does not want to end up with the job or be thought of as the office cleaner.

      2. Lizzy May

        This! The cleaning company/staff get paid to do specific things. Want them to do more things, that will cost more.

        I once worked at a bank that went for the lowest of the low in terms of cleaning contracts. They barely paid anything, specified that the cleaners had to provide their own supplies and then complained that things weren’t clean enough. You get what you pay for and for the amount of money the cleaners were earning they had to be in and out quickly and on to the next place to make any money. They took out garbage, cleaned the bathrooms and vacuumed and mopped on alternating days. Anything else would have been outside of the contract.

      3. Clisby

        I agree about things like wiping out the microwave and cleaning countertops, but no sane cleaning service is going to take on the job of cleaning out the refrigerator, unless the employer takes a stand like “everything left in the refrigerator at 5 p.m. every other Friday goes straight into the trash, and the cleaners will then clean the refrigerator.”

    3. kittymommy

      Do they have a cleaning staff? I didn’t see any mention of one in the letter and I have worked a lot of places where there is not a cleaning staff. Where I’m currently at, they certainly are not responsible for the microwave or other appliances (floors, tables, windows, etc). Frankly, grown people should have enough sense to clean up after themselves.

      1. doreen

        I’ve never worked in a place where the employer provided microwaves, refrigerators, toaster ovens coffee makers etc. ( Can you tell I’ve mostly worked in government ?). Either employees buy their own microwave or they chip in for one or an employee organization (such as a union) provides one. There’s no way an employer is going to pay for cleaning appliances they didn’t provide.

        1. kittymommy

          Same! I work in government too and all of our appliances were/are donated and just left here when the person separated from the employer.

          1. Kelly L.

            Yeah, our office is full of “I bought a better one for home, so here’s my old one” appliances.

      2. Rainbow Roses

        Exactly. My workplace’s cleaning staff sweep the floor, wipe down the tables/counters, and other surfaces. They are not responsible for cleaning the inside of microwaves and tossing moldy food from the fridge.
        As for toilet, we are told that while the janitor cleans them, he deserves courtesy and we are adults. Flush the darn thing, don’t leave TP/paper covers on the seats, use the garbage cans and not the floor.

    4. MatKnifeNinja

      Cleaning a kitchen cost extra when outsourced. Our crew will only empty trash and vacuum the carpet in the kitchen. It’s double rate to keep the microwave, refrigerator and counter tops clean and sanitized.

      Our microwave is trying to become sentient! It looks like a blender barfed in there and then it was baked on.

      Personally, as a woman I wouldn’t clean the crime scene. It becomes your “den mother” job. I have brought in garage/estate sale microwaves and tossed the metal petri dish. I can find them as little as $5.00. I will not deep clean a pig sty unless I get paid extra.

      I learned the hard way once you add the title scut maid to your job description, everyone sees you a bit different.

      Clean up your own little spot, eat at your desk, find some place less gross to eat at. You are there to do your real job, not make make the kitchen less gross for people who have now fawks to give.

    5. Someone Else

      Many many many cleaning company contracts explicitly exclude cleaning kitchens. Generally because it costs a lot more than just having a crew who cleans bathrooms, vacuums and empties trash. If the kitchen is a mess, I agree that companies should fork over the extra cash to include that service if they have a cleaning crew in the first place. But in my experience it’s very common to specifically not hire them for that, under the pretense that if you start with a clean kitchen, and everyone takes care of their own messes in the moment, it should never get that bad. We all know the reality does not line up with that, but I think that’s the premise, not that office staff are responsible for large-scale kitchen cleaning, but they’re responsible for whatever mess they make at the time they make it.

      1. Kiki

        That false pretense you talk about really frustrates me! There are genuinely office slobs and they are super frustrating, but so often tension about kitchen cleanliness is actually about build-up contributed by even the most conscientious coworkers. Even in my own apartment, I have to deep clean appliances every few weeks.

  12. Stuff

    #5 the only problem with cleaning it yourself is it might become expected – no one has done it in the past and no one else will do it in the future. It might be better to approach your boss with the issue. Maybe they can get someone in to clean, or if there is an admin tactfully ask if that can be included in their job. You didn’t state what your job is but there can be a perception (especially if you’re female) and you start to clean that you are the go-to for this stuff.

    1. Ron McDon

      I am an admin.

      I am not a cleaner.

      Why should it be included in an admin’s job?

      1. The Fed

        This, this, THIS! Amend the cleaner’s contract to include the microwave or whatever. My office rotates kitchen cleaning, and I’m happy to say the (male) Assistant Director is on the list in a month or two.

      2. Lizzy May

        Seriously. I’m an admin. I’ve absolutely wiped up a spill on the floor that had been left behind so no one slips. I’ve broken down recycling from supply orders. I do the maintenance cleaning that is either generated by my own work or dealt with quick safety issues so obvious that anyone could/should do it. But I don’t do dishes or disinfect counters or clean out microwaves or deal with people’s month old food in the fridge. That is not my job and if it suddenly became my job, I’d be looking for a new job immediately.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      Or if there’s an IT professional or senior vice president, tactfully ask if cleaning the microwave could be included in their job.

      1. WellRed

        It’s not uncommon for it to be an admin level job, especially if the admin is quite junior. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I also don’t understand adults who can’t cover up their food in the microwave, wipe spills, take care of their dishes.

        1. Batgirl

          Really? Not even in my days as an office junior (running around with snail mail and memos pre-email days. It ranked lower than admins) did I encounter that little idea.
          I was a teenager specifically expected to do whatever, whenever and never sit still – in a HIGHLY sexist office and was never asked to clean! Stuff envelopes, yeah. Go out to get everyone lunch? Yeah. Mop? No.
          I would be pretty shocked if an office job became also a cleaning job. It would be the exact same if when I was cleaning houses I’d been expected to file the household paperwork simultaneously as well.
          Pick one job or pay me for two.

      2. Wake up !

        I don’t know why everyone always suggests “Make the CEO wash his dishes!” like it’s this brilliant subversive solution, but having an admin expected to do light cleaning is a huge affront. Newsflash: it’s fairly common for admins to clean. And make coffee. And pick up lunch. It’s only demeaning if you think there’s something demeaning about those kinds of tasks.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          A lot depends on whether the job started with that expectation, or is being expanded to include it. Most people don’t take the addition of “sponge down the microwave” to their tasks as a compliment on their high-performing ways.

    3. Sarah M

      If I were an admin working at this company, and my boss told me that as of today cleaning the kitchen would be one of my responsibilities, my response would include phrases such as: “that’s not what you hired me to do”, “which critical tasks would you like me to drop in order to accommodate this”, and “how do you plan to adjust my pay to reflect my new responsibilities”? And then I would start looking for another job. Immediately.

    4. pancakes

      I think you meant “quietly” rather than “tactfully.” It isn’t particularly tactful to ask an admin who wasn’t hired to double as a cleaning person to double as a cleaning person!

    5. lnelson in Tysons

      One previous co-worker (senior level) asked me who was responsible for cleaning up the kitchen I said everyone was supposed to be cleaning up after themselves. He commented that there were dirty dishes in the sink. My reply was I know. He kept looking at me to which was interpretation was “You’re the lone woman in the office isn’t it your job?” My response to that was that I jumped on the bandwagon that all the men of the office seemed to be on that I was waiting for the magic fairies to clean up.
      For the next several days every time he walked by my office he reminded me that there were still dishes in the sink. I ignored him.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood

      Leaving aside the tangent of whose job it might be appropriate to attach it to… it would likely become YOUR task. I would just find a way to stay out of the kitchen until I have an excuse to ask about having a service come in to deep clean and then setting up a cleaning rotation among staff.
      My (mostly female) department had to move our communal microwave into someone’s office because the world began to use it — and the world didn’t clean up her spaghetti. (I know at least one spaghetti explosion belonged to an upper-level female manager …)

  13. Observer

    #3 – You need to take it down a couple of notches.

    When you reschedule our biweekly check-ins so casually, it makes me think that 1) you can’t manage your own time so you can’t manage me, 2) you are making me feel alienated on this team and 3) I don’t trust you have time for me

    Unless there are details that you haven’t shared, this is totally an over-reaction.

    I’m . . . not new to the workforce (had a career change), so I’m not wide eyed and frightened to make mistakes and speak up like many of us were right out of college.

    Yet your reaction sounds like that of someone fairly new to the workforce. Instead of stewing, do as Alison suggests and immediately ask when is a good time to reschedule, talk to your boss about possibly finding a better time slot, and about finding you more work.

    but it goes along with that fact that I’m not brand new to the workforce: I have less patience for managers who can’t seem to manage and I don’t know how to politely say what I need anymore.

    Not being new to the workforce should most definitely not be linked to no longer knowing how to politely say what you need. If you’ve forgotten how to do that, you need to re-learn that skill. And if you’ve forgotten how to do this as a result of your work experience you probably should take that as a signal that you’ve learned some less than optimal norms in your working life.

    The other wrench is that in six months I barely have any work assigned to me, so the 1:1s aren’t really necessary other than a forum for me to say that I’m waiting for work and doing my best to stay busy. I don’t have a reason to visit him otherwise (open door policy) so I feel I personally need these scheduled sessions to check in.

    What this boils down to is that you actually do NOT need these meetings for any practical purpose, but you want your boss to take the time for them to make you fell good and so that you can make sure the boss sees you. That’s not a reasonable expectation. Check in’s are to keep up with what’s going on. It just isn’t realistic to expect a boss to take that much time on meetings for meetings sake or to make nice with an employee. *THAT* is what I would call poor time management.

    Now, I do get that you want (even maybe NEED) more work. So, address that directly, either in the next check-in or at another time. Show him what you’ve been doing and what you think you could already do and ask him what it’s going to take to get from here to there.

    1. Tortoise

      Yep. OP has also said herself that the boss has an open door policy she doesn’t need to use – so this isn’t proof that he lacks time for you. It’s proof that he’s busy. Every manager I know has to constantly juggle their schedule. That’s just how it is.

      It sounds like you’re expecting to have these meetings as a way of providing personal validation or maybe even emotional support, which isn’t really what a 1:1 with your manager should be for.

      Try to remember that unless you ARE a manager, you don’t know half of what it involves – and are not in a position to judge that someone ‘can’t manage’ just because they have to resolve schedule clashes.

