coworker complains about my tattoos, sabotaged by another hotel’s manager, and more

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

1. My coworker won’t stop complaining about my tattoos

I started a new job in December; Carol started in February. We work for a small company, with six of us in production. We’re not customer-facing in any way. Carol was fine with me until the weather warmed up and I wore short sleeves, at which point she discovered that I have tattoos. She took me aside that same day to tell me how unprofessional she thought I was for having them. I pointed out that workplace norms are changing in general, and that our particular workplace doesn’t care. It didn’t matter, they were unprofessional, and that was that. (For reference, we’re both women in our 50’s — Carol is actually eight months younger than I am. I’m not the only one with ink, but I am the only woman, and the shipping guys are in another building, so she probably doesn’t realize that both of them do too.)

Since then she has spoken to me repeatedly about them, and when I refused to engage (I started with a briskly cheerful “So you’ve said — I disagree,” then “You’ve said, and I’m not talking about this anymore,” and am now just ignoring her muttering) she’s taken to talking to herself about it. She’s also has gone to three of coworkers to complain about them. Those ladies are all senior to us, but beyond keeping an eye on the production schedule, they are not supervisory in any way. We think she’d like me to cover them, but she knows she doesn’t have the standing to say that, and I don’t have any reason to. They’re not offensive — one set is flowers, the other is a geometric-ish paisley, and nobody here cares.

I’m dreading summer; this is an elderly building and poorly air-conditioned, and I’m told tank tops and shorts are the norm. She’s going to be really wound out when she figures out the gauntlets she dislikes so much are actually full sleeves. (Plus the edges of a few others that will show.)

Our HR person is very part time, and mostly for onboarding/benefit type things. I can go to our owner, who I think would be responsive, but his feels like something I should be able to handle on my own, and so far I’m having no luck. Can you provide any advice on a one-last-try script at shutting her down on the topic? Or should I just go straight to BossLady?

“Carol, your comments on my tattoos are unwelcome and need to stop. This is the final time I’m telling you this. If you continue commenting on my body, I am going to escalate this to Jane, and that’s not going to go well for you if I have to do that.” If you want, you can add, “I need to know that you’re hearing me on this and will stop commenting on my body. Can you do that?”

If you think she’ll try to quibble that she’s commenting on your tattoos and not your body, then you could just change “body” to “tattoos” in this script. But I like emphasizing that ultimately, that’s what she’s doing.

If that doesn’t solve it, then yes, talk to your boss, say it’s become disruptive, and you’re hoping she’ll make it clear to Carol that her commentary needs to stop. You’re right that ideally you’d handle this yourself, but if you try and that doesn’t work, it’s reasonable to involve a manager when someone is being this unpleasant and disruptive.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Sabotaged by a manager at another hotel with same ownership

I work for a fancy hotel, and a manager at another hotel in the next city (owned by the same company) over has been creating all sorts of problems for us. Here are his greatest hits:
1) booked multiple reservations under fake names on high-demand days to create fake sellouts;
2) recommended an employee with a known criminal history for a transfer to our property without telling anyone about said history;
3) “borrowed” all sorts of essentials from us, ranging from batteries to TV remotes to a luggage cart;
4) gave the regional manager fraudulent numbers for our sales;
5) attempted to bribe our staff to give him contact info for high-ticket business clients.

We operate independently of each other, and scuttlebutt is that we’ve been outperforming him significantly. I guess that’s why he’s doing this?

My boss has told me not to worry about it, to let him deal with it, and referred to it as “office politics.” My questions are: Since I’m the one who has to deal with upset guests who can’t get a room, don’t have a TV remote, or can’t find a luggage cart, it seems like I should worry about it? And does this seem like “office politics” to you?

This is not office politics; it’s sabotage! Good lord. (It also seems like the sort of thing a movie would portray as hilarious high jinks. And I might enjoy seeing that movie, but in real life it’s sabotage.) One or two of these taken individually could maybe be seen as overly rambunctious capers, but a lot of these directly impact your revenue — and I can’t imagine your parent company would be okay with that. And particularly taken all together, they paint a really disturbing picture.

I’d think your manager would want to go over the other manager’s head with this, and in fact “let me deal with it” might mean that he’s doing that, who knows. But meanwhile, you have standing to (a) ask your boss how he wants you to deal with the fall-out of upset guests and (b) push him to act more assertively if your sense is that “let me deal with it” means “I’m not actually doing anything.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How do I say no to taking on more work?

My company has shrunk from eight staff members to three, due to funding issues. Now my boss has resigned, which will leave me and one other person keeping things going while they look for his replacement. Two weeks ago, the board chair asked me to step in to my boss’ role in an interim capacity while they search for a new leader, and that was going to be finalized at the board meeting next week with additional compensation while I did the extra duties. In order to ensure a smooth transition, I have been working with my boss to catalog all of his duties and ongoing projects.

Now, our founder (and main funder) has decided that he will be in charge instead. Since he will not actually do any of the work that my boss currently does, I am afraid that my coworker and I will be expected to absorb all of that work without any credit or compensation. We have already taken on the duties of several positions that went unfilled when employees left over the past few years.

My colleague and I were given promotions earlier this year without raises, and denied even a cost of living adjustment for the first time in the organization’s history, which we accepted only because we had been told we were being laid off that month. Our jobs were saved when the founder stepped in to provide funding to keep the organization going. I turned down a job offer around that time because it would have been a $10,000 pay cut and the founder assured me he would continue to fund the organization.

For the last decade, I have pitched in on any task as needed to help this organization without any complaints. I am no longer willing to do this. How do I decline to absorb all of my boss’ work in addition to my own in a professional manner? Or do I have to suck it up and just spend my free time looking for a new job?

You should be actively looking for a new job and decline to take on an unreasonable amount of work. To do the latter, you can frame it in terms of time: “I can do A, B, and C, but not D. Or if you want me to prioritize D, let me know which of the others you want me to put on hold until we’re staffed back up.” (That’s the simple version, but the longer explanation is here.)

But you also need to be job searching, because the organization’s finances sound precarious. Plus, you’ve been there a decade, you’re not being compensated well, and there are likely better options out there for you.

4. Perks for being on-call

My department has an on-call rota where each person takes the on-call phone for about one week a month. We pay people for this, which I know is great, but my boss and I (I am the team lead) are trying to figure out if there are any other good perks we could provide for the person who is on call, because we know it is a pain point for current employees. Probably the best thing would be to increase the pay, but corporate won’t approve a raise. The current amount is about a 25% bonus for that week based on what the most junior employee is paid. For example, we thought of letting on-call hours count towards your 40 hours, which they currently do not. Do you have any other suggestions for making on-call more bearable to employees? My boss and I are both on the on-call rota as well if that makes a difference.

Letting the on-call hours count toward your 40 hours that week would probably go a long way toward making people happier about being on-call. Or you could offer comp time (which would be similar but would let them apply those extra hours to a different week if they wanted to). Beyond that, I’d ask your team for ideas. Just making them part of the conversation will probably help; you’ll demonstrate you’re taking their dissatisfaction seriously, and they may have other ideas you haven’t thought of.

5. How to ask for something when you’ve already been told no

About a year ago we moved office space. I was moved out of a small, quiet office of my own into a huge cubicle farm in a warehouse style space right beside the kitchen. After the move, I talked to my boss about the possibility of getting an office again. I’m a writer and researcher and a lot of my job requires long phone calls with sources, obviously focusing to write and analyze etc. I said while the space is really nice, it was a challenge for me to do my work with the new noise and distraction level, and since I do a lot of phone interviews I’m often shuttling to meeting rooms and back. I got a firm no, but was given a work from home day once a week.

A year later, I want to revisit this. We have offices that have been sitting open that whole time. It was explained to me as a hierarchy thing, with people given offices based on rank rather than need. I get that, but I know I will be able to do better work if I have my own space in which to focus, interview, and write, versus having to shuttle to a meeting room with all my accouterments a jillion times.

That’s my specific situation, but the question is somewhat broader: is it okay to revisit something you already got a no on? If so, what’s the best way to go about it? And I totally understand even if I ask I may get the same answer, but I’m a big believer in asking for what you want as a way to increase your odds of getting it.

It depends on how long it’s been since the no, the reasons for the no, whether anything has changed since then, how much capital you have (and how much you’ve spent recently), and how strongly you feel about it.

In your case, it’s been a year, you’ve made a good faith effort to adjust to your new space, and you can see offices have been sitting empty that whole time. You’re probably fine raising it again, framing it as something like, “I know we talked about this a year ago and you said no at the time, but I wanted to check back with you to see if it might be more of a possibility now. If it’s not, I understand, but I’ve continued to find it tough to focus where I currently am.”

If you get a no again though, you can’t really ask a third time — that’s the point where it’s going to feel like not accepting the answer.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 624 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, all the comments below about “I’m X years old and I think Y about tattoos” are taking us way off-topic and don’t advise the OP at all. I’m removing some of the biggest derails and ask that people stay on topic.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I find the whole tattoo thing mystifying. I don’t get why people have them—I think they’re unattractive and a waste of money, but I could say the same about any number of things people wear or accessorize with. And I don’t get why people hate them so vehemently—people aren’t having tattoos AT you, so why do you care? It’s baffling.

        1. Mp*

          I think for people of their age, it represents some sort of class/group thing? Like people with tattoos are tough rowdy bikers or something like that. So they’re seen as “scary”. But I don’t really get it either because I grew up in the 90s and it’s honestly more weird for people my age NOT to have a tattoo somewhere.

          1. Observer*

            Nah. I’m that age and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community, which means that I never saw anyone with a tattoo. Any person with a tattoo was doubly other. And when I entered the workforce, “tattoo” and “professional” could have been the definition of mutually exclusive, if it weren’t so unthinkable that no one would even imagine it.

            But you know what? I simply can’t imagine saying anything to a coworker unless I had good reason to think that the employer would care and that the CW might suffer adverse consequences. Like “Just a heads up. Even though our official dress code doesn’t have a rule against tattoos, Boss really doesn’t like them.” And even then, I’d say that ONCE and shut up!

            Repeated attempts at talking to a coworker, talking / muttering to yourself and going to other coworkers to complain is just over the top. It’s the kind of thing you expect from HS students of the bratty kind. By the time you reach your 50’s you should know better than that, even if you were a brat in HS.

            1. Dove*

              “Nah. I’m that age and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community, which means that I never saw anyone with a tattoo. Any person with a tattoo was doubly other.”

              Good point, and I don’t remember seeing anyone with tattoos in my community (Conservative Jewish) growing up, either. Not who was also Jewish, anyways. I suspect (but don’t really have any hard evidence to point to) that it’s for the same reasons why South Korea has a (slowly fading) cultural bias against tattoos: there’s generational trauma tied up in being inked, which creates a stigma against having it done at all – even voluntarily.

              But agreed that whatever’s on someone else’s body isn’t my business, except in as much as I’m willing to make an effort to help them avoid getting in trouble with a mutual employer that I know would care.

              1. SunnyD*

                I see tattooed folks in my Reform synagogue, and they’re mostly Jewish tattoos. One has his grandfather’s concentration camp tattoo recreated. I saw one today that was a big star of David, like hand sized, on a preppy woman’s arm.

                It’s a pretty upscale neighborhood, of a city that is built around science and education, so I’m not sure if that’s surprising or not.

                But also, that whole “you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery with a tattoo” is as wrong as it’s ubiquitous. I’ll link below.

              1. Upstater-ish*

                I’m a Boomer born in 1957 with tattoos and have three millennial children 2 of which have tattoos so yeah the demographic that is horrified by them is quickly fading.
                My 80+ Brother in law admires them. My mother born in 1919 was maybe perplexed by them but otherwise silent.
                This woman is just plain rude. Age has nothing to do with it.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Apologies—I meant “grew up” in the “became a post-college adult” sense, which was certainly not clear from how I wrote my post!

              Mostly this seems like a Carol problem, not a generational problem, to me. :)

              1. JamieS*

                By that definition they grew up in the 80s not 90s. Someone born in 1959 would’ve been 30, well past traditional college age, in 1989.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’m thinking she’s just from a super conservative background.

            The 70s/80s were the birthplace of punk. Generation has nothing to do with this nonsense she’s spewing.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Right? I spent all kids of time figuring out how to get to NYC just so I could go to CBGB.

            2. poolgirl*

              I think you’ve hit it on the head there. Carol is from a different background and judging LW1 because she is daring to be different than her. I think Carol finds it threatening in a way she maybe wouldn’t if they were a different demographic, since they are the same age.

            3. RUKiddingMe*

              I was 27 or 28 when I got the first one, so like ‘90-‘91 ish. That’s almost *30* years ago now (wow!) and no one batted an eye. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ten years earlier? Probably.

              I *still* sometimes hear “blah blah blah not ladylike blah blah blah…” but they can take “ladylike” and pound sand AFAIC.

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

              Old punk from the 80s here! Tons of people in the underground were getting tattooed and pierced back then too. And while tattooing hadn’t had it’s 90s boom yet, it really wasn’t so much considered something only bikers or military did by the 80s.
              I actually find it quite surprising that a Gen Xer (unless Carol comes from an especially conservative religious background) would have such a negative view of tattoos.

          3. Not Australian*

            Can we not with the ageist remarks, please? All [group] do not necessarily think the same way, and a similar statement about a religious group, people with disabilities or a particular sexual orientation would be rightly be considered offensive – so please don’t lump people together by the year(s) in which they were born either. People are individuals, not ciphers.

            1. Mp*

              Really? So for example a historian can’t say certain generations had different views? That is not at all equivalent to saying sexist or racist things. Wow – we are really getting to the emperor has no clothes on stage here with pc stuff. Just wow. How are we even supposed to talk? I can’t share my extensive historical and anthropological knowledge because someone will get mad? Generational groups do differ over time. You are RIDICULOUS if you don’t think that’s true. Just wow.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s not okay to make the sort of sweeping and demonstrably untrue statements about entire demographics that you did above. If you want to say “comfort with tattoos has changed over time and there are still people who see them as scary,” that’s fine. But it’s not okay to say that “people of this age believe X.” (And come on, that’s really not “extensive historical and anthropological knowledge”!) And for what it’s worth, tattoos are really common among “people in their 50s.” You’re talking about the oldest Gen Xers.

                I often think that ideas about what “people in their 50s” and “people in their 60s” are like got established many decades ago and never got updated with the passage of time.

                1. Socks*

                  It’s like some kind of bizarro version of how millennials are forever teens and college students, despite the the youngest of us having graduated college, like, three years ago, and the eldest of us having teenage children ourselves. But instead of our generation (millennials) getting stuck seen as a specific age (20ish), it’s people of a specific age (50s and 60s) getting stuck seen as being members of a specific generation (baby boomers, I guess? or, what came before that, the greatest generation?). There’s probably a sociological or anthropological paper in there, somewhere.

                2. Jasnah*

                  I see what MP is saying in a way because tattoos have become a lot more common in the last 20-30 years, but also that means Carol has had 20-30 years to get over it and 50+ years to learn not insult someone to their face.

                  And for what it’s worth, I don’t think ideas about “people in their #0s” are not updated… I think we just update them as we and our friends get older. When I was 10, “20s” was absolutely an adult, but at 30, it seems more like a child. “50s” seems wicked old until you and your peer group hit 45, and hey we’re not that old, so I guess 70 is the new old (at least until we hit 70). But that’s my individual changing view–50 will still seem old to a 20-year-old. That’s my take on it anyway.

                3. RUKiddingMe*

                  Right? I’m in my mid-50s. I have my phone synced to my car so I can listen to my playlists.

                  I have had people who were stunned, *stunned* I tell you (!!!) that it played AC/DC, Metallica, etc. and that I actually knew the words to “Lake of Fire” (Nirvana) because apparently “elderly” people listen only to Lawrence Welk.

                  FWIW I have extensive historical and anthropological knowledge, with a master’s degree in each, so yes certain things are “generational” but I agree with Alison that we cant’t use such broad strokes. That’s just sloppy.

                  Plus this is her house, her rules. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

                  This. I’m in my 50’s and first saw professionals with tattoos in the early nineties. In the mosh pit. At grunge concerts.

                  Let’s make a deal. People my age won’t assume all millennials are self-centered and lazy and younger people won’t assume everyone in their 50’s are judgmental old farts.

                5. Anon this time*

                  Especially in response to this specific question, where the person with tattoos and the person who can’t get over that are the same age!

                6. GreyjoyGardens*

                  RUKiddingMe: I know a teenager who sniffs that AC/DC and Van Halen are “dad music,” about as cool as “dad jeans,” because that is what HIS dad loves and listens to. Today’s hot hits that young people love inevitably become the dad or mom music of 20 years from now. A lot of people’s ideas of older people, what they are like and listen to, etc. seem to be what old people in the past did. (My own grandma loved Lawrence Welk, but she would be 118 years old if she were alive, so…)

                  Every time I visit the grocery store, there is something playing that Tipper Gore would have had a conniption about in the 80’s. Yesterday’s Twisted Sister is today’s Muzak.

                7. Artemesia*

                  LOL so true. People are constantly excusing racists in their 70s because ‘that was acceptable then’ — but it wasn’t. People in their 70s came of age during the civil rights movement in the US and well after the holocaust. Racism and anti-semitism were not okay when they were young and people did not for the most part use those slurs. (Sexism alas was alive and well) No one born post war in the US doesn’t ‘know’ how unacceptable these slurs are. The people who have the excuse of just growing up saying ‘n’ or using derogatory slurs about other groups are all dying off and now in their 90s or older — no excuses for age.

                8. Zennish*

                  As one of those Gen Xers, while I stopped dyeing my hair black and ditched the motorcycle jacket and Doc Martens a few decades ago, I’m not exactly startled by tattoos.

                9. Veryanon*

                  Thank you. I’m 50, and while I don’t love tattoos myself, it’s not like I never saw them until just a few years ago. I may be 50 and a mom (so my “coolness” bona-fides are definitely gone) but I totally don’t care if people get tattoos or not. I hate that I’m lumped in with my grandma, who actually did love Lawrence Welk.

                10. Lily in NYC*

                  A bunch of people were recently commenting on a video that went viral – it was a woman in her 70s rocking out and everyone was like, OH MY GOD, look at that old head-banging lady! It’s like no one remembers the Woodstock Generation is in their mid-70s now and probably had more wild times in their 20s than many of us.

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

                  I’m a 52 year old Gen Xer and most of my similarly aged friends are old tattooed punks like me. This is TOTALLY not a generational thing.

              2. Isben Takes Tea*

                There’s a false equivalency between saying that because a generation has a set of common experiences, they have a set of common views. I can say that if you’re a person of my generation, you probably played The Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe in school. But it’s ignorant and insensitive to say if you’re a person of my generation, you loved (or hated) playing The Oregon Trail in school.

                1. Socks*

                  But it would be reasonable to assume that if you grew up playing The Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe, you probably aren’t scandalized by, like, ankles, or racist against the Irish- those are views that were absolutely common at one time, but dead by the time your generation rolled around (I mean, there are always weird outliers who have very non-mainstream opinions, but, in general, it’s a safe assumption that people who shared your experiences also do not find ankles obscene). There is some correlation between generations and sets of views- just, apparently, the acceptability of tattoos isn’t actually one that’s standardized among people who are currently in their 50s. I think it might be relatively standardized among people who are currently in their 20s, though- I’ve never met anyone who thought twice about them. I know people who would never get one, or who didn’t find them attractive, but I’ve never met someone my age who thought they were categorically unprofessional or anything.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  This. My brother- and sister-in-law are a year apart in age, grew up together, but one opted solidly into the flower child demographic while the other was a yuppie. Both have more in common with my husband, who is more than a decade younger than them (and a different named generation), than with each other.

                3. Busy*

                  No. The whole issue here is not what MP said, but HOW they said it. So, I think we can like let it go at this point, as I do not believe it was meant as an “us vs them” statement. Because to be clear, when anyone makes a generalization, the reason it is offensive is because of the “us vs them” mentality to it. If that is not present, then it is more in the vein of what those who have posted here (like socks) have stated.

                  And yes, the more people do this, the worst it all gets – when “for the better” was the goal. That is why everyone is shouting at everyone ALL THE TIME.

                4. Anoncorporate*

                  Even then, I’m skeptical that everyone of the same generation has homogenous experiences. In general, experiences of marginalized demographics don’t get calculated into generalizations of generational experiences. A lot of millennial stereotypes are actually based on experiences of more privileged millennials. Like, not everyone can do unpaid internships or take on a bunch of debt.

              3. Triplestep*

                It’s funny to me that the commenters to this blog are so quick to present any and every scenario where there might be hidden disabilities, unknown health issues, background and class differences, etc, but we can’t allow for the possibility that a commenter might have left out a word? Plenty of people upthread seemed to take the original comment the way it seems to have been intended, and for Pete’s sake, there’s no edit function here.

                I’m in my fifties and understood what was meant by “people in their fifties” and therefore not clutching my pearls. “You’re just wrong” is not helpful to the LW either.

              4. Mookie*

                Nobody accidentally left out a word. They made a generalization that doesn’t square with reality. Alison corrected them. The end.

              5. Jules the 3rd*

                What ‘generations’ measure tends to be a specific group, usually white males from the dominant population centers (eg, rural, cities or suburbs). So, historians who talk about ‘generations’ are usually missing huge chunks of the US. And they reaaaaaally don’t apply to any other country.

                Generations are a really bogus way to talk about history even when you have something truly global going on (eg, Black Plague, 1918 pandemic, and WWII), but like Meyers Briggs, they have caught public / media attention. Black people had a very different experience of the 50s and 60s than whites, for example, as they got shut out of the federal largesse (Farm bill, GI Bill) that made those decades so prosperous for whites. Or from whites in the 90s, as white jobs / net wealth grew but blacks went to jail under draconian drug laws.

                And poor or rural kids in the 90s didn’t play Oregon Trail. I never heard of it until 2007 or so, when people my age were bonding about how they always died in some text based game they played in school.

                1. buffty*

                  @ Jules: You can’t even generalize that poor/rural kids didn’t play Oregon Trail, because some of us definitely did. I’m sure our school computers in the early 90s came from government grants, so it could be more of a state-based thing, if it wasn’t available in your area. All of which just further supports your point that there is no way to generalize experiences based on such broad factors as age!

                2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  Nah, we had Commadore 64s in our broke backwoods school that we played Oregon Trail on. But being in Oregon, we all thought that only Oregon kids would have been playing it, lol cuz kids. My mind was blown when I found out in my teens it was a national treasure.

                  Prior to to moving to the poorer district from the main district, we had a traveling computer lab that went to all the schools with the new Macs. The district couldn’t afford them in every school, so they just went around for a couple weeks at a time, set up in the library and they’d filter in classes to “learn” how to use them.

              6. Clorinda*

                I am in my fifties and was raised by my grandparents, so probably have a very “older generation” mindset; also I have no tattoos and never intend to get them. Whatever my personal opinion of tattoos might be, it’s personal. Making remarks about people is just rude; it’s rude today, was rude fifty years ago, was rude when the grandmother who brought me up was a child herself, and is rude for Carol now.

              7. Observer*

                I can’t share my extensive historical and anthropological knowledge because someone will get mad?

                If you ACTUALLY have “historical and anthropological knowledge” then your statement becomes TRULY inexcusable. Because your statement is provably and clearly false. And while someone who is just looking at their little circle might be excused for not realizing this, if you actually have knowledge – How could even say this with a straight face?!

              8. Observer*

                @Triplestep, MP did not “accidentally leave out a word”, because if they did their reaction to be called on this would have been “oops, I left out a word”. Instead it was “Huff, Puff. How PC! I’m an EXPERT, how dare you try to repress my attempt to share my boundless knowledge with the masses?!”

              9. Michaela Westen*

                Some of my friends are bikers with tattoos.
                Carol would be frothing at the mouth. *eyeroll*

            2. Sixty Three and Counting*

              A thousand times this. The commentariat here goes too ageism too much.

          4. Tilly*

            I think people in their 50s were already grown up by the time the 90s rolled around.

