my coworkers trash people in another language, my boss wants to play Cards Against Humanity, and more

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

1. My coworkers are trashing people in another language — and don’t know I can understand them

I’m in the UK, working in IT projects in a large-ish open plan office. We don’t have cubicles or anything, so it’s really easy to hear other people’s conversations. Sitting near to me are two guys who frequently switch between using English and their own native language (Urdu) when they’re speaking to each other. This isn’t an issue, except … I went to school in a very ethnically diverse area of the UK (Birmingham, for British readers) and several of my very good lifelong friends are of Pakistani origin, and as a result while I’m far from fluent, I definitely understand enough spoken Urdu to know that my two coworkers are being, shall we say, less than complementary about me and some of my team members. They’re calling people in the office things like fat, stupid, slow, or lazy, and making disparaging remarks about people in the remote teams too, while they’re on conference calls, suggesting they’re not pulling their weight on the project or that they must be really thick, ugly, etc. None of it is much beyond grade-school name-calling, but essentially what this comes down to is that two of my colleagues are calling me fatty to my face because they think I don’t understand what they’re saying. I find this at once hilarious and disconcerting, but overall very unprofessional.

What advice would you have to try and stop this without making a huge deal of it? Some of my colleagues would understandably be really very upset by the names they’re being called!

Well, one time-honored approach is to respond in their language, to say “I can understand you” or “wow, that’s rude” or so forth. That has a chance of mortifying them into stopping. Alternately, if hitting them with your own Urdu seems too confrontational (although it’s really not), you could say in English, “I understand some Urdu and what you’ve been saying about people is really rude. Please cut it out.” If it continues after that, you’d be on very solid ground in letting your manager know what’s happening — this kind of highly personal trash-talking of coworkers is incredibly toxic and not okay.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss wants to play Cards Against Humanity at a work party

I work at a modest size nonprofit (about 50 employees). We’re supposed to be having an employee gathering after hours, to boost morale, build connections, and all of that sort of thing.

Fine, okay, and sure, it’s probably something that we could use. The problem is that our executive director just RSVPed that she’s going to bring Cards Against Humanity, Draw What?! and Drunk Stoned or Stupid as party games.

Am I crazy for thinking these would be hugely inappropriate? It seems obvious to me that nobody would be comfortable playing these games with their bosses and coworkers, but maybe I’m just projecting. If I’m not crazy, how would you mention to your boss that you’re pretty sure people are going to be uncomfortable and lose respect for her professional judgement if she does try to get folks to play these at a work event?

Yeah, all three of these are incredibly inappropriate for work. I only know Cards Against Humanity, but I looked up the other two (and have added links to explanations of all of them for readers) and wow no. Cards Against Humanity is notoriously inappropriate for work (it’s basically X-rated — filled with cards about sex, race, religion, child abuse, and more), and Draw What?! sounds highly sexualized and Drunk Stoned or Stupid sounds incredibly mean and ill-advised.

Your manager has truly terrible judgment. Is this the first sign of that or have there been others? I’m betting there have been others.

I’d write back, “I’d be really uncomfortable playing any of these games with coworkers, and I think a lot of people would feel the same. Plus, there’s actual legal liability with some of these in a work context, given some of the cards in Cards Against Humanity about sex and religion. Can we skip these?” If you don’t feel comfortable saying that to her directly, go to whoever has her ear and will be willing to say it (the org’s second-in-command or so forth).

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Should I suggest my employee with mobility issues get a different job?

I run a small call center, which is on the second floor of a two story building without an elevator. (It’s actually closer to a third floor due to the first floor being double-height.) Due to the nature of our phone system and the job, we cannot offer employees the option to work from home, nor do we have any other locations.

We have an employee who, from a work standpoint, is a good employee. He has good numbers, he gets good reviews from customers, and he doesn’t miss work.

But, I’m concerned about him from a health and mobility standpoint. He uses two canes and is significantly overweight. When he arrives to work, it takes him a solid 10 minutes to get up the stairs and at least 20 to 30 minutes to catch his breath from walking up the stairs, and he moves extremely slowly around the office and is clearly in pain, particularly during that time. I have found myself more than once stressing that he’s going to have a heart attack or fall down the stairs when he’s moving around.

He has health insurance, so I assume he utilizes his doctor, and he doesn’t outwardly complain about the stairs, so I recognize that this problem is mostly in my head. I keep wanting to recommend that he find a position that doesn’t require him walking up two flights of stairs each day, to help him put less stress on his body. But I also recognize that I’m not his doctor and there are no actual issues for me to address. Should I say something or just let this guy be until he decides it’s an issue?

Say nothing. SAY NOTHING.

This is absolutely not your business. He is an adult and he will manage his own health — and if he doesn’t, you are not his parent, guardian, spouse, or doctor and so you have no standing whatsoever to intervene. Suggesting he find a different job (!) would put you on very dangerous legal ground, because it could look like your beliefs about his health played a role in how you managed him, which would be illegal.

I imagine you intend this to be compassionate, but it’s not. There’s no way he’s not aware of the things you want to point out. And again, he’s a grown-up and gets to decide how much it bothers him and whether there’s anything he wants to do differently as a result. He does not need you to point any of this out for him. (Plus, I’m sure you have other employees with their own health conditions that just aren’t as visible. None of them are your business.)

You wrote, “I recognize that this problem is mostly in my head” and “I also recognize that I’m not his doctor and there are no actual issues for me to address.” Go with those instincts and ignore the others you’re having. He’s a good employee, and that’s all you need to focus on.

4. Will my old job’s awful Glassdoor reviews reflect on me?

I have a job on my resume where I started right out of college and steadily advanced over the years, achieving a couple of managerial positions. Even back then, most of my colleagues disliked the company and the upper management. But since I left, the Glassdoor reviews have just been awful. Some highlights are:

– You will sin freely ever after because Hell will hold no fear for you.
– I needed anxiety medication. I was emotionally scarred.
– Something is wrong with the CEO. I have never met a more unstable, cruel person.
– Free parking and donuts*
*Actual price of said parking and donuts: your journalism career, and your soul. Not necessarily in that order.

I am aware of the types of issues that prompted these reviews, but I did just fine there, didn’t experience any distress, and was able to advance my career. I’m not going to take it off my resume, but I am curious if it will reflect badly on me to have done well at the company if future employees read these reviews. And while people’s problems are mainly with “upper management,” I’m wondering if it will look especially bad to have been part of “the management” at all. I would have had no standing to change any of the things people are referring to, but future employers may not realize that.

Most employers aren’t going to look at Glassdoor reviews for the companies where you used to work (at least not unless you were in upper management, in which case it would be a smart thing to do), so I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

And if anyone does happen to come across it, then assuming your managerial roles weren’t high-level, they’ll know you didn’t have control over the sorts of things people were complaining about. At most they might wonder if you picked up bad habits there, but that’s something a good employer would probe into in an interview, not write you off immediately for. And it’s possible their reaction could be the opposite — that it’s impressive that you achieved what you did despite the culture. (To be honest, I’d be on the side of worrying about possible bad habits — and it’s worth reflecting on whether you inadvertently picked up any bad management lessons there!)

5. Should I let an employer know if I’m not interested after an interview?

I’ve been steeped in my first-ever job search where my immediate well-being does not depend on accepting an offer. I’ve had several interviews — enough to know what a good vs. “meh” interview feels like. If I know I don’t want the job after the initial in-person interview, is it appropriate to let the hiring manager know? Or just let the process work its course and decline a second interview IF they reach out to me again?

Either one is fine. On the employer side, I appreciate it when candidates let me know they’ve decided to withdraw, because otherwise I might be mentally planning for them to take an interview slot in the next round and it’s helpful to know not to do that … and some employers might even go so far as to reject someone who they’d otherwise have kept in the mix if they knew you were out (although that’s a risky move since there’s never any guarantee that anyone you advance will accept either the interview or the job). So it can be courteous to proactively let them know, but you’re also not obligated to that. If you prefer, it’s fine to just let them know if they contact you for a second interview.

{ 783 comments… read them below }

  1. Chaotic Neutral*

    I would think you could say something as simple as “good morning” in Urdu to the trash-talking colleagues and shut them right up. Anyone with any sense would be mortified.

    1. Agent J*

      I like Alison’s suggestion of “Wow, that’s rude.” Even better if it’s said matter-of-factly without looking up from your computer, like this is a totally normal response to what they’re doing.

      They’re being rude and they know it. Dealing with it head on is best, imo.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I really like how direct “Wow, that’s rude,” is. My only fear is that if the coworkers believe OP doesn’t know Urdu, the comment can be misunderstood as criticizing their decision to speak a language other than English in the workplace. That could read as a microaggression, which could distract from OP’s objective of getting them to cut out the nasty comments at work.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, if it’s said in Urdu they’re safe! It’s only risky if they say “Wow, that’s rude” in English.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think I got a bit stuck on the language because I couldn’t think of how to translate “Wow, that’s rude” into Urdu (but I’m sure there are Urdu speakers in the commentariat who could do so and who may be able to give OP the transliteration). So it kept reverting to English in my head, even though Alison recommended saying it in Urdu.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Possible substitutes… “that’s not very professional.” “That’s not appropriate to say about co-workers.” “I wonder if anyone else on that call understands Urdu.”

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  I’d also prefer to get more specific about exactly what behavior is rude. ‘Speaking badly of coworkers is rude and unprofessional’, in Urdu if possible.

                  Maybe ask the offending employees how to say it…

                3. Fiberpunk*

                  Oh, I like “I wonder if anyone else on that call understands Urdu”, said in Urdu! That’s just about perfect.

                4. WindyLindy*

                  Maybe saying something in English like, “Calling someone that in Urdu isn’t any more polite than calling them that in English.”

                5. texan in exile*

                  In the onsite gym at my old job in Miami, I just said casually to a few co-workers who, as they chatted about their boss amongst themselves, obviously did not think I spoke Spanish, “Nunca se sabe quien hable español.” That did the trick.

        1. Jasnah*

          I don’t see how it would be rude if OP said it right after they insulted someone. OP could follow up with “You shouldn’t call people things like that at work.” or something to indicate they understood.

          1. Shad*

            In some areas/cultural contexts, even perfectly reasonable directness can be interpreted as rudeness simply because the cultural standard is to talk around issues less directly. And any time someone could read rudeness, they’re much more likely to do so when they don’t want to hear what’s being said.

            1. Fiberpunk*

              If someone has just called me fat, ugly, and stupid, then is offended that I point out that I understand what they said, that’s really not my problem.

            2. nonymous*

              I had the amazing experience where a coworker used their birth language word for people of my ethnic heritage in direct conversation …. which is pronounced exactly like the american slur for that ethnicity, one that I was teased repeatedly as a young child with a rhyme that made the further connection between slur and sex-worker.

              It was all I could do in the moment to not react as if he was calling me that sex worker, and then when I shared the experience one of my classmates double-downed on the fact that b/c coworker was unaware of the slur context (let alone my personal experience), I was both overreacting and not being inclusive of diversity.

            3. Jasnah*

              I live in a very indirect culture and people who are trying to be appropriate and polite don’t insult people in a language they don’t think their targets can understand. This isn’t an issue of OP being “too direct” with their work feedback. The coworkers know they’re being rude or they would say in English.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I would go with “Wow, I have always found so and so to be a hard worker” or something like that. It lets them know you understand what they are saying enough to respond to it.

          They know they shouldn’t be saying these things. If they thought they were okay to say they would do it in English. But they think they can get away with it by doing it in another language. Pointing out its wrong in any language will get their attention.

        3. MOAS*

          I feel the right to claim microaggressions is foregone when you’re talking sh*t to your coworkers face and think they dont’ know.

          1. cmcinnyc*

            Yeah. Being called fatty to your face is essentially a macro aggression, no? I cracked up reading this though, because in NYC you simply cannot assume people don’t understand you, no matter what you look like. I have seen unthinking tourists get drinks thrown at them, fights on buses, and some less distressing (for the offenders) and quite hilarious (for everyone else) interactions that have arisen from some fool feeling safe to trash people in German, Mandarin, or I-have-no-idea-never-heard-that.

            1. MOAS*

              Oh wow, I’ve never seen that lol. I totally think being called fatty/fattass to your face is way worse than being asked to not talk crap in your native language.

              I mean Im not gonna lie, I acted like this when I was younger but I’m older and know better not to do that. I once went to a threading salon and showed them a picture of how I used to have my eyebrows. The lady started talking crap, I gave htem a piece of my mind and left the place. Hopefully they’ve cleaned up their act. TBH I tend to tense up whenever I am in an establishment of “my people” for fear of exactly this. I don’t look Pakistani (and dont’ get me started on that, if I had a dollar for everytime someone thought I was another race/ethnicity…..)

            2. many bells down*

              I grew up in Southern California, and most people learn SOME Spanish purely through osmosis. Plus I took 4 years’ worth in school. Still, because I am very, very white people would assume I didn’t know any. In fact, I understand more Spanish than my ex, who was actually Mexican.

              In Los Angeles, you should never assume someone doesn’t understand Spanish. Or Mandarin, for that matter.

              1. Tupac Coachella*

                I live in a small Midwestern US city with almost no ethnic diversity compared to LA, and have a former coworker who once told the staff at a local Mexican restaurant, in Spanish, that it was inappropriate to comment on customers’ bodies after overhearing their “opinion” of her. She is very white…and also a fluent Spanish speaker. People who do this: nowhere is safe, be a decent human in all languages.

                1. KinderTeacher*

                  So true! My grandparents were once at a hotel in Quebec where the two employees were making rude comments about my grandmother (mostly calling her old and ugly). My grandmother grew up in Connecticut with her mother and maternal grandmother, who had immigrated to the US from Quebec when her mother was 10 or so. My grandparents got a very good deal on the hotel rooms after my grandmother responded to their rude comments in fluent Quebecois.

              2. HermioneMe*

                Years ago, when I was married to a guy of Mexican descent, I was visiting his mother (without him being along). Her sister was there as well. They were speaking to each other in Spanish, even though both spoke perfect English. I had had 2 years of high school Spanish so I knew enough to know they were talking sh*t about me. I just sat there and listened, with a smile on my face, pretending I didn’t know they were talking about me. When I went home, I told my husband and he called his mother and really lit into her. She never spoke Spanish in front of me again. (I did divorce him after 5 years though, so I didn’t have to be around her for very long.)

        4. Thomas*

          It’s probably not the most professional response, but I like the idea of saying, in Urdu, something like, “I’m right here and I can hear you.”

          1. mamma mia*

            How is that not professional? That sounds completely reasonable to me and I think it’s the best course of action. I think some commenters are going a little overboard in trying to tell OP the exact right “witty” thing to say. Wit isn’t necessary. All that needs to be expressed is that OP can understand them. That’s it.

            Truthfully, I don’t really understand why OP hasn’t said anything to the coworkers yet. I don’t speak another language but I can’t imagine having someone call me a “fatty” and not say anything about it. The advice “use your words” still applies even if the words aren’t in English.

            1. nonymous*

              One bit of sensitivity is that other cultures operate at a different level than US does in this area, especially in those with more of a collectivist identity. There either isn’t the framework to accept that individual differences are not a sign of insult to the group, and/or the differentiation between groups is so competitive that petty stuff becomes important markers.

              Another thing I’ve noticed is that US idealizes the idea of a meritocracy (reasonable, given our historical origins), but in other places that is not the case, so they are totally cool with saying that the first barrier to new hires (or friendships) is to fit a particular body type.

              1. nonymous*

                What wasn’t obvious at all from my comment above is that acceptable treatment of out-groups may well be “anything goes” and places huge premiums on engaging in distancing behavior.

                I am always grateful that vast swaths of the US believes in a nuanced approach of agreeing to disagree.

              2. Jasnah*

                I’m not sure this is relevant here? This isn’t an issue of people commenting on someone’s weight in a way that is culturally appropriate for them and inappropriate for their target. The employees know they’re being rude or they would have said it in English.

          2. Matilda Jefferies*

            I’d be tempted to say, in Urdu, “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you repeat it?”

            Although OP didn’t say she could *speak* Urdu, only that she can *understand* it. And I think for this to work, her spoken Urdu would need to be absolutely flawless. Any tripping or hesitation will undermine her point with these clowns – my guess is they would skip right over what she was saying and go straight to mocking her for not speaking correctly. (Not that they would be right, of course – but they’d likely be embarrassed and use this tactic to save face.)

            So unless you can really pull this off with a lot of confidence, I think you’re better off just speaking to them in English. Good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

            1. mamma mia*

              I don’t see how OP’s ability to speak flawless Urdu is relevant to the solution here. All OP needs to do is convey that she can understand the coworkers. It really doesn’t matter if she says, “I can understand you” in Urdu or English. Saying that doesn’t require any confidence (although, apparently, it might considering that OP hasn’t done it yet). I think commenters are really overthinking this.

              1. Jen in Oregon*

                Respectfully disagree. I don’t think she needs to speak fluent, flawless Urdu to say anything, but if the OP can deliver whatever she decides to say as fluently and flawlessly as possible, it will have a more significant impact than if she stumbles over her words. Let the offenders think that she speaks Urdu fluently and flawlessly so they can’t try to weasel out of anything by claiming that she misunderstood/they didn’t mean it that way/that’s not what we said, etc.

                Another follow up line to practice: “I am not discussing this with you. Just stop.” and then stop and let them stew……forever.

                1. mamma mia*

                  At this point, we don’t even know if OP speaks Urdu as all she said is that she understands it. So, again, this argument as to how great her Urdu needs to be in order to have an impact, strikes me as incredibly beside the point. The only thing that OP needs to do is say that she understands them. Everything other than that is just noise.

                  If the coworkers aren’t suitably shamed by the OP saying that she understands them and try to weasel out of responsibility, the OP can say “I understand when you called me a fatty and next time, I’ll tell the boss instead of giving you the heads up that I can understand you.” Like that’s it. This doesn’t need to be complicated and certainly doesn’t have to be anything that OP needs “practice” to say.

              2. Matilda Jefferies*

                In the ideal world, it’s not super relevant – and I agree with you that all she really needs to do is let them know she can understand them, in any language she chooses. But what I’m saying is that she’s not operating in the ideal world with these two.

                My guess is that they would jump on any perceived flaw or hesitation of OP’s as evidence that she doesn’t speak nearly as well as they do, and therefore she couldn’t possibly have known what they’re talking about, and therefore she’s obviously wrong about everything.

                I’m not saying this is the right thing to do – obviously they should shut that conversation down, immediately and permanently. But remember, we’re talking here about people who didn’t know that this is inappropriate in the first place – or else they knew and didn’t care. Either way, I’m not counting on them to behave appropriately or professionally in response to being called out. I’m not saying OP shouldn’t call them out, just don’t give them any further ammunition for making fun of her while she’s doing it.

                1. mamma mia*

                  We are never operating in an ideal world because we don’t live in an ideal world. You offered a suggestion that you said would only work if it’s in perfect Urdu and that if isn’t, then the coworkers will laugh at her and use it as a cudgel to not take her seriously. That’s not going to help OP with anything, except maybe feeling shitty about herself.

                  That’s why I’m suggesting to say it in the simplest way possible. No “Sorry, can you repeat that?”. No curse words in Urdu. Nothing fancy that so many commenters feel “tempted” to do. Just “I can understand you” and then see what the coworkers’ response is. I don’t get everyone’s desire to make this more complicated than it has to be.

          3. many bells down*

            “Accidentally” drop something and then calmly use the Urdu version of “Damn it I’m so clumsy!” and watch them freak :D.

        5. sfigato*

          When you are insulting people in another language to their face, you’ve lost any moral right to claim microagression when someone calls you on it. They are being awful and need to stop.

        6. LCL*

          But if someone reads it as a microagression, that’s their issue. Calling someone on workplace rudeness is a good thing, even if someone else feels aggressed against. As long as it is done in a professional way, as suggested.

        7. Lauren*

          I would respond – wow that is rude – but then tell them in english that you’ve kept track of all the nasty things they’ve said, the date, time, about whom, and that if you hear it again, that list is going straight to HR. Make a record of it, and list who was in the room too so it can be confirmed that they switched to Urdu.

      2. LGC*

        Both could work, actually. If they were subordinates, I’d definitely advocate being more direct. Here, I like the subtle, well-timed Urdu drop as a starting point since it’s saying, “Hey, I see you and I can understand what you’re saying.”

        It also sidesteps the issue of microaggressions – although to be honest, I don’t know if you get to complain about microaggressions regarding speaking a different language if you’re doing so to call your coworker fat within earshot. (By the way, LW1, I really admire your poise – that’s pretty hurtful what they’re doing.)

        If that doesn’t work, LW1 can escalate.

    2. Willis*

      I would be tempted to go with an icy “actually my name is Willis,” (in Urdu) in response to being called fatty to my face.

    3. TPS Cover Sheet*

      Yeah, an interjection from the side, ”thick, you talking about yourself?” as long as its something unexpected and comes with a perfect accent and as if you were just ”thinking aloud”… ouch. I’d like to be a fly on the wall.

      1. Anon*

        OP needs to be careful not to sound like she’s joining in the trash-talking, however. A “zinger” is likely to backfire in that regard, unfortunately, and potentially just encourage them.

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Personally, I’d wait until they say something mean and then reply in Urdu “maybe, but at least I’m not the kind of asshole who insults people to their face because I’m too dumb to imagine anyone else speaks my language.”

    5. PolishAnon*

      I live in America, but speak several languages thanks to living in different continents. Apparently I somehow absorb accents. My favorite thing is to reply with an innocuous remark, such as, “That weather is crazy!”; or “I hope you have a fantastic day!”.

      The looks I’ve gotten is all the satisfaction one could want.

    6. Barbara Eyiuche*

      Saying something in Urdu might not work. I can speak Chinese, and usually if a Chinese person is saying something rude about me and I reply in Chinese, they are absolutely astonished that a foreigner can speak Chinese, but the trash – talking doesn’t stop. It’s like they just can’t believe it.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Yeah, but if it doesn’t work (and OP should tell them to stop or that they’re being rude, not just say something random in Urdu, IMO — just as you’d do if they were being rude in English), then it’s reasonable for OP to report it to their boss.

      2. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

        I agree that speaking in Urdu is not the best approach here. The LW said that they can understand spoken Urdu – that’s not the same as being able to speak it with an accent polished enough that the co-workers would immediately know they’d been fully understood. Saying a random phrase might just make them think that the OP is trying to be kind and pick up a little Urdu, not that they’d been busted. Explaining “I know enough spoken Urdu to understand what you’ve been saying, and it makes me uncomfortable” seems like the better route here.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        That’s why I’m not a fan of responding in Urdu with any remark that could be perceived as ambiguous. Yes, some might be immediately mortified to simply know you speak the language but others might think you barely know it, or only knew enough to reply with what you said. So all the subtle suggestions upthread I don’t think will work. If it were me and I wanted to reply in Urdu I’d be extremely direct and specific so there is no chance they do not know I understood exactly what they were saying and am responding to it. So if they called me fat, I wouldn’t say “Wow how rude” I might say “It’s very unkind to call me fat to my face.” etc. Leave no ambiguity at all that BOTH I understood every word AND that I’m specifically calling out the statement as unacceptable. It may or may not work in stopping them from future asshole remarks, but it leaves no question (or defense) that I did not actually know what they said.

        1. AKchic*

          Yeah, just repeating back what they said, in English, would be better.
          “So Louise is ‘too fat to get her work done on time’? Well, I’ve never had that problem with her, but I do have a lot of issues with you two badmouthing people in front of them in your own language because you think nobody understands you. It needs to stop because I do understand you.” And make eye contact. Make *them* be the ones to break away. (Yeah, I’m into the whole dominance thing, but in this case, I think it’s warranted)

          I also think this is something the boss should be aware of. No, the boss can’t tell them that they can’t speak a secondary language at work, but the boss can be aware that they are ish-talking in the workplace with each other in general, which means that they probably aren’t just limiting their ish-talk to each other.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, this where I go also. Give them back enough of the conversation in English to show you know what was said then tell them to stop.

            My friend was in a store, shopping. Two other people were conversing in a particular language/dialect that was my friend’s first language. They were trash talking other people around them as they went through the store. Finally one asked the other where the underwear aisle was. My friend answered, in English, “The underwear are in aisle 7.” Both people turned beet red.

        2. Mrs. H. Kenway*

          I wonder if the LW could simply manage at some point, in a meeting or to a coworker where the Urdu speakers can see her, saying lightly/innocently, “Oh, I actually understand spoken Urdu very well,” and then giving the Urdu speakers a pointed look.

          This has the added effect of them being unsure whether she’s been translating what they’ve been saying to other people all along, so maybe they’ll sweat a bit–and stop.

      4. CM*

        Also, there’s a decent chance they wouldn’t understand your accent!
        I would just say it in English if you’re not a fluent Urdu speaker. Same effect, less room for misinterpretation.

    7. Lx in Canada*

      Or, while they’re insulting people, just walk casually by and cheerfully throw out a, “Good morning!” in Urdu… That seems like it would be soo excellent. They know you heard them, but you don’t have to say anything more…

    8. Hummer on the Hill*

      I totally agree that the LW needs to say something in Urdu to them. That will really set them back on their heels and make them wonder who else in that room has been understanding them? If the LW says something in English, they could think “Oh, they asked a friend what ____ and ____ mean (insert insults in Urdu in the blanks).” But if the letter writer says it in their language… wow, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when that happens! Our globe is shrinking yearly and folk need to be aware that you need to be professional in all your known languages.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        I agree that it’s best if they can say respond in Urdu (assuming they are fluent enough), but this is also exactly why I wouldn’t go with “say something random in Urdu, like ‘Good morning'” — for all they know, you just looked up a single phrase to freak them out & don’t actually know enough to understand them. It’s best to respond as precisely as possible so there’s no doubt. (Besides the fact that it’s best to call out behavior directly rather than hope someone will get the hint!)

        If they’re just dropping single words, it’s possible for someone to ask a friend what “X” means, but if they’re going back and forth and having long conversations about people’s looks & so forth, the OP can probably get away with just turning to them and saying (in English), “It’s quite rude to talk about a person’s appearance like that. Please stop,” and they’ll know they were understood.

    9. Nuss*

      Go directly to the point. Say in Urdu or English that they’ve been insulting you and other co-workers and if they continue you’ll go to the manager and/or file a complaint with HR. They should not only know that you understand them but also they will face consequences if they continue.

    10. YouKnowISpeakThis*

      I’m a teacher who understands multiple languages and I’ve pulled this trick on my students before. “You know I can tell you’re swearing about me in Russian, right?”

      The look on their faces – priceless.

  2. RUKiddingMe*

    Re #3 “…because it could look your beliefs about his health played a role in how you managed him…”

    If she suggested he get a different job wouldn’t this be exactly what she’s doing?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s also a great way to create ADA liability. It would be incredibly inappropriate of OP to say anything for all the reasons Alison and commenters have provided. But this is textbook different treatment on the basis of a real or perceived disability.

      OP, if you say something, you won’t be doing so out of care for your employee. Instead, it sounds like this would be about assuaging your anxieties. It may be worth talking to someone (like a therapist) if you find your anxieties continue to make you feel concerned, because this is a dangerous thought pattern to get stuck in.

    2. Willis*

      Along with all the reasons that Alison and others have mentioned for why the OP should say nothing, I’ll add that the suggestion to look for a new job is not even helpful or novel. It’s not like the OP has a secret solution to the stairs that could potentially be helpful to this man and/or other employees. Why would you think he doesn’t realize he could look for a new job?

      1. valentine*

        It’s not like the OP has a secret solution to the stairs
        I hate that OP2 considers the stairs permanent and the employee expendable. Why not consider alternatives or push to move to a better space?

        1. Avasarala*

          Agreed. OP, why don’t you imagine that one of your employees (or you yourself) broke their leg and couldn’t use the stairs for a few weeks, but were otherwise fit/healthy/able to work no problem. What would you/your office be able to do? Could you make changes to the phone system to allow work from home? Could you lobby whoever owns the building to put in an elevator (seriously what if you need to move equipment or large stacks of paper)? What else can your company brainstorm to make the office more accessible to your employees?

          I work in a Guess culture which socially would expect me to try to make things easier for someone I see is struggling (though of course legally/workwise you have to be careful). So I understand the feeling of “this person looks to be having a tough time, I wish there was something I could do to help.” But accessibility is not just about finding a situation that fits you (ie blind person finding books in braille). It’s also about situations changing to fit more people (ie publishing more books in braille).

        2. WellRed*

          I’m side eyeing the business owner who decided this was an appropriate location for a business.

            1. Frank Doyle*

              Or we could just put elevators IN all the buildings, which is what we are doing in the US.