    2. boo bot

      You know, I wonder if not being new to the workplace is part of the issue! I feel like when I was younger I was much more in the mindset of, “grateful to have a job, any job,” and “ignoring me means you’re not firing me!”

      At this stage, while I haven’t completely abandoned those perspectives (small doses can be helpful when I’m frustrated) I do have an expectation that my concerns will be taken seriously, and that I will be treated with at least the pretense of respect. And, I would in fact be concerned if someone I was working for repeatedly cancelled meetings without rescheduling, because meetings with me are about the substance of the project, and if they’re disengaged from the project, maybe the project is about to be cancelled.

      The OP said she had a career change, and that suggests to me that she might be in a situation where everyone else in her role is at the “grateful to have a job/ignoring me = not firing me” stage, where people are just beginning to figure out the workplace and not really worried about the one-on-ones as long as they’re not in trouble, while she’s accustomed to a situation where meetings are more high-stakes, and cancelling on someone repeatedly without rescheduling actually does indicate that something is wrong.

      I’ll stop creating scenarios out of whole cloth now and go back to work.

  14. Batgirl

    “the appliances I intend to use to heat up lunch”
    OP5, if that’s all you need, microwaving your stuff in the morning and putting it in a good thermos will keep it warm.
    I have a world of workarounds to avoid the pit that is my office kitchen.
    I don’t think it’s a big deal to wipe down sonething you’re using either, but you understandably don’t sound too impressed with the facilities!

    1. Same old me

      That will keep your food at optimal temperature for bacterial growth. It’s really not recommended by food handling standards.

      1. Batgirl

        That’s dry food without liquids. Put in without preheating the container so the temperature drops to an unsafe range. Or a cheap thermos. It’s fine if you follow the food safety advice and if you want to be particularly cautious you can double check the first few times with a food thermometer. If you’ve followed instructions correctly then the temperature is about double what it needs to be to be safe. Sometimes it’s too hot for me to eat.

      2. JediSquirrel

        As long as it stays about 140° F it will be fine. A few weekend test runs with a standard kitchen thermometer will tell you how hot food needs to be going in so that it will be above that temp coming out four hours later.

  15. Kitty

    LW4, until this person can be trained not to pester you outside of work, can you put your phone on silent/do not disturb/mute text noises/block coworker’s number overnight so you don’t get woken up? If you’re worried about missing important emergency calls then all but the first option would still work.

    1. MommyMD

      Yes. And you can set up your do not disturb to let your favorites list get through.

  16. Akcipitrokulo

    LW4 …. in addition to telling her directly – make sure that you NEVER provide the answer. Even just once or twice encourages them to take the gamble that you’ll help.

    This may be awkward – especially if they call instead of text – but it is worth it!

    Even if it’s something you could answer in two seconds – don’t. Even if they try to guilt trip you that it’s just a quick question – don’t! Stick with “that’s not an emergency – I’ll talk to you tomorrow”.

  17. MommyMD

    Jane is a huge hypocrite if she thinks the fragrance ban applies to everyone but her.

    1. kittymommy

      Agree. I am not allergic to fragrances (and have a ton of them), though I do have asthma. At some point you don’t need to have any sensitivity to smells to realize having a scent linger 15 minutes after you leave the room is too strong and inappropriate (for public place).

  18. MommyMD

    “You can’t manage your own time so you can’t manage me?” Wow. That’s about the most aggressive and condescending thing I’ve heard here.

    1. MK

      Also inaccurate. It’s perfectly possible for someone to be bad at the one and good at the other.

      1. Aveline

        It also hasn’t occurred to LW that the demands on bosses’ time are different.

        My husband constantly misses meetings. That’s because he gets scheduled for three meetings at the same time and he has not, as of this writing, invented time travel or discovered a blue box lying around.

        1. S-Mart

          Your husband would drive me batty as an employee/meeting attendee. Declining two meetings because he has to go to a third is fine. Missing meetings he is expected at wastes everyone’s time.

          1. Aveline

            He’s not the one who schedules them. So it’s not his fault. It’s whomever schedules multiple meetings at the same time.

            I agree it’s a time waste, but it’s not him that’s driving people batty, it’s office culture in 2019.

            I don’t know about other executives, but in his area, it’s quite common for people to be scheduled for 2-3 meetings at the same time.

            It should not be, because it wastes people’s time.

            1. Akcipitrokulo

              Can’t he decline the invitation? I know you can in outlook if that’s what they’re using – and send a reply back to organiser. That also takes him out of the schedule, and it’s clear on calendar & meeting details that he’s not attending.

              1. Massmatt

                I think it’s unlikely he doesn’t know how to decline a meeting.

                The issue is probably either that the invites come from people that regard them as offers that can’t be refused, or that many people are invited to meetings where they would be useful but not essential, and are expected to prioritize which one is the best use of their time.

              2. S-Mart

                That’s what I was getting at. Decline (or better yet, but not always reasonable: send a delegate); don’t just miss and leave people wondering.

                I agree that people scheduling over existing meetings is part of the problem, but overcommitting isn’t the answer.

                Saying it’s just office culture in 2019 is giving up. It has not been the culture most of the places I’ve worked (including current).

              3. Aveline

                I wish he could. His company doesn’t function that way.

                it’s horrible for all involved.

            2. President Porpoise

              I know a guy who calls in to as many as four meetings at once, and has the screenshare for each up on a different monitor, and just tunes into whichever one is discussing his work at the moment. I think that’s a similarly bad idea, because you lose out on nuance nd context needed to do the job well.

  19. Traffic_Spiral

    LW#4: Apart from learning to use your words, just learn to use your phone already. Put texts on mute during your sleeping hours and they won’t wake you up. Also, no one’s making you respond to non-emergency texts the moment you get them. Just don’t respond until you’re in office if it’s not an emergency – simple. You’re making up your own rules for yourself and then complaining when the rules don’t work for you.

    1. Myrin

      You know, I actually agree with everything you’re saying but I don’t see why it needs to be phrased so harshly and kind of condescendingly. I’d be quite taken aback if I wrote in with a problem which – as we can clearly see by the number of letters in the same vein Alison gets weekly – is not at all uncommon, and then received a sharp response like that.

      1. mamma mia

        I don’t view Traffic’s comment as condescending or harsh at all. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. Just because the comment isn’t couched in flowery bullshit that distracts from the actual advice, it doesn’t mean it’s a “sharp response.” It was a reasonable, and to your own admission, accurate comment and I don’t see how you critiquing the tone is helpful at all.

        1. Wake up !

          Yeah if multiple commenters are allowed to repeat Alison’s answer nearly word-for-word in the comments every day, I’m happy to see someone with a genuinely different take make a good suggestion.

          1. Tortoise

            It’s also useful advice because it doesn’t rely on changing someone else instead of changing your reactions.

        2. Old and Don’t Care

          Use your words is a phrase generally used with toddlers. Which is why it comes off as condescending.

          1. mamma mia

            Fine, but the advice is still apt. What would be the point in rephrasing it in a “nicer” way when the bottom line really just is to use your words? If a LW would feel “taken aback” by a simple (and in my opinion, innocuous) phrase like that, maybe they shouldn’t write in to an advice column that has the option for comments.

        3. Myrin

          I’m not sure where you’re getting that from.
          Well, since you’re asking:
          – “just learn to use your phone already” is harsh in and off itself – it implies that OP is somehow too stupid to know how her phone works
          – “no one’s making you” – true, but that is the case for a lot of stuff people write in about and while it’s certainly useful for people to really become aware that actually, they aren’t being forced to do something, that very often still doesn’t help a lot because they do feel forced nonetheless (by social conventions, manners, etc.), even if no one is holding a literal gun to their head
          – multiple use of “just do x” – it comes up here all the time how it’s super easy to say that when you’re not in the situation described, and often really unhelpful because it makes the asker feel, again, dumb because they can’t make themselves do something that’s apparently easy
          – “simple” – same as above; it comes across as “wow, how come you can’t even do this simple thing?”

          As I said, I actually completely agree with the comment’s content. I’m also a pretty blunt person who isn’t at all thin-skinned, so usually, when even I think “Okay, I’d get strangely defensive if this were directed at me.”, that means that something did indeed come across as condescending and sharp (and this is actually the first time on this site someone disagreed with my assessment of comments like that). I’m also generally protective of letter writers if they aren’t being completely bone-headed (which this one isn’t), so I often call out stuff like this because I don’t want OPs to feel chastised or defensive to the point where they might not actually take in the advice. Obviously, we can disagree on that viewpoint, though!

          1. Mike C.

            Texting is one of the most passive, trivially ignored forms of communication we have. I get up early in the morning, my friends are night owls. They know that I’m likely not going to respond at night, and I know that they’re not going to respond early in the morning. Messages still get sent without bothering anyone.

            You can even turn off or silence individual contacts or groups of contacts. It’s not difficult and there’s no reason anyone should ever be woken up by a text message.

          2. mamma mia

            Maybe the LW didn’t know they could put a particular person on “do not disturb” mode, in which case, Traffic’s advice is helpful. If someone reads “just don’t respond” and their conclusion is “omg they think i’m stupid and dumb”, then maybe that person is too sensitive to write into advice columnists who allow comments on their site.

            Of course, this is all hypothetical because LW could just as easily have rolled his/her eyes reading that comment and not take it so much to heart as you clearly think they will. I also am confused when you say that that you are “protective” of people who write into this site. They’re adults and don’t need it. I actually think its pretty condescending to think that someone is going to feel “chastised” by a fairly harmless comment.

          3. boo bot

            Myrin, I deeply appreciate it that you took the time to parse this out! :)

            I would also add that a lot of the time the “just do X” advice ignores factors that the letter writer can’t control. In this instance, it seems like the OP does need to respond to actual emergencies, which means that just muting the phone, just muting the coworkers, and just ignoring the texts are solutions that don’t solve her problem and have the potential to create more (not responding might help, but it’s still annoying). Her best bet is to clarify what she needs from her coworkers.

            I also don’t think saying, “that comes across as condescending” suggests “this will be emotionally debilitating to read.” It says right above the comment box, “Please be kind,” and it’s not particularly kind to give helpful advice in a condescending way, that’s all.

        4. Mike C.

          The obsession with flowery bullsh!t actively distracts from finding real solutions to the problems folks face.