              1. Socks*

                Maybe “come of age” is a better word here? And, honestly, that seems like even more of a time for culture to affect you. Like, I grew up in the 90s/2000s, and of course social attitudes around me had an effect on that, but I didn’t start really having control over how I interacted with popular culture/politics until my teens and college years, in the late 2000s and 2010s, and I think that had a much more direct effect on me than whatever was going on when I was 5. People in their 50s began interacting with popular culture on their own terms (rather than having everything filtered through, say, their parents) in the 90s, so that should have, theoretically, been pretty formative for them. Somehow this lady missed the memo that tattoos were awesome, though.

              2. MelodyJ*

                The younger GenXers were in their teens in the 90’s and are in their 40’s now. So, they were still in the process of growing up or coming of age in the 90’s.

              3. Shasta McNasty*

                Please stop nitpicking Princess Consuela’s words, we all know what she meant and she is right.

              4. Michaela Westen*

                I’m 57 and got my only tattoo in 1987, of a rose. In the 80’s tattoos were special – only a certain type of rebel, assertive, non-conformist had them. When you saw someone with a tattoo, you knew that was a kindred spirit.
                When they became popular for regular people in the 90’s, they didn’t seem special anymore and my motivation to get more went away.
                Now I often dream about more tattoos I’d like to get. So far that hasn’t gotten as far as actually doing it.

          5. Good luck with that*

            Born in 53, so Baby Boomer here.

            In the fifties and sixties, there was still an idea that tattoos were not ladylike. Frankly, as a teenager, it seemed that anything fun was considered unladylike. We absorb a lot of attitudes from childhood, even when we rebel. (Yes, I was a bra-burner, at least metaphorically.)

            I have to remind myself sometimes that tattoos and piercings are mainstream now. My eyes would probably widen the first time I saw OP’s full sleeves. (That’s a lot of ink.) But I would never say anything uncomplimentary about them.

            Maybe, MAYBE, I might ask something about how long did it take to get that much work done, or didn’t it hurt. I might privately wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing, but I’d never ever say that, either to her face or behind her back. How rude!

            If the subject matter of the tattoos were offensive, swastikas or flaming crosses or something, that might overcome my reticence. Otherwise, it’s not my place to approve or disapprove of other people’s personal appearance.

            If I heard Carol talking about tattoos being unprofessional, I’d be tempted to ask if they were as unprofessional as commenting repeatedly on a colleague’s body. If I didn’t particularly like Carol anyway, I might follow up with a comment of my own about how odd it was for her to be so fixated on such a thing, or to be spending so much time staring at OP’s body when there was work to be done. All with my best air of puzzled bewilderment, of course.

              1. irene adler*

                Me too.

                I’d just like to let the Carol’s of the world know that sometimes folks ‘dress up’ their radiation tattoos with elaborate tattoos once treatment is complete because they believe their radiation tattoos are unsightly. Makes ya think.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Another baby boomer here (born 1951.) Growing up in the South, I never saw women with tattoos and the only men I knew with them were military. I never liked them, but have gotten used to them and now they hardly even register.
              My two girls have a few, and when my oldest got her first, I was not happy, but she was an adult and didn’t need my permission. A full sleeve gets my attention, but just in a hmmm sort of way.
              Besides, what does Carol hope to accomplish by all these complaints? Is she expecting LW to say, “you know, you’re absolutely right. I’ll go have them removed tomorrow.”

              1. Allison*

                Exactly, tattoos aren’t something you can simply take off because someone doesn’t approve of them. Removal is expensive, painful, and it takes a while.

                1. JokeyJules*

                  more importantly, it is OP’s body, not Carols. So OP chooses what she wants to do with it, not Carol.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Besides, what does Carol hope to accomplish by all these complaints?

                That mystifies me too.

                Reminds me of the school principal I had, who once walked up to a teenage student who’d gotten a six-month perm the night before (because, you know, the 80s – all cool kids had to have one), and said something like “your hairstyle needs to be gone tomorrow”. The student was like, “uh, sorry, it’s going to take six months”.

                1. starsaphire*

                  …was his name Mr. Brocklehurst? Because, wow, that is so not any of a principal’s business if your hair is curly or not. No matter how conservative the school!

                2. Not Me*

                  Probably for OP to cover up the tattoos when she’s in the office to protect Carol’s delicate sensibilities.

              3. AnonEMoose*

                Personally, I think Carol is a bully who has latched onto this as a way of attempting to make the OP feel uncomfortable and small. If it weren’t the tattoos, it would be something else, and when the OP addresses the issue with the tattoos, she should watch for this behavior to start up on another “thing.”

                Like OP’s clothing, or hair, or makeup, or… a bully like this will always find SOMETHING.

                I wonder, would Carol’s behavior be considered harassment, workplace bullying, and/or creating a hostile work environment? Not that I think OP should necessarily go there unless she really wants to. But using one or more of those terms, if applicable, might help the Boss realize that this is more than a dispute between two employees or a personality conflict.

                1. Observer*

                  Workplace bullying? Possibly, although I’d want to see what the rest of her behavior looks like.

                  Hostile environment? Not in a legal sense, unless Carol has been going on about how “slutty” the tattoos are, or how professional WOMEN don’t have tattoos, or something else explicitly gender, racial or gender based.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  If Carol is upset about OP having tattoos because…female, then yeah I can see it being hostile, legally speaking because then it’s gendered.

                3. Red5*

                  Well, the LW says she isn’t the only person there with tattoos, but she is the only woman with them. Carol doesn’t need to say it’s unlady-like or unprofessional for a woman to have them for it to be gendered harassment. If she’s only giving the LW grief about them and not giving the men in the shop the same grief, that can be interpreted as gendered harassment in and of itself.

                4. Observer*

                  @Red5, it could be because they are men, but it could also be because they are not “professional”, since they are “just” the shipping guys.

                  Or it could be that she just doesn’t know that they also have tattoos. The OP says that she doesn’t know if Carol knows they have tattoos.

              4. Sam.*

                She wants OP to wear long sleeves year-round, so she doesn’t have to see them. OP has been much nicer in telling Carol to shove it than I would’ve been in this situation, I’m afraid.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  Me too. I have a couple of foot tattoos and there’s no way I would wear closed toed shoes through the relentless 100 degree summers. Nuh-uh, no way. In fact, I would be tempted to find and wear the most revealing shoes I could to drive my point home. Take THAT, Carol.

            2. Massmatt*

              IMO the thing is that Carol has no standing to determine what is or isn’t professional in the office, she isn’t the boss, she is actually slightly junior to the OP. “Shut up, Carol” indeed!

            3. Michaela Westen*

              I don’t care for tattoo sleeves either. I like them better when there’s space so I can admire the whole tattoo.
              Many of my friends have and/or love tattoos. Some are tattoo artists. I’ve known some very nice people with tattoo sleeves.
              I keep my opinions to myself. It’s in the same category as a hairdo I don’t love, or outfit – it’s a personal choice made by the wearer and not my place to criticize.

              1. tangerineRose*

                “I keep my opinions to myself. It’s in the same category as a hairdo I don’t love, or outfit – it’s a personal choice made by the wearer and not my place to criticize.” This! Me too.

              2. AnnaBananna*

                The beauty of the sleeve is that it’s like a tattoo puzzle, and meant to be admired over time, not a visual drive by. Or at least that is how mine is designed in my head (haven’t had the cajones to shell out the money just yet).

            4. Donkey Hotey*

              “If I heard Carol talking about tattoos being unprofessional, I’d be tempted to ask if they were as unprofessional as commenting repeatedly on a colleague’s body.”

              This. Right here. This is wonderful and needs more attention.

            5. OP1*

              OP1 here! I’ve never minded genuinely curious questions, asked politely. (Yes it hurt, but it’s like sunburn-not unbearable; 28 hours between the three biggest pieces; because I like them; Husband has more ink than I do, but not by much. <-Answers to the four most common questions I get.)

              I did talk to her today, when she came to grumble at me at our morning break, and told her I thought her obsession with the state of my skin was weird, plus Alison's script (more or less). She was really taken aback that I thought it weird, but she quit grumbling, so we’ll see.

              1. Emily*

                She was really taken aback that I thought it weird

                This made me laugh – what an impressive lack of self-awareness on her part! Good luck dealing with Carol, OP; I hope that your script shut her up (but wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t).

                1. tangerineRose*

                  I’m having a hard time thinking of any non-work subject she could talk about this much and not seem a bit weird.

              2. une autre Cassandra*

                “How weird that you think it’s weird for me to keep up a running commentary on your body and aesthetic while implying or outright stating that I think you don’t understand professional norms.” – Carol

          6. MelodyJ*

            Socks, I wanted to reply to an earlier post you made about generations. You actually skipped one. The Silent Generation born in the mid to late 1920’s to early 1940’s. They are in between The Greatest Generation and The Baby Boomers. I found out that their more Vietnam vets from this generation than any other that served in that war.

          7. Harper the Other One*

            Funny tattoo story: my husband is a minister and one year for a church fundraiser he and the ministry team said that if donations reached $X (a slight stretch) they would colour their hair, and if they got $Y (an extreme stretch, not impossible but a huge challenge) they would each get a small tattoo relating to their faith.

            Several of the people in the congregation were VERY wound up about this even being on the table because they didn’t want their church associated with THE KIND OF PEOPLE who had tattoos.

            Which is when the WWII veteran in the congregation started pointing out that he had one in memory of the friends he’d lost, most soldiers of his day did, and did the church not want HIS KIND OF PEOPLE to attend?

            That man was amazing.

          8. Cynthia*

            I think the idea that older people think of women with tattoos as actually *being* rowdy, bikers, dangerous, lower class, etc. is nothing more than a hoary cliché. That’s what people of that age group were more likely to think back in the 70s and 80s.

            What I’ve observed is that people who have a problem with women with tattoos believe those women *want to be seen* as younger than they are, tougher than they are, artsy, and edgy. Posers, basically.

            I’m not saying this is always true but this is the stereotype modern inked women have to deal with now. No one thinks they’re secretly bikers – just wannabes.

            1. PretzelGirl*

              Yes this exactly. My Dad who is 60 and a pretty progressive guy is appalled by tattoos. I have small one on my foot and he wont even look at it. He has a horrible stereotype that tattoos are for bikers, drug addicts and criminals. And that all tattoo shops are dirty and disease ridden. When in fact most tattoo shops have been to, are cleaner than most hospitals, lol.

              Not trying to generalize but I see this behavior a lot with upper middle class people in their 50s and 60s. It just wasn’t something that was typically done when they were younger. Again NOT trying to generalize. I have worked plenty of people of all ages and had friends of all ages with tattoos.

              1. Polaris*

                My parents are of that age and were NOT happy when I got my first tattoo, but they accepted that there was nothing they could do about it. It helped a bit to explain the meaning behind it (and the two that I’ve got since then).

                I go to a women’s gym, and there are women of every age there with tattoos. It’s kind of amazing how widespread they are now. I love tattoo art.

              2. SunnyD*

                The even funnier thing is how many bikers these days are actually dentists and lawyers and chiropractors. Bikes aren’t cheap!

            2. GreyjoyGardens*

              I think the “wannabe” observation is a good one, and it seems to extend to women in their 40’s and up who tint their hair colors like purple or blue, wear bright makeup, or youthful clothes – they’re “wannabes” or “trying to be young” or whatever. There is a pervasive belief among *some* parts of society that an older woman has no business being anything other than “classic” – fun and experimentation and fashion in general are for the young.

              I think it’s ridiculous, and it’s definitely falling away in many areas. Also the idea that tattoos are for sailors and bikers and the women who associate with them.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Um, I’m nearing my 40s and got my first tattoo at 19, so I eventually will be a woman in my 40s with tattoos, not because at 19 I wanted to be seen as younger.

                That’s the thing about tattoos, they’re permanent.

              2. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

                Yes, as women get older any aspect of their personality, their interests, etc, anything specific to them really, are supposed to fade politely away to an appropriate generic woman-icity that consists of ’round the clock selfless emotional labor. Expressions of personhood become fuel for judgement and gossip.

                Funny how women are supposed to grow out of their personalities at about the same time as they tend to have more experience, less patience with patriarchal bullshit, and more confidence in following their own hearts and minds. Hmmmm.

                1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

                  This is exactly the age when I got my first tattoo…

                2. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

                  Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. There’s a FB group “Crones of Anarchy” that puts lie to the idea that older women’s personalities fade into generic blandness.

              3. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

                “Wannabe”? Yeah, I get that type of glurge from some folks.

                I’m in my 50s and I sometimes dye my hair purple. It’s not to “look younger”, “relive bygone days”, or some such nonsense, but because I LIKE it!

                I’m not the only one in my social circle who does it, either. Some are older than I am. Turns out grey hair takes the dye real well…. ;)

              4. PhyllisB*

                It’s funny that you mention purple and blue hair. My 13 year old grand-son wants to dye his hair purple this summer. I told him to go for it, but just wait until he got back from church camp. Our group wouldn’t care, but don’t want him to offend others. His mother had a fit; saying school wouldn’t allow it, ect. I told her to chill because as short as he wears his hair it will grow out quickly. Plus, I reminded her that I had photos of her from the days she dyed her hair hot pink. She didn’t like me very much right then!! :-)

                1. SunnyD*

                  I wouldn’t appreciate my child’s grandparents overruling my parenting decisions either, directly to my kid. Big overstep and very not cool.

                2. Alexandra Lynch*

                  Hee! Youngest son, a natural dark blond with brown eyes, went off to college with bright turquoise hair. My take on it is that 18 is the time to do that sort of experimentation, and indeed, in the time that followed, he let it grow out and enjoyed the varied effects, and….left it at that. Probably because no one freaked out about it. (grin)

            3. Seifer*

              *Cackles* oh man, when my dad found out about my first tattoo (he is 66) he was so flabbergasted. He sputtered at me, “do you know who has tattoos in Vietnam, HOOKERS! Hookers have tattoos! And, and, and GANG PEOPLE!” And then of course my cousins went and got tattoos and he had to resign himself to quietly sulking about it. I love my dad, but I don’t think he’ll ever come around to the tattoo thing.

              But I think that as society moves on, it’ll get better. I’m an engineer with tattoos. It does not affect how I uh, engineer. I’m hoping that the more I and others treat it like a non-thing, it will eventually just be a non-thing.

              1. Observer*

                Well, here’s the key thing. He actually has all of these ideas about tattoos, but he doesn’t keep riding your cousins about it. He “quietly sulks”. Which is not great in workplace, but it’s a major step up from what Carol is doing.

                People are entitled to their opinions on things like this, but they are not entitled to enforce them on others.

              2. Caitlin Burrows*

                My dad says “As long as you don’t get any on your forehead I’m alright.”

                My mom is the one that doesn’t like them but I make sure they’re mostly covered up around her. (I got them in places I can easily cover up.)

          9. Scarlet Magnolias*

            I’m 64 and one of my plans is to get a tattoo, I’ve always wanted one!

          10. Seeking Second Childhood*

            This is so much a Carol problem not an age problem and not a doesn’t-have-them-herself problem. I’ll hope OP1 is able to get someone to tame Carol’s fashion scolding now before tank top season shows up — I would NOT be surprised if she has a similar unprofessional designation for women in shorts.
            (* Me, I’m in my 50s, no tattoos….and as long as you’re okay with me saying “That’s pretty, can I look?” I’m okay with you having them visible. I don’t have them because I’m risk-averse — if the Red Cross eliminates its waiting period for donating after new tattoos, I will think about it again. But probably won’t because I know my style preferences change over time.)

          11. Wintermute*

            I dunno, tattoos first became really in the cultural consciousness (widely that is, outside of special-interest groups and subcultures) because of a nexus of factors all centered around the 1940s– returning navy GIs with traditional navy tattoos, the large number of returning vets that interacted with pacific islanders, the US occupation of Japan and the prominence of the black marketeers of the traditionally-tattooed criminal underworld there.

            I’ve known two people of that era that had tattoos, one of them over his entire back and torso (navy tattoos, unfortunately he’d put on some weight and when he took his shirt off it looked like someone had torpedoed the poor North Carolina, his battleship, but he’d still proudly show people), the other had several military tattoos, and they displayed them quite proudly as well.

            Of course returning vets ALSO founded the first biker groups that would eventually become outlaw bikers, but I think “exotic, but not necessarily a criminal signifier” would be an accurate assessment of the general cultural attitude of the late 40s and 50s. Of course that’s before you get into the sexist stuff, women with tattoos outside of, erm, “gentlemans’ anthropological magazine publications” would have been pretty shocking.

            1. SunnyD*

              There isn’t really a “traditional” association with criminality, since we’re talking flappers-and-jazz era criminal association vs millennia of wealth, spiritual and artistic associations for the Japanese tradition of tattoos.

              Traditionally, it was high status and dashing to have tattoos (with some exceptions). Then in the late 1800s there was this big modernization effort called the Meiji period, when Japan basically invited in Western experts to teach them certain skills. Tattoos were forbidden at that time, because wlWesterners sneered, and then tattoos got associated with criminals.

          12. some dude*

            I came of age in the 90s and didn’t get tattoos because it seemed more rebellious.

            In my industry/area (nonprofits, coastal city), it is extremely normal for people to have tattoos on their appendages and necks. It may not be the majority, but close to the majority have tattoos. In most contexts, tattoos no longer read “sailors and bikers” (no offense to sailors or bikers). Carol is way out of bounds.

          13. Greg Potter*

            I am in belief that the topic about tattoo’s is somehow, something aimed at myself, letting it be known that I’m well “OFF POINT” or in other words not doing as is any sort of attempt to act/behave as is expected? Truth of the matter is I am dealing with what I see as bad behaviour towards myself whenever I attempt the slightest of matters, eg: create an email account! Any password I may create is/are changed if not now it’s become apparent or should I say I believe I’m enduring vicious, malicious MALWARE if not going through identity theft, as unbelievable as it may seem but that is a fact! There’s a third party who seems to have administrative rights over myself and this Android phone? It is all just too much and don’t see why I can’t just be left alone to attempt to be involved in what belongs to me, as I am the (legal party). What is happening is totally WRONG, handing me problems in every sense of the word.
            ps. The technicality of the fine detail, sometimes realistic, very artistic design of certain tattoo’s created obviously took my interest and that’s about enough said INIT!

        2. Annette*

          Don’t really get comments like this. If you need to say you don’t like tattoos before commenting in support of leaving tattoos alone. Why not skip the disapproval. LW knows many people don’t like tattoos.

          Me I’ve heard many versions of “I don’t really get tattoos, but yours are fine.” Even at work. It’s unwelcome. Just say “nice tattoos” or better yet. Say nothing.

          1. Observer*

            The point being made is that this is not about whether having tattoos is a good thing or not, but keeping your mouth shut even about things you don’t care for.

            Something along the lines of “I disagree with you but will defend your right to say it.”

          2. HQB*

            The point, perhaps, is that it is perfectly possible for reasonable people to dislike tattoos, for various raeasons, and yet still have no problem with people with tattoos. Rikki Tikki Tarantula is pointing out that even to people who dislike tattoos, Carol’s behavior is wildly inappropriate and baffling, and I think that’s a valid point to make.

            1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

              This. I don’t get why people want tattoos, but then I don’t get why people want, say, posh handbags. To each their own. And I don’t get why someone would be so freaked out by the tattoos. If it’s not your thing, leave it alone; it has nothing to do with you.

              If my coworker has tattoos, I don’t care and won’t say anything unless the tattoo is of something I like (for example, the Dark Side of the Moon prism), in which case I’d say, “That’s neat,” and go on with my day.

              I just don’t get why people get so wound up about the topic.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I’m notr sure why people get so wound up… I think it’s because of Money. Or sometimes it’s easier to divide people into “Us and Them”. I try to tell everyone just to Breathe and relax, sooner or later something will come along to Eclipse this

              2. Liz*

                This is me! Although I will confess to have quite the collection of posh handbags. But tattoos? I don’t have any, nor want any, but I also don’t really care if others have them, except maybe to think hey, that’s a REALLY nice one. Co-worker or anyone I may see or meet. Just not my thing, but I know other people love them, so if they do, great. But I’d never bug anyone i worked with like Carol does. Not my business.

                1. SunnyD*

                  It skips a lot of history in the opposite direction, on why tattoos were respectable, religious, and for the wealthy.

          3. Doctor Schmoctor*

            I don’t like a tattoos, but I can’t imagine judging you for having tattoos.
            I don’t like sushi, but if you like it, cool. Enjoy.
            I don’t drink beer, but hey, to each his own.
            I’m not a fan of Beyonce, but really, who cares.


          4. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘Just say “nice tattoos” or better yet. Say nothing.’

            Exactly. Your choices do not require a referendum first, nor commentary after. It used to be considered good manners to NOT negatively comment on a person’s appearance, just sayin’.

            1. PaperGirl*

              Agree completely.

              Unless I specifically ask “Hey, what’s your stance on tattoos?” I really don’t care to hear it. My tattoos are all only visible if I’m pretty much undressed, so it’s never been an issue I’ve had with coworkers…but if I am at a pool and someone comments “I don’t really like tattoos, but yours is okay. Not for me. But it suits you.”…that’s not a compliment.

              I’m not about to say to someone “Hey, while I don’t like carrying a few extra pounds, it works for you!” or “Hey, I really don’t like your wife, but she doesn’t appear to be a heinous wench when she’s around you so whatever floats your boat!” or “Yellow is an absolutely hideous color. I don’t mind it on you though.” or “Wow. You cut off a lot of your hair, didn’t you? I don’t really like short hair, but it’s interesting…”

              People who do this need to realize they are adding absolutely nothing to the conversation other than a poor impression of themselves.

        3. valentine*

          Kinda wanna see Carol’s face when she sees the sleeves. I’d be tempted to Photoshop tattoos everywhere a half-shirt and shorts don’t cover and frame the pic for my desk.

          When will someone create a voice-activated Klaxon that loops a few lines of Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” (“I’m not here for your entertainment / I was fine before you walked into my life / You know it’s all over before it began”)?

        4. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

          I agree. I’m not a huge fan of tattoos and I find them very unattractive, but unless it’s causing a genuine issue, I’m certainly not going to verbally complain or to stop someone from having them.

        5. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yup. What does Carol want LW to do, get rid of her tattoos? She has them. They’re there. She can’t un-ink herself (nor should she have to, and presumably does not want to – but with something permanent, it’s like complaining that ‘having boobs that big looks unprofessional’… something that has actually been said to a friend of mine…). If you think someone’s unprofessional for having tattoos, you can have that opinion, but maybe keep it to yourself. Only complain about “unprofessional” things your coworker does that they could actually *change.* If they can’t change them, then there’s no point, even if your opinion was incontrovertibly correct.

          1. Massmatt*

            Carol seems to enjoy making this A Thing, it says more about her than the LW. I suppose the only real way to appease her (I’m not recommending it!) would be to keep them covered at work. But she’s not the LW’s supervisor or boss, she doesn’t get to make this demand.

        6. Washi*

          I think the tattoos are a red herring. If a peer started wearing crop tops every day to my business casual office, maybe I would tell them once that crop tops don’t really mesh with our dress code. But would I tell them every single time I see them that they are unprofessional? No! People make choices in the office all the time that you won’t agree with, and as long as they aren’t harming anyone, you have to let it go. Carol is being unprofessional, not the OP.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*


            It’s not Carol’s age, or the tattoo looks janky, it’s Carol is a freaking busy body. I have worked with various Carols, and they all have some hill they need to die on.


            Hair style choices

            They think (x) style of clothing looks horrible at your age/weigh

            What you eat/don’t

            Colored contacts

            Style of manicure/polish.

            The size of your behind/fat


            The list is endless.

            I would have told Carol to shut the fawk up 4 comments ago. Yeah, it’s vulgar, but Carol is being a vulgar mess commenting on someone’s body.

            If the hire ups don’t care, and money isn’t walking out of Carol’s paycheck for the OP’s tats, she needs to zip it.

            I would say, “Quit commenting on my body.” Op’s body is none of her business.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              Yes, this. I don’t know Carol and I already hate her. I’ve known people like her who just have to be mean and picky about anything and everything. The Carols of the world are mean-spirited, petty, and unpleasant to be around.

              Ignore her. This is a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s them.”