        3. MK*

          That’s pretty unfair. Even if the OP has enough influence to push for this, I don’t know many businesses who can or would choose their premises based on one employee’s needs, nor would this be considered a reasonable accommodation, unless under extraordinary circumstances. I don’t think the OP is to be blamed for not jumping to “let’s move the business!”.

          1. Ella*

            It’s not unfair. In fact, in many cases (in the US) it’s federally mandated for buildings to be ADA accessible. I’m not sure if in the letter writer’s case they are not in the US, are a small enough company to not be liable, in a building that has been grandfathered in to not having to be ADA accessible, or if they are just breaking the law, but locating your business somewhere accessible by people with disabilities isn’t just a cute perk or a kindness. It’s a moral and often legal imperative. Obviously the OP likely doesn’t have the ability to make the company move, but the company itself absolutely should consider doing everything in their power to become accessible.

            1. RandomU...*

              “…but the company itself absolutely should consider doing everything in their power to become accessible”

              Which the OP has zero control over, so this isn’t a very helpful train of comments for their situation.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                well, we don’t know that. We know ‘there are no other locations’, but OP ‘runs’ the call center. Couldn’t hurt to look around at other rental spaces – might find something on the 1st floor (or with an elevator) for a lower price. Win – win….

            2. MK*

              Everything you said is true, but that doesn’t make the comment I responded to fair. The OP sees an employee struggling to reach the workplace and worries. She seems to have considered ways to make it easier for him, like work from home. It’s appropriate to tell her her concern is misplaced, to suggest other ways to help, like a lift or a platform, etc. It’s neither fair or reasonable to accuse her of considering the employee expandable and tell her she should move the business, when she probably have no power to do that and it might not be possible, depending on the area and the real estate market.

              If the building isn’t operating legally, that’s a different issue and likely easier to address: notify the relevant authority and get them to take measures. But if it is (and there are still a number of old buildings that aren’t and can’t be modified to be accessible), it’s unreasonable to blame the people using them.

              1. Observer*

                I have to agree with you. ADA compliance can be tricky. Moving is often not a realistic expectation. And the OP is also not the owner.

            3. OP#3*

              So I totally didn’t even realize that the location isn’t ADA compliant, because all our other locations are two floors without elevators and ARE ADA compliant because the bulk of the business is done on the first floor. This is actually our only location where all the business is done on the second floor.

              The other commenters are right, I don’t have the authority to move, nor will the owner be particularly bothered about the issue, but I CAN press and keep it visible in meetings, and hopefully they’ll consider moving.

              1. fposte*

                That sounds like a good outcome, and it will increase accessibility for prospective employees in future, as well.

              2. Alice's Tree*

                OP#3 – There are other options. A stair lift chair could be installed for considerably less than an elevator or the cost of a move. Or, since the employee can walk, but just struggles with it, he might be benefited by something as simple and inexpensive as a stair-steady bar. You should contact the Job Accommodation Network ( for free advice on how to assist employees with accommodation needs like this.

                1. Old lady*

                  I know I’m late in comments but I would hate for this one to get lost. A stair lift is a few thousand dollars which really isn’t that much if you consider how valuable a good employee is to an organization.

                  Plus as another poster said, even healthy people can break legs, get sick, become pregnant ect., is it will probably save the company in the long run.

        4. RandomU...*

          I think you are wildly overestimating the power that a manager has on the situation. Here’s the only thing the OP could reasonably be expected to do:

          OP to boss> Hmm… those stairs are tough for some people. We should think about a new site that’s more accessible.

          OP cannot:
          Authorize remodeling projects to alter the current office that is likely not owned by the OPs company
          Change gravity conditions to allow employees to float up and down multiple flights
          Fix employees so that they can comfortably use stairs
          Independently authorize a new lease, purchase, or move to a new location

          1. Jill March*

            Now I’m picturing that Seinfeld where George, pretending to be disabled, gets someone to carry him up the stairs every morning.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        As someone who *gained a lot of weight when I was **seriously ill but didn’t know it yet and relied on a cane for a couple of years post-coma…this letter kind of irritates me. It’s like the employee is being judged for being overweight and disabled and not so much that OP actually cares about the employee’s health. It’s almost like she just wants to get rid of him instead of providing a solution.

        *I’m normal weight now, maybe even little underweight, but for a couple years it was bad and I knew people were wishing they didn’t have to look at me being all fat (not obese, just fat), and disabled, and struggling, and stuff…

        **1) become ill, 2) don’t feel well, 3) don’t do much of anything, 4) gain weight/feel worse… 5) weight exacerbates illness 6) do even less, 7) gain more weight, 8) become more ill…
        …and around, and around, and around we go…

        1. Oryx*

          You say that the letter irritates you because it seems like the OP is judging their colleague for being overweight but honestly your comment comes across as pretty judgmental, too.

          Like, I get it. You are happy not to be fat anymore (“not obese, just fat” whatever that means) and deal with all the fatphobic looks that come with it. But some of us are fat all the time. It isn’t a temporary thing for us and it isn’t always tied to health, we are just fat, and we still do, on a daily basis, have to deal with people looking at us “all fat” (yes even obese, which itself is a problematic word).

          1. Quickbeam*

            Thank you so much.

            I also want to add that jobs for people with physical mobility issues are not falling out of the trees. Many of us work incredibly hard to secure a decent job with benefits. Many a foot dragging day, I’ve stopped to think about how grateful I am to have the job that I do. If someone was uncomfortable watching my weird gait and made bossy-boots comments to me about working elsewhere, I’d be really annoyed.

          2. ChimericalOne*

            Agreed. There’s a lot more sense of judgment here than in the OP’s letter. To be honest, I don’t really feel like the original letter is all that judgmental. The OP sees someone using canes and dealing with being overweight and struggling with stairs and says she can tell he’s in pain and wants to solve this for him, but doesn’t see anyway she can (besides advising him to work elsewhere, which she seems to recognize is problematic & Alison confirms this for her). She’s also concerned that he may have a heart attack, given how stressful the stairs seem to be for him (which certainly could happen).

            Just describing the fact that someone is overweight is not inherently negative. I am overweight, and it’s not insulting to me for someone to say so unless they mean it that way, any more than it’s insulting for them to call me a woman or an American. It’s a necessary fact to include if one of her concerns is legitimately a heart attack.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              To be clear, I absolutely agree with Alison about saying nothing. My point is simply that concern when faced with suffering is a natural and usually positive response. Sometimes people are just concern-trolling, or pushing their discomfort around your oddities or socially-unacceptable status onto you (e.g., they’re “concerned” that you’re fat, even though they do any number of things more likely to cause an early death), but sometime people are just legitimately concerned.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Yeah, I read this letter as legit concerned, not concern trolling, and I’ve been on the receiving end of both (I’m in the weight range medically defined as obese).

            2. Spencer Hastings*

              Yeah, if I were in the OP’s position I’d be thinking “hmm, this person is clearly experiencing discomfort…should I say something? Is there something I should do? Or is he hoping I don’t notice?” which is awkward and also orthogonal to the question of judgment.

            3. Lyra Silvertongue*

              ‘She’s also concerned that he may have a heart attack, given how stressful the stairs seem to be for him (which certainly could happen).’

              Neither you nor the OP know that. It is an assumption based on your ideas around fat people. I’m overweight too so I know we’re coming from the same perspective and I’m not trying to be needlessly antagonistic. But it is fatphobic to assume that someone is at risk for a heart attack because they’re fat. Whichever way you slice it, it’s always inappropriate to start speculating on someone’s internal health because of how you perceive them externally, and yet it is the absolute norm when someone is overweight.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                “It is an assumption based on your ideas around fat people.”

                No. It’s absolutely NOT. I’d be the first to tell you that it’s 100% possible to be fat and fit. The assumption is based on OP’s description that it takes “at least 20 to 30 minutes to catch his breath from walking up the stairs” and that the strain is sufficient to cause him to move slowly and be in visible pain during this time. Whether his mobility issues or his weight are causing him to struggle, he is clearly struggling physically. Being unable to catch your breath in these circumstances means that your heart is laboring / under strain. Ergo, you are at risk of a heart attack. Maybe it’s a mild risk! We don’t know his medical history. We don’t know his age. But we know he’s straining his heart daily, based NOT on his weight but on the symptoms described here.

                1. Lyra Silvertongue*

                  I agree with that, but my point is, how is the weight is a necessary fact to include then?

                2. Mia*

                  Nah, the heart attack thing is a really, really common trope in fatphobic rhetoric. It’s arguably one of the most common types of concern trolling fat folks — including perfectly healthy people — are subjected to.

                3. Mia*

                  I think my initial reply got eaten but: nah. The “omg they’re gonna have a heart attack” thing is an extremely common piece of fatphobic rhetoric. Sure, OP’s employee is straining his heart walking up the stairs, but a lot of daily activities include taxing your heart more than usual; unless OP is equally concerned about say, overly rigorous cardio routines, she’s definitely drawing on some internalized bias here.

                4. poodleoodle*

                  Dude, I’m fat and “strain my heart daily” too by going hiking or working out at home. And yeah, I take the stairs (it’s about 50 from the ground floor up to where I work) and I do have to catch my breath for a minute although it’s gotten considerably easier since I started doing it. Why exactly is this bad? Would you have the same concern about a thin person who “strains their heart daily” by taking the stairs and having that make them out of breath? I’m guessing probably not. How is anyone supposed to get healthier if they don’t exercise? It’s like you’re a bad fatty for not exercising but then wait, don’t do too much because then you’re out of breath and might have a heart attack and obviously you are too fat to handle that!! Don’t be all fat and out of breath near me!
                  This is why I don’t go to normal gyms, people you meet on hiking trails are way less likely to fat shame than people in the gym.

              2. Mia*

                Yeah, the heart attack line struck me as deeply fatphobic. It’s clear that the only reason OP thinks that is because this particular employee is heavy. Not all fat people, even disabled folks, are heart attacks waiting to happen. Plus cardiac issues can sneak up on people of any size, really.

                1. Marmaduke*

                  My first thought was that it could “certainly happen” only in the sense that it can happen to anyone, including the slender and healthy-looking 22-year-old who trots up the stairs with her morning energy drink every day. Cardiac issues don’t discriminate by size like we do.

                2. OP#3*

                  I guarantee that I was not intending to be fatphobic or be a concern troll – I am a fat person myself and receive plenty of that. My comment was honestly made out of actual concern – if you encountered this employee on the street in the state that he is in every time he comes up the stairs, a reasonable person would stop, ask if he was okay, and would likely consider staying with him until his condition improved.

                  But of course, intention is not the same as impact, and I’m glad my gut instinct to say nothing was correct.

                3. Robin*

                  OP#3 – If you have “actual concern” for someone with health problems, wondering aloud about whether to make them unemployed in a country with no public health service is a funny way to express it.

              3. OP#3*

                I didn’t put it in my original letter but this employee has had heart episodes in the past, which is why I mentioned it. Without context, I totally see how it sounds fatphobic.

            4. Liz*

              My first thought was about fire safety. If stairs create difficulty, or slow movement, will there be a problem if evacuation is required? I realize that going down is different from going up, but sometimes using stairs is just difficult in either direction.

              OP #3, do you think your employee would be able to quickly leave the building in case of an emergency? If not, please make sure you have something in place to account for people who cannot leave. (Our building’s evacuation instructions tell people who cannot leave via stairs to go to a certain place and identifies others as those responsible for making sure those with mobility issues are not forgotten.)

          3. Fiberpunk*

            Agreed. ” I knew people were wishing they didn’t have to look at me being all fat (not obese, just fat), and disabled, and struggling, and stuff…”

            I mean, what? No. You’re externalizing your own self-judgement.

        2. NothingIsLittle*

          Person who uses a cane for chronic knee pain here! I’m bothered that you’ve interpreted I’m “stressing that he’s going to have a heart attack or fall down the stairs” as “wants to get rid of him instead of providing a solution.” It’s a small call center, I doubt there are any plans to install an elevator or chair lift, so I’m not sure what solution a manager could have other than allowing the employee the time and flexibility he needs to safely navigate the facility. If my manager notices I’m struggling with something, she asks if I’m up to doing it and if I need help. That’s a normal response to someone being in visible pain. OP3’s problem is that there’s no help to offer, so the only solution in their mind is to suggest the employee move. That’s not a good or workable solution, but I think that’s the sort of impulse a compassionate person might have if they were overwhelmed by the knowledge that they can’t help relieve the pain of someone they manage.

          Sure, I guess it’s possible that OP3 sent this in because they’re worried about liability or something. However, it seems more likely to me that you’re reading into the letter because you’ve felt pain and judgment and this reminded you of those feelings. I’m sorry you went through what you did, both the physical pain of losing mobility and the emotional pain of ridicule, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here and I don’t think it’s helpful to OP to frame the question that way.

          1. OP#3*

            Thank you for your comment – that was the original intent behind my letter. He is in a lot of pain every day, it’s very evident, and I am a fixer by nature.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          RUKiddingMe, it seems to me the OP is concerned about her employee and wants to help him. If I was watching someone suffer like that, I would want to help too.
          I’ve never had mobility problems, but I have asthma and know how it feels to wheeze and not be able to breathe. I would really want to help. And I’m sure the mobility and weight issues aren’t great for him either. Again, I would want to help.

        4. Anonn*

          “I’m normal weight now, maybe even little underweight, but for a couple years it was bad and I knew people were wishing they didn’t have to look at me being all fat (not obese, just fat), and disabled, and struggling, and stuff…”

          Yes, we get it, you’re superior to those of us currently fat. Or obese even, the horror!

      3. The Supreme Troll*

        100% agree to all that you’re saying. Even if OP#3 really does have the purest of intentions with regards to her employee, it is nearly impossible for anybody to see it that way from the other side. Alison is absolutely correct that it is a very bad idea to make this suggestion.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Plus his weight may have nothing to do with the canes or breathlessness!

      Often times people with family history of weight struggle gain their weight after an injury. That’s definitely what happened to me. For all you know this guy was in a car accident that hurt his hips, knees, or legs someway aa well as a chest injury requiring some ling removal.

      The idea that fat = some cause for all his ails is insulting and often not true.

      I weigh 313lbs, 140kg , and have no problems with pain, asthma, diabetes, and heart is very healthy. But I can’t tell you the number of times i spring an ankle and had people make comments like – “maybe lose some weight” or the incredulous “you got hurt overdoing it in the gym?”

      Get over your prejudices people.

      1. Ethyl*

        +1,000 — asthma doesn’t care about your body weight, I’ve had trouble breathing my entire adult life, even when my thyroid was trying to kill me and I was scarily underweight.

      2. ChimericalOne*

        So, I’m pretty much 100% fat positive, but weight can’t have “nothing” to do with breathlessness on stairs — a heavier person has more to lift. That’s not a morally-negative thing to say. I don’t see OP blaming this employee for his weight, just naming it as one of multiple struggles. (Yes, you can be fat & fit. But stairs are more strain the more weight you carry, whether that weight is fat, muscle, or a piece of furniture.)

        It’s true that she *may* think that his weight is his fault (as so many people do!), but she may also recognize perfectly well that it can be difficult-to-impossible to exercise when you already have mobility issues. OP just mentions that the employee is overweight. She doesn’t say he’s to blame for that.

        1. Ethyl*

          “but weight can’t have “nothing” to do with breathlessness on stairs — a heavier person has more to lift…”

          You state this as though it is a fact. It is not.

          And again — You cannot tell anything about a person’s health by looking at the size of their body. Full stop.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            “A heavier person has more [weight] to lift” IS a fact. I am heavy. If I do a pull-up, I have to lift 250+ pounds with my arms. If I climb the stairs, I have to lift 250+ pounds with my legs. If I only weighed 100 pounds (which would be horribly underweight for me, but it’s an example…), then my arms would only have to lift 100 pounds when I do a pull-up and my legs would only have to lift 100 pounds when I climbed the stairs.

            This is an objective fact. It is easier to lift 100 pounds than 250 pounds. That is an objective fact. You are reading anti-fat judgment into these facts that doesn’t need to exist.

            1. Mia*

              You’re missing the forest for the trees here. I’m on the smaller end of plus size as an adult, but I used to be quite small, maybe even underweight. I had a lot more difficulties with stairs, long walks, etc. when I was thin than I’ve ever had at my current size. You’re stating that is just an objective fact that the heavier you are, the harder it is to move but that’s just not true for lots and lots of people.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                The comparison is to the norm, not an absolute. You’re correct that saying, “The heavier you are, the harder it is to move” is inaccurate at the lowest end of the scale, because there’s a point at which you lack sufficient muscle mass to move easily. However, once you pass that point, additional weight means additional strain to move.

                There’s zero judgment in saying that. It’s a point of physics. If I do an exercise without weights strapped to my arms, there’s less strain on my heart & lungs than if I do an exercise *with* weights strapped to my arms. Less strain = easier breathing. More strain = harder breathing. More weight = more strain, harder breathing.

                We don’t know that his weight is the main cause of his breathlessness. But it’s simply inaccurate to say that it’s not a factor. Maybe I’m quibbling over a meaningless distinction — I’m sorry, if so. But I don’t believe that being fat-positive has to mean denying facts. And it seems to me that it’s a fact that being heavier makes some things harder. That’s not a reason to shame people, blame them, or push them out of public spaces. It’s just a fact, and something you might think about when wondering if you need to help someone who might be struggling.

                1. Mia*

                  You’re insisting that it must be a factor when, in reality, moving up and down multiple flights of stairs for even a 150-pound person would be quite challenging. You do not know this person’s health history or even what qualifies as “overweight” in OP’s view.

                  Simply weighing more does not inherently result in serious health issues. In fact, there are tons of folks whose health issues preceded their fatness. Insisting that this man’s size *must* be at least a partial cause of the issue at hand is shortsighted at best.

                2. Mia*

                  Ugh, that was supposed to say “moving up and down multiple flights of stairs with two canes.”

            2. twig*

              When I need to walk up stairs, it’s not like my body “suddenly” acquires 210 pounds to lift — it’s been lifting/carrying/moving that weight for quite some time now and my muscles have developed accordingly.

        2. Oryx*

          I think you are conflating two different things.

          Yes, *some* fat people experience breathlessness on stairs — but not all. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of thin people get winded climbing stairs, too. It doesn’t always have to do with weight, but often has to do with endurance which you can’t tell judge based on a person’s size. I’ve seen fat people run circles around thin people. Literally, in fact, as I am a fat runner who sometimes outruns people thinner than me.

          Could his weight be causing his breathlessness on the stairs? Sure. Do we know for a fact that it is? No.

          1. Oryx*

            I will add, this isn’t even bring mobility issues into the conversation which of course will have some bearing on activity levels, too. But that is separate from weight.

          2. ChimericalOne*

            Neither the OP nor I said that all fat people experience breathlessness on stairs. Like I said, I’m quite aware that “fat” doesn’t equal “not fit,” and I likewise know that many thin people are in poor shape. But carrying extra weight (in whatever form — it’d be the same if he was carrying a backback that weighed 50 pounds) is harder than not carrying it, and I don’t see it as judgmental to note that on top of his mobility issues, he is also carrying extra weight. We can see his difficulty manifested in his breathlessness. The weight might not be the main cause of that, but we know it’s neither value-neutral nor helping him.

            We know this because we know the answer to the question: Would you breathe harder if you climbed a set of stairs empty-handed or if you climbed a set of stairs while carrying a weighted backpack? You don’t have to say that someone is “to blame” for carrying a backpack to acknowledge that the weight of such contributes to their breathlessness (and helps paint a picture of their struggles, which is what the OP is trying to do).

            1. Oryx*

              “but weight can’t have “nothing” to do with breathlessness on stairs — a heavier person has more to lift.”
              “Yes, you can be fat & fit. But stairs are more strain the more weight you carry, whether that weight is fat, muscle, or a piece of furniture”

              Those are YOUR words. Maybe it’s not your intention but it 100% seems like you are saying that extra weight = breathlessness and struggling on stairs.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Can you answer the question, “Would you breathe harder if you climbed a set of stairs empty-handed or if you climbed a set of stairs while carrying a weighted backpack?”

                1. Oryx*

                  I carry a weighted backpack multiple times a week to my second floor office. I’m also fat. I breathe the same.

                2. ChimericalOne*

                  Okay, so the amount of weight we’re talking about obviously matters. Do you think your answer would be the same if your backpack was 20 pounds vs. 50 vs. 100?

                3. ChimericalOne*

                  Or are you going to insist that, no matter how heavy, weight doesn’t impact your breathing?

                4. Oryx*

                  The issue I take with your logic is that you are equating carrying a 100-lb backpack one time up the stairs with carrying around extra weight consistently all the time.

                  Yes, if I were to carry a 100 lb backpack it would probably have some affect on my breathing. Because I’m not used to it. But I am very much used to carrying around a fat body up and down stairs because I do it all the time and I don’t have issues breathing.

                5. Jadelyn*

                  You know, at a certain point it might behoove you to just…stop digging. You’re not making yourself or your point look any better by quadrupling down.

                6. ChimericalOne*

                  What you’re saying is, “Yes, the amount of weight you’re carrying plays a role in how hard you breathe, but if you carry that weight through certain exercises long enough, your body will get used to it (i.e. build up sufficient muscle mass, endurance, etc.) such that it will no longer impact your breathing.”

                  That’s true enough. It doesn’t sound like he’s there yet, though. Until he is, it’s reasonable to say that weight plays a role in his struggle. I didn’t say it played a huge role or that it would always play a role in it or that he should be ashamed of himself for carrying that weight or any number of things that people seem to think I said. I just objected to the comment that weight had “nothing” to do with it.

                7. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  ChimericalOne: No, you don’t know that. His breathing issues could be about something else entirely. But either way, it has no bearing on what the OP should do.

                  Please move on now.

                8. ChimericalOne*

                  Alison: Apologies to you & to all. I went away and calmed down a bit and realized I was being ridiculous. Sorry for carrying it on as long as I did. Please feel free to remove prior derailing comments.

          3. OP#3*

            For what it’s worth, his breathlessness is caused by his mobility issues and the difficulty he has navigating up and down the stairs. Whether his weight is a factor in that isn’t for me to determine.

            1. Mia*

              Can I ask why you bothered to mention his weight at all then? It seems kind of irrelevant, as a disabled person of any size would likely struggle with getting up multiple flights of stairs with two canes.

              1. OP#3*

                I’m guessing it was a subconscious thing – trying to describe his mobility issues, and years of internalized fatphobia probably caused me to lump that in as part of it without thinking. It shouldn’t have been mentioned at all, but at least now I know that that unintentional bias is there and I won’t make the same mistake again.

          4. Kendra*

            The first university I attended was located in a small town above 7,000 feet (~2,100 meters) in elevation. EVERYONE, and I do mean everyone, got short of breath after going up stairs there. Olympic athletes and a lot of professional sports players come to this town to train because of it: if you can run (or swim or whatever) there, doing it at sea level is an absolute breeze.

            It was a very common joke that only freshmen used the stairs; if you hadn’t found all the elevators by your sophomore year, it was probably because you’d already died of heart failure.
            So, yeah; shortness of breath can happen to anyone in the right circumstances, and it’s not necessarily an accurate indicator of overall health on its own.

          5. Burned Out Supervisor*

            I used to smoke nearly 2 packs of cigarettes a day and weighed about 130 pounds. No way in heck was I walking up a flight of stairs without nearly blowing out a lung. I’m overweight now, and still get out of breath when walking up stairs, but not to the point where I legit think I’m going to die.

        3. Mia*

          What you’re not recognizing is that everyone’s body is different and reacts differently to stressors. Added weight will for sure cause breathlessness or mobility issues in some folks, but it will also be kind of a non-issue, health-wise at least, for a ton of other people. You can’t tell someone’s health status just from assessing their body size.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            I do recognize that, and neither I nor the OP is assessing this person’s health status just from his body size. You can’t tell that someone is not fit just because they’re fat. But you CAN tell they’re not fit (or not fit enough to be in the “safely healthy,” “no heart strain” category, at least) if they spend 30 minutes catching their breath after taking a flight of stairs.

            Maybe OP could’ve left off the bit about his weight and just stuck to the descriptions of his breathlessness, but I think for most people, it helps paint a picture of what challenges the individual in question is facing.

            1. Jadelyn*

              “I think for most people, it helps paint a picture of what challenges the individual in question is facing.”

              And this is where you’re wrong. All it does is derail us off into speculation about whether the individual is struggling because of his health or his weight, which then invites fatphobic remarks conflating the two.

            2. Mia*

              I’ve seen people who bike multiple miles, with a fairly steep incline, to work every day huff and puff after getting off the stairs in our building. It happens. But also, no one is saying OP’s employee is “fit.” We’re pointing out that his weight could very well be wildly unrelated to his health issues and insisting that they couldn’t possibly be is a huge issue.

      3. Amber Rose*

        Yup. I also managed to heal my busted ankle without losing weight, despite all the people telling me it would hurt forever unless I dropped the weight I was putting on it. I didn’t injure it because I’m heavy, I injured it because I was doing a certain exercise with improper form.

      4. Lyra Silvertongue*

        Yep! I’m seriously surprised by this comment section – Alison’s advice did not speculate on the health of this man at all, but a lot of commenters seem to have heard ‘overweight’ and ‘mobility issues’ and suddenly become experts on this individual’s specific disability and health conditions, or at least are very comfortable openly speculating on the matter. You see this so often when it comes to talking about weight, I wonder if people realize they’re doing it.

        1. AKchic*

          Yep. It’s sad in its commonality. It’s also a lot of people relating their own weight issues with the subject of the letter.
          Weight is a hot button issue, whether we like it or not.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          The thing that (would) concern me most is him being out of breath while climbing the stairs and for some time afterward. That could indicate a serious health problem and I would be concerned about him too.

        3. OP#3*

          I really didn’t want the focus of the letter to be on his weight. I was trying to explain that he has a lot of mobility issues and is in pain, but everyone just wants to focus on the weight part.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      There is one thing the OP can do to help, and that’s to make sure the building’s fire evacuation plan has accommodations for someone who needs assistance going down the stairs. This means there’s a designated meetup point for the firefighters to come find him in a fire if he can’t get down the stairs safely, and that the building has a Stair Chair or has notified emergency services that one will be required so it will be in the fire department’s database to bring one.

      These plans are super common in cities with high rises: someone in a wheelchair can get to the 60th floor easy when the elevator’s working, but in a fire, the elevators lock out, and Fergus and his wheelchair are at the mercy of the fire department to carry him down 60 flights of steps.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s an excellent point. Instead of needlessly wondering if the person should get a new job, they should be trying to figure out how to accommodate the guy in case of an emergency, if nothing else.

      2. OP#3*

        Thank you so much for this suggestion!! I think my company tends to not focus on emergency prep enough, and I’m going to add this to my list of things to check on.

  3. RUKiddingMe*

    #2 Personally I would refuse to play them.

    I mean go with Alison’s advice, I would, but if (when?) your boss doesn’t change things…well like I said, *I* would refuse to participate in any of them.

    -My $.02-

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—it’s almost like requiring folks to participate in a flip cup tournament at a work party. It’s just not quite appropriate. I’m also not sure why someone would choose Draw What? when there are so many other SFW options.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Honestly, flip cup seems more appropriate. After all, it is possible to play it without drinking (I’ve done it!). But there’s no way to play these other games without engaging with pretty sensitive material.

        1. sacados*

          Honestly, flip cup with soda or juice or something could actually be a really fun lighthearted competition at a work event!

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            I once went to a school event that included ‘root beer pong’ (there was darts and BBQ). It was definitely fun and thoroughly work (or school) appropriate.

            1. yala*

              I work at a university library and helped a coworker with a game night for the students. One of the games was “beer pong”–but with candy in the cups instead.

              Students had a lot of fun with that. Especially these two guys who kept trying trick shots.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Yeah, we actually do play flip cup at a bunch of our casual employee events – but we do it with non-alcoholic beverages. It’s only inappropriate if you’re playing it as actual beer pong.

      2. just a random teacher*

        One of my fellow teachers once decided to run Flip Cup at a school party for middle school students. This falls under the category of “not technically inappropriate, but…” I also recall several other “teachers teaching common drinking games to middle school students” at a variety of schools I’ve worked at. Perhaps it’s part of college readiness?

        But yeah, NONE of those three games are something to bring to a work party, or really any party where you don’t already know that it’s “that kind” of party. Of the three, I’m only first-hand familiar with Cards Against Humanity, but the others sound even more like “the kinds of things that are only ‘fun’ for very specific definitions of fun” and seem like the kind of thing you’d play with your college buddies rather than in a workplace. Plus, there are SFW games similar to at least the first two that would be reasonable to bring. (From the Board Game Geek description I’m having trouble parsing the third one as a “game” rather than “a thing a bunch of jerks will try if it seems like they need more structure in their bullying behavior this week” but maybe I’m missing a nuance.)

