ridiculous work travel itineraries, our branded clothing doesn’t fit everyone, and more

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

1. My business travel is full of exhausting layovers and cost-cutting

I’m writing to you exhausted after my most recent bout of work travel. I’m a 27-year-old woman working at a smallish (15 people) company. I’ve been here just over two years and have worked my way up to the head of my small team. I live in Big City A and travel to Big City B every two or so months for meetings. Direct, the journey would be an 11-hour flight. To save money (maybe a few hundred US$) the company usually books me a 16-hour flight with a stopover in the middle. This is usually doable, if exhausting. (It feels a bit penny pinching from the company I bring in so much money for, especially when my boss is flying direct in business class. The disparity is REAL.)

Well, I just got back from my most recent trip where they really stepped the penny pinching up a notch. My itinerary consisted of three separate flights and took over 26 hours to get from Big Asian City to Big European City. I arrived beyond jetlagged and all but crawled to my appoinments. Over a dinner, my boss mentioned how we could further cut costs next trip by flying me to a smaller airport a few towns over and taking a train for a few hours (!!). All to save a few hundred dollars on flights. This is bananas, right? I’m worried I’ve let this go on for so long that it’s beyond repair. How much can I push back on this? It’s exhausting and demoralizing to be the butt of all this stingy penny pinching from a company that is financially doing very well.

Yes, this is bananas. Especially when your boss is flying direct in business class, but it would bananas even if she weren’t.

Decent companies normally recognize that it’s in their interest to have employees arrive at their business destinations reasonably rested and refreshed — that’s why they’ll often approve business class for flights over X hours, try to find direct flights, etc. Your company is doing the opposite of that and ensuring you’ll arrive as worn out as possible.

I would say this to your boss: “I am finding that on these long-haul trips with stopovers in the middle, I’m arriving worn out and fatigued, when I want to be at my best for the work I’m there to do. I know you usually fly direct and I’d like to begin doing that as well, since I think I’ll be more productive when I arrive and it will make these trips easier to continue doing in the long-term.”

And if your boss ever suggests adding extra hours to an already long trip just to save a few hundred dollars, you can say, “That trip is already so long and exhausting as it is that I don’t think that’s practical. I’d strongly prefer to leave it as is — or shorten it.” Or, “I don’t think that’s something I could do, given how long and wearying the trip already is.”

You get to stand up for yourself (and for reasonable business practices) in something like this.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My company’s branded clothing doesn’t fit everyone

I work for a smallish company (about 100 employees) in the U.S. It’s got a great culture based on mutual respect, teamwork, openness, and fun. I’ve been here about 1.5 years in a marketing role, which means I’ve been to a couple of trade shows as staff at our company booth. Most booth personnel wear company shirts, but not all. I’m a plus-size woman. There were no company shirts that fit me, so I’ve always been one of the people wearing my own (business appropriate) clothing at shows. No one commented, and everything seemed A-OK.

But now the company is getting ready to order two different items of company-branded clothing over the next year (I know this because marketing is part of the gift planning /ordering process, although I’m not personally responsible for any of it). One is a hoodie, one is a polo shirt. I’ve looked at the polo shirt online and can see already that it doesn’t come in a size that will fit me. I would guess that 2-5 other people in the company (both male and female) might also have this size problem.

Should I bring up this issue to the people making the gift decisions? I feel awkward about (1) drawing attention to my size in a conversation with coworkers/bosses, and then (2) drawing attention to other employees’ bodies. I also worry about (3) making my coworkers feel bad that they were being “size-ist” and exclusionary in their planning. They are all lovely, kind people and I’m sure it’s just a lack of awareness.

I think they could pick different versions of these clothing items that include extended sizing. But I hesitate to muck up the process, since specific styles and brands have already been looked at, samples ordered, and approved by stakeholders and decision makers.

In my personal life, I’m an outspoken ally for diverse populations of every kind, including advocating for body positivity/health at any size. However “fat” is one area where a lot of people in our society still feel comfortable criticizing, making cruel jokes, and shaming people. My weight is just soooo not an issue I ever wanted to have to address head-on at work, or be singling out fellow employees of size. I pride myself on being fit and active, I’m well-groomed, and dress carefully to be professional and polished. So this situation is particularly disheartening, as if all my efforts don’t count, because when it comes right down to it, I still don’t fit in (literally and metaphorically). I fear I might even well up with tears if I have to discuss this with people. How can I address this in a way that is the least excruciating for myself and others?

Be matter-of-fact about it! You don’t need to talk about anyone’s body in doing this. You could just say, “I wanted to ask if we could order items that come in extended sizing, so we’re covering a wider range of sizes and everyone here can participate.” If you’re comfortable with it, you could add, “In the past, none of our branded items have fit me and I’d love to be able too wear them” — but you can leave that off if you want. If you have access to wherever they’re ordering from, you could also suggest a couple of items that do come in extended sizing, so they’re clear on the options.

Also, if this feels too awkward to do in person, it’s perfectly okay to use email for this! In fact, it might even be better since that way they don’t have to respond on the spot.

And you’ll be doing a good deed by doing this. They may not realize they’ve been excluding people, and may be glad for the opportunity to remedy that.

3. I get stuck answering new hires’ very basic onboarding questions

I started working at a nonprofit last year and while my title is officially chief of staff I also help with HR, mostly with new employees’ onboarding process. I’m supposed to get them set up — ask for the documents to send to our accountants, show them the office space, and answer general questions. Lately as we have been hiring young people (my own age, and I’m 27), they keep asking very basic questions that I feel they should already know. I’m not sure if I’m wrong but I do feel like explaining what an I9 or W9 is is a waste of my time. Yesterday, a consultant was mad because the wire transfer we sent bounced since she gave us the wrong routing number. She said that she did not know the diference between receiveing a wire transfer and a deposit. Additionally, a new consultant coming from abroad called me, by suggestion of my direct boss, to ask how I got my visa status sorted and set up my bank account and file taxes.

I’m helpful most of the time, even offering for example to help set up the HDMI cable to use a screen for a presentation or setting up the calendar on employees’ phones but when I started working I hired an accountant to help me with these kind of things and I feel that they could do the same. My role is pretty flexible but I’m overloaded as is and my direct boss is very open to my feedback. Should I be more patient and accommodating? How can I bring this up without sounding lazy/grumpy? Maybe I could get a raise out of this expertise that I’ve built? (This last one particularly for international consultants.)

This stuff is annoying but pretty minor; it’s not raise territory.

If you’re hiring young people, they’re going to have questions about I9s and W9s and so forth. That’s how it goes. Most people do not hire accountants when they start working; you were an outlier there. So if your organization wants to continue hiring young people, you should assume this will come up in the onboarding for some of them. If it’s happening a lot, consider writing a Q&A for the most common questions you’re getting. That way, you can write down answers once and be done with a lot of it going forward.

You also might consider training someone more junior to answer these questions and to help new hires with things like setting up calendars on their phones — that’s generally not something you should be doing at the chief of staff level, especially since you’re already overloaded. (Generally, you want work to flow down to the lowest-level person who can do it well, so that your time is freed up for work that only you can do. And I’m sure someone else there is capable of helping people set up their phones!)

The call for visa advice sounds like a one-time thing, and that’s just about being helpful to a colleague. If it starts happening a lot, you can try the Q&A route there too, or you can tell your boss, “I was glad to help Jane and Bob when they had visa questions, but now I’m getting so many that it’s interfering with my work — so going forward, I’d rather not be the point person for visa questions.”

4. Professional sitting positions aren’t comfortable for me

I have a bit of a strange question. I’m a soon-to-be grad with plenty of internship experience in a real office. So I consider myself fairly well abreast of professional conduct standards. I’m a good worker and I dress professionally and neatly.

Here’s what I am wrestling with: I struggle to maintain a “professional”/normal sitting position for hours on end. For whatever reason, just sitting down normally, back straight with both feet on the ground or one leg crossed gets extremely uncomfortable for me if it’s for extended periods of time. It’s just like having an itch you need to scratch, or something.

I tend to mix it up by folding my lower legs in under my thighs (this does require the removal of shoes though I don’t do it if my feet are at all sweaty) or sitting criss cross applesauce if I’m wearing the right bottoms and my chair allows it, for a few minutes at a time. This relieves this urge. How bad is this habit and how hard should I work to kick it? I’m a “weird sitter” in most parts of my life (fold knees up against the seat ahead on the bus, for example) so it’s just what I’m used to doing. FYI, the field I am looking to go into is typically on the business casual side in the office, if that means anything. Thanks for indulging me with this weirdness.

There are some offices where this wouldn’t be a thing at all, and others where it would look unprofessional/overly unbuttoned, and would read as more “young” than ideal. So you’ve got to know your office environment on this one — but it’s tricky because it’s not the kind of thing where you can just look to whether others are doing it (because it could be fine even if no one else does it).

However, even in the offices where it wouldn’t normally be an issue, it will still likely look off if you do it in a meeting with your boss, clients, or other VIPs. Given that, it’s probably useful to see if you can find other positions that give you physical relief. If you really can’t, it might make sense to give  your boss a heads-up (“I need to be in this position to avoid physical pain at times”) just so she has context and doesn’t draw weird conclusions.

5. Freezing my eggs and work

I’m in my mid-30s and partnered, but not yet ready to have children. I’ve nearly decided to start the process to freeze my eggs. It is similar to IVF: I would be expected to take a high dose of hormones for about two weeks, followed by day surgery, and a few days of sick leave to recuperate. The hormone shots may cause some adverse side effects, I won’t know until I begin.

I’m in a good position at work: I have the trust of my manager, and I’m on the cusp of being promoted. My manager is generally okay with the occasional medical appointment during the day. However, I worry that springing 2-3 weeks of frequent medical appointments and then leave that the procedure requires may raise their suspicions that I am trying to get pregnant, or that I have a terrible disease, and that this perception would somehow impact my chances for advancement at work.

My boss does not strike me as one to discriminate based on pregnancy or illness, but I’m still worried about the chance it may happen anyway, if not from them, from the organization. Is there a veiled way I could discuss the upcoming procedure and time off to alleviate their potential worries short of letting them know I’m freezing my eggs, which seems quite personal to share with my manager?

“I have a minor medical thing that I need to take care of, which means I’m going to have some doctor’s appointments over the next few weeks and a few days of sick leave toward the end. I wanted to give you a heads-up about it all at once rather than piecemeal.” If your boss expresses concern or asks what’s going on, you can say, “It’s nothing to worry about! Just something I need to get taken care of.”

Truly, that’s it. There are lots of minor medical (or even dental) things that could fit that description, and it’s unlikely your boss is going to assume you’re trying to get pregnant, especially since we’re only talking about a month or so here. Good luck!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 685 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, your company is being penny-wise and pound foolish. I assume they’re not paying you during your travel time, or they’ve decided that nickel and diming your travel methods is somehow worth the offset of you being exhausted, overworked, and under-rested. (But obviously this is Not Ok for your boss. Cue side-eye.)

    I think it’s worth pushing back, but given how ridiculous their attempts to save money are, it’s worth having a Plan B if they refuse to budge on this. For example, if you recommend they fly you in a day early to allow you to acclimate, they may get a better picture of the trade-offs of their approach. And if they continue to insist on driving down costs by transferring all the costs and worst parts of business travel to you, then that’s important information for you to have as you assess whether it makes sense to continue to run yourself down this way. YMMV, but in my limited experience, the policies you’re describing are not common for functional/sustainable employers (including NGOs) with an inter-continental clientele.

    1. Mid*

      I also wonder how much money they’re really saving. I’d hope that they pay for food and expenses during travel. One meal at an airport can easily hit $40 where it would be $20 elsewhere. If they’re saving $200 on tickets, but having to pay for $180 in meal expenses, or additional nights in a hotel room, or overtime pay, or whatever else, I can’t see the cost difference being all that great.

      Of course, the bigger issue is the poor treatment of their employee. I wonder if the boss has any awareness of how strenuous these trips are, seeing as how the boss gets direct flights.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Exactly this. I used to work somewhere that tried to insist we stayed in the cheapest place in the city for a conference, rather than walking distance, until I pointed out that having to take taxis between the crappy B&B and the conference twice a day would add up, not to mention the 20 mins each way travel they’d be paying for at my salary rates, where I was doing nothing. It was ridiculous.

      2. Daisy*

        I’ve taken the 26 hour, multiple change route from Tokyo to London once before, rather than the 8 hour direct. It was about £400 difference, so quite a bit. Definitely wasn’t worth it though. I bought it as one ticket but it was so budget that it was more like three separate flights, so you had to pick up your bags twice and go through Chinese security twice. We were standing at security for two hours in the middle of the night while they called over a dozen different people to inspect our passports because they couldn’t work out why anyone would be going this way unless as some sneaky way to get into China. Never again!

        1. NothingIsLittle*

          Just went to South Africa via Qatar and flying the Qatar-to-US leg back was awful. We went through security THREE times in Qatar over an 80-minute layover, immediately after landing, to enter the terminal building, and then at the gate to the flight (Where water that had been bought in the airport, but that hadn’t been security sealed, couldn’t be brought on!). I have a disability that makes walking difficult and I almost missed my connecting flight! I’ve been flying my whole life and I’ve never before had to be security checked at the gate or more than once in the same airport (except during health scares where there was a second level of infection security).

          I would strongly recommend being incredibly choosy about the airports you fly through if you can help it!

          1. DCR*

            The security check at the gate isn’t because of Qatar. It is very, very common for flights to the US to have last-minute TSA checks at the gate. In fact, I can only remember one flight (out of dozens) I’ve taken to the US that didn’t have that, and it was from London.

            1. DCR*

              Oh, and I meant to mention. The US bans anyone bringing liquids on to flights that are going to the US. It sucks, but you can’t pick up water at the airport if you were than boarding a flight to the US because you have to throw it out. (As opposed to flights within the US, where are your fine buying something after security).

              I always assumed this was because the US doesn’t trust the security measures in other countries

              1. NothingIsLittle*

                I wonder when that started? I took a flight two years ago back from the Netherlands and there was no security check at the gate. I still would recommend checking out the airports you’re flying through, since larger airports or those with a larger number of security measures will require more time during a layover.

              2. Dankar*

                I don’t believe Qatar is one of these locations, but there are also a few airports where you can go through US customs prior to boarding your flight rather than once you arrive in-country. It’s called border pre-clearance and can also take a decent amount of time to wend your way through.

                I’ve had additional security checks at the gate in London and Frankfurt, though the latter flight was closer to 9/11, when we were still operating on the color-coded panic scale.

                1. Natatat*

                  Yep, Canada (or at least Vancouver’s airport) has US Customs/border in the Vancouver airport when flying to the US. Quite handy.

              3. skunklet*

                That info is not correct for all US bound flights. Coming back from LHR the MOnday before last, I certainly had my water bottle that I filled post Security and myself and the 100 others w/water bottles on the plane didn’t have issues.

              4. Ace in the Hole*

                This is definitely not a universal thing. When I’ve flown back to the US from Copenhagen there was no last minute security checks, and nothing to stop you from buying or filling a water bottle to bring on the plane after security.

              5. Hamstring Disturbance*

                This is not true, at least, not for all flights to the US. I flew Tokyo to Los Angeles less than 2 months ago with a gigantic water bottle obtained after security. There was no security check at the gate; nobody cared at all.

              6. Yorick*

                You can buy liquids at the airport (after going through security) and bring them into a US flight. But I guess that doesn’t work when there is security right at the gate.

              7. LunaLena*

                @DCR and NothingIsLittle – the liquid ban started in 2006, after an attempted terrorist attack that involved bringing liquid explosives on board, disguised as drinks, was thwarted by the UK police. There was an all-out liquid ban for a while, but it’s relaxed a bit since then and now small amounts of liquids are allowed on US domestic flights.

                It’s not that “US doesn’t trust the security measures in other countries,” most of the security measures are just security theater to make people feel safe. Countless experiments have shown that it really doesn’t do much to deter terrorists (there’s a great Adam Ruins Everything episode about it), but people feel better because it at least looks like the government is doing something to combat terrorism, even if it is a case of closing the barn door after the horse escaped. 9/11 changed a lot of things about air travel because people were afraid to fly after that, and it kind of became the rallying cry for all the changes that came afterwards.

                1. LJay*

                  On US domestic flights really any amount of liquid is permitted as long as it is purchased in the airport after clearing through the TSA lines.

                2. NothingIsLittle*

                  Oh, I’ve known about the liquid ban! I fly every year because I live far away from my family, and prior to 2009, my family vacationed out of the country every summer. (Not mega-wealthy, but saved in other places until the crash.) I’d just never before had a secondary security check at the actual gate to the flight which banned things that had been bought duty-free.

                3. JSPA*

                  Some airports make it clear that duty free can be brought onboard by the duty free agents, but not used in the airport then carried on, open. Likely has to do with alcohol regulations and concession agreements (?) as well as duty free regulations, as it’s a bit variable by airp0rt.

              8. SV ME*

                It’s not every airport that the US bans bringing liquids on inbound flights. Certain airports meet the US requirements for security and therefore don’t need the gate checks (EU airports, mostly). Inbound flights from South America and Asia are notorious for gate checks.

                1. HereForKnowledge*

                  I’ve had extra gate checks in The Netherlands & at Heathrow. My favorite, though, was right at boarding for a flight from Chicago to Detroit. They’ve never confiscated water.

              9. Ra94*

                I fly regularly from London Heathrow and Gatwick to the US, and have never been prohibited from bringing liquids purchased at the airport. (They do sometimes check passports again at the entrance to the gate.) Same with flights from Rome, Paris, and Berlin to the US. I think your info might be off!

              10. Patricia*

                A trick to this: bring an empty reusable water bottle through security. Airports will just about always have plenty of water fountains, and sometimes even specific refilling stations.

          2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            When I flew from Aruba back to the states there were five different security checks we had to go through to get to our departure lounge. It was absolutely bizarre – just a long maze of hallways and security check and more hallways then some shops, then more security checks. It took us over an hour to get through them all. And they weren’t the same, they all were set up differently. We dropped our luggage off at one check, then met back up with it later on, took it through another check and then dropped it off again.

          3. CubeFarmer*

            I flew from Germany to the US last month: SEVEN passport checks before we boarded. This wasn’t a transfer flight, this was direct, DUS to JFK.

            1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

              @CubeFarmer I fly to/from Germany work sometimes and only once have I even been secondary screened at the regular security checkpoint and never at the gate! That is just unlucky.

          4. Artemesia*

            I have often had gate security at European airports for flights to the US i.e. regular security after emigration and then another security check into the waiting area for the flight.

          5. Mine Own Telemachus*

            I had that happen in Brussels, but it was right after the attempted bombing of a plane on Christmas 2009. We went through security upon getting off our flight, and then had to go through security searches of our hand luggage at the gate for our connection (to the US). Every flight going to the US underwent a search, which was extensive (they took everything out of my carry on and laid it out on a table).

          6. Anonymous Spartacus*

            At Munich there is a second security check for North America-bound flights.

      3. Mama Bear*

        I had this thought, too. Even if you are salary, what is your hourly breakdown? How much are they wasting by paying you to be sitting in an airport instead of at the venue? How much productivity is lost when you aren’t somewhere with good wifi to handle pre-meeting concerns? I would come at it from that angle as well. If they are worried about money, and it costs $600 of your time, are they saving anything? Also, each of those transfers incurs the risk of missing a connection or lost baggage, or any other number of problems. It is not just getting A to B. I do like the OP’s thought of mentioning that this lengthy travel just isn’t conducive to the OP being at their best for these presumably important meetings. That’s just bad business. Either they need to cut back on the length of travel itself, or give OP an extra day of travel time for contingencies and preparation.

        Also, if the big boss is a man and OP is a woman, he may not be thinking of things like sketchy neighborhoods. Safety is something women often need to consider when traveling alone – is this little airport or train station or the time of arrival going to impact her safety?

      4. Emily K*

        Yes, luckily my employer has reasonably generous policies, but I’m definitely a penny-pincher when it comes to personal travel so I’ve done the math, and almost always, taking the cheaper flight option results in additional food/hotel/ground transportation costs that cancel out the savings.

        And that’s before we even consider that people’s time itself has a value – always, but especially in an employment context! I like to frame it this way when talking about the best use of my time with my higher-ups. I’m salaried, but I can convert it to a roughly equivalent hourly wage based on my typical schedule, and ask my boss, “Since you pay me roughly $50/hour for my time, do you want me to spend $100 of time manually transcribing this audio file, or should we just purchase the $25 tool that will generate a transcript that only needs 5-10 minutes of light editing?”

          1. Emily K*

            We use Trint, which you can either pay $15 per hour of recorded material you upload, or there are some monthly plans that discount that rate a little bit if you have a steady volume of files that need transcribing, to as low as $12/hour if you upload 10 hours of material a month. There are also some extra features available when you’re on one of the monthly plans.

      5. GreenDoor*

        There’s also the opportunity cost. If OP arrives too tired or “out of it” to handle buisness properly, they might miss a key negotiation point or forget to offer a key deal sweetener or even forgets a VIP’s name, that could sour an important deal.

        Plus the reputational cost. If OP is arriving to meetings looking like death warmed over or is nodding off during discussions or is just not on their A-game, that will leave a negative image and reflect badly on their company. I would bring things like this up during the push back. Express worry that things like this have happened or could likely happen. Really detail the potential impact *on the work* and *on the relationship*.

    2. Nephron*

      I agree with the asking to be flown in a day early. You should also not be available for right after either flight and possibly during those 26 hours of flight. Pull back from everything you are doing that makes this convenient: do not pack snacks if you are traveling for 26 hours your company can pay for 4 or 5 fresh meals and the cost of airport snacks. You are traveling for 26 hours so you cannot maintain control of a large personal bag, you are now checking a bag or 2 and only have a small personal bag of what is essential. If they need to contact you during that time use your company phone in whatever exotic location they have dumped in for a 4 hour layover and they can discover what roaming charges might occur.

      If your zig-zag across Europe and Asia is delayed and eats up a layover but you could catch that flight if you run, do not run. If they wanted you to reach your destination on time they would not have had multiple layovers. If they fly you into the airport that needs a train do not run to catch the train, if you end up being an hour late because you missed the train that is the cost they get to eat for their poor decisions and planning.

        1. Adlib*

          Yeah, this is amazing.

          I don’t travel internationally very often, but the one time I flew from my home to Australia, it was the most exhausting trip ever (even with premium economy seating). I can’t imagine someone nickel and diming long distance travel this way.

          1. Zephy*

            I studied abroad for a semester in college, and the airfare I could afford involved three layovers going there, four coming back. My first return flight departed about 3 AM local time and I was flying west for about 26 hours. I can’t imagine going through all that and being in a state to do any kind of work.

          2. Autumnheart*

            Especially when they throw those rules out for the boss. Couldn’t be a clearer message of “Well, the boss’s time and well-being are important, but yours aren’t.”

      1. Jasnah*

        I agree that pointing out the ways this zigzag path can actually cost the company.

        I need to fly in a day early so I can catch up on sleep after a 26 hour flight, so I’ll be leaving Friday instead of on the weekend.
        I will need $$ for extra luggage (usually IME you get 2+purse but suddenly my 1 bag will be overweight)
        I need an extra $$ amount for meals in the 3 airports I will be visiting.
        I will need $$ for a visa on arrival, and also $$ for internet access (make them shell out for Gmail access in China, I would love to see them figure that out).
        I will need $$ for an international phone plan that covers all 4 countries I will be traveling in.
        I will need $$ for a private taxi from my house to the airport to the hotel, and $$ for tips, and $$ for room service because I can’t possibly go out to find food after a long journey like that.

        Compare that price and hassle to boss’s business class trip and see if it’s really worth it!

        1. Róisín*

          I very nearly did a spittake at the “GMail in China” thing.

          My very first college roommate was a Chinese exchange student, and the setup of the room involved one large built-in desk with two chairs and drawers in the middle. I got very used to my studies being interrupted by my darling roommate turning to me and saying “so, in China…” and what followed was always fascinating. My favorite was the time she explained how in China she set her laptop to think it was in the US so she could access Facebook, and now in the US she was setting her laptop to think it was in China. Apparently China has free online access to (presumably censored versions of) a lot of popular sitcoms, and she was missing her shows! (Big Bang Theory was a common one in our room.)

        2. MK*

          I doubt most of these demands would fly in a company that thinks 26-hour travel is reasonable.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yes, I’ve been wondering, if this company is that ridiculously stingy, are they even paying for meals, for travel time? This is not normal, OP, and you probably should just start looking for a better job. Which would be most of them, as most companies don’t pull this crap.

            1. Lance*

              Oh, I’m sure the company is paying for any meals and such needed for the trip… for the boss. For the OP? I wouldn’t count on it at all, not if they think adding even more to their trip, especially at this point, is a remotely decent idea. Surely they had to have noticed how exhausted OP already was from this last ridiculous trip, at least a little?

            2. LJay*

              Yeah, my company is generally not too stingy with travel, but generally we are on per diem for travel so they couldn’t care less that our allotted amount goes a lot further when we’re not stuck in an unreasonable airport paying $15 for a sad sandwich and $3 for a soda.

      2. Scarlet2*


        The (very high) risk of missing a connecting flight jumped out at me too. Flights get delayed on a regular basis and the more layovers you have, the higher the risk of arriving on site very late and missing appointments (or even completely messing your schedule).
        Honestly, I’d start looking for a new job asap. It looks like a company that doesn’t have their priorities straight. I wonder what else they’re trying to “save” on.
        If it were a bigger company, I think it would be worth it to try and go directly to the grandboss and state your case, but since it’s so small, I’m guessing the penny-pinching boss is also the grandboss.

        1. SAN*

          Given Big European Cities were mentioned, two airports (at a minimum) are on my avoid for connections if vaguely possible – LHR and CDG. The risk of the entire trip blowing up is high, especially in the winter. So yes, saving 100 for 3 connections is one of the silliest ideas i’ve heard.

          1. Proxima Centauri*

            We are located in a mid size US city, with our HQ in a mid-size European city. No direct flight, so you have to connect. Our travel system always wants us to do the transfer at CDG because it’s cheaper. I refuse, note in the system I refuse to transfer at CDG. No one has ever called me on it, because we’re sensible.

            I usually do Shippol, and never had an issue.