            2. CommanderBanana*

              THANK YOU!


              If you are / aren’t married

              If you do/don’t have kids

              If you do/don’t wear heels

              If you are / are not eating a (salad) (cake) (whatever)

              How young you do/don’t look

              I’ve worked with a handful of women like this and they are EXHAUSTING and honestly I think it comes from a place of deeeeeep insecurity.

            3. AnonEMoose*

              All of this. Carol is a particularly toxic and insidious type of bully. She’s decided to target the OP, and the tattoos are just her current excuse. If it weren’t the tattoos, it would be something else. If told to stop commenting on the tattoos or OP’s body, it’ll be OP’s eating habits or relationship status or career path or something.

              Unfortunately, this type of bullying is often dismissed as a “personality conflict” or “women being catty.” And it can really wear on the target; plus if the target gets upset enough to snap or push back, the bully then acts bewildered and plays the victim. I’ve seen it happen and it’s happened to me…it’s very difficult to deal with effectively, especially because it can be hard for many people to recognize it as bullying. Even the target.

              1. Anoncorporate*

                “But don’t be so quick to label people as bullies! Everyone has their side of the story and deserves compassion!”

                …is also something I always hear when some one complains of said bullying. Society bends over backwards to dismiss any time a woman complains of maltreatment.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  Yep. And in my experience, it’s almost worse when it’s by another woman. Because then the societal programming about women being catty and competitive and all that stuff kicks in, and people think it’s just cattiness or pettiness or whatever, and not a big deal or something that needs to be addressed.

                  It’s a sadly common form of gaslighting. “Oh, so and so isn’t mistreating you…you’re so sensitive…and even if they are mistreating you, it’s your fault…”.

            4. TootsNYC*

              I agree with this wording:
              I would say, “Quit commenting on my body.”

              I wonder if this might cut through to her. Probably not, but it’s worth a try. And it’s the wording I’d use with the BigBoss as well.

          2. blink14*

            Totally agree with this. Carol is going to find something to comment on, no matter what.

        7. Anon for today (and probably tomorrow)*

          I am solidly gen-x, 50 if that matters. Was raised by parents who thought tattoos were either tacky or indicative of low social class.

          Me? I don’t care.. I have seen some amazing tattoos. I have seen some offensive ones. As long as no one is making me get one and as they’re not in the latter category (swastikas, depicting explicit sexual acts), I don’t care.

        8. mcr-red*

          I hated the tattoos I remember seeing when I was young that would turn green with age (pretty sure the ink they use now doesn’t do that) so that and my fear of how bad it would hurt always kept me from getting one.

          However, anytime I see someone with tattoos, I might admire really well done ones, or wonder why someone got what they did, like I’m interested in why that person chose that, or inwardly wince at some really badly done ones (there are some BAD ones in my area) but that’s it. From my observation, all races, ages and monetary walks of life get tattoos.

        9. LaurenB*

          Right. I don’t care for tattoos either and I find them all unattractive, but that simply falls under “aesthetic choice I wouldn’t make for myself” and nothing more. Assuming it’s ok with the business which it clearly appears to be, it’s no more my place to comment on it than it would be for me to comment on someone’s taste in hairstyles or handbags.

          Anyway, I don’t understand the gripe here. If indeed these tattoos “aren’t professional,” how is that the complainer’s problem? I mean, even if I were to think someone’s tattoos weren’t professional, that’s their problem if it’s going to hold back their career. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

        10. MsChanandlerBong*

          I try to think of it as “Everybody has a hobby/interest that someone else would consider dumb. I do not understand why people like to watch cars zoom around a track over and over again. I don’t really care for most sports. But millions of people enjoy those things. As long as someone isn’t hurting me, I really have no right to get so upset over what they are doing or what they choose to do with their bodies.

        11. Annie Dumpling*

          Ultimately it boils down to, this is something the workplace allows, LW is within the company dress code.
          The ‘why’ behind Carols horrid behavior has no bearing on the situation. Carol is acting rude and oddly fixated on something that does not INVOLVE you, Carol!

    1. Another Manic Monday*

      If Carol kept commenting on my tattoo (left forearm), I would take it as a personal challenge to get even more tattoos just to annoy her

      1. Julie*

        What is the point of commenting on tattoos? Does Carol think they can be washed off or something?

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This was my question! What exactly does Carol hope to accomplish with her frequent comments? Tattoos aren’t going anywhere.

          1. Busy*

            I have learned over the years that some people just like to fight. She wants to fight. She wants the drama. She wants to have a person who she can talk about, bully, and be mean to. She wants to control and and make them feel uncomfortable. Whens he tires of this (or the trouble becomes more than whatever pleasure she derives from bullying to make it worth it), she will find someone else with something else to fight.

            Fighters are the god awful worst people to work with – about every 6 months there they are creating some kind of drama. I can hear one of them in my office RIGHT NOW creating drama over at her desk. 99% of what she complains about with other people are them just existing and her having to do a job.

            I would say too, that in my experience, these kinds of personalities are found more in manufacturing/production environments and it sounds like OP may work in one of those. And I could ALSO say that the fact that it is in a production environment and assuming this Carol has worked in other such environments, tattoos are REALLY common – just because they are traditionally non-customer facing roles and were allowed long before they were in office environments. So this tends to make me believe more along the lines that Carol is in-fact a fighter. (And I say “I could say” if I wasn’t afraid of someone jumping all over me for making some sort of observed generalization through my own personal experience about groups of people who I have worked around for 12 years or so … )

            1. Busy*

              Oh and managers out there – the only way to nip a fighter in the bud is to write them up a lot. And remember – fighters never stop. So if you find yourself with a fighter (re: bully with righteous indignation), look at the person as someone who you will likely eventually need to transition out.

            2. Zennish*

              Personally, I think the Carols of the world are sometimes just very insecure and inhibited… they religiously follow all the “rules”, and are resentful of anyone who doesn’t, yet somehow isn’t being punished by the universe for it.

              1. Busy*

                Yeah, it doesn’t really matter why they do it as much as the fact that they do. Yeah a lot have very black and white thinking, or are very rigid in their views on the world, or are opposition defiant, or are really intimidated by others and want to ruin them. It could be any of that – but none of the reasons matter. What matters is that they rarely have the self awareness enough to stop on their own and situations they create are usually only solved when it becomes difficult to the fighter to continue with that drama.

              2. Middle School Teacher*

                That’s an excellent assessment. For old-school Simpsons fans, Carol is Frank Grimes.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            This was my question! What exactly does Carol hope to accomplish with her frequent comments? Tattoos aren’t going anywhere.

            I suspect she either wants the LW to cover them, or, more likely, wants the LW to admit that Carol is right, they were a mistake, that they’re completely unprofessional, and that she regrets them.

            (Source: My own version of Carol, forced to face any choice she wouldn’t have made)

          3. pentamom*

            Maybe she wants LW to properly humble herself and admit that her tattoos are bad.

            That’s really horrible, and I’m speaking as another tattoo-non-fan in the crowd. But that kind of moral advantage is what a certain kind of person seeks.

        2. Eeyore's missing tail*

          She’s probably expecting OP to keep her arms completely covers at all times. You know, like all of us with tattoos are supposed to do. :)

        3. EPLawyer*

          She wants them covered so she can’t see them. No matter how hot, she does not want to see tattoos.

          Never mind that Carol has absolutely no standing to create the dress code for the office, the tats must be covered to appease Carol.

          I am about the same age as these ladies. I once thought tats were unprofessional. But even then, if it wasn’t my job to do something about the optics of it, I would never have said anything. Now, I just don’t care about them, even lawyers have them nowadays — ones that show at work. Now if a client showed up with an offensive one, I would have them cover it for court. But that’s pretty much it.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Yeah, good luck getting a woman of menopausal age to wear long sleeves ever.

            1. Lora*

              +1 Yes, this.

              Carol sounds a bit like my mother, actually. Nothing, NOTHING shuts that woman up short of “I will not take you to Wegmans anymore and I’m cutting off your cable teevee if you’re going to be like that.”

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              Haha, +10000000 Detective Amy Santiago!

              My tattoo is on my forearm and I would have to wear long sleeves to appease the Carols of the world, and lemme tell ya, that ain’t happening. Let Carol wear the long sleeves. Her ink-free arms offend me!

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


              I can barely wear anything but a tank top once the weather gets warm.

          2. General Ginger*

            I think she just wants OP to feel crappy. OP knows the tattoos can’t be washed off, and every day gets to hear another bit about it.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I think you’re right. I got a lot of this type of treatment growing up and as a young adult. There doesn’t seem to be any reason beyond making the target feel bad. I assume this makes the bully feel better.
              It took me a long time to master this, but if OP can *not* let Carol make her feel bad – and make it obvious to Carol that she’s not making OP feel bad – that would be a failure for Carol and she’d probably go away and look for other targets.
              My boss had an admin who seemed to be trying to sabotage my work and make me feel bad. It was so subtle I was never sure if it was deliberate. One day I confronted her and told her I wouldn’t let her make me feel bad or interfere with my work. She claimed she never intended that… She still treated me like a criminal when I needed to leave something for my boss, and I confronted her about that. After that she was better but still unfriendly. She was laid off a few months ago, yay.

      2. R.D*

        I’d be tempted to pretend Carol **loves** my tattoos. Maybe just monologue at her about tattoos. Don’t let her get a word in edgewise and if she does just pretend she they were sooo pretty. She needs to be looped in on my every thought about which ones I will get next and how, I think I’ll get that sunset with more pink than just orange, and this other one needs to be re-inked which is going to take X number of hours, etc. Maybe send her pics of tattoos that look awesome.

        Carol would be my new tattoo Pinterist board.

    2. Wherehouse Politics*

      Yep, that’s what I would say at this point. Maybe add, “you’re boring us, Carol.”

      1. Mongrel*

        Or even a “No one else seems to care” because it seems like they don’t. Sometimes pointing out the ‘It’s just you’ can be the metaphorical whack upside the head they need

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        “Carol, my tattoos would be allowed in the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, and I believe they define professional.”
        (Don’t say this if she’s a former Marine, because they’re the one branch that does not ?yet? allow sleeves.)

        1. JanetM*

          I thought I had seen a few years ago that the military issued new guidelines that tattoos couldn’t be visible when wearing a short-sleeved shirt? But maybe I misread or misunderstood. Or maybe it was limited to the Marines, not the military in general.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            From what I’ve read, the Marine Corps is the holdout — they don’t want them visible when in PT uniform. Other branches have relaxed because of the reality of how many people have them. And recruitment can be hard enough during wartime without eliminating a high% of your potential recruits.

    3. lilsheba*

      Well someone’s personal tattoos are no one else’s business, and if this woman doesn’t like it then too bad. it’s NOT her concern. Tattoos (or piercings) are not what makes a personal professional or not.

    4. Temperance*

      You know, if she keeps criticizing OP about her tattoos, they’re going to magically come off of her body.

      1. Anonandon*

        That had me scratching my head. What does she think her complaining will accomplish?

    5. Anoncorporate*

      Omg with the age debates! I honestly don’t interpret it as an age thing so much as an “asshole” thing. My parents, for example, aren’t crazy about tattoos, but they are also polite and would never comment on others people’s tattoos.

    6. Jennifer Juniper*

      I dub her “Constipated Carol.” Clearly, the woman has way too little to do at work. Also, she’s already being disruptive by complaining to literally half the office (!) about another adult’s tattoos. The OP would not be out of line, I think, to go to the owner at this point, along with her poor coworkers.

  2. HannahS*

    OP 1, I think Alison’s script is great and I hope it stops Carol! She’s being truly ridiculous. I think getting on top of this before the summer is a good idea. You should be able to wear whatever’s appropriate at your workplace without Carol commenting, muttering, or talking to other people about it. She has zero right to imply or expect or outright say that your body is distracting and you need to cover up. That’s bull. I hope you’ll let us know how it goes!

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I’d do it a little differently. I’d go to the boss and specifically ask for their opinion on the tattoos. I’d specifically ask if the boss had any problem with them.
      “Hey boss, summer is coming and I’d like your opinion on my tattoos. Since I don’t face customers I was assuming they were OK but I want to verify with you.”

      Once you’ve received boss approval then you have more ammo for Carol.
      “Carol, I’ve already talked to the boss about my tattoos and it isn’t a problem. You have no standing to comment on this. You need to stop now.”

      But I would specifically state that Carol has no standing to comment on this, because she doesn’t. She is a coworker and doesn’t set the dress code.

      1. Tilly*

        I wouldn’t do this. You can’t guarantee you’ll get the answer you want. I’d take the position that obviously they’re fine in a role that’s non public-facing, and go from there.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          The alternative is to let Carol go the boss and make such a fuss that boss gives in to Carol even though boss is agnostic on it.
          Becaue Carol will at some point go to the boss.
          Better to get approval first.

          1. Mike C.*

            Why in the heck would you seek approval from your boss about something reguarding your body that you can’t change? Why give them the option of being unreasonable when you could instead just bring the issue of Carol not shutting the hell up about the tattoos in the first place?

            1. valentine*

              Why give them the option of being unreasonable
              Yes. The boss could have it both ways. Carol is wrong, but boss doesn’t like tattoos, so, tells OP1 to play nice and cover them. Or the dress code specifies no distracting elements, so the boss says tattoos count and the guys don’t have to cover theirs because they’re not distracting anyone.

              1. Jasnah*

                I can see this going a couple different ways. Depends whether OP wants to ask for permission or forgiveness.

                I can see Carol going to the boss and boss asking OP to cover up *now that it’s become a distraction* aka a problem for someone at work.
                I can see the benefit of clarifying the dress code policy on tattoos since Carol seems to be having some trouble understanding it. And if OP is so sure that tattoos are OK then there’s no risk here.

                1. GreyjoyGardens*

                  Forgiveness is better than permission in this case, I think. Tempting as it would be to tell Carol to go eat s**t and bark at the moon, the best route for LW is to ignore her when they can, politely but firmly shut her down when they can’t, and don’t involve the boss if possible.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              Exactly. Talk to the boss about Carol’s harassment, not about the tattoos.

              1. TriCrazy73*

                Just popping in to say that I LOVE your screen name!!! John Mulaney is one of my favorite comedians!

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Especially the muttering “to herself” thing. She’s not actually saying anything to OP right…so that’s acceptable…in her head. She still wants OP to hear it. She just thinks by talking to herself she has plausible deniability. OP talk to your boss.

    3. Errol*

      I agree with the script, but I disagree with swapping out “body” for “tattoos”, leave the script with body. The reason being is that tattoos can’t just be washed off, they are part of you person now.

      I am of the opinion that if tattoos are sexually graphic or violent there is some leeway to ask it be covered but shapes and flowers are non-offensive and it’s a bit of a stretch to be offended by a flower. I have a lot of tattoos, and I have had coworkers get oddly obsessed with them, it is perfectly fine to involve a manager/HR if that person will not listen to you when you tell them to stop.

      It’s becoming rather odd that Carols muttering to herself about it especially after you’ve make it clear to her you won’t engage about it.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Carol’s not giving up. She’s hoping her muttering will still make OP engage and fight with her. It’s passive-aggressive.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Also talking to others about it, trying to get them involved in starting a fight with OP – the more we get into this, the more toxic Carol is…

        2. Errol*

          It’s not always that. Some people don’t know how to deal with something and do some rather weird things in trying to deal. I like to assume it’s an odd behavior then it’s purposefully malicious unless there are other facts to back that up, which in this case there is just this weird obsession mentioned in the letter.

          The next step for OP is to escalate it, but as OP mentioned in the letter she feels like she should be handling it herself but Carol has passed the point of being reasonable and higher ups need to step in and stop it and she should not feel bad or feel like she failed or anything like that.

  3. Edith*

    1. “I am going to escalate this to Jane, and that’s not going to go well for you if I have to do that.”

    I like Alison’s script, but I’d leave out the “that’s not going to go well for you” bit. It comes off as needlessly threatening, and I think it’s already implied by the first half of the sentence.

    1. Gir*

      Some people don’t get implications though. If Carol is already ignoring OP trying to shut her down and has resorted to mumbling to herself regarding the tattoos, I’d error on the side of caution and explicitly state what is likely going to happen. Otherwise, if she’d of caught on to such subtleties, the OP wouldn’t have had to write in (considering she was pretty explicit in her requests IMO).

      1. MommyMD*

        You still don’t threaten people. Especially when you don’t decide the outcome.

        1. Socks*

          Maybe if she softened the language? From “It’s not going to go well for you” to something like “I’m confident she will side with me”? Less threatening, but still clearly spelling out that the boss will not agree with Carol, and, at the very least, she will not get the outcome she wants.

          1. Socks*

            Of course, that still only works if OP is confident that Jane will side with her, but it sounds like OP is, from her post.

          2. Curious*

            This is a nicer way to put it. I feel like the “thats not going to go well for you” language could end up not going well for LW.

    2. MommyMD*

      Me too. That caught me right off. It’s a threat. I would never use words like that to a coworker and also OP has zero idea if it’s even true. The rest of it ok. Never say “it’s not going to go well for you.” Even if it’s true. Boss may well tell her to cover up.

      1. Uldi*

        I seriously doubt it if “I’m told tank tops and shorts are the norm,” is true. That is an extremely relaxed dress code, and a person that allows that is unlikely to even blink at ink.

        1. Rebecca*

          I work in a non customer facing office. Everything is done online, via email or skype meeting (no video) and we’re allowed to wear shorts and tank tops as well (with reasonably wide straps and full length, nothing short or skimpy). And now I have learned that OMG SOME OF MY COWORKERS HAVE TATTOOS!! I do not care! It’s not like looking at them will cause tattoos to appear on my skin. Their skin, their money, their choice.

          Mind your own biscuits, and life will be gravy. And all that.

          1. Uldi*

            I was directly responding to, “Even if it’s true. Boss may well tell her to cover up,” not saying that I doubt that this place allows that dress code. Sorry that doesn’t seem to have been clear.

      2. blackcat*

        I have only used that phrase and meant it once.
        It was a in a fight with a new teacher at my high school who had said something inappropriate to a younger girl. I confronted him about it. There were… words.
        I told him that if he didn’t apologize to the girl, publicly, I was going to go to the principal (whom I knew well–I was a straight-laced, straight A student body president kinda kid), and it was not going to go well for him.
        He yelled at me some more.
        He was fired. I doubt it was the only reason, but it was certainly a big part of it. Not just that he said inappropriate things, but that he hug his heals in when confronted and told to change his behavior.

        I don’t issue threats unless it’s a hill to die on for me. Saying inappropriate things to 14 year old girls? Yep, hill to die on. But I was also quite sure that I was not going to be the one dying on that hill.

      3. Delphine*

        “If you don’t stop I’m going to escalate to the boss,” is already a threat/ultimatum…you can leave out the implication that it won’t be a positive outcome if that makes you more comfortable, but it’s already a threat to take action.

      1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        Yes. “If I have to escalate this to Jane, I don’t think she’ll appreciate it.”

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I was trying to figure out what I didn’t like about that part of the sentence and I think that’s it: it sounds like a threat. I’d say, “I’m going to escalate this to Jane” and leave it at that.

    4. PretzelGirl*

      I typically love the scripts here, but I really have to disagree with “its not going to go well for you” part. I agree it sounds threatening.

    5. Zap R.*

      Yeah, Carol sounds way too crazypants for something like that. She’s going to spin that into a threat.

      1. Laura H.*

        Even people who aren’t crazypants are reading it that way.

        While I’m pretty sure blunt and no room for misinterpretation is what was meant- phrasing is key!

    6. Kiki*

      I agree. The “that’s not going to go well for you” sounds kind of threatening in that ambiguous sort of way. And it seems like something is off about Carol, so you don’t want to give her any room to accuse you of threatening her. Maybe something more like. “I am going to have to escalate this to Jane. I don’t want to have you do that, but the way you are criticizing my body is wildly unprofessional.” I think it has a similar implication– Carol is wrong and HR intervention is necessary and founded, but less likely to be interpreted as a threat.

    7. ursula*

      Yeah. Maybe instead something like, “I am going to escalate this to Jane, and since she has already seen my tattoos and never objected, I don’t think she sees them as a problem.” Also +1 to everyone who has suggested something like “You are the only one who has an issue with them.”

    8. Decima Dewey*

      If I were the OP, I’d be able to tell Carol to speak to my Grandboss. Who’s a cancer survivor with several pretty tattoos (don’t know they were originally intended to cover her radiation tattoos).

    9. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes and no. I would warn, but specifically — nothing vague and open for interpretation like “not going to go well for you” because that could mean a physical altercation in the parking lot rather than getting reprimanded or fired. “Carol, you keep harassing me about my tattoos. From now on I’m documenting and reporting it to Jane every time I hear you directly address me about my body, every time you mutter to yourself about it, and every time anyone else reports you have commented to them about it. You are creating a hostile work environment and it’s my goal to get you placed on a PIP or fired for your unprofessional behavior.”

      1. voyager1*

        That is even worst… That is flat bullying and harassment. You just admitted you are coming for someone to get fired.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          No, what Carol is doing is bullying and harassment. Documenting and reporting it is not. And saying that you want someone to get fired for bullying and harassment is not bullying and harassment — that’s just silly. Losing one’s job for continually making comments about a coworkers appearance is the normal consequence and expected outcome of reporting someone for bullying and harassment. What do you think is the point of reporting this to management? 5 minutes in the time-out corner?

        2. Zap R.*

          Documenting harassment is not harassment. OP has a right to protect herself and Carol is willfully violating her boundaries. I would leave out the “My goal is to get you placed on a PIP” part but letting Carol know that OP will need to escalate the situation if it continues is the opposite of bullying.

  4. MeMeM*

    #5 – Can you get the rank that would provide you with an office? Maybe its time to ask for a promotion, if possible.

    Or, since this seems to be a rank/perception problem, maybe it would be possible to ask for a change in title that would provide the higher ups with an excuse to move you to an office.

    1. valentine*

      Or specify that you’re asking for an exception.

      Letting offices go to waste is a real slap in the face.

      1. madge*

        “Letting offices go to waste is a real slap in the face.”

        THIS. I’m tied to a desktop in a tiny cube in a noisy cube farm. My job is heavy in writing, researching and strategizing. In fact, I’m on here now because there is no way I can concentrate with all the non-work chatting happening. We have FIVE larger cubicles sitting empty in a quiet room no one is using. I’m not allowed to move because they “haven’t decided what’s happening with those yet”. It’s been more than six months. They are actually considering making them “swing space” for people who already have offices ten minutes away. But they also do bs like sending out emails telling us how much we’re appreciated and there’ll be donuts a couple of times per year.
        Whew. Sorry for that rant. All of this to just say that LW5 has my utmost sympathy and I hope she/he goes for that office and gets it!

        1. valentine*

          Ask if you can use the sweet, sweet room when your area gets too loud.

          “swing space” for people who already have offices
          Sounds classist.

      2. SunnyD*

        I’d ask for my job to be changed to 90% work from home, and then mention that an office would also fix the problem. Make the office the easy compromise for a rigid manager.

    2. Tilly*

      Or even just unofficially use one of the empty offices?

      I really hear you on wanting peace and quiet, but it will help you a lot if you can try to get used to working with background noise. Hey if journalists can do it in newsrooms…

      1. Asenath*

        Someone will object if you use an empty office unofficially, I guarantee! I’ve worked in two places that assigned space by hierarchy not duties, one much more strictly than the other, and use of something as prized as an office does not go unnoticed! The only thing to do is ask one more time for permission.

        1. Washi*

          But maybe there could be some sort of official arrangement where people could book an empty office for important work calls or to spend a few hours concentrating on a high-priority project. Many offices do that, and I would imagine that would benefit more people than just the OP. (And OP, prepared for that to be their offer to you, rather than giving you your own office!)

          1. MsM*

            And if they don’t, maybe you can keep it in your back pocket as an alternative proposal.

            1. LW5*

              I’m the one who wrote in about the office! Thanks for these suggestions and perspectives. We do have small quiet rooms, but having to relocate every time I have to do a phone interview is part of the problem. During certain times during our publication cycle, I’m up and down with my laptop, recorder, phone, notebook, water bottle, etc. multiple times a day. I’ve definitely learned how to focus better and still perform my job well. I have worked as a “real” journalist in a “real” newsroom before and I know how that goes! But in this situation where we have the rooms and it would really help me do my job it just seems bizarre.