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Frankly teaching kids flip cup and beer pong (without beer, obviously) is probably excellent college readyness. Remember, the loser is the one that has to drink.

          1. Jadelyn*

            …that’s not a hot take I was expecting to come out of this comments thread, but an excellent one nonetheless.

        2. JenRN*

          Tangent but in the vein of “inappropriate seeming games in work places”

          Kids post-op tonsillectomy have to drink lots and lots. They don’t feel like it bc their throat hurts (obv). Especially problematic are the ones who don’t like orange or lime popsicles (no red or purple in hospitals). What to do? Drinking games! All the different ones except pong bc infection control. Fave character on the screen? You drink. Race your parent. Every time someone says a particular phrase. Flip cup with the overbed table if you were careful about cups not going on the floor. Etc etc. Only ever had one parent complain on the grounds that their child only got screens before bed (this was ca 2011 so before all the no blue light before sleep warnings) and she was concerned about increased fluids and bed wetting. So had to explain that throat bleed>wet bed. Plus, her kid was sick! Can’t you bend the screen rule for that?! Anyways,

          1. Emi.*

            Why don’t you have red and purple popsicles? Is it to keep spills from being mistaken for blood?

            1. A tester, not a developer*

              The dyes do stain soft tissue (e.g inside of mouth, throat) as well – at least that’s why they tell me I can’t have red or purple juices before a colonoscopy. Makes it harder to spot inflammation or bleeding.

          2. A Simple Narwhal*

            The idea of getting sick kids to hydrate via drinking games is so adorable and warms my heart.

        3. RandomU...*

          I once taught a bunch of kids how to play blackjack. One of the parents came in and raised an eyebrow until I asked if they wanted to practice their math too. Yes it started out that kids wanted to learn a gambling game, but they soon found out it was more math than gambling. Especially since we didn’t actually bet anything.

          It was actually a pretty good exercise for the kids, they were the right age for the addition and subtraction drills, and they had to do them quickly to keep up with the game. To my knowledge I am not responsible for leading any of them into a life of casinos and mob debts :)

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            And odds / statistics! An instinctive understanding that 10s (16 of 52) will come up more than 2s (4 of 52) can help down the line. It’s great.

          2. Gumby*

            We were all waiting for the day that my nephew’s preschool teacher asked us why he was really great at counting… to 21. (He wasn’t to the adding/subtracting stage yet so every turn involved him counting. Starting from one. Out loud. They were, quite possibly, the slowest games of blackjack ever played.)

          3. just a random teacher*

            I’ve worked in several school districts that specifically forbid you from using “gambling games” like poker to teach probability. It’s such a baffling decision – they’re totally going to learn to play poker anyway, and this way they might also learn the math behind it! I was particularly annoyed when I wasn’t allowed to use poker as an example for my remedial high school students. I guarantee that all of them either already knew how to play poker or would be taught it in the next few years regardless, and, based on how much we got out of a several-week group analysis of tic-tac-toe strategy* earlier in the year, would probably really benefit from understanding how poker odds worked before they were old enough to start playing at the casino. They certainly would have paid more attention than they did to more abstract examples or “kid game” examples that I had to use instead. If you look in k-12 math textbooks, you will even find that many of them use the phrase “number cubes” instead of “dice” so it “doesn’t sound like you’re endorsing gambling”, and there are a lot of questions about bags of colored marbles that would probably be more plausible as a thing you might care about if they were instead about playing cards.

            *I snapped and changed course on a few weeks of my lesson plans in the fall that year when I realized that not only were my remedial high school students messing around playing tic-tac-toe with each other while I was lecturing, but they were, in general, still winning and losing at tic-tac-toe rather than every game ending in a tie. I decided that if I did nothing else that fall, I would ruin tic-tac-toe as a game for them by helping them see how to use logic and the rules of the game to never lose at it again. This was tied into bigger ideas about how to keep a record of what happens, look at structures of what is and isn’t “the same” (there are a lot of symmetries in a tic-tac-toe board, so fewer meaningfully different “first moves” than you’d think and so on), and a bunch of other logic skills that they didn’t seem to have had much exposure to before. I think it mostly worked, and it was probably the best way to build pre-proof skills with students so disengaged with logical thinking that they were still playing tic-tac-toe at 17 years old.

        4. TinLizzie*

          I agree. There are tons of work appropriate options. Apples to Apples is the PG version of Cards Against Humanity. There’s Scattagories, Taboo, Code Names…There’s even an Oregon Trail board game if a bunch Gen Xers want to relive dying of dysentery.

          1. Anne Elliott*

            Although with the “right” group of people Apples to Apples can veer away from PG.

            It would likely ok, though, unlike CAH (especially if anything dodgy got removed from the deck first).
            I love CAH but holy cats is it not appropriate for a work event.

            (Trying a new nom de plume here, hope someone else is not already using it.)

      3. C Baker*

        Same with Cards Against Humanity – Apples to Apples is the same thing, but largely work and family safe. (Except the one time I was playing with all the teens in two families and everybody happened to throw out the cards “hard”, “stiff”, “thick” and so on. It was… well.)

        1. The Other Katie*

          This is what I was going to suggest. Apples to Apples is basically SFW/kids CAH.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I was always under the impression that Cards Against Humanity came about because people kept ‘improvising’ dirtier versions of Apples to Apples.

          1. boop the first*

            Yes, but that was the fun of Apples! It’s more fun to play the ironic version of it, keeping it creative and challenging. The first time my cousin pulled out Cards against humanity, I liked how it was just another version of Apples, but then immediately got bored because all the challenge and creativity was gone from it. And then it got classist and racist real quick.

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I would take Apples to Apples over Cards against Humanity 1000 to 1. Honestly I think it’s so much more fun. You have to be creative and really think about being clever when playing Apples to Apples, and it is so much funnier when someone comes up with a good combination. Cards against Humanity depends on the shock value, there are just cards that are better than other cards that always seem to win. I am so over the whole thing, I refuse to play anymore.

          Although if you are looking for another fun group card game, I just played Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza the other night and it was a ton of fun. Really simple to teach and play, but we had a blast. Also only requires one deck of cards so it is easier to carry around than Apples to Apples.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            I seem to remember that some of the Cards Against Humanity clones are more SFW, though I don’t know which ones. In principle, I think CAH is better than Apples to Apples, because some of the prompt cards have multiple blanks and so there’s a fun combinatorial element there. But not if you can’t get better/SFW-er things on the cards.

            1. Genny*

              One of the CAH humanity spins offs is Jaded Aid, which is aimed at people working in international development. It’s fun, but I probably still wouldn’t play it at a work-sponsored event. Most of the cards poke fun at the insanity of working with donors, working in unexpected/unusual locations, white savior complex, and general expat life, but there are a couple cards that touch on more sensitive issues and not everyone has the same kind of dark humor that this game somewhat relies on.

        4. PhyllisB*

          I was going to suggest Apples to Apples as a substitute. I learned about CAH from this site, and asked my adult son if he’d ever played. He gave me a panic-stricken look. (He knows I love board games.) I assured him I didn’t want to play, just wanted to know if he had.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Yep. I started to mess with him and pretend I REAALLLY wanted to play, but couldn’t do that to him. Besides, after hearing some of the questions, I think it’s better for me to remain in blissful ignorance.

          1. Jadelyn*

            …and yet here my family is, playing CAH together on Christmas with my mom, my brother, his wife, myself, and my partner. What can I say? We’re a nontraditional bunch. :)

          2. Geoffrey B*

            One of the most excruciating moments in my life was when somebody started a game of CAH with me and my father.

            And then my father won, which DIDN’T HELP.

        5. Amber Rose*

          I remember a game of Apples to Apples being won with Tasty Babies once. xD
          But the jokes, even when a little inappropriate, were still probably mostly OK at work, dealing mostly with innuendo rather than straight up X rated content.

          1. Psyche*

            Yep. And you are choosing to make the jokes. So even if you have a great card that would make a somewhat inappropriate joke, you can choose not to play it if you are uncomfortable doing that in front of your boss. You don’t really have that option with CAH.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              hmmm – does expecting people to exercise professional judgement in competitive moments usually go over well?

              I’m thinking a nice game of Uno, Bocce or horseshoes…

              1. Amber Rose*

                One of our guys built a life size Jenga out of old pallets for an event we’re having. But also there’s gonna be beer pong so I don’t even know anymore.

                1. Zephy*

                  [pedantry] Jenga pieces are 3″ long in real life – Jenga with pieces made out of 2x4s or similar would properly be called “giant Jenga,” not “life size Jenga.” [/pedantry]

                  I’ve only seen giant Jenga sets at places where beer is being served; it’s among the entertainment options at my favorite bar. It’s probably better that way; the tower is going to fall on somebody, most likely, and it’ll hurt less if you’re inebriated. (Although it kind of defeats the purpose when you bust out the giant Jenga at the community St. Paddy’s Day festival and all the players are, you know, second graders.)

        6. TootsNY*

          I would love Apples to Apples as a “getting to know you” game.

          (there’s a junior version and a grownup version, and they’re very different)

          We tweak the rules sort of naturally to people having to make their case for why their word should win, which really amps up the “interaction with people” part of it.

        7. Dr. Pepper*

          OMG yes! Came here to say this! I’ve played both, and Apples to Apples can get a little “racy” but mostly in a fun “tee hee aren’t we silly” sort of way, not in a super embarrassing and uncomfortable kind of way.

          In grad school, I played Cards Against Humanity with my then-bf at a department (his department, not mine) holiday get together with grad students and professors. Both he and his major professor were playing along with half a dozen other people. It started out fun, and quickly devolved into incredibly sexualized and sometimes outright disturbing card combos. I won with the cards “Pac Man” and “guzzling buckets of c*m”, as picked by his major professor. I have never seen my bf’s major professor blush so hard while my bf squirmed with embarrassment. This was years ago and the fact that *I* did not work for or with any of these people made me rather maliciously pick the worst card combos possible. Hence the fact that I won. It was fun in the moment, but looking back, holy cow was that inappropriate! I absolutely cannot imagine playing that game with coworkers or my own boss. *shudder*

          1. Quill*

            I ran a club in college and we had some similar fun… except that I was the club president and ended up winning a lot, apparently because people outside of the club board were not comfortable with playing the game with their president.

            … I switched to bannanagrams for the remainder of the club game nights.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I find the answer card much more gross and icky than embarrassing. I had never heard of this game before today. :p

        8. Amy the Rev*

          There’s a great CAH/A2A style game I played with my divinity school friends called “A Game for Good Christians”- it was created by seminary students and is HILARIOUS. But definitely 18+ and NSFW (for reasons other than it being based off of a religious text, such as it’s refusal to shy away from the violent/sexual content of that text). My sister bought it for me one year for my bday and we played it at xmas dinner but then my mom said she found it offensive and wouldn’t let us play it. Me and my clergy friends love it though and have played it after many a night out.

          They have a ton of expansion decks, now, too, all of which are funny in their own right (like the ‘why we can’t have nice things’ deck). Highly recommend (but not for work!)

        9. Working Mom Having It All*

          THANK YOU. I came here to say “why Cards Against Humanity when Apples To Apples is the exact same game but rated PG-13?”

    2. CAA*

      Yeah, those are all really beyond the pale, and I would also just not play if I couldn’t get the games changed.

      Though this did remind me of the time we were playing Pictionary on flip-charts at a company picnic and I had to draw “tadpole”. Want to guess what everyone thought I was going for?

      1. yala*

        It really baffles me. Maybe because I play a LOT of games, but just…there are so many fun, goofy, and sometimes even irreverent games that are perfectly appropriate. But the boss picks THESE?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I have to agree with Alison – this is such amazingly bad judgement that I bet there’s other examples all over the work space. Esp the 3rd. “There’s no winners with this game, only losers.” YUCK.

    3. My Dear Wormwood*

      Yeah, I love Card Against Humanity, and there are loads of people I would never play it with. I don’t want to run the risk of having to explain what bukkake is to my father…or that nice old lady from Accounting!

      (Pro-tip: definitely do not google bukkake at work.)

      1. SaeniaKite*

        We played it at Christmas just *so* we could hear my mum read out all these things she didn’t quite understand! But we’re an odd kind of family and no work colleagues were present

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I love CAH too, and I only play it with friends. Even in a group where we all understand each other’s sense of humour and where the boundaries are, there have still been instances when we’ve all collectively said “dude, what the hell!?” at certain card combinations. I wouldn’t play it with colleagues, let alone my boss!

        1. Ethyl*

          When I’ve played it, we usually have a house rule that if a card in your hand is upsetting or triggering, we just take it out of the deck entirely. It *can* be a fun and funny game, but the creators definitely have a lot of “ooh we’re soooo edgy” and “we’re equal opportunity offensive assholes” stuff going on.

          1. yala*

            I think even the creators have taken out at least one of the original cards after some protest, and they were…I want to say gracious, but that’s not the right word…about it. Like, they wrote an explanation that was more or less “Yeah, this was more hurtful than we realized, and we’re glad people spoke up and it won’t be in the deck anymore.”

          2. Hrovitnir*

            +100 to your last line.

            It’s also interesting because many card combinations can either read as racist/mocking racism, or homophobic/mocking homophobia depending on who you’re with. So in a mixed crowd it can rapidly get very uncomfortable.

        2. Beaded Librarian*

          I actually have played it with my boss. We kept it pretty tame, it was hilarious but could have gone badly.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Our disclaimer for a really bad card is “I’m getting rid of this one,” and everybody groans when it’s read aloud. I’ve held back cards for a whole game rather than play them, and I know my friends have too.

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I had to play with my in-laws once. It was horrific. I now refuse to play at all.

        1. Rainy*

          I hate CAH with the fire of a thousand suns, and being roped into playing it with my bff’s horrible exboyfriend’s edgelord friends was essentially torture. I haven’t touched it since. Oh no, if you want to play a game with me it has to be something that isn’t just an opportunity for awful people to think they’re funny! Horrors.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Yeah, I’m with you. I will not. Nope.

            My friends group does game day for people ages 4 – 50, a couple times a year (and we’ll go older / younger, that’s just the age range of the current group). I’ll hang for A2A, but when they pulled out CAH (in a side room without the kids), I went to find some Candyland, Munchkin, or Junior Cataan.

            They actually stopped playing it after a year or so, I dunno if everyone just got bored or they began to grok just how x-ist it was.

            1. Rainy*

              I think my BILs like it, but they haven’t suggested playing it, knowing that my husband and I usually prefer cooperative games to competitive games–all the games he and I play together are things like Pandemic, Red November, and the various Forbidden Island/Sands/Whatevers, or else Scrabble.

              1. Nessun*

                My friends and I have a regular game night, and there’s an established rule that if they want a round of CAH, I’m going to watch, not play. I can keep my opinions to myself, and step back so I’m not triggered, but I can’t actually participate. So if the people present really want it, I’ll do a snack run – they can just deal me back later in for Exploding Kittens or Betrayal at House on the Hill.

                1. Rainy*

                  Have you tried Sushi Go! ? I really enjoy it, for a competitive game. My family plays Tripoli which is fun if you like card/betting games.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I know, right? I find myself thinking about something and realize it came from a ~workplace~ discussion group – amazing.

      4. ChimericalOne*

        Played with my mom. She did not know what a dental dam was.

        Luckily, my husband is trained to teach sex ed…

        (No, I didn’t actually make him explain it! That would’ve been funny, though…)

      5. Amber T*

        I played with a group of friends and someone played that card, and the person whose turn it was didn’t know what it was. The rest of us (including the one who played that card) were like, “ok, that card is out, pick from the rest.” But she was adamant that we explain what it was, and when no one did, she googled it. The look on her face and the pure silence in the room as she read… priceless.

      6. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I play Cards Against Humanity with my parents and sister when I visit them (Dad always wins because he doesn’t have much of a filter) and with VERY select friends, but in the workplace? No way.

      7. Rachel Greep*

        it’s probably worse if you find out you don’t have to explain what that means to your father or the nice lady from church.

      8. TootsNY*

        I’d never played Cards Against Humanity and suggested it to my college-age kids, and they were immediately, “NO! ONE DOES NOT PLAY THIS WITH PARENTS!!”

    4. T3k*

      I’m going to be the outlier here on this but it’s a very “know your company culture” type of situations with these. My current job and last one are very laid back, where we will joke around, send gifs in chat, have multiple DnD groups going on, etc. and if we all ever hung out, CAH would likely be played, even with our bosses. That said, all my other jobs, the idea of playing CAH with those past coworkers/bosses is definitely a big fat nope.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t care how laid back the place is. You ARE absolutely going to wind up stepping on some feet pretty hard with a game like that. Unless the company has managed to create a mono-culture. And even then you wouldn’t necessarily know because it’s quite likely that there are some folks who are not quite as “laid back” about some of these things as you assume, but they aren’t saying anything because they know that it will lead to bad results.

        As for Drunk Stoned or Stupid, sorry, there is just no way to make that OK. Mean is a VERY good way to describe it. I can’t see how that’s supposed to “build connections”

        1. Karo*

          I’ve played Drunk, Stoned or Stupid multiple times and the description Alison linked to is incredibly misleading. Most of the cards aren’t about negative personality traits. It’s stuff like “Most likely to own crayons,” “Loves space the most” and “Can name the most Pokemon.”

          There are some cards you’d want to remove, definitely, but most of them are incredibly inoffensive. (Also, I have no clue why it’s called Drunk, Stoned or Stupid – that has never made sense to me.)

            1. Karo*

              That’s why I said you could remove the offensive ones, which wouldn’t impact the game play.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s still a bad idea. Eventually (if not already) your company is going to hire someone who’s uncomfortable with that (but might not say anything about it, at least for a while, because most people don’t), and it’s pretty easy to imagine CAH leading to someone feeling sexually harassed. It’s a reckless liability for your company to take on.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          That “somebody” would be me. I wouldn’t say anything… for a while… but damn if I wouldn’t be massively uncomfortable and feel harassed.

          1. pleaset*

            And then it’d be all “But bro, no one said anything. We thought they were cool with it too. Why you making such a big deal out of a game anyway? Chill, it’s no big deal.”

            B A R F.

      3. Avasarala*

        I’d be concerned that if you cultivate the kind of atmosphere where CAH is OK, you’d have to be in that atmosphere where those kinds of topics and jokes are OK at work. I would love to joke around and send gifs but I don’t want to joke about dead babies and send gifs from adult videos. I worry that would lead to various boundaries being crossed, like thinking it’s OK to joke about sex in the abstract so it’s OK to ask a coworker about their sex life.

        1. Jessen*

          Or, as I have experienced at a prior job. To talk about your sex life. Loudly. In an open office space.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I am in that kind of atmosphere. Constantly. My boss and coworker were discussing sex toys a little while ago. The subject of strippers and porn stars comes up all the time. I tell dead baby jokes.

          Some workplaces are like that.

          1. Avasarala*

            Sure, sure… haven’t you also complained about your workplace a lot though?? I’m not sure if you’re trying to sell this as a good thing or not.

      4. EPLawyer*

        Cards Against Humanity says right on the box — the card game for terrible people. Now, not everyone who plays it is terrible. But the point of the game is to be shocking and outrageous. Work should not include the words as a team bonding exercise — ever.

        I asked for CAH for a wedding gift. My niece got it for me. She then told me that we were not going to play it when everyone was together for the wedding. Apparently I don’t want to know how good my mother is at this game.

        LW, you need to push back on this hard. As you said your organization needs some bonding. Could be the boss is the reason you need this. Look at the overall picture. Is this choice of games just another sign of the overall problem of bad management and judgment by her? If so, time to go to the board if she won’t see reason about the games. Not about the games, but the overall picture.

        1. Terry H*

          Explain this concept of “bonding” to me. I didn’t choose most of the people I work with. And the ones that I did choose were chosen for specific professional reasons, not because I want to spend time with them. Why should I be asked to spend some of my valuable free time associating with coworkers in any respect? Coworkers are simply a fact of life. It doesn’t matter if i like them. I can’t see any benefit in associating with them outside of work just so i might like them more.

          How does this help anyone?

          Simply put. I AM a husband and father. Being a Teapot Designer is what I do to make a living and provide for my family. It is never what I am.

          1. Colette*

            In general, people are more likely to go the extra mile for people they like, and relationships do matter with respect to getting things done. You don’t have to be great friends with your coworkers, but if you are friendly acquaintances, you will likely do better at your job.

            I’ve worked with people with your attitude, and I’d get them the work they needed – but I wouldn’t go above and beyond for them. And now I don’t really remember them at all, so if (for example) they were job hunting and wanted a contact at a company, I’d probably just ignore the request because I wouldn’t know who they were.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “Our boss forced us to play Drunk Stoned Stupid, and for those who even came into work the next week, the resulting trauma bonded us together against management.”

            Though I sadly can see a lot of offices where it bonded them together against the spoilsports who don’t even understand how dead babies are funny if you say they’re funny.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Well, I never heard of this game before but I have to say, as has been discussed here before, dead-baby jokes could be very triggering for those who’ve experienced pregnancy loss or stillbirths. And you probably wouldn’t know if your coworkers have experienced this, as people often don’t want to talk about it.

          3. Yorick*

            We spend most of our “awake” time with coworkers. It makes sense to cultivate friendly relationships with them so being at work is more pleasant. It doesn’t mean you have no life outside of work or whatever. It just means that you can appreciate your coworkers as people instead of just seeing them as part of the scenery.

            Plus, there have been many times when my coworkers and I have had friendly chats and then the chat transitioned to a work topic and then we figured out how to solve a work problem. That wouldn’t happen if I said “I didn’t choose to be around her so I’m just going to ignore her unless I need something.”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That’s all well and good, but forced activities don’t do much to cultivate those kinds of relationships.

              1. Yorick*

                I didn’t read the gathering in the letter as “forced,” but I think some commenters consider any socializing to be “forced.”

          4. JJ*

            Wow, I would hate to work with someone who didn’t see me as a fellow human or want to have a positive working relationship.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        It is likely that if your work culture is one where it’s ok to play CAH with each other, there’s something broken about the culture itself. For example, are they monocultures, where the companies don’t hire people who are ‘different’ and who would be uncomfortable with the sexist / racist tropes common in CAH?

        I hang out with geeks (programmers / engineers / chemists) with regular game days going back 10+ years, and multiple women (including me) / PoC in the group refused to play CAH because it’s just too x-ist.

    5. ellen*

      My mother in law loves Cards Against Humanity. I love to watch them play because it gives me A LOT of insight into their personalities, prejudices, and other things that they would probably vastly prefer I not know. It is to the point that not only can I guess which card which person will use in any given situation, I can also pretend to BE THEM and play the card that they would have played. On the other hand, I really, really hate the highly significant odds of bullying happening in the name of “It’s just a game, it is supposed to be funny.” I speak AS someone who has BEEN so bullied. (Nothing like having your question be answered with cards that give you the opportunity to expound on how fat and ugly you are.)

      1. Terry H*

        The employee is not an infant. He is well aware of his circumstances. Beyond masking sure his desk and printer are optimally positioned for him to make things easier, and being kind in general, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Leave the man alone and let him do his job.

      2. Terry H*

        Hit the wrong button.

        Frankly, I do not care what my co-workers do with their free time. It is not my job to manage or care, nor am i paid for such stress. However, I strongly object to being forced to participate in anything that impinges on my own use of my free time. I see absolutely no value, and have never understood any value to a company arranging these types of social events.

        I have a personal life and a professional life. And these should at all times remain separate.

        1. Terry H*

          To more clearly put it. I sell my time to my employer to make money to provide for my family. If you want my time for any reason, then pay me for it. If the company is not paying me, I am never there.

          If this kind of party was a legitimate business need, then they would do it during normal working hours.

        2. Antilles*

          The value to the company is that it helps build morale and employees connect. There’s all sorts of ways that teams with high morale and personal connections work more effectively – employees are more willing to help others, people feel empowered to challenge decisions, lower turnover, workers are more productive, and so forth. Companies caring about employee morale and team-building is smart business. Maybe they don’t always do it correctly (CAH is definitely the wrong approach), but there’s certainly value.
          And on an employee side, you might not enjoy these sorts of events and that’s perfectly acceptable for you, but there’s a sizable number of employees who really do enjoy such things. I’ve worked for a decade at various companies which do after-hours optional get-togethers and they’re usually very well attended. The last one my company did started at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and at least a third of the company was still there there were still at the venue at 9:00 pm drinking, bowling, and playing arcade games. Every year in November/December, the topic of holiday parties comes up and the comments get filled with people talking about “man, I wish my company’s party was cooler” or “my company does X and it’s great” or etc. So even if it doesn’t matter for you (which again, totally fine, you do you), there *are* plenty of people who do care.

        3. pleaset*

          ” have never understood any value to a company arranging these types of social events. ”

          Wow. I agree with you that it is completely inappropriate for a company to require participation in such things, but I find it remarkable you can’t even understand why offering such things might have value to some people. Not everyone has a life outside of work as you do, and some people clearly like help in socializing. We’re not all the same. I’d hope you see that.

      3. Lance*

        Also, as something I forgot to mention: networking. C0-workers now could become valuable resources in the future, but they’re not going to give much to someone they only know in passing. Sure, working together with them at all can help, but given that humans are social creatures by nature, getting to know them a bit more would help even further.

        1. Yorick*

          Networking is a big one. These events usually include more people than just your immediate team. You may learn that John in that other department is who you go to for X, and now you know him a little so you feel comfortable going over there for it. Plus it has other benefits for you beyond your current job: you can get to know people in other departments that you may someday want to collaborate with or transition to. You may get to know someone who has excellent connections with other companies you’re interested in.

    6. PB*

      I’m part of a gaming group at work. We get together periodically during lunch and play board games. We’ve played easily over 20 at this point, all 100% work appropriate. It’s really not hard to find games that are fun and appropriate.

    7. Mimi Me*

      Agreed. I would likely say something like “Listen, this game has a small list of people I’d feel comfortable playing with. My boss and coworkers are not on that list. Sorry, I’m not playing.”
      I’d also suggest alternatives to your boss as you say not to his – it sounds like your boss might be looking for a game that may inspire laughter. I’d suggest Telestrations. It’s a cross between telephone and pictionary – very easy to play (they even sell a “party” edition meant for larger crowds). It’s very funny to see how people draw a simple word and then how the next person interprets that drawing.

    8. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      I actually worked in an office where we played CAH! There was so much bad behavior there, like open weed smoking, tons of booze, inappropriate relationships, you name it. We played it at a team-building event (!!) and let’s just say I learned a lot about my colleagues that I did not need to know. There was one guy that spoke English as a second language and the most excruciating part was people explaining all the cards to him. OMG. I will never forget that day.

    9. Little Bobby Tables*

      Hand the boss a black card with “I drink to forget” and a white card with “the last time I was dumb enough to play Cards Against Humanity with co-workers.”

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Oooo, OP#1, this is so uncomfortable, and it’s an example of workplace commentary that is not ok in any language. I agree with Alison and vote for responding to them in Urdu. I’d be tempted to go with, “Yeh kafi hai” or muttering “Bakwas” under your breath.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The first means “That’s enough,” which can sound very harsh but is pretty polite. I think it helps to imagine turn-of-the-century British nuns saying, “That’s quite enough!” to nail the tone. Or imagine your mother telling your childhood self that she’s not mad, she’s disappointed in you.

        “Bakwas” means nonsense or foolishness. It’s a work-appropriate way of saying, “ugh, what bullshit.”

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Ah cool. Thanks! I wonder if OP could **”middle name” them in the process…like the turn-of-the-century nun or their mother might…

          **Husband has no middle name. I had to give him one so that I could “middle name” him…

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            Do you stick with the same middle name each time? or change it up for variety?

              1. TootsNY*

                and I’ve just realized–my husband has no middle name either.
                Fortunately, I’ve never needed to “middle name” him, and I don’t do it with my kids either. Hmmmm..

                My mom didn’t middle-name us, now that I think about it. Though, I have a two-part first with no middle, so…Maybe she did “Betty Lou Johnson!” me.

                She DID “James Richard Jones” poor Jimmy when she was babysitting him.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  but but If you don’t ‘middle name’ them, how will they know they’re in trouble?

                  Srsly, the only person who calls me ‘Julia’ is my mom, and I *snap* to attention if she does.