            1. Artemesia*

              For years on our annual European trip I would fly into wherever and fly out of Schiphol avoiding CDG with an nice 3 night stay in Amsterdam at the end of the trip. Amsterdam is a wonderful 3 night city and the airport is so much better run than CDG where I have half a dozen horror stories.

              1. Valkyrie*

                CDG is airport hell and I would never layover there again. Shippol has always been pretty good to me.

                1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                  YES YES YES.

                  Our US office is in a large US city and our headquarters is in Paris. Even flying direct, even knowing Paris is my end point, I want to cry thinking about flying into/out of CDG. It truly is an armpit of an airport.

                2. Scarlet2*

                  Seconding everyone on CDG. Worst airport I’ve ever been to (and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t passionately hate it).
                  Schipol is probably my favourite of all the large European airports I’ve been to.

                3. JSPA*

                  Schipol is wonderful. I actually do also appreciate the sheer “time warp to 70’s futurism” that’s CDG–and there’s something essentially french about it, that puts me in the right frame of mind, a bit like a real life Jaques Tati film–but only as an end point.

          2. TPS Cover Sheet*

            I have my doubts on Frankfurt as well. It is organized, but its such a big hub if something gets messed up in the scheduling and you lose your slot… flap-flap-flap lounge as I called it…. dozing off and flap-flap-flap… still delayed… flap-flap-flap…

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I’d be concerned that, if the LW gets stranded due to problems clearing customs/immigration (it happens, especially since we’re in a geopolitical climate where Countries Are Being Petty Towards Each Other), they wouldn’t provide any assistance in getting home.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “…that is the cost they get to eat for their poor decisions and planning.”


      4. Observer*

        I mostly agree with you. But don’t shoot yourself in the foot. For instance, not packing snacks is a bad idea – not because you necessarily want to save money but because you can’t always get food in the airport. Period. Given the way the OP is being forced to travel there is no doubt that they are going to be in airports during hours where a lot of the places that sell food are closed. And you also can bet that there are going to be situations where your food order on the flight was messed up, too. BTDT.

        So, OP do not do anything to make this easier and cheaper for your employer. But don’t go so far as to make things worse for you.

        And, do NOT do ANY work whatsoever on the journey!

      5. Phony Genius*

        This isn’t a bad idea. I’d be tempted to take it to its logical conclusion by renting a car and driving across Eurasia.

        1. TPS Cover Sheet*

          Naah, take the Trans-Siberian Express… ”but you told me to take the train”

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I’m wondering if blunt honesty isn’t warranted.
      “This isn’t in line with industry standards”
      “I’m sorry, but this kind of travel isn’t sustainable”
      “I’m arriving so beat up that I can’t focus on the job. We aren’t saving money if I do a bad job or make mistakes due to exhaustion”
      “My body is telling me that I can’t do this anymore in this way”.

      For the 26 hour flight: “The last time my travel time was 15 hours longer than a direct flight. That’s a waste of resources.”
      Are they paying you by the hour? Becaue I would multiply my hourly rate by 15 and compare that to the so-called savings they claim.

      1. Michaela*

        I agree with this – just be blunt.

        One of my colleagues in a similar scenario once and told his boss that if our company was in such financial trouble that he needed to do this, then it wasn’t worth him going. They never tried putting him on multiple flights to save money again.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I would only want someone to take multiple flights if there was a business thing in each location. To go from A to B? All the nope. And um…anything over about 3-4 hours would not be sardine class. Costs more? Well that’s business.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This; I don’t mind flying coach if it’s four hours or less, but anything over that, especially overseas? I want more room. Especially if I’m expected to work once I arrive.

      2. Rich*

        I think this is exactly right. Employees that they invest in enough to send around the world several times a year are not likely to be low-value, low-dollar employees. This is simple and direct.

        I spent a long time as a traveling consultant, and had similar disputes with corporate travel policies. “We’re losing at least one day of productive work with every extended travel day — so saving $100 on a round trip costs us X hundred dollars because I’m late/a zombie / unable to effectively prepare for these meetings because you’re sending me on the back of a donkey rather than via business appropriate travel in line with professional standards. Do you really want me sitting in a train station for an extra day instead of working on Y?”.

        This sort of discussion has been successful for me more than once in getting travel expectations changed. It’s _never_ effective with anybody in a support role who may actually be booking your terrible travel, as they’re not in a position to change it. This is only viable directly with the boss. And you have to be reasonable with your ask — which you clearly are. Asking for more direct flights and not slapstick-level complications for minor savings is super reasonable. Asking for business/first class travel, you need a lot of pull and a lot of productivity to make that sale.

        I’ve also found it’s OK to let your frustration show here — kind of an “I’m working really hard to be reasonable in the face of something that is obviously wrong and I can’t believe we have to have this conversation” tone.

        1. Blossom*

          Exactly this! They’re paying you to shuffle around an airport when you could be doing valuable work. Do the travel savings outweigh what your daily pay works out as? It sounds like a very inefficient use of your time, which they should be concerned about if they’re so keen on saving money!

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, I don’t think people who make these inane policies think that far ahead or think about the actual work time that’s inevitably lost due to travel.

            1. Tib*

              Except that it does sound as though the boss thinks it’s a great idea to do this to the OP, and the boss ostensibly would be thinking about externalities.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                Right, but I’m saying, he clearly hasn’t thought it through beyond, “Great, we’ll save $200!”

              2. Marthooh*

                You’d have to get the boss on your side: “As you know, Bob, work travel can be exhausting for us ordinary folks who don’t own private jets, so an extra half-day of travel is like adding a full working day to my schedule.”

              3. BerkeleyFarm*

                The boss should try it himself if he thinks it’s such a great idea. Leadership by example and all that.

        2. Artemesia*

          On some airlines, premium economy is actually far better than coach, a bit like business used to be. This is particularly true on American Airlines — At minimum anyone on a very long flight should be booked into premium economy.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “…15 hours longer than a direct flight.”

        Which is to say more than twice as long. Completely ridiculous!

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Honestly I think I might just flatly refuse at this point. Point blank, “I will do nothing of the kind”. What the OP described is beyond ridiculous. I thought academia was ridiculous with some of their travel cost saving policies, but this goes way beyond that. It really sounds like if the OP doesn’t speak up and speak up bluntly and clearly, the boss will just keep happily rolling along flying business class direct while the OP is forced to hitchhike to meetings.

      5. Data Analyst*

        Agreed. Starting more diplomatically/hesitantly than this = greater risk of getting steamrolled, so it’s a good time to be exactly this blunt. I might also ask “why have you chosen to take direct flights?” and if they cite the need to be well rested, etc. you can say “great, then you understand why I can’t spend 26 hours in transit. Thanks!”

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      I have yet to fly as long a distance as OP had for work, and I still fly into whatever destination I’m going to a day early. The stress of travel for me is through the roof (thanks, OCD), so I absolutely need at least a half day of rest before I can get into work mode. OP’s schedule as is sounds nightmarish to me, so she definitely needs to get in ahead of these meetings to be at her best, otherwise, the boss is wasting money sending her in the first place.

      And I too am side-eying the boss here. If he’s so concerned about cutting costs, he can fly coach and take multiple layovers his damn self. I’m annoyed that my new company will only allow us to expense economy seats on flights less than six hours, but at least that’s an across the board mandate – my boss and grandboss, a director and senior director respectively, both have to have crap seats too when traveling short distances. I just don’t think it helps employee morale to require something like this that you wouldn’t even do.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        My university allows one day for domestic and two for international travel (on both ends). Having to fly in the day of is ridiculous to me.

      2. Moray*

        I wonder if boss was promoted to his position within the company, and views his travel–sane, comfortable–as a perk of the promotion.

        He may actually be trying to maintain the disparity so that it’s part of his benefits but not the LW’s, because he earned the luxury and LW (in his mind) has not.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          That’s a good question and given everything I’ve read here, sadly not out of the realm of possibility.

        2. Clorinda*

          Well then, boss can travel business class and LW can travel coach ON THE SAME &%#!!#$%% FLIGHT so LW doesn’t have to travel an extra day by mule cart or whatever. That way, LW gets to live in Sanity World and boss gets his/her perks.

        3. ClashRunner*

          That was my old boss’s attitude. “I earned the right to this, how dare you mere peon expect parity or God forbid accept a free seat upgrade!”

    5. AcademiaNut*

      I work for academia *and* the government, where we aren’t allowed to book business class (or even economy+), have regulations about which carriers we can use, fixed travel budgets, and do regular Asia/Europe or Asia/NA trips, and we’re not expected to put up nonsense like this!

      I agree with flying out a day early as a backup suggestion. I would normally arrive the day before the meetings start, but I’d go an extra day early after a particularly grueling flight. And after coming home, a day off work (not counted as PTO) to recuperate.

      Can you manage to fall asleep in a meeting with clients? That might convince them.

      1. Dan*

        I work for a non-profit, quasi-government agency and we have similar restrictions. Our corporate travel systems “suggests” flights, but there’s no “the talk” if you pick something else. I had a 3-hour domestic flight awhile back, and the non-stop was like a $1,000 whereas connections where in the $300 range. I asked my boss what to do. He was like f it, your travel time is paid, and at the end of the day, there isn’t a whole lot of savings so go ahead with the non-stop.

        Hotels OTOH are a bit different. For whatever reason, they really, really want you to book a government per diem rate, and if you book something else, you need a VP sign off. Interestingly, most of my travel is conference related, and one of the exceptions is “conference travel.” I went recently with some co-workers who were less experienced, and they thought they had to really stick within the per diem rate. So they had rental car and parking expenses, which holy crap weren’t cheap.

        My VP approved my over-per-diem rate without saying so much as a word to me.

        1. Sally*

          When I had to travel to NYC, the hotels in Manhattan were ALL over the allowed rate. I booked the most convenient, cheapest one I could find (meaning, no, I’m not going to stay in Queens or New Jersey when my work is in midtown Manhattan). On the expense form, in the “reason for exceeding the hotel rate” field, I put “New York City.” I never had a problem with the expense being approved.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            The government rates for Manhattan are a complete joke. When I used to travel there my choices were either eating fast food for every meal or spending out of pocket because the per diem is just completely unreasonable.

          2. Holly*

            Just so you’re aware, there are parts of Queens that are quicker to midtown Manhattan (15 minutes commute) than some other parts of Manhattan! That said, your company should be approving the expense of a hotel in midtown if that’s where you’re traveling.

      2. Scarlet2*

        I’m just hoping that if they let LW arrive a day early, they don’t expect them to sleep in a hostel dorm or on the office floor…

      3. kittymommy*

        I book government travel and while we don’t do international travel that much it is always assumed we will book direct whenever possible, and while we do book economy class if I can get a better deal booking a higher class of seating when factoring in checked bags it’s totally fine.

    6. Djuna*

      I really, really hope OP1 is being paid for travel time, but if (as you suspect) they’re not, they need to start insisting on it. That or reclaiming it as time off that doesn’t come out of PTO. I prefer to fly on weekends for work and no-one has ever batted an eye about the extra night(s) in a hotel or me reclaiming travel time afterwards.

      The extent to which the OP is being robbed of time speaks of terrible insecurity on the boss’s part: they seem intent on marking an extreme gulf between the value of their time (business and personal) and that of their employee. And then to talk about finding more ways to make the employee’s trip cheaper and more arduous?! That just seems punitive. Boss needs to get over their dang self, and if they won’t, OP1 needs to move on to a company where travel is treated more reasonably (or just, as a baseline, humanely).

    7. Bob*

      Just chiming in here to agree with everyone. OP1, please make a fuss about this. Point out that this is wildly outside of business norms. Personally, I would try to frame this as: we should have a travel policy in place, and come up with suggestions which everyone should follow.

      I’ve worked in big companies, and have anecdotally heard of even airline (!) CEO’s who make a point of following the travel policy rules. So if its a short flight, they are sitting in the middle seat of economy like everybody else…

      Bonus things to include in the travel policy, weekend travel gets compensated as additional PTO days.

    8. TPS Cover Sheet*

      I would bet the ticket price and other expenses and salary comes off different ledger entries so are not in the same buddget so its a case of ”easy savings” whereas the total dips more into red. But you need to have the audacity to audit the accounts and prove your point. If they heed the point… that is a different question.

      What surprises me is the travel between CityA and CityB – is it absolutely necessary? A Webex link or a Google meetup and a few webcams is what it takes these days… companies have global board meetings this way even. Yeah, back in the day ”videoconferencing” was expensive and those auditoriums were an investment that never paid itself back, but that was the phase of technology when the telecoms companies squeezed their golden geese to death for quick profits.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I don’t think it is personally. Teleconferencing is a thing and this company needs to seriously consider going this route if the boss is going to be this damn cheap.

      1. Polymer Phil*

        This is usually the cause of penny-wise/dollar-foolish company policies. They save $100 on a night in a hotel by expecting you to get up at 2 AM to catch a 5 AM flight that’ll get you to your meeting just in the nick of time, but the accounting spreadsheet doesn’t show the cost of the times when someone missed a meeting after a delayed flight, or showed up in a zombied state and was unproductive.

        1. Antilles*

          Exactly. The costs that show up on the accounting ledger are easy to track and control so *that’s* what gets the focus. The unseen costs are often greater but can’t be clearly identified, so they get ignored.

    9. yala*

      ” For example, if you recommend they fly you in a day early to allow you to acclimate, they may get a better picture of the trade-offs of their approach. ”

      That was my thought. OP could potentially offer that as a solution. “I think if it’s going to be a 20-hour flight, I should get in a day early to acclimate.” And then they can decide if they want to pay for hotel/meals/transportation for a whole additional day, or if they just want to pay for decent travel accommodations for their employee.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        No, not ‘I should get in a day early…’ but ‘I will NEED to get in a day early to acclimatize/recover’.

    10. Phony Genius*

      I read this as your boss openly told you over dinner that the company could save even more money by treating you even worse. The fact that they were comfortable enough to say this to you should tell you something about whether you should want to continue working there.

      This scenario reminds me of a British Airways commercial from the 1980’s where a company executive is going to visit a regional office to make changes. The regional office does not want this, so they try to sabotage him by booking him on an overnight flight in business class, not first class, hoping the lousy flight will make him too tired and hungry to do his job effectively. In the end, it doesn’t work, since the point of the ad is to make business class look good and comfortable.

        1. alphabet soup*

          Same here. My immediate thought was, “are they *trying* to get you to quit???”

          1. AKchic*

            That was my consideration too.

            And I think the OP needs to certainly confirm it. Were this me, I’d be pushing back hard on all of this and already looking for another job just in case, because it sounds like either they aren’t going to stop because they are ridiculous and proud of their “cost saving measures” or the company isn’t as well off as they’d like people to think.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. He bragged about making you miserable to your face. He is proud of torturing you. This is not retrievable; he is a narcissistic bully. This calls for firm pushback while looking for another job.

    11. BadWolf*

      If you haven’t complained much, OP1, your boss/company may think this type of travel is fine with you. I know people who are fine flying in and out same day, even long flights. They work at the airport or whenever there’s downtown. I know that seems questionable, but really, I know people who are on the road a lot and it seems fine for them. I once worked with a guy who traveled for work so much that he didn’t have a permanent residence for a couple of years, he stored his stuff at a friend’s house.

      If the above may be the case, you could approach it with that in mind, “Hey, I thought traveling like this would be fine, but after doing it for a bit, I’ve discovered it is not working for me. I arrive exhausted and I can’t represent my company well.”

      1. BadWolf*

        As a further twist, the company/boss might think you’re in on the “saving money” plan (you’re clipping coupons for airport food, right???) — especially if they think you don’t mind the “long way” travel plan.

      2. LJay*

        I travel a lot for work, as do my employees (my staff are 20 days on, 10 days off and on the road for the 20 days). I’m 5 on 2 off, but on the road 3 weeks out of the month.

        I have no problem doing work at the airport, or on long flights. But there’s a difference between addressing urgent emails or editing a document on my laptop and being “on” to go to a worksite or even worse a conference right afterwards.

        There’s also knowing that my company usually books the most direct option (like I’ve had flights with two connections, but when you’re flying from a small town in the US to a small town in Europe there’s not really any option that doesn’t have two connections. (Origin airport to US hub, US hub to EU hub, EU hub to destination airport.) If they were making me do extra connections or have extra-long layovers just to save a couple pennies I would be less willing to use my time in that way.

    12. AdAgencyChick*

      I strongly suspect #1’s boss owns the company (especially because it’s a 15-person company). I’ve seen this in a small family-owned business before — the owners will spend the money on their own comfort, but every penny out of their pockets for their employees to enjoy the same level of comfort feels like it’s carved out of their own skin.

      If this is the case, Alison’s arguments are good, but the owner may still feel that spending extra on travel is worth it for her, but not for the peons. If that happens, OP, maybe consider throwing your weight around. “I bring in $X worth of business with each of these trips and I think it’s more than fair to spend $Y to save many hours of my time.”

    13. Dr. Doll*

      This reminds me of the time that we went to a family friends’ wedding where the parents of the groom were coming across the country. They needed to rent two cars for Reasons, and the father had a total brain fart (no other way to describe it): he rented the cars from different locations across a town known for its soul-crushing traffic, adding several hours to their tasks on the first day… for a total of $5 in savings. His wife didn’t divorce him but it was a near thing. ;-)

      Yes, OP, this is worth leaving the job for, if they can’t come to their senses.

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I’m imagining flying into DC on a Friday afternoon and dealing with this…and…I’m crying a little for your family friend’s wife.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Oh man, I can only imagine if someone rented a car at Dulles and a car at Reagan…jeez…

    14. OP 1*

      Hi everyone,

      it’s OP1 here! I’m so overwhelmed with this response and thank you so much to each and every one of you who took the time to respond, I really appreciate it. I feel very validated seeing so many people agreeing with me and I’ve realised my company is completely out of line with normal standards here.

      I wrote to Alison in a state of huge distress/ jet lag/ hunger/ meeting stress/ everything stress while away for a meeting about a week ago. I’ve since returned home to Big Asian City, and it was somewhere around the 5th hour of a 7 hour layover in Middle of Nowhere Airport that I realised I was totally done. Just totally done.

      As soon as I got home I updated my resume and started applying for new positions. It’s early days and I haven’t heard anything back yet, but I’m happy I finally realised my worth. I deserve to be working for a company who will treat me with basic dignity! (And, as I’m sure most of you could guess, insane travel hasn’t been the only problem at this company)

      Just to clear up a couple of things commenters mentioned:

      1. I’m not getting explicitly paid for travel time. I do get travel days as days off in lieu (I actually just booked a 10 day holiday yesterday using up all my travel days! Yay!) I guess this didn’t even occur to me, weirdly. I’m a salaried employee and not working in the US so I don’t even think I’m entitled to extra/ over time pay while travelling.

      2. Sadly these meetings require I am there in person and can’t be done over Skype (or something similar). The nature of my work is very specialised and creative and meetings could go on for 2 or 3 full days collaborating with a different team on products. Again, this is very mentally taxing stuff that requires me to be communicating constantly, totally alert and thinking creatively. Even as I’m writing this I’m thinking “How on earth have I been doing this after 26 hour journeys?!”

      3. My company does cover all expenses while I’m travelling, thankfully. I’ve definitely been known to max this out and “get the extra guac” as one commenter put it. :)

      4. Out of interest I did a couple of sums. A direct flight is around US$1000, with the 16 hour one layover flight costing about US$700. My salary breaks down to very roughly US$25/hr. So if I’m sat on a layover for 7 hours and spending $50 on airport meals and coffee, my company are basically breaking even and may as well have flown me direct anyway. Food for thought!

      Thanks again for all your comments. I’ll keep you updated on how my talk with my boss goes. I’m looking forward to advocating for myself and all your responses have definitely given me the confidence to do so. Thank you Alison!

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, would it make sense to document some of what you’ve learned as part of the onboarding materials that go to new hires or international consultants? For example, an FYI on how deposits v. wire transfers work from a logistics perspective? Folks will still make mistakes and ask questions (especially youngish people), but it might help you offload some of the most common repeat questions you’re fielding.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, I feel dumb. I totally sped-read and missed that. Please feel free to delete my lead comment, Alison!

        1. Myrin*

          And to PCBH, who is one of the kindest and most insightful commenters on this site and usually writes comments which are awesome additions to “the actual advice columnists reply”, no less!

          (My number one pet peeve on the internet is people who don’t seem to have any reading comprehension whatsoever basing everything they say on something that, in the end, they made up – missing one sentence in a three-paragraph-long text and then writing a brief comment suggesting exactly the same as that sentence doesn’t reeeally fall under that umbrella, if you ask me, especially not if it’s swiftly pointed out and corrected.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thank you so much for the kind words (and to everyone else who has rushed to my defense).

            I do try to incorporate feedback that seems valid, even if it’s packaged unkindly. But there’s a committed number of commenters who really dislike me, and I think that’s just the reality of participating in any discussion, especially in an online forum.

            1. Myrin*

              I almost can’t believe there are people here who dislike you – I consistently specifically search for your comments because they’re just so, well, good. I honestly don’t know how else to describe it.
              And while we’re at it – I actually wanted to wait until the open thread for this but since we’re talking about it anyway I might as well put it here: You’re such an inspiration to me in the way you communicate. You always manage to be kind and helpful (even when harsh words are warranted) and just have a way with words that is completely admirable. The way you replied to the McDonald’s OP yesterday? Absolutely amazing! I honestly wish I had your grace and poise and I constantly strive to get closer to it.

              1. Lissa*

                I think it’s the fact that people notice frequent commenters, and because human psychology is weird, the fact that PCBH is often one of the first “main” thread starters AND has a really distinctive name, she stands out so people “notice” and remember her. On a site like AAM it’s often ages before anybody’s name and posting “sticks” in my head very long, and I’m way more likely to remember somebody who is going by “Khaleesi The Unburnt” vs “Jon”. The flipside of this is that sometimes people will post in the open threads and refer to past situations but without details and I have *no* idea who they are or what they posted about before.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Myrin, this is so incredibly kind of you–I’m a little embarrassed. I always enjoy reading your comments, and they’re always so insightful and interesting. They always make me think about challenges from different perspectives. I’m very honored to be held in your esteem, and I appreciate and admire your comments, too!

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I had attempted to remove a really rude comment here but accidentally ended up leaving some of the replies to it — and when I caught that, there was this very nice exchange, which I don’t want to remove. This will be confusing to anyone who didn’t have that context so I wanted to explain it.

    1. Washi*

      I probably wouldn’t put things in one big manual since in my experience there’s an inverse correlation to the nimber of words and how much someone attempt a to read.

      But I think separate handouts would be a good idea on an as needed basis. So as the need for a wire transfer comes up, you hand them the wire transfer sheet, etc.

      I think it’s also sometimes better to point people towards resources rather than answering their questions. When I did onboarding, a lot of younger and some older people wanted very specific help from me on filling out the W4. There was often some frustration when I said I couldn’t advise them on their personal tax stuff (sort of an “ugh you’re making me fill out this form and won’t even tell me the right answers!”) and in retrospect I wish I’d made up some resource sheets to give them.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        For the international consultants, is is worth suggesting to use the services of a relocation company? The ones here can help with bank accounts and so forth, and could probably advise on an accountant or tax specialist.

        We have a government website (in various languages) which covers different administrative aspects for both individuals and companies. (e.g. registering with the authorities, obtaining a social security number, etc.)

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Maybe a white paper for (whatever) topic/thing? Maybe even a simple bullet list … flow chart…?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah—I was thinking something like a checklist, an FAQ sheet with information on how to find the answers to specialized questions, a common definitions sheet. Not something super lengthy or wordy. Ideally it would be less of a burden for OP than fielding all of these individualized questions, and then OP can say things like, “Have you reviewed the manual?” before diving into answers.

      3. Chatterby*

        …it’s actually really, really normal to have to walk new employees through these forms and tasks. Doubly so if you’re hiring young workers. Most of them have never actually SEEN a check, let alone had to fill one out. Same for the tax forms.
        Visa stuff is in large part handled by the job if they’re being your sponsor, and a good employer assists with relocation tasks to ensure the employee is adjusting well and stays happy.
        And yeah, even helping install and set up any work-specific software is a pretty standard part of on boarding, regardless of age.
        These seem like basic functions of her job.
        She could try proposing they come up with a more formal onboarding curriculum and creating some walk thoughs, handouts, and guidelines to follow. It would make her life easier and may be the promotion bait she’s looking for.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          We had an intern who literally did not know how to mail a paper letter–as in, how to address an envelope and put a stamp on it.

          1. JSPA*

            I’ve struggled with that in various countries. the internet will sometimes tell you where each part goes (address, return address, stamp) but not the proper direction for the writing, nor how much space you must allot for each, nor how to format the address for international mail (from Japan, is the recipient’s country best written in kanji or in arabic letters? From Brazil, are you sending to “Germany,” “Alemanha,” “FRG,” “BRD,” Deutschland? If there are little boxes for the mailing code on the post card, can you use them for the US ZIP code or the Canadian post code?) etc.

      4. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, I had a job where I documented all of the newbie-type questions coworker was asking. He never read any of it because he always just asked, no matter how many times I would point out this is in the documentation. I am starting to believe that actually reading things is a super power these days.

      5. Observer*

        Maybe in an on-line format. Even better if it’s like searchable Q&A or Wiki.

        It’s actually pretty easy to do this, as longs as you’re ok with keeping it simple.

      6. Chinookwind*

        “When I did onboarding, a lot of younger and some older people wanted very specific help from me on filling out the W4. There was often some frustration when I said I couldn’t advise them on their personal tax stuff (sort of an “ugh you’re making me fill out this form and won’t even tell me the right answers!”) and in retrospect I wish I’d made up some resource sheets to give them.”

        This happens when I have employees fill out their tax and benefits paperwork. I find it is because nobody has ever explained to them, in general terms, what they are filling out. I suspect Canadian forms are easier than the American ones, though, so I can quickly go over the yes/no questions with them. It can be frustrating if you don’t expect it, so I have just learned to expect a couple of questions and have canned responses for the most common ones or have created handouts to add to my “new hire package” in case they don’t know what they don’t know . I also know where the most common mistakes are made that causes payroll to reject the paperwork, so I review it before sending it in so we are all only having to do this once per person.