    2. Connie

      It’s very likely they can’t mute their texts because people other than this employee might need to contract them with personal emergencies.

    3. LW4

      Hello! I appreciate the advice (truly), but the problem is that I do, in fact, have to be available essentially 24/7 for emergencies, and this coworker’s role at work means that she is very possibly one of the people who might be contacting me overnight or on a weekend for a legitimate emergency. So I can’t mute my phone, or even just her, overnight or otherwise. I’ll have a conversation with her about it all soon.

    4. SRMJ

      Agreed. It drives me nuts when people complain about getting woken up by texts. Not my fault you keep your phone settings to ‘disturb me at all hours.’ I view texts as no different than emails. Ergo, I’ll send them whenever, and as a recipient, will respond whenever is appropriate.

      1. SRMJ

        Well NM, just saw OP4’s comments!

        Although I am still driven nuts by people who choose to keep these settings and then blame others for not knowing and abiding by them. I got my own life, ykwim.

        1. Luna

          I don’t even *notice* if my phone gets a message while I’m asleep. My phone isn’t set very loudly, and I rarely get messages. And I generally don’t have the thing next to me when I go to bed, so I notice it even less.

  20. QueenB

    I feel like the co-worker in #1 could have handled it better. I am allergic to cinnamon, so I’ve had to ask people not to burn Christmas candles etc but I myself wear perfume to help with my anxiety (a small amount). If she has specific sensitivities, maybe it’s easier if she just told people that? And allowed them to avoid those particular scents/products rather than banning everyone from wearing things they like, then wearing stuff herself? I understand the LW’s frustration, and I think the co-worker could have been more sensitive to others in her office tbh.

    1. Aveline

      If you ask for a ban on X as a medical accommodation, then you yourself do X, that’s a problem. It doesn’t matter what X is.

      Our dear leader is spot on. I have “allergic” reactions to fragrances (not just perfume, fragrances), smoke, steam, etc. It’s not every fragrance. I can handle real cinnamon and vanilla, but not rose or Lavendar, for example. Flower bouquets are always hit or miss.

      1. Aveline

        Accidentally hit send.

        The major issue is really that there’s a ban, That means everyone. Including the person for whom the ban was put in place.

        1. Angelinha

          We don’t know that there’s actually an office-wide ban, that’s just the word Alison used.

          1. Angelinha

            To clarify: I mean that although the OP say there’s a building-wide rule, it’s not clear if that’s ever been enforced by someone other than the coworker. Are bosses, senior leaders, etc. in on this or is it just the coworker’s rule?

            1. Aveline

              There’s very little chance that everyone would comply voluntarily unless forced.

              Most fragrance suffers will tell you they can’t even get family to voluntarily comply.

              My mother still sprays perfume before trying to get in the same car with me.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood

              We have a building-wide fragrance ban but when I told *an HR manager* about extreme use of scented bathroom deodorizers, it took her by surprise. What also took her by surprise? I had to point out that her own perfume was too strong and she didn’t realize what she was wearing would count.
              I’ve also had another manager say “I’m not wearing perfume, it’s just my body spray.” (My jaw flapped.)
              Back history, I am one of the ones who requested a fragrance policy — didn’t know it would be a full ban. For me the big problem is artificial fragrances or binders in them that trigger my migraines. I don’t get migraines from essential oils — but I don’t wear those either, because our ban is building wide. And sure Alison’s the one who said “ban” — but OP1 did say “rule” which is probably the same thing. So I do agree the compliance issue should be pointed out to the person who got the rule instated and is still wearing the one she likes/tolerates.

              1. Kelly L.

                Perfume and body spray! I remember working with this one guy once who marinated in Axe, and when I tried to tactfully mention that maybe he was wearing a little much cologne, he replied, “That’s not cologne! It’s BODY SPRAY!”

                …Body spray is dilute cologne. And if you wear half the bottle in one go, it doesn’t even count as dilute anymore.

      2. Lucy

        I agree.

        I feel a parallel might be that Sally has a severe allergy to peanuts and as a result the employer institutes a building-wide nut ban. Some people are annoyed because boy do they love a PB&J at lunchtime, but ultimately Sally’s health comes first. One day LW notices that Sally is eating a hazelnut bar, in contravention of the nut ban. The next day it’s granola full of walnuts. “I’m not allergic to hazelnuts or walnuts,” explains Sally blithely. “Peanuts are a legume.”

        Right ok Sally but the ban was put in place to protect you and so it’s tone deaf at best to flout it. The ban was made wider than your specific allergy to make things simpler for everyone. If Wakeen starts next week and hears there’s a ban but sees you with your hazelnuts he’ll think it’s NBD and bring peanut cookies and then where will we be?

        1. Aveline

          PS Fragrance/Perfume bans always have to be overly broad. It’s not as if most people know that “fragrance note alpha zed’ (making that up) is in their Prada Black but not in Prada Candy.

          It’s also very, very difficult to test for every possible combination of fragrance notes. So for many, many people who suffer from allergies or intolerances/auto-immune responses to fragrance, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which notes and which combinations cause the reaction. It’s easier for everyone to say “no fragrance/no perfume/no X.”

          1. EPLawyer

            LW 1 does not appear to be against the ban. She might not like it, but she gets it. Someone has a sensitivity. They may be over exaggerating their sensitivity, but it exists.

            The problem then is that the person for whom the overly broad ban was put in place is then running around with a very heavy fragrance that lingers. It’s more the optics than anything else. I think the nut allergy is the perfect explanation. Someone might only be allergic to peanuts. The allergy might not even be life-threatening. But a good company doesn’t want to make their employees sick so they put a ban in place on all nuts. So employee goes and eats walnuts. Now everyone is ticked they can’t have their PB with their J but employee gets to have fruitcake. This does not make for a good workplace.

            Hey, I found another way you can be a team player without doing the menial tasks. Follow the rules that are in place for everyone.

            1. Jennifer Thneed

              The other problem is that the co-worker is being pretty obnoxious about how she’s handling things.

              “She has been known to stand over people with her hand in front of her face ‘gagging'” Which means that she is *voluntarily* standing close to the scent-wearer while she makes her point. I don’t wear scented products at all myself, but boy howdy would I be losing respect for this woman if I worked with her.

        2. EventPlannerGal

          Spot on, and I think it’s also especially tone-deaf if things like scented lotions are also included in the ban. It’s pretty straightforward to just not wear actual perfume, but if all scented products are out then I know I certainly would have to make quite a few changes to my daily routine! I know my moisturisers, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and a few cosmetics all have some sort of scent. Of course I would absolutely be willing to change that for someone’s health, but in terms of optics I would probably be kind of put out if I did that and the coworker turned up drenched in Angel.

          1. Aveline

            I ask for people to not spray on any substance if we are going to be in enclosed spaces. But lotion sand hair products (unless very strong) seem to be ok.

            The general rule is this: If it’s a spray, no way. If I can smell it from a foot away from you, please don’t wear it. Otherwise, scented things that would trigger me that are in lotions and shampoos tend to be ok.

            So if it isn’t airborne (spray) or strong, you probably won’t trigger a reactions.

          2. Jennifer

            Some lotions are so heavily scented they are almost as bad as perfumes, especially if people keep them at their desks and use on their hands throughout the day.

            1. EventPlannerGal

              Oh, I’m aware! Sorry, I don’t mean it’s tone-deaf to include them in the ban – think I phrased that badly. It’s entirely reasonable to include them if they produce the same effect. I just mean that if the ban extends to everything scented, not just actual spray-on perfume, then that will probably require much more effort for her colleagues to avoid as scented products like lotions and body washes are so prevalent.

          3. Kiki

            I think that’s part of why fragrance bans can be difficult to enforce— they can be really disruptive to people’s lifestyles outside of work. There was a letter here before from someone whose coworker kept attributing a fragrance to them but they had no idea what was causing it because they were using fragrance-free products. Like, it could have just been the smell of their house, which they shouldn’t be expected to change.
            That may also be why the LW is so bothered by the way their coworker is flouting their own ban. If I went through the effort to swap out my preferred products to ones that are unscented (and it can be hard to find unscented products that work well for various conditions/ hair types/etc), I would be deeply frustrated that my coworker who put the ban in place makes exceptions for herself but I have no idea if I could actually switch back to some of my preferred products.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood

              There was a year-end update to that particular one — the co-worker was caught out. She had been jerking OP’s chain and got in trouble for it. There were some phrases that stuck in my mind so I was able to find it. I’ll post the link in a followup comment.

        3. CheeryO

          Great analogy. If the coworker wants to wear perfume, she needs to be specific about what scents are actually a problem and communicate that information to the office. If she can’t do that, then she really needs to 86 her own scents. It’s just not a good look.

      3. Falling Diphthong

        Lavender. Wtf is it about lavender?

        I’m just glad the aromatherapy thing has trailed off so I don’t have to explain to the massage therapist how much enveloping me in the scent of lavender will not be relaxing.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          LOL I liked lavendar… then I got a lavender-scented baby lotion. Now it is associated in my mind with diaper changes. When I admitted that, my husband admitted that his monkeybrain has always associated it with his elderly great-aunt. No more lavendar sachets in MY bureau!

    2. Temperance

      Honestly, no. She asked for a ban. She got the ban. She is subject to the ban.

    3. Bagpuss

      With pefumes, it’s very, very hard to pinpoint what causes problems. It would be incredibly dificult to give a list of perfumes/ inredients to avoid.
      I have a lot of contact allergies and sensitivities. There is at last one product where I am fine with the body lotion in a particular cent but get severe hives if I us the hand lotion. Packaging lists exactly the same ingredients for both. (I now don’t use either, as the risk of developing a reaction to body lotion is too great, but it does illustrate how far-from -simple these things can be.
      It’s also possioble to be in a situation whre Jane wearing perume A is OK, and Will wearing aftersahve B is OK, but being in the same room at the same time with both of them isn’t OK at all….

      I thin kthe Co-Worker has made an incorrect assumption that becuae the policy was introduced for her benefit and she knows that her own perfume doesn’t cause her problems, that it isn’t a problem, so I think Alison is right and the first step is a polite conversation with her, then escalte to HR if she doesn’t stick to the policy.

      She may well be mortified to lear that she is affecting others the way she herself was affected.

      1. Aveline

        Your last line. Totally.