          2. cmcinnyc*

            My dad told me the first time I heard my middle name I turned and ran and my mom was furious that he collapsed laughing, thus undermining the middle-naming, but I don’t think I saw that as I was instinctively removing myself from the scene of the crime.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      So glad to see someone bringing this up. It’s happened in more than one workplace in my diverse city, and it’s astounding that people think no one understands them if they don’t “look like them.” But it’s easy enough here to go to the junior college and study half a dozen languages.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        As I say here in Spain to my English-speaking friends who visit me, English isn’t a secret language. Mind yourself.

        1. TPS Cover Sheet*

          Ah, my nieces had it worse. They lived abroad and spoke Finnish with mom & dad. And it was a ”secret language” as nobody else spoke it so they became very… blunt. Then they came on a vacation, were something like 10-11 at the time and… well… managed to mortify themselves in public transport when they figured out ”omg everyone understands!”

          1. kt*

            Yep. I used Finnish as a “secret language” but several times in the US have had people come up & join the conversation….. so it’s a very un-secret secret language (better suited for “what’s the time?” than “ugh this guy/gal”).

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My mother speaks Welsh and has had people come up to her to join in. We live in Texas. The thing about uncommon languages is that if there is anyone nearby who also speaks them, they’ll be so excited to find somebody else who does that they will definitely start talking to you.

            2. Chinookwind*

              I have done this to Japanese tourist in Canada. They just don’t expect me to be able to answer their question, in Japanese, when they are trying to figure out where whatever they are looking for is. It has turned into some very pleasant experiences.

          2. londonedit*

            My brother-in-law is Finnish and let me tell you, for a country with half the population of the city I live in…Finns don’t half get everywhere :D

            I can’t speak Finnish but I can recognise the accent and some words, and I’m astonished at how often I hear Finnish being spoken on public transport etc. Said brother-in-law really couldn’t believe it when we went to a restaurant a few years ago in my parents’ rural UK town…and there was a table of Finns next to us!

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The same happens with my mom, and with my friends who speak Basque and Swedish. My mom code-switches into her mother tongue when she wants to talk trash about others, but she routinely forgets that:

            (1) Our mother tongue is not a secret language, particularly when you go to cultural events or religious venues that are chock full of folks from our ethnic/language group;
            (2) An ever-growing population of folks from other ethnic backgrounds have learned to speak either our mother tongue or related languages adequately enough to understand when you’re being rude;
            (3) Our ethnic community is part of a diaspora, and in communities where we’re concentrated, it’s incredibly common to meet folks of other ethnic backgrounds who understand basic conversational comments (including that someone is fat, lazy, stupid, etc.).

            There’s a funny video of Charlize Theron talking about traveling with her mom by plane, when they meet a guy they think is incredibly rude. They start really tearing into him and trash talking him in Afrikaans. When they finally deplane, after hours of their trash talk, he turns to them and basically says, “I can hear what you’re saying” in Afrikaans, and they died of embarrassment.

            1. Chinookwind*

              Luckily, the only time my mother and grandmother would code switch was when they were talking about presents or family trips. As a result, we children early on had a Pavlovian response to French of asking what Santa was bring us. The canned response, in French, was always “a little blue nothing.”

        2. CatMom*

          Haha you might tell the Spanish the same thing! I live in NYC and Spanish tourists definitely assume no one around them can understand them, which is hilarious in a city that’s like 25% Spanish-speaking (not counting people like me who have no cultural connection to the language but are fluent).

          I guess this particular lack of self-awareness is universal!

          1. Dust Bunny*

            One of my college professors said his mom, who was from Spain, did that. In Houston. Which is 37% Hispanic/Latinx. And scads of non-Hispanic people also speak enough Spanish to get by because you learn it by accident.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            That is really amazing. I live in a city where Latinx whose first language is Spanish are everywhere. This is common in many, many parts of America. Especially those close to the border with Mexico, like Texas, and big cities, like mine and NYC.

        3. Rob aka Mediancat*

          There’s a fantasy detective novel, Too Many Magicians, where the detective manages to figure out how inept an enemy agent is by them using a foreign language as though it were in and of itself a secret code.

      2. Chinookwind*

        Having lived in Quebec where I literally look like them but am judged by the language I use when I walk in the room or where I was born, it happened to me on more than one occasion. And to my mother (whose grandparents were Quebecois but she was bilingual with no accent in either language). And to a coworker who was Acadienne who overheard the very rude comment made about her husband. We have all responded like AAM recommended and it felt very, very good.

        It also gave us all a great insight into the cultural bigot the other person was, which we then passed along to all the non-french speakers in the area. Unfortunately, calling out such bigots on their blatant inappropriateness will not change how they speak about others behind their backs.

      3. Ann Nonymous*

        Never ever ever assume that nobody around you speaks X language. I’m a whitey white girl who speaks Arabic and Spanish fluently. I love to keep my face absolutely neutral when there are Arabic or Spanish speakers around talking trash then pull out some innocent question to spring on them to let them know I’ve understood everything.

    2. Myrin*

      I have to say, I tentatively vote against responding in Urdu. I’m saying that because OP says she’s “far from fluent” and understands “enough” and maybe I’m misinterpreting, but that in general sounds like the situation where you understand a language well enough but can’t really converse in it yourself (I have that with every foreign language I’ve ever learned (except English by now)). But you want them to think you’re fluent, lest they try to circumvent the problem by speaking very fast or in a very convoluted way guaranteed to leave non-fluent speakers in the dust. Let them quiver and think you understand every little thing they’re muttering under their breaths even if you actually only understand the gist of their conversations.

      1. Avasarala*

        Ohhh yeah that could go badly if you mean to say “Cut it out!” and you accidentally say “Cut it!”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Oh, in the right tone, “my donkey craves your mascara” can be chilling.

          2. Minocho*

            My best foreign language mistake? I thought I was telling people I worked at the Mino Town International Exchange Association (kokusai kouryuu kyoukai), when I instead said I was working at the Mino Town International Dinosaur Association (kokusai kyouryuu kyokai).

            I did this for 18 _months_.

            1. BadWolf*

              Well, Mino Town International Dinosaur Association, sounds like a pretty awesome place to be. Did anyone follow up with any dinosaur related questions?

              1. Minocho*

                No, they just knew the giant red headed pale faced gaijin spoke Japanese poorly.

                I figured it out when one of my six year old students was obsessed with dinosaurs.

                “….wait a minute, have I been…?”
                “Since I arrived here a year and a half ago?!?”
                “Why didn’t you correct me?!?!?”
                “It was cute.”

      2. TPS Cover Sheet*

        Depends on how well you can pull off a sentence. I can say a few phrases in a way too good accent in a few languages that I then get a barrage I can’t understand. The OP can always find someone speaking Urdu and get a bit of coaching in a few appropriate phrases.

        1. Myrin*

          True, but that still means that OP might not be able to pull off a spontaneous answer should the need for it arise. Which might be totally fine with her and/or the situation, but I know that it would immediately rattle my confidence and might show that way, so if I could avoid it even coming to that point altogether, I would. But of course OP might view the whole thing completely differently – of all the suggestions, she should pick out what feels most comfortable for her.

          1. fposte*

            That’s also a lot of work. The OP isn’t solving a crime here; she’s just asking co-workers to dial it down. She shouldn’t have to take on tutoring to do that.

      3. Asenath*

        Also, if you continue in English (even if it’s because your Urdu is limited to understanding common insults and “that is very rude”) you can say something like “Of course, any further discussion is going to be in English so everyone, including the others you have been insulting, will understand the discussion”.

        But it does sound like OP’s Urdu is fairly good, which does give her more flexibility in her response.

        1. Lucy*

          It sounds as though she understands Urdu reasonably well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she can speak it well enough to have a difficult work conversation – the difficulty coming from their bad behaviour, not her actions.

          I want to +1 Alison’s suggestion of “I understand some Urdu and what you’ve been saying about people is really rude. Please cut it out” – though I think it needs a little adjusting for a British office, so perhaps “I understand enough Urdu to know that what you have been saying about people is really rude. Please stop.”

          And I agree that they get precisely one chance to stop before LW goes to HR. I would suggest making notes of what they have been and are still saying as LW overhears them – particularly if they’re making comments which are unnecessarily-cruel-but-observational so there’s no chance LW is misunderstanding.

        2. Joe Bloggs*

          Of course, any further discussion is going to be in English so everyone, including the others you have been insulting, will understand the discussion.

          No – do not do this under any circumstances. Saying that all informal workplace conversations MUST be in English is discriminatory.

          1. EPLawyer*

            I think Aseneath meant any further discussion on the subject of their rudeness is going to be in English. I kinda like this approach. Say stop in Urdu then continue in English. If she gets hit with a barrage it doesn’t matter. The point is not how fluent LW is. The point is she understands THEM enough to know they are being rude. And they need to stop it.

          2. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

            Slight change of script then: “The rest of this discussion” is going to be in English.
            The confrontational part of my soul wants to have this happen in a full conference room with plenty of people higher on the food chain than the Urdu-speaking insulters.

          3. Asenath*

            Yes, EPLawyer has it right, and I may not have made myself clear. I was trying to come up with a turn of phrase that would ensure that everyone – including the non-Urdu speakers who are the other targets or the comments – would understand this particular discussion, not saying that no one should ever have a workplace conversation in anything but English. I think removing the secrecy in which the offenders can make such rude comments is important.

          4. Kate2*

            Are you serious?? Because insulting and saying hateful discriminatory things about your colleagues in your language doesn’t mean you should probably stop, but expecting people to communicate in the one language everyone can communicate in and not deliberately exclude their coworkers. It is just as rude if you are 2 English speakers in an office in India or 2 Pashto speakers in an office that speaks only Dari.

              1. Kate2*

                The best analogy I can think of is a small group of coworkers obviously bonding and going out to lunch together every day, inviting no one else. We’ve had letters about the lunch problem and office cliques before. On the other hand it would be okay if they were friends outside of work and didn’t bring it into the office and their professional relationships and didn’t obviously exclude all of their coworkers.

          5. Observer*

            That’s actually not true.

            NORMALLY – and this is US specific (where the OP is not) – you can’t tell people that they have to speak only English at work. But there are absolutely exceptions. And one of them is when management / other staff have good reason to believe that the people speaking the foreign language are bad mouthing others and saying things that are not appropriate to the workplace. In this case, it’s not a SUSPICION, it’s something that’s happening RIGHT NOW.

            Also, regardless, even when the OP can’t tell the others to speak English they absolutely CAN insist on speaking English themselves.

          6. Robin*

            As to “further discussions will be English” – I don’t know the law but honestly I think that would be a Bad Thing to say. The Urdu speakers thought they were able to trash talk people privately without OP (and others) knowing about it. They assumed the OP didn’t speak Urdu – which, honestly, is probably a safe bet about almost all white Brits, even in areas with large Urdu-speaking populations (I’m assuming OP is white because her co-workers assumed she didn’t speak Urdu; sorry if that’s wrong – as an aside, I think it’s really cool that OP has picked up some Urdu, because in my ten years in the East Midlands I don’t think I met a single white person who’d made that effort.) That’s akin to trash talking people when nobody else is around to hear. I hope they are mortified with embarrassment when they find out OP understands them, and I hope they stop doing that shit because it is Not Okay.

            Still. They’re entitled to speak to each other in their own language, and not wanting certain other people to be party to their conversation is a perfectly valid reason to do that, just like ducking into an empty meeting room. You’re not entitled to understand other people’s conversations.

            Also bear in mind that as Urdu-speaking Brits, they’ve almost certainly been told to speak English out of sheer racism many times.

        3. Chinookwind*

          Yup. That is how I called out the francophone who was making “secret plans” in French with our boss (all in a volunteer situation) about a meeting she fully intended to keep us from knowing about. By calling her out in English but giving enough details that she knew that I knew about it, I was able to loop in the anglophones about her shenanigans and make it harder for her to get away with it. It also looped in the supervisor that a) we all weren’t bilingual (he had no reason to know either way), b) that person organizing wasn’t looping everyone in and c) he was being made to look like he was part of the deception.

      4. Overeducated*

        Agreed. I am out of practice in my second language and can understand a lot, but it would be obvious to any native speaker by sentence #2 that I don’t speak it as well anymore. It is less risky to speak in English and let them wonder how much you heard (“all of it,” if they ask).

        1. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

          Technically that’s true — you’ll have HEARD all of it, even if you only UNDERSTOOD a percentage to get the gist of the rest.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re totally right. If it would be difficult for OP to respond in Urdu, then I think saying something cutting in English is entirely appropriate, and probably preferred. (It’s stressful enough to call someone out, but it’s much harder to do in a language you don’t feel comfortable speaking).

        But if OP has secret Urdu-speaking skills, I think now’s a good time to deploy them. Ultimately OP should pick whichever language makes them feel more confident when calling out their coworkers.

    3. Brownstag*

      Bakwas is perfect! I grew up in an Urdu speaking household.
      Regretfully, I feel certain if you say something like “that’s rude” in English you would get all kinds of variations on “you misunderstood.”
      “Badtameez” is also useful but you are basically calling them a punk whereas “bakwas” call out their behavior as nonsense

      1. MOAS*

        oh lord. Ok off topic but Bakwas and badtameez are “tame” to me LMAO. My parents spoke Punjabi growing up and that included all of the lovely curse words. Add to that, I didn’t interact with many desis until college, I went in to college (and thus interacting with more people like myself) thinking certain words were OK to say when they were NOT OK TO SAY EVER.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, they’re incredibly tame! But I was trying to identify work-appropriate terms. It would probably not be ok to call them bhenchod. ;) I have the opposite problem—I learned all my swear words in college because my parents treated words like “paagal” as if they were four-letter words. So all my insults were capped at a five-year-old’s level of sophistication.

          I like Brownstag’s sharam suggestions. All I can think of is my nani saying, “Sharam nahin hai?” (“Have you no shame??”).

          1. SAR*

            You made me inhale my rice at my desk, PCBH! I love your suggestions. And your Naniji.

            Badtameez gets the song stuck in my head, and bewakoof makes me think of any 80’s Hindi movie. I love all of these approaches.

            1. Nessun*

              I understand none of these, but I love this thread! Makes me want to go out and learn ALL THE LANGUAGES right now. I loved learning languages in school, and sadly my skills have rusted over the years. Thanks for the nostalgia, and firing my enthusiasm!

          2. Michaela Westen*

            Interesting how close the word “sharam” is to “shame”. I love language patterns. We’re all connected! <3

    4. Lora*

      Have used both Alison’s recommendation and simply said a phrase that made it obvious I spoke enough of a language to understand in the following situations:

      -Colleagues “forgetting” I was there at all and ignoring me, even though I was the project manager and supposed to be managing them – they were waiting for me to finish talking and then would have their own conversation that contradicted what I had just told them. “Excuse me, let’s get back to what we were saying earlier about needing a larger room on this floor. I thought we had agreed on that?”
      -Random dudes on a train through Rhode Island discussing which of my female colleagues and I would perform various sexual things. When they got off the train they left a bag of snacks and my colleague and I both shouted after them, “Sirs, you forgot your cookies/bag!” in the language they had been speaking.
      -Neighbors making sexual comments when I walked by them in the parking lot. Come on, how many Americans do you think are unfamiliar with the words “chinga” and “puta”?
      -Guys at a party discussing what a couple of stuck-up b!tches my friend and I were. Weirdly, after I replied to one of them in his language that my friend had a boyfriend and wasn’t available, he became super friendly and trying to get in my pants. Um, no?
      -Oddly, people from my own tiny little ethnic group talking crap about how I was dressed and how “the English” (their term for Everyone Not Us) just don’t care and let their kids run around wearing any old clothes.

      The one time I actually replied in English was to a couple of co-workers who were talking about some racist things that had happened at work, and I said, “that’s a really good question” at an appropriate point in the conversation – just to let them know that their discussion wasn’t really private in an open office. But it’s mostly enough just to say a short reply that you do understand, fk you very much.

  5. Funemployed*

    #4 Well it took me all of five seconds of googling to find the company and the ceo causing strife…it seems as though people have been able to advance their career beyond, but I have a feeling if someplace is that toxic, industry insiders will know. I’d recommend preparing some answers to possible questions about what your work environment was like and how you handled difficulties.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        The place is run by a vinegary hag with the IQ of house paint…

        I’m crying!

        1. Bunny Girl*

          “An Endless Proctology Exam (Without the Laughter)”

          Oh my gosh I’m so happy I found this.

        2. entrylevelsomething*

          …”who spends her free time luring German children to her gingerbread cottage deep in the woods”!
          I’m practically hyperventilating I’m laughing so hard. Glorious.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Agree! I love this Glassdoor. I want to bookmark it. I’m going to make some microwave popcorn, settle in my chair, put off my morning work tasks, and read it again.

        Horrible for the people involved, but some darn good writing.

        1. CrankyMuggle*

          As someone who also used to work there, I agree it’s worth bookmarking. The new reviews are always spectacular.

          1. D*

            I used to work there too, back in the early 2000s. I was amazed to see that place discussed on AAM today. They are every bit as toxic as the reviews describe. I see from their website that upper management is the exact same people that were there when I worked there, though the turnover rate in the company as a whole is astronomically high, at least when I was there. I agree the reviews are very entertaining. I’m not sure why you would want to piss off writers.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              “upper management is the exact same people that were there when I worked there”
              IMHO this means they’re not learning from the turnover, the reviews or anything. They’re ok with things being this way.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously, these reviews are hilarious. I’m very sorry that they had these experiences, but the writing is amazing. I’m tempted to encourage them to collect the reviews and sell them as a book, because they should be able to make money from their strife since the company did!

    1. Agent J*

      This is a good suggestion. It may also help to have some ready answers to questions about that experience that acknowledges how you were able to perform well in a (documented) difficult environment.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup, because those questions just may come up – I know I got them all the time when I was looking to leave a similar environment and even years after I left and had worked somewhere else.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Actually, looking at this review, it might not look so great on the OP. Maybe OP ought to pretend to be part of the crew that did well there…

        “The only people who stay are personal friends that the president brought in. The atmosphere of nepotism is so strong that you can clearly tell the people that have different standards. Some employees are made to stay late and rewrite perfectly fine stories over and over. Other employees can skate by providing zero value and take several weeks off to go camping. “

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          There was also a review about the poor habits developed by the bad management practices.

          OP probably needs to be prepared to answer questions about that as Alison suggested.

          And I looked at the actual website. It did not impress. OP may have to answer questions about the quality of the product even if interviewers don’t read the glassdoor reviews. Even the web design was poor, it was not responsive to my phone.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Wow, now I need to find it.

      CurrentJob went through a period of especially bad management and, consequently, bad Glassdoor reviews. But, because we are not journalists, none of ours were too creative. My favorite was the one that, under “advice to company’s employees and management”, said “Turn the lights off on your way out.”

      1. Anon4This*

        Yeah, we have had some negative reviews, and none are either this interesting nor well written. Of the negative reviewers, I identified one who was fired for time card fraud, who said we would not get good candidates if we were going to “nitpick admintrive stuff”. (I don’t consider all those 45-minute gaps in reported in time v. actual in time a “nitpick” but, whatever, no longer my problem.) Another left because, per their exit interview, they”didn’t like being told what to do” and “wanted to figure things out [her]self without having to rush” (not going to work in a hard-deadline-centric environment) but also “didn’t get enough training”, which I just do not know what to do with at all… that one’s Glassdoor review says that her manager was mean and criticized her work.

        I don’t personally find Glassdoor all that helpful unless there is a boatload of similar, negative feedback. A lot of the reviews are short and low on substance (“greatest place ever!” or “worst place ever!”) – what makes this organization’s so great are the consistency of the complaints and the absolutely brilliant manners in which they are phrased.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          We at one point suddenly found our (past and present) coworkers’ bad reviews pushed to the second page and a fresh crop of identical five-star reviews appeared on the front page: “Pros: too many to name! Cons: none! Advice: keep doing what you’re doing!” I’m guessing our marketing had finally found Glassdoor.

          When I looked for work last year, I ran into two employers with similar Glassdoor ratings – very high ratings, amazing reviews, and then buried somewhere on the page there would be a link to a subsidiary company, and that one would have terrible reviews and ratings (coincidentally also the one that had the open position I’d been called for). In both cases, the subsidiary was apparently a company that had always been not a great place to work for, was bought by a better company, but continued to operate independently and the better company could not do anything to improve the workplace conditions of the smaller company that they’d acquired. At least one (been a while, cannot remember if it was both) also mentioned a leadership change after the merger, and the new CEO running the place into the ground. I still came in to interview at one of them, but didn’t get a call back. The other place, the reviews for the local branch (the one they were hiring for) were all so consistently terrible that I said no. The initial contact always came from the parent company, so on the surface it looked like I’d just heard from everyone’s dream job that was suddenly hiring and inexplicably wanted me to work there… nope!

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      wow – I think we found the source of the ‘my boss lets her dog poop in the office’ letter…

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh my gaw. I looked on Indeed and one review there was headlined, “I’ve never worked at a prison camp, but…”

      1. Nessun*

        I’ve never had a Glassdoor account, but reading the “free preview” section for this company makes me want one, just to get at all the crazy behind the Sign In wall!!

    6. Skeeder Jones*

      I figured I wasn’t the only person who immediately googled glassdoor and one of those phrases!

    7. Septembergrrl*

      I’m another one who used to work there. Believe me when I say EVERYBODY knows the company is awful. Whether they’ll ever make any move to fix it is a separate issue, and so far the answer seems to be no.

  6. Agent J*

    OP#3: It seems like you want to help this employee but even you recognize in your own words: But I also recognize that I’m not his doctor and there are no actual issues for me to address.

    So I would think about why you want to proactively address your employee’s health. Are you worried about workplace liability? Does it worry you or make you uncomfortable to see them this way? I don’t want to shame you for caring but in a professional setting where this employee’s performance is good, I would consider reminding yourself of professional (and legal) boundaries here. As Alison says, if they wanted help or accomodations, they would have asked for it.

    1. Maria Lopez*

      OP may feel uncomfortable, but it sounds to me like this is this employee’s way of getting exercise on a daily basis.

        1. Marmaduke*

          He has the option of looking for other jobs, but chooses to stay at this one. I remember staying in my third floor apartment with no elevator because when I was struggling to get fit again after a long illness, making it up those stairs was my daily Everest. Being able to accomplish that climb meant a lot to me, and I fought for it!

          1. fposte*

            He’s working in a call center. That’s not usually an indication of somebody with massive job prospects.

            1. TPS Cover Sheet*

              Add to all this. It is a call centre. What we know it is on the 2nd floor and does not allow remote working. Or it is not possible due to the age of the equipment.

              The cynical TPS equates this as a company running off investments that were depreciated already last century. The first floor is probably occupied by something more lucrative, and TPS imagines cubicles and a micromanaging boss with a timer watching behind your back your every move and docking pay for your toilet breaks. Now in this kind of a place, bringing up a fire the answer is, ”no worry, we got insurance”. The employee is not an asset but an expense on the ledgers. Though not all companies are the like TPS worked in his misguided youth… ”just got them negative vibes”.

              So can the OP effect anything, that is the question indeed.

            2. Marmaduke*

              What an unpleasant generalization about call center employees and this man in particular.

              1. fposte*

                It’s not a generalization about call center employees; it’s a generalization about call centers. The work is not usually well paid, and it is often a stressful job involving getting a lot of unpleasantness directed at you. Maybe the OP has a terrific specialized inbound-only clientele and a great pay structure, and if so, that’s wonderful. But call centers are rarely the first choice for people to work it if they have better paid options.

            3. OP#3*

              Just an FYI, this guy is makes more than I do in a year due to sales commissions. It’s not a lack of job prospects that’s keeping him there, lol.

              1. fposte*

                Okay, cool. That’s good news for him and for you, given that it sounds like a call center with some decent remuneration possibilities.

                But that’s also an illustration that he really does have a choice and he’s chosen this. Maybe he’d use an elevator or stair climb if you had one, but you don’t, and he’s still choosing this.

                1. OP#3*

                  Yeah, I’m definitely going to look into stair lifts now that I know the building isn’t ADA compliant. It’s the least they can do.

          2. BadWolf*

            I was thinking the same — the stairs may be part of his exercise. Even if it looks painful, it may be something he wants to do.

            At the risk of making light of said coworker, when I was a moved from a second floor to a main floor office, I was bummed that I would miss out on the “free” exercise of doing the stairs at least a couple times a day. I mean, I can always walk the stairs just because, but being on the second floor made it part of the day.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, believe it or not, this was one reason I was upset about losing my position at Exjob, aside from income and benefits, of course. We were on the third floor and I used to climb the stairs up and down on my breaks.

        2. DerJungerLudendorff*

          I do wonder if the OP can’t do something from an accessibility viewpoint here.
          It sounds like the employee has to spend a significant amount of effort just to get into the workplace. Maybe they like the exercise, but I imagine they have plenty of days where they just want to get up and down the darn stairs.

          Since it sounds like OP is the employee’s manager, did they ever discuss what sort of accommodations they might need?

          I’m not sure the employee would bring that up themselves either. A lot of people with disabilities try not to make any fuss about it for a variety of reasons.

          1. My other username is a Porsche*

            Or to ask for accommodations. My point is it’s up to him, not that he shouldn’t work there, in case that wasn’t clear and before people jump on me.

            1. Lucy*

              What if he is feverishly job hunting and has had zero alternative offers? It’s very rare Alison recommends ditching one job without another lined up, unless the conditions are unusually egregious or there are other sources of income.

              1. Observer*

                What does that change?

                The OP could say – ONCE – something like “It seems to me that you have some difficulty. Is there any accommodation we could make that would improve things for you?”

                Suggesting that he find another job is beyond the pale. And if the person is actually “feverishly looking for another job”, telling him that he should find another job is just pushing the knife in a bit deeper.

                1. Lucy*

                  I was responding to the suggestion that if he doesn’t like it he should get another job, which is obviously uuuugh. The fact that he is staying in the job proves neither that he is happy with the situation nor that he isn’t looking elsewhere.

                  Meanwhile, LW’s employer should be looking at making the workplace more accessible generally, since the work itself doesn’t require stair- leaping agility, so they’re likely missing out on good hires.

                2. OP#3*

                  I didn’t want to directly ask about accommodations when there were none that I can actually make. Thanks to this comment section though, I’ve got a few ideas for ways to make the building more accessible while also discussing the lack of ADA compliance with the owners.

              2. KinderTeacher*

                I took Porsche’s comment to refer to the OP’s started impulse to want to suggest the employee look for another position. That whether or not the employee looks for another position is a choice they can make by themselves, and certainly NOT one the OP should be mentioning to them for professional and legal reasons. You make a good point though, and certainly saying “if he wanted a different job he would have one” would be insensitive and obtuse. Building on your point, to roll this back around to the original question, even if OP suggested that another job might better serve the employee’s mobility challenges, that wouldn’t guarantee the employee would have any luck finding a different job (or that the employee isn’t already searching), so the comment could be unprofessional, legally dicey, and frustrating for the employee to hear. Happily, from a comment from the OP, it sounds like the employee’s salary + commissions are good enough that an unsuccessful job search is unlikely to be the reason he is still in the job!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I had a comparable situation with a co-worker. Although they had a serious lung disease that caused them to loudly gasp after walking up the stairs to the second floor, they chose this instead of taking the elevator. Fortunately, no one at my workplace said a word about it to them.

      2. Lyra Silvertongue*

        What do you mean by this? The letter writer mentions that there is no elevator. This is where the employee works so getting up the stairs daily is a necessary work requirement. I see no evidence to assume this is the case unless you are making the mental leap from ‘fat’ to ‘must need to make a special effort to get exercise in.’

    2. Jasnah*

      OP, why don’t you channel your concern into getting an elevator for your building, or more comprehensive health insurance?

      1. MK*

        There is nothing to suggest the health insurance they have is bad, or that having better insurance would affect this issue in any way. Getting an elevator is something the OP can probably suggest, but, even assuming it’s possible to install one (not all buildings can be modified for one), I don’t imagine they have much clout in that.

        1. Jasnah*

          OK, maybe my suggestions won’t work but maybe OP can substitute them for more appropriate ones for their situation. My point is as Hekko said, they can stop focusing on this one person and start focusing on making improvements for everyone. Then, worst case scenario, they’ll have an unnecessarily accessible building.

          1. OP#3*

            This comment section has been super great (well, except for the super focus on weight in threads above), and I hadn’t even realized how I was focusing on one person without considering EVERYONE, so now I have a whole new path available to me.

            1. Jasnah*

              I’m glad you found it helpful and you have a new place to channel your helpful instincts!

      2. Hekko*

        Or if elevator is not an option, there are stair lifts and platform lifts, which are easier to install and also (at least usually) less pricey.