        Basically, I think OP needs to accept that this is part of the on-boarding process. Yes, you were hired as an accountant, but if part of your job is on-boarding, then answering these questions is part of the job.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, there are dozens of memes floating around about how US public schools taught us things like square dancing but not how to fill out our tax paperwork, and they’re pretty true. I would have been over the moon if my first job had given me a handout along with the form with some pointers for what to do, because those things are the opposite of intuitive.

          1. Kendra*

            This x1000.

            Company HR person: “What do you want your withholding percentage to be?”
            Me: “My what now?”
            HR: “Withholding; it’s how much they take out of each check for taxes.”
            Me: “Wait, you have to decide that?!? How the heck am I supposed to know??”

            That was ~20 years ago, and that form STILL seems ridiculous to me.

      7. Jessen*

        Maybe one of those little desk organizer things with a few sheets on various topics? So it doesn’t have to be as part of the orientation packet either. People can just go to the resources box and grab what they need.

      8. Robbenmel*

        I do onboarding and payroll currently, working with a lot of people older, younger, and in between, and the W4 is a major sticking point for almost everybody. I will tell them the very basics, the same way I did with my kids when they first started working. But it always comes with a firm caveat…I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT. And, THIS IS BETWEEN YOU AND UNCLE SAM. Plus, YOU CAN CHANGE THIS AT ANY TIME. Don’t wait six months down the road and then ask me to correct your last year’s withholding at tax time.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Ha, yes! And don’t yell at the tax person when they point out you actually didn’t withhold enough, and perhaps you should fix it RealSoonNow for this year. Not that I ever got blowback on that, no never…

  3. Mid*

    LW 4–fellow “weird sitter” here. I’ve found a few things to help me in a professional setting.
    1. Regular walk breaks, either to a printer, bathroom, whatever
    2. Footrest under a desk
    3. Yoga ball as a chair
    4. Sit/stand desk
    5. Making sure my keyboard, desk, and monitors were all at the correct height for me

    For me, I couldn’t sit comfortably because of an issue with my hips/back. With PT, core strengthening exercises, and a chiropractor, I can now sit “normally” for much longer periods of time. But I still tuck my feet under me at times, especially when I know no one is around in the office.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I shattered my leg badly as a child. It meant that it would get achey whenever it got cold out. I would tuck my ankle under me when I was sitting at my desk. I told my manager why and he was fine with it.
      I never ever did it in meetings. Sometimes you have to suck it up a bit to be professional.

      You may want to consider a lumbar support to help you sitting in a chair. They are fairly unobtrusive.

      1. Sally*

        And a footrest, if that will help. I get a sore lower back, so I need to have something to put my feet on to relieve the pressure.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          My footrest disappeared and now I use my extra box of toner. I also try to get up once an hour for a water/beverage break, but it is more to move the stiffness out of my body.

      2. Urdnot Bakara*

        I’ve never considered a footrest (now I might!) but as another weird sitter, I second lumbar support. I have one of those mesh supports that straps around the back of my chair. It really helps me sit up without getting uncomfortable! Relieves backache, and also the occasional tailbone-ache.

        1. Chinookwind*

          A foot rest and the right sized chair will help a lot with back pain and posture. I am 5’6″ but have short legs. In order to sit an average height desk with my arms at the proper angle, my feet either dangle or, if my chair seat is too big, my knees don’t hit the edge of the seat if I use the back rest (basically, I look like a little kid in an adult chair).

          Look up ergonomics for office chairs on the web to see how the chair should fit and try out a phone book/box/wrapped ream(s) of paper on the floor to see if a foot rest will make a difference. Go to an office supply store and try out chairs with different seat depths. Then, if your office won’t supply a new chair or foot rest, buy a seat cushion and/or back rest pillow of your own. I got both last week and it made all the difference when it came to back pain with the added bonus of now sitting “more professionally” and not slouching or sitting cross legged during the day.

          (I will put a link to what I got as an example in the next post)

    2. Really very*

      I came here to say #5. If you’re really uncomfortable the first thing to check is how your workstation is set up.

    3. mooocow*

      #4, I was so happy to read your letter – finally someone who understands me! I simply cannot sit in a ‘normal’ position for long. It causes me serious distress. Luckily, I work in IT where sitting in weird positions, or even working while sitting in a bean bag are viable options!

      If you’re unsure about what is ok in your office, I really recommend checking in with your manager and explaining the situation. Maybe you can get a standing desk. I have also had some success with a little foot rest under my table. Standing up to walk around in regular intervals or changing where you sit (desk with desk chair vs. a meeting room with different chairs vs kitchen counter with bar stools) can help if that is an option in your office environment. Basically, anything that helps shorten the time span that you spend sitting in a particular position can potentially help.

        1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

          I was just going to suggest this. I can’t sit for long periods of time and the adjustable standing desk has been awesome!

        2. RB*

          Yes, I was surprised that Alison didn’t mention that. They are quite inexpensive nowadays, unless you get one of the push-button ones that is fully automated. The ones where it’s just a small section of the desk that raises and lowers and where you do it manually are quite cheap.

      1. Weird Sitter (OP 4)*

        I feel better hearing I’m not the only one facing this! I definetly thing a standing desk would help me at times. It’s going to be a challenge for me to try to request accommodations at my first ever post grad job but I’m gonna see what I can do. I think the foot stool is an easy place to start that I can take care of on my own, thanks for the suggestion!

        1. Transplanty*

          Do you have ADHD? I always thought I was just a weird person and I have rheumatoid arthritis so I figured my constant shifting about was that. Turns out nope, and once I was properly medicated, it cut those urges about in half. I still never sit ‘normally’ for any extended period of time though. I go from normal to crossed legs to sitting on legs to standing, sitting on one leg tucked under, posting up in lunges while typing… everything lol. It’s never been an issue.

          I ask about your medical history because if you do have a physical or behavioral condition that is causing it, you’d be protected under the ADA (assuming you’re in the US) when you ask for a reasonable accommodation, which would be a sit stand desk.

          The typical flow for that is to see your doctor and get your diagnosis, and then you can ask HR or your medical group if you have one the typical process. Usually there’s some generic paperwork to fill out, and you’ll include a letter from your doctor. “I am so and so’s doctor and I confirm that they are able to carry out the essential functions of their job duties with the following reasonable accommodations: xyz.” It’s then approved by HR or whomever and your manager is told what they must do (they are not told your diagnosis, that is up to you to share or not share).

          Sit stand desks are common place enough though that you should be able to readily approach it from a generic workplace healthy habits perspective. See if you have an erognomics group on site!

          1. Aerin*

            Yup, “weird sitting” is very common for ADHD/autism-spectrum folks. Myself, I tend to wear loose skirts so I can cross my legs under me without the skirt hiking up. I’ve never had anyone say anything about it. I don’t do it in meetings, since I can usually sit “normally” for the duration.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I’m like this too- are you by any chance hyperflexible? I have a theory… The yoga ball as a chair has been extremely helpful. I work in healthcare, so it’s easy for me to just tell people that I’m trying to do more “active sitting” for my health. I also have a foot massage rolley ball under my desk.

        3. Eleanor Shellstrop*

          This also depends on your office, but I often sit “criss cross” in my desk chair with a blanket over my lap and no one bats an eye. (My office is sometimes excruciatingly casual, though, and my bosses are only in the office between 1 and 3 days a week.)

        4. ag47*

          Good luck! I highly recommend the sit/stand option if you can get it. They’re fairly inexpensive and unobtrusive–they go right on the desk and can be raised and lowered.

          (I have bursitis in my hip and can’t always sit for extended periods of time. Being able to stand makes me so much more comfortable!)

        5. Manders*

          Another weird sitter here! You mentioned a footstool and sitting with your legs in weird positions–are you short? Because a lot of my weird sitting is compensating for the fact that most desk setups aren’t designed with 5’0″ people in mind, and having my legs dangle all day is uncomfortable.

          Your office may be able to get you a more ergonomic work station. I also have a sit/stand desk that’s adjustable, which is nice because it lets me get exactly where I want to be.

        6. Mockingdragon*

          At my last job I just co-opted an empty box of printer paper to stick under my desk. It was perfect…it was low enough with the way my chair was situated that I could cross my legs and rest my calves on the box like a really good yoga seat. I may sometimes have shifted which leg was in front, but I didn’t have to be tucked under myself on the office chair (the way I do now at home lol)

        7. Hey Nonnie*

          I’m tall and a weird sitter (although I have been Officially Diagnosed as hyperflexible, so I’d love to hear that theory).

          I’ll just point out, for what it’s worth, that I frequently sit with a leg tucked under at work, and no one has commented — because my legs are under my desk. I doubt anyone has noticed; they’d have to go out of their way to even see what my legs are doing, and they’re too busy with their own work.

          I wouldn’t do it in a meeting, but if I’m just working at my computer, at my desk, no one can see.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Yup! I was never a ‘professional’ or ‘normal’ sitter — either everything was too tall for my tiny body or it didn’t work with my knee injury or or or. Usually it’s a too-tall situation so a combo of Mid’s #2/#5 would go a very long way. Getting an ergonomically correct work station is not in my immediate future, and it’s so deeply ingrained at this point that I just own it in my (admittedly, very casual) office. I also make sure my work shoes are ones I can very, very quickly slip back on if I need to get up or look like an adult on short notice.

    5. Susan Calvin*

      Helly, My People :)

      yes to all those points.

      I’d also like to point out that the “one foot tucked under thigh” move seems a lot less odd looking to me than both feet up – although I also don’t typically think of that as requiring shoes taken off (maybe I have longer legs? A differently shaped chair? Or I’m actually thinking of a different position than you mean?), which also makes a huge difference imho.

      1. Avasarala*

        Depends whether your foot is tucked so your ankle is under your thigh (shoes on), or sole is under your thigh (shoes off).

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          I do ankle-under (work & home), so I can keep my shoes on. I do make sure to wear comfortable shoes, though.

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I don’t want to burst bubbles, but there have been multiple studies suggesting that it’s not good for *anyone* to sit in one position for extended periods of time. (Of course, now we’re into the semantics of “extended periods”)
        Get up and stretch, take a walk to the water cooler – everyone should be doing this on a semi-regular basis.

        Of course, if you find that “professional” sitting becomes uncomfortable after just 40 minutes, you need to look at the ergonomics of your chair and workstation.

        (FWIW, I sit leg under thigh, shoe on – I try to practice what I preach, but it’s just not always possible)

        1. valentine*

          It’s not ergonomics; more like a center of gravity. I also put my knees up on the bus or at the movies. I hate having my feet on the floor, so, if I can’t curl or drape (including upside down, head on chair arm, legs up along the chair back), random stuff becomes a footrest.

          1. Chinookwind*

            It is ergonomics because the issue is usually that your feet aren’t touching the floor at the correct angle when sitting, which means gravity is pulling on your legs and spine. You can be tall and have short legs and/or larger sit bones which means the average chair is the wrong height. Proof of that may be things like the toes of your shoes are always scuffed or that you can sit comfortably when wearing higher heels because they are like mini, portable foot stools.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s not good for anyone, long term, but for some people it’s also uncomfortable short term.

        3. YetAnotherUsername*

          If OP is in the EU she is entitled to an ergonomic assessment on request. A professional will assess the height of her desk / chair / distance of screen etc and help her set it up as well as possible, and recommend things like a footrest / special chair / screen stand etc. I don’t know if ergonomic assessment is a thing in other parts of the world. I’m 5’2″, have hypermobility and muscular back pain for which I’ve had lots of physio over the years. Every company I’ve ever worked for has got me an ergonomic chair / footrest etc.

          However, wonderinghowigotintothis is correct thay absolutely no-one regardless of health, should be sitting in the same position for extended periods of time. You should aim to get up and walk around multiple times in the day. The last ergonomic assessment I had the guy told me to stop cramming all my going to the loo/ refilling my water bottle / going to printer into one break and to take multiple shorter breaks instead.

    6. Rose*

      I’m super curious what our heights are. At any rate, I’m 6’0″ and a weird sitter. I have a standing desk and an office so yay! But back when I was a cube dweller and shared offices I’ve always worked in casual enough environments that no one cared.

    7. Blarg*

      Fellow weird sitter. I’m 5’4”. I also have some pretty hypermobile joints that add to the challenge, in that when trying to sit normally I end up with my legs wrapped around each other twice, which can look weird. If I am standing still for a while I will inevitably end up in a sort of tree pose without realizing it. On days when I have meetings where I need to be mindful of it, I wear dresses and shoes that disallow sitting on my feet as a reminder to myself.

      My prior job provided everyone with really great ergonomic evals and my result was basically that I needed no special equipment, but I did need to be able to sit on my feet. I work in health care and if you have any “party tricks” — which many of us do — that can sort of help people understand. Like, not only do I have a hard time sitting with my feet on the floor, but check out what I can do with my shoulders.” (And no, I don’t have E-D Syndrome or other disorder. Just who I am).

      1. Kate H*

        I do the double-crossed legs thing too when I’m trying to sit professionally. If I sit with my legs properly crossed, one of them will go numb and fall asleep, so it tends to be more comfortable, but if I do it in full view of other people, I end up worrying that someone’s going to think it’s gross.

    8. Kate, short for Bob*

      Same here – hypermobile with achy joints that lock up if I don’t move around a bit. I use an exercise ball (actually a giant space hopper -handles!) for desk sitting. I also have a standing desk arrangement I can use, and an ‘active sitting’ stool – wobbly top – for other contexts.

      And yoga breaks in the bathroom – putting a foot up on the sink for a really good stretch takes away a lot of fidgets I find.

    9. Melanie*

      I almost ALWAYS sit crosslegged in my chair. As a petite woman with back and neck issues it’s the only option. I’ve tried stools for my feet, foot rests, lowering the desk, back rests, etc. None of them work because the seat itself is too deep. My knees don’t reach the edge. I don’t worry about it anymore and just try to a. keep my shoes on if possible/wear socks b. keep my cute little feet pedicured and polished (and hidden under me) c. stay pulled up under the desk so it’s not noticeable.

      It may be unprofessional but I’ve been doing it for 15 years now and hasn’t caused a problem. It probably helps that I’m female though. I could see a man being judged much more for this.

      1. TechWorker*

        My male colleague often sits cross legged or hunched both knees up heels resting on the front of the chair (I struggled to describe that so hopefully it makes sense!). Definitely no one cares and it won’t affect him professionally… but I also can’t imagine the CEO (who sits the other side of me :p) doing it.

      2. Hellow Sweetie!*

        My workplace has a big ergonomics initiative and have a specialist on staff. So she came to evaluate my workstation and saw that the standard chair just does not fit me because I’m so short. So they special ordered me my own chair! It has a narrower, shallower seat so that I can actually sit with my back against the backrest, and it has a greater height range, so I can sit higher without my shoulders being up in my ears.

        I love it! The best part is that all the guys in my office don’t fit in my chair, so I don’t have to worry about someone trying to take it!

      3. Chinookwind*

        If the seat is too deep, try a thick back cushion for lumbar support. It essentially shortens the depth of the chair, pushing you towards the edge while still supporting your back. It is life changing if you have to sit for long periods of time.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I’m sitting on a 3-3/4″ wedge in my desk chair. It counteracts the deepness so you could move forward in your chair. This combined with the thick back cushion could help.
          I needed one more than 3″ thick for what my chiropractor calls “bucketing” causing pain in my side. I started using this one this week and it’s very comfortable.

    10. TPS Cover Sheet*

      I have a slipped disk that sometimes gives me trouble. I know for a fact even the chair is set ergonomically, I will get pins and needles or ”lose” a limb if I sit in place so I tend to be ”restless” and have a walk. Everyone thinks I am a chain smoker, as I go out to the smoking area, and then come back in. I just do it for the fresh air hike and get my limbs back working. One thing I found out that also helps is this ”foot acupuncture massage” contraption you put on the floor, like a frame with these spiked wooden rollers… of course you need to kick your sandals off, but it actually does do something.

    11. Harper the Other One*

      I am glad you mentioned alternative seating because that was what I was going to suggest! My daughter is only 8 but she has a huge amount of excess energy and finding a chair where she gets some of that energy out has been critical to helping her succeed at school.

      In addition to the yoga ball, some other options that might help are what’s called a hokki stool, which has a rounded base so you can “wobble” a bit; a kneeling chair; or a “room to move” chair which flexes in more directions than a standard office chair. If it’s more about moving your feet, you can also put an exercise band across chair legs for you to press against, or get a HOVR or other under-desk pedal system.

    12. Kate H*

      I’m the same way! I’m currently sitting at my desk at home with both legs in the chair and one leg sticking up vertically, feet pressed together like I’m doing a butterfly pose. At work, I kick my shoes off and either sit with both legs sideways or crossed. I don’t have a customer-facing role, if I sit close to my desk no one really notices, and when it’s cold, I put a blanket over my legs. I’ve been doing this almost the entire two years I’ve worked there. I tried to train myself slowly to sit “properly” by starting out my day with both feet on the floor and challenging myself to see how long I could stay. I usually only made it an hour, maybe two, before the “itch” became unbearable.

      I have thought about trying a footrest (my feet can’t comfortably reach the floor in really any office chair that’s the right height for the desk) or a yoga ball (a coworker at the front desk has a chair shaped like one). Standing desks are a common request in our workplace but standing for long periods is hard on my back, hips, and knees.

    13. Flexible Worker*

      I have a collapsed disc in my lower back, plus hypermobility – I can definitely identify with fidgety desk sitters!

      Most open plan offices won’t really notice if you sit with your leg tucked underneath you, or with your legs crossed meditation style – you may get the odd comment when someone spots you, but it’s not really seen as unprofessional. My main pain-points are long all-company meetings, which go on for an hour or more while I’m stuck in a plastic chair unable to do more than cross and uncross my legs! In those situations, sitting at the back where you can shift a bit more freely or even stand for a bit helps. If it wouldn’t be odd, sitting cross-legged on the floor is good for those meetings too.

      If it really is a big issue – I will literally not be able to stand up again if I sit too long in the same position – mention it to a manager and they won’t object to you occasionally standing in meetings, or shifting positions a lot.

      I also second the mentions of core strengthening exercises – they will go a long way to making you more comfortable sitting for long periods of time.

    14. Leah*

      as someone with ADHD I understand OP#4 very well; I also cannot for the life of me sit in the same position for too long. I’ve been lucky that the places I’ve worked have tables where you can’t see people’s legs underneath them, so I just switch up my sitting position throughout the day and usually no one is the wiser, and if people have noticed no one’s ever complained. I rarely ever take off my shoes though, because you don’t want to find out you have smelly feet by hearing your coworkers complaining about it.

      I do agree that in meetings you gotta do what you have to do to maintain a professional stance, but meetings rarely ever go over 60-90 minutes, so it should be easier to do the “feet on the floor, cross left leg, cross right leg, repeat” for the duration of the meeting to maintain your sanity. sometimes having something to fidget with discreetly, like a fidget cube that makes no sound, could also help you not focus so much on your sitting position (but that could be just me, because again, ADHD)

      and answering Rose’s question, I’m 5’3” :)

    15. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      In school, the default position for every assembly was crossed legs, back straight on hardwood floors. After 5 minutes I would have excruciating pain in my hips and would need to change positions or stand. As an adult, I still can’t maintain that position but at least now I have the choice not to do it.

    16. Doing Too Many Thing*

      Piggybacking on suggestions of yoga balls, wobble stools, etc — for a less obvious and cheaper option you could look at a “wiggle cushion” to sit on, in your existing chair. Inflatable to different levels, one side smooth and one with soft “spikes” which kinda feel like a massager.

    17. Rockin Takin*

      I’m 5’2 and work in a professional setting. I have not had anyone, even in client meetings, raise any issues about me sitting either criss cross or with one leg tucked under the other. I have patella femoral syndrome and sitting ‘normally’ is really uncomfortable for me.
      I also dislike sitting ‘normally’ if I’m in one of our conference rooms, because usually the chairs are too tall for me and I feel like a little kid with my feet dangling.

      Agree with the others- every hour or so get up and stretch if you can. I have a smart watch that will remind me if I’ve been sitting too long.

    18. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I sit crosslegged in my desk chair virtually always. I always have, even in school as a child. No one has ever commented on it. One time I brought it up because our office was having an ergonomic specialist come in to evaluate our work stations and a few coworkers hadn’t even noticed (and the ergonomic specialist approved – it’s actually better for posture.

      My best friend has done this her whole life, too. She’s an attorney in big law. I work in corporate finance. Neither of us has ever had an issue.

      1. the banana*

        I see people saying “no one has ever commented on it so it’s fine.” People won’t always say something when something seems a little off. (AAM has a column about this somewhere, that the absence of comments does not itself indicate something is fine) It could be fine but that might not be the indicator you think it is.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is a good point – letter 4 reminded* me of a guy I used to work with, whose favorite work position was with his feet up on his desk and his shoes off – no one ever said anything to him, but pretty sure everyone who worked near him was lowkey grossed out. I know I was!

          *I mean “reminded” in the sense of “this is where I draw the line, and criss-cross does not come near it, so would be fine with me”.

        2. pleaset*

          This is a good point.

          I’ll add that in terms of appearances, keeping the back upright and looking engaged/alert is by far the most important part of how someone sits. Manspreading or legs up on the table aside, I doubt cross-legged vs straight-legged vs whatever matters much in most places.

    19. CheeryO*

      Lumbar cushion + footrest works for me. I will echo others that you can probably get away with tucking one foot or resting it on the opposite knee.

    20. GRA*

      My sit/stand desk is the best! I also have a squishy board I use when I stand. A couple months in, and all the neck/back pain I used to get from sitting all day has basically gone away. If you can get a standing desk, I HIGHLY recommend it!

    21. Gadget Hackwrench*

      One of the more in-obtrusive methods of weird-sitting can be as simple as pulling your feet in under your chair so they sit in your toes instead of flat in front of you, ankle cross optional. It’s probably terrible for posture, but it works for me, as a way of strange sitting without drawing any attention. Alternatively, with rolly chairs, perching one foot each on two adjacent legs, or with one leg in between (depending on how they’re arranged) also seems to be fully acceptable, especially if you are short. I found a stock photo of what I mean, the man on the right. https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-close-up-of-businesspeoples-feet-under-table-108533122.html

    22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      These are all good recommendations. I have the yoga ball chair at work that I alternate with my regular chair. It really helps. I have a small lumbar roll as well.

      9-5 office work is really not great for the back and it really is important to make sure that you’re as comfortable as it is possible under the circumstances.

    23. JKO*

      Fellow weird sitter here! Since I started my first office job in 2006, I’ve always had an ottoman/footrest under my desk. It makes all the difference. I’ll still sometimes sit cross-legged on my chair, but generally just having my feet up off the floor makes the fidgety weirdness stop. Of course, when I have to sit in someone else’s office or a conference room, etc., that’s not an option, but it’s manageable to sit “normally” for a few hours at a time when my own space is set up so I can be comfortable and not fidgeting constantly. Good luck!

    24. MechanicalPencil*

      I’m another weird sitter. At a previous job, there was enough space for me to use a visitor chair as a foot rest. Then I’d go into a lotus position (criss cross), or have a leg curled under me. Next job, I had space to use a low box as a foot rest. Now, total cube, no space. I’ve been using a lumbar pillow (awful, awful chairs), and that helps a bit. Mostly it’s just knowing how to properly sit posturally speaking. I’m very interested in getting a yoga ball or a knee chair, but I’m afraid of being That Coworker more than I am already.

    25. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I am a weird sitter, too. I have scoliosis and a bunch of other back problems resulting from it.

      If you can, could you get an evaluation by a doctor or physical therapist to see why you’re more comfortable sitting weirdly?

    26. Librarianne*

      A sit/stand desk was a godsend for helping me fidget less at work. I set a timer to remind me to switch positions every 30 minutes. I’ve also noticed that I sit up straighter and my back hurts less at the end of the day. Luckily my current workplace didn’t give me any trouble when I requested one, but people may want to get a note from a chiropractor, physical therapist, or GP just in case.

    27. Anonyby*

      Another weird sitter here! Part of my problem is that desks and chairs are just Not Made for my body proportions. I hate dangling legs (and footrests have never helped much with that—they’re awkward and uncomfortable for me on their own), and office chairs are too deep for getting in/out of quickly and comfortably, so I’m never actually far enough back in the chair to use the lumbar support.

      The only thing that’s stopped my weird sitting habits was a mysterious knee condition that I haven’t found a doctor willing AND able to help with yet. It’s made my former favorite ways to sit painful.

    28. verylisa*

      For those of you who are hyperflexible and also weird sitters — you may want to get your blood pressure and autonomic systems checked out. Needing to sit with feet tucked up, and shifting position frequently, can indicate medical conditions such as dysautonomia, orthostatic intolerance, POTS or similar — and this is even more likely if you’re hyperflexible as well.

    29. JSPA*

      kneeling chairs had a big moment some 25 years ago. Depending on the company, they may still have a few gathering dust in storage. Might be exactly the thing you need. However, also seconding Mid that various sorts of deep tissue work, chiropracty and PT can do amazing things for increasing not only your range of tolerated motion, but your tolerance for static positions. After all, there will be situations where (absent official diagnosis and awkward explanations) you won’t be able to tuck or criss-cross or bring your special chair.

    30. TardyTardis*

      I also recommend a footrest. I am short, so the only way sometimes to get the proper height for me at a desk is to move up the chair to where my feet are dangling. Not good. But Old ExJob was very good about getting footrests which were sloped, so you could easily pick the height that you needed.

  4. V*

    Great answer to question 2. It’s really exhausting being plus sized and having people wonder why you don’t get the beautiful jacket they’re giving everyone or whatever the swag of the day is. I mean, honestly at this point I’ve just started saying “no thanks, none of those sizes fit me,” in a matter of fact way, because it’s not for me to be embarrassed that they’ve bought gear that more than a few of us can’t wear.

    1. Rose*

      yeah my boobs are massive so when they order “ladies XL, ladies XXL” it’ll cover like, my arm. Now I just say, this is what you need to order for me if you want me to match!

      1. Harper the Other One*

        You are my people. It has been a long time since I had to wear/wanted to wear employee branded clothing but it was so frustrating having to point out that there was literally no available women’s size on a button-down shirt where the buttons wouldn’t gap. And then if I went to men’s sizes I would be swimming in these enormous sleeves and giant waist.

        1. gwal*

          I don’t think that you’re experiencing the same problem as the OP (and honestly I think this is derailing)–when your body literally doesn’t fit into any of the options, you have no options. When you are proportioned differently than the shirt but can, in this case, just get the men’s version tailored, you’re not experiencing the same kind of “left out” status as the OP.