        Everyone, including LW, is assuming the worst of the coworker. Shamefully, I’m doing that as well.

        Maybe she’s just clueless and will stop if it’s pointed out to her that her perfume is an issue for others.

        LW needs to understand if you have these allergies it can be so exhilarating to find the “one thing that works.” It’s like magic. It’s easy to overdo it.

        Thing is, the coworker can wear that one thing that works perfume on her own time. Not in an office where there’s a ban.

        1. Jennifer

          I find it hard to believe that she couldn’t know that. She knows how badly other fragrances have affected her. Does she really think she’s the only person on the planet that sensitive to fragrances or that she’s found the one fragrance on the planet that no one is sensitive to? Again, I’d find that very hard to believe. Stranger things have happened, I guess.

          1. Aveline

            Depends on if its a 200 person office or a 20 person office.

            If I’m in a group of 20 people, I’m likely the only fragrance allergy sufferer. If I’m in a group of 200, I’m not.

          2. Hiring Mgr

            Yes but if there was no ban before her, it would be pretty logical to think that nobody else is affected or is bothered.. It’s obviously tone deaf, but if it’s a small office I could see why she would think this.

          3. Emilia Bedelia

            But part of the difficulty of fragrance sensitivity is just how uncommon/not well understood it is.

            It’s somewhat of a double edged sword – she is obviously in a good position to understand the difficulty of dealing with a fragrance sensitivity, but if she has gone through years of hearing “but it’s just incense! it’s natural!” or “I only sprayed on a little bit!” or “sorry, I just forgot” or “it’s not fair to make 2 dozen people not wear perfume just for 1 person”, it probably seems like she really is the only person who has to deal with this problem. Not saying that’s a reasonable reaction, but it is very easy to feel alone in your problems if no one else seems to have the same issues.

            1. Jennifer

              I guess I never assume I’m the only one dealing with something. I know how long I have stayed silent or just put up with things when I didn’t have to.

      2. Same old Me

        I think that, precisely because she’s allergic to several or most perfumes, she doesn’t “get” that strong perfumes can be obnoxious or even disgusting for people who aren’t allergic. She most likely associates not liking perfumes with allergies only, and can’t see why her perfume would bother her coworkers.
        Instead of trying to educate the OP that scent allergies are a real thing, I think it’s this coworker who needs to be (politely) educated on the fact that strong scents can be obnoxious or overwhelming – it looks like she legit doesn’t realize that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          It also may be a bit of nose-blindness. If you wear one scent too long, your mind starts to filter it out and you wear more to compensate. It’s one reason my grandmother* had a variety of scents.
          Now imagine a person who has only identified one scent that doesn’t give her headaches… nose blind for sure.
          *Oh my poor grandmother… I never thought of this, but she had horrible headaches her whole adult life!

      3. Genuine Question

        That’s pretty tone-deaf though. Why would anyone think that they were the only person afflicted with anything?

  21. Mute

    To LW4, it might also be generational to a small extent. I’m 30 and had my cell phone long before I was in the workforce, so when I was dealing with a much older coworker who similarly could not grasp what an emergency was, it felt like a text from her at night was akin to showing up at my front door because my cell phone has primarily been friend Ana’s family oriented. What worker for me was muting her texts/calls so that I only saw them if I happened to be looking at my phone, then either waiting until the next morning to address it or opening up my work email and responding there, with a polite request for no texts unless it is a true emergency. The coworker I dealt with got it eventually, but still would text inappropriately once in a blue moon (including when she knew I was at an immediate family members funeral.) So definitely mute her!

    1. Asenath

      I don’t know if it’s age-related – I’m the oldest person in my work-group and the most averse to receiving texts (or emails) to my personal number/address at any time, but most particularly after hours. I do not work in a field in which there are frequent emergencies or expectations of after-hours work. I think it’s just personality differences in views on boundaries and appropriate texting. That can be fixed.

      One or two trusted co-workers do have my private contact information, but rarely use it. I did initially have problems with others (more with email than texting), and to solve the problem, I started by telling the people to contact me at work, then set up automatic replies telling them to re-direct their emails to work. If it were a text, I’d have than number blocked so fast…well, OK, I’d start like I did with emails, with a polite request to send the message to my work number, and then block the second and any further texts. If OP does sometimes need to be reached for emergencies, every single non-emergency contact should be returned with a note like “I will respond when I’m at work”. It’s important to be consistent.

      1. Jennifer

        I agree with you. I have met people of all ages, from all walks of life, who just either don’t seem to grasp what an emergency is or just have brains that never truly leave work mode. They simply don’t understand why someone wouldn’t welcome a non-emergency text from work when they are on vacation, or in the middle of the weekend when they are spending much-needed quality time with their spouse.

        I think the OP needs to give this employee specific examples of what constitutes an emergency, as suggested in the advice. Of course, then she also runs the risk of the employee being even more confused not contacting her when there’s actually an emergency if it’s not one of the examples she mentioned. Working with people like this can be challenging, even when they are nice people.

    2. Not a texter

      I think one age factor–and I say this as someone who is over 60–is the way different people see texting. To me, it’s simply another alternative to e-mail. I don’t always have my phone near me and because most of my friends don’t send time-sensitive texts I don’t always check for texts when I do pick up my phone.

      As for texting at night, I don’t take the phone into my bedroom so it simply hadn’t occurred to me to worry about what time I sent texts at night until a couple of years ago when I saw someone complaining about this online.

      OP, maybe ask the woman if she expects an answer immediately or if she’s just sending information via text the same way she’d send it in an e-mail.

    3. Samwise

      Please, I beg of all of us in the commentariat, PLEASE stop attributing lack of tech savvy to age / generation. I’m 59 years old and I’ve got no problem working my phone and I’ve been playing around with computer-related communications since the days of bulletin boards — and I’ve never been in a techy field. None of the the baby boomers and older folks I’ve worked with have this problem. My 90-year-old mother in law doesn’t have this problem.

      Your co-worker was thoughtless or oblivious or forgetful. That does not make the rest of us oldsters quaintly inept at modern communication technologies.

      It’s just as annoying and offensive as “Oh, millennial, they’re so [fill in the blank]”

      Whew! OK, got that off my chest, rant over, now I have to go chase some kids off my lawn.

      1. Anonymouse for this

        Thank you – you expressed that so much more eloquently than the response I was drafting. Excuse me while I go chase off those kids who have now run onto my lawn.

  22. SezU

    #3 – My grandboss is like this. Except he doesn’t meet with anyone below him unless practically forced to, and when he does he often is not very engaged. It is very frustrating! He doesn’t know what’s going on, so he just makes stuff up. Then we have to clean up after him without throwing him under the bus.

    1. SezU

      Also, to add… there are no schedule conflicts in this case. He just avoids everyone. And he really should be meeting with his team regularly, since we are the ones that are doing the work and know what’s going on! So it’s not the same as #3’s issue, but it’s still so frustrating!!

  23. Lady Jay

    #1, fragrance coworker: I think Allison’s advice was fine (believe the coworker, enforce the ban) but I’m a little surprised she didn’t address the way the coworker was complaining. Standing over a coworker and gagging? Really? Getting all up in somebody’s business like that seems a little hostile, and it seems as though LW is as annoyed by that as by the (perceived) hypocrisy.

    Maybe that could be addressed at the same time the fragrance ban is addressed: “Sally, while it’s certainly okay for you to mention to people that the smell they’re wearing is one you’re sensitive to, you need to respect other people’s space. This is important to maintaining a mutually-respectful workplace”–or something like that.

    1. Aveline

      Actual line from LW is this: “She has been known to stand over people with her hand in front of her face “gagging” or complaining of migraines from a smell she smells.”

      It’s hard to tell from this line if the coworkers is being over-dramatic or having a normal reaction. The “complaining of migraines” bit is what throws me. It’s perfectly fine to complain about migraines if she’s getting them from fragrances. It’s very likely she is.

      Is she doing this when she is otherwise next to someone (e.g., working on a project together) or is she going out of her way to stand over people/invade their space and gag? All the difference in the world to me.

      So I can’t tell if LW thinks coworker is faking it or if she thinks she’s really allergic, but overly dramatic. I hope she clarifies. I also can’t tell entirely what the coworker is actually doing.

      As a fragrance sufferer, I can tell you that even when I’m having a visible, unmistakable physical reaction, I’ve had people tell me I was faking it. Even by people who otherwise trust and respect me.

      There’s some weird cultural undercurrent in the USA that leads otherwise good people to disbelieve this stuff is real. I get the sense that LW might be falling victim to that give the “complains about migraines” line. Maybe not. I don’t know. I hope LW clarifies.

      If LW reads this, I hope her takeaway is that even if coworkers reactions are truly, severely OTT, the issue is likely real. So LW should focus on having the coworker abide by the policy that was put into place for her benefit and set aside the other reactions.

      LW – this could easily be a b* eating crackers situation. Your frustration with her being a hypocrite about the policy could influence your views on her other behavior. I don’t know that it is, only that this is always a possibility.

      1. Lady Jay

        When I read this, my mental picture was Sally, standing next to a seated coworker and gagging as a way to show them that their fragrance was causing sensitivity issues. If that’s what’s happening, it’s too much.

        That said, I agree with you that it could be a legitimate issue; perhaps by “standing over” LW simply means that Sally has, say, bent over a coworker’s desk to look at some work on her computer and gagged because the scent was unexpected and too much/triggering.

        I responded to the perception that Sally is super in her coworkers’ faces, but we can’t tell without more info.

        1. Lady Jay

          Aaaggh, I haven’t had my coffee yet. By “legitimate issue,” I simply mean the gagging; I’m taking it for granted that Sally really is sensitive to scents and not questioning that.

        2. Aveline

          Oh, and to be clear, I’m not sure the coworker isn’t being a drama llama.

          I just think that it’s very easy for even the best of us to get into a b* eating crackers scenario with people doing things like this.

      2. pancakes

        I’m not entirely convinced that people who behave that way are otherwise good! I think it’s quite rare for a not-good quality on the level of refusing to believe well-documented medical conditions do in fact exist to be a lone blemish on an otherwise lucid outlook. I don’t think it is particularly American to try to avoid conflicts with peers, but I think we do probably tend to go a bit further than other people do in brushing off absolutely bonkers views as personal quirks.