              1. Psyche*

                Maybe you can suggest “booking” an empty office on especially busy days. That way at least you only have to set up once.

                1. Sloan Kittering*

                  I wonder if you could request that any staff member be able to book the empty offices (and then take full advantage of that yourself). Since they’re empty. I might use this as a back pocket plan B if your request doesn’t go over. Perhaps asking for the team and not yourself personally won’t make it feel like you’re just coming back with the same request.

              2. Antilles*

                If you’re doing a bunch of interviews in one day, could you just claim one of these quiet rooms for yourself for several hours in a row?
                I mean, you’re definitely using it for its’ intended purposes. Even if you’re not technically needing it for ALL four hours you’re in there, if you need it five separate times in that four-hour span, it seems really dumb to have to carry everything back and forth five times just because “well, technically, I only needed it from 10:45 to 11:00 and 11:30 to noon”, so you walk back to your cube for 30 minutes then come back.

      2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        lol, I just had to deal with a co-worker who took something of mine out of my office. Her response was “well, you weren’t using it so I took it.” Don’t take the empty office. Someone will notice.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          I’d be so tempted:

          You weren’t using your brain but I’ve left that alone where it is…

      3. LQ*

        I work at a very hierarchy focused place (government!) and I started just booking conference rooms for an afternoon. I’d have 2-3 meetings and then have an hour (usually at the end of the day) of quiet before I went back to my desk. At some point my manager said, oh just take Jane’s old office you’re using too much of the conference room.

        A few things of note. My boss is high enough in the hierarchy of the physical space that he could unilaterally decide that and no one objected. I didn’t call the office LQ’s office but Big Project’s office and a few other people would use it occasionally when I was at meetings. I was only “sort of” in there for about the first 9 months. After that offices got moved and I got LQ’s office. Over time it just got more and more official.

        I’ve also done this by putting a sign up sheet on an unused office and letting people block it for a half day. (That room has since turned into a small conference room, you can book at use it for a day at a time easily if you have heads down work to do.)

    3. Triplestep*

      I do strategic planning and design for workplaces, and the notion of “office as reward for status” is pathetically outdated in most industries (with Law being the major exception.) LW#5, what you describe as a noise problem is really a “design programming” problem – they did a poor job at figuring out how many quiet/focus spaces were needed (although something tells me they may not have given much thought to this re-design at all – not if they’re giving offices by heirarchy.) If you’re going to make a case for anything, I think your best bet is to make a case that one or more of the empty offices should be made into a “Quiet Room”, “Phone Room” or “Focus Space.”

      Consider reading up on this a bit – there are no shortage of articles online that describe things to consider when designing an open office. The good articles mention the need for many different types of spaces, including ones where people can go off and work alone. Changing an office to a quiet space can be as inexpensive as changing the signage, or if they’re all in, they can change out the furniture. I’ve even done them where more than one person can work in silence at the same time, although that doesn’t sound like it will work for you’re phone time.

      I could go on and on about this (one of my major job irritations is when leadership doesn’t listen about needing this kind of space) but I think you’ll do better asking for a different kind of room than asking for an office. Maybe you could do what Alison often suggests and get a group of people together to ask for the addition of some quiet rooms – I guarantee you’re not the only one who wants one!

      Now hopefully you have a laptop. Only thing worse than not enough quiet spaces is having quiet spaces that no one can use because they are chained to their desks by desktop computers!

      1. LW5*

        Yeah, I think the reasoning behind it is part of what makes me want to revisit it. It’s a really loud and (imo) poorly designed space and I think doling out offices as a result of reaching a certain status rather than by what a particular job entails is a weird way to go about it. Thanks for your POV! I do have a laptop, access to smaller meeting rooms, etc. It’s just at times challenging and frankly irritating to have to move my whole set up across the office multiple times a day.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          That you’ve put up with this for a year makes you a king of patience compared to me. I would be offended by the hierarchical attitude in the first place, and seeing the offices sitting empty all this time would make me crazy. Add that to the inconvenience of moving all my stuff and well… they’re lucky I’m not working for them.
          Kudos, and good luck!

      2. Not this time*

        Yes, there are bosses who remodel the entire office to go to an open floor plan “to foster collaboration” and then complain that the open floor plan is too noisy when people are collaborating.

        Those bosses are idiots.

      3. NoteCards*

        Thanks for this comment Triplestep! We are transitioning to a mostly open office plan and while I personally love open offices (I get depressed when I’m in an office by myself), I’m very aware that most people don’t. I’m googling planning for open offices so we can create a variety of spaces.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          As long as you’re in on the planning, may I suggest windowed walls? The problem most of us have with open offices isn’t the visibility — it’s the noise. Windows can go floor to ceiling to reduce office noise, while still letting people see if you’re there without knocking.
          Google “Captain Renard’s Office on Grimm” for one ultra elegant example. ;)

          1. 2 Cents*

            As someone who just came from a place that went from mostly closed space to (basically) a football field ringed with offices, yeah, anything to lessen the noise. I could clearly hear conversations happening 500 feet away bc of the acoustics of the new place. Drive me insane. And management revoked remote work from everyone. 6 months in, we all wanted to kill each other bc we heard everything all the time. So glad to not be there anymore!

      4. Close Bracket*

        “office as reward for status” is pathetically outdated in most industries (with Law being the major exception.)

        And engineering. Every company I’ve worked at, which is now 6 in various parts of the country, has used office space to enforce hierarchy. It amuses me.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I know Alison has said this, but I want to second the advice to start job searching. Although some of the things you’ve mentioned sound like typical dysfunction at small organizations, there are now too many red flags to keep going. It sounds like you hit an iceberg a while ago, and now all of it is turning out to be Titanic.

    To whit: (1) You have one major funder who apparently gets to make top-level management decisions on a whim and without any transitional effort (nevermind whether it’s even in the organization’s best interest); (2) funding is precarious, and as a result, you’re taking a salary cut in real dollars; (3) funding is in fact so precarious that the organization would have gone from 8 staff to 1, had the funder not stepped in; (4) you’re now doing the work of 4 FTEs; and (5) the board chair either has no clue what’s going on, or is totally comfortable with the bait-and-switch.

    It’s time to come up with an exit strategy.

    1. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      I agree. Even without the employee being asked to take on extra work, It’s clear the ship is sinking, and since the OP clearly isn’t the captain, there’s no reason why they have to go down with it. It’s time for the OP to update their resume and look for a new job. After all, there’s a reason why the other 6 employees left.

    2. OhGee*

      Agree. Point 1 is often bad for employees even when the business is financially stable

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I agree with this – this company sounds like it’s not long for this world, and LW was already nearly laid off once. It sounds like it’s getting to the point where it’s only solvent if LW and their colleague twist themselves into pretzels to make it all work. Quite apart from the indignities LW has been suffering in this job, it sounds like the last of it is going to blow apart any minute (whenever that sole funder decides it’s irreversible).

    4. Smithy*

      Agree agree agree.

      I can’t entirely tell from the letter whether the OP works at an nonprofit or company – but I know enough to know that the financial health seems to be in real trouble.

    5. OP 3*

      My resume is tuned up and I got back into the habit of writing cover letters earlier this year. The issue I encountered is that the jobs I received interviews for were offering salaries between $10K and $20K less than what I make now. I had tabled my search to get through a surgery then a trip, but I’m going to resume an active job search.

      1. MJ*

        The salaries might be lower, but a lower-paid job is better than no job, which is where the current one sounds like it is going.

      2. Chriama*

        If the pay cut thing is a real possibility, consider whether it might be less stressful and more financially beneficial to get a job with better hours and pick up a part time job. Right now your options might seem like either (a) 80 hours/week at $x or (b) 40 hours/week at $x-10k. It might make you feel better to know there’s a possibility of (c) 50 hours/week at $x.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #2 Have another run at the boss. But before you do that create a list of all the incidents and the lost revenue from each incident. Make sure there is a grand total lost $$$$.
    Go to boss and talk to him again, acknowledging him in charge. Let him see lost revenue. Then suggest that you both need to take this to corporate. This is not something to negotiate with the other hotel.
    When you do go to corporate make sure they have copies of all the fake reservations etc.

    Someone that pulls this level of sabotage is also doing other wrongs at the hotel. When corporate investigates they’ll find the rest of the iceberg.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      BTW, people who do this spend massive amounts of energy in sabotage. If they spent even half that energy in self improvement they’d actually achieve. There’s the irony.

      1. 'Tis me*

        It’s like Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races: get ahead then waste that lead trying to sabotage your opponents… But, y’know, real life…

    2. Annette*

      Yes Engineer. Document document document. Raise it up the flagpole. If boss is covering for this sabateur. Then follow the money. Something is rotten in Denmark.

    3. Lynca*

      And this is especially important if the boss’ version of “let me handle it” is complete inaction. Document that you’ve tried to engage your boss on this so that no one can say you weren’t trying to resolve the issue.

    4. Hotel GM (not OP)*

      “Going to corporate” doesn’t really mean what you think. OP has already gone to their boss, the regional VP (who presumably is the other GMs boss based on proximity), and escalating from there would be like anything else, a strongly worded email to the perpetrator while CCing the regional and the next person up in the hierarchy.

      If they’re a management company running under a franchise agreement from (let’s say) Hilton’s, but not Hilton’s management company, then all the franchisor is going to say is “not our problem”.

      And, fwiw, borrowing supplies from another hotel in the same ownership isn’t terribly uncommon for some of the specialty supplies. The GM should have a purchasing card, so I don’t see a reason to borrow batteries, but the TV remotes are a specialty thing and can have a longish lead time on delivery. It’d be a silly thing to go down in a sold out night with a few rooms out of order over something like a $2 specialty remote.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I’m not sure the OP is the GM of their hotel – they say “employee at” which could be a lower level. Their boss may be the GM or something similar, in which case this may not have left their local hotel if the boss is not actively pursuing it.

        1. Hotel GM (not OP)*

          In that case, I’d shoot an email over to the regional and mention that this is going on and that you haven’t been able to stop it. It depends entirely on your company though, in my management company, hourly staff have next to no regular contact with the regionals except for property visits. I also wouldn’t jump over your GMs head if the original conversation was somewhat recent, it may be that they are handling it.

          As far as guest complaints go, it’s like any other thing they complain about, just apologize and go on with your day. “I’m sorry, it seems all the luggage carts are in use”, or “I’m sorry, I can’t find the spare batteries in the maintenance room”.

          If this GM is popping in while your GM isn’t around, don’t give them access to the store rooms and tell them that they need to ask your GM for permission.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I think AAM was suggesting asking the boss about the guest complaints more as a reminder that this is a whole new irritation that has to be dealt with.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Yet a list of lost revenues may shock the GM into acting. The GM could be thinking “it’s not that bad”. A total lost revenue list of thousands (or tens of thousands) may make the GM realize the severity of the issue.

        1. OP#2*

          If I do createa list of lost revenue items (limited as per my other comment – lack of access to some numbers, no way to know how many people would have booked online) should I take that to the GM, or the Chief of Operations? Normally any money stuff that crosses my desk goes to the CoO, but this also isn’t exactly normal.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I’ve never worked in a hotel, but my instinct is to keep your boss GM in the loop if you go to the CoO or anyone else. Depending on your sense of how strong a manager he is, your GM might actually be doing something, so it would be good to check with him before you do anything else.
            OTOH if your GM is a weak manager who most likely isn’t doing anything, you might have to take more initiative. Then I would be careful not to look like you’re going behind your GM’s back in any way.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Since you brought this to your GM and he said he’d handle it, anything more you do should be run by him to make sure it doesn’t interfere with what he’s doing.

          2. DerJungerLudendorff*

            The point of this list is to convince the GM to think this seriously, right? So you take it to the GM.
            You can also show it to the CoO if you want to pull them in for support, but the point is to get people with enough authority involved so they can stop the saboteur.

            If you can’t directly quantify the lost revenue, maybe you can do an estimation or quantify a different issue that does impact the revenue?
            Like, you don’t know how many people would have booked, but you can try to find out how busy the hotel usually is during that period, and how many rooms stay empty during the period to estimate how many customers had to be turned down.

            For alternatives to revenue, maybe you can try to determine how many customer requests you couldn’t fulfill, or examples of what the usual consequences for things like leaking customer data are. Things like “This happened to this other hotel, and now these high profile customers no longer visit them/dragged them to court for X amount of money/demanded the involved employees and manager were fired”?

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              If lower-level employees ended up fired because of this guy’s sabotage, that is especially awful. :-(

    5. SunnyD*

      Big corporations usually at least have an ethics hotline, if not a Director of Fraud or Investigations. (If there’s no ethics hotline, you can can look them up on LinkedIn, call the main switchboard, and ask for them by name.) You can say something like, ‘I don’t know if this is called corporate espionage or what, but one of our employees has cost us $X and impacted our reputation with guests through sabotage.’.

  7. Heidi*

    Hi OP1. Carol sounds somewhat beyond rational argument, so you’re totally right not to argue. If she’s building up towards asking you to cover them up, you might head this off by saying, “I’m not going to cover them up, Carol. Save your breath.” If you really think your boss will be supportive, you could also invite Carol to take her complaints to Jane. I’m guessing she wouldn’t want her boss knowing about her weird campaign of harassment.

    1. Tilly*

      Or just say “Okay!” to everything she says. Then just continue with what you’re doing.

        1. Auntie Social*

          Or “They hired me with my tattoos, Carol, and there are other employees here with ink, so the only one who has a problem is you. It’s a new world and body art is acceptable.”

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          Or “You’re not the boss of me, Carol!” Or “Who died and made you God?” Or “Mind your own [damned] business, Carol.”

          No, I’m kidding. Don’t really say those things. Or maybe say the first one, if you can find a way to do it that sounds both light-hearted and firm at the aame time. Or not. Don’t really say the other two,nfor sure, but feel free to think them as much as you want. Because, and now I AM being serious, those were the first thoughts that went through my head when I read the letter. Carol has a HELL of a lot of nerve, starting of on a new job by telling existing employees who are your PEERS how to behave, instead of observing others and figuring out how to fit in. Who DOES that? #rhetoricalquestion

      1. ursula*

        I love a completely neutral “Okay.”-end of sentence and moving on. It gives them nothing at all to react to, shows no emotional investment on your part, and is my all-purpose response to trolls.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If you want something less strong, OP, you could say, “Carol, you are repeating yourself [again].”
      Or, “You know Carol if you complain hard enough and long enough, the tattoos will probably just fade off of me.”

      If you are good at humor, sometimes humor can be a good solid way to shut things down forever.
      Bonus points if you can get others laughing but NOT at her. I am going to have to think on this a minute. But we have some very sharp people reading AAM so maybe someone will pick up on this idea.
      Humor can be effective against irrational statements. But you want something that is pretty benign so there is not too much she can say to it.

  8. Annette*

    LW4 – Depending on setup, WFH for on call can be a big help. I don’t know where you work. But if I need to talk on the phone at a moment’s notice it’s nice to not be in office. Just one woman’s opinion. No doubt your tea has more.

    1. Lemon Curd*

      #4 I’m having trouble understanding why the bonus is based on the most junior salary?

      It’s good that you pay people, but it’s not great – I would urge you to view it as the bare minimum you should be doing.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yep. If I can’t have a drink, go camping, go to a play, movie or concert, smoke a bowl, or do literally any of the gazillion things that being on-call prevents, you’re paying me for that.

        1. Lucy*

          Spouse recently changed jobs and lost his on-call – it has been so liberating for the entire family.

          Being able to use on-call hours to count towards normal hours would have been good, assuming LW means actual hours worked when called out, not hours spent fast asleep in possession of the on-call phone. However, actually I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic unless the workplace is VERY well staffed. For example, in a bad week spouse might have done 10-20 hours of on-call overtime, but still had enough normal work to pull a 40-hour week on top (plus unpaid overtime) – inevitably a heavy on-call week is the same week as a heavy 9-5 week. Even in a good week it would be several hours actually worked on call, with no slack in the normal work. Do you just abandon the regular tasks? Who takes them over if so?

          What’s the on call rate? Spouse used to get a standard retainer (not a lot, say $25 per day, more on weekends and public holidays) plus an hourly rate for actual call-outs with a one-hour minimum. If LW is only paying the retainer rate and no “hours worked” element – which is what I am deducing, based on her comments about junior salary – then that needs to change soon.

          Could those on the on call roster have a job title uplift? Could that be a way round head office’s pronouncements and allow you to compensate them more appropriately?

        2. Lily*

          Yes, this!

          In my job we are only paid for hours worked when on call, despite all of the restrictions placed on how our time is spent. We are on call for a full week roughly every 8 weeks, required to be available 24/7 in addition to working our regular daytime hours, and not to do anything that would cause more than a 15 minute delay in returning a call. Not only that, the hours we report are scrutinized and nitpicked to the minute, compared to the call logs on the phone, and we get called into question as to why it took 20 minutes to do X because a manager who doesn’t even do our job thinks it should only take 10.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Based on the lowest salary if it’s a percentage of said salary that means less money.

      3. OP #4*

        I’m the OP from #4 — I think I should have explained the amount better — it’s just a flat rate, everyone gets the same amount, but I didn’t want to say like everyone gets $100 (a fake amount) without context since that could be a lot to some people and little to others. So instead of giving a dollar amount I just said it was about this much when you consider it based on salary… Which was possibly just thinking too hard about it and I should have just said a flat rate.

      4. Tuckerman*

        Right, and the LW doesn’t specify whether they are exempt/non-exempt but if they are non-exempt employees working beyond 40 hours per week, wouldn’t they be eligible for time and a half?

      5. epi*

        It sounds like the bonus is a flat amount and the OP was just giving a sense of its value.

      6. OP #4*

        OP #4 — I confused everybody by saying it’s a percentage. It’s not a percentage, it’s a flat rate for $X that you get no matter how many calls you get (even if you don’t get any calls which does happen). I just represented it as a percent because I wanted to explain that it’s not a terrible piddly bonus without throwing out an actual dollar amount.

        Given that there are lots of posts on the internet of people who don’t get paid for their on-call at all, I thought it was good that we were doing that much.

        1. epi*

          I thought it was pretty clear what you meant.

          My husband is in IT and takes call. I can suggest a few more based on the problems it has caused us over the years.

          The biggest one is really to protect the on-call person’s time and scope of work. A few years ago sales people at my husband’s company were able to wrangle getting the *demo* environment for their software put into the 24/7 on-call rotation. Just no! Ensure that only truly urgent stuff is allowed to escalate to the on-call person, back them up if they don’t get online for just anything, and empower them to treat a workaround or “good enough” solution as the solution until business hours, when appropriate. Document what justifies paging someone and try to control who has that power if you can. Otherwise, people will abuse the power to page someone on behalf of their own project or client. It’s very hard to say no in the moment, knowing you will have to explain on Monday why you dismissed a page. My husband also used to feel bad logging off when there was no more role for him, if others were still working.

          Anything that greatly increases the probability of getting paged, such as supporting a new project or team, is effectively a pay cut unless you work to make it not be one. Paying your team more for on call or hiring more people is ideal whenever the scope of coverage increases– but I know it’s not always possible. Other than that, adjusting what must be covered, at what acuity, what is considered a good enough response after hours, and making it really clear that you will help your people enforce those boundaries, goes a long way.

          1. OP4*

            Thanks much for your response. We do have some problems with people calling on call when they shouldn’t and it probably wouldn’t hurt to send out a reminder. And the thought that the scope would increase with new projects… I don’t know why that hasn’t occurred to me but we’re trying to bring up new clients this year and I wonder if we can use that to justify a raise given the increase in work. Thanks for your thoughts!

    2. LQ*

      WFH is a big one and along with that schedule flexibility. If I took a call at 3 am I should be able to come in whenever, and quite frankly if I didn’t take a call but had to have the hum of the darn thing next to me I should be able to come in whenever.

      I also think the frequency of the calls matters. Does one call come through a month? Or is it 5-10 calls a day? They are different kinds of problems. The 1 call a month is a matter of I can’t live my life even though I really should be able to. The 5-10 is I’m working 60++ hours a week. You’re much better off with the 1/mo problem but it is also an issue depending what you expect from people. Are you expecting more than you need from them? What is the turn around? What are the things that happen?

      1. Earthwalker*

        This. We had to come in by 7:30 every day, even if we were up from midnight until 5:00 am with an on-call issue. Many professionals, like our software people, don’t need to be regulated so tightly. I agree that any sort of offering to give sleep back to people who are up all night or even sleeping lightly with half an ear out for a call to come in should be compensated in kind.

      2. JustaTech*

        I knew one team that had such a busy on-call that each person only took one 24 hour period because that was literally all they would do (and be up all night too).

        So here are my suggestions: if on-call is super busy, keep your on-call periods short, and make sure that the on-call work is acknowledged in some way in their performance reviews (as in, don’t dock people for not working on their projects on their on-call day).

        The other thing is, if your on-call is that busy, try to do something major to fix it. This team, for example, trained up folks at two other sites in other parts of the world so that on-call was just 8 hours during the business day. I know most companies can’t do that, but if you can you should consider it.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      A week of on-call week at my office runs from Monday-Sunday. It is outside of business hours during the week (so you’re NOT on-call from 6AM-6PM on Mon-Fri when the support line runs) and then the full weekend. We are salaried, so no extra pay for on-call hours, but we’re only on-call 3 or 4 weeks out of the year.

      On-call time is 100% working from home (unless you want to come into the office?) and we supply the on-call phone. The phone has a mobile hotspot option if you are out-and-about and need to access internet for a call. The on-call person gets the following Monday off since they worked all weekend.

      If you’re on-call for a holiday when the rest of the office is closed (for example, we just had Memorial Day in the US), you get a bonus vacation day. So the on-call person who started their shift the Monday of Memorial Day through the next Sunday got the following Monday off PLUS a vacation day they can use whenever.

    4. nonymous*

      At a previous employer there was a rule that if you worked more than 12hrs in a 24 period, you had to have a break of 8 or more hours and any hours that were regularly scheduled were still paid. So if someone worked their normal 10hr day on Monday and then was dealt with an on call situation during the period 1 – 3A, they wouldn’t have to come in until 11A on Tuesday and they would get regular pay for the regular shift of Tuesday 8-11A. This was in addition to on-call pay for monitoring the pager (some token flat rate/hr) and call-back pay (1.5x base).

      In the example above the individual worked Monday 9A-7:30P, monitored the pager from 7:30P – 1A, was on call-back duty 1A – 3A, mandatory rest 3A – 11A, and worked Tuesday 11A – 7:30P; total active time of 20hrs. But they got paid base rate for their regular schedule over 2 days (20 hrs), on-call pay 5.5 hrs, call-back of 2hrs (paid for 3hrs); total pay of 23 hrs + on-call token amount.

  9. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    #2 reminds me of the mean German lady from the Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’m really enchanted by the phrase “one or two of these taken individually could maybe be seen as overly rambunctious capers.” There’s an implication that workplace capers are acceptable, provided they don’t become overly rambunctious. Where’s the line between appropriate rambunctiousness and inappropriate rambunctiousness? Sounds like a topic for an open thread!

  10. WS*

    My workplace had to make an official tattoo policy (basically, they’re fine to be on display, anything offensive like nudity, violence or swear words needs to be covered) because of an older co-worker behaving like this. There were huffy sighs for a few days but then it just became normal.

    1. Yvette*

      “anything offensive like nudity, violence or swear words needs to be covered” Most companies have a similar policy towards T-shirts. It is perfectly reasonable as long as what is “offensive” is clearly spelled out the way yours is. Because Carol apparently finds tattoos in general offensive.

      1. WS*

        The tattoo that the older staff member found offensive was a very pretty frangipani! So yes, we did need to be specific about “offensive”. Her (predictable) next target was facial piercings, but we had that covered under safety rules – you can have them but nothing that can be grabbed easily.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          I had to google frangipani and let me tell you it was not what I expected. What was wrong with her (the older staff member)? I’m assuming she found the very existence of tattoos offensive?