          Somehow this comment thread often discusses the struggles of petite, large-chested women, but please do understand that your plight is not the same as the plight of people in just generally large bodies.

          1. Zillah*

            I agree that there’s a difference and can understand what you’re saying about derailing, but while it may not be relevant to this discussion, I think we can say that without saying that men’s size fits all is okay because you can “just get it tailored.”

          2. LCL*

            I think when we are talking about off the shelf clothes not fitting everyone, a general discussion of people’s different fitting issues is helpful and not derailing. Or we could really simplify it and say ‘include a wide range of sizes, including tall sizes for men and women.’ Except women’s tall clothes in larger sizes are like the Tasmanian tiger; they have been seen sometime in the past and there is evidence, but nobody has been able to find one in the present day.

            1. AnonoDoc*


              36″ inseam (35″ if I will only ever wear them barefoot and don’t mind lower leg showing sitting down)

              And don’t even get me started about certain women’s sports wear companies named after major breakthrough in women’s sports that still think all women are the same height.


          3. anon today*

            To be honest, I think a lot of the “I’m so tiny I have to wear a child’s shirt but my boobs are so massive they can’t fit into ANY shirts” are wildly inflated hyperbole. Most of the descriptions people give of themselves here are just not physically possible. They’d be tipping over from the weight of their boobs if they were really that small.

            That said, I agree with you but you’re going to get a lot of pushback from the people here who love to try and derail topics so they can talk about their own problems.

            1. Observer*

              That’s generally not true. If someone is small enough to need children’s size shirts, they ARE going to have a problem with shirts if they have even moderately large breasts. Most children’s shirts are cut with no allowance for breasts at all.

              1. anon today*

                I think you missed the point of my post. I was speaking mostly about the dozens of people who comment on posts to talk about their magnificently large EE breasts and very tiny Child’s XS bodies whenever the topic of body sizes comes up. And how it’s most likely hyperbole because people on this site tend to badly exaggerate some of their stories in order to make their comments relevant when it is very rarely helpful to the OP or even related to their problem.

                Someone needing a larger shirt because they have larger breasts is in no way comparable to someone who doesn’t have any size shirt available to them, and I was backing up gwal’s comment on that matter.

            2. Holly*

              I definitely know a very short girl who needed a breast reduction because the weight of her breasts were destroying her back. It definitely can be an issue. That said, I understand the discomfort in comparing large breasts (deemed desirable by broader society) and petiteness (also deemed desirable by broader society) with large bodies.

              1. AfterTall*

                Different problem and a way of derailing the conversation. it’s not helpful and it’s dismissive and disrespectful to the OP. It’s endemic on this site that commenters will twist and turn a topic to make it about themselves, rather than address the OP’s concern.

            3. Jadelyn*

              Excuse the actual hell out of me, in what way is this anything other than wildly inappropriate, body-shaming all to hell and back, and about a million percent unhelpful?

              I mean, just…how is “you’re all liars and I, a stranger on the internet, can definitely assess how your body could or would work at various sizes” a contribution to the conversation?

            4. TardyTardis*

              I wear children’s size 6 shoes in SmartFit because that’s the only way I can find shoes with wide toes, and even then my heel is always loose, because I have Duck Feet. People are *different*. And yes, I am derailing with my own problems, but people are Made Funny.

          4. MediQueen*

            I agree and appreciate you saying this!!! If you can make it work (like wearing a shirt that is too big on you), you are definitely not experiencing the same problem.

            1. Observer*

              Well, actually a shirt that really is too big may NOT “work”. Looking like a child in Mommy’s clothes, a slob or (as someone described one situation) like Shrek when you are expected and required to look poised and professional is asking to get pushed out of your position. And in many cases this stuff actually poses a safety issue. So, please don’t tell women that they don’t REALLY have such a problem because they can “make it work”. They actually often CAN’T.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          A coworker of mine was commentating about the scrubs we were given once, and pointed out that the ones that could fit her chest made her look like Shrek. I laughed so hard.

      2. Lynca*

        I despise Ladies cut t-shirts. Standard unisex XXL? That’s fine. Depending on if it’s pre-shrunk I can get by with an XL.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I also have this problem. I have decades of shame and self hatred associated with my weight but I finally was able to compartmentalise this particular aspect of my life and speak up about company clothing that doesn’t fit.

      In one particularly embarrassing episode the boss was handing out waterproof trousers that we had specifically ordered in our sizes, and he held up the 3X pair. One of my colleagues (sitting right next to me) blurted out “3X!? What archaeologist wears a 3X?!”. I mustered my best inner advocate and said “Me. And even then they are a little small”. The other guy just said “Oh”.

      I have heard many complaints from people who don’t quite fit into this kind of clothing and I hope that by speaking up companies will get the idea that not everyone can wear the basic sizes. It’s a safety issue in our line of work so I’m trying to do my part to raise awareness.

      Another thing I have encountered is people not believing that I am the size I am. More than once when this subject has come up at work I’ve lamented that it’s very difficult to find hiking trousers in my size. People will inevitably say that such-and-such a brand goes up to a 16 or 18, and when I tell them my actual size they are surprised and tell me that I can’t possibly be that size, have I just tried them on, etc. Part of that is the weird politeness of telling someone that their negative perceptions of themselves aren’t real, but it gets tiring when the person ordering things doesn’t really believe that the size they ordered doesn’t physically fit around me.

      1. Sophia*

        I wear a 3x as well and have gotten the same comments of people not believing I’m that size!

        Also I’m honestly sick and tired of people forgeting plus sizes are needed and I speak up every chance I get. I’m still irritated years later that the t-shirts for my MBA orientation only went up to XL. I’m sure it wasn’t intended that way, but it felt like the school was saying only non plus sized people could possibly want an MBA.

        Luckily I’ve had many opportunities to do t-shirt ordering in various roles and companies. I always get a variety of plus sizes and it gives me a lot of joy when people comment that they are pleasently surprised to have their size and/or the plus sizes are used up.

        Also related: ughhh it iritates me to no end that most stores/brands don’t carry plus size athletic wear or tell you to go online for it. Nike even faced a lot of back lash for starting a plus size line. You would think people who need to lose weight would need athletic clothing more and that all the haters would be happy to see plus size people buying and using it. Grrrrr

        1. Sophia*

          Oh and regarding the shame and self hatred comment: until very recently I also felt the same. I didn’t know what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t fix my body!

          As it turns out, I had undiagnosed ADHD and binge eating disorder. Did you know that there are studies tying binge eating to ADHD?? I sure didn’t.

          When I started a treatment plan for my ADHD it was shocking to find that I suddenly had control over my eating choices that I had never had before. I dropped 20 lbs in 2 months. I can not tell you how it feels to realize the problem was never me as much the chemical imbalance in my brain. In other words, my weight was due to an untreated medical condition and I never even knew it!

          All this to say: there are a billion reasons people are over weight including upbringing, socioeconomic status, life challenges and diagnosed/undiagnosed medical conditions. This “you’re over weight because you’re lazy, etc” narrative has to stop and companies need to include ALL their employees when ordering clothing.

        2. Also plus sized*

          “Nike even faced a lot of back lash for starting a plus size line. You would think people who need to lose weight would need athletic clothing more and that all the haters would be happy to see plus size people buying and using it.”

          … being plus sized doesn’t necessarily equate to “need to lose weight”.

          1. Kaitlyn*

            Yeah, but any chance to shame and embarrass a plus-sized person can’t be passed up! Fat? You should be working out. Working out? Get outta here with that big ol’ body of yours! Eyerolls for days. You could get very fit chasing those moving goalposts.

            1. Allison*

              And if you are overweight and you talk about fitness, people will jump at the chance to explain to you, whether you want them to or not, that fitness doesn’t actually help you lose weight, you also need to significantly cut calories to ensure you’re operating on a deficit. CICO and all that jazz. Because clearly, if you’re fat, you don’t understand CICO and need total strangers lecturing you about it every day.

              But if you’re overweight and don’t mention your current fitness routine, people think you’re lazy and complacent.

              But fitness does have a lot of benefits – stress relief, better sleep, better mood in general, self-esteem, etc., to me it feels like self care, and I think everyone should be able to work out regardless of what their body looks like and what their goals are, and that means having access to decent fitness attire.

          2. ThatGirl*

            This is true, but exercise also does not necessarily equal losing weight.* I exercise because I want to stay healthy and active; weight loss isn’t really my goal – and either way I need workout clothes that fit and are comfortable!

            *What/how/when we eat has a lot bigger impact on weight; certainly exercise is great and can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle but you’re basically never going to exercise so much that your diet is irrelevant.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              100%, I’ve taught senior fitness classes and it’s so important that people not judge their fitness progress by numbers on a scale. We work out to keep our heart, lungs, muscles, and nerves healthy. Weight loss shouldn’t factor into it, because it encourages workout practices that are unhealthy for the long term (ex: an injury that causes you to become sedentary.)

          3. So so anon*

            No, but it’s very frustrating if you are plus sized and would like to work out. The fat shaming from people at the gym, which is something I’ve experienced, the lack of workout clothes in your size from brick-and-mortar stores, the expense of finding them online all is very frustrating and demoralizing.

            1. Nessun*

              The only thing I cared about when I picked a gym was, are people going to fat shame (in any way/shape/form, my ways/shape/form). Fortunately, I found one where no one cares what you wear or how you look, they just high five you for doing something (like lifting well, trying new things, or even just showing up). Finding workout clothes in my size is still a pain in the posterior, but at least I can work out without feeling judged.

            2. Filosofickle*

              I’m an in-between size, so usually the largest regular or smallest plus. I have a pair of REI hiking shorts that I love, but recently I gained a few pounds and they are feeling a bit snug on the trail. So yesterday I thought, why be frustrated? Let’s just order a bigger size! Only to find out that I’m already wearing the biggest size they offer, 16. They offer almost nothing in plus. It shouldn’t have ruined my mood, but it kind of did.

              1. LCL*

                Columbia has some larger size women’s hiking gear. It’s pretty nice. Rise is a touch too short, but that’s Columbia.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m still irritated years later that the t-shirts for my MBA orientation only went up to XL.

          Judging from what I’ve seen while shopping online, many retailers who claim to carry “extended sizes” are actually saying “we have size XL.”

      2. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, I get irritated with people commenting that certain things look “loose” on me. Well if I buy the size down that they think I should wear, then I can’t breathe if I have to bend over to tie my shoes. Also then the tops I buy will show things that as a woman, I don’t want to show at work.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I’ve found that as the sizes go up, the gap between sizes seems to expand exponentially—the difference between XXL and 3XL seems much more than the difference between S and M.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I watch a ton of body positive vloggers and haul tryons and that seems so true. At the smaller sizes it’s like 10-15 lbs difference per numeric size. But past a certain point, not only do the sizes often get grouped (14-16, 22-24) but it seems like the difference between those sizes is way more! I’m an XL or a 1X and the diff between them can be MASSIVE (since one is a “straight” size and one is “plus”) and neither fits at all.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Forgot to finish that thought: What I experience is bad enough. It does seem like it keeps getting worse as you go up in sizes. Generic 2-3-4X seem woefully inadequate to cover so many body sizes and shapes.

      3. alphabet soup*

        Re: people not believing your size when you tell them… I get this a lot, too. I’m not sure if people do it out of “politeness” or not. I usually get the sense that folks legit can’t believe I’m telling the truth. I think it’s due to people not really having an good idea of what sizes *actually* look like, because women are socially conditioned to lie about their actual size. E.g. someone who’s a 12 will claim she’s an 8, so we think that that’s what an 8 looks like. I think the same phenomena happens with weight and age, too.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I think my favorite one of those was a guy I’d casually hooked up with saying to a group of friends, including me, that he “likes bigger girls, but only up to a point. Like, nobody over 200 lbs.”

          I looked at him for a moment and then smiled and said “You know I weigh 230, right?”

          Watching him scramble to backpedal on that was hilarious. “What? No you’re not!” “I assure you, I very much am.” “But…” “But what?” Just giving him that “go ahead, keep digging” smile.

          People are terrible at estimating weight and size.

          1. Marmaduke*

            It’s almost as though the person’s weight and clothing size are none of their business!

      4. Decima Dewey*

        If it’s a team shirts thing, and you want everyone in the Southwest Cluster to wear matching t-shirts (or polos, or whatever) to the big meeting, you have to find a place that can make shirts everyone can wear. Or you toss out the team shirts for the big meeting idea.

    3. Cherries on top*

      And it’s not just a matter of adding a few X’s. Pants that are to short and womens shirts that require you to have a lot of shape (and no desire to move) and no use for pockets. People look different!
      (Boo hoo for being sort of tall and slender. Point is: If you want your employees to feel and look good, maybe have a wide range of sizes. If you don’t, have it anyway.)

      1. Life is Good*

        And a wide range of styles, too. At my old company, a very skinny (and pushy) lady insisted on choosing the shirts/jackets to order. Every single one of them was cut to look good on, you guessed it, a skinny younger woman! Always cap/no sleeves or very fitted or cropped. Your get the picture. No matter that the workforce there were mostly middle-aged women with womanly curves. Argh!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          If it makes you feel better, I spent the first ~15 years of my career in places that only ordered men’s sizes and usually just medium-XL. None of these looked good on skinny, young women. (Generally, I don’t love the branded clothing options for women. I don’t wear golf shirts normally. Why do I need to wear one now? Even a ladies cut.)

          1. Autumnheart*

            Yeah. Then you have people who can’t wear them at all because the clothes are too small, and the people who look like they’re playing dress-up in Dad’s clothes because the clothes are way too big/cut for men, and then the 6 dudes who are like, “What do you mean we ordered clothes that don’t fit? They fit me fine.”

          2. Llellayena*

            Yep. The years of a mixed-sex youth group that handed out t-shirts at the drop of a hat, but only in men’s large and X-large. And me…5ft, 105lbs. The men’s large could double as a dress (and I did that once with one of my dad’s shirts!).

          3. JJbeanie*

            I so agree! In my experience company branded clothes are poorly made and sized and never comfortable and I’m on the small side of average so I can’t imagine how much more frustrating it is for those with less averaged body sizes and shapes. But I have a special hatred of polos. I truly believe polos and boobs don’t mix. I’d bet the world’s most fittest female model wouldn’t look great (or be comfortable in) in a polo. Yet it’s the most commonly ordered…

    4. J.S.*

      I’d also urge LW#2 to speak about this issue, not just for herself but for others.

      Reading this letter brought me back to the decade I spent in a very sociable, enthusiastic field, where we’d get new screen-printed shirts every year, then take a group picture in the shirts. Or rather, a group picture of everyone in their shirts, and me on the end of a row, in my own shirt, because, even when I spoke up in advance, nobody would ever “remember” to order a shirt that was available in my size.

      If we’re a team, we’re a team. If everyone counts, then everyone should count. This means something.

      1. EPLawyer*

        OP you said that they are lovely people who are probably not aware of the issue. So make them aware. Just be matter of fact about it. If they are as lovely as you say, they will fix it. But they aren’t going to suddenly have a light bulb go off. It’s important to you, but because they have other things on their mind and are just not focusing on it. Not because they don’t care, but just because that’s life sometimes.

        1. Acorn*

          Hi, OP #2 here – thanks to the commenters for your support and perspective on this issue. I feel more confident now in speaking up.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            We have exactly the same problem here – new shirts once and sometimes twice per year. (I’ve worked here a long time and every 2-3 years I have to cull my company-branded polo shirt drawer!) For the longest time, all we got were men’s sizes, which looked pretty awful on many of the women and even on some of the men since the sizes didn’t go large enough. Then we started getting women’s sizes, but the range on both men’s and women’s sizes was still too limited. Now we are offered extended size ranges (not sure how big, but at least 4X, I think) to everybody.

            But what it took was somebody noticing the unworkable limits and speaking up – and of course the company taking that seriously. As it should! And I truly don’t think it was a big deal. Since your coworkers are nice and kind and all that, Alison’s suggestion of being matter-of-fact about it and just saying, “We need to order items that come in extended sizing so we’re covering a wider range of sizes and everyone here can participate,” ought to work beautifully. You or someone might need to say it again next year, though, so that it becomes a habit.

          2. RandomU...*

            Can I also suggest that you suggest alternative styles in addition to the sizes. I’m of the opinion that polo shirts generally don’t look great on woman. Women’s styles of polos are a little better, but honestly unless forced to, I’m never going to wear one. I do however like cardigans or tops that I can wear over my normal clothes.

            I’ve always thought that when wearing logo’d work wear it’s always nice to see variation. Folks can look cohesive without being matchy matchy. Especially since styles look better or worse on different body styles.

            1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

              I’ve got a friend who did this. She’s the only woman on a team of IT consultants. Her boss ordered standard polo shirts with the company logo for the men, and asked her to pick what she wanted her logo item to be.

              She picked a cardigan, on the grounds that she was going to be wearing a cardigan whenever she was on a client visit anyway, so it was better to have a logo cardigan than a shirt with the logo covered by a plain cardigan.

              1. Chinookwind*

                This happened at the IT firm I worked at when they tasked the HR person with buying company branded gear. She and I were the only women, so she asked for my measurements (since she was in another country and we had never met) and bought us female cut fleece jackets while getting the guys the standard male ones. I still have it (12 years later) and remember being excited to get something branded that actually fit me.

            2. NerdyLibraryClerk*

              But let people choose for themselves what style/item to wear. Don’t force the women to wear women’s cut (or, I suppose, the men to wear men’s cut), or give people of certain sizes different items by default than people of other sizes.
              People know what styles and types of items they look good in or are willing to wear. Someone doing the ordering, not so much.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I like the way my company does it. We have a logowear vendor we contract with that gives us a custom storefront that we share with our staff, and they get a budget each year. There’s windbreakers, fleeces, cardigans, pullovers, button-downs, polo shirts, the lot, in a selection of colors. I’ve got 2 short-sleeved polos, one 3/4 sleeve polo, a v-neck sweater and a cardigan (I’ve been here for 5 years so I’ve gone through a few cycles of this). People pick what they like. If I wanted to buy nothing but men’s button-downs, I could. If a guy wanted to buy women’s cardigans, he could.

            3. Not Sayin'*

              My personal opinion: there is not a woman alive who looks good in a polo shirt. If a woman wearing a polo shirt looks good, it’s in spite of the shirt, not because of it. They’re just ugly on women.

              End of rant.

            4. Librarian of SHIELD*

              We have branded polo shirts. I’ve been trying for years to recommend branded cardigans instead. I mean, we’re librarians. Let us live up to our stereotype in a fabulous library branded cardigan!

      2. pugsnbourbon*

        I worked in a job that required uniforms for front-line staff. As part of onboarding, I’d have new folks try on shirts and pants and either give them ones out of inventory or submit an order. The shirts came in a decent range of sizes and so did the men’s pants, but women’s pant sizes were more limited (rage emoji). And they were cut in such a way that it further limited options for folks with fuller hips.

        I fought with HR (!) to let staff purchase their own pants and get reimbursed. It was a hassle but come on – everyone should feel comfortable at work, but ESPECIALLY new folks. And better for me to deal with issue than have to have new, part-time, lowest-paid staff have to do it. Sheesh.

        1. RandomU...*

          Some of my company’s field positions have a uniform -Khaki pants and a logo polo. Our office manager would get the sizes for both pants and shirt for the men and order them. But she put her foot down on trying to find pants that fit for the women. She just gave them the requirements and reimbursed them. I thought it was a great idea.

          You are never going to find pants that look good on different women and the whole point of a uniform is to look professional and tidy. This is why I hate the one style polo thing. Make 5 women wear the same style and you might get 1 that looks good, if you’re lucky you’ll get another that looks ok. The rest will look terrible.

        2. Watry*

          Same thing, department-issued uniforms. They have us try them on, and when we went down there…

          Shirts: my options are “slightly too big” and “slightly too small”, although thank goodness they have an option for women’s sizes, so I get enough chest room.

          Pants: I wear a size 18/20. These things were cut so small I needed a women’s 26. They only went up to a 24. I was given some men’s 46s. They were like windsails around my (completely nonproportional) legs. I’m allowed to wear my own pants now but no way am I getting reimbursed, and the only ones that fit well are $60 a pair. I can’t believe no one has noticed my raggedy hems yet.

          1. pugsnbourbon*

            They didn’t happen to be Red Kap brand pants, did they? Poorly cut and the feel like sandpaper to boot.
            Watry, if you feel comfortable doing so, I would encourage you to ask if you can be reimbursed, at least in part. It’s unfair that to provide uniforms for some staff but require other staff to purchase their own. Not a protected-class level unfair, but unfair enough that it would make me reconsider my employment there.

      3. Not Sayin'*

        “If we’re a team, we’re a team. If everyone counts, then everyone should count. This means something.”

        This. This, so much.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      Last year my boss wanted us all to order polos to wear. The other plus-size employee and I nixed that idea, and we all got to choose something that (1) fit our bodies and (2) was something we would actually wear. I would have hated them to spend $50 on something that would sit in my closet.

    6. 2 Cents*

      Plus sized too and when Old Company bought t-shirts, the boss made a joke in the companywide email about the largest size doubling as a tablecloth. Thanks, Ass, but that’s the only size that fits me.

      1. Sara*

        I honestly think I would have quit over that. Like, got up from my computer and left. What a jerk.

      2. Filosofickle*

        That is infuriating. And he even made the joke in writing, showing how much he thinks that’s ok. I’m so sorry you had to hear that from anyone, much less your boss.

      3. Marmaduke*

        I hope this isn’t derailing: while working in a very small (12 employees) company, I once got a companywide email about an upcoming event with a warning that the presentation included strobe lights and would not be suitable for epileptics, “because we don’t want anyone drooling on the carpet, lol!” It appears he did not know that I have epilepsy. My point is, the world would be a much better place if people thought before they emailed, and also, deep empathy to you.

    7. Katertot*

      I can’t even recall the amount of time I’ve spent worrying about having to wear work provided clothing. As someone mentioned, often even if the sizes do include plus size they often are cut in a way that is unflattering. You can’t just make clothing wider and expect it to work.

      One of the only things I appreciated about my former employer is that we got to choose our logowear every year. We’d get a budget, access to the store website (that had a really wide range of sizes – that FIT), and were able to choose from a number of shirts, sweaters, blouses, etc.

      OP, I hope you do speak to your employer. It would be really hard for me to do to, and even though it shouldn’t be – it would make me embarrassed to have to point out something about my body that society in general tries to make me feel ashamed of. In the long run though it will help you and others, especially since you indicate your coworkers are kind people.

    8. Mrs. Psmith*

      I’ve done clothing ordering for my company before and would absolutely want to know if the sizes available didn’t fit someone. We made it work, even if it was switching to a new vendor. We have employees in all shapes and sizes and want people to be comfortable. And I would even consider asking to look at the catalog yourself, there may be a jacket or pullover option that works better for you than polo shirts, which I personally can’t stand (and especially for trade shows, those tend to be so cold that a lightweight jacket with the company branding would be more welcome).

      1. Not Sayin'*

        We found a vendor who provided samples in all the sizes (we ordered jackets) so that staff could try them on and select the size that fit them. Bless that vendor!

    9. RC Rascal*

      OP #2–I order the trade show and branded clothing for our division. The cheaper stuff runs skimpy; there are better companies making corporate clothing that cut better and offer extended sizes. I recommend Antigua; Carhartt makes up to 4x Men’s in some items if that works for your industry. One of our gentlemen is a 2X plus; I always preordered a shirt for him and made sure it fit prior to ordering for the group. Likely the biggest issue is that your people are buying the cheapest shirts they can. Once we switched to better items the fit issues became minimal; also employees were more likely to wear the items after the show, which is the point of corporate branding.

    10. Mme Pince*

      I had a part-time seasonal retail job a few years ago. For the first few weeks, they let us wear our own clothing, and since the colors were white and black and I was coming straight from my office job, it was very easy to comply and look neat and presentable. Then, they ordered shirts for us. I chose the largest women’s size they offered. At the time I reliably wore a 1X top and size 16 pants. The t-shirt literally did not meet the waistband of my pants and fit like a sausage casing. I refused to wear it out of the bathroom. The person who did the ordering proceeded to give me a men’s 4X t-shirt about a week later, and in malicious compliance, I wore it untucked and sloppy since I was being forced to wear it for no reason except spite. I was eventually made to tuck it in, but that didn’t exactly make it look neater and it certainly wasn’t flattering.

      1. Old Lady*

        I started crying when I read this post. If they are decent people, they should realize how hurtful it is to exclude people.

        I had a job once where the CEO wouldn’t let me wear the company shirt because I was too ugly. (I’m old, pulse size, and large chested). Absolutely humiliating to be at company meetings and be the only one not wearing a company shirt.

      2. Where'sthemoneyLucas*

        I also maliciously complied with a uniform policy back when I was a teenager. I worked at a chain video rental store. The uniforms were these awful, heavy button-up shirts and the fits for women were cut way too slim for some insane reason. I couldn’t tuck them in without the sides riding up and looking very strange, like I had weird side peplums. They also gapped across the bust, because of course they did. I wore an oversized men’s shirt untucked, for the rest of my time there. I only tucked it in when the regional manager was visiting. Everyone acknowledged I looked ridiculous, but apparently that was better than untucked.

    11. Woman in the Workforce*

      This goes both ways. The last place I worked had an annoying habit of only ordering things in men’s sizes, and then often the smallest size was too big for me and some of the other women. I can make a men’s small work but it isn’t very flattering. One time they ordered polo shirts for all the “professional” staff, and they were men’s cut white polyester and SEE THROUGH. The one I got was also so big I was swimming in it. Luckily my department manager was more reasonable and would let us order stuff for the women in colors and cuts that worked for us, but some of the other departments weren’t so lucky.

      1. Not a cat*

        I worked for a software vendor who would only order men’s sizes in shirts that were mandatory to wear at trade shows. Until……a client that I knew quite well came to me at the booth and said loudly, “You normally look great–why in the heck do they make you wear that!?” Fast-forward to the next time they ordered company goods….they added women’s sizes to the assortment!

      2. Daniela*

        See-through and white? That would be the day to wear the most colorful, patterned bra ever. Leopard print? Sure thing. Neon blue? Yep.