      3. Genuine Question

        Standing over a coworker is inappropriate no matter what somebody is doing unless it is a lifesaving action.

    2. Colette

      The OP isn’t in a position to do anything about the coworker’s behavior (i.e. she’s not the manager), and the coworker didn’t write in.

    3. Marthooh

      Even if the coworker was deliberately dramatizing her reaction (which isn’t clear), it’s too late to complain, since that behavior is presumably a thing of the past.

    4. Gladiator

      I have something called reactive airways. I can go from normal to having an asthma attack in a few seconds. Not that I would stand over coworkers gagging. But it’s hard to hide it. My airways are closing – though not life threatening. It’s embarrassing. It’s not hostile.

      I say just take the info as is and try not to judge her as hostile. Her wearing scents needs to be address. Not how she gets an asthma attack.

  24. Lynca

    LW2- I kind of feel like this was buried but being a good resource absolutely does not mean you’re a good employee. Having a non-eventful experience with a person doesn’t mean they don’t have issues. I’ve seen several firings where the person was arguably extremely knowledgeable but was a monster of an employee. People had mixed experiences with them, myself included, and what you would hear about that person would depend on that interaction.

    It may be easier to separate people’s opinions on Jane by compartmentalizing that they had worked with her longer, had worked with her on different things, and saw things you did not. That doesn’t mean they or you are wrong, just different experiences.

    1. epi

      I would love an update on this one because based on the letter, it could really go either way.

      It is weird to go so far to get the OP to rely on and learn from Jane, if Jane was really so horrible. Even if it was because Jane was good at her individual work and had an attitude problem or something, that is still not who you’d want to set up as your new hire’s mentor and resource! The timing of firing Jane and the encouragement to learn *everything* from her in that time almost make it seem like the plan was always for Jane to unknowingly train her replacement, which would be so awful. Then there’s openly making fun of her after she was fired– I have never seen that for anyone unless the environment itself was awful, or the person who left was so impossible to work with, it wouldn’t be surprising even to a new person. I don’t think that behavior is any better than Jane’s decision to vent to the OP as a new person. But either can be understandable in a bad enough environment.

      All the OP can really do now is pay attention and avoid being seen as part of a particular clique or faction with anyone. It’s possible the mixed messages about Jane stem from conflict between departments or social groups. Sometimes that can be helped by having a new person in the role who stays out of it, but either way it’s good information for the OP to have.

      1. Lynca

        I agree with what you’re saying but just want to point out that Jane had been handling the job for months but she worked in a different department, as per the OP. She wasn’t training a replacement but training someone so she could go back to her original job. Which makes the situation less fraught to me.

      2. LW2

        Just to clarify: Jane was hired to do Job A. EE doing Job B (Payroll) left very suddenly. Jane stepped in to do Job B because it was more time-sensitive. I was hired a few months later and took over Job B and Jane went back to Job A while assisting me. When Jane was fired, I thought it was just tied to a major project that did not go well, but then got more information over time. People were less making fun of Jane after he departure and rather saying things like, “Well of course this wasn’t done right, Jane was in charge.”

        And in the moment, her negativity was clouded in these other positive statements. I didn’t really think about it until she was gone and I noticed how I had internalized some of her negativity. I am definitely staying away from the cliques though! Thanks!

    2. WellRed

      I found the LW’s idea of mentoring interesting. It sounds a lot like chit chat and or gossiping. A heads up on people/department is one thing, but it’s not mentoring or even training.

      1. Kathleen_A

        I have never actually encountered a workplace where new employees were assigned this sort of mentor. It sounds a bit odd to me, but hey, maybe it’s more common than I realize. I wonder if the real problem is that Jane just went well beyond her instructions here? Because surely, surely this company doesn’t intend its mentors to tell new employees things like “Clytemnestra is a terrible manager”? Now, “Clytemnestra needs to be reminded about this deadline” – that sounds OK to me.

      2. LW2

        Yes to chit-chat – the gossiping was a bit more covert. For instance, with Basket Weaving Manager, she would just mention occasionally about how he left early all the time. I have since learned that he arrives really early, then he leaves early to check on his dogs and then works from home for part of the evening when needed.

        I actually rarely chat at work. The fact that Jane wanted to chat all the time was another issue – I didn’t know how to stop her! The set-up for this mentorship was really vague: Help LW get started with payroll & then stay close by in case she has questions for rare circumstances. Everything else was just the fact that we were in the same office.

        1. Kathleen_A

          Ohhhh, I see. There’s an expression that I’ve read (never heard anyone actually say it in person): “went beyond his/her remit.” This means “exceed one’s authority, responsibility or instructions.” I think Jane went beyond her remit here. So I agree with those who’ve said you’re probably best to take all judgments about personality flaws and so on with a few grains of salt.

        2. Hope

          Honestly, it sounds like she wasn’t intended to be a mentor for you, but someone who knew the processes related to your job and thus was best placed to hand off/explain those processes. She was just supposed to be a trainer. And it sounds like anything beyond payroll processes was probably something you didn’t need to listen to her about.

          I say this as someone who was in a similar circumstance once–I needed some process-specific training when I came in to a new job, but the person who had the most info about that process–while great at doing that process–was absolutely unreliable as a resource for anything else. Their judgment and ability to assess anything that required anything remotely akin to critical thinking SUCKED. This person was good at their job–fast, efficient, etc.–but crap at anything that wasn’t a process that could be learned by rote.

    3. CM

      I had a similar situation where a longtime employee was telling me all sorts of things about the workplace and people in it. I eventually realized that I couldn’t believe anything she said about people, although she was also a useful source of information about how things were done. It was so confusing trying to sort everything out, and figure out what I could believe and what I couldn’t, and try to remember whether I had heard something from her or someone more trustworthy. OP#2, good luck — my best advice from being in that situation is to try your best to forget anything subjective or negative that Jane told you.

  25. fieldpoppy

    Re LW3 — we’ve encountered this notion before, that rescheduling 1:1s is an indicator of “bad time management.” (I think it was about a person wanting an information interview with someone who kept canceling it). Reading rescheduling meetings as “bad time management” is an indicator to me that you are an individual contributor without a lot of meetings — it’s very different when you’re higher up and have multiple projects with many people across and beyond an organization, where multiple people’s schedules are in play to schedule meetings. My calendar is like a jenga game because at any given time I have 10 or more client projects, with literally dozens or 100s of people I have to connect with, and when my assistant is trying to schedule meetings, sometimes I get told “CEO wants to meet you at 9” and I have to move other things around, or sometimes it’s so hard to put the required 9 people together that the 1:1s which are non-critical have to be offered up. More often than not, I’m told “this group meets at 10 and wants you to connect.” It’s not a microaggression that I might then move a meeting with my project manager — she gets that client work takes precedence.

    The feelings that Alison picked up on of… a kind of chippy interpretation of everything? I’d be tracking that attitude as a manager, and probably wondering if the LW was a fit. I am wondering if the lack of work might be related — I’m not sure but there’s just an aura of not seeing the big picture that might be part of why your whole experience might be feeling so agitating. Maybe try imaging life from your manager’s lens and see if it shifts — and you might actually end up with more work on your plate?

    1. LQ

      Jenga is a great way to describe my calendar. And my boss came in and plopped down to discuss something urgent this morning so now I’m all thrown off (luckily it’s Thursday so I can recover this afternoon, but I can’t fix it on Wednesdays because I’m usually booked from 8-4 or 5, including often a lunch meeting).

      I think part of this is just….the OP can take the initiative to reschedule. I can quick shoot a, ‘have to reschedule,’ to the person I was supposed to meet with at 8:30. And then if they take the initiative to put a time on my schedule later that day or the next, or next week that’s great and I’m always relieved. But sometimes there’s no room this week..or next…or the one after…So yeah, something ends up canceled, not because I don’t want to but because while I can work 50-60 hours a week, I can’t ask you to meet with me at 5 pm because it’s the only time I have free.

      Ask for other times (I will take an 8 am meeting though most folks here don’t do meeting until 9, I will meet at lunch) or throw the rescheduled appointment on the boss’s calendar. Don’t wait, take hold of this. I think shifting and taking a little more control might be a really good thing to do here, including more work you could pull onto your plate.

  26. Roscoe

    #3 . You are a perfect example of why I believe the concept of microaggressions has gotten out of hand. Your boss had other, higher priority things to do and you call it a microaggression? Seriously, you have an inflated sense of your own importance here. You say you understand how offices work, but I don’t think that you do.

  27. quirkypants

    @LW3, you mention you’re not new to the workforce but that you did have a career change. In my industry, rescheduling 1:1s and even cancelling 1:1s is not all that uncommon. I’m a manager and also have them with my manager (an executive at my org), this happens all the time. To try to be fair, maybe things are different in your old industry?

    Perhaps as a way to reframe this, here are some thoughts:

    a) In my industry, you are expected to be independent but also speak up (professionally) when you need something. This shouldn’t just happen in 1:1s so feel free to book other meetings, take advantage of the open door policy, etc.

    b) It sounds like your manager is busy. Being a manager often means a ton of meetings – I have some days when I have 6+ hours of meetings. I expect my team members to be understanding of how busy I am, to be frank, in those meetings I’m sometimes advocating for them, protecting them, securing resources, planning ahead, or showing off their work (yes, crediting them) to senior management or outsiders. I do what I can to help my team and try to be equally understanding if they have to reschedule something or need something extra and I trust they extend at least some understanding my way. (Knowing I’m the manager, I don’t expect quite as much as I give to them but I expect a little!).

    c) Sometimes the cancelling of 1:1s isn’t a bad thing. My boss and I have a great relationship and we know that if we have to cancel a 1:1, it won’t effect work. We both trust each other to bring up what needs to be discussed, ask for meetings when they’re required, etc. Otherwise, she assumes I have things covered.

    1. fieldpoppy

      I like your insights here — what I was trying to say but you are saying better ;-).

      I think I’m particularly sensitive right now to the way people interpret canceling or changing because my work is more all encompassing than some of my friends’ work — I’m a partner/owner in a small consulting firm, not an employee, and my accountabilities have more consequences sometimes. I had to cancel a weekend away with friends a couple of months ago because the culmination point of a major project converged in my having to do a 12 hour writing project over a weekend (the senior team spent a lot longer working through what they wanted than we originally expected — but it wasn’t unreasonable, just hard to predict three months earlier). My friend interpreted this as “bad time management’ and “letting her down,” and I get it, but I also have this other reality where if I hadn’t spent that weekend working, we would have completely let the client down at the single most important point of a $100k project. An impossible situation, and I need my friends to get that.