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I definitely read frangipani as frangipane and was wondering how someone would tattoo an almond cream.

            1. Close Bracket*

              Holy crap, I never realized the spelling difference before. I feel like clouds just parted against a backdrop of angelic singing.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Sigh. With people like that, there is no winning. They will always find SOMETHING to be offended about and also find plenty of reasons why they’re justified (based on their norms-which are usually religious-but really are nothing but bullying) about being offended instead of really just minding their own business.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            True. The Carols of the world are mean-spirited and petty and can only be ignored or shunned. The people I feel sorry for are the children, siblings and spouses of “Carols” who feel a sense of duty to endure their company. At least LW 1 is only a co-worker.

            1. Jadelyn*

              The Children of the Carols: like the Children of the Corn, only pettier.

              Though that just reminds me of the Most Dramatic Thinkpiece I’ve ever read, a woman wailing and gnashing her teeth and tearing her hair (verbally, anyway) over the fact that her son got a tattoo. It is HILARIOUS.

              ““It’s just a tattoo,” he says, when the silence goes on so long that we have nearly fallen over the edge of it into a pit of black nothingness. “It’s not as if I came home and said I’d got someone pregnant.”

              It seems to me, unhinged by shock, that this might have been the better option.

              For three days, I can’t speak to my son. I can hardly bear to look at him. I decide this is rational.

              So I cry instead. I have a lump in my throat that stops me from eating. I feel as if someone has died. I keep thinking of his skin, his precious skin, inked like a pig carcass.”

              I wonder if Carol wrote that piece?

              1. Close Bracket*

                Shortly after I pierced my nose at 19/20, I called my mom and said it wasn’t like I was robbing liquor stores.

                1. Alleycat*

                  Oh, man did my parents yell at me when I got my nose pierced around the same age. I was ridiculed, yelled at, and told that this was absolutely unacceptable. My mother was in tears and hysterical. I never understood the logic behind single ear piercings being ok, but one in my nose absolutely not.

              2. Mrs Mary Smiling*

                I remember that, I think in the Guardian? It was amazeballs, and really left a weird impression in my brain. I look at my toddler son and thing, “Will I be that unconsciously weird about something? Would I care if he got a tattoo?” Then I imagine what sort of tattoo he would prefer. I’m thinking “Blankie 4 Ever”…

              3. GreyjoyGardens*

                Jeezy creezy. Her poor son. Dollars to donuts that same woman is going to be writing a piece a few years from now: My Adult Son Won’t Talk To Me Anymore! WHYYYYY?

                Something about the Carols of the world, most are utterly clueless about how their pettiness and bullying drive people away from them. Everybody just seems to hate me for NO REASON! Waah! Why? What is wrong with other people? (The male version often uses the word “sheeple” un-ironically.)

                I really hope LW’s boss backs her up and tells Carol to knock it off.

              4. Mr. Shark*

                Ah, that is just a beautiful piece of literature!! You can feel the despair in the writer’s prose!!

    2. Not Me*

      Sounds more like your workplace decided to create a policy instead of telling one employee to knock off their unhelpful and unprofessional behavior.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        The policy can be used to enforce telling the employee to knock it off. Then she can’t say they’re singling her out, making a hostile workplace, etc…

        1. Not Me*

          Telling someone to stop bothering others doesn’t constitute a hostile work environment. You can manage people without creating policies for every eventuality in the workplace.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, in an environment of reasonable people, that’s true.
            One unreasonable person who is determined to cause trouble can do an amazing amount of damage though, and having a written policy can help head it off.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Tell Carol that unless she has a magic wand, you can’t just make the tattoos disappear. JFC it’s like she thinks they just wash off or something.

    Boohoo, Carol. You don’t make the rules on if tattoos are okay at a company. That’s above your paygrade, so shuddup and do your job.

    If an employee was harassing another employee like this, we would take disciplinary action. She’s making you uncomfortable, that’s exactly the kind of thing we don’t want happening. It damages the entire crew morale to have this kind of thing going on. It’s inappropriate behavior.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I know, right? Grow the eff up, Carol. Sheesh, I don’t even have tattoos, and Carol is reallu pissing me off!

      1. Lucy*

        It’s making me (no ink) want to bulk-buy at Tattly and PLASTER my arms in something different and purty for a week at a time.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Or how about getting temporary tattoos and encouraging everyone in the office to use them.

    2. Massmatt*

      Carol definitely has a bee in her bonnet but I think her wish would be that the tattoos be covered up.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You’re probably right, I’m just confused why she doesn’t say it like that? She’s okay being a total nosy busybody and lecturing/muttering but can’t grow the nerve to say “OP, would you mind covering those up, they’re distracting me.” Instead of just acting like an insolent child who is hinting at ice cream being a totally suitable dinner option!

    3. mcr-red*

      I agree, at this point, it’s reached harassment level and the bosses need to talk to Carol and tell her to keep her opinions to herself.

  12. Don't get salty*

    I don’t get Carol’s nagging either. What does she expect to happen, that the tattoos disappear? For the LW to never bare her arms again? If the if the workplace were anti-tattoo, the LW would’ve never been hired. And I totally don’t get why people pull others aside to lecture them about norms when they’re not even in management, especially when the subject matter doesn’t affect them one bit. Carol is trash.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well she only just recently wore short sleeves. So they could easily hire her, even with a no-visible tattoo rule. They don’t do a strip search!

      However if they were an issue, a supervisor would say “Oh hey, OP. We have a no tattoos policy in our handbook. Please make sure you cover those.”

      But I’ve never seen a warehouse with “no tattoos” as a rule. We would have the worst time filling production jobs if we went that hard. We are just happy people change out of their pajamas before conning to work.

      1. DataGirl*

        I worked in automotive for a while- almost everyone had tattoos, even the VPs because they had all worked their way up from production.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, I’m used to them being everywhere because I’m in the very casual liberal Pacific Northwest. You still get weird side eye when you go outside the major cities here but I most heavily tattooed individuals tend to not stick to the podunk towns.

          A lot of my sales reps have noticeable tattoos as well and they’re a customer facing role.

    2. Curious*

      Pretty sure she wants her to cover them. I doubt she is so stupid as to think they will magically disappear.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        A lot of folks who are not educated in tattoos do think they’re actually easily removed and don’t realize the removal process is outrageously difficult.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And expensive, and not always entirely successful even if you go through the whole thing.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            And if you have sleeves, you’re just going to look like a burn victim instead of having tattoos on your arms! Since they’re literally burning them off.

            I watched when Tamara on Real Housewives had to get her old wedding ring blasted off her finger when she remarried,, no thank you.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I think you all give Carol too much credit. I doubt she has any idea what she wants done, she’s just lashing out.

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      For some people, enforcing the norms is its own reward. Now she and her kind are “in”, and the LW is “out”.

      1. WellRed*

        It sounds, though, like her other coworkers agree Carol is being foolish. I wish they’d tell her to knock it off, too.

  13. 'Tis me*

    OP1, I might be tempted to loudly phrase this as “Carol, please can you stop going on about the pigmentation of my skin? It doesn’t affect you in any way, shape or form, and the amount of energy you are investing in making me feel uncomfortable is staggeringly unprofessional. It also meets the company’s definition of workplace bullying; if I need to go to Jane about this I will.”

    1. Jasnah*

      I feel like “pigmentation of my skin” has the same issue with “my body” in Alison’s response above, where it could derail easily or mislead anyone who overheard just this sentence. The rest of that is solid I think.

      1. Mookie*

        But “body” is not misleading or inaccurate. Carol doesn’t like the LW’s appearance and insists on hinting that she needs to cover up. Of course this is about her body and not, say, an objection to an arguably offensive tattoo. They are totally benign designs. The LW’s body and who gets to dictate what she does to it is the crux of this weird low-level persecution, where she ropes in innocent colleagues and has to make snide remarks under her breath because she’s not getting her way, which involves, again, the state of the LW’s BODY.

          1. Mookie*

            I’m responding to Jasnah’s comment about using Alison’s language (“my body”), which Jasnah takes issue with.

            1. Jasnah*

              I mean, Alison says OP/Carol might take issue with it too. It’s like saying “Stop questioning my life choices, Carol!”…sure it’s technically accurate but a little vague, and it might be more effective to say “Stop talking about my tattoos.”

              1. Mookie*

                I guess my point is, her taking issue with it is to be expected; people will always be defensive when you point out how unreasonable they are being while using stark, unequivocal language following repeated, more polite attempts. Carol wants to pretend it’s not about the LW’s body but her lifestyle, her “professionalism.” That’s nice framing on her part, but inaccurate. This is about the LW’s body and the inordinate, negative attention drawn to it. It’s okay not to mince words with someone this brazen and inappropriate. Naming someone else’s behavior is not an attack.

      1. Yorick*

        Yes, and it will seem bizarre to anyone who overhears if they are both the same race (and/or if OP is white)

  14. StellaBella*

    In 2015-17 I worked at a place thst was an under funded Non Profit.
    There was one full month where no staff was paid but manager was. Staff took 50% salary cuts for 8 months before this and those who could not stay because they needed to feed their kids or pay rent etc etc left. I stayed on as had savings and was committed. Hahahah. I had a breakdown after taking on 5 jobs.

    Update your resume to include all new duties. Get some references lined up. Update LinkedIn to reflect all new work duties. Start lookibg now. Avoid a burnout.

    1. StellaBella*

      Committed here in my comment should have quotes. I was stupid and should have left long before I did.

    2. OP 3*

      Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s very helpful. Would it surprise you to learn I stay in personal relationships longer than I should, too? I suppose I have some self-reflection to do!

    3. Michaela Westen*

      Some nonprofits use the staff’s commitment to the cause to take advantage of them.

  15. Jo*

    Hope this doesn’t post twice as I lost connection first time round, apologies if so:
    OP1, I would be tempted to get more tattoos and probably some piercings as well, just to piss her off. Or come in to work wearing a tank top with ‘Yes Carol I’ve got tattoos, get over it’ printed on the front. Or when Christmas comes around, if she is your Secret Santa recipient, get her a home tattooing kit as her present. In reality though, you’re probably better off following Alison’s more sensible advice and telling Carol to stop commenting on something that’s nothing to do with her!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “You know, Carol, every time I hear you mention that it makes me think about getting another one.”
      /don’t say this.

    2. Jadelyn*

      The shop I got my first tattoo at had a sign up on the wall: “The only difference between people with tattoos and people without tattoos, is we don’t judge you for NOT having them.” I’d be tempted to get that sign and put it up by my desk.

  16. Auntie Social*

    LW1: Ask Carol what the guys in shipping said when she told them repeatedly that she doesn’t like tattoos, thinks they’re unprofessional and so on. I bet she hasn’t said one word to the guys, so you can bring that up to Carol and to Jane too, that Carol is discriminating based on gender. If Carol hasn’t said anything to the guys with ink then she doesn’t get to say anything to the woman with ink.

    1. Socks*

      I feel like someone who’s this brazen in her weird inappropriate disapproval of OP’s tattoos wouldn’t actually have a problem admitting that she holds men and women to different standards? It’s not like you don’t still see people out there openly saying that it’s unladylike for women to swear or have unkempt eyebrows or have casual sex whatever, and that those things are only okay for men. That’s not even a fringe opinion, that’s still pretty mainstream in a lot of places.

      If your point is to argue to Jane that Carol is discriminating based on gender, then that might work, depending on Jane’s personality and stuff. But if you’re saying that Carol will care about being seen as holding men and women to a different standard, I mean… yeah, she’s probably proud of that, that’s not really a “gotcha” for people like her. It might work to get Jane to shut her down, though.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I feel like someone who’s this brazen in her weird inappropriate disapproval of OP’s tattoos wouldn’t actually have a problem admitting that she holds men and women to different standards?

        Yep. “They’re shipping guys. That’s different.”

    1. Auntie Social*

      No, this was about Question 4, you’re in the right place. You’re fine.

  17. Batgirl*

    For some reason I picture OP1 as a tatooed Rosie the Riveter. Perhaps a poster campaign directed at Carol would help?
    I wonder if it’s worth OP pointing out that the tattooed men are left alone, even if that’s happening by accident. Though she seems pretty confident in her boss without that.

  18. jcarnall*

    #LW5: If your issue is that it’s tough to work in-office in the warehouse space (I agree) especially given the kind of work you do (definitely agree) can you present it to your boss (as there are offices standing empty) if you could MAKE USE of an office on the days you’re working in the building?

    In that way you’re not offending”seniority”, even though I think that’s a stupid reason, because you aren’t being given an office of your very own, you’re just being allowed to use a space productively that no one else is using.

    You’d have to treat it as hot-desking and actually store all of your in-office stuff at your “real” desk, leaving the office you are “borrowing temporarily” empty at the end of every working day, but you’d get the peace and quiet you need to make long phone calls to sources, research, write, and your boss wouldn’t have to explain why a comparatively-junior employee has an entire office to themselves.

    You might even be able to parlay it into permanent office space if you can show you have become much more productive with privacy, but it seems to me that might work if you think your boss would say “no” to permanent office space again.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      jcarnall’s idea is a good one. Somebody at my lab has successfully done exactly that. He started out ‘hot-desking’ on an empty desk and slowly over time started leaving more and more things there. Our PI makes a comment occasionally – sometimes when someone mentions ‘Wakeen’s desk’ we hear a light grumble along the lines of ‘It’s not really his desk you know…’. However, nobody has moved him because he’s a PhD who spends more time at the lab than most of the staff so it just makes sense, in the same way that it makes sense for #LW5 to claim an office. It could be a way to have an office without the boss having to admit to giving you an office, if your work culture allows it. I say go for it!

    2. Kate Daniels*

      I like this suggestion! I’ve worked in a place where windowed vs. non-windowed offices were distributed based on seniority, and a windowed office was vacant for several months. I think the reason no one was allowed to use it was because they were afraid someone would take over it and then not be willing to give it back when they did hire that “senior” person and become in need of that office, but hotdesking makes it clear you are claiming it as yours and that you are just temporarily using it.

  19. Bagpuss*

    LW2 – Are ypou documenting each incident? If not, start doing that and e-mailing your boss.

    If you have time, make a list of all of the issues you have been made aware of and the cost (e.g. x fake bookings,y number of people turned away as the place was’fully booked’ = loss of $xxx)
    X items missing = complaint – loss of reputation / discount of $xx given. forward it to your boss and keep copies.

    In relatin tpo your boss dealing witit, would it be possible for you to ask whether they have yet had any update from corpporate about how this is being addressed, as the issues are still continuing? That way, you are asking on the assumption that they have reported it and things are beinbg delat with.
    If it appears or you suspect that they are not, then is there anyone you can escalte it to directly?

    1. OP #2*

      Part of the problem is that lost revenue is definitely higher than I can tell – I only know about phone calls or walkins that I have to turn away. That doesn’t include people shopping online. I also don’t know the costs of replacing things like the “borrowed” luggage cart, and would have to go looking for how much money we lost reimbursing upset guests.
      My larger worry, though, is that this could be seen as not my job. I wrote in because I’m the one who has to deal with the upset people face to face, but this is really more the Chief of Operations and the GM’s wheelhouse.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I don’t think you need to research the extra costs if the information isn’t readily available, but you could document what is happening and when you forward to your boss and/or the GM say something like “I am not sure what the cost to [hotel] is of replacing the cart / compensating unhappy guests, but thought you would wish to know about these incidents / complaints.

        Or you could simply restict it to passing it on as feedback

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think you should also document the times you’ve brought this to your boss’ attention and do this ongoing, in case nothing happens with it. Then no one can say you didn’t let them know.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, do document the fact that you’ve kicked this up the chain. Because whether it’s your job or not, when the stuff hits the fan, you can be sure that someone is going to try to shuffle the blame to you.

  20. Cynthia*

    OP#1, I’d leave out the line about commenting about “my body”. Technically tattoos are part of your body, but like hair style/color and piercings, it’s a part you have, or had, control over. It’s not quite the same as someone commenting on your height, weight, or some sort of physical trait or disability. And just from a debate stance, it opens you up to pushback about your choices.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Hm… I disagree. I’d see it as fairly similar to weight – like, your own actions are at least partially responsible for your weight (just as you chose to get a tattoo) but it’s a) not relevant to the job b) not easy to change and c) personal. Using the ‘stop talking about my body’ language might jar Carol into realizing that her comments might be making LW uncomfortable and could be seen as inappropriate.

    2. Joielle*

      Maybe “my skin” would be a good phrase… still points out that Carol is talking about OP’s body, but a bit more focused on the actual tattoos. I feel like Carol would have a hard time saying “I’m not talking about your skin, just your tattoos” because the tattoos are literally part of the skin.

    3. boo bot*

      I actually think using “my body” rather than “my tattoos” is a good idea here, because it re-frames the issue in a way that might surprise Carol into realizing how inappropriate she’s being. I also think it’s accurate! You may have control over getting the tattoo, but once it’s there, it’s pretty permanent.

      To me it’s a bit like saying “you’re so skinny, do you ever eat anything?” to someone who’s deliberately lost weight, or “you’ll never find a husband with all those muscles,” to an amateur bodybuilder, or any number of things people say to pregnant women.

      Like, you’re commenting on something they presumably made a choice about, but it’s still rude, and the level of scrutiny is creepy.

      1. DJ*

        I agree with boo bot. I think tattoos are more akin to getting a nose job for example. Sure maybe it was a choice, but choosing something for your body doesn’t open it up to debate from the general populace. It would be rude to comment on it. Yes people might be more likely to do so, but it’s still really rude and “my body” makes that clearer because once you get a tattoo, it’s not exactly separable from your body without a fairly major (and lengthy and costly) medical procedure.

      2. Not Me*

        I agree. Carol is commenting on OPs body, and she needs to understand that’s not ok in the workplace. It’s not ok to make someone feel uncomfortable about their body whether it’s due to a choice they made or not.

    4. Serin*

      Hard disagree. If we’re going to allow comments about aspects of our appearance that we “have, or had, control over,” then it’s fine for everybody to harass those of us who are fat until we shape up and lose weight, right?

      1. Jasnah*

        I think Cynthia was drawing a line between aspects of our bodies that come with a certain default that we can’t change (like height, weight, hair texture, etc.) vs. things that people wholly opt into, at least at one point (choosing to get a tattoo, choosing to dye or cut your hair, choosing to get cosmetic surgery). You can’t change them after the fact so people still shouldn’t comment on them, but when you’re arguing with crazy people, sometimes you don’t want to conflate issues or get distracted.

  21. Luna*

    Carol needs to chill. Unless the tattoo is something offensive — like a nazi symbol or an anatomically-correct drawing of genitalia — it really doesn’t matter. I wonder if heading off or interrupting her triade of complaining about your tattoos with a blunt, assertive, “No.” will do anything. The bluntness makes it clear that you are not discussing this, you are not listening, and this needs to stop. Or else. Because this does sound like, if she won’t take bluntness seriously, you need to talk to your supervisors about this. You have tried telling her repeatedly to stop, she won’t.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      Genitalia? LW said it was flowers, maybe Carol’s being a little too Georgia O’Keefe about it.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Luna was just using it as an example, not implying that the OP has that sort of tattoo.

  22. A Simple Narwhal*

    #4 I’d also check that you’re making it easy/least interfering as possible for someone to be on call. I’m not 100% sure how your on-call works (I realize it can range from being on hand in case of emergency or having to physically go in if someone calls out) but when my fiancé is on call, he’s given a mobile hotspot, which allows him to essentially live his life as normal, he just has to bring his laptop with him wherever we go. If he gets a page while out and about, he can respond and login from anywhere.

    Conversely, when my mom is on call, she isn’t given any sort of hotspot and the login set up is a giant pain which means she’s pretty much stuck at home any time she’s on call. Big difference in quality of life between the two.

    And even if you can’t offer official one-to-one flex time, at least offer them lots of flexibility. If they had to take a middle of the night page, at the bare minimum they should feel empowered to sleep in or go home early.

    I also think being on call 25% of the time is a lot! Again, I’m not sure what being on call entails specifically for you, (it could totally be reasonable, just basing off of my experiences) but I feel like that’s a sign that maybe you need more people.

    100% endorse Alison’s advice to ask the people what they would like.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      This. My fiance has a hotspot, but he still can’t really go to the movies or anything when he’s on call. He’s still expected to work his regular 40 on top of any 4 hour calls he has to do at 1am, in addition to the 2-3 hours of off-hours maintenance work he has to do at 6pm or 1am on a regular working week.

    2. doreen*

      It very much depends on what on call means. I’m on call 24/7 except when I’m on vacation – but all that means is that I need to answer my phone/return calls within a reasonable amount of time. And before anyone mentions a rotation- we had one for a while, and it was much worse as it involved being on call for more than my own unit.

    3. Cascadia*

      Yes definitely to the 25% of the time being a lot! Again, depends on what on-call means – when I’m on-call at work it means I NEED to answer my phone when it rings. It means I can’t go to a workout class, I can’t go to the movies, and I definitely can’t leave cell phone range for hiking/camping/etc. Though I rarely get called, it does really bog me down in terms of my lifestyle. If I had to do that one week out of four, I would quit that job, even with the extra pay.

    4. Blue Horizon*

      I think this would be my suggestion as well. On call responsibilities vary widely. OP’s description of the compensation seems pretty normal to me and one week per month doesn’t strike me as excessive either (I see not everyone agrees with this, but I’ve typically worked for smaller companies where the commitment is even higher) so making the job easier would seem to be the obvious point of leverage. I managed a team where the on call role went from a dreaded responsibility to a coveted perk, without any change in the pay or on call hours, and that’s how I did it.

      Some specific suggestions:

      1. Make sure any avoidable after hours calls are, in fact, avoided (this is probably the biggest one). If you have an unstable system that goes down all the time and generates high call volumes, fix it. If you have customers that are in the habit of calling after hours for stuff that they really shouldn’t, then either push back or charge them a premium for the privilege (and if they opt for the latter, find a way to share it with the on call employees or spread the load a bit more). If you have an alert that triggers five false alarms for every real one, find a way to tune it better. This is a big topic, but there is very often a lot that can be done in this area.

      2. Make it as easy for them as you possibly can. Be explicit about your expectations regarding answer/response/attendance times. Provide hotspots, laptops etc. so that they can still do things they want to do to the greatest extent possible. Be flexible where you can afford to be. If you have a no alcohol policy, consider whether you could get away with “technically no alcohol but if you have a glass of wine with dinner nobody is going to come after you for it.”

      3. Standardize and document your on call processes as much as you can, and train people in them. If you’ve just been woken at 2am, “[thing] is broken and I have to figure out what to do about it” is a heck of a lot more stressful than “[thing] is broken and the alert message references scenario 33, which states that I need to execute the following six tests/fixes in order, document the results, then either escalate if it’s not fixed or go back to bed if it is.” This also helps make it more realistic for the job to be done by juniors, who are typically the ones most likely to be attracted by the extra pay. Senior/specialist knowledge after hours is expensive and should be priced accordingly (in your case it may not look like it on paper, but they are less likely to put up with it than juniors are, and often have more alternatives available to them if they choose not to).

      We would also pay staff at after hours rates (1.5 times normal) with a minimum of 1.5 hours per callout, even salaried ones. This helped with the nightmare scenarios where everything breaks, the phone doesn’t stop ringing, and you are up all night – nothing can really make up for those completely, but a fat bump in the paycheck for that week or month does ease the pain quite a bit. Make sure you recover it from customers and they are paying the true cost of the service including after hours compensation (this also helps you get customers on board with strategy #1, since they won’t want to pay if they can avoid it).

  23. Jaid*

    If I were Jane’s coworker, I’d show solidarity by either getting stick on tattoos or those shirts with tattoos printed on them.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ads here on AAM for temporary tattoo markers…

  24. A suggestion*

    OP1- At first I chuckled because from my vantage point, it’s fun to see Carol getting so wound up over tattoos! But, this is annoying and she is out of line and I am sorry you have to deal with this. I do wish I could be there when she sees your full sleeve though.
    I am going to suggest something; kill her with kindness. Carol’s prejudices have their roots in ignorance. I have my own prejudices that I admit only to myself and I find that when I love someone or really get to know someone who exhibits the traits I hold prejudices against, those prejudices are suddenly exposed to me for what they are and I can then work to overcome them. It may take a long time and it’s not your responsibility to take on the task of reeducating Carol, but if you see her and interact with her every day it’s not a stretch to kill her with kindness and slowly chip away at her prejudices. I am not saying you have to put up with what she is doing. By all means, No! But at the same time you can be the bigger person and it may even be less stressful for you to take this approach.