        1. Marmaduke*

          When I had to wear something similar as a uniform, I actually started collecting bright, outlandish bras. I had a blue one with penguins, a purple plaid number with silver glitter skulls, a particularly charming hunter’s-orange-and-camo bralette… surprisingly, it took three full weeks before they got us different shirts, I assume because I was working in back.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Oh man, my high school band actually did this once. We needed new uniforms for concert band, okay, fine. But our director, who was a goddamn old perv, picked this weirdly sheer white thing for the girl’s blouse. We protested, we were ignored, okay, fine. So for the first concert of the new year, we planned together and all wore our loudest, brightest colored, tackiest bras so they showed super clearly through the shirts. I’m talking lime green, leopard prints, hot pink with polka dots, just as awful as you could find in your size.

          Well, the director was pissed, but he couldn’t get away with trying to dictate our underwear, so once we made it clear that we were going to do that every time until the shirts were changed, he gave in and changed it.

    12. The other Louis*

      Chances are good that some people are left off at the other end too–people who need petite. When I was concerned that shirts had been ordered that wouldn’t fit everyone on our staff, I just asked!

      1. Not Sayin'*

        We provide jeans for our cleaning staff. The only woman on the crew is short and very slender. Needless to say, our uniform provider was unable to accommodate her size (which, in my mind, is unforgivable; vendors, accommodate ALL your clients’ employees or go the f*ck out of business). Finally, we decided to give each crew member an annual stipend to purchase their own jeans wherever they wanted. Finally, FINALLY, this woman now shows up for work looking neat and tidy because she was able to wear jeans that fit her. (Am I wrong to be secretly delighted that NOBODY chose to purchase their jeans from this vendor?)

    13. tink*

      My company uses Land’s End for branded gear, which is on the expensive side but also carries sizes up to 5X (so almost everyone can find a size that fits). (We also aren’t given clothing merch, we have to buy that ourselves). But I’ve worked in retail places that can accommodate a wide variety of sizes, so I’m not sure why a company that has a “great culture based on mutual respect” can’t manage to do the same. IMO it’s pretty disrespectful to never have sizes outside of a certain range when it’s pretty easy to find brand-able clothing with a wide range of sizes available.

      1. Observer*

        I have to say that if they run their branded line the way they used to, LandsEnd is a great choice, and might actually make your company’s admin’s life a lot easier.

        Basically, you send them the logo you want to have on the shirts and a list of which items can be ordered. They are very helpful in providing similar items with different cuts, so you could, for instance have several differnt polos and cardigans that look similar but are slightly differently cut so they can work for more people. Then people go on line and order from the list you provided, so you get the cohesive look you want without the admin having to run around getting everyone’s sizes and preferences.

    14. Dragon_dreamer*

      Not just plus sized! I got in trouble a couple times after my retail workplace changed uniforms. They would always insist the women HAD to wear the babydoll style shirts. I always wore the men’s style because I am rather large in the chest.

      Every time a higher up would complain, my manager would ask me to step into the back and come back out in a “women’s” shirt. The fact that even the largest size left me looking like a retail hooker usually shut them up, though a couple times there were comments about, “Well, that *would* increase sales…”

      I’d usually be left alone after until a change in management and/or a change in the uniforms.

    15. J Kate*

      Sometimes the shirt companies we order from don’t have the extended sizes in the normal styles we have. What we do when we have an individual who does not fit any of our standard shirts is we have them pick out a shirt size and style that is similar but they know will work for them. Then we order a couple of those and take them to an embroidery shop where they put our logo on them. Or if they have an appropriate shirt they already have they have the option to have the logo put on it if they prefer.

    16. Rachel in Non Profits*

      I had to order a variety of t-shirts for a church event. People didn’t sign up in advance so I just got a wide variety of sizes. One of the volunteers on my team had a brilliant idea: she asked if we could get some buttons with the same logo and branding because she hated wearing branded t-shirts. My guess is that she wears a medium, but she doesn’t like tshirts. It made me think of all the other people who would not want a t-shirt either for size or aesthetic purposes. So we got both and I have to say that the buttons were far more popular than the t-shirts.

      1. Rachel in Non Profits*

        This is not exactly the same because some people would love branded clothing that fits well, but in a volunteer environment people seem to appreciate having the option.

    17. Nana*

      One thing we did in my office…order Men’s XXXXL for those who might want to use the shirt for sleeping. “oh, how fun!” was the response of the order-taker

    18. Kendra*

      Our office ordered polos once, and one of my work friends was put in charge of the ordering. She’s heard me whine often enough about not fitting into stuff, so she very carefully ordered the right size for me (yay!). Then they came in, I put it on, and it fit! But it also had teeeeny tiny cap sleeves, and I almost cried (because I didn’t want to have to tell her I still couldn’t wear it, when she was so happy she’d helped me out).

      So, yeah; the struggle is real.

  5. Jasnah*

    OP4 I am in your boat. I often sit in those and similar positions (right now I’m in a “figure 4”) at a conservative, business office. I don’t think sitting like this is that weird, at least not any weirder than having really bad posture. In my experience the key is two-fold: like Alison says, save it for when you’re at your desk, not in the middle of a meeting (if it’s appropriate to eat snacks, then it’s probably OK to sit weird).

    The other part is whether your desk covers you from 3 sides. If so then hardly anyone can even see how you’re sitting. If you are a receptionist at a desk with four spindly legs and no privacy cover at the front, then maybe it’s not going to work.

    1. valentine*

      at a desk with four spindly legs and no privacy cover at the front, then maybe it’s not going to work.
      A lovely drape will fix this.

    2. Lucy*

      Clearly I need more coffee. I took far too long wondering what kind of receptionist has FOUR spindly legs.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Me too! So… where would you put your four feet under your bum…?

        More coffee needed.

    3. TPS Cover Sheet*

      I had the opposite happen. I worked for a Global company the people from the head office were from a very petite build nation. So their sizes run different. We had some team build events with branded stuff and they had ordered by size and they had asked… but they didn’t provide the measurements so everyone went with what they were used to and so the XXL’s were not XXL, more like M. The local office workers’ kids loved them though.

    4. No ice cream*

      OP4: I am a 40 year old weird sitter who has always sat at my desk all folded up like a pretzel. I’ve always worked in professional office environments. At my desk, I sit how I want. People have commented but more in a “how are you not sore” way than a “this is so unprofessional” way.

      Depending on the tone of the meetings I’ve been it, I have sometimes say slightly odd but not completely folded like a pretzel.

      One thing to note and I’m note sure if it’s related: I am much more flexible than many of my co-workers!

    5. nnn*

      I actually came here specifically to mention the figure 4 posture, in case it isn’t already in OP’s repertoire.

      I also feel weird sitting with my feet flat or ankles crossed for a long time, and the figure 4 (ankle on knee) posture alleviates that weirdness while also looking like a normal adult human chair-sitting posture.

      It doesn’t work with skirts, and it can read as masculine, but (if that’s a concern for you) I find the masculine aspect of the body language can be mitigated by keeping your arms close to your body and your upper body posture prim.

      1. Jasnah*

        I sit figure 4 often with my foot under my leg, not over it, and can do this with most non-pencil skirts…though I wouldn’t if you could see under the desk. I don’t think this looks too masculine (though I agree over the leg does for some reason).

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – Speak up! We had this problem with launch shirts. We were supposed to wear them for our satellite launches. They ordered men’s sizes claiming group discounts. Unfortunately, even the medium sizes did not fit the women. One woman even wore hers as a dress just to show how bad it was (she was 4’ 10”).
    We complained as a group in a staff meeting. Our VP had no idea it was going on. Someone had decided to cut costs. From that point on the admins took down people’s sizes and ordered the appropriate number of shirts.
    Please let the people ordering it know that it is a problem so they can fix it. If they ignore you escalate as a group.

    1. zyx*

      I had a similar experience. I work in tech and am a small woman. Our first order of company-branded shirts included only “unisex” sizes, and even the small didn’t fit me. Even though I felt a little silly complaining about free swag, I mentioned to the man who did the ordering that unisex sizes don’t fit everyone, and he took care of it. The next order included shirts and hoodies that fit a wider range of sizes, and now we ask all new hires for their shirt size to make sure they’re included.

      Please speak up! It’s easy for people to have blind spots when they’re not affected, but reasonable folks will want to include everyone.

      1. Djuna*

        Yes, this! Asking everyone for their shirt size is a great way to make sure future offerings are truly inclusive. We do the same thing where I work, and they’re all stored in a spreadsheet. So even if we’re doing small group swag we can check the sizes needed and make sure everyone gets included with something that fits.

        If it’s a new supplier, we’ll often do a general mail including a size chart and ask people which style/size they want. Google forms make this super-easy to manage, the form dumps into a spreadsheet and then it’s easy to sort out the results.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          Not just asking for their size: sharing the measurements of the clothes that are going to be ordered, and letting people figure out what works for them. One company’s size M is another’s size XL is another’s women’s L is another’s size 6.

          1. nnn*


            I have in my closet right this minute a size XS shirt that’s a bit large on me, and a size L shirt that’s a bit small on me, both from the same brand. Despite owning a closet full of properly-fitting clothes, I have no idea what my shirt size is.

          2. BadWolf*

            Yes to the size chart! As “ladies cut” styles are all over the map. Sometimes I need an XXL, sometimes a med (I usually prefer the ladies cut over the “unisex” assuming I can an appropriate size).

          3. Moray*

            My company actually brought in a rack of the uniform shirts and jackets so that people could look them over or actually try them on before picking a size/style to request.

            1. Chinookwind*

              I have had three companies that have either given us samples to try on or gave us the sizing guide and the items they gave me are still being worn years later. If you want the items to be seen in public and not just for work, then this is the only way to ensure people will feel comfortable wearing them.

          4. Filosofickle*

            Absolutely. I have “swag” shirts ranging from an L to a 2XL. BUT this also means sizing charts have to be accurate! That’s rare. Actual garment measurements are the most helpful, but that’s even more rare.

        2. voluptuousfire*

          YES! When I joined my company and got to pick out my new hire swag, I ordered a women’s tee in XL. (There was no size chart) I’m on the smaller side of the plus-sized spectrum, so the XL was really more of a regular women’s medium. I ended up giving to a colleague and it fits her much better than it does me!

        3. annoyed tall lady*

          “including a size chart”

          Freaking this!!! One place I worked had a Ladies’ L sample shirt as the ONLY women’s sample. Well it fit me ok but was about 3in too short! I have a long torso for my height. So when ordering I asked “get me whatever is LONGER, a men’s L or a ladies’ XL”. SHE HAD TO CONTACT THE VENDOR FOR A SIZE CHART. I was totally blown away! How on earth did she not already have one?!?! AND THEN, I thought I ordered a men’s XL jacket because AGAIN torso length, nope! I got ladies’, I avoid working events in the winter.

      2. Róisín*

        Yep, unisex smalls sometimes fit me like I’m wearing Grandma’s shirt, and mediums are often dress size!

        1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

          In my slimmer dim and distant past I have put a belt around a unisex large and worn it as a dress!

      3. Lucy*

        Caroline Criado Perez is very vocal on this point, that “unisex” typically means “default male”, so ordering “unisex” garments is often sexist (all the men are fine, many/most of the women aren’t – ding ding!).

        1. Nye*

          Was just about to say this. A man’s cut in a smaller size isn’t “unisex”. (I have had this issue many times with organization tee-shirts, but my real soapbox is ultralight backpack companies, which do this almost exclusively.)

        2. SpellingBee*

          Yes – men’s shirts are cut a bit differently than women’s. A men’s medium in t-shirts or polo shirts, for instance, will fit me on top (more or less, it will be a little loose but I like that, and it looks fine for casual wear) but often will be too tight around the hips. A men’s or unisex large will be way too big all over. Great if I want a comfy at-home shirt for lounging around, not great for wearing to work or a conference.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, I find this with the technical t-shirts you often get when you do running events. They’re nearly always just men’s sizes, so I have a choice of one that doesn’t cling tight to my hips, but is massive everywhere else, or one that actually fits on top but looks stupid because it’s stretched super-tight on the hips. So annoying! How hard is it to order women’s t-shirts as well? You know how many women will be running the race!

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “How hard is it to order women’s t-shirts as well?“

              You say this as if women were not in fact some alien creature…

            2. Lalaith*

              While I agree that women’s-cut shirts should be an option, you also can’t just give them to all the women. Because you have me, a textbook apple shape with no hips to speak of. I’ll take the men’s shirt, thanks.

          2. gwal*

            If it’s for work, and they want you to wear it, get the large tailored. Ask the workplace to pay for it! It’s pretty straightforward.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              How likely do you think they ate to pay for that when thry wint even just think that women are not just “men-lite?”

              It’s not just clothes abd furniture…it’s everything. The world is structured for and by men instead of for the actual majority (53%) of the population.

            2. Jessen*

              This also depends on it having fit issues that are tailorable. A lot of “unisex” shirts are cut indecently low on me for work. That’s not really fixable short of taking the whole shirt apart and resewing it.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                Another common problem is that the arm holes are too big. That isn’t really fixable because the problem is that there is not enough fabric in the body and sleeve under the arm. Apparently this is because when patterns are created in multiple sizes they are often simply enlarged all over equally. So you end up with shirts that have arm holes that go halfway down the ribcage. Sometimes you can fix this but it depends on how much fabric you have in the body.

      4. esra*

        I hate, hate “unisex” branding. They’re just men’s sizes. It drives me up the wall (I have to order a lot of swag).

        Also, personally I make it a point to only look at shirts that a/ have XS and b/ go up to 3X+. I don’t ever want someone trying to find a branded shirt I designed and getting stuck with a poor fit. It’s meant a lot of fights around ordering shirts specifically for men and women sizing, companies don’t want to spend the money. But it’s a completely legit request to make, that a variety of sizes gets ordered. Or like, quite frankly if they won’t, go for a different swag piece for everyone (scarves/wristbands/hats/etc).

    2. Al who is that Al*

      A previous company bought us all polo shirts in an awful teal colour which they insisted was compulsory company policy and all the sizes were too small. We complained right away the moment we opened them and were told to stop moaning and do as instructed, so I put mine on and walked around around the building. So a fat, hairy guy with moobs, beer gut just showing under the bottom of shirt, nipples showing (I have a growth on my right nipple) was walking round saying hi to everyone wearing bthis skin tight polo shirt. The MD of our sub-company came up to me that afternoon and asked me to stop wearing it. I went back to shirt and waistcoat for the remainder of my 4 years there. I kept the polo shirt in my bottom drawer all that time hoping someone would demand I put it back on again….

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        An old job chose pumpkin orange shirts and black pants for the new look. No one looks good in orange and the Halloween jokes never stopped.
        My current job chose the colour of the new shirts by consensus so the colour is lovely. They asked for sizes so everyone looks neat and tailored.

        1. Cherries on top*

          Actually I look great in orange. They called me Pumpkin in college. I do not however fit in standard model/sized clothing so I would probably look like a pumpkin, a few days post Halloween.

    3. TPS Cover Sheet*

      I’ve the opposite happen. I worked for a Global company the people from the head office were from a very petite build nation. So their sizes run different. We had some team build events with branded stuff and they had ordered by size and they had asked… but they didn’t provide the measurements so everyone went with what they were used to and so the XXL’s were not XXL, more like M. The local office workers’ kids loved them though.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        +1 for international size confusion making things worse. Also the “unisex” men’s goes up to a 3XL (equivalent to US 3XL, I checked) but the women’s only goes up to XL, equivalent to… US dress size 14? Because women aren’t allowed to be fat.

      2. 2 Cents*

        This is the same with the cheapo clothes on Amazon. An XL is really and American S or M.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Gods bless the brands that include their own sizing chart in the images for the item.

          1. Lucy*

            With actual measurements so you can use a tape measure, rather than think “well ok you say your M/L is equivalent to 10 US, but is that a High Street size 10 US or a Boutique size 10 US?”

            A note indicating whether a garment is intended to fit close or loose is always useful too (sometimes you can find this in the reviews but it should be in the product description).

    4. Lili*

      As a past orderer of shirts, I can offer a few tidbits.
      – In North America at least, a good supplier will loan your company some free sample sizes for staff to try on. This makes the ordering process sooo much better. You quickly realize what lines tend to run small or large. And nothing makes the orders realize they are excluding people faster than “oh, I tried on the sizes, and I am a size B.” and they are forced to say “Oh, we aren’t ordering a size B, I’ll look into that for you!”. Then you don’t have to go into the whole “inclusive” discussion.
      – I once had to order 2 different lines for women, because the petite women didn’t fit in anything, and the plus women didn’t fit in anything. Moral of the story, corporate gear just generally fits weird, so it’s not you, its the shirt. I guarantee it. For women, shirt manufacturers try and accommodate more sizes by giving more space in the torso area, which just makes for horribly baggy shirts. Heck, one year I had to order a “tall” line becuase all the men complained that their underwear was showing when they bent over. Again, why testers are important.
      – I worked for a European company and we had corporate suits (whhhyyyy?) At one point we were walking thought the airport in uniform after an international tradeshow, and they ushered us into the airline personel security line, as we looked like a gaggle of flight attendants.
      – For larger sizes, I find sweaters, vests, hoodies, etc can be more accommodating than shirts.

      1. BadWolf*

        Yes to samples!! A couple of years ago, my area bought logo’d light weight jackets. And they ordered a samples in a few sizes and in the men’s and women’s cut and we tried them on and said what size/type we wanted. Hurray!

      2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

        We just ordered branded polos where I work. We had samples to try on before ordering. I tried on a sample and found one that fit perfectly — but when the actual shirts came, they were smaller than the samples. So even with the samples, my polo was too small for me. That was intensely frustrating. Companies, if you have changed manufacturers or something, then ALSO CHANGE YOUR SAMPLES. If the sample doesn’t match the actual product, then it’s what’s the point?

      3. Emily*

        These are great suggestions and tidbits! As a petite woman, I would’ve appreciated your efforts to get something that actually fit. (I realize that my challenges are not the same as those of plus-size people, but it’s still frustrating when things aren’t even remotely made for someone of my size.)

        1. Emily K*

          The first time my employer gave me a women’s cut garment I think I almost teared up. I’m not even THAT small at 5’3″, but a Men’s (or as the patriarchy likes to call it, Unisex) Small is more or less a sleeping shirt on me and it’s exceedingly rare for Extra Smalls to even be ordered, typically. In this case they had even asked everyone to send their size ahead of time so they weren’t just making guesses about how many they needed of each size and too bad if your size runs out before you get there. They could ensure that everyone who had responded with a size would get one that size. We had to explain to our male colleagues why it was such a big deal to us and made us feel so extra-valued. It communicated that they hoped we would actually enjoy the swag and view it as a true reward and had taken steps towards that goal – instead of it being like they were just checking an item off a list, “distribute logo swag,” and not really caring how people feel about it.

      4. saastreuropawastheconf*

        OH man, I was at a conference a few weeks ago and one of the tech firms had corporate suites in their (very, very colourful) brand print – it was amazing. Wide range of suit styles on the men & women (jackets, a few different skirts, pants) all beautifully tailored for each person (and it was a range of people!) It really made an impact! Whatever they spent on getting those made, it was well worth it.

        1. Not a cat*

          Yep! Your response is interesting to me because I’ve seen those types of corporate goods on others at conferences and my former CEO would say, “that’s a company that doesn’t spend money on the product.”

          1. Emily K*

            Sounds like a cheapskate. You could say the same thing about health insurance or any other employee benefit.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      Yes! We rolled out uniforms for safety (FR) a few months back. Everyone was supposed to get the “same” uniform….all in men’s sizing, because of course. The handful of women that had to wear them, including me, were not pleased. They had no room for hips or chest. Most didn’t even come in short enough sizes. It was incredibly frustrating.

      I physically could not wear the pants they chose without pain in the worst way. I’m 5’2″, rather bursty in the hips & chest. My old (male) boss kind of just rolled his eyes when a couple of the other gals very gently complained (mostly about how silly it was to have to all wear the same thing). But then I sauntered into his office attempting to wear the Craptastic Uniform, couldn’t get the pants buttoned (since they only took my inseam and ignored my cautions about hip measurements), and swimming in the shirt (smallest size they offered!), and flat out told him that he was trying to put a round shape in a square hole, and what kind of image are we really trying to have here when we’re using a company that can’t be arsed to offer women’s sizes in this day and age…. He was much more understanding (and now I have lab coats instead).

      I’m still a bit testy about the polo shirts that were ordered, mostly because while the men’s have the typical buttons, the women’s have fake buttons and it’s cut way too low for my short upper chest. The fit is good apart from that. However, Newer (Still Male) Boss has pretty much just made it open book and as long as it’s in a price range you can pick it.

      1. Emily K*

        fake buttons

        I wish somebody would send these, along with fake zippers and fake pockets, to the fashion graveyard for all time.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, do you have the ability to switch up your seating or to be able to use a standing desk? I’m a very average-heighted woman, and I can’t sit in an office chair with my feet on the floor and still be in the proper position to type. I, too, prefer the positions you mentioned, but I can’t always use them. [I’ll refrain from ranting about the many ways in which “standard” office equipment is not sized for the wide range of humans, especially women.]

    All that said, ultimately, it’s sitting in a static position that I find difficult and painful. So I use a yoga-ball chair (doesn’t work in all office settings), and I have an adjustable standing desk. Just getting to move is incredibly helpful for me, and it makes it easier to fidget in a non-noticeable way (which I also find helpful).

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Desks are sized so that larger men can fit their legs under them. Which means most women have either their feet off the floor or they are peeking over the edge of the desk.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes. It drives me absolutely nuts—the whole fricking world is designed around men’s bodies (see e.g., airplane seats, although economy seats don’t seem like they’re designed for anyone’s bodies). If I sit high enough to be in proper typing position, then my feet are off the ground, which makes my back hurt. I can use a footrest, but it feels weird. If my feet are on the ground, I can’t type without putting my keyboard on my lap, which is it’s own ridiculousness. Nevermind the fact that office chairs are enormous for me (and I suspect way too small for many others), which makes the arm rests more harmful than helpful.

        I agree with all of Mid’s upthread suggestions (I hadn’t refreshed before posting). And I just really encourage moving as much as humanly possible. If you do Pomodoro, it can be an easy way to build in movement breaks without being distracting. Being a human in an office is hard on the body.

        1. TPS Cover Sheet*

          No quite the opposite. I’m 6’2 and for me the whole world is designed for little people. I hit my head into advertising boards, I can’t fit into a seat on public transport, and an office chair I need to put into the lowest position and carefully slide myself under a desk trying not to hit my knees into anything… thank the deities these days you no longer have those rails for the hanging computer racks. I had a nice collection of suit jackets and cheapest black trousers as I always ended up with holes and bloodstains in the knee.

          These days you do get adjustable chairs and desks and ergonomics is a big thing, and the beacons of intelligence put everyone hotdesking so either you spend half a day finding the right position or do work… productivity my donkey…

          1. Ralph Wiggum*

            I’m 6’4″ and have the same problem. My company was getting really into adjustable standing desks. At first I thought that really wasn’t for me, until I realized I could raise the desk 6 inches, unplug it, and have a regular desk at the right height for the first time in my life.

            1. moql*

              I’m slim, able bodied, 5’7″. Everything is too big for me. Except airplane seats. I’m inexplicably the only person in the world who doesn’t have a problem with them.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ok, it’s structured for the “average American man’s” body :) [5’9″-5’10”, 195–210 lbs.]

            1. TPS Cover Sheet*

              And that is not the ”average” in say the UK.

              They are trying though to achieve global standards but it is an interesting read: ”ISO 7250-1:2008(en) Basic human body measurements for technological design”. You can check if you will fit in an engineered world.

          3. Chinookwind*

            I advocated once for one of our 6’4″ employees when Health & Safety was putting up signs in front of the offices of people who had first aid training. The signs jutted into the hallway at a height of 6’4″. When I pointed out the irony of them creating a safety hazard, I was told that it only affected one or two people who should just watch where they walk (instead of moving all 40 signs they just finished installing).

            I reported back to my tall colleague that, when he does eventually hit his head on the sign, report it to the first aider in that office, fill out the appropriate paperwork for unsafe working conditions and report the ensuing headache to health and safety.

          4. saastreuropawastheconf*

            Actually, yes. Men were just typically shorter: subtract 3-5 inches off your height now for what it would have been 100+ years ago. That’s around when taylorist “standard” desk sizes & layouts were being designed. Men in the US averaged 5’7″ for example, and were slimmer, and a lot of the standards have not changed significantly, or if they were updated in the 50s push; were still updated for men.

            1. TPS Cover Sheet*

              Was it the San Fransisco or the Staten Island ferries, they had this weird congestion problem. There were no more tickets sold than before, but the ferries were jampacked with standing people. And they had enough seating capacity for Xnum people on long benches. And all the seats were taken. After some analysis they figured out from the original drawings, that the ”average buttwidth” in 1890 when they designed the ferry was way smaller than in modern times. So while in 1890 you could fit 12 working men onto a bench… maybe 8 modern persons comfortably.

              1. Lucy*

                I wonder whether modern ideas of personal space are different too – so although maybe you can still fit 10 butts along, people aren’t as happy being squashed right up against the next person as they used to be.

                1. TPS Cover Sheet*

                  Oh definitely different. And it is also different cultures have a different idea of ”comfortable space”, even between people you know. There is a concept of ”diplomat tango” where two ambassadors, say a Finnish and Argentinian slowly ”dance” across a reception. The Finnish ambassador is from a ”long distance” culture and used to having 2 steps distance and the Agentinian is from a ”close distance” culture, only 1 steps distance, so he gets closer and the Finnish ambassador moves a step back, so the Argentinian steps a step forward and the dance is ready.

                  This means when you design venues, seating, etc. if you use your standards instead of the target standards, they might go all wrong as everyone understands that ”standard measurement” differently.

              2. nonegiven*

                You can’t just think about butt width. If you jam a bunch butts in against each other, their shoulders won’t fit. You need to measure shoulder width, instead.

        2. No Tribble At All*

          I used to work in an ops center with long hours, so the manager splurged on fancy chairs for us. I was having trouble adjusting the chair for my 5’3” self, so I looked up the chair specs. This $1500 chair was designed for people 5’4” to 6’6”. The average American woman is 5’4”. Do we just not exist?!

          In the end I made them buy me a footrest.