        The advantage of this approach is that this will help ANY employee or visitor with mobility issues, current or future, without you having to go into the icky territory of guessing at someone’s health issues.

        1. fposte*

          I support the notion of a chair lift or platform lift; I especially support your point about it being helpful to other people, because you really don’t want to install it just for this one guy when he may not even use it. So if you do install one, you still have to respect his choice when it comes to whether or not he uses it.

  7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    1) Having grown up in a bi-lingual area – where, at one time, French was the second language – and we knew enough not to say disparaging things in one language or another. These guys have to be unaware of things to engage in that behavior. Advising them – firmly – to knock it off – is the right thing.

    2) “Cards Against Humanity” – the game itself and its concept makes me ill. I can’t see the thrill in that game. There are others that you can play – that have interactions – “Apples to Apples” or even Trivial Pursuit.

    5) It’s not a bad idea to let a firm know that there’s no interest – just as I’d prefer, as a candidate, to know there’s no interest rather than leaving me hanging on the line for weeks or more. At one point in time I had three interviews in two days – they resulted in second and third interviews, and even an on-the-spot offer (this was 1984, IS/IT, in Boston) – and when Second Choice offered me a spot, I immediately let Third Choice know I was no longer interested, thanks – etc., and I knew they had other candidates. Within two days I had an offer from First Choice, however – and when I accepted I shut Second Choice down – and also other companies who I had some discussions with.

    In fact, some years later boss at Third Choice became a director at another company I worked at, and I’m sure he was appreciative that I didn’t drag him out some years before.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      My brother’s former girlfriend pulled out Cards Against Humanity after dinner with my parents and I (kind of the first big, meet-the-family dinner), and it was uncomfortable as hell. We were all far too polite to say that though and, let me tell you, it’s not a game you want to play with your parents.

      1. A terrible person*

        My siblings and I played it with our dad. He loved it. Even better, he’s a pastor and we played in the church.

      2. Me*

        It’s definitely a know your audience game. My sister, her husband and I all play with our adult children. We would NEVER play with my parents.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve played it with my 19 year old (there are some cards I take out of the deck first, for my own comfort) and it’s fine, because we have that sense of humor. But with someone else’s child/parents? Ha ha ha ha nope.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I think Cards Against is so fun, but it can be um, interesting depending on your audience. Once a year my family has one too many dark & stormy’s and it gets brought out for Christmas. One year my brother’s poor girlfriend got roped in. I would not play it with my coworkers or boss.

      4. Ra94*

        I love playing it with my parents, and my best friend’s elderly dad introduced me to it in the first place. It’s definitely not work-appropriate, but I wouldn’t make blanket statements about how parents would react.

      5. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Definitely don’t play “Joking Hazard” with your parents unless they’re cool with super-inappropriate humor. It’s a hilarious game, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

  8. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #4:

    You will sin freely ever after because Hell will hold no fear for you.

    I actually laughed out loud at this review. It reminded me of my nearly three year tenure at Evil Law Firm, where HR and upper management were breaking all manners of laws left and right and our clients were investigated by the DOJ for falsifying foreclosure documents (we had hundreds of cases dismissed due to the subsequent findings of robo-signing). That place was a dumpster fire and is notorious in the mid-size city I live in for how poorly run it is. Seriously, every time I went to an interview, people would be like, “Wow – so you really work there? Is it as horrible as everyone says it is?” And because it’s an interview and you’re not supposed to badmouth your current (or former) employer, all I could do was sit there with a stupid smile that never reached my eyes and say, “Oh, it has its challenges, but I’ve learned a lot,” and the response was usually, “I bet you have!”

    Now, I wasn’t in management like you were, but I truly don’t think that job being on your resume will sink you. If anything, it may help you. I was able to escape Evil Law Firm when I was offered a job at major insurance company as a claims adjuster. Part of the reason I was hired was because everyone on the interview panel knew how much my firm sucked and they figured, if I could hold my own in a place that awful for that long, I’d be more than prepared to handle crazy claimants – and they were right. Because of that job, nothing really rattles me anymore; I’ve almost become desensitized to nonsense and can (usually) find my way through it.

    When you work in a place like that, keep your head down, and kill it, you build a reputation for having tenacity, which is a very desirable trait in a job candidate. So I think if you can just talk honestly about the issues you encountered at this company, as dispassionately as possible, I think you’ll be okay in future job searches. Just make sure you didn’t pick up any bad managerial habits like Alison said if you’re planning to apply to managerial positions (and you may not), and you should be fine. Good luck!

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      I guffawed as well, and disturbed my sleeping kitty. Then committed that phrase to memory because it is a GEM. I might use it in response to questions about a certain ex.

      That’s good advice to OP about just owning it and being honest.

  9. PollyQ*

    OP#3 — In addition to it totally not being your business, and quite possibly being illegal, here’s an additional consideration: it may be that getting out of the house, and getting the exercise of walking up a couple flights of stairs and moving around the office is actually beneficial to him.

    1. Non-profiteer*

      Yes, this is what I came here to say. Multiple friends and family members of mine appear to have difficulty with stairs or other such activities, but they know that doing those activities are good for them, and consider it part of their exercise. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine through work is good for us all. I intentionally chose a commute that involves 40 minutes of walking per day, so I would get my cardio in automatically. I would continue to do this until a doctor told me not to – and there are very few situations where a doctor is actually going to tell me not to.

  10. GeoffreyB*

    #2: might be helpful to suggest some more work-friendly options?

    Off the top of my head, Codenames (not the After Dark version!), DeCrypto, and Dixit are fun social games that get people talking to one another and don’t push towards NSFW territory.

    CaH is emphatically *not* a good getting-to-know-you game.

    1. Alice*

      I was going to suggest the same list of games! Maybe also Spyfall, which lets the players interact a bit more.

      I wanted to say Time’s Up too but the last round involves miming and not everyone is comfortable with that. But I do recommend it for not-work-related settings.

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      Love Code Names!

      I accidentally bought the After Dark version and played it with my teen sisters (20 year age gap) SO SO awkward! They did, however, understand almost *all* of the references and educated me on a few of the weed ones…

    3. Wordnerd*

      I was going to chime in and suggest the jack box party games. A little more mature than apples to apples but nowhere near CAH. I think the latest packs have a family – friendly setting.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Pigmania. Giant lawn-sized Jenga.
      I’ve often wondered if people could get past the stereotypes to try Dungeons&Dragons as a team-building exercise. Seriously — you work together or you don’t beat the bad guys.

      1. Liane*

        I would go for that and it doesn’t have to be D&D any more. There’s Star Wars, superheroes, etc. The biggest problem would be finding or writing a one-shot adventure that fits into the time available. (But I am still up for this if it’s a multi-day team builing.)

        Also, I do know someone who ran Star Wars at lunch at work and planning for 30-45 minute sessions was not the easiest thing I gathered.

        1. curly sue*

          Short sessions are very difficult, especially if you’re trying to teach a system at the same time. That’s a time period better suited to a board game with quick setup – something like King of Tokyo, if you want the geekery.

          The best time block for a good game session, in my experience, is between 3 – 4 hours. Time to get into an encounter or storyline, have some good interaction and some goofing off, without getting too sick of each other by the end of it. (Though I’ve played all-day marathon sessions or six-hour evening games in the past, and with the right group and mood those can be amazing as well. Not so much with work colleagues, though.)

          There are systems that are a lot easier to learn and use than D&D, even the more recent editions. I’ve always been a fan of Eden Studio’s Unisystem games for ease of use. (not affiliated! Not even remotely industry-adjacent anymore. Just a lifelong gamer nerd.)

          1. Kitrona*

            Also, the Showitt games are cheap, I think they’re “pay what you want” and they’re like three or four pages long: one page for the GM, one page for players outlining setup, a page for relationships among the group and whatnot, and a character sheet.

        2. Kitrona*

          Oh! I have a suggestion! Look up Honey Heist by G. S. Showitt (I think that’s his name?). He has a bunch of one-shot games that have easy and fun character generation and still require teamwork. Honey Heist is my go-to when people want to play but don’t want to spend ages making characters. (That one in particular has a setup of “You’re bears, you want to steal the priceless honey at this convention, you can wear human disguises, how do you do this?” and has about three attributes that you roll a d6 for, plus you can draw your bear on your character sheet!)

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Pandemic might be good because you are all working towards a common goal. I want to say just do a euchre torment, but I realize that it is more of a regional game and not popular everywhere.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Flash Point is a similar cooperative game, only you play firefighters trying to rescue people from a burning building.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Used to play euchre at lunch–I think that’s a great one. Easy to learn, easy to move in and out of the game.

      3. curly sue*

        Pandemic is great fun! I also like Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert for reasonably fast-setup and fast-playing co-op games.

      4. Geoffrey B*

        For people who already know it or can pick up games easily, Pandemic is great. My only concern with it as an icebreaker event is that the rules are a little more elaborate and could be a bit challenging for people who don’t have experience with that kind of game. For that reason I might go with Forbidden Island instead, as a similar game but with simpler mechanics.

        I kind of want to suggest Magic Maze too, but that’s probably not a good one for people who get flustered easily.

    6. yala*

      I love Dixit!

      Mysterium is another one that’s a little like Dixit, but one player is the ghost giving out pictures as clues, and the other players are mediums trying to solve a murder Clue-style (who, where, with what) within so many turns. It’s also nice, because being timed, in generally goes exactly 45 minutes. And it’s preeeetty…

      If boss is married to the idea of an irreverent card game, Exploding Kittens (not the NSFW version) would probably be a safe bet.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I played exploding kittens for the first time last weekend and was really disappointed. There is a lot of hype around it but it is basically Russian roulette in card form.

    7. LW#2*

      I just wanted to say I really appreciate all these suggestions, and the rest in the thread. A game doesn’t have to be “adult” in order to be fun for adults, is definitely something I think she may have been forgetting.

      1. yala*


        Honestly, some of the biggest hits at our game nights are things like Don’t Wake Daddy, Forbidden Bridge, and It From The Pit.

        But even in the less “childhood games” one of the most popular standbys is the Bob Ross game, which is just simple and clean (I didn’t suggest it because it only goes up to 4 players).

        It shouldn’t be on you to provide any games, but if you decide to, I hope you find something that’s pleasant *and* fun for you (and everyone)

      2. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

        Let me also throw one in. Heads Up is definitely a group game, and if you have an electronic version there are so many different decks it’s hard to go NSFW.

    8. poodleoodle*

      I like Organ Attack too, and Fluxx has a number of different versions. Some of them are even educational like the Chemistry and Biology ones.

    9. Matilda Jefferies*

      Game of Phones is a fun one as well. Everyone uses their own phone, and challenges are things like show (or take) your best selfie; build the most expensive shopping cart; make an emoji masterpiece.

      It sounds like you’d have to lay down some ground rules about appropriate content – not normally required for this game, but if you’ve already had to explain that Cards Against Humanity is not appropriate for work, you may have to be a little more specific than usual. But otherwise, it’s easy to learn and very fun!

    10. EH*

      Fluxx is a great game to play in groups, and I first learned it with the basic version of the game at a job a while back. I wouldn’t play Drinking Fluxx or Stoner Fluxx with work folks, but Star Fluxx and several of the others (and definitely the basic version) are pretty work safe. Certainly WAY moreso than CAH.

      As a side note, I have some friends who have a rule that when you play their copy of CAH, you can toss any card that upsets you. Like, literally throw it away. It’s never put back into the deck. The sets come with a billion jillion cards, so this has enabled them to cull the worst racist/classist/transphobic/child-abusive/etc cards and still have plenty to play.

      1. VintageLydia*

        everyone i know with the game is totally cool with you silently exchanging cards, no questions asked

    11. Al*

      I would recommend games that have a pretty shallow & easy learning curve. Lately we’ve been loving 5-Minute Dungeon (although we CANNOT beat the last dungeon with less than 5 people). Love Letter and Loot Letter. Smaller maps of Ticket to Ride, like New York.

  11. Jessica*

    #1, I would recommend going right to what Alison recommends as your second move. Well, I guess it depends on what the managers and your relationships with them are like, but please seriously consider it. These guys think it’s OK to sit at their desks all day long and openly say hostile, prejudiced, belittling, hateful things about all their coworkers. (Plus they’re such self-centered idiots they think a language spoken by hundreds of millions of people is their personal secret code.)
    If I were their manager, I would VERY much appreciate knowing what was actually going on and what these employees are really like.

    1. So anonymous I'm not even here*

      +1 – OP1 I wouldn’t waste my breath talking to these 2 guys – go directly to the manager and explain what has been happening.

    2. Friday*

      I agree – and also wouldn’t it be more fun if the OP’s boss talked to the two coworkers without revealing who else knows the language? Then the coworkers would be on alert around EVERYONE that they’ve been trash-talking.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        That *is* delicious. Looking around, which of these white-bread looking mfs speaks Urdu!?!?? They’ll never know…

  12. tommy*

    he doesn’t outwardly complain about the stairs

    #3, you don’t know that he’s inwardly complaining either.

    as a fat and disabled person myself, i need you to know that this type of “concern” is often felt as — and often progresses into a more explicit version of — concern trolling. i don’t know you and i don’t know your heart, but fatness and disability — and especially their intersection — puts us in a place where we are constantly infantilized and told by other people what’s best for us. even aside from the legal issues already mentioned, respecting his autonomy and his agency is the only ethical thing to do. what do you think you could tell him about his own body and his own daily routine that he doesn’t already know (and know better than you)?

    1. valentine*

      concern trolling
      This is what I saw, especially when the question isn’t about how to improve his environment.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Yes, I’m so tired of people thinking we don’t know. We know, we always know. But guess what we have to live anyway, we have to work. We know, and most likely have been hearing about whatever our issue is our entire life from people closer than a manager/co-worker and that’s hard enough.

    3. Alton*

      Yep, this is a good point. People vary a lot, and some people are hesitant to seek accommodations or change their lifestyles if they can avoid it.

    4. OP#3*

      Also fat and also disabled! And I STILL managed to screw up! Until I sent this, I didn’t even realize how bad my internalized fatphobia apparently was. Like I’ve said above, I have a much wider scope to look at now and I’m really pumped to start working on the environment rather than worrying about individual people.

      1. fposte*

        Hats off to you, OP, for coming through a slightly contentious commenting day with renewed vigor to do good things.

  13. woodewoodewoo*

    #2, you could try suggesting some G-rated alternatives. Games have come a long way since Trivial Pursuit. I’ve had fun at all-adult events playing Telestrations, Apples to Apples, and Codenames. All are free of body parts and racism.

  14. nnn*

    In #1’s situation, I would be so tempted to mess with them a bit.

    Mention to your boss, in front of others, that you’ve heard some concerns that the remote teams aren’t pulling their weight and perhaps this should be addressed in the next teleconference.

    Let them overhear you saying to a non-Urdu speaker “Yeah, I don’t know what they’re saying in Urdu, probably calling people fat or something.” (Bonus: don’t appear to be aware that the language they’re speaking is Urdu – call it “Pakistani”, or name a language with which Urdu-speakers might have a deep-seated historical animosity or something.)

    If you overhear something benign where you can contribute usefully, contribute as though you’ve overheard it in English – even if you respond in English. If they say in Urdu “Crap, I left my charger at home,” you can say over the cube walls “You can borrow mine.”

    1. Willow*

      I would avoid the first one, it could come off as offensive if you pretend you don’t understand them and that you’re just assuming they’re insulting people.

    2. Log Lady*

      This sounds overly hostile and borderline offensive, even when the Urdu-speakers in question are being rude. There’s no need for OP to paint themselves as totally ignorant just to “mess with” these people. It’s way too passive aggressive and getting into questionable territory, IMO.

    3. Jasnah*

      #1 sounds like a way to accidentally get yourself branded as racist/xenophobic. Best just stick with the tried-and-true “What did you call me?” in the language they’re speaking in.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I have to disagree hard with approach one, here.

      That creates more problems than it solves, and it’s only going to brand OP as a racist.

    5. My other username is a Porsche*

      Yeah no. OP would be giving up all of their actual cards and would come off as racist.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh, please don’t refer to Urdu as Pakistani. It’s going to sound super racist and ignorant. In general, I think it’s not worth messing with people if the approach requires engaging in racist trolling. It would just make OP look incredibly terrible, which would draw attention away from the coworkers’ bad behavior.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, this.
        Plus, more than half of the Urdu speakers I know personally are Afghani, not Pakistani….

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes—Urdu is widely spoken outside of Pakistan. It’s like referring to Spanish as “Mexican” or Hindi as “Indian.” (!!)

    7. Green great dragon*

      I agree with everyone OP should not try the first options – but I love the last one.

    8. Me*

      This is game playing and it’s not helpful.

      OP needs to let them know she understands them, it’s unkind, and needs to stop. Talking about people is childish. The response should be mature and adult.

    9. Psyche*

      Don’t give up the high ground. Saying that you don’t understand them but they must be saying offensive things in “Pakisatni” would just make the OP look bad. At best they look ignorant. But they would probably seem racist as well. Revealing later that they actually do understand would make the OP look like a jerk rather than the coworkers.

    10. Temperance*

      I disagree with this advice. Because this is what racist people do whenever someone speaks a language other than English around them.

    11. Polymer Phil*

      One other way you could mess with them – make an anonymous HR complaint, but don’t let on to anyone but the HR rep that you understand Urdu. Watch them go out of their minds with paranoia wondering who the heck outside their ethnic group knows Urdu and reported them!

  15. Uldi*

    #3 You might want to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (if you’re a US-based company) because it sounds like you’re one bad comment away from violating it. Seriously, you can’t say a dang thing about this, to him or anyone else in the office.

    #2 I suggest “Flux” as an alternative to those terrible-for-work card games.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Flux is great! It’s cheap, the rules are easy to learn, it’s really dynamic, and there are enough versions to meet most people’s geekdom/interest.

  16. Grand Mouse*

    Hm. Not sure about the part about calling it Pakistani- I am S Asian and I am tired of people thinking we speak “Indian” so it doesn’t come off as great, I guess.

    1. Gertrude*

      I was about to say something along those lines. I live in London (and worked in large IT depts for a long time) and calling an Asian language “Pakistani” or “Indian” would mark you out as deeply ignorant at the very least. If someone did it at work I’d have a quiet word.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Deeply ignorant? What does that even mean?

        Unaware of SE Asian languages? Sure.

        I didn’t know Udur was a language until this thread and would have thought they were speaking Indian. Fact learned – awesome!

        The fact that I had not come I to contact with this knowledge before? Not an indicator of my characteror or willingness to learn at all.

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          Except there’s no language called “Indian,” which I think was Gertrude’s point.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            Exactly, and I think it’s worth looking into your implicit biases that might lead you to think a group of people speaking Urdu are speaking a language you name after a continent, it’s almost 100% going to be based off of stereotypes.

            It’s one thing if you don’t know Urdu or Tamil or Punjabi and think they’re speaking Hindi as that is also an actual language.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              I really don’t think it points to implicit biases to not know the name of the language a country speaks and to extrapolate that well: Japan speaks Japanese. England speaks English. Russia speaks Russian. Other country wwhose language I’m not familiar with – probably speaks Countrian.

              Implicit bias about what? Just cause a person didn’t know about the languages doesn’t mean they don’t know about say, Hindi and Sikhor the cuisines of the regions. Heck I regularly cook saag, biriyani, and curries and know that “curry” is not a spice nor traditional blend of ingredients indian-style curries. Language is just not my thing and not something I researched. Doesn’t mean I am looking at the continent of India as homogenous, mono religious, Naan eaters or dismissing their contributions to the world.

              I have a real problem with these woke-upmanship assumptions that not having knowledge = deeply and wilfully ignorant/biased/racist

              1. Femme d'Afrique*

                I don’t know if you’re still checking this post, Phoenix Programmer, but I do hear what you’re saying. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “implicit bias” either. To me, it’s more location specific. Gertrude specifically said she lives in London and that’s the key here: the UK has a large and visible South Asian population (and long historical ties to the region), so for a UK resident to speak about someone “speaking Indian” would come across – THERE – as tone deaf and probably deliberately provocative and dismissive.

                I say location specific, because it would be like someone in the US complaining about someone speaking “Mexican.” If someone from a completely different place with a completely different history and demographic said the same thing, it would indeed be unfair to consider the speaker to be “wilfully ignorant/biased/racist.” Context matters, is all.

    2. TPS Cover Sheet*

      Yeah, its comparable to hear someone speak in say Suahili and then go around telling you heard them speak African. That level of stupid. Besides which Pakistan has a majority of Punjabi speakers and like 5-6 other major languages, Urdu is a compromise official language and doesn’t have that many native first language speakers. In India its like Hindi is 50% and a dozen others make up the majority, but in total theres like 450 languages so you can meet someone Hindi and English are like the 3rd or 4th language they know. And then someone goes to them and asks ”you speak Indian?” I facepalm a lot reading job adverts as I do localizations.

      1. CJM*

        I was once in store where two customers were speaking Spanish to each other. Another customer overheard them, and said to his friend, the least they could do is speak American.

  17. nnn*

    For #3, one useful thing you can do is think about how any future workplace decisions you have a say in look through an accessibility lens.

    Call centre work in and of itself doesn’t require mobility, and you have right in front of you a perfect example of an employee who is good at the work itself but is stymied by thoughtless design and planning.

    So when future decisions are being made, use what you’re witnessing here to look for opportunities to make things more accessible and to mitigate inaccessibility issues.

    As a simple, off-the-top-of-my-head example, you mention that your phone system doesn’t make it possible to do the work from home. At some point in the future, the phone system will be upgraded. When this time comes why not look into options that allow some employees to work from home, which might allow you to save significant money by moving to a smaller office space?

    In addition to making life easier for everyone, this kind of approach will also make you look like a thoughtful, insightful leader.

    1. My other username is a Porsche*

      Yes but also… don’t assume the people who are actually stymied can be identified on sight. Maybe this guy appreciates the chance to get some exercise and would be horrified at being seen this way (as has been mentioned above). There could be other people more in need of accessible solutions who aren’t identifiable by their weight.

    2. Lalaith*

      Yes, this. OP5, I’m reading this as you feel bad for this person who appears to be in pain. There’s nothing wrong with that reaction, but it’s what you do with it that matters. You can’t tell him that he needs to do anything differently. You *can* try to focus your energy on making your workplace more accessible and inclusive. That helps not just this one employee, but everyone!

  18. PurpleMonster*

    #5 – I did this once, for an internal role in a team I REALLY wanted to be in, but decided I didn’t want that particular role. This was just a single-interview deal. I rang them and asked to withdraw from consideration, because I didn’t think it was fair for me to be semi-hoping for a rejection while someone else anxiously waited by the phone. They were impressed as it “demonstrated integrity” (one of our company values). Ultimately I didn’t stick around long enough to get on that team, and I left that industry with no regrets, but it was a good thing to do in my book.

  19. sum of two normal distributions*

    #1: Unless you are fluent/very competent in the language, I would just confront them in English and leave them guessing how much you know. Any attempt at reporting could just be met with “he only knows some words and he is misunderstanding the context” – just be 100% clear you know they are trash-talking and want them to knock it off because it’s highly inappropriate. I would even throw in a ‘high road’ – “If you have ideas on how we can improve work around here or if you feel unsupported, then we should be finding solutions to that, not complaining.”

    To be honest, I’ve met people like this from my own cultural background – another place & language then #1 though – and they will probably just stop doing it around you when you confront them. Unfortunately, this means they will still do it but probably not as audaciously.

    1. cncx*

      so much this. i overheard someone trash talking me in a language i absolutely without a question speak fluently (FWIW, French), and they still tried to play it off as me “missing the context” despite me being essentially bilingual. OP needs to broken record in English, “they trash talk repeatedly” and drive that message home.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      This is what I would do. French is my white-whale of a language where I understand a fair bit, but no amount of classes have gotten me fluent. A “zippy comeback” in French would probably invite the “oh, you’re misunderstanding” comments (oddly, I can’t think of how to say “Wow, how rude” in French, but I *do* know how to say, essentially, “STFU” in French…). So my own go-to would be to respond on-topic in English, which would also make it clear that I could understand them.

      1. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        I was just thinking that. I’ve spoken French pretty much fluently the majority of my life but I have no idea how to say “that’s rude”. Somehow I picked up multiple ways to say “f**k off” though? Thanks, Quebecois teachers.

  20. Introvert girl*

    1. I had the same issue in my office. We are from Middle Earth and our team speaks Elvish. One guy thought this meant he could discuss loudly with who he wanted to sleep in the office (including our bosses). I had to make a complaint with the team leader (who also speaks Elvish but didn’t see a problem with it until I told him it was inappropriate). The guy is fortunately leaving soon. The fact was that the hobbits in the office actually understood enough Elvish to know what he was talking about.

      1. Liane*

        Elves, for all their famed wisdom, DO frequently have difficulty understanding the trials so familiar to the shorter-lived races tied closer to Middle Earth than they are.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had the same issue too. (going to piggy-back on your analogies, because I loved them!) At an OldJob, I was one of the two Elvish-speaking employees in an office full of hobbits who did not understand Elvish. The other Elvish coworker decided that it made us BFFs, and would routinely come to my desk (which was in a high-traffic area next to the reception/front desk, executive offices, IT helpdesk, to name a few!) to chat in Elvish. Which was mildly annoying but okay as long as she chatted about kids, TV shows, significant others and so on. But she very quickly moved on, first to (my brain refuses to come up with anymore Elf metaphors) anti-Semitic remarks, which she stopped after I informed her that i was in fact a Jewish Elf. Then one day she stopped by my desk to complain (again in Elvish) about how difficult it was for her to find a good school for her five-year-old, who was about to start kindergarten, because she could not find an all-white school anywhere. You can only imagine the rest of that chat. She went on for what seemed to me like forever. Loud enough for everyone to hear. I tried to point it out that this was not a valid criteria of a good school, but she was, “you just don’t understand, now as I was saying…” I tried to change the subject and she was having none of it. That was the younger and less assertive me. Today’s me would have just told her to cut it out. Probably in hobbit language for good measure. I remember sitting there all through her rant being terrified that someone would overhear and report it to the bosses as something *both of us* were saying. But honestly in hindsight, I also kind of hoped for someone to overhear and to step in and save me from this Elvish coworker. So good on you for making that complaint! This coworker also left shortly after that incident (her position had been mysteriously eliminated even as the company was growing and her department (accounting) was hiring new people left and right). 13 years later and I still break out in hives when I remember that day.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Because I am that much of a geek and y’all are hitting my geekiest heartstring: Tolkien-ish metaphors would probably be ‘anti-Avari remarks’ and she couldn’t find an ‘all Eldar’ (or, to be *reaaaally classist, ‘all Vanyar’) school.

        Joking aside, she SUCKS. Hope she’s learned something since then.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Elvish? I think you mean Sindarin. :D

      (says the woman whose current license plate is Bregalad…)

  21. StaceyIzMe*

    It’s difficult to let someone run off at the mouth while operating under the assumption that they cannot be understood. However, I think that you should let them run off at the mouth, as needed. If they’re dense enough to suppose that they can rely on the odds being “ever in their favor” because not that many people speak Urdu relative to the total population, it says more about them than it does about the targets of their abuse. If 360 reviews come up and you have a chance to weigh in anonymously, you will be well placed to comment that they are unkind in the remarks made about coworkers, even including translated snippets by way of example. Perhaps, too, if you have a manager or an HR contact who is unusually skilled, you could flag it for them. Otherwise? This is objectionable, but it’s not your circus and not your monkeys. I suspect that if you confront them, they will be surprised, embarrassed and assert plausible deniability by telling you that you must have misunderstood what was said. (I base this on my own prior “unfortunate circumstance” with raising an objection to someone uttering insults in my presence that they didn’t think I’d understand.) In the end, they’re going to continue to insult people if they believe that they can get away with it. At most, asking them to stop will cause them to go underground. Currently, it’s a source of information for you and a helpful reminder that not everyone who smiles at you is a friend (or colleague). You know your own company and organizational culture best, so your mileage may vary.

    1. Stuff N Things*

      Hindi/Urdu is the 4th most common language in the world, so it’s really not that much in their favor.

      Still, I don’t know that I agree with this approach. OP should be able to go to work without hearing insults about themselves and other people. I don’t think the comments about other groups not pulling their weight is that concerning, but the name calling definitely is. I would probably just agree with them in Urdu as a snarky way to give them a heads up that I know what they are saying.

      1. Lucy*

        Around 0.6% of people in the UK speak Urdu, and I gather from the LW that although she grew up in one of the areas with a more concentrated Urdu-speaking population, the current job isn’t in one of those areas. You’d be stupid to think Spanish was a secret language in El Paso, but you might get away with it in Portland ME.