      The way you describe the role of manager vs. individual contributor is a really clear way of making this kind of difference more understandable to people like the LW, I think.

  28. Lady Blerd

    OP 5 should be careful about doing the extra chore of cleaning up the breakroom especially if she’s a woman. We’ve had letters to AAM from LWs who are frustrated about their ungrateful coworkers or who resent at being the only one who do this extra chore and/or about how they perceived but her colleagues because of this.

    1. The Original K.

      Yeah, I wouldn’t clean the kitchen precisely because I wouldn’t want it to suddenly become my job. I’d probably clean up the thing I intended to use (if someone’s chili exploded in the microwave & I needed it to heat up my lunch, I’d clean the microwave) but not the whole kitchen.

      1. BadWolf

        Yes, there are times I really want to clean, but I make myself stick to the area/thing I’m about to use (and of course, a mess I made).

  29. Ladylike

    I can actually relate somewhat to LW3. I had a contract-to-hire position for several months where the manager barely ever met with me, and I had nothing to do. I mean, zero, zilch, staring at a blank screen for 8 hours a day between bouts of crying in the bathroom out of sheer frustration. What made it worse was that the people around me were swamped, and it was an open office plan, so there wasn’t even a reasonable way to entertain myself without everyone seeing that I wasn’t working. It was horrible. My manager said I was awesome and was genuinely devastated when I resigned, but he had multiple opportunities to help me move things along, and other things always took priority. He was busy and it was a very high-pressure culture (for him), but still…managers have to manage.

    I can relate to the anger. I was angry a lot. I never let it show, but when you’re used to achieving and contributing, it’s infuriating to sit day after day, being told how important you are, but adding no value. After 6 months with no change, I couldn’t take anymore, and I moved on.

    1. fieldpoppy

      That sounds really frustrating, Ladylike. Did that manager understand that you didn’t have enough to do? I am wondering that about the LW’s manager also.

      1. Ladylike

        Yes, at first I told him very gently/subtly, because I was new, and didn’t want to give him the impression that I was slacking or missing something huge I was supposed to be working on. His response was always, “Be patient, it’s coming.” As my frustration grew, I finally told him that I was spending large amounts of time with absolutely nothing to do, and his response was the same. He was a great guy, but he was definitely putting me on the back burner to deal with bigger issues. My husband and friends kept saying, “Take the free money and keep your mouth shut!” But that’s not me at all.

    2. Autumnheart

      I am currently dealing with an almost identical situation. I recently lost out on a promotion because I didn’t have enough projects to demonstrate my expertise, and even though my own manager was the hiring manager, he isn’t familiar enough with my work to understand my qualifications!

      Look, I understand that managers are busy and that he gets pulled into a lot of projects. Yes, those are more important than our 1:1s. But those things aren’t more important than developing a relationship with your REPORTS. I’m sorry, but one of the core responsibilities of a people-manager is to have a good sense of the contributions of the people on their team, and to facilitate opportunities for growth.

      I’ve told my manager several times that I didn’t have enough to do (I have about an hour’s worth of work per day), but he looked at the productivity spreadsheet and saw that I was producing the same amount of work as most people, so he decided it wasn’t an issue. He has strong working relationships with half the team because he’s heavily involved with their projects, and the other half of the team basically goes weeks without talking to him because he’s *so busy*. So of course the people he sees and works with all the time get the challenging projects, and the kudos, and the trust of the management team that they are candidates for advancement, and the rest of us get crickets. That’s bullshit. I wouldn’t call it a *microaggression* but it’s certainly bad management, and even if it is not intended as favoritism, it plays out that way in practice because the perception is that it’s okay to basically blow off people you’re not really invested in. If my own manager isn’t invested in seeing me succeed, then who the hell is?

      I’m taking a lateral move off the team and under another manager ASAP. I’m sure my manager’s involvement on all these important projects are going to do great things for his career, but I have my career to think about, and I’m not going to keep waiting for him to finally get around to managing his team after the ~important~ things are done.

      1. Autumnheart

        It only just occurred to me how ridiculous it was for my manager to hear me say “I don’t have enough to do, please give me more work,” and decide that a spreadsheet total was more accurate about that than I was.

      2. a1

        I’m sorry, but one of the core responsibilities of a people-manager is to have a good sense of the contributions of the people on their team, and to facilitate opportunities for growth.

        Agree! One of the responsibilities of a people manager is to engage with their direct reports, to know what they’re doing or not doing, to work with them when they bring up an issue (like not having enough work, wanting more work), etc. You can’t just ignore your direct reports. Yes, sometimes something is more important, and on a one-off that’s fine. It sounds like it’s a pattern, though. So add together, not enough to do, asking several times for more to do from both manager and colleagues, and then having 1 on 1s cancelled last minute, and it’s easy to feel undervalued.

  30. Jennifer

    LW1 – I kind of disagree with Alison here. I do think Jane is a bit of a hypocrite, not because she isn’t sensitive to all fragrances across the board because it’s obviously something she can’t control, but because she made a big deal about fragrances worn by others, but has no consideration for the fact that someone else might be equally sensitive to HER heavily worn fragrance.

    I do agree with Alison that framing it to HR that way would be a mistake. There is a policy that is not being followed and Jane needs to follow it like everyone else has to.

    1. Ladylike

      I have to admit, I would have to work hard not to roll my eyes hugely when she started gagging at the scent of someone else’s perfume. I’m sensitive to smells too, but the only ones that come close to making me gag are truly foul odors like BO or garbage. I also think she’s being hypocritical, and a drama queen.

      1. LCL

        Yeah, the drama queen part comes in where OP says Jane ‘has been known to stand in front of people with her hand over her face, gagging…’ I can see why OP is annoyed by this.

      2. Jennifer

        Exactly. If someone is wearing something so offensive to me it makes me gag and gives me a migraine, I’m not going to stand over them and make a big fuss. I’m going to try and get as far away from them as I can. The whole thing just read ‘drama queen’ to me too.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh, I agree Jane is a hypocrite! It’s just not the way the OP should frame it when she talks to HR; it’s going to to distract from what she really needs to convey.

  31. Alfonzo Mango

    If your boss has an open door policy, use it! Don’t wait for the meeting that always get canceled.

    It’s so simple.

    1. Tortoise

      The more I think about this, the more likely it seems that because you don’t use the open door policy your manager assumes you don’t need to meet.

    2. a1

      I’ve known several managers that have an open door policy, however, if you stop in they are always too busy and can you check back later. And you check back later and they are still too busy. Or maybe you literally get 2 minutes and refusals to schedule follow-up meetings. No, they don’t get upset, they may even smile and say something welcoming before brushing you off, so in their eyes they still see it as having an open door policy.

      1. Jennifer

        But the OP didn’t say that she has even attempted to take advantage of the open door policy, or followed up and asked to reschedule the one on ones.

      2. Alfonzo Mango

        It’s still on you to follow through and demand time from your manager. If you can’t communicate how important the meetings are (to you and to them), then you need to learn when to be more assertive and manage up.

  32. Jennifer

    #3 100% agree with Alison. You are making a far bigger deal of this than is needed. All you have to do after he cancels is suggest another day and time. You said you have barely any work and the meetings aren’t really needed. It sounds like you could talk to him again about that issue through an email or by just stopping by his office when you see he’s free, since he has an open door policy. Maybe after reading all of the stories here about bad managers you want to put him in the bad manager basket too? :) But I’d cut the guy some slack. Sounds like he’s just busy and, like you, realizes the meetings aren’t really high priority. Speak up.

  33. lnelson in Tysons

    #OP2
    I have seen multiple times as soon as someone leaves, people trash talk the departed. Making some assumptions not knowing all the details.
    Someone can actually be good at their job, but lousy at getting along with co-workers which will increase the trash-talking when they leave. When I was on my way out from one job, which I left on good terms, we joked that they remaining team members should wait until I am actually gone before blaming me for everything. Another job, I was blamed for things not done which took place after I was gone. Example, new employee was interviewed and hired after I had left, but it was still my fault the she never got her paperwork. Fair, no, but sometimes that is how it is.
    You simply need to make your own judgement, some of what you were told could be spot on. Other things in left field.

  34. Marthooh

    For OP#1, I have to disagree strongly with one part of Alisons’s script: don’t say you’re “sensitive to” her perfume; just say you don’t care for it, or you find it overwhelming, or anything that won’t sound like you’re pretending to have an allergy, too. “Sensitive” might be used innocently, but in this context it’s going to sound passive-aggressive.

    1. cmcinnyc

      I sort of agree because fake allergies/sensitivities are a serious problem for people with real medical conditions. Fakes set up situations like this and then someone comes along with a deadly peanut allergy and people are like “yeah right, I brought noodles to the potluck, I’m not going to tell you I used peanut oil” and then you’re rummaging through someone’s purse for her EpiPen. But just saying “I don’t like your cloying perfume” isn’t a good move. I’d be more direct and say, “What happened to the fragrance ban? Are we not doing that anymore? Good!” Make her defend her OK for me but not for thee stance publicly.

  35. JL

    OP4 – I installed an app on my phone called Agent that sets ‘sleep hours’ for my phone. I can choose who my emergency contacts are so that their texts and emails can come through, but all other messages are silenced. If there’s an actual emergency though, there is an override ability, but they’d have to be pretty deliberate about it.

      1. Evan Þ.

        Yes – I get a lot of texts from people several time zones ahead of me, so this’s saved my sleep

    1. LW4

      Oh, *this* might be a solution that works – a bounce-back message that says “Hi! My phone is on silent. If you text again it will come through, but please only do that if this is an emergency that absolutely cannot wait.” Because I do need people in general, including this coworker, to be able to reach me outside of office hours. Just… more thoughtfully.

  36. Allison

    #3 Been there, man. It’s definitely irritating and not a good feeling when your boss treats you like a low priority they can simply toss aside with no explanation or apology. I usually just told myself that if my boss doesn’t see the need to check in with me, it’s because they’re satisfied with my work, they haven’t heard any complaints, and I seem to be doing okay (not stressed or anything); if I’m not doing okay and need to talk to my boss about something, it’s on me to speak up: “hey, I know you’re busy, but I was actually hoping to talk to you about X, do you have a few minutes sometime this week?”