          1. Christmas Carol*

            No, American women aren’t supposed to be normal, we are all supposed to be tall, young, slim, pretty, and pleasing to the eyes of the men who do the “real work” /s
            By the by, see the other comment threads regarding plus sizes (post #2) The average American woman is now a size 16.

        3. A Simple Narwhal*

          I was at a conference and a speaker was talking about designing for inclusivity, and she said this: “If you design for the average user, you design for no one…You’re not designing one thing for all people, you’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.”

          I thought it was an amazing thing and it really brought to light the idea that designing for the “average user” was stupid (and potentially dangerous, especially for women). She referenced a 99% invisible episode (#226) “On Average” that goes deep into this if anyone was interested in learning more about it. This was a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to listen to it!

    2. mooocow*

      Oh wow. I just realized how incredibly lucky I am – we all have adjustable desks that you can move up and down with a switch so it didn’t even occur to me that regular desks might be the wrong size for many people, because our desks are always the exact size we need them to be!

      1. TPS Cover Sheet*

        Just wait until they put you hotdesking in an open office… then the fun with adjustability starts…

    3. Seifer*

      I will guard my standing desk with my life. I am a very short woman, only 5’2″ and the desk is only raised to a third of the maximum height, but it helps SO MUCH. Before, I had a shitty office chair that if I raised it to the height I needed, I couldn’t sit close enough to see my monitors, and if I lowered it so that they arm rests fit under the desk so I could get close enough, it was like, hey who brought their kid to work.

      It sucks, because I used to work in a restaurant kitchen for a couple of years. On your feet for 8-10 hours at a time, sometimes longer. And then I got an office job and I was sitting at a desk. After a few days, my hips hurt, my thighs hurt, my back hurt. I was getting out of my desk at lunch and quitting time like a newborn fawn, stumbling around like I had no idea how my legs worked anymore. Studies show that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for you and I did not believe them until I had to do it and now I’m like. Sitting in bad office chairs is the worst.

      1. Lucy*

        Same height, same issues. I ended up requesting chairs without arm rests (my arms rest on the desk) and that made a big difference.

  8. Heidi*

    For OP1: Sorry your company is cheap. It sounds like your trips are taking so long that you end up spending days traveling that you could be working. The lost productivity has got to at least partly offset their savings on travel. If they honestly can’t afford to have you travel without taking a flight/train/donkey, they should probably investigate having teleconferences or something instead of in-person meetings.

  9. y*

    OP2: Please speak out. People don’t usually recognize that there’s a problem unless they or someone they know has been directly affected by it. Hence, a person who takes a size small might assume that a size large would just fit everyone bigger than them (mostly because everyone just goes around thinking about themselves and how the world relates to them).

    You say that your workplace in general is a lovely place to work; based on that, I assume that your colleagues will be receptive, but I would also take in mind Alison’s advice to send an email. Not only does it give you a chance to write & rewrite your points, but it also keeps your emotions level, can be forwarded on to others so you don’t have to repeat yourself and keeps your tone intact if the message is forwarded on.

    If they’re decent humans, they will be embarrassed that they missed this and jump to correct it, and also probably feel horrified that you worried about hurting their feelings. People can only do better once they know better. :) I’m sure I’ve have said and done many horrible things accidentally in the past that no one bothered to call me out on; I wish they had, as it took me a lot longer to realize it on my own.

    I’m sorry that you have to spend your emotional energy and time on this issue. Much love.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      My only add is that when you point out the problem in your e-mail, that you do the research and give them a choice of one or two specific clothing items that would work for you.

    2. Acorn*

      Hi, I’m the OP#2 – I really appreciate what you said, thanks. And hearing all the funny corporate clothing horror stories – at least the garments they’re going to get are pretty nice looking! Definitely feeling less stressed out about this now.

      1. Ivy*

        OP#2 – As a fellow HAES advocate, I feel for you. I once told our corporate garment organizer that none of the sizes would fit me. She proclaimed, “But we go up to 2x!” as if that was the highest possible size anyone would ever need. I mumbled something about the brand running small and left it at that.

        Weight stigma is real and is hard to navigate. Sending you lots of compassion as you decide how to navigate this.

    3. CMart*

      Raising my hand guiltily as someone who never had to think about clothing sizes over my own, and therefore just wiffed it horribly (maid of honor coordinating dress selection for a diverse group of bridesmaids).

      There’s just no point of reference. I’ve never had reason to even pick up a shirt or dress larger than size Z, so the “math” of it all (I know there is no “math” and it’s not linear but again – never had to think about it) just confounded me. 16 is twice as much as 8 so… maybe a size 16 is for a person twice as large as a person wearing an 8? (no)

      Hearing “I wear a 26” is like hearing “I make $1.5M Baht a year”. Without experience it just sounds very high, instead of something actually real and that I’ve seen before ($50kUSD).

  10. Fortitude Jones*

    Typically companies recognize that it’s in their interest to have employees arrive at their business destinations reasonably rested and refreshed — that’s why, for example, they’ll often approve business class for flights over X hours

    This is almost verbatim what my new company’s employee handbook says our company philosophy on business travel is. OP would definitely be allowed to get a direct flight in business class if she’s traveling 11 hours between different countries, and they would probably recommend she come in a day or two early to get acclimated to the time change.

    OP, your situation is highly unusual from what I’ve seen in my admittedly limited knowledge of business travel (I’ve only had business travel at three companies), but it may keep happening because you keep smiling and going along with it. Please do speak up and tell your boss you can’t do anymore layovers that would make your business travel longer than necessary. It’s bad for your health, and it’s bad for your work and focus. Burnout is real, and he may be saving a couple hundred bucks now, but he’ll be paying out a lot more if you up and quit due to stress.

    Also, is there a way you can have some of these meetings virtually? You may want to bring this up as an alternative as well – if you consolidated your most pressing training needs to twice a year and had Skype, WebEx, and/or Microsoft Teams meetings for the less important business, maybe that would help keep costs down while keeping you connected to the larger office?

    1. Artemesia*

      If he were not flying direct business class I might think it is possible to fix, but this is just a nasty piece of work. He KNOWS what he is doing is unconscionable because he doesn’t do it himself. To have him talk about even longer indirect routes is simply cruel. Accepting this without complaint gives you a big hole to dig out of, but you should do it. Insist on better routing; request that upgrades be sought. (often frequent flowers can upgrade for a few hundred dollars on long routes.) Insist on arriving the day before so you get a good night’s sleep before meetings.

      And look for another job; this boss will never have your interests in mind and it will be hard to change the current abusive situation.

      1. Willow*

        Ha ha, frequent flowers! I am far from being fresh as a flower when I have been traveling for 26 hours.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I’d definitely want frequent flowers if someone expected me to travel for 26 hours on a regular basis.

      2. SigneL*

        This, for sure. And if you really are pushed to the wall, hint at what it would cost them (REALLY cost them!) to replace you.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, after thinking about this more, if I were the OP and the boss wasn’t willing to budge on this after I asked him WTH he’s thinking and suggesting alternatives, I’d look for a new job with either less travel or a better travel policy. This one is nuts. Then imagine having to do this every two months or so – nope. Not worth it at all.

    2. jman4l*

      I work at a Fortune 500/Dow 30 company and our policy is no business class travel unless you are an executive. However, you can take direct flights and don’t have to spend an extra 5 hours to save $100. I know in some industries business class is standard but in others it isn’t. One suggestion is that if you are flying that much to look into a credit card that gives you access to priority pass lounges. Much better way to spend time in airport.

      I also fly quite a few 12-13 hour flights and arriving a day early always makes sense. Also research the best ways to avoid jet lag. I find when I travel to Asia, it is better to stay up on the plane. Usually you arrive in the evening and then you are super tired and can sleep during nighttime. Also, make sure you close the curtains and don’t check your phone if you get up

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I still can’t get over this no business class thing. I guess my last two companies spoiled me (and they were in two totally different industries, and the last one definitely didn’t make the kind of money the first one made) because I was hella dismayed when I read my corporate travel policy and saw that for flights less than six hours, we could only fly economy. But maybe if I got one of those cards with the cool lounge access, I’d get over it and myself, lol.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’ve noticed companies scrimping on business, but at least many have the decency to let you opt for economy plus… certainly for longer/international flights.

          But this whole multi-plane, train, donkey (h/t Heidi) approach is ridiculous, even among difficult employers.

          1. Lucy*

            Spouse’s OldJob ended up costing all projects for either “Premium Economy + recovery half-day” or Business, and you’d be amazed how cheap Business suddenly looks if it means you regain a day and a half of useful work from a senior-enough person. When he was travelling between northern Europe and South America, that’s a lot of hours to write off! They had to set a minimum of P.E. because of a couple of members of staff who were too wide or too tall to be allowed in Economy for anything but the shortest shuttle flights.

            Business travel means you can work in the airport (assuming lounge access) and perhaps on the flight, and hit the ground running when you arrive. Economy means time fully lost during transit, plus hours adjusting to jet lag and general exhaustion.

            I haven’t had to travel internationally for work, but did have a period of travelling fairly regularly within the UK, which usually means by rail. The rule was that you could book any ticket which was no more expensive than the walk-on standard fare. Since advance tickets are usually much cheaper than walk-on, I booked First Class in advance, which means you get hot breakfast and coffee brought to your (large) seat, free WiFi, charging points, etc. Even on a two-hour journey this makes a huge difference to how productive you are on arrival.

            1. Lora*

              This. I’m expected to be available for “emergency” (read: may be actual “we’re getting shut down by regulators if we don’t answer this question RIGHT NOW” but may also be “someone is too lazy to Google”) calls and answer all emails within 24 -48 hours at all times. My hourly rate is actually billed to the other departments who demand my time, and if the people who are technically paying for me can’t get in touch, they get frustrated very quickly.

              CurrentJob policy is, international flights can be Economy+ if not far (e.g. East Coast US to the UK) or business class if far (East Coast US to Asia). I do actually prefer to sleep on the overnight flight to Tokyo/Shanghai, which Japan Air Business Class helps with – they turn the lights down in Business Class only and provide you with a little kit to brush your teeth, put on slippers, freshen up a little bit so you don’t feel like absolute hammered sh!t when you get there.

              1. Lucy*

                I flew transatlantic with AA Business last summer and it was just lovely – a little pod with a seat that lies properly flat, big fluffy pillow and quilt, nicely dark, and with noise-cancelling headphones so it was comfortingly quiet. I am not a good flyer but it didn’t feel like being on a plane at all, more like camping or something.

        2. Avasarala*

          I’ve never flown business class for work. I know it’s called “business” class but I’ve only been a peon and couldn’t justify those prices. But I think my perspective is skewed because I usually fly Asian airlines and they’re often much more luxurious than my experiences flying on North American carriers.

        3. TechWorker*

          6+ hours meaning business class is still much better than my company ;) I think higher ups (director level and up) who fly lots probably do go business class but all my flights (+ my boss’) have been standard class for 10-11hr flights.

          (Some execs do have ridiculous travel schedules so I don’t really resent this – if I travel it’s usually for minimum 2 weeks to one destination whereas they country/timezone hop for meetings which I’m pretty sure would kill me)

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, timezone frequently would wear me out quick – my body just can’t take much travel these days. But standard flights for 11 hours of travel? Good lord, I’d probably be in my seat silently crying the whole time, lol. I’d have to get paid A LOT to not be pissy about this.

      2. Dan*

        My company does work for a lot of governments. If we’re traveling on the US government, then it’s coach all the way. But our work for Uncle Sam rarely takes us overseas. However, if we’re doing work for foreign governments, we’ll stick ’em with a business class tab, even the grunts.

      3. RandomU...*

        I think my company’s policy makes sense.

        No business class except for international travel. All international travel needs executive approval
        Economy/main cabin for everything else. *I pay personally to upgrade to an Economy +
        If you book a flight that is more than 20% more than the cheapest flight it needs to be approved by a manager. Schedule and preferred airline is an acceptable reason to book a reasonably higher cost flight.
        Flying in the day before being needed is fine, as is flying out the day after if it makes sense schedule-wise.

        I’m sure there’s more, but these are the high points.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I’m flying back out to my company’s headquarters in August, and when I went to book a flight back home on Thursday evening (which is the last day I would be needed in the office), it put my whole round trip flight total over $1,000. I looked at the flights for Friday that were nonstop and midday, and was able to book one that brought the round trip cost to a little over $300 – I will continue flying next day from now on.

          1. RandomU...*

            And the not so trivial reason is that a good number of employees don’t live particularly close to the airport. So the company is pretty vocal about not wanting people working all day… traveling all evening… and then driving home fairly long distances late at night.

            1. Lucy*

              Spouse’s OldJob had a rule that you weren’t allowed to drive yourself to or from the airport. You could expense a taxi/Uber etc, or you could have a friend or family member drive you, but you couldn’t drive yourself. We live maybe 15 minutes from the airport so it was more of an annoyance, but the rule does seem to come from a good place.

    3. Mockingjay*

      One trick I have learned when flying from the US to international, is to look for flights run by US carrier partner airlines. For example, United is partnered with Lufthansa. European airlines (especially national carriers) tend to be nicer with more amenities (including real meals!). Look for the small print: “Operated by __ for United/Delta/etc.”

      Doesn’t quite solve OP’s problem, but maybe they will be more comfortable in the interim?

  11. Nessun*

    OP2, I encourage you to say something. Its wonderful that you are body positive outside of work, and if you’re comfortable with that voice this is a place you can effect change.

    We used to have annual corporate gifts that were clothes, and as a plus-size woman I had years of issues trying to find something on the shoet item list that would fit at all. Usually I’d pick something on could gift to someone else. Then one year the gift was lightweight jackets only, and my boss went on about the rainbow of colors…when I checked the order site, it was black-only if you were larger than 2X. After years of this BS, I was so incensed! When I calmed down, I wrote an email about the lack of options, and explained that a gift that makes me feel excluded due to my size is not a gift I want. My boss was surprised, but heard me. The next year the gifts were travel mugs and blankets for everyone, and it’s been that way since.

    Best of luck being heard, and bringing change!

    1. Perse's Mom*

      Similar thing here – we all got branded coats one year. I asked and was told the sizing was ‘standard.’ It… was not. It never is. HR was roundly astonished that any of us might ask about returning our original choices. Several of us had to size up significantly (I sized into men’s and a color I didn’t want) in order to get something that fit (poorly). The alternative gift options were all useless clutter objects. At least the badly fitted coat was useful.

  12. Washi*

    OP4: Same! I think. For me it’s not that I’m in pain sitting normally, but this feeling of restlessness grows and grows and if I can’t change my position it’s all I can do to keep from wiggling around. Lots of people love a long lingering dinner party and I just cannot if I have to sit normally.

    Some things that help:
    1. In addition to what you’ve described, I also sometimes just tuck one leg under me, which is a little less obtrusive
    2. Taking a 5 minute walk at least once during the day
    3. Stretching my hamstrings at least once during the day
    4. Getting a lot of exercise in general

    But really, most of what you describe doesn’t sound too unprofessional for a relatively casual non-external position. If you want to put out some feelers without talking to your boss, you could ask a peer you respect to give you an honest opinion.

    1. Weird Sitter (OP 4)*

      Thanks for the tips!! I feel you on the restlessness thing. It’s almost like our bodies weren’t designed for being folded into a chair all day…

  13. blaise zamboni*

    OP #4 – I feel you so hard. I’ve had back issues in the past because of that standard seated position. I did have some luck with doing sort of a…modified criss-cross pose, with one foot on the ground and the opposite leg propped up on that knee, alternating which leg was up. It wasn’t ideal but it didn’t look quite as bad and it gave me some relief. I reserved that for when I was pretty much alone, but no one who saw it said anything about it. That might be an acceptable alternative to how you’d like to sit normally.

    However, I also recommend 1) make sure your setup is ergonomically appropriate. Do your feet fully touch the ground when you sit? If not, definitely get one of those adjustable footrests. That has been a lifesaver for me. Also make sure that your monitor level, chair level, etc are where they should be — a proper ergo setup relieves so much stress on your back, which IME is what causes the uncomfortable pose-shifting. In that vein, a sit-to-stand desk might be a good option for you as well.

    And 2) get moving if you can! There are desk stretches you can do to help your back, neck, wrists and hands without having to even leave your chair. And if you’re able to take a break from work and stroll around for a few minutes, it is super helpful both physically and mentally imo. I like to go outside and get some fresh air, but there are people on my floor at work who just make loops around the office and nobody even blinks at it.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Your number two is why I love working from home full-time – I can get up and walk around, stretch, and do yoga poses if need be several times a day without being a distraction to anyone. I need to get a standing desk, though, but I’m struggling with where I’d store it when I’m not working (I work at my dining room table as I have no space for a separate desk right now).

    2. KK*

      I worked in a high-tech office environment for most of my career. The company was very aware of proper ergonomics, and we were accommodated in our equipment, and with training on how to set up our offices. After I retired, I began working in smaller offices that were pretty unaware. One office had only desk chairs that were sized for tall men. No arm rest adjustments, no height adjustments, looong seat beds, etc. And most of the women in the office complained of back aches, shoulder problems, you name it. After my polite request for an ergonomically appropriate chair was turned down, I just went to Office Depot and bought my own. (Hard on my budget at the time, but important enough,) I brought it into the office, adjusted it for me, and no more physical problems. Probably because I didn’t ask permission, no one said anything (YMMV). My only issue was that I kept finding my well-labeled chair in someone else’s office. I would just retrieve it with a smile, saying I needed my chair now. This didn’t solve the fact that I often had to readjust my chair, but all-in-all, a minor issue. I wasn’t interested in organizing others or fomenting a rebellion; I just wished that people would speak up for themselves more. When I left that job, of course my chair went with me.

      Oh, one other thing: during most of my career time spent in offices, I followed the rule, “when on the phone, stand up”. I didn’t invent this, but it worked quite well for me.

  14. Jasnah*

    OP3 Alison has already covered whether it’s a good use of your time as someone at your level to be addressing these things, or whether someone lower down the chain can help. Or if it could be helped with a manual. But as someone who has struggled to be patient with stupid questions, I want to encourage you to reframe “they keep asking very basic questions that I feel they should already know…[it] is is a waste of my time.”

    I completely understand that it can be frustrating to explain something that people should already know. Are they dumb or did they forget it? If I could figure it out why couldn’t they? Plus I already know it, and it’s annoying to spend time on easy stuff that I know when I could be getting stuff done or learning something I DON’T know. Do you see how these kinds of thought patterns can create an uncharitable, critical mindset? And how this can lead to impatient and selfish actions?

    Instead, I encourage you to recall someone who helped you understand something when you were starting out and didn’t know who to ask or how much to ask. For me, I remember when I first joined a former company, the HR rep took over an hour to go over my contract with me, explaining each section so that I could be sure I understood what I was signing. This person was in charge of recruiting, not benefits, and was probably too high up to devote so much time for me. But it really made a good impression and made me feel welcome, like there was at least one person I could turn to with any question. When I had problems adjusting, that was who I contacted for help.

    Eventually I moved on, but I have had so many similar people who helped me beyond what was just in their job description. Cashiers who gave me directions, CEOs who explained business basics, senior staff who helped me reset my password. It gives such an impression of genuine kindness and conscientiousness, and impeccable professionalism. This doesn’t mean you have to help everyone who asks you for anything of course, but especially when working with young people and newcomers, I encourage you to be patient and cultivate a customer service mindset.

    1. government worker*

      This is excellent advice and extremely useful framing for my people shouldn’t be so rigid about what is or is not their job.

    2. DaisyGrrl*

      When we learn something new it’s easy to forget that there was a time we didn’t have that knowledge. Patience goes a long way in making people feel welcome and valued. In several offices I worked at, I’ve created a resource document for new employees with information that I wish I had been provided. That way, people have a resource to consult (and I can just pull it up if someone has a question about where to go for x).

      I’ll never forget the words of wisdom my old boss gave to new employees when I worked in a museum: “when a person asks for directions to the washroom, you may have answered that question 100 times that day but it’s the first time they asked it. So you need to be able to answer it as though it’s the first time you’ve heard the question and not as if you’re sick of hearing it.” We prided ourselves on providing excellent services to new and returning visitors, and the service skills I learned there have served me well in my professional life.

      1. Marissa*

        Yes! It’s the “curse of knowledge” cognitive bias. I get the sense from OP 3’s letter that she may be experiencing this. In my job we do environmental education efforts, and I’m constantly repeating messages I’ve known for years and feel obvious to me (e.g. you can’t recycle your grease covered pizza box, it’s contaminated). Asking basic questions about on boarding during on boarding seems completely reasonable to me, and the issue lies with whether answering these questions is the right use of OP’s time, not whether these new employees should know about these things already.

        1. Lucy*

          Though in both the museum washroom example and onboarding example, there ought to be a better way. Perhaps the museum could be better signed (in which case the employee can say “yes, the washrooms are hard to find, but you need to go along the hall and turn left beyond the Incan death masks” and also feed back to management about increased signage) or the pack for newcomers should be expanded to include FAQs.

          Changing your mindset is often helpful. Changing an organisation’s processes can be even more helpful.

    3. Alli525*

      Agreed. I’m in my 30s, have had MANY jobs (I temped a lot after the recession hit) and only know that there IS a difference between a W9 and an I9 – I have no idea what that difference is, because it’s not really my job to know (it’s HR’s).

      I’m also someone who’s prone to frustration when I run into people’s knowledge gaps (especially when they make more money than me), but practicing empathy is SO important to building good relationships with coworkers. They might annoy the sh*t out of me and I might rant about them a little to my friends, but ultimately it was often my job – temping as an admin assistant – to help them even if they’re 20 years older than me and shouldn’t – for example – need my help with a fax machine (because I’ve rarely used one and they definitely had, just, a long time ago). OP, it’s your job to make sure they get the help they need – delegate and document as much as you can.

    4. becca*

      I want to be sympathetic to OP3 about having to do things that are technically not her job, but I really wish she could get off her high horse about what she thinks people should or shouldn’t know. I’m 37 years old and I don’t know the difference between a wire transfer and a deposit slip. I’ve never needed that information in my life. Is there a list somewhere of things I should know and what age I should know them by, so I can get caught up? The opinion that “You should know this by now because you are [some arbitrary number of years old]” is so gatekeep-y and condescending and not helpful. You can foster an attitude where people feel okay about asking questions and doing work correctly, or you can foster an attitude where people feel ashamed and dumb and struggle in the dark and make mistakes that they’re afraid to tell their superiors about. (Also, hiring an accountant? To explain tax forms? Did I read that right? Isn’t that something an accountant is wildly overqualified for?)

      I used to work in a public library (I now work in an academic library). I answered super basic questions literally dozens of times a day. What is Facebook? What is a password? Can you help me format this resume? Do you have books about true things? Do I need to pay for a library card? Do you have this movie on DVD, I just saw it in the theater yesterday and I want to see it again? How do I email? Sometimes I thought to myself, why do you not know this? Answer: Because they were doing other things with their time. That is all. That is the only answer. Also, it doesn’t matter why they don’t know. They’re asking to know now. If you can’t answer super basic questions over and over (every time you hire somebody), and do it in (at minimum) a dispassionate and clear way, you should probably ask to be removed from the onboarding process entirely.

      1. Watry*

        I’ve got two years on OP3 and I couldn’t afford to hire an accountant, although with NewJob I might be able to get one to do my taxes*. And I’m doing pretty well, comparatively speaking! If these new workers are entry-level, especially, it’s reasonable for them to go to the best source of knowledge, which they’ve been told is OP. It’s not reasonable to expect them to hire professionals that they probably don’t need with money they may not have.

        *I also live with my parents because I can’t afford rent, though that’s partially due to chronic illness/mild disability.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It took me into my 20s to realize that if everyone knew everything I knew, then I would have little to no use in this world. That helped flip a previously hot tempered internal response to “stupid” questions.

      I also learned around then how complex the world is. How we all bring something to it. I learn quickly and it comes naturally to me. Others need to do things much longer and require different data points. And sometimes they simply are just not able to retain information that’s irrelevant to them passed the “get job. Sign stuff. Start job.” phase.

      I’ve had to assist many of my coworkers over the years and bosses alike. By being warm and open to it, I’ve made others lives easier and less stressful. It’s done me a lot of good to get to this point and shed the negative thoughts towards others.

      Someone told me that I’ve got high standards for myself and the problem in turn was I tried holding everyone in the world to the same standard and that’s unfair to them and myself.

    6. blink14*

      This is some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on this site. Guaranteed someone has gone out of their job description to help out another person, pay that back in kind. Pass on knowledge so that the person receiving it can one day do the same. Something that is “common knowledge” to you may be very confusing and unknown to someone else.

      The only way I know the difference between W-9, I-9, 1099, etc is from job experience at my first permanent job. I actually hadn’t even known I’d be handling that stuff when I was hired (a whole other story), and basically had to learn it on my own, but gaining knowledge on hiring contractors, temp employees, dealing with tax forms, insurance forms, etc was hugely beneficial and I always try to help out when someone at my job now, or in my personal life, needs an explanation on something like that. A specific piece of knowledge from that old job became useful at my current job recently, and it has nothing to do with my day to day job duties, it just happened to come in to play with a contract, and I had to explain this item to multiple people.

    7. Observer*

      Excellent advice.

      OP – I’ve been in the workforce for many years, and by all accounts do my job well and am fairly knowledgeable. But according to you, I’m missing “basic” knowledge that “everyone” should know by the time they get into the workforce. I probably would have made the same mistake – I did not know that the routing number I would provide for direct deposit is different than for wire transfer.

      Ask yourself this – WHY would people normally know these things?

      1. TPS Cover Sheet*

        Yeah, I would have been totally at a loss as in UK and Europe you use a ”sort code” or an IBAN for the Bank, and thats it. I only happened to read this when opening an USD account on Transferwise, and there being a note you need to know how your client is paying you as to which code you give… And I’m in my 50’s and worked in finance and thought I knew my shit…

    8. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      A best bit of advice my mom gave me–“This is the first time you’ve told this information to *this* person.” You may have had to help a thousand people with the same mundane question, so it feels like, “geez, don’t people know by now!” But for each person, it’s the first time.