        1. Lucy*

          Which is not to say that the coworkers aren’t behaving badly, just to add some context.

        2. WellRed*

          Portland, Maine has an incredibly diverse population. Last check, Portland High School had something like 38 languages spoken there. Tenga un buen dia, Lucia!

          1. Lucy*


            I Googled for the city with the lowest proportion of Spanish speakers, and that’s what I found!

        3. cmcinnyc*

          Honestly, thinking Spanish is a “secret language” literally anywhere in the United States is unwise. The town I grew up in had close to 0% native speakers of Spanish, but it was taught middle school on up and at least half the town population can read it and get by at the tourist level.

    2. TL -*

      I’d treat it exactly I treat Spanish-speaking kids who come to my outreach events and think I can’t understand them – respond in English directly to their comments.

      It might be because of the large variety of diversity in levels of Spanish/English fluency in the USA, but it’s always worked for me.

  22. Observer*

    #3- I’ve read your letter several times and I’m having a hard time responding in a reasonably calm manner. So let me just ask you this:

    What makes you think you can tell this person ANYTHING he does not know? You think he doesn’t know how fat he is? That he is using 2 canes? How much time it takes him to get up the stairs and to gcathc his breath?

    His weight and mobility issues have nothing to do with his intelligence or decision making abilities. Nor does it have anything to do with his awareness of the world. Which is to say, he’s not a child who somehow doesn’t know that other jobs exist.

    Which is all to say that, in addition to what the others have said, there is no way for you to say ANYTHING without it being extremely offensive. And unless you goal is to “manage him out” while pretending to be a caring boss, you won’t accomplish anything. I’m going on the assumption that this actually not what you are trying to do, but realize that saying anything about his finding another job is THAT offensive that it could easily be seen that way.

    1. Linguist*

      There is another way of reading the letter more compassionately to the OP.

      First of all, they wrote in pretty much answering their own question (“I recognize that this problem is mostly in my head” and “I also recognize that I’m not his doctor and there are no actual issues for me to address”), which is a thing people may do if they feel uncomfortable about a situation, kind of know the answer but would like it confirmed.

      Secondly, it’s entirely possible that seeing someone walk around “clearly in pain” for at least 20 minutes every day is getting to the OP, which is an empathetic reaction to seeing someone in pain or distress.

      Based on the above, I doubt the OP will say anything… and I don’t think outrage for them writing in is warranted.

      1. valentine*

        it’s entirely possible that seeing someone walk around “clearly in pain” for at least 20 minutes every day is getting to the OP, which is an empathetic reaction to seeing someone in pain or distress.
        It’s projecting and infantilizing. I really hope the issue isn’t that the employee’s pain hurts OP3.

        1. Myrin*

          That’s an unusual take, if you ask me. It seems entirely normal to me to see someone who’s clearly in pain and think “oh crap, poor [person]!”. At least that’s what I thought when an older lady asked me to help her get off the train safely last week – she explained she’d recently had hip surgery and walking was still a struggle. And you could see that very clearly in every step she took! You can bet I thought “Aw man, I’d offer to drive her if I had a car nearby”. Obviously it would have been weird of me to, let’s say, not be able to look at her any longer because I simply couldn’t bear the view of her inching forward, it was just too much, how could I ever lay my eyes upon such misery, but a sympathetic wince seems neither projecting nor infantilising to me.

          1. Observer*

            It’s ok to think “poor Employee”. It is NOT ok to go from there to assuming that YOU know more about their options and requirements than they do.

            1. Myrin*

              And I didn’t say anything to that extent (I actually fully agree with you) – I was merely replying to valentine’s comment which, as a blanket statement, seemed out of the ordinary to me.

            2. ChimericalOne*

              OP *doesn’t* assume they know more about his options than he does. OP is struggling with not having anything concrete to offer — there seems to be nothing she can actually give him as an accommodation — and so wants to suggest that he do something that will spare him pain. It sounds like this desire is entirely driven by compassion. But she recognizes that it’s inappropriate (and that there’s nothing appropriate she can offer to ease his pain), and so wrote in here seeking reassurance / answers / other solutions.

              In the absence of Alison giving advice she almost certainly wasn’t going to say anything to him. And now she still won’t. There’s nothing to rage over here. Having a desire to help — even a misplaced desire, if you recognize it as such and don’t act on it — is not an awful thing.

          2. Mia*

            It’s not really an unusual take. A lot of well-meaning people infantilize disabled people, especially disabled people who happen to also be fat, without even realizing they’re doing it. I’m sure OP didn’t set out to concern troll their employee, but that’s 100% how this letter reads.

        2. PersephoneUnderground*

          Not really- of course they feel sympathy! Of course it’s not helpful at all to suggest that their discomfort should be raised or is more important than the employee’s job.

          I do hope they remember this feeling when the time comes that changes can be made to make the office more accessible to everyone including future employees, or those temporarily injured, or current ones with less obvious challenges (as another commentor mentioned above) like if they change locations or upgrade their phones.

      2. GigglyPuff*

        I call Bull, this isn’t compassionate, this is the OP being uncomfortable watching another person going about their life. We know, we always know because people have been commenting on our fatness/disabilities our entire lives. We don’t need people pointing it out, it’s never constructive. It’s about the other person being uncomfortable with people.

        I understand the OP is just trying to “help”, but that’s what everyone thinks when they comment. Hopefully OP can reflect a little and learn this isn’t what you do. Like others have suggested, next time get an accessibly friendly workplace space or get a system can offer work from home if they are that concerned.

      3. Thursday Next*

        Let me preface this by saying that I have an invisible disability for which I sometimes, but not always, use mobility aids like a cane or walker.

        I do think it’s possible that the OP is trying to come at this compassionately, but the response needs to be “what can I do to offer accommodations” not “you should get a different job.” Setting aside the ADA violation, which has already been discussed pretty thoroughly, I think the OP needs to spend some time learning about the very high rates of unemployment and employment discrimination against people with disabilities. Getting another job might not even be *possible* for this person, and you should think very carefully before threatening this person’s source of income — especially if you live in a country like the US that has little to no social support for disabled people.

        I have had a manager intervene in the past when an injury was clearly interfering with my quality of life and ability to do my job — I’m sure it does feel terrible to see someone in pain every day! But the differences in this situation were (1) I was very early in my career and unaware of my options in terms of accommodations and sick leave, and (2) they presented options to *assist* me, rather than trying to force me out of my job.

      4. Observer*

        Secondly, it’s entirely possible that seeing someone walk around “clearly in pain” for at least 20 minutes every day is getting to the OP, which is an empathetic reaction to seeing someone in pain or distress.

        Which is all good and fine. What is NOT fine and totally NOT empathetic is assuming that the person is too stupid and ignorant to have considered the obvious solution to the problem.

        The OP is not a monster. But they need to realize that the assumptions they are making are extremely offensive and WILL present a problem.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          You don’t have to assume that someone is “stupid” to want to suggest that they do something differently. (See: Every letter asking, “How can I help my friend?”)

          I get that lots of people infantilize disabled folks. But just having the impulse to offer help — even if it’s not appropriate help! — isn’t inherently offensive or problematic. OP didn’t act on the impulse. In fact, she did pretty much exactly what you might ideally advise someone to do in such circumstances: She kept her thoughts to herself, checked in with someone she thought might give her good advice (Alison), and will ultimately keep on keeping those thoughts to herself.

          No one’s goal should be to totally repress the instinct to help. Their goal should be to do exactly what she did: accept it, examine it, seek advice if you need to, and then act appropriately.

          1. Mia*

            If your version of “helping” is telling a disabled person to get a different job, then yeah, that desire is problematic and you should most assuredly suppress that. Here’s the thing, people who don’t have firsthand experience with certain marginalization factors — like being a fat disabled person — often don’t recognize that their attempts to help do more harm than good. I don’t think anyone is saying that OP is a terrible person who hates every single fat person they meet. We’re just saying like, mind your own business and stop making assumptions about other people’s bodies.

          2. Observer*

            The OP wasn’t offering help. Telling someone to get another job is NOT offering help.

            I did see a comment in which the OP says that they didn’t talk about accommodations because they don’t think any are possible. That still doesn’t make telling someone to get another job an offer of help.

      5. Slartibartfast*

        Those of us who are living with chronic pain shouldn’t have to constantly hide it from everyone around us, but we usually do, because managing your discomfort is just more work for us. Yes it sucks, but the kindest thing you can do is politely ignore it. I’m already self conscious enough.

      6. Lyra Silvertongue*

        I understand what you’re saying but it really does still boil down to “I, an able-bodied person, am bothered by seeing someone visibly disabled be affected by a workspace that is not inclusive of mobility issues,” with OP’s solution to this problem being to suggest that the disabled person get a different job. It might be coming from an empathetic place but when the urge is to effectively get rid the disabled person, that’s something we need to look at and respond to critically.

        Given that this is something that disabled and fat people face regularly, I do think it’s natural that people would be upset by it. Benevolent ableism is still ableism. It’s really important to give people space to express discontent with ableism and fatphobia in the workplace without pushing back or scolding; this, to me, is compassionate too.

        1. NothingIsLittle*

          The problem is that it’s possible to look at and respond to something critically without framing the response as “you are ableist and fat-phobic” when the person could just be responding in an extreme way because they don’t think they have any other options and don’t realize the implications of their proposed “solution.” (OP explicitly states that they’ve considered WFH and changing sites, but that they aren’t actionable. That tells me that they think those are the only two options and they would be better helped by having more potential accommodations pointed out to them.) People stop being able to judge proportionate responses when they’re stressed. OP could be stressed by other elements of their job, which puts them in a position where they’re less equipped to handle problems like “I’m scared my employee may come to harm.”

          If you’re concerned the question comes from an unconsciously ableist place, you can respond to that by saying, “Wow, that’s out of line! You may not realize, but that comes across as ableist because it sounds like you’re trying to get rid of a disabled person rather than provide them reasonable accommodations. Perhaps X, Y, or Z would be a better solution.”

          Look, I’m disabled. I have a chronic knee injury that meant when I commuted by public transit, I had to ask for priority seating and I got a whole bunch of ableist comments when I did. I feel patronized when people are unknowingly ableist and therefore undermine my autonomy or my efforts. But you don’t solve unconscious ableism by implying people are bad people or idiots, and Observer’s comment here very much implies that OP is an idiot. There’s a difference between constructively pointing out ableism, which I agree is compassionate and people should absolutely be doing, and disparaging people, which is totally unhelpful and in some cases is a direct detriment to the cause. You need to frame your chiding in a compassionate way in order to address these issues, which Linguist rightly points out Observer hasn’t done.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, nowhere do I imply the the OP is an idiot.

            What I said – and pretty explicitly – is that the OP is talking in a way that sounds like they think that the employee is an idiot / incapable of making appropriate decisions for themselves.

            Also, my direct comment to the OP was a lot less strong – I’ve been reacting to a lot of people who insist that we should look at intent vs impact (no) and that the OP’s response was not all that inappropriate (yes it was) or unkind (yes it was.)

            Interestingly, based on their comments, the OP seems to realize how this actually comes off. And I give them a lot of credit for that.

            1. Observer*

              If you give a look at the comment at the top of this thread, you’ll see that I explicitly say that I don’t think that the OP is trying to push the employee out. But that’s how it comes off…

            2. NothingIsLittle*

              Actually, my comment is in reference to your line, “What makes you think you can tell this person ANYTHING he does not know? You think he doesn’t know how fat he is? That he is using 2 canes? How much time it takes him to get up the stairs and to gcathc his breath?” Especially given your choice of emphasis on ANYTHING. It might not have been your intent, but you framed the questions as though berating the OP and the tone definitely implies you questioned their intellect.

              BTW, I, too, was impressed by how OP handled the comment thread. It’s hard to admit you have a blind spot, and I really commend the OP for acknowledging it. I’ve seen your responses directly to OP and I think they’ve been constructive and helpful, especially the one about the chair-lift. The earlier ones, perhaps when you were still in shock over how poorly framed the question was, were where I take issue with your tone.

    2. OP#3*

      I definitely wasn’t concern-trolling, I’m both fat and disabled myself, though I’m lucky enough to not have serious mobility issues. The letter was absolutely coming from a place of empathy and compassion, and I completely see how it comes across in a super irritating manner. I never intended to sound like I knew more than he does about himself, and I don’t believe that.

      But, I DID sound like that, and I apologize for that.

  23. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I think Alison’s advice for #3 is spot on.

    BUT: this guy is taking 10 minutes to get up the stairs, and presumably down them too. What evacuation plans are in place for his (and others) safety in case of a fire or other emergency? Is there an evac-chair? Is there a refuge zone? In my office, in the UK, Health and Safety would be on this like a ton of bricks due to genuine fears that he would not be able to escape safely in case of fire.

    1. Avasarala*

      This is a good point. Does your office have plans in place for anyone who cannot safely and quickly leave the building on their own? If it’s an evac-chair or one of those slings you load someone in and carry them, do people know how to use it? How many people do you need to carry someone down? Etc.

      1. MJ*

        Yes, make plans for safety and evacuation, rather than plans for him getting a different job.

    2. TPS Cover Sheet*

      Yeah, and the ”problem” wouldn’t go away even if you fired the guy as then the safety elves would still be on your case and you would be in front of a tribunal for breaking the DDA… erm… showing my age… Equality Act. Nevermind the press would be having a field day.

    3. iglwif*

      Yes, was coming here (from Canada, where my spouse is the health & safety officer for all locations of his company in our city) to say this same thing!

      When you’ve got an employee with mobility issues you MUST have a plan and procedures in place to safely evacuate them from the building in case of emergencies, and not by suggesting they get another job (!).

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I hadn’t even considered this, but yes!

      If you really want to help, OP, raise issues regarding evacuation procedures. Don’t frame it as “employee is so large he can’t move”, frame it as “this is something we need to do to ensure that everyone is safe”. I’m sure others here will have better phrasing, but if it’s not already in place then it needs to be.

    5. RandomU...*

      Eh… In the US the only evacuation plan would be for this person to wait in the stairwell if he can’t get down on his own until the first responders arrive. This by the way is the same evac policy that almost all hospitals have for their patients.

      No (generalization here) US company would allow an evac chair with other employees having to lift and carry it due to liability laws. Especially for one that can navigate the stairs on their own, as this employee can.

  24. Genevieve in NZ*

    3. Oh my goodness. This is a person who is good at his job, is meeting goals and had never complained about access. If he’s good at his job he’s presumably shown he is intelligent and capable in a work context. Is there a reason you think he wouldn’t apply that to making decisions for himself about his body and what he can manage? Stay in your lane and manage his good work and give him the respect he deserves by letting him manage his own body without comment.

    1. valentine*

      never complained about access.
      Maybe he can tell OP3’s solution is for him to leave.

    2. CJM*

      It could be that as long as he takes the stairs slowly, it’s good exercise for his.

      This next part is a comment on the state of health care, not recommending anything to the employee. A lot of health plans have a $6,500 deductible for a single person, and $13,000 for a family. For a lot of people, that’s as bad as no health insurance unless something catastrophic happens. I wouldn’t assume he’s getting care for his health issues.

    3. OP#3*

      Honestly I’m feeling like a complete dick now. BUT I’m still glad I sent the letter in because there’s a wealth of options in the comments for things I can do to help ALL my employees.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        Good on you for wading through the comments, that must have been uncomfortable! I’m really glad you’ve got some useful information from the comments.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Sorry that some of the comments are harsh. Glad that you’re finding useful options though.

  25. MommyMD*

    Go all Khaleesi on them and start speaking to them in Urdu when they start the trash talk.

  26. Rexish*

    I feel like I read #3 differently than many others and some responses are a bit harsh. I feel like this person is concerned, they aknowledge that they shouldn’t do anything but was looking for advice. I feel like someone clearly struggling should cause some feelings of concern.

    My immediate thought was that the employee might not be aware of what are their rights in asking for accomodations. Some hospitals/occupational doctors etc. do terrible job at letting employees know their rights. It can also be difficult to find out all this information from the company or online sources. It can be a worry to ask for what you are entitled to. This might not be the case here, but that’s where my mind went.

    All in all, I agree that OP shouldn’t do anything. But it might be worth making sure that information regarding employees right are easily accessible for all employees if they aren’t yet.

    1. Stuff N Things*

      Agree. When letter writers have the self-awareness to acknowledge they probably shouldn’t do anything, they have good intentions — they just need VALIDATION. Anytime something comes up regarding weight and health on this thread, readers seem to pounce on those that show concern. It’s really exhausting.

      1. valentine*

        readers seem to pounce on those that show concern.
        Because it’s not concern; it’s concern trolling. It is about stopping their feelings by confronting the person in question instead of learning to detach.

      2. Observer*

        Well, when your “concern” shows up as 1. assuming that someone is acting like they are not competent to run their own life and 2. seriously considering effectively trying to push someone out of their job, they REALLY need to hear that this is WRONG. And they need to have the problem spelled out very, very clearly.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s a good point. My reaction was to the letter was visceral and I wasn’t going to say anything until I read your comment. Re-reading the letter, I can see that OP wants to help but doesn’t know how or if she even should.

      I think letting employees know of their rights is a great idea. If OP told everyone in the workplace, shes’s not singling anyone out and employees would know she’s someone they can come to for help.

      1. Observer*

        But that’s not what the OP is suggesting. The OP is suggesting that they should effectively concern troll the employee out of their job.

        I’ll grant that that’s probably not what the OP has in mind. But that IS the effect here. Totally and completely.

    3. Arctic*

      But she isn’t looking for him to ask for an accomodation. She is asking if she should tell him to leave his job, which he is good at, because he makes her uncomfortable.

      1. Thursday Next*

        She’s asking the wrong question, and that’s been pointed out. Rexish is suggesting one appropriate way of redirecting genuine concern. A company-wide memo about employee rights isn’t a bad idea.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Her wanting to say something is no different than a stranger offering unsolicited advice to a mom about their child and how they’re behaving. Until it affects an aspect of the employee’s job it’s none of her business. It doesn’t matter if her intentions are good, it would be extremely rude and hurtful for her to say anything to the employee.

    5. China Beech*

      Beautiful response and excellent points. Some folks are so quick to rush to judgment and being offended these days instead of reaching for the kindness and compassion. Thanks for being the light instead of the darkness!

      1. Observer*

        What is compassionate about the OP’s suggested solution? The OP may be a compassionate person for all I know, but the issue they express is not compassion but person anxiety. Which by itself is not a bad thing – I’d much rather work for someone who is horrified by the idea of someone having a heart attack at work than one who wouldn’t care.

        But the action that the OP is considering is UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY not compassionate in the least bit.

      2. OP#3*

        Totally right, suggesting he find another job would have been the worst thing I could have done. I was looking for validation that not saying something was the right choice, but intention isn’t the same as impact, and the impact of my letter is that people think I’m a real asshole. I’m okay with the verbal lashings, I should have thought more before sending the letter in.

        1. Observer*

          Well, the silver lining is that you now have all the validation you could want that not saying anything is the way to go.

          1. OP#3*

            Lots and lots of validation that I need to reread my letters more than once before I send them in, lol.

            1. Observer*

              You’re not the first and won’t be the last, that’s for sure.

              At least you goofed here, and not in talking to him. So there’s that, too.

    6. Ethyl*

      Here’s the thing. Fat people get this “concern” from all sides, constantly, all the time. And it’s never really about concern for our health, because you cannot tell anything about a person’s health by looking at their body shape. It’s about not wanting to look at fat bodies. Which, by the way, is amply evidenced by the fact that OP3 thinks a reasonable way to express their “concern” is to *tell this employee to find another job.* The “concern” is bullshit, and I, for one fat lady, am sick of it.

      1. Yorick*

        I generally agree, but I think this is a little different. He’s not just fat. He also walks with 2 canes, seems to struggle up the stairs, and then seems to be in pain for some time after. It’s not just the shape of his body that’s causing the concern.

      2. NothingIsLittle*

        OP3 specifies that he walks with two canes though, so it’s likely not just that he’s overweight, but that he specifically has mobility issues. I get that you have a hard time of it, but this sounds like something a compassionate person might say if they knew they couldn’t offer any help and were overwhelmed by the idea that there’s nothing they could do to mitigate the pain they were observing.

        Granted, I’m saying this as someone who is overweight, but not obese, and as someone with a mobility issue that requires a cane to walk (chronic knee injury). It’s absolutely the wrong way to handle the situation to say or imply the employee should get another job and I would be very frightened for my job if I were told this, but that doesn’t preclude it coming from a place of compassion.

      3. Anon for this*

        OP mentions that the employee also uses two canes and has to rest for 20-30 minutes at a time after climbing stairs, so whether or not their assumptions about this employee’s health are accurate, they’re clearly based on more than just the employee’s weight. Yes, it’s possible OP has a negative opinion of all fat people and would feel this way even without the employee using canes (and it would be inexcusably awful if they went through with giving the employee their suggestion to look for a new job), but it’s absolutely not “amply evidenced” based on what they’ve shared.

        Not saying it’s impossible, but assuming it to be the case with no other evidence is pretty uncharitable, though I think it’s a valid thing for OP to consider if they may have such biases and rethink how they’re viewing this situation.

      4. OP#3*

        For what it’s worth, my letter WAS about his mobility issues, not his weight, and I’m a fat person myself. I get that my letter makes me sound like a dick, and I can own up to my failings there.

        But I *do* take issue with the idea that it’s about me not wanting to look at fat people – I look at myself every day in the mirror and love people as they are. Fat doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy and fat isn’t ugly. Even though the letter was written badly and clearly I came across as concern-trolling, I would ask that you not extrapolate six steps out into me just not wanting to look at fat people. >:|

    7. GigglyPuff*

      I’m sorry but if I knew my manager was thinking “you’re too fat” and should get a different job, that’s disgusting, that’s clearly different than feeling concern for someone struggling and thinking “what can I do to help them”.

      1. Observer*

        Except that at no point in the letter does the OP mention trying to find out what they can do. The ONLY thing they are considering at this point is telling the employee to leave. That is NOT a remotely constructive approach.

        1. Avasarala*

          They’re writing in to Alison. I think you’re overly focused on that one line and ignoring all the ones around it saying “I know this is a bad idea” “I know this is none of my business” “I know I’m not his doctor but what else can I do?” I agree that suggesting the employee change jobs is not a good idea but clearly OP is looking to brainstorm a better approach. And you pushing back with how bad OP is on each comment pointing that out is not helpful.

    8. Laura H.*

      While I didn’t read it that way, I was wondering the same thing!

      I’m disabled, and I don’t usually think to ask for accommodations on my own- an event or something like that prompts a reminder that I could ask for accommodations! As well as signaling that my managers would work with me on those.

      Is there a tactful way for the OP to do that’s without stepping on toes?

      1. Arctic*

        But, again, the OP doesn’t want to offer him any accommodations or for him to ask. She wants him to quit.

        1. Anon for this*

          Even if OP does want him to quit, that doesn’t make Laura H.’s advice any less valid and reading it might help OP re-frame this situation in their head and how they’re perceiving it. Yes, it is super inappropriate and off-putting the OP even thought about doing this, but continuing to vilify OP and insist that they aren’t interested in alternative solutions isn’t helpful.

        2. Temperance*

          It doesn’t sound like there *are* any accommodations that she can offer him, since it’s a butts-in-seats job and there’s no elevator. I don’t think she’s asking out of malice.

          1. Kelly L.*

            But he’s getting there, though. He’s managing, even if it’s uncomfortable to watch, so he shouldn’t have to quit if he doesn’t want to.

            1. Temperance*

              I 100% agree with this. I don’t think forcing him out or asking him to quit is reasonable.

        3. OP#3*

          I don’t want him to quit! He’s our 3rd best employee in that department! I just didn’t have any accommodations to offer him, which was where my stress was really coming from. Thanks to comments, I have a ton of ideas now for everyone, not just him.

        4. Avasarala*

          What?? That clearly misses the point of OP’s letter. OP has thought of some obvious points like WFH and elevator and they’re not an option. OP clearly WANTS to help and recognizes his value as an employee but doesn’t know how.

      2. Observer*

        So, I think that the OP could, if they actually care about the well-being of the employee, say something like “It seems that it’s difficult for you to get up the stairs. If there is any accommodation that you think would help you, we’d like to see if we can make that happen.”

        In the US at least, you don’t have to pretend not to see something like canes, crutches or wheelechairs. But you CANNOT *push* your version of accommodations on someone who doesn’t want them. And you most definitely CANNOT suggest that they “quite” – for their own benefit, of course!

    9. Observer*

      Sorry you are ignoring the key part of the question. The OP KNOWS that they are not the Employees’s doctor etc. Yet they STILL want to tell him to find another job.

      Oh, and notice that the OP has not suggested ANYTHING else, nor have they indicated that they have spent any time considering what rights the employee might have in this case.

      The OP doesn’t say “I know I’m not his doctor, but I’d really like to know what accommodations I could offer him” to which the proper answer would be , in the US, to ask him if he needs accommodation and point him to some resources on his workplace rights.

      No, they say “I know I’m not his doctor, but I’m uncomfortable watching him so I want to tell him to find a new job.”

      There is no way that that’s going to come off as compassionate to their target.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        It’s not going to come off as compassionate, but that doesn’t preclude it coming from a compassionate place. OP works in a small call center and has specifically mentioned that the two obvious fixes – WFH and moving locations – won’t work because of the company they’re employed by. That makes it sound like they’ve tried to find possible accommodations, haven’t found any, and have become overwhelmed by the idea that there’s nothing they can do to mitigate their employee’s pain.

        They’re absolutely going about it wrong, to even think of telling the employee to leave this job, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come to that as a last ditch because they’re worried rather than for some nefarious purpose. And actually, if you read the letter again you’ll see it specifically says OP is stressing about the employee having a heart attack or falling down the stairs, not that they’re uncomfortable watching him. Stressed over and uncomfortable with imply two very different states of mind.

        You’re ignoring the tone of the question and being uncharitable in your assessment, which is totally unhelpful to solving the problem the employee has (which is a manager who thinks telling him to get a new job is not only an appropriate option, but his only option). The goal here needs to be directing the OP to a place where they can leave well-enough alone, which won’t be achieved by slamming them in the comments.

        1. Ethyl*

          It doesn’t matter if LW’s intent was compassionate — intent isn’t magic. Their *words,* their *actions* are cruel and offensive.

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              No fposte, but what OP#3 is trying to do is walk an extremely, extremely thin line (no pun intended) that would be super easy to have the message come across wrong, taking her at her word that her intentions are pure. It is best if she does not mention absolutely anything.

              1. fposte*

                I agree that she shouldn’t do what she’s thought about. But she’s not even trying to walk this line yet–she just had a thought and wrote in to an advice columnist about it. There’s no action taken or in the pipeline.

          1. Myrin*

            It does matter when people accuse OP of in reality simply being disgusted by her coworker’s fat body. These kinds of comments are all about her intent and her feelings, so a valid reaction to them is to say “actually, it doesn’t sound like OP is coming from an uncompassionate place”.

            But also words =/= actions. As far as I can tell, OP hasn’t ever actually approached this man with any of her thoughts, which is a very good thing. So unless you count her act of writing to AAM as an “action”, I don’t see how she’s behaved cruelly so far.

            Which is not to say that I agree with her ideas at all here but this comment section is going in about five different straw directions which in the end have very little to do with what is actually in the letter.

            1. Anon for this*


              This is the kind of stuff that’ll drive off people from wanting to write in, interact in the comments, or give updates. Is OP’s idea of suggesting the employee leave horribly misguided? Yes. Did they deserve to have that idea shut down immediately? Yes. Is it possibly coming from a cruel place and could OP possibly have an overall negative opinion of all fat people? Yes.

              Does any of that mean OP is unquestionably fat-phobic and deserves the numerous accusations that have been made against them in the comments? No. The commenting rules literally state “Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation.” I almost want to copy an paste the entirety of the commenting rules given how uncharitable many people here are being.

              I think it’s perfectly valid to suggest that OP consider if they maybe do have some unfair biases that are clouding the way they view the employee and to try to work on those. Unfortunately, it just feels like a lot of commenters on here have made up their mind about OP and aren’t willing to give any benefit of the doubt or actionable advice that actually relates to their situation with their employee.

              I might follow the lead of a commenter from earlier this week who said she may go back to just lurking. I’m disillusioned with the comments sections as of late.

            2. Observer*

              I actually agree that it doesn’t seem to be that the OP is disgusted by the fat body.

              I do think that it’s highly likely, though, that some of their thinking process IS influenced by prejudice against fat people – the idea that fat people just “don’t take care of themselves.”, which would help to explain the astounding idea that the OP has, that the employee doesn’t *realize* that he should be looking for a new job.