  37. Avocado Toast

    LW2: I had this EXACT thing happen to me. It’s a weird situation all the way around!

    In my case, the longer I worked there the more I realized that our director took people leaving extremely personally and also was a huge micromanager. This combined to mean that when something came up that “my” Jane had done that our director didn’t like/understand, he criticized Jane as a person and an employee. In reality, it just might not have been the way he would have thought of doing it, and it also might not have been something he cared about if Jane had been working there when the thing came up. In our case, Jane was sort of at odds with our office culture, meaning she had kids and needed to leave right at 5, she didn’t care about office politics, etc.

    These were things that I put together for a few years after Jane left as I learned the office culture. I also kept in touch with my Jane and she continued to be a really great resource for me.

    In a plot twist, Jane actually got hired BACK by my organization several years later because our director said she was the “unsung hero” of our work….after saying not-so-great things about her for years!

  38. Jules the 3rd

    OP2: Take what Jane said about tasks with a grain of salt, but throw out everything she said about people.

    Tasks, salt: Check with the people who interact with you about whether your work output is what is needed. ‘I’m new, so it’s a good time to dig into why we need to do things this way. That will help me understand it faster / do it better.’ Check with your manager about whether you’re doing it correctly. If possible, next time you do it, have someone knowledgeable check it before you send it out. My concern is that there may be some subtle box to check (eg, ‘apply Medicare taxes’) that she didn’t walk you through.

    People: She talked down about someone who is now doing the job she used to do, to a new person. That’s a huge red flag. Scrub Jane’s assessment of people from your brain, watch and decide for yourself. That is always the best path – you never know what rivalries / drama you’re walking into.

  39. boop the first

    Hmmm… When I was visiting my mom once, I straight-up fully cleaned out her fridge. I worry that it was overstepping and offensive at the time, but, it was so bad that I was too afraid that I was going to get food poisoning just eating cereal! I had to bypass an open plate of raw meat and a dried up, cracked brick of old cheese to get at the old milk (with no lid). I’m just not willing to touch gross stuff and then eat it just to save someone’s feelings.

    1. Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal

      I just did this at my parents house haha. it took 4 hours and 3 bags of trash but everything from 2015 has finally gone

      It was disgusting. But necessary.

  40. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    2- Oh man, OP, I had this exact same experience at my last job. Anna trained me at the pickiest and most judgement-sensitive part of my job, and then got fired abruptly in the middle of a major quality push. I knew she was a bit abrasive, but also held a position of trust (she was a specialist at the judgement-heavy stuff) so I was petrified about my own training afterward.

    Ultimately, what I wish I’d done was go to the manager and ask if I needed to be retrained on the material Anna taught me, and voice my worry that the timing made me concerned that Anna hadn’t been training me correctly. Other people had gotten fired during the push for repeated major errors (which cost our company quite a bit of money), so it wasn’t much of a leap to think she was part of that.

    What I actually ended up doing, out of inexperience, was waiting until I found a coworker willing to dish the details she’d learned from taking over Anna’s position, when it turned out the firing had nothing to do with Anna’s quality of work and everything to do with her being extremely abrasive and believing she was indispensable.

    1. JSPA

      Seconding this. “Not knowing why X was fired, I want to check in whether you trust me to carry out task A based on the training I received from X, or whether you’d like me to do an additional training stint with someone else, go through a brief quality assessment, or do an other sort of self-study, review or training.” Putting this in an email documents that you’re reaching out, so that if anyone later blames you for doing things wrong, you can demonstrate that you brought up the possibility of needing additional training.

      My guess is that negativity and blame shifting might very well be adequate explanation of why your mentor was fired, and she’s actually more likely to have slacked off or shifted blame in her regular tasks, than in something she knew she’d be handing off very soon.

      It’s also possible that there’s an entire culture of blame-shifting. Or even that your mentor was right, and the incompetent jerks won, and are now shifting their blame onto the person who left. Or that they are creating a fictional narrative so that there’s a practical reason, not a “personal” reason, for X’s dismissal. (I walked into such a situation, attempted to do herculean labors to not recapitulate the problems that I was told led to my predecessor’s dismissal…only to find out that it had all been a fiction, and that I was burying myself in entirely irrelevant and counterproductive ways. Of course, nobody above me was willing to say, “actually, we lied to you, when you were hired.” They did tell me to do…exactly what they said had been the reason for my predecessor’s firing…but minus the “we lied” admission, that seemed super-dangerous, and a way to set myself up for firing.)

      Basically, all you can do is ask for direction in a way that creates natural documentation; be pleasant to everyone and expect the best of them; and form your own judgements when (and only if) a pattern emerges.

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

        JSPA, excellent! The script in your first paragraph is wonderful! I don’t know if I would have come up with that in OP’s position but I think it’s brilliant. (Because I’d hate to see this dialogue played out later: “But when Jane trained me she told me to do it this way.” “Well, when Jane was fired you should have realized that everything she said to you was wrong.”) And I also wonder if the idea all along was to fire Jane, for reasons that may have had nothing to do with the payroll duties.

        As far as Jane’s personal opinion of co-workers, take that for what it’s worth. I had a roommate in college who was always telling me, “Everybody thinks this about this person,” or “This person is this, this person is that.” It drove me nuts. When I told her, “Thanks, but I’m capable of forming my own opinions,” she was quite offended. I suspect she thought that was actually a helpful thing to do.

      2. LW2

        Great advice! I did follow-up more closely in the first few weeks after her firing. Thankfully, I have had a positive performance review since then as well. Though it was quite jarring when my boss innocuously asked some questions about payroll immediately after and almost didn’t give me approval to run it (he was travelling for work and just forgot). It was fine, but quite a tense afternoon for me.

  41. Former Expat

    The answer to LW1 is one of the many reasons that Alison is a better person than me. My first reactions was definitely that the coworker is exaggerating her situation for attention. FAKER!

    But if I have learned anything from this blog, it is that more than one thing can be true. Maybe the coworker is a little too extra in talking about her fragrance sensitivities, but it also could be true that she is only allergic to specific ingredients and the perfume she wears does not contain that ingredient. I’ve also learned from this blog that life gets a lot easier if you take people at their word. So believe that she really does get a migraine from certain scents and ask her to do the same thing that you have already done for her, which is to not wear perfume to work.

    1. Batgirl

      This could actually be my fiance. We’ve been in crowds shopping and have had to go home suddenly because a rogue perfume or aftershave has sent him into the migraine from hell. He wouldn’t be able to work around it. Yet he wears a highly scented product daily!

      He has such a sensitive nose for everything, including his own scent that the products he can tolerate make him more confident. He thinks the mildest ‘would smell vaguely like a warm human if I lived in your pocket’ is terrible body odour. And he enjoys scent; he’s basically canine.

      He’s fine with most natural scents, which luckily his co-workers favour but if someone was triggered by a natural scent he’d happily switch to unscented; especially if the rule protected him in turn.

    2. JediSquirrel

      But if I have learned anything from this blog, it is that more than one thing can be true.

      That is so true. One thing this blog has taught me is to be more patient and take a lot more things into consideration before taking a point of view on things.

  42. Schuyler Seestra

    3. I could’ve written this letter. My boss frequently cancels out 1:1’s. It drives me crazy, usually I do have important things to discuss and it’s hard to get a hold of her most of the time. We work in different markets so i can’t even touch base face to face. I know she is very busy, but I do find the frequent cancellations disrespectful. My time is important to me. I’ve had to turn down meetings or calls become of my scheduled 1:1.

    1. Cucumber Water

      1×1’s are important but work comes first. Why are you not rescheduling the 1×1’s? Turning down important meetings or work calls is not good on your part, tis shows poor judgement. If you have stuff to discuss with your boss send them an itinerary of what you want to go over so they know you have things that need to be discussed and can reschedule if necessary. During our busy season my boss has had to stay on a call that ended early to have a 1×1, because the work is 1st priority.

      1. Schyuler Seestra

        She will tell me to reschedule and never accepts the invite. And its not on me to reschedule. It’s on her since she is the one who canceled. I have sent itinerary only to never have them acknowledged.

        The biggest issue is she cancels last minute or never responds to IM’s/Emails. I know she is busy. But I am busy as well. And some times I can’t move forward on projects without feedback from her. I may be subordinate, but I’m still a person. It’s not oversensitive to be annoyed. It’s frustrating. If she canceled every so often then I wouldn’t care, but it happens all the time. I think I only had One 1:1 with her last month, and I’m supposed to have them weekly.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          I disagree with you, because 1:1’s are a shared meeting, so it’s on either of you to reschedule. Yes, it would be good if your boss handled it better, but the most important thing (in terms of the business) is to somehow HAVE the meeting. You are having a “cut off my nose to spite my face” reaction instead.

          If you truly can’t get your boss to meet with you, start being proactive. An example: send an email saying something like “I have these 3 tasks to accomplish and I think that #2 is the highest priority, so that’s what I will work on first. If you disagree please let me know.” Another possibility is to see if you can meet with your boss’s boss, or someone one your team who is senior to you — and document it in email to your boss.

  43. Not So Super-visor

    I’m not going to lie. I bristled a bit at the tone of LW3’s letter too.
    A. The comment about taking micro-agression training: There’s nothing more frustrating than a new employee telling someone that he had training in something and now they assume that their was an expert in it. It seems like you have put on blinders and assumed that this was the problem. I’m going to bet that in that training they probably warned you not to do that.
    B. You’ve checked your boss’ Microsoft Outlook schedule: so you know that the boss isn’t blowing you off but has legitimate meetings. It’s not like he/she is skipping out to lunch on you, running personal errands, or setting blocks of “unstructured executive time” on the schedule. Your boss is legitimately busy, and you are aware of that yet.
    C. You keep bringing up that you’re not new new to the workforce, but you are new to that company. It seems like you still need to learn your place in your company’s culture. That has nothing to do with being young, but it seems like you’re putting that block up by continuing to insist on this.

    1. DKMA

      If I’m LW3, I’d be concerned that this tone is coming through and coloring the interactions he does have with his manager. It would not be a good place to be to not be doing substantive work and being weirdly negative with your boss. Don’t take things personally, and proactively address the need to do more. That could be done by going above and beyond on what you are assigned, or being more proactive about seeking out new work.