    9. TPS Cover Sheet*

      There is always ”things that everyone knows, but nobody tells you.” Like imagine as kids you learned in kindergarten not to touch poison ivy. Like *everyone knows* not to touch poison ivy. So then comes along new happy limey TPS straight off the airplane (or from the inner city you don’t never seen grass exceptin a park) and picks up a nice boquet to enliven the office with wildflowers and…. errr…

      ”Well nobody told me…”
      ”But everybody knows…”

      A good employee handbook (totally side issue if anyone reads it), or these days a Wiki, which gets reviewed and updated so its not the same one from 1950 stating you may not play 8-track tapes and rollerblade in the parking lot, and a good introduction presentation are ace. Also assigning an ”office buddy” is used in a number of places. That requires a bit of volunteering and personal chemistry, but in a big office it is way less nervwrecking to go ask a ”stupid question” from one of your peers, preferrably in a different team alltogether. Of course in a smaller company you need to improvise a little.

      As for the foreigners, they don’t understand landing on planet Litigaria, and usually a native has no clue how stuff works as they’ve never gone through the hoops, so obviously the foreigner will try and find a peer who has done it all as you generally need to go in the right order to the right office with the right papers, lest you get into a catch-22. Try getting a bank account in Ireland without a gas bill, and connect utilities without a direct debit. The HR should have this sorted out, but they tend to be too vague without actually knowing the tricks. Like getting a Credit Union account in the US is way easier than dealing with a ”real” bank… or it was at least in the 90’s.

  15. LilyP*

    #4 ooooh I feel you! I work in a very casual jeans-and-thirts type office (gotta love the tech world haha) so I’m not sure if this will apply to your situation, but I’ve always sat weird to my heart’s content and I’ve never had an issue with it. I wouldn’t do more than, say, putting one foot up on the opposite knee in any sort of meeting but if I’m just working quietly at my desk anything goes!

    If the taking off your shoes part feels especially weird, could you get a thin/lightweight pair of slip-on shoes (maybe like Tom’s or something) or even loafer-looking slippers to keep under your desk? That way they’d be clean enough to have up on the chair.

    I also second all the suggestions about standing desks and regular breaks. I’m not personally super sold on the yoga ball seat, ymmv but I still feel the compulsion to “sit weird” on mine and you just….can’t really sit cross-legged on a yoga ball, so I end up with terrible posture

    1. mooocow*

      I have definitely sat cross legged on a yoga ball at work. Mind you, there was this one incident when I almost feel off in the middle of a team meeting, but that was definitely worth it…

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It helps if you get the yoga ball with optional “base.” That way you pop the ball in the base and lock the wheels, which lets you sit cross-legged without worrying about rolling off the ball or clutching your desk for balance. :)

    3. LilyP*

      Thinking about this more, I think the tolerance for weird sitting at my company is part of an overall culture of being focused on work results and not caring at all on the “optics” of how the work gets done — stuff like a very minimal dress code, not caring about tattoos/weird hair colors, total flex time, unlimited PTO, no problem with people wearing headphones or having a messy desk, etc. If you can’t directly observe any weird sitters, looking at that sort of stuff might give you an idea about which way the culture swings.

    4. Gumby*

      I once had back problems and literally sat with my lower leg and foot on top of my desk next to my keyboard for a few hours each day for a while. Tech company so it wasn’t a problem at all.

  16. AnnaNotherthing*

    OP4: I work in a traditional office setting with a company that places a high priority on ergonomics and general safety. Mostly this means that if they catch you sitting in a chair in a non-traditional fashion they will tell you of the worker-bee who sat that way and the chair ended up flipping and they, the worker-bee, hit their head and had a concussion. Seriously? Everyone who has been there more than 5 years has a horror story about some mundane office process.

    It can be very helpful though because they will provide you with foot stools, multiple chairs, desks that transition from sitting to standing, and appointments with an ergonomics expert.
    It may be worth asking about what options the company offers.

    1. Blarg*

      The best online safety training I ever did was for a volunteer gig. The quiz involved identifying which things were ladders and which were not. Chairs? Not ladders. Tables? Not ladders. I can only imagine the injuries that must have precipitated such extensive ladder/not a ladder training. I do think of it often. Every time I use a not-a-ladder as a ladder…

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Having seen someone at a warehouse climb a 20 foot tall shelf with the assistance of some cardboard boxes and a broom as a “climbing pole,” you would be amazed.

        I was working at that same place when I learned that the emergency power outage lighting in the windowless warehouse did not work, and when I called out to my coworker to ask what we were supposed to do, he replied, “well, someone usually remembers we’re up here within an hour and comes with a flashlight…”

  17. Kiki*

    LW 4: I also sit weird! I currently work in tech, so everything is super casual and I am not the only weird sitter. Hopefully you will also end up working in an office where other people sit weird and you can immediately feel comfortable sitting how you please. I would caution you against taking off your shoes in the office– a lot of people are squicked out by feet, even in socks. I would also definitely follow Alison’s advice about sitting “properly” in meetings and with clients.

    If you don’t see other weird sitters, I would take into consideration how “exposed” you are. If your desk is in a cubicle or isolated from other people, you can probably sit however you want most of the time. If you’re one of the first people guests see when they walk in the office, you probably have less freedom to sit differently.

    This is also such a minor thing. Even if a few people think it’s odd or slightly less than professional, if you’re a great employee in every other way, nobody is going to hold it against you. Everyone has quirks and this is one of the least annoying ones to have in an office space.

  18. Kat*

    Ooh I am a weird sitter too – always have been! A footrest under the desk helps a lot! Also a sit/stand desk so I can take standing breaks when sitting is making my legs feel crazy. I’m most casual-ish offices I think people might only have a problem with the shoes off part. I wear lots of dark colored pants so I can tuck my legs with my shoes on. Also, I am sure people have been telling you forever that sitting on your legs is going to kill your knees and I am just turned 40 and you know what? They were right. So sad. There is literally no comfortable way to sit anymore.

  19. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The thing with I9 and W9s is they’re only usually filled out when you start a job. A lot of very smart folks don’t keep them straight and ask over the years both young and older.

    When we’re used to processing or requesting these things regularly what’s “basic” to us isn’t basic to the outsiders.

    I would try to fix your way of assuming things you’re famikiar with are every day stuff to everyone and approach it as at least they’re asking and trying to learn.

    This is why most mass requests for W9s include what they’re for and there’s no assumptions made that of course the person receiving the request just knows.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I work in a very international field, and these questions seem really, really reasonable to me. Sorting out visa paperwork and setting up your financial life in a brand new country are *not* obvious and simple things to figure out, and the rules keep changing. Maybe it doesn’t need to be the OP who answers these questions, but someone at the office should be available to take queries.

      1. Avasarala*

        Same, I’m American but working overseas and I don’t know what an I9 or W9 is. I don’t expect a young person in their first job as a vibranium engineer to be familiar with HR/tax/visa paperwork. (Especially if, as pointed out above, you only fill them out once or so per job!)

        Also US government paperwork is especially hard to read and understand. And if you look at how some other countries do it, if it does require expertise/legalese, the average person isn’t expected to know it inside and out.

        1. TPS Cover Sheet*

          US Government Paperwork… one page of explanation of what the paperwork is and how to fill it in holding a black ink pen, or if you want it in braille or other language, which you couldn’t read if you needed it in braille or another language, then another page and a half explaining the ”Paperwork Reduction Act”, and then maybe ten lines of the exact same information you filled in on every other damn form…

        2. doreen*

          I live and work in the US and had no idea what a W9 was until I just looked it up- I actually thought there was a typo and the OP was talking about a W4. I’ve never filled a W9 out because it’s not used for employees – it’s for freelancers/independent contractors and other non-employees.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s also used for vendors to confirm if they require a 1099.

            Its not standard stuff for most people. Even the people who’ve seemingly been contractors for decades are like “W9 what’s that?” When I request one.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s not just hard to read and understand it’s intimidating to most! It’s “official” and has some strong language about how you’re swearing it’s done correctly “or else!”

          You’re also putting down all you’re personal data and handing it over. Lots of stress comes from giving your SSN and then handing it over thinking to a new employer or client.

        4. a1*

          People keep saying these are “first jobs”, but LW says they are her age – 27ish. I would hardly expect this to be their first job, even with grad school. A lot of people have worked at least part time or summer/seasonal jobs by then.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            We have this discussion all the time.

            A lot of people don’t work summer jobs and seasonal jobs. We have had roll calls here about this thing.

            Also nobody who had a seasonal job or summer job should know what a W9 is, that’s stuff you don’t do until you’re a contractor. So it’s probably their “first contractor” job.

            1. a1*

              Sure, some this may be their first job, but it seems all the commenters are assuming all these applicants are in their first job with the OP. And I highly doubt that’s the case.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Fair enough.

                I had to go back and re-read. I thought I read that it was their first job in the letter but yeah, never mind!

                But really, as I’ve noted, I get this question from people who have been working like 97 years. It’s not a new-to-workforce question, it’s a new-to-this-job question. Since you fill out an I9 when you start and never see it again. If you are working for numerous years, then the next time you have to go through the hiring process, its something you don’t really remember.

          2. Marissa*

            True, but I honestly didn’t give a second of thought to the paperwork I filled out for work after I was done with them. If someone asked me what an I9 was I wouldn’t know, but if they asked if I provided proof of citizenship I’d remember taking my passport to the office and signing a form. It’s just not critical as an employee and easy to forget about.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              That’s a good distinction as well.

              The numbers of forms get all jumbled for the folks who don’t bother with them frequently. So yeah, I get the same kind of “What’s an I9” and my response is “it to provide proof that you’re legally allowed to work in the country” and they go “Oh that old thing.”

    2. remizidae*

      Agreed. I’ve never heard of anyone hiring an accountant just to figure out how pay for a new job works. Not to mention the fact that accountants cost money, and someone starting their first job typically doesn’t have much money. So, “hire an accountant before every new job” is not a reasonable expectation to have. People who go to HR with these questions are acting very normally, and if OP doesn’t want to field those questions, she should get out of the HR role.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, my parents only ever hired a CPA after they had to deal with inheritance distribution many years into their lives!

        I don’t know anyone with one who isn’t pulling down a ton of money or have complex income. Just having a job doesn’t require one.

        Granted I was taught tax forms in high school and never needed assistance. I do everyone’s taxes and answer their questions about those pesky w4’s constantly. It’s just normal for most folks to struggle with paperwork of all kinds.

        1. remizidae*

          Yeah, I’m with you. I’ve also always done my own taxes. Would probably hire an accountant if I won the lottery or started a business, but not until then.

          Simply not being intimidated by numbers or by complex forms is a skill that not everyone has.

          1. Natalie*

            Indeed. Particularly when a task comes easy to someone, (whether from experience or some natural aptitude), it’s easy to think that everyone that doesn’t take to it quickly is deficient somehow. But it’s far more likely that the multiple people that need assistance are the baseline, and this happens to be an where the LW excels.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              This is a great way to summarize the issue at hand.

              If everyone is asking the same question, they really aren’t as basic as you think.

  20. Marzipan*

    #5, I have used wording very similar to what Alison suggests for multiple rounds of IVF and nobody has twigged what I’m doing. And since you’re freezing your eggs you don’t have to worry about transfer, so that’s one less unpredictable appointment to work round!

    Is your clinic somewhere relatively close to where you work? Many clinics offer monitoring appointments quite early, so you may find you don’t need to miss any work for them.

    Good luck!

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I’ve also used the “minor medical appointments coming up” on my manager but for when I was actually pregnant but not ready to announce yet. “Minor” can cover a whole range of things and it’s a pretty relative term; what is major to someone else could be minor to you.

      I say this to make sure OP doesn’t feel guilty about saying this even if it feels major, because saying that could cause undue worry or yes, even discrimination if they think it’s for pregnancy. The bias can be real, even if it’s bias by people that don’t think they would be biased and even if it’s unconscious. It’s okay to obfuscate for privacy reasons in medical matters, and completely understandable. Plenty of managers that want to hold zero bias against women for having children and a career have still caught themselves thinking, “Oh, I shouldn’t assign that to Cindy because I’m pretty sure she’s pregnant and I don’t want her absence to leave us in the lurch.” This could seem reasonable to them but it still is evidence of bias that negatively affects women in the workplace.

    2. OP5*

      Thanks Marzipan, that’s very reassuring to hear!

      The clinic is not too far away, but the medical professional handling it deals with difficult cases so you can often show up for a scheduled appointment and wait an hour to be seen because of an urgent case, meaning there’s not an easy way to say I’ll be back at the office at this time or that time.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        If it’s an IVF clinic, monitoring appointments (which is what you’ll be doing) are usually much, much quicker and easier than scheduled appointments. Most clinics run them in cattle calls in the mornings between 7 and 9, before most people go to work, and generally you’re in and out in ten or fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully your clinic is on the efficient side, and you should find that monitoring appointments are way easier than scheduled doctor’s appointments.

        1. Going Anonymous for This Comment*

          Yup, my IVF clinic was remarkably fast with the monitoring appointments. I was so surprised and pleased about their speed that I complimented them on it multiple times. And the lab opened at 6:30 so I could do them really early and get to work and no one knew. When I had to take time off last-minute during the day for other appts, I just told my supervisor that it was a doctor’s appt and when she did kindly mention that she hoped everything was okay, I just said, I am pretty sure it is, I just want to make certain. It seemed like a good way to divert attention away from everything.

          Though I got lucky and my retrieval was on a Saturday so I didn’t have to miss work. If I have another retrieval and it’s on a weekday, I may just call in sick for the day of.

        2. Cat*

          My IVF clinic did not do this and I wasted sooooooo much time during the workda. It was kind of a nightmare. The advantage was you were always seen by your own doctor for each ultrasound, but man, I could not handle the missed working time.

      2. Angry with numbers*

        No one even noticed the appointments beyond the egg retrieval for me. My boss did know about it but no one else did. My clinic did all monitoring appointments from 6 AM to 8 AM so I just took one of the earlier ones and usually ended up at work early. At my clinic you didn’t see your doctor for the monitoring appointments , you might because they were on a rotation, it was a blood draw an ultrasound and maybe quick consult with the nurse and/or doctor depending on how far along you were. Also the retrieval date is tentative it can be sooner or later depending on how fast or slow your eggs develop. I know everyone is different but the retrieval is very minor surgery it only takes a few minutes. Both times I had it I was fine after spending the afternoon on the couch. I went back to work the next day.

        1. Zoey*

          This was my experience as well – monitoring appointments were first thing in the morning, never more than 20-25 minutes, and not done by my doctor, and I got updates to meds over the phone during the day. I didn’t tell anyone at work, and as far as I know no one noticed, and I went back to work the next day. OP, definitely check with your doctor about how your clinic does things. I think it’s pretty atypical for normal monitoring appointments to take up much of your time.

          I will say that I got VERY bloated the first time (I did two rounds of egg freezing), after the day of the procedure that was a lot worse than the soreness. My one piece of advice is drink way, way more Gatorade than you think you need to help flush out your system.

      3. irritable vowel*

        Agree w what everyone else has said – the monitoring appointments are not going to be the same as the appointments you’ve had so far with the doctor. You’ll get there at 7 or 7:30 in the morning, they’ll do a quick ultrasound and blood draw, and you’ll be on your way. These appointments are done before the doctors are even there to start their days. And you should only need to take off the day of the retrieval (it’s true that you can’t schedule it in advance – the most you’ll be able to do is tell your boss that you’re going to need to take a day off in a particular week or so, but you’re not going to get more than 48 hours notice of when that’s actually going to happen).

      4. Flossie*

        To OP #5: I did IVF with two egg collection rounds, separated by a month off in between. For the day of retrieval, I’d plan to be out of commission the whole day. The first retrieval was very painful for me and involved spending the rest of the day in bed; the second was not and I was fine. For the first one, though, I’d made the mistake of acting like I’d be online later in the day and then wasn’t able to be, which wasn’t a big deal since most of my work is pretty independent and I was on top of deadlines.

        Hopefully, your monitoring appointments during the course of the egg retrieval process won’t involve a long wait to be seen. At the clinic I went to, there was an early-to-mid morning window to drop in for monitoring, and the appointments were very quick. I would go on the early side and be at work at a normal time. Then the nurse called me later in the day with tweaks to my meds, if needed.

        I believe the only time I let my bosses/colleagues know I was missing work was for the two egg retrieval appointments and the embryo transfer appointment. Once each in January, March, and May, so long enough in between to not arouse any unwanted speculation (at least none that reached me). I may have said I had a minor medical procedure for one or two of those dates, but in general my office is pretty flexible and many people routinely work from home or are temporarily unavailable for various reasons such that I didn’t have to give much of an excuse.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I’ve done IVF and you don’t usually need several days off after retrieval. Usually only that day… if anything I felt better after retrieval because I wasn’t so swollen anymore.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I also had ‘retrieval in the morning, work the next day’, but it’s probably best to have the option in your pocket in case of ongoing cramps. Some people’s cervix’s just get unhappy about the whole deal.

        Good luck!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s what I was coming to ask – did you doctor’s office specifically tell you to stay off your feet for several days? This seems really unusual. I went back to work the next day, after both retrieval and transfer.

      3. PicoSignal*

        I went back to work immediately after the retrieval. I was a bit achy, but would rather be distracted from achiness at work than focused on achiness at home! YMMV, though.
        OP, I suggest that you discuss with your clinic the timing & time commitment of the blood work & retrieval process. Doing so eased my mind and simplified planning.

        1. Going Anonymous for This Comment*

          Same day as the retrieval? Wow, my clinic would definitely not have recommended that, although I probably would have been fine to do it. I was also supposed to be in the company of a responsible adult for 24 hours afterwards so someone could watch me and make sure I was okay (mostly from the anesthesia, I think). I would definitely have been fine to work the next day except my retrieval was on a Sat so I didn’t have to.

          1. Valancy Snaith*

            This must depend on the clinic, because I didn’t go under anesthesia, and my clinic said that as soon as I felt up to it I was OK to go about my daily business. They were happy to write me a note off work if I liked, though.

      4. Angry with numbers*

        I was surprised at the amount of painkillers I was given. I was fine with a heating pad on the couch for the afternoon. And that was mainly just shaking off the anesthesia.

        1. roger that*

          I did two rounds of egg freezing, and I think both times I worked from home the day after the retrieval. I could have gone into the office if needed – at that point it was just sore. The challenge is mainly that you don’t know the date of retrieval for sure until about 48 hours before hand. I was able to say to my boss “I will either need Monday or Tuesday off for a medical procedure, and unfortunately it depends on their scheduling, so I won’t know until over the weekend, but I will let you know as soon as I get the scheduling info.” He had no problem at all.

          I also had the monitoring appointments between 7 and 9 am and was actually earlier to work than normal, not late, so no one noticed that part!

          In terms of time off from work, it’s actually really similar to a colonoscopy or dental surgery, so “minor medical procedure, but I’m totally fine” should cover you just fine!

          1. OP5*

            Thanks to all the commenters! To answer a few questions:
            – It’s not a dedicated IVF clinic. I’m working with a medical professional specialized in this in a more general ob-gyn practice. The first possible appointment each day is around 9am.
            – As mentioned the doctor i’m working with deals with complicated ob-gyn cases, so even a monitoring appointment at is supposed to take 20 minutes might be delayed because of an urgent issue with another patient. My office isn’t too far but it’s still a half hour away in the most optimistic scenario.
            – It’s reassuring to hear most people were back to normal soon after the retrieval. I based the recuperation on what she told me.
            – I’m not based in the US so the norms around this might be slightly different.

      5. Cat*

        Same, I took the rest of that day off and was fine after. Honestly, I probably could have worked from home if I HAD to that afternoon, but did not.

    4. Ex-Teacher's Wife*

      I did IVF and the monitoring appointments were usually early morning. Quick blood draw and then ultrasound by a nurse practitioner or anyone who was available. Rarely did I see my doctor. I’d just get a call later in the day with instructions. I was so bloated I found sitting difficult by the end. I only took off the day of my retrieval. I know some people use FMLA to cover the frequent absences. I didn’t since most of mine only required me coming in about 30 minutes late. I don’t remember if I told my boss what I was doing, but I had a blog about it, so I wasn’t really hiding anything. Good luck!

    5. JJ*

      I did three rounds of IVF and managed hugely busy projects at work during pretty much every cycle. It’s not a time of my life I look back on fondly :) but it’s doable.

      The only thing that caused me to miss more work then maybe coming in a half hour late (besides the actual retrievals etc) was that one of the injectables (Lupron, I think?) gave me UNBELIEVABLE migraines; I missed a few days with those. I also got so bloated during the cycles, make sure you have some loose dresses/comfy pants! There was one day in my first cycle I remember I had to unbutton my jeans and hook them shut with a rubber band.

      Otherwise, your shots will all be in the morning and the evening, and monitoring appointments are generally in the morning as well, so logistically it’s easy-ish to do if your clinic isn’t 100 miles away from work and you have a decently flexible job.

      Good luck!

    6. Anon for this*

      I also used similar terminology when I had a D&C for a missed miscarriage a couple months ago. Told folks I’d be out for a day for an “outpatient medical procedure” and nobody questioned, nor did they question my post-op checkup a week later.

      People are fairly good at taking the cue of “minor medical procedure or issue” to both mean “my life isn’t in danger/I’ll be back to normal in a couple days” and also “not interested in revealing more details.” It doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be curious, but they mostly wont ask and anyone who does is a boundaries violator and doesn’t deserve more than a curt “its private.”

  21. moql*

    #4, I have similar problems! I’m lucky that my office is relaxed enough to get away with sitting weirdly. I keep a blanket at work to cover my knees which keeps things a little subtle. To vary things I have a high stepstool under my desk; it keeps your hips in a similar orientation to wedging knees against the seat in front of you. Also, I have a sit/stand desk. It hurts my back to use it for very long, but the variety is nice and it looks more professional if there are important people wandering through.

    Best of luck!

  22. Zella*

    OP 4, I have similar feelings about sitting! I actually started getting knee pain from sitting cross legged all the time. I figured out a few accomodations that work for me and are fairly discreet, but I also want to mention that this could be a sensory issue, bc that can affect how to approach the issue. Not saying this is necessarily what’s happening with you, but this is what it was in my case!

    Lots of people have sensory quirks – basically, your brain doesn’t quite process sensory input the way a neurotypical brain does. This can show up in lots of different ways (eg, craving a particular type of sensory input, wanting to avoid another type of sensory input at all costs, not really noticing another type of input at all, etc). This can happen with any of your senses (the 5 basic senses, or the 2 that a lot of people don’t know about, vestibular and proprioceptive). If it happens enough to significantly interfere with your life, it’s called “sensory processing disorder,” but you can have these sensory quirks without getting to disorder levels. (If you’re an adult and think you have SPD, the book “Making Sense” by Rachel Schneider is a great resource.)

    In my case, my proprioceptive sense is a bit wonky – this is the sense that tells you where your limbs are in space. Mine sort of shuts off if my limbs are still for long enough – I basically can’t tell where my legs or arms are if they aren’t moving or I can’t see them. This is why I don’t like sitting still in a “professional” way: my legs have basically disappeared to my senses, and this is a bad feeling! I compensate for this using other senses: eg, sitting cross legged lets me keep track of my legs using touch, jiggling my legs uses my vestibular sense, etc. I was compensating for this in a bunch of ways without realizing it, but actually knowing what the issue was has helped enormously.

    The main thing I do now is actually really simple: I have a thick elastic band I’ve sewn into a circle, I keep this around my ankles and slightly push out or bounce against it. This keeps my sense of my legs “activated” while letting me stay in a decently ergonomic posture – if you’re sitting in “weird” positions all day, it can definitely start to affect your body longer term.

    Other things I do: I have several different levels of foot rests, and I switch between these fairly frequently – the change in position gives me more “leg sense activated” time, and the weight being placed onto different parts of my feet/legs uses touch to activate as well. I have a couple different textures of floor covers as well, so I can get different touch input. Finally, pressure on my joints seems to really help, so I have some of those elastic support tubes for my ankles and knees, and just put those on as needed.

    1. Former Help Desk Peon*

      I was coming here to suggest an elastic band – I’ve been thinking about getting one of the exercise type myself. They have ones that are meant to attach to desks that you can push your feet against too; I’ve seen similar things suggested for kids in schools and see no reason adults can’t benefit too!

  23. Polyspace*

    OP2: When you do speak up, (which I encourage you to do!), I would adjust Allison’s wording about sizing from “extended” to “inclusive.” I think that small change in verbiage takes the onus off those needing an extended size and frames it as a need of the company to be inclusive of all people of all sizes. Good luck!

    1. Not Alison*

      And it might be that you need to tell them what size you actually need. For example, I wouldn’t want to assume that you need a size 3X or 4X or whatever, just in case I ordered a size that was too large and you thought I was fat-shaming you. That would be embarrassing for me. But if you told me you wanted me to order that size, then I would have no problem doing so.

  24. XF1013*

    OP #2, if for some reason it’s not feasible to order larger sizes, you might also ask if custom embroidery could be offered as an alternative. My company gives away branded clothing like yours, but the supplier has a limited range of sizes, so anyone else is welcome to bring in their own articles of clothing to have the logo embroidered on them for free. It’s not fair that some people have to pay out of pocket for what other people get without cost, but at least the option exists.

    1. Marmaduke*

      I love this option because it worked so well at my last job. It was a simple way to accommodate people with texture issues, people in maternity/nursing clothes, anyone who needed particular shirt styles related to bust size, etc.
      Sure, it meant paying out of pocket, but many people were delighted to be able to choose an item that worked well for them.

    2. Avasarala*

      Oh, an iron-on patch or something they could attach to their own clothes is a good idea!

    3. WS*

      +1, I’d never had any luck getting extended sizes (which was just great for me at size 26 and my coworkers at sizes 4 and 28), but the last place I worked at offered custom embroidery and reimbursed up to $35 for you to buy your own shirt or t-shirt, which was perfect.

      1. Ewesername*

        We do this too. Standard issue garment is free. But you can bring your own for approval (has to meet appearance guidelines- no tanks tops, etc) and they’ll reimburse you to a certain cost level, depending on what the others are getting.

    4. Project Manager*

      Oh man, I wish we had that option. We often do orders for embroidered stuff from Land’s End, which is great except they don’t offer embroidery on children’s sizes and the smallest women’s size is 1-4″ too big for me in every dimension. Luckily, there is no *requirement* to wear this stuff, but it is a big tradition around here to get shirts with your project logo (this may sound silly, but I can’t explain why it isn’t without identifying my workplace), and it’s one I can’t participate in.