              And the OP *does* need to hear that whatever their intent is, what they want to do IS cruel. I hope that this realization will chock the OP enough to induce them to really think about their prejudices.

            3. Jen2*

              Yeah. I think OP is coming from a compassionate place. The only problem is that she’s the manager. If someone saw a friend or relative struggling the way OP’s employee is, it would be natural for them to suggest the person find a different job. But the context is totally different when it’s coming from someone you work with, let alone a manager, so OP has to stifle her thoughts.

        2. Observer*

          Firstly, as others have said, intent is not the issue here. Impact is. And the OP needs to know with absolutely NO shred of doubt that the impact is unconscionable.

          Also, it doesn’t look to me like the OP actually spend time considering a solution, but rather how to get the problem out of their sight. Notice that they want to TELL the employee what to do. And that they have not done the OBVIOUS thing, which is to ask the employee if there is anything they could do to help or accommodate.

          In other words, while I don’t think that the problem is that the OP doesn’t like seeing someone who is fat and disabled, the OP makes it pretty clear that this is about THEIR discomfort and also comes off as utterly disrespectful of the employee. And that’s charitable, at that. Because the only two reasons why anyone would even think that this is a remotely reasonable way to handle the situation is to assume that the employee is too personally incompetent to follow a reasonable thought process and take appropriate action, or that they simply don’t care about the other person and just want a stressor out of their hair.

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            Yes, impact is the issue, but OP hasn’t taken any action yet. What I don’t think you’re understanding is that your choice to frame your comments as though OP is discriminatory or fat-phobic is more likely to cause the OP to shut-down or discredit your advise because they believe it doesn’t apply to them, since they don’t think they’re discriminatory or fat-phobic (and I don’t think there’s enough evidence to make that argument). It’s possible to tell someone that the impact of their proposed action is unconscionable without calling their motives into question or implying that they’re a bad person, which you may not realize your first comment does.

            You’re right that it’s disrespectful for OP to make it about their discomfort, which they admit they’re doing, but vilifying them isn’t going to help them make the right decision regarding this employee. There’s a third reason someone might suggest leaving a job that you’re choosing to ignore, and that’s that they see someone struggling, know they can’t help them, and want to remind them of their options. That’s not applicable in this case – it’s presumably not a toxic environment in which the employee may have forgotten they can leave (not incompetent, just indoctrinated), nor is it likely that employee has sufficiently low self-esteem to believe themselves incapable of securing another job – but OP not realizing that can be fixed by saying “hey, that’s extreme.” (And people can come to extreme conclusions or do extreme things when they’re at the end of their rope. It’s wrong, but people’s ability to evaluate proportionate response often flies out the window when they feel like they’ve exhausted their options.) OP’s “solution” is wildly out of line, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

            Telling OP not to encourage the employee to quit in no uncertain terms (which Alison does), explaining why in an understanding way (which she does), and giving them an alternative (which many comments do) has the highest chance of providing a good outcome to the employee in question, which is more important than how anyone feels about the OP. I know you think you’re helping, but you’re not. You’ve framed your response in a way that alienates the OP and encourages people not to post in the future, especially given the caps-lock words and your choice of emphasis. That might not be your intent, but that’s the impact.

        3. OP#3*

          “That makes it sound like they’ve tried to find possible accommodations, haven’t found any, and have become overwhelmed by the idea that there’s nothing they can do to mitigate their employee’s pain.”

          Exactly what was happening when I wrote this letter. I had spent a solid hour trying to figure out if there was a way to make the phone system forward calls to a home office and then overheard the employee talking about how they had hurt their knee “really bad yet again” over the weekend. I just stressed out, wrote it really fast, and was resulted was a letter that sounds really damn terrible even though it wasn’t intended to be.

          1. Observer*

            I know that several people mentioned a chair lift on the stairs. Would it work? And is the staircase wide enough?

            If it’s not wide enough, then it’s possible that you have a code violation in terms of fire safety. So that’s probably a good thing to look at anyway.

            1. OP#3*

              I think the staircase is wide enough, it’s just a matter of convincing the right people that it’s a reasonable accommodation.

              1. Observer*

                Lots of luck. It might help if you can find out the cost – having good answers to possible objections tends to help.

    10. Rexish*

      I personally didn’t read “help getting a new job” as op wanting them to leave because they are overweight. To me the letter sounded like they had thought about accommodationssince they point out their set up and working from home. To me it sounds like they didn’t think of solution and was wondering if it would be kind to offer to help to find a new job.

      I do accessibility assessments and in general managers have no idea about the availability of different tools to make work more accessible. In my experience a lot of managers have been looking for alternative placement for the employee eventhough they only need something simple in their current work. Just cause they dont know what to do.

      Yes, I 100% agree that bring this up with the employee is a bad idea, but OP is asking and answering and looking for validation. Haven’t we ever asked a friend something so see if they think it’s appropriate?

      Could be that op just wants fat people out of sight. But that was not my immediate reaction when reading the post. But I guess this is the point of the site that we can all offer something and OP can decide what they use.

      1. Observer*

        I personally didn’t read “help getting a new job”

        The OP didn’t suggest helping the employee get a new job. If that were the case, it would still be a big mistake, but it would faaaar more forgivable.

        as op wanting them to leave because they are overweight
        I happen to agree with you. I think that the weight DOES play into it, but not because the OP is “disgusted” but. Rather, it’s pretty clear that the OP is assuming that the employee lacks basic competence in making decisions for himself. That tends to be part of the prejudice against fat people.

    11. Mia*

      As others have said, the reactions are so strong because this is pretty textbook concern trolling. I think people who haven’t personally been subjected to it maybe view this as poorly executed compassion, but OP’s reasoning is all-too familiar to a lot of us. I get that their intentions likely *are* good, but good intentions don’t make it a-ok to inadvertently traffic in condescension and fatphobia.

  27. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: To all the people considering talking in a language not commonly spoken in the area they are in with the assumption they can’t be understood:

    People will understand you!

    The most baffling thing in that regard are Swiss German tourists in southern Germany and Austria. Yes, you’re speaking Swiss German. Yes, some of the words are different. WE CAN STILL UNDERSTAND YOU!

    1. Asenath*

      I learned this quite young, when I was on my first solo trip to Europe as a teenager. My native language is English, and I was in what was then an Communist bloc country (ie not on a typical tourist route) and nattering on to another non-local student met about how exciting it was to be somewhere no one spoke English. Of course, a passer-by paused and said something like “You speak English? I’ve been studying it and love to practice!” Really, in a world in which so many people travel and move around, it’s silly to assume no one will understand you because you are speaking a language more common in another part of the world, and even sillier to insult your co-workers in a language you’re assuming they won’t understand! I hope OP addresses that.

      1. Auga*

        Really want an update from #1, what their reaction is when they realize she understood them.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Lol, yeah, I grew up in Eastern Europe and we had five hours a week of English classes starting from 2nd grade and through the end of the school (so, for 9 years). And we did not have a lot of chances to practice (iron curtain and all), so would’ve been extremely excited to meet a native speaker! (This is also a story of how I converted to evangelical Christianity at age 22 – said yes to an offer to practice my English with a group of US tourists and they turned out to be missionaries – I left the evangelical church a couple of years later, and religion altogether 20 years later.)

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I was part of an exchange school group in high school between my US school and a German one.

      Obviously, we had taken German classes, and a good chunk of the purpose of the trip was to immerse ourselves in the language. We went to classes in Germany and were expected to contribute in German. We lived with German families. We still had one of the girls from the German class that for some reason decided to try to trash talk a couple of us… German…..about 5 foot away from us (and we were *in Germany *, not back in the US). She was very surprised that we understood and called her out on it. And this was halfway through the German portion of the trip, it’s not like we had just walked out of the airport.

      On the same trip, my host mother who spoke nothing but Polish and German had a great deal of fun with me trying to teach me how to cook Polish meals and me trying to teach her how to cook “American” meals. Apple pie was apparently the coolest thing she had ever seen. I miss that family!

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      (wholesome story) I was at a TJMaxx a couple weeks ago, trying on a lot of summer clothes, so was in the fitting room for a while. The entire time I was there, someone in the next stall was on the phone, with her friend, on speaker, in my native language. By the time I was done trying on my clothes, I knew A LOT about that woman’s life, kids, the weight gain that was the reason why she was buying new clothes (same, same), summer plans and so on. I saw her out in the store later (still on the phone) but could not say anything – lady, if you are reading this, know that you are not “obnoxiously fat” like you kept telling your friend on the phone, you are in great shape! Also, like, don’t you know that our immigrant community is famous for our love of bargain deals? We ALL shop at TJMaxx. So maybe go easy on the speaker phone next time, lol

    4. JustaTech*

      Also, even if a person doesn’t speak the language, if you use enough proper nouns they’re going to figure it out pretty quickly.
      The Russian kids in my high school used to gossip in Russian in front of me (because I speak no Russian). Normally I didn’t care, but one day it was getting on my nerves and I finally said “hey, you know I can hear you, right? I don’t care about what Sasha’s been doing with some girl from Newton North, but I also don’t want to have to hear about it.”
      They were flabbergasted, but they stopped gossiping in front of me.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Context helps a lot when it comes to understanding another language. I student taught in a Ukrainian immersion high school class but didn’t speak the language at all (long story). But, I still made them ask me in Ukrainian if they wanted to use the washroom or get some water and I would give them permission in English. What they didn’t realize was that I can do pattern recognition and one smart mouth teen came up to me and said something to me that didn’t match the pattern. Without missing a beat, I said no and told him to sit down. In shock, he asked me how I knew he waked to go home. I just smiled. His classmates all broke into laughter and, for the rest of the time, were completely unsure about my level of knowledge.

  28. Mannheim Steamroller*


    My instinct would be to make some written notes about exactly what Frick and Frack are saying, then let the manager know about this. You don’t even have to warn them, because the inappropriateness of it IS enough of a warning.

  29. LGC*

    So for letter 3…I think the third option is to re-evaluate your office space, and consider making changes for accessibility. A lot of people have already made suggestions, but here’s what I’ve thought of:

    – Seriously re-evaluate your evacuation procedures! This isn’t to chastise you (the other 150 odd comments already did that), but this is a really good chance to make sure EVERYONE is safe in an emergency. (As people have noted, best practices for mobility impaired employees involve them going to a specific safe space until they can be evacuated.)
    – Consider getting some space on the first floor in the near future, if that’s possible. To turn your concerns on their head, one of your stellar (it sounds like) employees is spending 40 minutes every day climbing two flights of stairs to get to and from work. Maybe I’m a bean counter, but that sounds like a HUGE waste of time. (This IS something I’d consult the guy on, though – there’s other tradeoffs to consider here.)
    – FINALLY: definitely consider finding an office that’s more accessible in general. This is a huge ask, I know – but he’s not the only person with mobility impairments that is good at call center work, and a second floor walk up office artificially limits your options.

    I’m wishing you the best of luck! I know from experience that there are unexpected challenges to working with mobility impaired individuals, but getting through them is worth it.

    1. Reba*

      “and a second floor walk up office artificially limits your options.”

      Yes, the business case for accessibility!

      1. LGC*

        I do want to acknowledge the obvious – relocating an office is a HUGE DEAL and I don’t think that LW3 should do this because some jerk on an internet blog (That’s me) suggested it. And even the smaller suggestions can be substantial. But what struck me about the letter is that the problem LW3 has doesn’t relate directly to the job.

        In full disclosure, I work for a social enterprise that employs people with disabilities (okay, in middle management), and my enterprise’s offices are call-center like. So it’s something we consider a lot.

    2. NothingIsLittle*

      Yeah, re-evaluating evacuation procedures sounds vital! It does sound like OP has looked into some alternate options (WFH and other sites), but getting space on the first floor for a few employees (definitely don’t make him sit alone!) may help a number of employees with lessened mobility (like some elderly or pregnant individuals). As someone who walks with a cane for a chronic knee injury, the best thing my manager does to support me is allowing me time and flexibility with tasks that require movement. Some days I can lift boxes and things while I’m wearing my knee braces and sometimes I’ve had a bad week and can’t; it’s not an essential part of my job, so she’ll do it herself or have me put it off a few days if I’m not currently capable of it.

      OP3, it sounds like you’re giving your employee the time he needs, given that you don’t seem to be hurrying him off the stairs or forcing him to start calls instead of catching his breath. That sounds like you’re doing as much for him as you can, right now. I’m not sure if you work in the type of call center that times bathroom breaks, etc. (one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had!) but if you do, the only other thing I would recommend is letting him have longer times for those breaks to account for his mobility issues. Honestly, if he hasn’t come to you for something and you’ve been acting in a way that makes you feel safe for your employees to talk to (and you’ve spoken to the building manager about any options you might have), I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve done your due diligence and let him make his own choices.

      1. LGC*

        That’s something I didn’t think about (like, we’re fairly lax about bathroom breaks here, but a lot of call center type places aren’t). Definitely make sure you’re at least following your legal obligations, LW3, and ideally make sure he has what he needs.

    3. OP#3*

      Our company is pretty flat, and even though I know I’ll get shot down, I’m going to start pushing to move. I think that if we moved offices it would open up our applicant pool so so much. I mean, how many potential employees have shown up, looked at the stairs, and just left? I got so wrapped up in my worry over the trees that I forgot about the damn forest.

  30. Llellayena*

    1) I’d be tempted to walk up and say (in their language) “not everyone is as ignorant and stupid as you seem to think they are.” Smile sweetly and walk away, enjoying the stunned looks.

    2) Write back reply all that you’ll also bring Apples to Apples or Farkle or another family friendly group game. If you can conspire ahead of time with a couple other people to reply all to your offerings with “oh that sounds great” that might be subtle enough

    3) I had a friend with severe RA who didn’t have health insurance (read: the medicine that let her move daily). Her job was up a flight of stairs and there were days she just couldn’t get up them. There was concern over how she was feeling but never did they say “maybe this isn’t the right job for you.” And here’s my advocacy plug for making older buildings update with modern mobility aids (elevators/ramps) wherever possible. Subsidize it somehow if you have to but it needs to be a requirement.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    At the Fourth of July gathering, one of the 20-somethings brought a couple of recent table top games. They were G-rated (like chess is G-rated, yet also a grown-up game), fun, worked with a mixed-age crowd who knew each other from not at all to longtime friends. There were routinely a dozen people squeezed in playing one of these games.

    Like, it’s not that hard? It doesn’t have to involve racism or threeways to be fun for adults?

  32. Tabletop Designer*

    I work in the tabletop game industry. CAH is all about being transgressive, and if you’re in a group of friends who are all eager participants who prioritize cleverness over shock value, it can be a lot of fun. I can’t think of many work contexts where it would be appropriate.

    Here are some options for group games that would, I believe, be far more appropriate for a work setting. Several have been mentioned above.

    Apples to Apples: The game that CAH is (I’ll be charitable) based on. It’s possible to make this one inappropriate but the game itself doesn’t skew that way.

    Codenames: There are several varieties of this one but for my money the original is the best. There are XXL versions with oversized cards for larger group play.

    Decrypto: I love this variation on the theme because you aren’t specifically trying to guess words – you’re trying to guess a three-digit code before your opponents guess theirs.

    Word Whimsy: This one is harder to find but you could order it. It’s a bit like A2A except that instead of choosing one card, you’re building a sentence out of cards in your hand. Super fun and very unlikely to cause a “not this again” reaction, since it’s more obscure.

    Are You a Werewolf?: Lots of variations of this one out there and lots of similar social deduction games, if those are your thing. Most of you are villagers, but some (depends on player count) are werewolves. The villagers are trying to expose the werewolves; the werewolves are trying to convert villagers. Very good in larger groups.

    Unlock (multiple titles): These are “escape room in a box” games where you’re trying to solve puzzles within a certain time limit. A bunch of companies make these (another popular series is called Exit) but I picked this series because they’re solely card-based and you don’t have to destroy anything as you play, which means when you’ve solved one game you can give it to someone else to try.

    Two Rooms and a Boom: This one is rowdy and a lot of fun. You’re trying to defuse a bomb, but the group is separated in two different rooms and each group has half of the information needed. Lots of going back and forth to get everything you need to shut it down before time expires.

    Happy Salmon: Confession – I hate this game. That said, the reasons I hate it make it a whole lot of fun for a group that doesn’t mind being silly and loud. You have a bunch of cards in your hand and are trying to match them to cards in opponents’ hands. However, to match the cards, you have to gesture in various ways and get someone to match your gesture. Games are frantic, super fast, and did I mention loud.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I would also suggest Sheriff of Nottingham. We played that recently with another couple and it was hilarious. Especially if you do ridiculous accents for your character.

      I also have a deep undying love for Evolution & Darwin’s Choice, but those probably wouldn’t be good group games.

    2. iglwif*

      Taboo is also great IME — it’s the one where you have to get someone to guess the word on your card without saying any of the related words (like, the target word is SHEEP and you’re not allowed to say “shepherd”, “wolf”, “flock”, or “little bo peep”). It’s fun and can get pretty rowdy, but the words aren’t work-inappropriate.

      1. yala*

        We recently found one that’s similar to Taboo but with a twist.

        Trap Words.

        It’s the same general principle–you have to get your teammates to guess your word without saying any of the “forbidden” words. But in Trap Words, the *other* team picks what those forbidden words are, and they don’t tell you. So it’s a matter of trying to think about how they would think, while they’re trying to think how you would think while trying to think how they would think….

        It’s oodles of fun!

      2. Quill*

        I love Taboo! It’s a family staple but as the years went on we’ve had to discard the no-longer relevant 80’s and 90’s celebrities so the kids can play.

        (We also have a rule that couples cannot be on the same team after my parents won the christmas weekend championship by over twelve points: they’d been married 20 years at that point. :)

        1. TootsNYC*

          we have a pile of celebrity cards under the racks in our Apples to Apples box.
          We find that they just clog up the game. They don’t apply, or the kids don’t know who they are. And so they never get played, and then you have an entire hand of people.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I actually sort of prefer the Juniors version, actually! It’s not that childish, particularly; it’s just that the words are actually more fun.

            And your celebrities are things like Big Bird (I’m still salty that I didn’t get picked when the green cards was “bumpy.” Big Bird very much IS bumpy!)

      3. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

        Heads Up is similar to Taboo. It also comes in an electronic format so you can have a wide selection of topic decks. My family and I are amazed at how challenging but fun some of the kids decks are.

    3. Tabletop Designer*

      Totally forgot my obsession of the moment: Just One. You’re trying to give the guesser clues to a word but you can’t match anyone else’s clue or you BOTH lose your clue that round. Plays up to seven or eight people and is fast and fun. It’s awesome and frustrating when there’s an obvious clue word that no one gives because everyone’s trying to avoid matching the other clues.

    4. Liz Thaler*

      Also: Snake Oil! Sort of in the A2A mold, except there’s no anonymity–you’re actively pitching a nonsense product based on the word cards in your hand, and the customer (who’s drawn a specific role/identity) chooses the one they like best.

      (Probably the best win I’ve ever seen is when we are all trying to sell death-related contraptions to an Executioner, until my friend told her she was also a human being and even executioners could use a Light Jacket sometimes.)

    5. Yorick*

      I recommend Guillotine – you’re rival executioners and you line up French aristocrats and try to get the most important ones yourself

    6. TootsNYC*

      oooh, I want to BE you!

      My kid is studying game design, and his focus is on the electronic games. But I want to design board games (my husband did, actually–he had one of last year’s top war games)

      1. Tabletop Designer*

        Oh, man, I SO want to ask you what game, but that would be asking you to out yourself, too.

    7. CM*

      Great list, thank you! I know and love about half these games, and can’t wait to try out the rest.
      Two Rooms and a Boom sounds a little similar to a video game I’ve played called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where one person is trying to defuse a bomb while the other person has all the instructions and is calling them out.

    8. Close Bracket*

      I play CAH and everything, so I’m not judging, but there’s nothing transgressive about it.

  33. Moocowcat*

    3) The problem here is that you work in a three story building without an elevator. (!?!?!?!) Hot dang, your workplace fails to meet basic accessibility standards in so, so many ways. At minimum, you cannot mention to your employee that he might want a different job. Optimally, you would talk to your senior leadership team about moving to an accessible building or installing an elevator in the current place. Your workplace has a terrible structural design.

    1. 1234*

      My grandparents lived on the 5th floor of a 6 story walk-up. Some buildings just don’t have the infrastructure to put in an elevator.

      1. anon4this*

        But for a work-based location, on which the primary job is just talking on the phone (call center) and there is no remote option, this is strange. What if an rando employee or even the OP breaks their leg? She can’t work from home and it appears the only option is hobble up a staircase, at least 2 floors up? Huh? It’s like a general liability nightmare waiting to happen.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Having worked at several call centres, the first thing that came to mind for me was to wonder how they got all the equipment up there with no elevator! Unless this is really like a *tiny* call centre (like, fewer than 20 people), I’m picturing having to haul dozens of desks, computers, a couple of conference tables, etc, up those stairs.

      (I also live on a second-story walkup, with narrow stairs. Just moving *my stuff* into that apartment was hellacious.)

      1. fposte*

        I worked on the second story of a building like that. Some stuff came up the winding staircase, some stuff came in through the windows.

      2. OP#3*

        That is exactly what they did, plus cubicles and a server or two. It really isn’t a huge call center, we can fit around…40 maybe?

    3. Princess PIP*

      Ever been to London, and tried riding the tube with heavy luggage? Best of luck exiting a station with an elevator, best of luck indeed. Oh, and seriously mind that gap.

      I’m American and it blows my mind to see places that don’t accommodate the less abled, but I’m also a San Franciscan and know well how old infrastructure can stick around without amendments for the less mobile because HISTORY. It’s dumb.

    4. Temperance*

      I don’t think either of these is super reasonable to request. Presumably, the space is rented, not owned, so elevator installation or moving would be a pretty unreasonable ask.

      There’s a business building in my neighborhood that has two or three floors (can’t remember) and the access staircase is outside the building. It’s kind of like a motel, but for offices. There’s no internal space to install an elevator.

      1. Moocowcat*

        There could be space on the ground floor to accommodate the employee. Even if there isn’t, the OPs work place should be developing a work from home option.

      2. TPS Cover Sheet*

        Actually, in Europe at least, theres shedloads of old houses without elevators. Now the old trick was to build one in the central staircase, as those usually had a space in the middle, like an atrium. But the more modern post-war 3-4 story houses have tighter stairwells. So they came up with an elevator module that gets added onto the outside of the house. Depending a bit on the architecture. Some houses just can’t accommodate one.

    5. Moocowcat*

      1234: It’s very true that some old buildings don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate an elevator. Perhaps the OPs organisation can move to a more modern building? They’re already encountering problems with addressing accessibility and accommodating good employees. Another option for OPs work place is to hire an Accessibility Auditor to evaluate the current building and suggest changes that would work with existing infrastructure. Maybe a small office or call centre could be created on the ground floor, so that the employee doesn’t have to use the stairs. In any case, this really is an accessibility problem that needs to be fixed.

    6. Avasarala*

      Agreed, I live on the earthquake ring of fire and the idea that a building doesn’t have an elevator?? Is it up to code in other ways or is it going to collapse on me with the slightest wobble??

  34. iglwif*

    OP1 — brush up your spoken Urdu and say something like “Wow, that’s rude,” or “You know people can hear you talking, right?”, as Alison suggests. Your rude af co-workers will be mortified, and even if they don’t stop entirely, they’ll at least stop doing it in front of you. (At least, let’s hope.)

    Many years ago my mother, newly divorced and very nervously buying her very first new car, heard a Honda salesman mutter something rude, sexist, and extremely unprofessional about her in Italian, and when she snapped back something along the lines of “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?!” in the same language, he was SHOOK and immediately changed his attitude.

    My mom stalked away to the Toyota dealership, where nobody was rude to her in any language, bought a Toyota, and drove it for THIRTY YEARS, and six months ago she went back and bought another new red Toyota, and all of that is 90% do to that sales douchebag, because she was waffling between the Honda Civic and the Toyota Tercel for literally weeks.

    1. TootsNYC*

      My Yugoslavian MIL worked at a supervisor of cleaning ladies for many years. And in NYC, those are jobs held by immigrants. So she learned a little bit of lots of languages (and grew up speaking a local dialect of Serbo-Croatian as well as Italian).

      We were having our floors redone, and the co-op rules were you couldn’t leave the workmen in your home. She wasn’t employed outside the home, so she volunteered to stay.

      I’d had some words w/ the flooring guy over the choice of wood for repairing a patch, and had to be firm about getting what I wanted (plus I ran around to find and buy the wood itself).

      So while he and his worker were setting up, she overheard the guy complaining about me and how picky and pushy I was–in Polish. She said to him, in Polish, “They work hard for the money they’re paying you, so maybe you should do what she wants.”

      He got pretty respectful after that apparently.

      We told this story to my own mom (like me, speaks only English, but she was even more badass than my MIL), and she said, “I’d have probably fired him for you. I’d have been calling to apologize for messing up your schedule, but there’s no way I’d have let him badmouth you in your own home, while he’s earning money from you.”

    1. OP#3*

      If it helps, I reread my letter when it was posted and just slammed my head into my desk. I sound like such a dick.

      1. smoke tree*

        If it helps, you don’t sound like a dick at all in your comments! I think we’ve all been there in terms of phrasing things poorly. At least, if it’s going to happen, best it happens in an anonymous forum!

  35. Robin*

    #2: Cards Against Humanity isn’t just work-inappropriate, it’s shitty. Its entire humour depends on shock value and punching down. I guess I can’t tell anyone not to find that funny, but it shouldn’t be acceptable in office talk.

    #3: [telling your subordinate to find another job because he’s fat] “could look (like) your beliefs about his health played a role in how you managed him, which would be illegal”.
    Could look like? Clearly those beliefs already play a role in how you manage him, to the extent that you’re considering de-facto firing him despite good results. If you can’t examine that and cut it out, he’s not the one who should be looking for another job.

    1. Liz Thaler*

      THANK YOU. It’s such a non-game. It’s okay when you’re at a bar or something, but I HATE when I show up for a “game night” and the game is Cards Against Humanity.

    2. Robin*

      So as to not be only negative, I’ll join in with the boardgame recommendations – at least to second Codenames and Dixit, which are both simple, social and non-maths-y.

    3. Prod Coor*

      Cards Against Humanity can be perfectly fine in the right office. My office plays all the games LW2 mentioned, for every ‘game night’ we have, and it’s probably the best part of the night!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        okay, so clearly that’s a question for me to ask to figure out company culture. I would be super unhappy with any place that could ignore CAH’s x-ist tropes.

    4. Quill*

      I played it a lot in college but we instituted an “auto loose” rule where each person can use their judgement to just automatically discard a card that they find particularly mean spirited, filthy or just don’t want to actually read out loud. We also had some fandom packs, so that helped lighten things up with less emphasis on gross-out and shock value.

      However, I am NEVER playing it with anyone outside of that specific set of college friends again, because the very idea, especially as an adult in american society, gives me hives.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Not a fan of CAH, either (though will play it with the right group of people). I get it that the real objective of the game is to read your audience and try to find the jokes that the judge will find funny, even if they aren’t necessarily funny to you. But I am a semi-introvert who sucks at reading the audience, so… And it does have the potential of bringing out the worst in people. “if it’s on a card, then I can play it, right?” The best games I’ve had were with the groups that had the rule, mentioned on this thread, that everyone be allowed to dump garbage cards.

      Another thing, I own a copy of CAH (no extension packs) because my then-college-age son had once asked me to buy it, because he’d heard good things. We played it once as a family when his older brother came to visit. Then we put it away and it was never touched again. My son’s feedback (he was doing standup at the time) was that the game doesn’t let you make your own jokes – it makes the jokes for you. Your input is minimal.

      I recently played a similar game called “New Phone, Who Dis?” and we all liked it a lot more than CAH – it leaves a lot more to the players’ imagination and allows them build backstories (and is WAY less obnoxious/offensive). Throwing this out here in case anyone wants to try it – I really enjoyed it. Neither game is office-appropriate, though. Just no.

  36. yala*


    oooooh, that is unCOMFORTABLE. I (sometimes) enjoy CAH with friends, but I would never want to play it with coworkers.

    It might go more easily if you can suggest some alternative games. Although then the problem would be *providing* them (and you shouldn’t be expected to spend money for this). You local library might have a selection of board/card games that can be checked out. My buddy runs a game night at the library he works at–there are loads of more appropriate games, even games with irreverent humor.