    1. Observer*

      I suspect that “kill her with kindness” is not going to work here. Keep in mind that the core problem is not Carol’s opinion of tattoos, but her behavior. The secondary problem is that her opinion is almost certainly not based in anything that is amenable to reason or education. After all, Carol may not know that tattoos are becoming increasingly acceptable in the workplace, even though the OP pointed that out to her. But she DOES know that they are acceptable IN THIS OFFICE. Yet she persists in complaining about the visibility of the OP’s tattoos in THIS OFFICE, despite fully being aware of the fact that this office does consider them acceptable.

      In other words neither her behavior nor her prejudice have been affected at all by the relevant information she already has. She’s not teachable at this point.

      1. Auntie Social*

        She’s also gone to Mean Girls behavior, gossiping/dissing the OP with the other women. Somehow she thinks she’s the office arbiter, and what she says goes. Singling out a coworker like that is worth a write-up, in my book.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. Not something that’s going to change when she is introduced to new information.

  25. MicroManagered*

    OP1 You are right that this is something you should handle yourself, but what that means is basically what you’ve already done: “So you’ve said — I disagree” and “You’ve said, and I’m not talking about this anymore” would’ve been the first kind of thing Alison would’ve advised you to say if you hadn’t already. It’s very direct and clear. The only part that’s missing is telling her “stop.” When a coworker won’t stop a problematic behavior after being asked to directly, that’s when it’s time to escalate.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Alison’s deliberate word choice of commenting on “your body” as opposed to “tattoos.” The tattoos are on your body. They’re permanent.

  26. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – Carol clearly isn’t someone who can be reasoned with so you’re gonna have to confront her and bottom line it.
    “My tattoos are none of your concern and the comments about them need to stop. They don’t affect my ability to do my job, but your endless need to talk about them DOES.” And as Alison said, escalate if she still doesn’t stop. Don’t let one person’s opinion change the way you dress to be comfortable. Carol needs to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around her and she doesn’t make the rules.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #1 – it feels like OP needs to be a lot more direct with Carol. It sounds like she has tried but it needs to be clearer. At this point I’d go with “stop talking about my tattoos.” And then if she persists, go to the employer. That way she can say she tried to be diplomatic. Then she was as clear as she could be, and it continues.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP, if you go to the boss be sure to mention everything you have tried so far. You have a good list of what you have tried and the boss will clearly see that Carol is obnoxious. Carol is there to work, not comment on your tattoos. The boss will notice that.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree with you. It’s a production floor. Nobody around here would put up with it and telling someone to “Leave me the hell alone about my (whatever)” isn’t going to get you into any trouble what so ever. Please Carol, go cry about it. “Jane told me to STFU because I was constantly badgering her about her tattoos, she’s the worst.” “Yeah…well you do need to shut up about her tattoos.”

  28. Argh!*

    OP5 – I have re-asked for things and gotten them. You would hardly be considered a nag or a whiner to ask after a year. Let us know how it goes!

    1. Delta Delta*

      This, especially joe that a year has gone by. You’ve all had a chance to adjust to the space, and you can say what the issues have been in your work space. OP will be able to frame the request in terms of how moving will increase/enhance productivity, and how this might not have been something the company would have known initially.

    2. Psyche*

      After a year you can approach it as “I’ve tried to deal with it but this really isn’t working.” Be prepared for them not to give you the office and approach it as trying to solve the problem. Maybe they will let you book a meeting room or office for a full day. M maybe you can increase work from home time. Start with the problem, suggest the office as a solution and be willing to work with them to find another solution if they are not willing to bend.

  29. Detective Amy Santiago*


    I kind of want you to collect pictures of all kinds of tattooed people and paper your walls with them.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I’m liking the idea of getting some of those long lasting temp tattoos and adding one a day to see how long it takes for 1) Carol to notice that they’re increasing and 2) for Carol to have a meltdown and/or start shrieking that the Tattoos Are Taking Over!!!!

      And ten let me know how those temp tattoos actually work, because I am super interested.

  30. Colette*

    #4 – when I carried a pager, we were expected to respond within 15 minutes and be online within 30. It was a huge pain, particularly since this was pre-smart phone. The pager was also 24/7, so there was no guaranteed downtime.

    We were paid a small amount per shift (about $35, so a $70/day on week days, more on weekends), plus we got paid more if the pager went off. (1 hour, or however long we were on the call, whichever was higher.) It added up to good money.

    How responsive are your employees supposed to be? How long are the shifts where they are supposed to answer the phone? If it’s 24/7, then giving them equivalent time off will mean that they only work the week they have the on-call phone. (168 hours in a week – 40 hours they’d work anyway = 128 hours/3 weeks and a day).

    Finally, what is the rationale for the on-call phone (and do they understand it)? I was supporting telephone switches; when 911 goes down it’s a big deal. I didn’t like the pager, but I understood why it was necessary, and I knew it was part of the job when I accepted the job in the first place.

  31. Long time listener, first time caller*

    OP4 – I second Alison’s suggestion about comp time. I am on call twice a month and I would loooovvvve if I got comp time.

  32. LaDeeDa*

    Carol needs to STFU. My husband has full sleeves and one whole leg covered. He wears long sleeves and they are fully covered, none even peek out, because he works for a conservative organization. One of his co-workers, funnily enough also named Carol, saw him on a weekend- wearing shorts and a t-shirt. She saw his tattoos and she hasn’t stopped talking about it at work. She told everyone and comments that she is so shocked he has so many tattoos. She even mentioned it to me once when I stopped by to go to lunch with him. I told her “you should have seen him 5 years ago, he had a beard down to his belt, and 4 earrings in each ear. ” The look on her face priceless. Don’t be like these Carols. No one is interested in your opinion about their tattoos, their clothes, their hairstyle, their food choices…

    1. Observer*

      Wait, your husband’s tattoos aren’t even visible at works and she’s STILL complaining? What on earth?

      Does she expect people to get her permission to live their lives on the weekend?

      1. LaDeeDa*

        LOL! She isn’t so much complaining as expressing her shock that my well educated, hot, successful, well-dressed husband is covered in tattoos. LOL! I think she might be like the person below who posted that when they see tattoos it makes them think the person is “white trash, a convict, or a sailor”, I think her sheltered little biased mind was blown. :)

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I’ll take her out on a warm evening so she can see my multiracial, hot, tattooed, bikers, wonderful friends in all their glory. She’ll have a breakdown!

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Especially my friend who wears pants so tight she needs help zipping them, with spike heels and an off the shoulder top, her arms and shoulders covered in tattoos… and her husband, the most handsome Latino man, like he stepped off the screen, also tattooed – and they’re two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. <3

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Wow, she sucks.

      I stopped visiting my uncle and aunt-in-law because she’s a generally horrible person and really great at inviting people to family events and then making them feel totally unwelcome, but one of the reasons I stopped is that even when I wore long sleeves she would find SOME way to mention my tattoos, up to and including asking me to roll up my sleeves and show them to people.

      Now all the invitations to family events for that side mysteriously get lost in the mail and my life is way more peaceful for it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Frigging Carols.

      I wish you had looked at her shocked and said “Wait…he has tattoos?!”

  33. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I’m not sure I would even give Carol a final warning as such. You have handled her weirdness around this perfectly and she continues to step over the line. I would escalate this now.

    1. Malty*

      Totally agree, you’ve been direct as hell and she continues. And my guess is even if you never showed your tattoos again the comments would continue. Escalate this now, and frame it around not only the harassment but also the assumed power. She took you aside to explain they were inappropriate – she’s not your supervisor?! Your boss needs to remind her of that.
      Also FWIW you sound awesome

  34. Anon for this*

    I have some sympathy for Carol, although I don’t agree with her behavior. She should definitely shut up about the tattoos. But I almost always perceive tattoos as ugly. Full sleeves… gross. I can’t wait for this tattoo trend to reverse itself. (At some point younger people will start thinking of tattoos as something old people do, and then stop doing it so much themselves.) if I had to work with the tattooed OP, I would cringe every time I saw her. But, hopefully, just inwardly, as I strive not to be so rude as to let my uncalled for opinions show.
    Do people getting tattoos not figure this in to their decision making? Like, “for the rest of my life, some people will have an unreasonably negative reaction to these markings, and that might affect my dealings with other people at some point?” Or do they just assume people like me are all bigots who should be avoided or ignored? Maybe we are… I don’t know. All I can say is if I’m talking to someone with gross facial piercings or a neck tattoo, I can barely look at them.

    To people contemplating tattoos, please take this into consideration. Not that it should define your choices, it’s your skin and you can do what you want with it. But why do something so unattractive that a certain percentage of people, for the rest of your life, are going to look at you and think, gross. (If the answer is you like the art… then buy the art and hang it on the wall where you can see it.)
    I’m so sorry the OP has to deal with her rude coworker. People like me should keep their opinions to ourselves. And for the most part, we do. But tattoo aficionados should know that we are legion and you will need strategies to deal with us because we have these bigoted associations with tattoos that are difficult to overcome. My mind goes to… white trash, convict, or sailor? And takes a moment to come out on the side of “ none of your biz, stupid mind, cut the judgmental crap, you are not your mother” before I deal courteously with the person. And hope that none of that showed on my face or body language in the nanosecond it took.

    On behalf of the Carols of the world, I apologize. Shut up, Carol!

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Just like with many things in life – you aren’t going to please everyone, and it would be absolutely exhausting to try to please everyone all the time. It comes down to if it makes you happy, and doesn’t harm anyone….it’s your choice.

      Heck, I chopped all my hair off to a short pixie (which is way, WAY more ‘mainstream’ than tattoos), and I still would get random comments of “but you were so pretty before!” mixed in with “so….you’re a lesbian?” and “but doesn’t your husband hate it???!” I like it. Hubs tolerates it (and likes not getting strangled by hair when we’re trying to sleep, I have very thick hair). It fits my personality and life needs better. I could not care less that Karen down the hall thinks that women shouldn’t cut their hair short until they’re Grandmas (TM) and that I’ve apparently ruined my looks. My looks weren’t for her to begin with.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Just want to emphasize – the world does not exist to Be Attractive to everyone. It’s part of what makes life interesting. Everyone will have different likes and dislikes, and that’s perfectly okay. You don’t like tattoos? That’s totally fine. I can’t say I’m super fond of being very tattooed, but I do like hearing about the meanings behind people’s tattoos. Sometimes I can learn very neat things about them, and sometimes it’s just because they like XYZ. I can’t say I’m super fond of really bright neon hair colors either, but that just means I’m not going to dye my hair those colors. But none of those people exist to be Pleasing to the Eye – they exist to be themselves, and they have their own lives and loves and passions and that’s what makes them Pleasing, personally – my dislike of bright neon pink hair shouldn’t even enter into their lives, as my dislike does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

    2. Good Grief*

      No, I will not take the opinions of other people into consideration when I do something purely cosmetic to my own body. Life’s too damn short.

      What a sad, lonely way to live life, giving that much of a crap of what other people think of you.
      If someone judges me not on my actions towards other people, but what I chose to do to their skin, then that’s nothing I should be concerned with. Because where does that attitude stop? Do I have to worry every time I cut and colour my hair that someone finds me ‘gross’? What about clothes?

      I refuse to live my life in such a way. How boring. How desperately sad to waste the gift of life ‘considering’ someone else’s opinion on my body art, when I could be doing literally anything else for the benefit of myself or the world?

      Nope, no thank you. All of this sounds like your problem to deal with, not us ‘considering tattoos’.

      Anyone who is considering getting one, yes, of course you’ll have to deal with unwanted attention and potentially backlash. But there are people in this world who waste their lives expressing opinions about other people’s eyebrows, don’t waste yours pandering to them.

      1. Good Grief*

        *my skin, not their skin. Obviously giving someone else a tattoo without consent IS concerning and worthy of backlash.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Guess what.

      Literally no one cares what you think about their choices and there is no reason for us to take your thoughts into consideration. It’s not my problem if you’re incapable of being a decent human being who looks me in the eye.

    4. curly sue*

      I have a tattoo and honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of it. I do not exist to be aesthetically pleasing for others.

      1. curly sue*

        I also wouldn’t put any money on tattooing fading away. Human beings have been marking our skins with ink since before the rise of civilization. For anyone interested in the history of it all, “Tattoo History: a source book: an anthology of historical records of tattooing throughout the world” (Gilbert, 2000) is a fascinating read.

      2. curly sue*

        I’d also like to point out that general anti-tattoo sentiment is primarily a western construction (leaving aside the Japanese prohibitions for the moment because they’ve got a specific different source). Human cultures worldwide have had rituals around tattooing, scarification and other body modifications going back millennia, only to come up against serious push-back from missionaries and other colonizing forces intent on imposing a version of white, western “civilization” on people they considered deeply inferior.

        Many of these traditions play vital roles in religions and cultures around the world, and have been badly damaged and in some cases entirely lost due to colonial and western imperial aggression and forced religious conversion over the past couple of centuries. It’s important to remember that what’s being considered “ladylike” and “appropriate” in these discussions is very specifically a white, western, Judeo-Christian behavioural ideal.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          And those terms were used to oppress women. It wasn’t “ladylike” to stand up for yourself against aggressors. It wasn’t “appropriate” to consider your own needs important. :p

    5. Guy Incognito*

      “for the rest of my life, some people with have an unreasonably negative reaction to these markings…”

      No. No we don’t. We think that we want to do things to our bodies that we enjoy, and something we want to do.

      Look, I appreciate your point that Carol should shut up, but by posting this, you’re not much better. You’re still pushing negative stereotypes. I have two advanced degrees, and I’ve got a full sleeve. i work an office job. My tattoos are on display most of the time. But you’re judging people based on… what? An acceptable form of expression?

      I highly recommend you watch “The Devil Wears Prada.” ALL expression says something about someone, how you dress, your makeup, etc. That you do something that’s more “acceptable” means nothing. You’re still presenting yourself in a certain way – one that I don’t think you’d like us to judge you by the same way you’re judging people with tattoos.

    6. LQ*

      I dress the way I dress because I’m scared of people like you. Scared of being constantly judged. I have so much respect for people who are not constantly thinking about people like you and being afraid. I can’t manage it. You create fear in the world of you. So yes, some people do think about it and don’t do it because of jerks who look at other people’s bodies and think “gross”. There is nothing more relaxing than being around a bunch of people who don’t care about my body in the way you apparently do.

    7. MuseumChick*

      This is no different than when women started to have pierced ears. There was a tome when any piercing was perceived as “gross” (Example, playboy bunnies were not permitted to have pierced ears for a long time). It’s nobodies business, doesn’t effect your ability to do the job at hand, and I find it bizarre that anyone who spend so much emotional energy (the way Carol is) on this.

      And to emphasize and quote an above poster: “Literally no one cares what you think about their choices and there is no reason for us to take your thoughts into consideration. It’s not my problem if you’re incapable of being a decent human being who looks me in the eye.”

    8. CheeryO*

      A) I think you have a much stronger opinion on tattoos than the VAST majority of people (you can barely look at them, really?), and B) People get tattoos for themselves and generally don’t care what people like you think.

    9. LaDeeDa*

      YOU have a negative reaction to tattoos, that is your bias. If you put everyone with a tattoo in the boxes of “white trash, convict, or sailor” you are giving in to the bias and stereotypes YOU have formed of people with tattoos, that is on you to fix, not the people with tattoos.

    10. Joielle*

      Personally? Yeah, I do “just assume people like [you] are all bigots who should be avoided or ignored.” Honestly, if someone like you thinks I look gross and avoids me, that’s a win for me.

      1. Jamey*

        Agreed. I don’t exist to look attractive for people – and I’m perfectly happy spending all of my time around people who think it IS cool and attractive that I’m decorating my body the way I want.

      2. Hrovitnir*

        Absolutely. Of course dealing with jerks is something you have to put energy into when deciding how to present to the world, unfortunately, but I absolutely think someone who hates tattoos [insert other non-conventional style choice hair – women with very short hair, men with long hair, piercings, whatever] is just bigoted and their opinion is only relevant to me inasfar as anyone with power to me panders to it.

        Evidence of the wider context of the bigotry specifically in the line “my mind goes to… white trash, convict, or sailor?” As if that’s not steeped in intense classism.

        And of course people who like that way of presenting tend to find it attractive, but as mentioned people don’t exist to be attractive to the maximal number of people (not even women: shocking, I know)

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I can’t believe that typo. *insert other non-conventional style choice here!

    11. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Oof, that’s a bit harsh.

      I’m not a tattoo fan either, and would never get one myself, but… “white trash, convict, or sailor?” Seriously? My good friend is an elementary school teacher, and she has tattoos; since she’s in a profession where visible tattoos are pretty taboo, she simply has them on parts of her body normally covered by clothing (small of her back, upper thigh, etc.). That’s usually all it takes for it to not affect your professional life – consider what line of work you’re in, decide if it’s enough of a problem, and choose the location of the tat based on that.

      1. Dragoning*

        I guess black people with tattoos must be….”convict or sailor” then?

        Ooh that’s not a good look.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Her “white trash” comment got me wondering, how DO tattoos look against darker skin?

          Off to google…

            1. TootsNYC*

              ooh, can you do white ink? I’m thinking that once upon I time I did see a plain black-ink tattoo on dark skin, and it was very subtle.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Yes, but it’s tricky to work with, because you bleed when you are being tattooed and it can mix with the white and give it a pinkish cast. But a talented tattoo artist working in white ink can do amazing things.

          1. sam*

            Tattoos look wonderful on all kinds of skin. Look up Yves Mathieu, he is covered in tattoos (and it’s a look that suits him incredibly well)

    12. MissDisplaced*

      I put this on the *you hate tattoos and find them ugly* That’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion about them, and no one is asking you to get them, right? Same goes with bleached hair, purple hair, clothing choices, etc., etc., and many, many other individual personal choices.

      Because that’s really the crux of it. Things like deciding how we want to look and present are personal and individual choices. Sure, some of those might be deemed “ugly” by some, but who cares? Someone aways gonna hate something.

      I find it wonderful that society has progressed to where people do not feel the need to CONFORM to some notions of norms of society that were around in say the 1950’s that determined how men and women were “supposed” to look, and then often actively punished people who refused to conform to that so-called ideal (which honestly is what Carol is attempting to do w/her comments–shame OP for not conforming to some ideal she has about what is the right way to look). Diversity and individual expressions are good for society, it keeps it moving and changing and from becoming homogeneous.

    13. Psyche*

      Your coworkers are not there to be attractive to you. If you have a negative reaction to how they look you don’t have to date them or be friends with them. Just be professional. I don’t think people need to take your opinions of tattoos into account before getting one.

    14. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I literally do not care what anyone thinks of my tattoos. I’m super glad to know that you think they are disgusting but I find this entire comment so unnecessary and unhelpful. There are people out there who hate pretty much every physical attribute possible, and if you spent your whole life trying to avoid making people think you’re ugly then that’s a huge waste.

    15. Angus MacDonald, Boy Detective*

      ALL tattoos are ugly? Even my pretty roses on my arm, or my Pusheen on my ankle? Tattoos by some artists are literally beautiful works of art, just on a different canvas! I have 7 tattoos of varying sizes and I love them all, and can’t wait to get more!

        1. Angus MacDonald, Boy Detective*

          Your daughter has very good taste ;)

          I am also obsessed with Pusheen and I am 25!

      1. DataGirl*

        As a moderately tattooed person (10) I strive for beauty and quality in my designs. I sometimes see tattoos that were clearly done by someone with little skill – I may even find it ugly- but I always tell myself ‘their body, their choice’. What I find attractive doesn’t have to be the same as other people, just like with art. And just like art, there are millions that ARE beautiful.

    16. Bagpuss*

      I think it is reasonable to give some thought to how your chpices willaffect you in the future, but that isn’t limited to tattoos – it goes for any significant decision you make, whether its where (or if) yougo to uiniversity, whether you get married / get divorced / have a child / move to a different city ..
      Of cours there will be some pople who will, in later life, regret choices they make, andthere will be some who will be prejudiced against those who make diffrent choices or who make choice they personally disagree with.

      But I don’t think that anyone should be making choices based on whether or not it is likely to make them more or less attractive to random people. We don’t exisit to be attractive to others, and I don’t think tha the mjority of people who chose to get tattoos are doing so in order to be seen as more (or less) attractive.

      I think also that there is a huge difference between buying art for your home, and getting something tattooed on your skin. One is not a substitute for the other. (it’s also a privaledged position to take, Not every has the security of being able to buy something to hang on their wall and feel conifdent that there will always be a wall to hang it on. )

      I do think that if your response is , as you suggest “White trash, convict or sailor” that you are prejudiced, and also exceptionally out of date! I don’t think tattoos have been limited to any of those groups at any time in the past 50 – 60 years
      It’s good that you then go on to be polite to pople but given that you presumably meet lots of people who are not any o thsoe things but who have tattoos, perhaps you could start to consciously adjust your assumptions.

      I don’t, personally, have any tattoos, nor do I want any.
      But I have friends who have tattoos, and while in my personal opinion, some of those tattoos are beautiful and some are not, what they all have in common is that they are meaningful to the person who has chosen to have them .

      I have employees who have tattoos, and again some of them look nice, to me, and some don’t, but I don’t kid myself that any of those people got their tattos for me, or with me and other observers in mind.

      I think the fauly in your logic is that you you conflate your view that tattoos are unattractive and ofputting with the assumption that they are objectively unattractive. Youi actually say “Why do something so unattractive..” when the reality is that only a small proportion will find them unattractive. Equally, there will be a subset of people for whom tattoos sginficantly enhance how attractive someone is, and a lot more for whom they don’t really sway people one way or the other.

    17. CommanderBanana*


      That is an awfully entitled position to take. And I truly, deeply do not care what people like you think about my skin.

    18. LizArd*

      “For the rest of my life, the kind of uptight judgemental people I would rather never speak to will not want to speak to me” – perfect! Mission accomplished! My tattoos don’t like you either!

      1. Shamy*

        I kind of (actually I really do) love this statement. I had such a visceral reaction to the comment. I love tattoos and know many people have tattoos that are deeply meaningful to them. I only have one, but it is extremely special to me as it is in memory of my beloved mother who passed away. It is a special saying in my family that means I love you and is in her handwriting on my wrist. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of her deep love for me. I will never ever cover it up. I know there are many people that feel the same and have similar tattoos. I hope the commenter will challenge some of their own biases. It is actually quite ironic for the people they are judging the hardest are, in my experience, the most nonjudgmental, loving, and accepting people I have ever met.

    19. Femme d'Afrique*

      “But why do something so unattractive that a certain percentage of people, for the rest of your life, are going to look at you and think, gross. (If the answer is you like the art… then buy the art and hang it on the wall where you can see it.)”


      I know this will turn into a huge pile on, but… wow, no.

    20. Dragoning*

      This is a lot.

      I mean.

      Should a man not get married to another man he loves because people are gonna be bigoted about it? Does it mean he “didn’t figure that into his decision making?”

      I honestly think there are not anywhere near as many “silent” “legion” people with your opinions as you think they are.

    21. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You probably haven’t examined this, but “white trash” is a racist term (it implies there’s supposed to be something about being white that’s superior to other races). Please don’t use it here.

    22. AngryOwl*

      No, I didn’t think of people like you before I got tattoos, because I don’t exist to be attractive to you. I’m guessing you don’t realize that’s how your question comes off, but it does.

    23. Jaybeetee*

      So I went through a phase a few years ago, when several things in my life had gone wrong and I needed to make some very important decisions for myself, where I got really concerned about “But There Are People Who Will Judge Me For This!” Luckily, a few people who were close to me, and cared about me as a person, called me out on this thinking, told me it wasn’t healthy, reminded me that it was my life and I had to be the one deciding things, and let the cards fall where they will vis-a-vis other people’s opinions. (In the end, some of those decisions I made turned out to be right, some turned out to be wrong, but I actually experienced very little judgment for any of it – at least, not to my face).