      1. Jerk Store*

        Can you get the patch and take it to your own tailor to be sewn onto something that fits you and expense it?

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      My husband’s company does this as well but they will reimburse you for the price of the shirt you bought up to the amount they would have spent had they purchased the shirt. My husband did this since he is an odd size (VERY slim with looooong arms) we usually have to order online.

  25. Anongovernmentalorganization*

    OP #1 – I work for an NGO, and I agree with Academia Nut and Dan above–we generally aren’t expected to put up with this sort of thing. That said, we do have an on-going joke about “option 4” travel itineraries that our travel agent always sends us. We’re not allowed to book anything other than economy (and often we even get a special extra-low class of economy!) but in most cases, we can book the lowest cost reasonable itinerary. Excessive layovers would definitely count as unreasonable unless the cost savings was pretty significant. In some cases, there are inflexible donor requirements do require us to book the absolute lowest cost flight no matter what, but even in those cases, we still would fly into the primary international airport (unless we had a particular reason for going to a smaller one). So I absolutely agree that you should mention how unreasonable this is to your company. It’s wasting your company’s time, and it’s hurting your productivity to put you through the ringer like this.

    That said, if you can’t get your boss to change the policy, here a few survival tips: If you can fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can often end up on flights that aren’t full (especially towards the back of the aircraft), so you can get a whole row of seats to yourself (it’s almost like business class, but with a seat belt digging into your back). Airlines will often cover a hotel stay for overnight layovers if that’s your only option, and even if not, sometimes the cost of an overnight layover + hotel is still lower than a better itinerary. (I personally really prefer doing this, but I would also understand if someone thought the added hassle was not worth it).

  26. Lisa*

    I’ve read this website for a few months now. It seems you need to be yourself, but don’t actually be yourself. Yes, you have rights but you really don’t. Wear that, but don’t wear it. Be honest, but don’t be too honest. I have no answer to this. The further you read the more you’re going to be confused. No matter what you do, you’re doing something wrong or right. Who knows?

    What a world we live in.

    1. Washi*

      Yep, life is complicated and doesn’t generally lend itself to “5 easy tips to do the right thing in every situation.” Good thing we have Alison to unpack assumptions and norms!

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Well, the world’s complicated, and also you have to deal with all the other people in the world, who may or may not be as reasonable or as decent as you’d like them to be. So… yeah? Like Lisa said, if you could boil it down to 5 easy buzzfeed tips, there’d be no point in the entire website.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      And a lot of it boils down to the culture of the organization you’re working at.

    4. Fed*

      Honestly it sounds like you have a good understanding of the point of the website–it’s all about nuance. I’ve been reading for years and it’s really helped me navigate work situations precisely because I understand the need for nuance.

      For what you’re specifically describing, you sound spot on. You should be authentic at work, but within limits of professional behavior. We all have basic human rights but they are often not guaranteed by law. Acceptable clothing depends greatly on the region and employer. Tell the truth, but be discreet.

    5. agnes*

      Being flexible and reading nuances is an important part of navigating a complex world.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When dealing with humans, there is a lot of uncertainty and “maybe try this?” involved.

      That’s why we create these kinds of advice blogs and articles.

      Laws only protect us so much since there are steps required to enforce them and again you’re depending on humans, a wildly variable thing that runs on lots of different emotions and opinions.

    7. Tib*

      A professor of mine when I was in graduate school is a management expert. She wrote a book called “Be Yourself, But Carefully.” Which I think sums up most good professional advice.

    8. Heidi*

      Figuring out the “right” thing to do is hard. I think one of the ways in which this site excels is acknowledging that there are usually multiple options in how to approach a work problem, and while many options are not technically “wrong,” they might still end up costing you. Sometimes this happens in ways that cannot be expressed in dollars or minutes, but they are real and can greatly affect the quality of your work life. Although there’s often little we can do about these tacit consequences, knowing that they exist and having the opportunity to factor them into our decision-making is a real advantage.

      1. Lisa*

        Thanks all for your replies. In life there are no guarantees, which frustrates the heck out of me! Cheers.

    9. Argye*

      Except, never, NEVER pee in a jar and then dump it in the kitchen sink. This is an absolute.

      1. Lisa*

        Haha. Did this person work at my last job? I was the receptionist/office manager/factotum. I think I’ve seen it all.

  27. Green great dragon*

    Me too. And I thought I had my desk set up perfectly. Until yesterday when I discovered the fundamental problem is my legs are too short between knee and hip for the width of the chair, so today I will be investigating, erm, maybe extra back supports?

    1. Lucy*

      I am also unblessed in the thigh department, and have previously had a back support which is effectively the same shape as the chair back and pushing everything forward (I no longer have it otherwise I’d offer a brand/model number). It was sort of mesh on a frame rather than a cushion, if you see what I mean, so both firmer and less sweaty.

      Searching on Amazon for “mesh lumbar support” is bringing up the right kind of thing.

  28. cncx*

    Re OP1, this is pretty outside of business norms except for maybe academia and non profit? If your company is big enough to have business on different continents this is pretty extreme cost cutting. Most companies i know have a rule that employees fly as direct as possible in terms of travel time. Another company i know has a rule for business travel that if an employee flies economy over 6 hours, they are compensated in a day PTO and that the PTO compensation goes away if they fly business. Making you fly economy and indirect while your boss flies business isn’t normal, even the cheapest companies i know will at least spring for premium economy. Anyway, i am sure there are people in the commentariat who work at companies where people have to stand up transatlantic or something, i’m just saying that your company’s policy is far enough outside regular business travel norms to be weird to me.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I work in academia (I also book travel) and I was aghast at OP1’s predicament.

      1. Colleen*

        Yup, I’m in non-profit and have traveled a few times for work for conferences. I’ve never been put through an ordeal like this. If I had I would refuse to attend them.

  29. TGOTAL*

    Unless OP3 is an immigration lawyer, they should not be providing visa advice! Frankly, I’m shocked their boss would even suggest it.

    If the employer is hiring international workers – and especially if they’re directly sponsoring their visas/immigration status – they should also be responsible for handling all the legal logistics for those workers. Is there no HR or legal staff?

    1. doreen*

      There’s advice and then there’s advice- the OP certainly shouldn’t be giving legal advice if she’s not a lawyer, but it’s also possible that the advice the boss was expecting her to give was on the level of ” Go to the Government Department office” or ” You really need a lawyer to do that”

      1. Brett*

        Even “go to the government department office” is too far. You can get yourself into a heck of a lot of trouble providing any visa advice to an co-worker or direct report. That should be handled solely by the employee’s immigration lawyer, with maybe an assist from the company’s immigration lawyer.

        1. doreen*

          I’m wondering how exactly you can get into trouble by directing someone to whatever government agency is in charge of immigration/visas. That agency certainly ought to be able to answer any questions the coworker has , just as whichever agency is in charge of issuing driver’s licenses ought to be able to answer questions about that process.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, that’s not too far. That’s fine. It’s also fine to talk about your own experience with the process and things that were helpful for you to know, while making it clear they need to get actual legal advice.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, I think it’s pretty common to want to talk to someone who has been through the process, even if lawyers are available. It’s not really giving legal advice to talk about things you wished you knew before the process started, etc.

    2. Exhausted Educator is Exhausted*

      Yes, it’s wise to steer very clear of even being *perceived* as giving visa advice. You might think/say, “I’m just talking about my own experience/situation,” but a listener in a stressful situation such as starting a new job in a new country or on a different visa type than they had before might hear you as answering their question/giving advice. The potential consequences of bad visa advice are too great for everyone concerned (thinking specifically of the U.S., but probably everywhere). Leave it to professionals.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        There may also be a language issue as well. I’ve steered away from things that are truly dicey [I’m looking at you W4s and your withholding witchcraft] because if it’s misconstrued, you’re still on the hook if they want to press the issue of “bad advice from someone who presented as an expert”.

        It’s also why I print the entire list of acceptable ID from the I-9 even though I have a lot of folks who still ask for “and bring your drivers license and social security card for the forms!” [One was mind blown when I showed up and just shoved my passport at them and also a pre-printed I9 they hadn’t seen because it was the newest version…they were printing out hella old ones. They didn’t give me any problems with it but they were seriously flustered in that ‘OMG I haven’t even seen this one before, how does it even work, oh well, you know what you’re doing…” [Do I? You just hired me…but yeah I know what I’m doing, thank God, for you.]

    3. TPS Cover Sheet*

      Well, mind you they could also be coming from a culture where only criminals have lawyers and get a bit more upset. So like telling me to ”get a lawyer” when I am asking a simple question would make me feel as if you was saying I am illegally in the country. And I am legally in the country with a visa I need to go to some office to do something and now you say I require some lawyer? Surely not a scam artist to milk all my money off me? You related to this lawyer? Is it your cousin who sells used cars? Oopsies…. just a slight cultural misunderstanding.

      I have been on planet Litigaria, so I know the alien mindset, and I wouldn’t get that offended. But still someone mentioning me offhand ”my lawyer” makes me step a bit further and start looking if I remember seeing the mugshot. Cultural hangups are very hard to shed.

  30. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #2 I have the same problem, but the exact opposite reason. When the company orders corporate clothes, even the smallest size they have is too big for me.

    If I ask for a smaller size, I get laughed at. So I just say “no thanks” and continue wearing my own stuff.

    1. Angelinha*

      This isn’t the same problem, though. You can wear a bigger size (even though it’s not flattering, doesn’t fit well, and you shouldn’t have to – no argument there!) A larger person simply cannot wear the smaller clothes at all. On top of that, fat people are way more stigmatized than thin people. Not saying there’s no stigma against being underweight, short, etc., but it’s not nearly on the level as fat stigma and so it’s a little disheartening to hear people compare the two types of struggle.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This is an argument that larger people make that is somewhat frustrating. I understand the difference between literally not being able to pull something onto your body and having it be too large. The comment was about clothing fit, though, not about fat/thin stigma. You really can’t wear a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit to work. Your comment reflects the problem. People act like, “Wellllll, really you can. . .” Why would you want your employees to look ridiculous? It’s often not like the shirt is a little loose or the sleeves are too long. It’s like the shirt is a dress. I had a project team shirt that I could never wear until I wore it as a maternity shirt, and there was still room to spare in it when I delivered. (Weirdly enough, I did wear it to the hospital. I went into labor on a Friday night and had worn it to work that day. Don’t know why I remember that 15 yrs later.)

      2. RandomU...*

        I respectfully disagree. The bottom line is that if the clothes don’t fit they don’t fit. It’s just as embarrassing for a professional adult to be wear clothing that is too large as it is for another to wear clothing that is too small.

        Do you really think that small stature people are ok with walking around looking like they are playing dress up in adult clothes? How about tall people wearing too short clothes? Or short people wearing too tall clothes.

        In other words this isn’t a contest.

        1. Angelinha*

          I think you are misreading! I totally agree with you that both cases are embarrassing. I’m saying in the LW’s case, she literally can’t wear the clothing that is too small. It’s so small she physically cannot put it on!

          1. Chinookwind*

            But clothing that is too large can also be a safety risk. Things can get caught up around moving parts or even on door handles, causing choking hazards or worse. And, because they are too loose, you can only tell it has been caught when it is already caught. Or it would drag through liquids or knock something over.

            We had this issue with coveralls with a new labourer. She was tiny and all they could find in the company storage room was a medium size. The only way to make it safe would be to strategically tuck and duct tape it into place, which then would make it difficult to remove. It worked for the first day but, luckily, we were able to scrounge something up that actually fit safely from another site for the next day.

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        If you’re trying to get a problem fixed–in this case, that the swag is being ordered in styles that don’t fit a lot of people–it’s more effective to say “half your employees can’t wear the sizes or styles you’re ordering as swag, please fix that” than “there are three people here who are too fat to wear this, please order something that will fit us.”

        Yes, there’s more stigma against being fat than against being very thin or short, but that’s not a good reason to make it look like this problem only affects fat people. People who are inclined to dismiss the needs of fat people because of that stigma might be more willing to listen if it’s pointed out that the problem isn’t three employees being excluded, but thirty. (As we both know, fewer people will tell a short person “well, you should just be five inches taller” or say “it’s his fault for being 6’2″ tall” than will make excuses for not getting clothing in sizes that will fit fat women.)

        Coalitions work. Alison sometimes suggests going to the boss as a group. If you’re doing that, it’s not good tactics to say “yes, this affects you too, but not as much, so we don’t want your support, or care about fixing the issue for you too.”

        1. Observer*


          Coalitions DO work! And being exclusive when you are about to ask for more inclusivity is about the worst thing you can do for yourself.

      4. smoke tree*

        It’s true that a thin employee will be facing less potential stigma for speaking up, but this is a good example of why Alison’s language is so effective, because it addresses everyone who might not be able to fit into the provided clothing for whatever reason. The clothing options should be able to accommodate everyone who works there, regardless of size.

      5. Observer*

        In a professional context it’s pretty much the same, though. Someone really CANNOT wear something that makes them look like they are wearing a potato sack or a child in Mommy’s clothes. And someone who needs to wear clothes that fit properly for safety / practicality reasons also CANNOT wear clothes like that.

        So, yes, they physically can get them on, but they are effectively unwearable.

  31. YourEthicsConfuseMe*

    Oh my goodness, 2! Tell them, they will just feel silly. They’re probably not leaving you out because you don’t fit it. More likely, it’s probably such a non issue for them, that they aren’t staring at you thinking “she’s probably a 4x and not a 1x”. They’re just not thinking about or judging your body size to even think about the fact that the largest size isn’t big enough! Tell them! Also your coworkers will probably never know that you mentioned them, they’ll just know that better sizing appeared after the planners changed brands or whatever. And even if they know you talked about it, they probably would assume you just mentioned yourself, and that the planners decided to be more inclusive of everyone as a whole.

    And then they’ll immediately go back to not caring about your appearance once again.

  32. Alice*

    #1, I really hope you’re being paid for travel time! If so, it should be fairly straightforward to point out it’s not at all cheaper to have you waste an entire day travelling when you could fly direct and use your time for more productive things. If you’re not being paid for travel time, and airport meals, and everything else — then you should start addressing that, because it’s not normal.

    1. Existentialista*

      Hear, hear! #1, your time is not free. If you’re not being directly paid for the overtime you’re spending in transit, could you start taking it off as comp time? I’m hoping that would make your employer actually feel the cost and inefficiency that outweighs any savings they’re getting on the airfares.

  33. Mannheim Steamroller*


    At the very least, the boss should put you on the same flights that he takes, even if it’s just in coach. Instead, he makes you take the Grand Tour of Everywhere.

    Presumably, all that extra travel also leaves you too tired for job-hunting, but I still highly recommend it.

  34. FarrahKaya*


    Due to back surgery I had a few years ago, I have a similar problem. These things helped me:

    – a corset, which helps with back stability and posture
    – a footstool, so my legs aren’t constantly dangling
    – an ergonomic chair (or a pillow behind my back
    – sitting very far forward in my seat and planing my feet

    Naturally the middle two don’t work for meetings, but the last one generally does.

    Good luck!

  35. Jack V*

    I’ve heard from ADHD friends that sitting like that is something some of them need. That doesn’t directly help, if your company doesn’t like it, but knowing that it’s sometimes needed even if it isn’t obvious may help the way you think about it.

  36. CynicallySweet*

    #4 – I think the kind of desk u have determines whether this is ok more than anything else. I would say that for 6 out of 8 hours I’m not sitting in a “normal” position. But no one except the person sitting directly next to me can even tell

  37. SigneL*

    OP1, I personally would say “I am not able to….” I would be very blunt. Given the amount of money you bring in AND the cost to replace you (if you choose to find a better job), they are being unusually foolish. But this absolutely is a hill I would die on (yes, easy for me to say, but still true).

  38. WellRed*

    Personally, any time you can direct a company away from polo shirts is a good thing. OP don’t worry so much about offending the coworkers. Sizing iz something they need to consider and they are frankly overdue here.

  39. Larina*

    OP2, Any half decent company will want to make sure they get stuff in your size. My old toxic workplace even made sure to have sizes that fit everyone!

    When the head of my department got everyone a company hoodie for the holidays a few years ago, he made sure to get everyone’s sizes. When placing the order, he ordered more of each size than he really needed (for new hires, and in case the sizes came out weird) and everyone in the S/M/L category stared longingly at the XXL+ sized hoodies, because they looked better, made of a different, thicker material, and just nicer overall.

    So not only did he make sure to get company swag in a size that fit everyone, he got our plus sized crew even nicers swag. If my horrible toxic boss can be inclusive, you good workplace can too.

  40. Pretzelgirl*

    OP#2- Def speak out about this issue. You may wish them to also include different types of clothing as well. Like differently cut shirts and jackets. I am not plus size, but have large breasts. Most of the time I cannot wear button ups or certain types of tshirts and jackets. Its really annoying and sometimes embarrassing.

    When I was in college I worked somewhere, that the uniform was a button up shirt. I ordered a large and it didn’t fit over my breasts. So I buttoned it partially and wore a shirt underneath. My boss (who was a plus sized woman) chastised me in front of co-workers. I had to order new shirts on my dime, that were too large and I was “ordered” to have them tailored to fit. It was awful and mortifying!

  41. Murphy*

    #4 Are you me? I’m also a weird sitter and also someone who can’t sit still. I’m pretty mush always am sitting criss-cross with both my feet up on the chair or with one one leg under the other. I’m almost never in a “normal” position. I also can’t even sit in that position very long so I end up changing position frequently. It’s never been an issue anywhere I’ve worked. The only minor issue is when a desk doesn’t have a modesty panel underneath and I’m wearing a skirt, but as long as I pay attention to what I’m doing, even that’s ok.

    (I haven’t read all the comments yet, so someone else may have suggested this.) One thing I’ve found has helped is having a sit/stand desk. I don’t stand all day, but having the option allows me a little more movement so I’m more comfortable than I would be sitting in the same chair in the same position all day.

  42. drpuma*

    OP4, for meetings specifically this may sound paradoxical but I think simply standing up at the back of the room would come off as more professional than rearranging your legs a bunch. As you get better at “reading the room” and get to know your coworkers of course that may change. For a larger meeting or one with folks you are still getting to know, standing up at the back and being smiley/indicating you’re okay if people are concerned might be the best way to go. At my corporate job we sometimes have more people at the meeting than can fit in the room booked (or are chairs in the room), and it’s not at all unusual for some folks to choose to stand for the entire meeting. If you’re comfortable standing for that long, just being an “I often stand at meetings” person may be easier than feeling nervous about how best to explain your funny sit.

  43. sunshyne84*

    I initially thought OP1 was going from LA to New York, but Asia to Europe?!!! Absolutely not!!

  44. CD*

    OP#2: Another option for future non-gift related items, is to see if you can purchase your own shirt and have it embossed/embroidered for you. Then you know you have a shirt(s) that you like, in a size that fits you, in a cut that’s flattering.

  45. Amethystmoon*

    I’ve always felt funny being a short woman (5’2″). My feet rarely, if ever, fully touch the ground when I’m sitting. If I adjust the chair so they do touch, then it’s not in the right position for typing, and given the choice, I’d rather not get carpal tunnel. Luckily I don’t have a public-facing role, so it doesn’t matter as much.

  46. Karo*

    OP 2 – I am also a plus sized woman and normally company-issued clothing is one of my own personal hells. What my company does, though, is gets everyone vouchers for our Land’s End store. Everyone picks out what they want – polo, button up, hat, rain jacket – orders it in their own size and pays with the voucher. My shirts are more expensive than standard size, but I’m able to fit in with the company culture without even talking to someone about what size I am.

    I genuinely don’t know what the cost difference is between doing it this way and doing a bulk order, but it may be worth looking into.

    1. Steggy Saurus*

      Now that is a genuinely nice policy. I’m guessing it’s not cheap, but maybe the company has a deal.

    2. Katertot*

      This is exactly what my former company did. It worked really well. Everyone could choose their own size, and a fit that worked best for them.

  47. remizidae*

    LW4–try using a foot rest. That helped me with similar issues, and it’s subtle and practically invisible.

  48. Heat's Kitchen*

    #4 – I work in tech, and have definitely had a few ‘weird sitters’ in my colleagues. For the most part, it doesn’t phase me. Yes, I notice it, but it’s not so distracting as long as they’re engaged int he meeting. I’m also one that from time to time will put my feet up in meetings. Also, we have the ability to stand at our desks – they’re hydraulic, so they can move up and down. That helps me a lot too.

  49. agnes*

    #3 Take this as an opportunity to give young employees a good start to their professional life. They don’t know what an I-9 is, or what a W-2 is because they have never needed to. I take this opportunity to throw in a few other nuggets–for example, when they fill out an I-9 form, I explain why they should decide now what their professional name is going to be and to use that to fill out all forms the same way, so that their data is consistent. I also explain WHY we must check their documents and how we do it, through EVerify. I also tell them about a time where we helped someone find out that their identity had been stolen and let them know. They had no idea until we ran the I-9. (An undocumented worker was using the person’s social security number).

    When they fill out tax forms, I explain a little bit about what deductions are, and how it’s counterintuitive–the more deductions you take, the less taxes are taken from your check—and to be careful, because you can set yourself up to owe too much at the end of the year, or to get a huge refund. (I also am firm that I cannot advise them as to what deductions they should take because I don’t know their personal financial situation). I explain what Head of Household is and what married filing separately means. I also explain the employer match on Social Security.

    You have no idea how many of these new employees have thanked me (and their parents too) for explaining all this stuff to them. I am so glad I have a chance to help young people learn about these important issues.

    1. Sandan Librarian*

      I have been in the workforce for about a decade and nobody at any workplace has ever explained any of those things to me. I ended up having to learn about deductions the hard way (by owing a LOT of taxes one year). Thank you for doing this. You are clearly awesome.

  50. Miriam*

    OP 2, your description of your company and its culture so perfectly matches my employer that I sat here for a few minutes trying to figure out if you are a co-worker. I am pretty sure you are not, but that is the closest I’ve ever come to thinking a letter writer is someone I know.

    So I’m going to say, speak up! If you were my co-worker, I know it would be safe for you to say something to your direct supervisor or HR. It sounds like our employers are extremely similar in many ways, and I think that my employer would be *grateful* to know they had inadvertently been doing something problematic, so they could address it and fix the problem immediately. I hope that the similarity between our employers extends to this as well. Best of luck to you. You deserve to wear the same branded clothing everyone else gets.

  51. ATX Language Learner*

    #2 – if these types of questions keep coming up, why not prepare a small presentation to go over everything? Better to accept that they keep asking the questions and come up with a solution than continue to be upset by it.

  52. DiscoTechie*

    My recommendation for business clothing is Land’s End Business Outfitters. A wide range of size, styles etc. My company does it where they pay for the embroidery and pay 25%. We fill out an order form for what we want and the admin puts in a company wide order. It’s good stuff, the plus sizes are awesome and it even has petite.

  53. Lily Rowan*

    Generally, you want work to flow down to the lowest-level person who can do it well, so that your time is freed up for work that only you can do.

    This seems like it should be obvious, but I’ve been a manager for nearly 20 years, and this is the best way I’ve ever heard this put!

  54. Weird Sitter (OP 4)*

    Hi everyone, I’m OP4 – thanks for all the advice! I feel a lot better about my weird sitting compulsion knowing I’m not alone in it. Thanks for all the suggestions, I’m definetly going to look into getting a footstool and some kind of support cushion to make it more comfy. Sitting/standing desk would be good too – as I mentioned elsewhere I’m gonna see how comfortable I am at my first post college job (hopefully to be obtained at the end of this year) before I ask for a big accommodation (this isn’t a disability or medical problem based issue technically) but we’ll see what other people there are doing. Thank you all for sitting weird with me.

    1. Jerk Store*

      I have ordered standing desks for employees – the price is comparative to an office chair and the ones we had were basically an adjustable riser that fits any desk or table. You may need to get a doctor’s note, but otherwise it’s really not an out of line thing to ask for.

    2. LCL*

      This has been eye opening to me. At first read I thought you were having fun with us, describing sitting crosslegged or legs tucked under in an office chair, for me that wouldn’t be physically possible. I had no idea so many people sat as you described for long periods of time. What jumps out to me is that standard office furniture doesn’t fit people in the small end of the size range very well. This is a business opportunity for someone…

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Definitely take some time to feel out your office culture before you make a decision. In my three workplaces (all higher ed), I’ve had the following:

      Job 1: Employees could request an ergonomic evaluation that assessed your height/posture/pain as you used the computer normally. They could make recommendations like getting a monitor riser or standing desk. This was an organization with an extremely small budget, so only one person went through with getting a standing desk (the kind where the entire desktop is raised/lowered at the push of a button). Once he left this desk was very coveted.

      Job 2: They didn’t want to spend money on anything, but once one staff member successfully lobbied for a standing desk (that sits on top of the normal desk and raises the computer monitor/keyboard) it seemed like everyone else on the floor wanted one too. Within like 6 months I think they ordered 12 standing desk setups.

      Job 3: Pretty much every computer was already equipped with the standing desk setup before I even got here.

      Standing desks or non-traditional setups are getting more and more common, so once you get a feel for the space you can certainly raise the issue (if you even need to – maybe you’ll already have a setup that works for you).

      Good luck!

  55. Toots*

    OP #5 – I had IVF while I was working and I tried to keep it to myself, but during the egg retrieval stage, those hormones did a number on me. One coworker mentioned that I had been “soft” lately and I immediately ran to HR to explain what was going on. This came in very handy because I guess I was very moody over the next couple of weeks and a coworker yelled at me for being super negative and complaining too much.

    So that is something you want to keep in mind. It may be helpful for your manager to know what’s going on because you may just go off the rails and not even notice. I’m not sure how you can mention that part without giving too much away, but the doctors appointments are really the least of what will get them talking at work.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      OMG, your coworker yelled at you?? Seems like no matter how negative or complainy you were during that time, yelling at you was wayyyy out of order!

    2. Quandong*

      Yes, hormones wreaked havoc for me during IVF when preparing for egg retrieval too.
      When you tell your manager about the ‘minor medical thing,’ would it be realistic to add something like ‘the treatment is very common but I’m letting you know there’s a slight chance it may affect my energy levels or my mood.’

      I was really tired because, aside from the stress, a lot of my appointments were before 6 am (!!!). This on its own meant I was far less patient and tolerant so I had to take extra care when interacting with people at work.