    Timeline is a really good, low-key one that we can even play with the elderly gentleman who has difficulty following more complex games. We have the “Americana” version, but there’s other ones too. It’s simple: you have cards with historic events on them and the date on the back, and you try to put them in chronological order. It’s surprisingly fun, even for a history-fool like me.

    Pitchstorm might be more up your boss’s alley since she seems like more of the “mandatory irreverent fun.” The cards all have vague movie ideas, and one person takes a turn being the “producer” while everyone else “pitches” their ridiculous movie idea to them. It’s goofy and fun and think-on-your feet, but not for everyone.
    Exploding Kittens is another one that would probably be her flavor of irreverent/naughty (but generally isn’t offensive or reliant on sexist/racist/homophobic humor)

    But then, there’s nothing wrong with old standbys like Scategories, Clue, Uno… or just…not making people play a game at all.

    Whether or not you provide alternative suggestions, I hope your boss is made to understand how deeply inappropriate and uncomfortable these games are for a work setting.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second Exploding Kittens!

      There was another party game I played recently that might go over well for OP’s game night. It’s called Wing It. “In each round, the players are all presented with the same challenging situation, but each player has different objects that they can use as their resources to resolve the situation. Each player comes up with a story about how they’ll solve the situation using exactly three of the five objects in their hand, and then everyone takes a turn pitching their story to a judge. A winning story is selected, a new player becomes the judge, and the next round begins.”

  37. Observer*

    #2 – As I’m thinking about your letter and reading some of the comments, I got to thinking that perhaps one of the reasons why your workplace needs a “bonding exercise” is BECAUSE of the kind of management that thinks these games a re a good idea.

  38. MOAS*

    Re #1 – Groan. Even though I fluently speak another language (Urdu/punjabi) I prefer not to use it at work. I don’t mind speaking to others about jokes and stuff but not bashing other people. In HS, I used to take the bus with two girls who were from the same country, and they would speak to each other in their language when I was talking to them. I found it rude and hurtful and try not to do the same to others.

  39. Tobias Funke*

    OP3: Thanks for validating every fear I’ve ever had as a very fat person in the workplace! I am sure your employee has not picked up on this at all.

    1. Anon for this*

      As I and several others have pointed out, this employee has to also walk with two canes and gets exhausted after climbing stairs and needs to rest for 20-30 minutes at a time, so this issue clearly goes beyond the employee just being overweight and it’s uncharitable to assume that OP simply doesn’t want to look at fat people.

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        Then why mention his weight? It seems completely irrelevant to the crux of the issue, which is the use of two canes combined with the multiple flights of stairs. The fatness of the employee doesn’t add anything to this letter. Unless, of course, we operate under the incorrect assumption that all fat people are inherently in poor health. So, no, us fat people are not being ridiculous and uncharitable for pointing out that there’s some issues here.

        1. TootsNYC*

          because overweight often does increase the stress on the cardiovascular system and on joints.

          1. Mia*

            But OP doesn’t know if that’s the case for their employee, and making that assumption is a huge issue.

      2. Lyra Silvertongue*

        Yeah I was pretty surprised by the whole “my employee requires two canes to walk and has to make it up (at least one) flight of stairs every morning for work. After this he seems tired. I assume it’s because he’s fat and about to have a heart attack” logic of the letter.

      3. Observer*

        It’s not really relevant that the OP probably is not trying to get rid of the sight of a fat person. Because there is very little doubt that the fact that this person is overweight is ABSOLUTELY playing into the problem. Not in that the OP finds the sight disgusting. But in that the OP assumes that “fat” and “disabled” means “unable to make reasonable decisions to take care of himself” and “needing to be pushed HARD into taking proper care of himself” (to the point that they will effectively threaten his job to make him “take care of himself.”)

      4. Tobias Funke*

        My point was, I am sure that this employee has picked up on the letter writer’s disdain for them. And yes, concern trolling is disdainful.

        1. OP#3*

          I literally have no disdain for him? He’s super nice and is hilarious. I was trying to write about his mobility issues and looking back I don’t even know why I mentioned his weight, because that’s not relevant. My letter came from a place of worry and compassion about him injuring himself further, not worry about his weight. (Not that that makes it much better.)

          But! At least I’ve discovered some internal biases that I wasn’t aware of and now I can make sure I choose my language more carefully.

    2. OP#3*

      Hi, I am a very fat person too! I am totally aware of how fatphobic my letter sounded (my concerns rise out of his mobility issues, not his weight, I should never have mentioned it), and I super apologize for the way it came across. It wasn’t intended that way, but that’s no excuse.

  40. boop the first*

    2. Oh no.
    My first question was originally: “do employee hang-outs actually boost morale?” But then my past workplaces usually chose staff to do all the cooking/serving/cleaning while everyone else got mad drunk, and it had the opposite effect, and that’s probably not standard.

    But then you mention Cards?? Well for starters, more coworkers will be onboard than you think, and who those coworkers are will always surprise you. Learning the sad and creepy prejudices of your friends and neighbours will absolutely do the opposite of build morale.

    1. TootsNYC*

      but I thought part of CAH was that you play cards to be outrageous, and that they DON’T necessarily reflect your own prejudices. I thought the ethos was that you weren’t to be judged outside of the game for the cards you combine IN the game.

      Sort of “what happens in Cards stays in Cards.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          OK, true, but if someone picks something offensive to win, I thought the argument was that it didn’t indicate that they think this in real life; just that they’re willing to use it to win.

  41. Allison*

    I’ve mentioned this here before, so I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record but it is relevant here. I’ve played Cards Against Humanity at a work party before, but it was with guys I didn’t work with directly, my boss was not involved, and it was in the corner of the party. I liked the chance to partake in a structured social activity instead of small talk, and I think games at a work event can be fun, but a boss picking the games needs to go for more appropriate ones, like Unstable Unicorns, Organ Attack, Cash ‘n’ Guns, Code Names, etc.

  42. mcr-red*

    #1 – I think I’d go for walking by them and saying, “I can understand every word you’re saying” and if they continue, saying something to the boss.

    #2 – I would refuse to play just on the grounds that it is Cards Against Humanity which I loathe, after getting stuck playing it at a party for HOURS. I’d say the first 15 minutes or so was funny. After that, not so much. And yeah, I don’t really think that’s a great workplace hang kind of game.

    #4 – If not for the mention of the free donuts, I would swear we work for the same place! Except we don’t get free donuts in this hell. I would think though, if it really has that kind of reputation, people you interview with (assuming you’re staying in that field) will understand why you’re wanting to leave. “Oh, you work for the Hellmouth! I’ve heard a lot of stories about there!”

  43. quirkypants*

    RE: letter #3

    I wanted to add that crutching or caning up two flights of stairs is hard no matter your body size and even if you’re in reasonably good shape.

    I’m an relatively average sized person who is decent shape (I play recreational sports 1-2x week (ultimate Frisbee which has a lot of running), and go to the gym a couple times a week, and walk a lot every day) and when I had to go on crutches for a few weeks I would get out of breath crutching to the washroom which is about 20 yards from bed and it would take more than a couple minutes to catch my breath. It also didn’t get much easier by week 5… I can’t imagine crutching up two flights of stairs so good for your co-worker who does it every day!

    Its true he may have other health issues but I’m impressed he can do those stairs every day. Maybe he feels it’s good for him, maybe his doctor said he’s fine doing it, but truly don’t judge his whole health by the fact that caning up two sets of stairs causes him to lose his breath. That is way harder than it looks if you’re dealing with an injury or a disability.

    1. Quill*

      When I couldn’t walk for a month and a half, I developed some serious arm muscles crutching all over campus with up to 15 pounds of books on my back. I actually got kind of speedy by the end of that semester.

      But stairs? Stairs, in the few places I could not avoid them, were hell. Depending on the type of crutch or cane, whether feet are capable of taking any weight…

      Props to his man for sticking to this, if he can get through that much specific excercise every day, because I would be crying. Possibly for eternity, and I am a veteran of crying at work due to chronic pain.

      1. TootsNYC*

        you know, heavy people are often far stronger than you think, because they DO carry that weight around every day

      2. quirkypants*

        Haha, now I feel a bit weak, I never got very good at them (although I did get better than when I started). My upper body has always been weak though

    2. Temperance*

      When I was on crutches, I just sort of dropped them at the top of the stairs and then hopped down on one foot. Of course, this was in my house and my husband was there to pass them along to me/help. I wouldn’t have ever been able to do that at work.

  44. Prod Coor*

    LW 2 sounds like they are ASSUMING everyone will be uncomfortable with those games. Has LW 2 asked any of their coworkers what they think about playing those games? I ask because those are the exact games that my company plays at our ‘game nights’. We even have unique Cards Against Humanity cards that poke fun at one of the company owners (and that boss has played his own insulting CAH card before!!)

    If LW2 works in a more old fashioned office, maybe those games won’t be appropriate. But LW2 should find out what their coworkers think or risk becoming the wet blanket that couldn’t handle an adult card game.

    1. Emi.*

      LW2 should find out what their coworkers think or risk becoming the wet blanket that couldn’t handle an adult card game
      This is exactly why CAH shouldn’t be played in the office.

    2. Grapey*

      Opting out of playing a not-work-safe card game IS handling it. Being uncomfortable around something is not always a childish reaction.

    3. mcr-red*

      “the wet blanket that couldn’t handle an adult card game”

      I swear, that’s the language of everyone who likes CAH to people who hate that game. You don’t have to be someone who “can’t handle” an adult card game to hate that game. You can think the game is tedious, boring, mind-numbing, stupid, etc. And it has nothing to do with “ooh, that card had a naughty word on it! Let me clutch my pearls!”

      And if I were forced to play that stupid game, I would not want to play it with some of my co-workers. I really don’t want the insight into some of their minds and some I do think would take offense.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I also don’t think it’s “pearl clutching” to be deeply uncomfortable with dead baby jokes.

        You are not automatically superior because you find crassness funny.

        (and I say this as someone who would probably love most of CAH)

        1. mcr-red*

          “You are not automatically superior because you find crassness funny.”

          Exactly! And I say this as someone who enjoys me some crass! But OMG NOT that game.

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I like CAH but understand why many don’t, and I’d never think of someone who didn’t want to play it as a wet blanket. You can enjoy playing CAH and have a morbid sense of humor and not be a terrible person.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      “risk becoming the wet blanket that couldn’t handle an adult card game”

      Wow. Just. Wow. So much wrong in this that I’m having trouble knowing where to start unpacking.

      1) CAH tends to punch down, through playing on racist / sexist / classist / ableist tropes. Just because someone has internalized -ists that may be commonly applied to a group does not mean you aren’t still punching them.
      2) This punching *hurts*. Saying ‘it’s a joke, you should be able to handle it’ doesn’t actually make it hurt less. It just makes it look like you don’t care that you are hurting people.
      3) This punching will drive away some people from groups that indulge in it, harming your company’s ability to hire the best talent from a diverse pool.

      There are ways to be an adult and not hurt people. Not hurting people is great for business.

    5. Observer*

      Your comment is a PERFECT example of why such a game should NOT EVER be brought into the office. The OP is clearly uncomfortable with it. And any office that would consider that a sign of being a “wet blanket that can’t handle an adult game” is toxic.

      If that’s the attitude in your office, it’s pretty much a Kalanik led Uber mini.

  45. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    In response to 3. Should I suggest my employee with mobility issues get a different job?:

    The first thing that popped into my head was – what if something happened to the employee? What if he got a heart attack, either while walking up the stairs or in the office? What then?

    I guess I’m thinking from a “company liability/responsibility” standpoint here, in terms of “the company should have done this/taken these precautions to prevent this kind of thing from happening,” although in this specific case I’m inferring that once it was noticed that something had happened*, proper action would have been taken**, and this would have been the case even if the OP didn’t write in and had already decided to let the employee be unless and until he decided it was an issue.

    Anyway, that was the first thing that came into my mind when I read the question.

    * If an incident happened in the stairwell, it may go un-noticed for a significant period of time, depending on how frequently it’s used – although in this specific case, now that I’m thinking about it, it may not be applicable because everybody uses the stairs, and I’d presume it’s an “open” staircase, as opposed to an “emergency exit” type of stairwell that you have to open a door to access.

    ** You would think “once it was noticed that something had happened, proper action would have been taken” wouldn’t need to be said. But when you have a situation like the one described in the Ask A Manager post “my boss refused to call an ambulance for an injured coworker” (2/22/18), it’s sadly necessary.

    (“On the first day of school, one of my fellow teachers tripped and fell backwards down the concrete steps leading up to the entrance of the school as she was arriving that morning. She split the back of her head open. As the school nurse was assessing the situation, our principal came running over and demanded that the injured teacher be helped to her feet and walked into the school ‘so the parents and students wouldn’t see her as they begin to arrive for school.’ The principal then told everyone who witnessed the incident that they were forbidden to call an ambulance because she did not want to create a scene and scare the kids or worry the parents.” Link to the entire post and discussion thread in the first comment.)

    1. fposte*

      What if anybody got a heart attack at work? That’s not a hugely unusual situation. I don’t see why the employer would be suddenly liable in this case when they otherwise aren’t. I don’t think the company is generally considered liable unless there’s a code failure or other contributing illegality that they know about.

      And you know, there are plenty of non-stair places in offices where if something bad happens to us it would take a while for somebody to figure it out.

    2. Angelinha*

      But like…what if a thin person with no mobility issues fell in a stairwell? What if a person with no known heart attack risk factors had a heart attack on the stairs? The company does not have the right to police what types of people use the stairs because of prejudices they have about what might happen when those people use the stairs.

    3. TootsNYC*

      well, then, the OP can simply be sure that she is not like that school’s principal!

      Which she should be doing for all of them anyway.

    4. Observer*

      Thanks for an excuse to move everyone to a totally open office concept where no one can ever be behind a closed door. Because if that’s your concern this can happen to pretty much anyone, young or old, apparently fit or not.

    5. OP#3*

      Looking back, I think this was really what I was worrying about, and I just worded it in like, the most terrible way possible. I have so many new options and ideas from these comments, and I can’t thank everyone enough for those.

      1. Observer*

        If you’re worrying about general safety, you really do need to think more broadly, because you really have no idea who is at risk of what.

        I’m not suggesting that you stop thinking abut safety, but actually to continue thinking about this, just a bit more broadly. Are the stair slippery? It the slope at the right angle or is it too steep? Is the staircase out if sight? These are questions whose answers affect EVERYONE, especially all the people with issues you can’t see.

  46. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 I haven’t gotten to all the comments so I don’t know if it’s been suggested, but what I would do is pretend to be on the phone within their earshot. Then have a “conversation” in Urdu. Something simple like “Great. We’ll meet for dinner tonight. See you then.” Just enough to get the point across. Then have fun watching their faces.

  47. Dasein9*

    Playing board games or party games sounds like a great way to bond. The ones named by the OP, however, are seriously problematic. Here is a short, far from comprehensive, list of games that might be more appropriate and more fun. The more complex ones allow fewer players but if your company emphasizes strategy, they might be popular. (I picked games that don’t involve killing anyone, though Mysterium does investigate a murder that happened before play begins.)

    Apples to Apples
    Sushi Go

    The Castles of Mad King Ludwig

    1. Amber Rose*

      I like Castle Panic, because it’s a cooperative board game. It’s every player VS the hoard of invading monsters trying to break into the castle at the center of the board. There’s killing but it’s like, orcs and goblins and stuff.

      1. TootsNYC*

        That sounds like a board-game version of King of the Hill.
        King of Tokyo is also a board-game version of King of the Hill.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I mentioned this above, but I would love Apples to Apples for a “getting to know you” game.
      We play it with a tweak that involves arguing your case for why your word should be chosen, so there’s a LOT of interaction between people, and very little strategy.

      Lots of opportunity for “inside jokes” to develop, and for people to be goofy and for personalities to be on display.

  48. J3*

    re #1– I don’t want to gaslight the letter writer, but I feel like they’re vastly over-assessing their ability to understand what’s being said a language they don’t actually speak? Even if OP recognizes some rude words, the coworkers might be using idiomatic expressions that OP has never heard, or maybe they’re talking about someone unrelated to the office. I don’t think the letter writer is in a position here to be all “j’accuse!!”. If it were me I’d say something like “oh hey, I once picked up a few Urdu words from some friends of mine. Maybe I misunderstood but I kind of thought that [word] is how you call someone stupid; I hope you weren’t saying that about me?”

    1. Elbe*

      Agreed. The LW’s response should definitely be in line with their confidence that they really understand what is being said.

    2. TPS Cover Sheet*

      Depends. There is passive bilingualism where you can understand a language but not speak it.

      I come from a bilingual country and it is not unusual you have an extended family sitting at a table and having a discussion where one person says something in language 1 and another person answers in language 2. Especially the older folk were like this… and you don’t bat an eye but to an outsider its quite bizzarre.

      I have a few languages I can follow the news and read the newspaper and understand the announcements on the train, but trying to speak I just go into a ”me tarzan you jane” -mode unless I remember the phrase. Its the ones I’ve been exposed to but not had any formal classes in, so it does sound like OP. As a kid you will learn a language like a sponge.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        +10000. When I was married, we once visited my in-laws who lived, not in my Home Country, but in another country in the same region. It was a small town and a lot of the residents could only speak their native language. I had whole conversations with women in my in-laws’ apartment building where I would speak Home-Country Language, she would speak Inlaws-Country Language, and we would both understand each other perfectly. Neither of us could speak the other’s language, because we didn’t know the exact prononciation of the words and it would’ve been awkward. But we had no problem understanding. It is not rocket science tbh.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I once had an intense conversation with a Japanese manager about my her boyfriend issues. She spoke minimal English and I minimal Japanese and we were in a dark car (so body language was minimal). Our fluently bilingual coworkers who followed the conversation never could figure out how we did it but she and I bonded after that because we could talk without having to understand the individual words. Speaking well is most definitely not required for understanding.

    3. kt*

      I gotta say, I don’t know…. if you learned schoolyard (whatever) especially in junior high, you’re probably well-versed in “What an idiot” and other juvenile insults. That was, like, the most fun part of my junior high language-learning adventures — the bad words and insults!

      Discussion of uterine cancer? Discussion of whether the center-right or center-left will win the parliamentary whatever? Discussion of ancient insults from classical texts? Indeed, too complex, but not the topic here.

    4. Llellayena*

      Based on the OP’s descriptions of what they are saying, the OP understands pretty well. I’m not sure what polite “idiomatic expression” could be mistaken for “fat, stupid, slow, or lazy” and “not pulling their weight on the project or that they must be really thick, ugly, etc.” The OP also specifically mentions they’re talking about specific people in the office or on the phone, including the OP themselves! You can understand much more of a language than you can speak sometimes, so the OP saying they’re speaking of the language is not fluent does not necessarily mean they aren’t understanding what is said around them.

      1. J3*

        I have a working knowledge of Hindi, and as just one example the Hindi-Urdu word “saalaa” literally means brother-in-law and idiomatically is an insult. I’m just (respectfully) skeptical of the OP’s self-assessment and I don’t really think commenters’ notes about heritage language speakers and their passive language comprehension particularly apply here.

        1. Avasarala*

          This is a good point that I think commenters only familiar with languages close to English might miss. I could say “He has a wide face” and OP could misinterpret that as “he has a fat face,” but actually it’s an idiomatic expression meaning “he knows a lot of people.”

          But usually basic insults are pretty straightforward, so it depends on how confident OP is that they truly understood.

    5. Temperance*

      Meh, I understand Spanish pretty well but don’t have a great grasp of speaking the language. If someone is calling me fat, stupid, lazy, or a host of other slurs/insults, I would understand it.

      I don’t think that they deserve the benefit of the doubt, especially when it’s pretty obvious when people are talking about others (use of names, etc.).

      1. Chinookwind*

        Ditto for me and French. I am far from fluent but I do know the insults and slurs as well as the tonal inflections that go with them.

    6. Observer*

      Except that your assumptions are wrong. There are a couple of languages that I definitely DO understand, even though I can’t speak them well. The OP is clear that they know more than a “few words” and there is nothing to indicate that they are mis-judging their capacity.

  49. Imaginary Number*

    OP #2: There are lots of work-safe alternative to most of those games that most people still enjoy. Apples to Apples is a good alternative to Cards Against Humanity.

  50. Elbe*

    “You will sin freely ever after because Hell will hold no fear for you.”
    This phrase is amazing. I’m putting it in my back pocket.

    And just a hot tip for the bad managers out there: don’t make journalists and writers mad, because they can give you a slap-down in writing like no one else. They can make your Glassdoor bleed. If I ever really need to leave a bad review, I’m going to go straight to my writer friends.

  51. L.S. Cooper*

    #3: Fat people with health issues are aware that we are fat and have health issues. We aren’t children who need to be pushed out of a workplace because thin people worry about us. Does it come from a place of compassion? Maybe. But it’s compassion based in inaccurate assumptions about what we’re capable of and our own self-awareness.

    I would be more willing to believe that this was purely compassionate if the man’s weight wasn’t mentioned. Thin people can have canes and mobility issues as well.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      We aren’t children who need to be pushed out of a workplace because thin people worry about us.

      This. There is a lot of infantilizing of overweight people out there and it needs to stop. (Another PSA is needed here.)

    2. OP#3*

      I feel like a complete dick, if it helps. I am a fat person myself, I totally should have known better. I don’t even know why I did mention it except that I was trying to paint a picture of his mobility issues, and that’s not a good reason.

  52. Quill*

    #2: As someone who has hosted events for aquaintances that included Cards Against Humanity (for a college club, so… not professional but not personal friends either) I think you should probably suggest Apples To Apples, Pictionary, or a round of “Werewolf” as suitable g-rated alternatives. (We always kept a copy of Apples to Apples or bannanagrams around for people who didn’t want to do Cards Against Humanity, which honestly doesn’t work well if you play it with more than six people anyway.)

  53. Lucette Kensack*

    I think I’d take a different approach with the Cards Against Humanity boss and respond as though she were obviously joking.

    Verbally (lightly, as though she said something super funny): “Haha, can you imagine?? Playing those games with colleagues would be soooo awkward. I’ll bring Cranium!”

    By email, or in response to her RSVP on a Facebook invite (or whatever): “Ha! I think I’ll stick to Scattergories (I’ll bring it!).”

  54. Lynn Marie*

    OP 1. You have all the power here, so don’t waste it. You could use any of the suggestions here to let them know, in their language, that you know what they’re saying, but realize that once you’ve done it, you’ve lost the element of surprise. Me, I’d sit tight, smile blankly through their insults to you and others, keep my powder dry and wait for exactly the right moment to let ’em have it. The longer you wait, more powerful it will be. Even if it takes years.

    1. fposte*

      The goal here isn’t maximum comeuppance, though. It’s making the workplace more functional. The OP just needs to notify them that their conversation is a problem for people overhearing it or notify the manager that problematic conversation is occurring.

  55. TootsNYC*

    For #1, if I were the manager, I’d want to know.

    I might not say anything, but I’d tap into my “kindergarten teacher” tool box and separate them.

    1. TootsNYC*

      But I probably WOULD say something, because wallowing in that sort of negativity is going to affect how they deal with people, and I’d want to nip that in the bud.

      And then I would separate them.

  56. Temperance*

    LW1: I would probably call them out, loudly, in English so that other people know what’s going on, and also tell your manager and their manager (if it’s not the same person). Screw that, they’ve had multiple chances to not be total jerks in the office and they continue this shit behavior.

    1. HR Stoolie*

      That’s actually a good name for it but when I read this I was really hoping for a special HR edition.

        1. OP#3*

          Listen here Aitch you can’t just say that kind of stuff without posting a link to it.

          1. Aitch Arr*


            It was a special release back in 2016. Twitter accounts is abandoned and the website doesn’t work any more.

  57. MP*

    For #1, what they are doing is incredibly racist. I would skip talking to them in their language and alert their manager immediately. I honestly think what they’re doing is bad enough that you should try to get them removed from the team if possible. They are essentially calling all the people not of their ethnicity fat and lazy. Ummm – very racist.

  58. Corporate Slave*

    #3: Isn’t this company clearly violating some ADA or other laws because they do not have a way for several categories of protected groups of employees being able to get to their place of work? The company has no elevator or ramp to get to a 2nd/3rd floor, where employees are required to work. Doesn’t this fall under “reasonable accommodation” or some kind of accessibility requirements? If not legally, then certainly morally and ethically.

    1. fposte*

      Not automatically, no. The age of the building or improvements to it, the type of building and its primary purpose, and the size of the business are relevant here.

    2. nonegiven*

      Putting an elevator in an old building that the company doesn’t own isn’t a reasonable accommodation.

  59. Strawberries N Cream*

    You know if the guy that runs the call center REALLY wants to be helpful, he would persuade the owners that they need to be ADA compliant and either find a new building, (with an elevator), or possibly find a way to put an elevator in. Because, (according to research I NOT A LAWYER!), if something DOES happen to the employee, he could sue the company for not being ADA compliant, or bringing the work location up to proper code.

    1. fposte*

      The building is quite likely to be ADA compliant and up to code, though, and it’s unlikely that relocation of an entire business would be mandated as a reasonable accommodation.

    2. OP#3*

      Check your internal biases (just like I had to after sending this in!) I’m a ladyboss thank you very much. ;)

  60. OP#3*

    #3 – The one thing no one in the comments so far has mentioned is the fact that I said “find another position”, not quit the company. We have other stores and other jobs which can be done on the first floor, but none are as lucrative as this one and I don’t know that he’d be interested in any of them. When I said “find another position”, I meant it as an accommodation, not as pushing him out the door.

    BUT! Thank you Alison for confirming that my gut reaction of “say nothing” was right, AND to the commenters for giving me a ton of ideas for improving the environment rather than focusing on one employee.

    1. fposte*

      FWIW, the answer to the “other position within the company” is still be a big nope in this situation given the pay inequity. However helpfully you meant it, it would still come across as hinting to your disabled employee that he should take a pay cut. Definite Danger, Will Robinson territory.

      1. OP#3*

        For sure! Definitely still not the right option, but also not the terrible cruel option that everyone else seems to be suggesting, aka “kick him out on his ass”.

    2. Observer*

      Is your employee aware of these other positions? Because if he is, I would think that he’d ask about it if it were worth it to him to take the pay cut.

    3. Myrin*

      Ha, I actually did pick up on that but then I re-read and guessed from the mentioning of only the second floor and the fact that you don’t have any other locations that my initial read must’ve been wrong. I’ll mention stuff like that in the future!

  61. jamberoo*

    I live in San Francisco, where we have a lot of old (by American standards, lol) buildings that are not ADA compliant. I wonder if the employee could — were he so inclined — sue the employer for failure of accommodation.

    I have no idea if that is something he would legally be allowed to do, but here in SF we have lawyers who specialize in locating clients willing to test the accessibility of storefronts just to file lawsuits.

    Feel about that however you want, but know this: the most odious lawyer of the whole subset maintains his office several floors up in a building with no ramps, elevators, zip.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      He’d have to ask for – and not receive – accommodation before he could try that. From what it sounds like, dude has not requested anything, so it’d be very odd for him to sue for them not providing an accommodation he never indicated he needed. Plus there’d be that whole iterative process in between about determining what accommodations are reasonable or not reasonable. “Put an elevator in a building you don’t own” is unlikely to be found “reasonable”. If the building is neither compliant nor grandfathered in, I’d imagine that’d be an issue for the building owner first.

  62. Washed Out Data Analyst*

    Wow. #1 is my life when it comes to Spanish. I learned Spanish as a second language but am not a native speaker. I grew up in a town where a lot of the Boomer generation Hispanic immigrants are…let’s just say conservative (and I’m a minority), so I overheard some pretty rude things being said about me/my family.

  63. Luna*

    LW1 — I’d call them out very bluntly. When they start in on anyone in their language, just coldly stare at them for a while and say, “I know what you are saying.” And maybe do it in English, too, so that other coworkers may pay attention and realize that, yeah, it seems what’s being said here is not okay. And the more people know, the better.

  64. Flash Bristow*

    OP#2 I would recommend Flux or We Didn’t Playtest This At All as alternatives, if that helps?

  65. KK*

    #3: just spit-balling here. May not apply to this situation, but this was my experience: I worked for years in a large high tech company add a location that had two floors. The manufacturing area next to the cube farms involved dangerous chemicals. Any employees with serious mobility issues, for example, using electric wheelchairs, were assigned three assistants. The four employees were communication via devices. In the event of a power outage and situation requiring immediate evacuation, two assistants would help or carry the individual to the ground floor, and one would bring the persons’ mobility device down.

    Of course, we were a large, international Corporation, with lots of lawyers and lots of potential liability. Still, it was part of our corporate culture to think about these things and plan for them.

Comments are closed.