      Think what you will about tattoos, but “other people not liking this should weigh on your decision” is… a really bad way to make most decisions, especially about matters that affect your own life and no one else’s.

      I’ve spent enough time on the internet (and around people IRL) to know that there is literally *no* decision you can make that someone won’t have an opinion on, and possibly a negative one. Double that for women and POC, who are told from too many corners all the ways we’re Doing Life Wrong (and often in contradictory ways – think Mommy Wars). If you have managed to get to whatever point in life you’re at without a single person judging you negatively for something, you have truly been blessed.

      … Except that it’s apparent, based on this thread alone, that you probably have not gone though life never having been judged. But the values you hold are valuable enough to you that other people’s opinions are less important. Which… is actually good! And that’s the same decision-making process people who have tattoos have.

    24. Rusty Shackelford*

      I mean, it’s okay to dislike what you dislike. I happen to really hate undercut haircuts. I don’t think they’re flattering on anybody. (Sorry.) But to suggest that someone shouldn’t get that kind of haircut because people like me are going to find it unattractive is putting a bizarrely high level of importance to my opinion.


      But tattoo aficionados should know that we are legion and you will need strategies to deal with us because we have these bigoted associations with tattoos that are difficult to overcome. My mind goes to… white trash, convict, or sailor?

      Sailor is a bad thing?

    25. HalloweenCat*

      Wow. I feel like this comment is incredibly unkind to the letter writer. This person has written in for advice because she is being harassed by her coworker for her tattoos so I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to tell her you think they’re “gross,” “trash,” “ugly.” You say you try to keep theses feelings to yourself in the real world but I have to say, if you’re willing to express your opinion to this extent to a stranger who has already told you this sort of negative commentary is a problem in their life, I have a feeling you aren’t cringing as inwardly as you think. I don’t mean to dog pile here and I’m not trying to change your mind about tattoos, I just hope you might take a moment to examine why you felt so strongly the need to say this to this particular letter writer.

    26. hbc*

      Not being tattooed, I would guess that there are some who consider reactions like yours and decide that it’s worth the annoyance, some who are pleased that it annoys the bigots, and some who don’t consider the reaction of others at all. Same for all the big and small choices we make each day.

      Actually, the fact that you consider this news is probably the most insulting part of your post–as if people who get tattoos aren’t aware of all the negative stereotypes of the “legion” (and decreasing) people who take issue with a few particular forms of body decoration. You should be spending more energy encouraging your compatriots to be less vocal, not encouraging others to listen to them even though they’re wrong.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        In the 80’s, before tattoos became so popular, having a tattoo was special. A person with a tattoo was a kindred spirit. One of the reasons was they weren’t all uptight, judgmental and conformist.
        I had always planned to get more tattoos, but when they became popular with regular people they seemed less special and I wasn’t motivated. I’ve been thinking of getting some lately though. Maybe I’ll actually do it at some point. :)

    27. DataGirl*

      “Or do they just assume people like me are all bigots who should be avoided or ignored? Maybe we are…” YES YOU ARE. Seriously, would you say these types of things about someone whose weight you didn’t like, or who had some other aspect of their body you find ‘gross’?

      1. AngryAngryAlice*

        Tbh, I’m guessing that yes, they would, because they seem to genuinely believe that their opinion on what is and isn’t O.K. is the correct one and that they have a right to vocalize said opinion despite overwhelming evidence that a. they are wrong, and b. their opinion is important and/or welcome (it is not).

    28. Lady Phoenix*

      I’ll take a “Yikes!” For $500, Alex.

      (Also there are tattoos for cultural purposes, like the South Pacific. Are you gonna call them “White Trash” for their tradition?)

    29. Donkey Hotey*

      People like me should keep their opinions to ourselves.

      Too bad you couldn’t take your own advice, friend.

    30. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

      Holy classism, Batman! Convict, sailor (although more accurately this should be all military), or poor person??!?!??!?! It is good that you keep this opinion internal because dang it is ugly.

      On the broader topic. Odds are all of us have something about our appearance that a good solid percentage of the world will think is gross or unattractive. It might be your hair, my freckles, Jane’s cellulite, Jim’s belly, John’s nose, Sally’s skin, Matt’s body, etc.. That’s just how people are, so just remember that as you sit judgement on someone with a tattoo someone else is probably looking at you and wondering why something you do is unattractive and gross.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        And most likely racist. I have no doubt they view POC with tattoos as lowly too (and the “white trash” comment).

        Off Topic: Love your username. I picture you in one of those Safari outfits with a big curly mustache and a monocle and saying, “Tally HO!”

        1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          Oh man, now I really want to design something like that as my avatar. Too bad I can’t draw!

      2. DJ*

        This exactly. I’m sure some people think I’m gross for being overweight, but I’m not going to hide in my house and starve myself until I’m aesthetically pleasing enough to come out. Plus there are literally so many different opinions out there that you’re never going to please everyone. I mean I there are things I find unappealing, but I’m not going to judge someone for not adhering to my aesthetic preferences.

    31. Tilda*

      Reading this comment only makes me want to get MORE tattoos and parade them in your view to watch you cringe. How cute that you think anyone will listen to your anti-tattoo diatribe.

    32. Tinker*

      “But why do something so unattractive that a certain percentage of people, for the rest of your life, are going to look at you and think, gross.”

      Being a trans guy from a narcissistic family system has given me the opportunity to get really, really clear with myself about this: the choices I make about the appearance of my body are not based on what other people want me to look like, and I have already developed strategies to deal with the sort of people who have issues with that.

    33. Pebbles*

      My cousin has a tattoo in remembrance of her stillborn child. Why on earth would she need to consider whether you would approve or not?

    34. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      Yes, I know there are people who will judge me for being tattooed. A significant number of those are the same people who will judge me for my sexuality; I’m not sure of the overlap with the people who judge me for my ethnicity or where I’m from.

      You don’t get a vote in how I live my life. Not any of it. But knowing that bigots like that are out there is part of why I’m wearing rainbow “Queerville” shirt (which is sold to raise money by the local high school GSA).

    35. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      It’s not my job, or anyone else’s job, to be attractive to you. Period. In fact, the world might be a better place if people were a little less concerned about judging others on whether or not they find them attractive.

    36. anon today and tomorrow*

      My mind goes to… white trash, convict, or sailor? And takes a moment to come out on the side of “ none of your biz, stupid mind, cut the judgmental crap, you are not your mother” before I deal courteously with the person. And hope that none of that showed on my face or body language in the nanosecond it took.

      Pretty sure you’re not successful at hiding your judgmental views as you think you are. Which is a good thing so everyone can know to keep back from someone who has such archaic and holier-than-thou views on what other people do with their bodies.

      Also, literally laughing at the sailor comment. This isn’t the 1940s.

      1. StaceyIzMe*

        Agreed. The phrasing feels a tad OTT for just tattoos. Nobody is running guns or trying to “make you an offer you can’t refuse”. It’s ink, not radioactive waste. Priests, papas, moms and just about some specimens of every demographic have tattoos. It’s no more a “thing” associated with a few “types” than dyed hair or leather jackets.

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

        My parents used to make sailor/tattoo type comments, but as they both actually came of age in the 1940s, it was actually appropriate for them to do so.

    37. ShortT*

      “Do people getting tattoos not figure this in to their decision making? Like, “for the rest of my life, some people will have an unreasonably negative reaction to these markings, and that might affect my dealings with other people at some point?”

      I’ll tell anyone who tells me to alter my appearance because it offends their aesthetic sensibilities something like what I told the person who was put off by my not wearing stockings with a midi skirt. In summer. When the dew point was over 70F. Because it might give people the wrong idea and make then relate to me in a less-than-pleasant way. “Madam, if your husband or some would be so perturbed by six inches of skim, the solution isn’t for me to cover the rest of my legs. The solutions is for the lot of y’all to get some intensive psychotherapy to get a hold of yourselves. Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

      1. Gambling on an unpopular opinion*

        I’d like to point out (in no way defending the original comment here), that there are so, SO many images out there online of truely ugly tattoos/bad decisions, and this can SERIOUSLY enforce the negative stereotype.
        I do not mind tattoos – my brother has a half-sleeve dragon that’s actually very impressive, and I saw a woman with a tattoo on her knee (I cringed at that, because that HAD to have hurt – the artwork was beautiful, but ouch!) – but if you have anything on your face, I’m sorry, my gut reaction would not be positive. Because statistically speaking 90% of the facial tattoos I have ever seen, both online and in real life, have been massively offensive and distracting and not something I wish to encounter every day at work.
        Does that make me a bigot too?
        Can you honestly say you’d be completely happy with “No Ragets” across your forehead?
        I’m prepared to revise my opinion once I know what the tattoo represents (assuming it’s not offensive or just plain dumb etc.), but we have pattern seeking brains, and mine will put your facial tattoo in the “not good” box by default, based on the pattern previously established.

        1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

          What does this have to do with anything? Anyone can find any aesthetic decision “ugly” or unappealling. Of course some people get tattoos that almost no one would find attractive, but so what? This person said they think all tattoos are disgusting, big difference between that and “I don’t like face tattoos.”

        2. ShortT*

          “I’m prepared to revise my opinion once I know what the tattoo represents” You’re operating in the misguided presumption that your opinion holds weight in my decisions and that your opinion is someone my problem.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            “I’m prepared to revise my opinion once I know what the tattoo represents”

            Wow, really? Has it occurred to you that maybe your opinion is irrelevant and no one owes you an explanation?

        3. Tattoos are not for me but I'm not a jerk*

          I hope you can change your thought pattern from “facial tattoos are gross and so are the people with them” to “I hope they are happy with that tattoo.”

          Maybe that will help you reframe it so you can avoid judging people before you know them. I don’t like tattoos and it was helpful for me because I don’t want to be an @$$hole.

    38. Yvonne*

      You don’t have to like tattoos but perhaps…and I’m just throwing this out there…the onus should be on you to work on your bigoted associations and not on others who fall victim to them.

      Really though. If it was anything other than tattoos you are talking about would this,be okay? Say, a gay man who brings his SO to an office holiday party? Should he consider the feelings of someone who will look at him and think eeewww! Should an overweight person who wears clothing not designed to hide their extra weight be considering the opinions of someone who thinks their body is disgusting?

      I would suggest that trying to work on your prejudices and becoming a kinder, more accepting person is better for everyone involved than suggesting others think about how their appearance or life choices will make you wrinkle your nose in disgust.

    39. JustaTech*

      Just to add more evidence to the “people with tattoos aren’t all terrible”, most of the people I know with tattoos are very accomplished scientists, nurses and programmers.

      And the person I know who falls into one of your “tattoo’d” categories? He’s not got a single tattoo or piercing.

      So maybe try to work on those associations?

    40. Mia*

      Other humans do not exist merely to be aesthetically pleasing to you. Beyond that, there’s always gonna be someone who doesn’t like something about your personal expression. Why stop being who you want to be because of that? Like, I’m a chubby brown lady who’s married to another woman; I guarantee you that A LOT of people think I’m “gross” upon seeing me/learning things about me. If I let that bother me, I would just be perpetually miserable.

    41. Samwise*

      I hope you do realize just how offensive the term “white trash” is, all on its own.

    42. seejay*

      To pile onto the heap:

      The day I stopped caring what other people, especially “the majority”, thought of me and how I was expected to behave and fit into their little box, the happier I became, and that included trying to fit into what was considered conventionally attractive.

      Surprisingly, you are not in “the legion” because there’s way more tattooed people out there than non-tattooed since it’s not a random fad despite what you think… it’s in fact a millennium old tradition across countless cultures, something you would be aware of if you actually got out of your bigoted little bubble. You just don’t realize how many people have them because a lot of people aren’t showing them off at the time.

      Regardless, as you can tell, those who gets tattoos generally don’t care what you and other closed-minded people think and when we do care about what people think, we care about those who are close to us and how they’re willing to accept and love us with the art we have. My very non-tattooed, non-pierced partner actually loves all my tattooed and pierced parts, it’s one of the things that drew him to me and his opinion matters way more to me than countless others out there who sound like closed-minded jerks.

      You should seriously think twice about spouting these types of awful horrible thoughts… some of us are strong and confident enough to tell you to stuff it where the sun don’t shine but there are enough people out there who are struggling and reading crappy awful “opinions” is enough to keep them from wanting to leave the house or take those steps to be happy, whether it’s getting a tattoo or even something as innocuous as wearing a different colour or trying a new hairstyle.

    43. Close Bracket*

      Or do they just assume people like me are all bigots who should be avoided or ignored?

      You make your assumptions, I make mine. If I knew you were someone who judged people for having ink at all rather than for their choices in what they inked (ie, violent or racist imagery), I would have trouble looking at you when I talked to you. Actually, I would just avoid you as much as possible.

      I do consider the opinions of people like you in my decision making. Formerly, I wore a tiny nose stud that could barely be seen to work to minimize bad reactions. Now, I dgaf about judgemental people’s opinions on my nose ring. I do still plan to get my tattoo in a place that won’t show while wearing ordinary professional clothing. Socially, though, I have considered your opinion and dgaf.

      Quite frankly, there is a certain percentage of people who will find me more attractive for having ink, not less. They are legion. I’ll hang with them. Btw, do you consider their opinions when making a decision to continue with unadorned skin?

  35. SigneL*

    Do people criticize men for tattoos? Or is it mainly women (as in, “nice women don’t, you know”)?

    1. Guy Incognito*

      As a man with tattoos I can confirm that yes, they do. I’ll never get a job, what was i thinking, etc. I think men get it a little less because professional norms have us covering our arms in most instances (suits, long sleeves) but since I got a job where I’m allowed to wear polos, I get it more.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      They do but I think there’s an added layer of gross sexism when it comes to criticizing women – a lot of people (including some commenters, apparently) really believe that women should always be thinking about what’s aesthetically pleasing to other people. I have had so many guys be like “Well, I don’t find x y and z attractive” and be legitimately upset that women aren’t considering how THEY feel about.

      When I was actively dating, I went on more than one date with guys that would get actually angry about overweight women as though every woman everywhere was somehow responsible for being attractive to them. It’s truly bizarre.

      1. SigneL*

        I hear women criticized for so many things – too fat! too skinny! hair! Makeup! Clothes/shoes! Voice too loud/too soft! Handshake too soft/too firm! The food they eat/don’t eat! RBF/smiling too much!

        Yes, men are criticized, too, but it seems like the criticism directed towards women is relentless.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          It seems like it’s more about finding something to criticize, than anything women actually do.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      My hospitalist doctor friend has an ongoing battle with the hospital higher ups about his sleeve tattoo.

      He paid $$$$ money to a primo tattoo artist. It took forever to finish. It truly is a work of art. Gorgeous.

      On the Press Ganey reviews, that damn tattoo comes up more than anything else. How dirty. How gross. How unprofessional. How could you hire someone like that? I’m requesting a different doctor for my mother next time.

      Mind you, he wears a lab coat, and you can maybe see 1 inch of the tattoo. To shut everyone up, he now wears cuffed sleeves.

      We live in Metro Detroit. This is not a little rural area.

      He’s now looking to get out of the hospital, and into another practice. The hospital lives and dies on Press Ganey reviews. “We don’t care, but our customers are unhappy. Cover it up.”

      Men get judged just as hard.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Ironically, if his patients can’t think of anything else to complain about, it probably means he’s doing a really good job.

      2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Of all the things one could complain about a (bad) doctor, their appearance seems pretty frivolous!

      3. Rhoda*

        But long sleeves are more unhygienic then tattoos. That makes no sense.
        In healthcare rings, nail varnish, bracelets, and wristwatches are forbidden for hygiene reasons.
        If you’re dealing with body fluids in your job then clothes with long sleeves are not a good idea.

    4. Maya Elena*

      There’s probably context and content that goes in there. A tattoo known to be military-related (i.e., you know the person is a veteran), or ethnic – e.g. henna tattoos – receive better reactions. Smaller tattoos, neutral ones, generally seem to receive less judgment than full sleeves or other very large body-surface ones, or more disturbing-type imagery (skulls, ravens, that sort of thing).

  36. human fidget cube*

    Might be a generational thing, but as a 24 year old, even someone who would never consider getting a tattoo, I find Carol’s conduct shockingly unprofessional and appalling.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I feel like Carol is stuck in the past. I remember when I got my first tattoo, back in the late 90s, and everyone in my family was ~scandalized~ by it.

      Now? My mom has a tattoo. Societal attitudes are always shifting and changing, luckily, they trend to get more progressive. The Carols of the world will just need to clutch their pearls a little harder and get over it.

  37. the elephant in the room*

    “She’s going to be really wound out when she figures out the gauntlets she dislikes so much are actually full sleeves.”

    Omg, I laughed so hard at this.

    Anyway, the fact that she is sitting there MUTTERING TO HERSELF about it when she realizes no one else cares makes me think she is well beyond rational thinking at this point. Tattoos are some kind of trigger for her and now their very existence is making her behave like a crazy person. Use Allison’s script, but be prepared to have to go to your boss about it.

  38. Former Help Desk Peon*

    #4 – one simple thing we do for our oncall person is allow them to leave an hour early the week they’re on (and of course just count it as paid reg time). It doesn’t seem like much, but since it lets them beat rush hour traffic it gets them home much earlier than usual.

    We also provide the cell, a laptop, and pay for bandwidth so they can really work anywhere they get cell coverage so they’re not stuck at home.

  39. Nep*

    Spouse used to have a similar on-call situation, and they received extra vacation days in exchange. (I can’t remember the ratio of on call days/vacation, so I won’t speculate here.) If that’s something you can wrangle, that’s always welcome.

  40. Meg*

    I’d just like to say to OP1 – you rock! 50s lady with full sleeves and more? Keep fighting the good fight

  41. Ms Chanadalar Bong*

    @OP#4 – thank you for taking time to think about this. I once worked for a company that expected me to be on-call, in cell phone range (in a rural area, meaning you stay within city limits!) every weekend for over a year – with no compensation at all.

    Eventually, we developed a rotating schedule where you got one day (7hr) of lieu time for every weekend (Friday p.m to Monday a.m) that you were on call, and any time you actually had to work while on call was also counted as lieu. It went a long way to making it more palatable – you couldn’t plan your weekend on-call, but you could count on a nice long weekend later than month.

  42. mcr-red*

    I just had a conversation with my co-worker who has brightly colored hair that has been pink, purple, green, and blue in the past. And we work in a professional setting. I feel like Carol the tattoo hater would also freak out about hair colors not found in nature.

    1. Former Help Desk Peon*

      Yeah, I dyed my hair fuchsia this weekend :-) I mean, it’s not quite that bright because my base color is a blend of dark brown and silver, buuuuuut it’s still not a color found on human heads in nature (at least on the silver strands). I’m in my 40s, have a solid rep at work and am willing to spend whatever capital it costs me.

      I’ve thought about getting a tattoo, but my mom and dad went and got them first so now it feels like I’d be copying my parents.

      1. mcr-red*

        Ooh I’m so jealous, I’d love to have fuchsia hair! My problem is sheer laziness – I know you have to do a lot of upkeep to keep it looking pretty.

        1. Samwise*

          I had a fabulous fuschia wig in the 80s, Sheena Easton-ish, only more spiky and punked out. Wish I still had it…

      2. General Ginger*

        Oh, I bet the gradation in brightness/shades of fuchsia between the formerly brown and formerly silver strands looks really great!

        1. Former Help Desk Peon*

          It would be cooler if I hadn’t been coloring with a darker shade previously, or if I knew what I was doing better ;-) But I do love the fact that my silvers pick up the color more – it’s like I have pinky purple highlights among the rasberry/brown. I think I’m going to keep this up over the summer and see how it shakes out as the former darker color grows out.

      3. Socks*

        I got my first tattoo with my dad (we both got kind of match-y ones, like they stand alone just fine but also they’re similar to each other), it was super fun. I mean, it was painful and terrible, but, also, a good experience. If you do it that way, you’re not copying them, you’re bonding with them!

    2. Jaid*

      My hair’s been purple for a couple of weeks now. My hair cut is basically a buzz cut (#2 and #3 clippers on the sides and back and the top is left alone. Federal employee here, no one says boo.

      And my 70 something year old Mom has had purple hair and is a docent at one of the bigger museums in the city. People love approaching her.

  43. Dust Bunny*

    While I agree with LW1 that this *should* be the kind of thing s/he can handle on her own, that only works when the Carols of the world are sorta-reasonable people. Sometimes they aren’t and no amount of handling them will resolve the problem. So I hope the boss here is supportive.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree. Really it sounds like the OP actually has tried to handle it on her own. So it’s not like the first time Carol said something, she ran to the manager asking them to step in for her. She said “Carol, knock it off.” multiple times.

      When that doens’t work, then you need to bring out the person who has the authority to say “Carol stop or you’re going to lose your job.”

      1. TootsNYC*

        She said “Carol, knock it off.” multiple times.

        And in multiple ways, starting with the polite and friendly and moving to the firm.

        Our OP needs to make that info be part of what she shares with the manager she goes to. That she HAS tried, and she tried being nice first.

  44. Heidi*

    Hi OP4. I guess it depends on how often the on-call person actually gets called, but perhaps it would be less painful if your employees weren’t on call for a whole week at a time. In my workplace, we used to be on call every x number of nights (x being the number of employees). We used to get called many times per night, so if we’d had a weekly call schedule, the on-call person wouldn’t be able to sleep the entire week. I think if I knew I was going to be on call every Monday and could schedule my week around it, that might be easier than having to upend my schedule for a whole week. But it does depend a great deal on how often you get called.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this!

      If I needed to be on call as part of my duties, I would rather be on call for the same time period every week. Then I can plan around it! Maybe that’ll be the evening I always do laundry, since I need to be home and accessible by phone/email.

      But if, as Alison says, you consult your team and ask them what would make this easier or make them feel more valued over it, they may bubble this up.

  45. blink14*

    LW #1 – I think some of this is Carol being a bored busybody and some of it is cultural. Carol is going to find something to complain about, she clearly needs that kind of interaction to get through her day, for whatever reason.

    However, as much as tattoos, piercings, and other “alternative” personal choices are becoming more normal in the workplace, it doesn’t mean that it has become the norm. I have 10+ ear piercings and a tattoo. I generally keep my tattoo covered at work, mostly by fashion choices (business casual but generally considered to stay a little conservative), but also because even though I’m in my early 30s, I am aware that piercings, tattoos, unnatural hair colors, etc, were not the norm in the professional world as I was growing up, and are still not so popular/numerous that they blend in to most people, especially those of older generations.

    10 years ago, I worked for a short time on a temp assignment at a conservative religious office. At the time I had streaks of an unnatural color in my hair, as many piercings as I do now, hadn’t gotten my tattoo yet, but it would have been covered during work hours just by the way I dressed for work. I had zero issues in that office. Fast forward a few months, I was interviewing with a new temp agency, and my interview was with a man in his mid 20s. He was incredibly critical of my appearance. You never know who will judge and why.

  46. Utoh!*

    OP1 – I hope they hire someone with a tattoo on their FACE! Carol can go pound sand (I wanted to say something a little less PC but refrained). I don’t have a tattoo, have never been interested in getting one, but could care less if someone has them and if they are visible. We have a number of women in our Customer Service (phone only, not client-facing), who have tattoos on their chest, arms, etc and no one is in the least concerned because they do their jobs and do them well. Tattoos have nothing to do with how a person performs their job and no one should be harassed for having one (or 10).

  47. Silver Fig*

    I have often worked with people who have tattooed wedding bands, since their fields forbid jewelry for safety reasons. I’d love to pit Carol’s pearl clutching against OSHA regulations, and watch her brain melt.

  48. Perilous*

    #2 – for some reason I got the sense this might be a kind of bro prank battle and OP’s boss is doing the same thing to the jerk’s hotel.

    Hope I’m wrong and I’ve just watched too many of the movies AAM mentioned, since real weary travelers are paying the biggest price for those pranks.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, I see three possible answers to the boss saying to “let him deal with it”:

      (a) Best case scenario: boss is going to go up the hierarchy and refer the other person to the company’s internal disciplinary process.