  44. spcepickle

    I told a coworker I was blocking his number over the number of unimportant texts he sent. I agreed to unblock him only after he was at explain what an emergency was. 6 months, no unnecessary texts.

  45. Meerkat

    With about ten years managing others, cancelling or rescheduling 1:1 is not uncommon. Especially if the manager feels that their reports are doing just fine. In my line of work, emergencies come up all the time, and must be prioritized. So long you keep lines of communication open, it does work out. However, I must say how the OP worded her letter, needing to feel acclimated, included and comfortable after six months on the job would be red flag for me. Managers should mentor and assist, yes, but the level of emotional hand holding the OP requires would make me rethink if there were mature enough for the job

  46. Workerbee

    #3 Perhaps the real concern comes from not having enough work assigned, which would be the first thing I’d notice; and then that makes other, typically “meh” things take on a more damning feel.

    OP, try scheduling a non 1:1 meeting with your boss–use a different subject line–to discuss plans for you to get more work going. Or take him at his open-door policy and drop in the next time you get a chance.

    I have a co-worker who is at the point where _everything_ about our boss irritates her, and it stems from a single point of not feeling valued. If he cancels their 1:1, she takes it just about as personally as you seem to. She also doesn’t want to hear that it’s not personal at all.

    Me, I like to think that if my 1:1 with him gets cancelled, it means he’s not worried about me. :) He feels up to date on what I’m working on and he knows I’ll say something if he needs to hear something.

  47. Wren

    For LW #3, I do think it’s still an issue, even if it isn’t personal/a microaggression. My boss will frequently admonish us for not keeping up with 1:1s with him, and then reschedule/cancel ones we set up into oblivion. It’s a running joke that if you have a 1:1 scheduled with him, you might as well considered it canceled until it’s been rescheduled 4 times.

    I do have a coworker that told him plainly, “Look, we’re both busy people, I get it. But when you cancel last minute, that’s wasting my time, and we don’t have enough time in a day to waste.” My boss was suitably horrified and has only rescheduled a 1:1 with that coworker once since, for a real emergency. Your time is valuable!

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch

    Re: Fired Employee’s training and knowledge etc.

    We rarely know the extent of why people are fired [well I do usually because I’m in an HR function but even then it gets really heavily dependent on the parties involved what’s going on and why the termination happened.]

    Was she let go because she was cutting corners and creating a liability whereas the payroll was still done on time and without any fuss from employees? Was she fired because she was bypassing procedures or creating her own that she wasn’t supposed to? Was she fired because she was negative and talking poorly about others constantly?

    I can see her getting let go because of a personality issue if she’s telling a new hire that This Guy is Bad At His Job whereas the rest of the company thought This Guy was Great and just butted heads with her in some fashion. If that’s the case, she wouldn’t have necessarily trained you poorly or anything like that.

    You however should always use your best judgement when accessing others going forward. Don’t let the “Jane’s” of the world poison you towards That Guy or That Woman, that’s toxic and robs you of your own valuable perceptions! Use them as “warnings” and be aware but make your own judgement in the end. That will save you from wondering if someone poisoned the well after it comes out that Jane was a stinker and was let go for it.

    If she was let go because she wasn’t doing her job correctly or was doing it in a way that wasn’t following SOP, then you should by all means ask for additional training to confirm that you’re doing things right! I would make sure you are familiar with training materials and see if you are seemingly going through all the right motions and keeping all the correct paperwork etc. But yeah, I wouldn’t just suddenly flush all the knowledge she shared with you but certainly look at it through a more skeptical lens. As you should do with everything, always re-examine what others have “taught” you and what you have learned on your own as being a person with experiences of your own to draw on!

  49. Two Tin Cans and a String

    #5 Agree with Alison completely, with the added point that you shouldn’t expect it to stay clean. I’ve been living/working with very messy people all my life (and I’m no neat freak) and I’ve learned that asking someone to clean more is asking them to change their habits and even their personality A LOT. It always gets hairy (snarf). So by all means clean the space! But don’t expect it to stay that way. If you tackle this, mentally prepare yourself for the likelihood that nobody will care and it will be you going up against a tide of filth. Decide if you’re okay with that. Because my money is on this not changing, ever, and it’s hard to resist feeling bitter about that stuff when you’ve been tackling it for a while.

  50. LW4

    Thanks to everyone for the feedback! “Just tell her directly” was the answer I expected, and I’m really grateful for everyone’s ideas about what to actually *say*, because that was part of what I was struggling with.

    On the point of muting notifications or blocking her number – it’s not really a solution that’s an option in this particular case, but I expect it’s great advice for people facing a similar problem in a line of work that doesn’t require them to be available 24/7 for emergencies. (That is – as simple as muting her texts during off-hours would be, I do actually have to be available to her and others in an emergency. This isn’t a rule I’ve made up for myself, it’s part of my job to be reachable outside of office hours for emergencies. I’ve just chosen to be reachable by text only, not by email.)

    I’ll talk to her about it next time it happens. Thanks again for the help!

  51. Miss Muffet

    #5 – just be careful that this doesn’t all of a sudden become a part of your responsibilities – through apathy or whatever on the part of others in the office. Especially if you are a woman! This is one of the many kinds of things (like defaulting to other adminny tasks that may not be a part of your actual role) that often just sorta “happen” because a woman is (perceived to be) good at it.

  52. Jenny Grace

    “when people do things like this, they are basically saying “you’re less important than this other thing.””
    Yes. Literally. Your 1:1 with your boss is less important than the other thing.
    Your boss’s time is more valuable than yours. Welcome to the work force.

  53. LawBee

    Oh my goodness, biweekly 1:1s when you already don’t have a lot to do is TOO MANY MEETINGS. No wonder your boss has dropped them to a low priority, you have nothing to talk about. Honestly, that’s a lot of meeting time even if you do have a steady workflow. Monthly at MOST.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      FWIW: Bi-weekly means “every 2 weeks”. I think you did what a lot of people do, which is to misunderstand it to mean “twice a week”, which is actually “semi-weekly”. If I am wrong, please accept my apology.

      (Having said all this, because I am a word-geek occasional pedant, I will now go on to say that I am a technical writer, and I have learned to just NOT USE either formation because of misunderstandings like this. When I want to indicate “every 2 weeks” I say “every 2 weeks” because that way there is no misunderstanding the words I have chosen. There are other words I avoid, like “nonplussed”. Language changes all the time and that word particular is changing in our lifetimes.)

      1. Ralph Wiggum

        Biweekly has both definitions (every two weeks or twice a week), which in my opinion makes it a completely useless word.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          It has both definitions because people have been using it wrongly often enough that dictionaries have started accepting it. Dictionaries don’t set rules about definitions; they reflect actual usage. In UK English, they have “fortnightly”, but we have lost that one in US English.

    2. Ralph Wiggum

      That really depends on how the 1:1 meetings are used.

      I’ve seen successful 1:1’s as frequently as weekly.

      But I agree they should be scheduled less frequently in this case, since the manager isn’t prioritizing them.

  54. Luna

    Re: OP #1 — As someone myself who can get migraines from perfumed stuff, I would probably ask the sensitive coworker if she could maybe ease up on the perfume herself. If she thinks it’s offensive, basically turn the table on her: say that the scent is triggering your own nose to be very sensitive to it, and you do not want to end up missing work because of a migraine. (I have had to leave work before because of debilitating migraines; not triggered by scents, it was just a ‘debilitating migraine’ day for me, I suppose…)

    Re: OP #4 — if you say the cellphone number to call is for emergencies, then they are for emergencies. Period. My hotel got a note of the cellphone number of our technician for emergencies, too, since they leave for the day at around 5:30 PM. A TV in a room not working? Not an emergency. A sudden water-breakage, as my colleague told me we had recently? Yes, that is an emergency, and when you call.
    However…

    “which would work with many people.”
    I would like to disagree with this. I have the feeling that a lot of people are not very good at picking up hints. I know I am not good at it, but I am on the autism spectrum and know that I have my issues with subtleties; but I have also noticed that other people aren’t good at figuring out hints. Sometimes, bluntness is the way to go. Direct orders and words. They may lead to hurt feelings more often, but they also tend to lower the degree of misunderstandings.

  55. Former Librarian

    For those of you who are in offices that have total fragrance bans or are completely fragrance free… how does that work? What exactly falls under the aegis of the ban? I am honestly genuinely curious here.

    I used to work at a location that tried to go fragrance free at the request of an employee with allergies, and it worked okay…. up to a point.

    No wearing perfume, cologne, body spray? No problem.
    No scent diffusers or air fresheners (plug in or spray) in the office? Fine.
    Unscented/fragrance free cleaning products and bathroom soap in the office? Sure.

    Everything else – unscented/fragrance free shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, deoderant, lotion, detergent, fabric softener etc etc (the employee in question had provided a list of fragrance free, unscented, hypoallergenic options that they were requesting that people in the office use instead) … Major, major pushback. Ranging from “These fragrance free products cost twice as much as what I buy right now. I am happy to try them out but I am not paying for them, they don’t fit in my budget.” to “This (scented to cover up the medicinal smell) lotion is medicated and I have a prescription for it. I am not going to stop using it.”

    Management eventually came back with the compromise that they would enforce the ban on wearing perfume, cologne, and body spray, and the use of scented products in the office only. And that for everything else (shampoo, detergent, etc.) they were asking employees to consider switching to fragrance free versions, but were not going to enforce it.

    How do fragrance bans/fragrance free workplaces work elsewhere?

    1. Also curious

      I was wondering about this too. I’ve never worked somewhere with a scent ban, but I had a coworker who was told at a previous job that she had to switch all her household products to unscented ones because of a scent ban at her work. Her response was that a ban at work couldn’t ban things from her house, and in her own home when she wasn’t on the clock she had to be allowed to make her own decisions for her family on what products to buy and use. Apparently (similar to what you described) a lot of people pushed back on that part of the ban and the company was very unsuccessful with enforcing it. I’m curious as to how people who have successfully implemented a ban like this have approached it. It’s a very important thing to do if someone needs to be in a scent free environment for their health and safety, and I wonder how an office goes about enforcing it when there is a lot of push back.

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