      (b) Neutral case scenario: boss isn’t really going to do much about this, having decided that it’s not worth the hassle or there is no obvious person to escalate the issue to.

      (c) Worst case scenario: mutual prank war. This will eventually end when corporate auditors try to figure out why both hotels aren’t doing as well as they should be, at which point, if these are corporate hotels rather than franchises, the management structure at both properties will be cleansed with fire.

      In any case, the best thing a lower-level employee can do is to stay out of it, not get emotionally invested in this mess, document things for your boss, and follow security procedures that are hopefully documented somewhere so that it’s less likely that further stealing-of-stuff can happen during your shifts, and so that if it does it can’t be easily laid at your feet. (Make sure doors get locked when they’re supposed it, supply rooms are secured, etc.)

    2. OP #2*

      Not a prank battle as far as I can tell. My boss is a little too professional for that, and Saboteur’s hotel has plenty of problems without us piling on.

  49. WellRed*

    I guess I don’t understand how the hotel biz works. How is an employee of another hotel stealing physical property? Why does he have so much access to the staff? And, does the reservation system not require a credit card number to hold a room?

    At any rate, it’s’ all very fascinating in a nefarious sort of way and I hope your boss is top of it because it is sabotage indeed!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You usually get 24hrs to cancel without paying any penalties. So I’m imagining this dillweed is reserving rooms and then the last minute cancelling them. Most people make reservations in advance and don’t just swing into a hotel at the last minute, so they have half their rooms empty.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m confused too. How is he getting your remotes? And why does your boss not care that you’re actually losing business when he fake-books the rooms? (I assume he’s using a CC to make the reservations, but canceling within the cancellation window?)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        He’s getting the remotes because he’s borrowing them. Since it’s the same hotel, they have the same equipment. So you pull the “Can I borrow a cup of sugar, kind sister company?” game. Until you have all the spare remotes and batteries.

        Man, I wish I didn’t have the ability to understand this kind of nonsensical childish nonsense but I’ve seen a lot of petty sh*t in my life so it all clicks *sobs*

        1. WellRed*

          Ahh, see I was picturing him actually coming onto the premises, in the different city, to load up.

              1. OP #2*

                I’m not sure if his master keycard works on our locks – it might

                And that poster would be against refs and standards

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            OMG, OP confirmed this is what’s happening. Like cleaning out someone’s supply closet style. I wonder if he’s taking his own car or a company vehicle for these dastardly duties.

    3. OP #2*

      Because the hotels are very similar, he knows where everything is kept. And while the system requires a credit card to book, it doesn’t check if it’s valid. So he’s giving us a fake credit card.

      1. WellRed*

        Geezus, nothing like a little borderline credit card fraud. This dude has way too much time on his hands.

        1. OP #2*

          His master keycard may work on our doors – uncertain

          And the luggage carts aren’t locked up for obvious reasons. I’m frankly surprised we don’t have more trouble with them going for a walk.

          1. SunnyD*

            Fraud, ethics, compliance, investigations – try any of those for your parent company till you find someone. They WILL care.

      2. ChimericalOne*

        That sounds like an IT problem. You need to find out if your system can be configured to check the validity of the credit cards you’re given at the time of reservation. Even beyond this guy, you could lose a lot of money by not checking these in advance. If your system can’t do that, maybe time to advocate for a change.

        1. OP #2*

          The system is mandated by corporate. It would be easier to get Saboteur arrested than to get the computers changed.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Is there a way you could institute procedures that head him off?

        Like, can you and the rest of the staff (once you get your hands on batteries or remotes) change where they’re stored? Get an additional lock box to put them in? So he can’t just come in?

        And would there possibly be time to double-check bookings in your busiest weeks?

        1. Emily*

          I hope that in the longer term, OP or someone else is able to document the sabotage and get it to higher-ups who are able to get rid of this guy, but steps towards prevention/damage mitigation like the ones you suggested sound like a good idea in the meantime.

        2. OP #2*

          That last one sounds like a good idea. If we’re sold out and I see bookings that look fishy, I could call the phone number on the booking. If it’s not in service or goes to the New York Yankees, let the GM know it might be a fraudulent booking. Or if Saboteur was dumb enough to put his own number down…

  50. TootsNYC*

    #1–coworker hates your tattoos

    You are right about this:

    [t]his feels like something I should be able to handle on my own, and so far I’m having no luck.

    You have been trying to handle it on your own, as you point out.

    So when you go to BigBoss Lady, say explicitly and directly that you have been trying to shut her down, first with friendly rebuttals, then with direct “I’m not talking about this” and then finally with your last-ditch ultimatum.

    Make it really clear that you HAVE tried to handle this between the two of you, and that now you need her authority because Carol is rejecting all your efforts.

    I remember when my kids were in a great daycare and they were told to handle disputes over toys, etc. They were told, “Use your words, tell him ‘I’m having a turn with the truck now. You can have it when I’m done.'”
    THEN, what made it such a great daycare, is that once Playing Kid said this to Encroaching Kid, they’d wait a beat to see how Encroaching Kid handled it. If the kid did NOT back down, they weighed in again, and told E.K., “Susie used her words. You need to listen to her words. If you won’t listen to her words, I’ll have to give you a timeout.”

    Then my last kid switched to another daycare that also did the “use your words” along with helping to provide a script.
    BUT…they didn’t then enforce the concept of LISTENING to those words. They left all the enforcement on the 3- or 4-y-o, and of course the kid who didn’t want to listen would just keep pushing, and they’d have fights anyway.
    I mentioned this to one of the workers when I saw it happen, and it was like a light bulb went off.

    So, anyway, you need BigBossLady to insist that Carol must listen to your words.
    But do make it clear, explicitly, exactly how clearly you have been using your words, and how you have started with the “nice” route and moved up to firm, and now you need the daycare worker to come insist that Carol use her manners.

    1. Observer*


      I love the day care analogy. It’s a bit sad, though, that someone this age is acting like a 3yo.

      1. ShortT*

        I’m a preschool teacher. My three-year-olds wouldn’t behave so inappropriately. Please don’t insult them.

    2. Close Bracket*

      They were told, “Use your words, tell him ‘I’m having a turn with the truck now. You can have it when I’m done.’”

      I admit this is a derail, and I expect it will be a short one:

      That’s so awesome of your daycare. I had two kids at an event I was volunteering at have a toy dispute like this with the added aspect that EK was 2-3 years older than PK. I don’t know whether PK even had the ability to use her words, but she definitely didn’t have the ability to continuously push back against a relentless, older EK who kept telling her to share (I guess somebody taught EK that “share” is the magic word that means a PK must immediately give up their toy). I told EK that she had to wait her turn, and she ignored me completely in favor of continuing to harangue PK about sharing. Poor PK looked completely overwhelmed. PK was not hogging the toy, btw, she hadn’t had it very long.

      Back to Carol, though, communication is highly overrated. OP has been using her words, and Carol has been ignoring them. I hope Carol listens to the bosses words.

      1. TootsNYC*

        There is no such thing as sharing.

        Ok, I suppose two people can share a sofa.

        but there’s no sharing of a single truck–there’s letting the other kid play with it instead of you. (Maybe there’s sharing if you create a joint game.)

        There’s no sharing of cupcakes–there’s giving some up so another person can eat them.

        Grownups shouldn’t be using the word “share” in most of the places that they use it with little kids. (with other grownups too, of course)
        If we used the right terms, I think it would be easier to teach kids.

  51. TootsNYC*

    Re: office and hierarchy.

    Sometimes sharing an office makes it seem like less of a perk. Is there anyone with whom you could effectively share an office?

    The other option is to ask that one of those become a “making a long phone call” room, and figure out how to transfer in there when you need to call someone. (If they call you first, maybe say you’ll call them back so it’ll be on your company’s phone bill? That’s not the issue it used to be, of course.)

  52. Gymmie*

    I think the biggest thing about the tattoo thing that stuck out me was that the comments were coming from a coworker when the workplace itself and the OPs manager is fine with it. Even if they WERENT fine with it, its really not up to Carol in a non-supervisory position to keep addressing it. And, the fact that she is constantly saying it over and over again. That’s where it really crosses the line in my mind. It’s harassment.

    I work in a conservative financial industry. Although individual tattoos would probably not be looked at askance, really large amount of tattoos probably would, although it’s not prohibited in the dress code and therefore not prohibitive. At that point, I think it would be up to the individual – realizing that a lot of people might think they look less professional. However, I think it would matter the level of the individual too. A long term employee with success would obviously not be as affected in the court of public opinion than a new employee. We had a guy who joined who had a man bun and also a long scraggly beard. Totally fine, but several people didn’t want to send him out to work with clients due to his appearance. One manager said he wouldn’t hire him looking like that. Of course, industry specific, and again, it’s up to the individual whether they want to conform to that culture or not.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Another thing is that she has moved on to complain to others who, while not supervisor, are “seniors”, I think?

      Sounds like she is trying to build an “anti tattoo clique” to bully OP.

      Definitely harassment.

  53. C Average*

    I’d be sorely tempted to deal with Carol the way I’ve begun to deal with my mom, who often makes disparaging and undermining comments about anyone in the vicinity (usually people out of earshot, but occasionally me).

    MOM: Ugh, that place. It used to be nice, but now it’s full of welfare queens. That woman? Three kids, three different dads, and society is paying for it.

    ME, pulling over.

    MOM: What are you doing?

    ME: Stopping to let you share your feedback with her directly, so she can make better life choices going forward.

    Or this.

    MOM: You look like you’ve put on some weight.

    ME: Have you got a big, really sharp knife?

    MOM: . . . uh, yeah. Why?

    ME: I figure if I lop off my non-dominant arm, that should bring me back down to my ideal weight.

    So for Carol I’d be like,

    CAROL: Tattoos are so unattractive. I don’t understand why anyone gets them. So unprofessional, too. No one in the workplace should have to see that.

    LW: You know, I never thought about that at all. Thanks for giving me some perspective. How do you think we should deal with this? Time machine, so I can go back and make my decisions about tattoos with your opinions in mind? Invisibility cloak, so you don’t have to see me and my tattoos? Or–oh, I know! Here’s one of those eye masks. It says Delta on it, but it’s never been worn, so it doesn’t have any of my tattoo cooties. When I’m approaching your desk, I’ll ring a little bell, and you’ll know I’m coming, and you can put on the mask so you don’t have to look at me or my arms.

  54. StaceyIzMe*

    I think when people engage about something that is not within their purview, it’s fine to ignore them after a few times of answering politely. This is obviously the coworker’s problem to resolve. The letter writer can escalate it, but shouldn’t have to. (The choice should be the LW’s, depending on the level of discomfort she feels with the comments. It’s not necessary to verbally revisit the issue every time a comment is made.)
    All of that said, I’d avoid the “it’s going to be bad for you” language. It’s an unnecessary escalation and could misrepresent the way the authority figure would react. Better to stick with “stop that” and escalate if needed or desired.

  55. Facilities anager*

    I manage corporate facilities and the office asks never, ever stop. We also have a policy of offices based on hierarchy: C-Level, VPs & Sensitive positions get offices, no one else does. We have fairly private cubicles (sounds like this person does as well). We pay for top of the line noise cancelling headphones and we have a fairly quiet, respectful office and the office requests still roll in. And yes – we have empty offices sitting, but those are often used as break-out spaces for people – which is what we like. Apparently everyone is on the phone a lot, cause everyone from an entry level employee to directors believe they need an office for this reason. Here is the thing – when you keep asking for an office, long after you’ve been told no, it really does come off as entitled. Also, it means you can’t think about the optics here. If your position gets an office for “this reason” , then anyone who has any reason even close to that should also be entitled (consistent and equitable employee experiences!!). And before you know it, everyone has an office and we’ve increased our operational overhead for space by 200%. That isn’t reasonable. If you can’t figure this out on your own, you are still focused on yourself (like this person) and not on the overall impact.

    1. Observer*

      So, you apparently haven’t actually read the letter because the OP is not “keeping on asking long after they’ve been told no”. They have also explained very explicitly why they need the space.

      Perhaps you (and your superiors) are using the same lack of listening skills in your organization, as well. Has it occurred to you that some of those lowly entry level people actually ARE on the phone a lot and actually DO have a legitimate problem?

      I obviously don’t know what is actually going on in your office, but when you dismiss the requests out of hand because there are a lot of them and some of them are coming from ~~gasp~ entry level people, that tells me you are not evaluating things appropriately.

      1. LW5*

        To reiterate what @Observer says, I haven’t kept asking. I asked once, then moved on. This is a small organization (around 10 people total) so the kind of issues you’re mentioning (@Facilities anager) aren’t really the kind I’m bumping into here. The benefit here would be enormous to me (10% of the staff), so I think it makes sense to revisit the hierarchical office assignment policy a year later.

        There are a lot of scientific studies making the rounds about how difficult open offices and cubicle farms are for employees. While I understand it’s not feasible for everyone to have an office, I think working in these environments will continue to be major issues. Here’s an article on the subject:

    2. C Average*

      The fact that lots of people believe they could work better with offices seems to argue in favor of them being right, not otherwise. *shrug* But I don’t work in facilities, so what do I know?

    3. Michaela Westen*

      I’m an analyst. At various times I’ve had to work my way through complex financial documents, or figure out what’s going on in large amounts of data, and bring accurate reports to my boss with no one checking my work.
      The lady in the office next to mine is so noisy, it’s like she’s at a party. My colleagues also talk in the hallway. If I didn’t have an office with a door, I would get about 60% less done. My job would be harder and take longer, and my output wouldn’t be as good.
      I don’t need a study to know this. I’m sure your employees don’t either.

  56. Workfromhome*

    #5- I prefer a “sneak attack” to get what you want.

    “I know we talked about this when we first moved and I totally understood the no at the time because we don’t know what to expect. Now that we’ve been here for a year and I’ve worked from home 1 day and in the big open space for 4 here’s what I’ve found. I get a lot of complaints from clients (even if you only get an occasional complaint its OK to say a lot) about background noise, when I’ve tried jumping from conference room to room often I get interrupted or even worse I’m stuck on a call that may run over making it difficult for the person coming in.

    I’ve noticed that those 4 offices have been vacant for a year. I understand that they are allocated based on rank (which frankly is stupid) but can we do something tempory until people of the proper rank are hired and need those offices.

    Could we designate that office fro use for phone interviews and research? If we hire a new important person that needs it we can just give it to them but it would really help with the conference room situation and also reduce complaints about background noise.”

    Then since you have so many of these calls that require that office if you keep it going long enough it will eventually just become accepted that you are in that space all the time. its not ideal as you’ll probably still have to maintain your cubicle so as not to appear to be getting special treatment but sometimes we need to work around stupid policies. Calling it a research /call office rather than “your office” might at least get you the quiet space you need .

  57. Errol*

    # 4 – when I was on call the first time there was no perks.

    The second job being on call was amazing due to three perks. It was an emergency line which meant you could be working at all hours of the night so (1) we were allowed to sleep in if we got a call after a certain hour usually anything past 11 PM meant you could come in anytime at or before 9 no issue (we started at 6 AM, and if you received multiple calls after 11 there was more flexibility) and (2) the second was a flat rate of $500 to be on call for a full week. (3) If you were particularly busy you got to skip your next rotation, this of course was based on the rotation volume. If there was one crazy busy week and no one else was, you had the option of skipping which was great as one lady got literally 6 calls every single day she was on call one time but there was maybe one or two calls per week for everyone else so she got to opt out the next time. But if it’s a busy time and everyone got busy, that perk is removed.

    1. Errol*

      Oh, I should clarify they did it so $500 would hit your bank account not $500 – tax in your account

  58. Greta*

    OP #2 – Writing here as a person who has worked in hotels my entire professional life (15+ years) – and has been through multiple management roles in both operations and sales. It sounds to me like if your boss (assuming that’s your GM or Director of Ops) brushed this concern off so quickly, then the boss is involved in it and isn’t sharing all of the details with you. To be honest, lots of times, if there are multiple hotels (even if they run independently from each other) that are operated by the same management company or supported by the same investors, the GMs of those properties work together to make sure that both of them look good. Yes it’s true that you’re in a position where you’re telling a guest that you can’t find a spare remote, or you have one less luggage cart – but your boss and the boss from the other property are the ones sitting on the phone calls with the owners and are getting yelled at for not making budget, and therefore having to reduce their spending somehow. That presents them with a difficult question – where can you cut costs to ensure that your hotel is still profitable? Either you do that by not ordering more things this month, or you cut hours from your hourly staff. If I had to guess, just based on what you shared, they are actually doing this to benefit you and your teammates. Either you have to deal with being one luggage cart short so that the other hotel can borrow one until they can fit it into their budget to buy a new one, OR they can cut you from working 32 hours a week down to 25. And one last thought, it is actually a benefit to you that the other neighboring hotel is there and you are able to share items back and fourth – because if they weren’t, that option wouldn’t exist.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      OP gave additional details above — it really doesn’t sound like the GMs are “working together to make sure that both of them look good” when the other hotel’s GM is booking rooms with fake credit cards so that OP’s hotel is sold out on high-volume dates before actual customers can book, slipping into the building and taking items without asking, falsifying sales numbers, etc.

      1. OP #2*

        Yeah, there’s a difference between sharing materials and outright theft. Plus, that doesn’t address the fraudulent bookings, fraudulent reports to ownership, or the employee with a criminal history.

  59. Ms.Vader*

    I’m 36 and have 7 visible tattoos – my manager is in her 60s and has none; however she loves to talk to me about my tattoos and the process etc. My point is that just because you are in a particular generation it doesn’t mean that you automatically have some negative connotation towards them. By reducing it to a generational gap issue, it’s making it seem okay because “that’s their generation”. My grandparents generation called black people by the “n” word and were homophobic- should we just excuse that because of their generation? No – because it’s wrong. And we shouldn’t excuse Carol here. Please don’t think I’m saying that the attitude towards tattoos and the racism and discrimination towards people of colour are the same – I’m just using the attitude of forgiveness due to age as an example.

    OP #1 you need to report her for harassment as that is what it is.

  60. ChimericalOne*

    Maybe OP1 needs to go with fewer words. “I heard that, and I’m not discussing it with you further” isn’t getting through. Try 2 words, said firmly while looking directly into Carol’s eyes: “Please stop.” Hold eye contact until she acknowledges / apologizes. Don’t be afraid to make it uncomfortable for her. Repeat whenever she repeats the behavior. OP1 needs to be directly telling Carol to desist rather than simply making a statement about herself (“I’m not discussing it”).

    After trying that for 1 or 2 or 3 rounds (if it gets that far), I would go to Alison’s script. But short & firm has a way of getting through to people (so let’s hope it does with her!)

  61. TootsNYC*

    For Carol Who Hates Tattoos:

    I wonder if a little gentle ridicule might work. When I run into people like her, I often think of Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again!” to Jimmy Carter during a presidential debate. (He used it again on Mondale.)

    He struck just the right not of amused exasperation and ridicule.

    Not too strong, this isn’t a fight, and you don’t want her to get defensive. You just want to point out how silly she is. She’s not an enemy; she’s a goofy lady with zero credibility–that’s the tone.

    People don’t like being made fun of, and they often try to avoid it.

  62. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3, good golly, you need a new job, period. I support everything AAM wrote. Of course you can say No! It appears you have a lot of leverage, because your organization is in dire straights.

  63. OP 3*

    OP 3 here. Thank you Alison for the straight-forward script.

    I talked to my outgoing boss to say that I won’t be picking up any of his duties that don’t correspond directly with my current role, and I told the board chair I am committed to doing my job well as always but I will be actively looking for other opportunities where I can feel more valued.

    An issue I have encountered in my job search is that I am basically middle-management, so most positions are either above or below my current salary and duties. I am trying to build the skills I will need to move into a more senior position at another company.

  64. Kate Daniels*

    #5. I think the reason why offices are left vacant is because they are concerned that if they *do* end up actually hiring the “senior” folks who would need those offices and let the more “junior” folks take over them in the meantime, the “junior” workers will later be unwilling to give up the office when it actually becomes needed and there will be a shortage of offices.

    I agree that it’s a terrible waste not to let you use them in the meantime, but I think it might be effective to make it clear that you would just be using one temporarily until they hire people to fill those offices, which means not claiming it as your own (essentially, leaving it looking empty and vacant at the end of each day) and proposing the hotdesking suggestion mentioned above.

    I am not a fan of gradually trying to “sneak in” and claim the office as yours, though. This is a good way to make fellow co-workers feel resentful because everyone wants an office and if you end up getting one by just gradually taking over one, I could see others getting mad about someone being rewarded for being sneaky like that.

  65. it_guy*

    OP4 – I’ve been on call 24/7/365 for some jobs and rotating with a group of folks, and currently I’m off 1 week out of 3, on secondary 1 week out of 3 and primary for 1 week out of 3, so I have some experience with this.

    If they are hourly, then they have to be paid. End of discussion on that, but if they are salaried, it gets problematic. What seems to work best if you get called in the middle of the night for a 1 hour break/fix, then you come in a hour later or leave work an hour earlier that week/pay period. The reason it should be done in the same week/pay period is that it is easy to remember and there’s less chance of somebody gaming the system. On a bad couple of weeks when I was on call, I ended up taking a whole day off.

    But the important thing is to see what the employees want, and try to work with them. That one thing along should help to raise moral.

  66. OP1*

    Minor (somewhat hopeful) update: I ended up in the breakroom with Carol this morning, and she once again started in again. I interrupted her and said, “That’s enough. I have asked you politely and now I’m telling you – stop commenting on my tattoos. They don’t come off, I’m not going to cover them, and they’re not against the rules here. Your obsession with my skin is really weird, and I don’t appreciate it. This is the last conversation I intend to have with you about this.”

    She was really taken aback that I thought she was being weird, but she didn’t say another word to me the rest of the day, so there’s that. (This isn’t normally an issue; we work in the same space, but on entirely different projects.)

    In answer to a few different commenters, both owners knew about my tattoos when they hired me. This is a very niche (and somewhat artsy) end of manufacturing/production, and interview standards are a little looser, so I went to both interviews in a 3/4 sleeve blouse. Joe (owner and main sales guy) never said a word; Jane (owner and our main designer) asked if the paisley had been created by a graphic designer, and how big it was. She told me specifically that they didn’t have any rules against tattoos, beyond them not being racist, violent, or otherwise offensive.

    As for Carol, we work at opposite ends of a project, so other than being in the same space, we don’t really work ‘together’, so chilly silence won’t have much of an impact on workflow, and I’ll take that over that constant comments all day, every day. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I’m cautiously hopeful!

    1. Close Bracket*

      Nice boundary setting! I sort of wonder whether Carol is going to complain about what you said to your boss. I don’t know if you definitely need a pre-emptive “hey, this is going on with Carol, in case you hear anything” conversation, but depending on your relationship with Jane, it might be a good idea. I know that in atmospheres where I have worked, my being that firm would have been a bigger problem than Carol being a pain in the neck in the first place.

    2. Batgirl*

      Nicely done! I think she fully expected pressure to affect how you feel about yourself and your earlier pushback to be nothing stronger than defensiveness. She needed to hear how odd and judgy she’s making herself look. Has she actually asked you to cover your skin (?!) Or is she just saying horrid things about your appearance and trusting that everyone wants to be/look like her?

    3. Heidi*

      Way to go, OP1! I hope this is the last you hear of this. It’s kind of chilling how little insight people have into their own offensive behavior. Taken aback indeed. As if everyone trolls their coworkers about their appearance on a daily basis.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      BRAVA! Very well said, OP! Here’s hoping that makes it through her thick skull.

  67. Sovereign HR*

    “And that’s not going to go well for you if I have to do that.”

    Is this the best wording?

  68. Looking ahead*

    I lead a team of writers who were moved to smaller cubes in a more open office space. We also have several open offices. While none of the individuals can move into them, these offices are available to them to work in on an as-needed basis – to make calls or write. Instead of asking to move into an office, ask if you can use one when you’re on a call or writing. Keep all your personal stuff in the cube, but functionally work in the office.

Comments are closed.