my employees’ juice cleanses are getting in the way of their work

A reader writes:

I manage a team of five. (For context, we are all women and on friendly terms, and some of the women have closer friendships.)

One of my staff, Hester, does some variation of a week-long juice cleanse or other liquid diet about once per year, and has for the four years she has been on my team. During that week each time, she arrives late or leaves early for three to four days due to headache, dizziness, or generally feeling crummy. She has not so far acknowledged the pattern in her absences, so maybe is not even aware of it?

Hester is a highly reliable employee the rest of the year and rarely gets sick. It’s not a terribly busy time of year, and she finishes all required tasks in that week during her cleanse. As a result, I’ve never raised the issue, figuring “her body, her choice” as long as she gets the work done and/or notifies me that she will be using sick leave and need someone to help out on a project.

This month, however, she wrangled another on my team (Pearl) to join the cleanse, too. I’m writing this on Thursday, and since Monday, one or both of them have arrived late or left early every day due to some variant of feeling crummy. Pearl is less reliable and efficient than Hester, causing a slight backlog of tasks this week. They are trying to convince someone on the next team over that she should participate.

I worry about next year having multiple staff feeling poorly, at the same time, and intentionally. This seems different to me than when a nasty cold hits several people in the office over the course of 2 weeks—this is planned and synchronized.

I absolutely do not want to become the sick-leave police. But I also feel like these employees are not coming to work prepared to do their jobs, for several days in a row. Is there a reasonable way to approach this? Or do I suck it up the one week it happens?

I think you’ve been right to leave Hester alone about it before now — she’s a good employee who has one off week a year and still gets all her work done during that time. It makes sense to cut her some slack.

But I also think you’re right to worry now that others are joining her, especially since it’s caused a work backlog and especially because it sounds like they might expand it to still more people.

Still, though, people are allowed to do things outside of work that might impact them during the workday — whether it’s staying up too late reading, or having a fight with their spouse that disrupts their sleep, or coming in with sore arms from overdoing it at the gym. As an employer, you message shouldn’t be “don’t do activity X outside of work.” And in general, you want to assume that you’re managing humans who will have things in their lives (even self-inflicted things) that sometimes affect how they’re showing up to work.

But if you’re seeing problems in someone’s work, you can flag those problems and say that need them to get back on track. And you can cut less slack / address things more quickly with someone who already wasn’t working at a high level.

In the case of Pearl, you could say, “You’ve come in late or left early several days this week and your work is backlogged. If you decide to do a cleanse again, I’d need you to do it in a way where you still stay on top of your work.”

(There’s potentially an argument for saying this without tying it to the cleanse at all … but I don’t think you have to pretend that there’s not an obvious cause-and-effect in play. You could say the same thing if it was “if you choose to run a marathon again” or “if you choose to fly to out-of-town music festivals every weekend”).

I also played around with the idea of whether you could say something to Hester like, “You’re a good employee, and so it’s been fine with me that you have a week a year where you’re not at 100% while you do the cleanse. But with other people joining you in it, there’s more of an impact on our workflow. We ended up having a backlog this week, and I suspect the impact would increase if additional people join in the future. I’ll of course talk with people individually about any issues it causes to their work, but I wanted to give you some context on why this has never concerned me before, but would concern me more if it starts having a bigger impact on the team.”

But I actually don’t think you should say that. Hester’s work is fine, and your concerns aren’t actually about her. I’d stick with just talking with anyone whose work actually suffers.

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Imaginary Number*

    My pyramidscheme*cough*MLM senses are tingling. What’s the likelihood that Hester is not just convincing her coworkers to join a health fad, but selling them the “cleanse” at work in the process? If the latter, that seems like it’s a much bigger problem.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      I wondered exactly this. Is Hester’s ‘juice cleanse’ using cheap, shop-bought juices? Or, as I suspect, expensive brand name ‘special’ juices that Hester can miraculously do you a special deal on…? If I were OP I’d be very worried about the whole office being involved in a few months time!

    2. Jennifer*

      I’m imagining Hester and Pearl (love the reference) waving their arms to the rest of the staff, whispering “joooooooooooooin us” as creepy music plays in the background.

      The OP definitely needs to nip this in the bud before the entire team is affected. Do whatever outrageous things you want to do on your own time but don’t let it negatively impact the rest of the team.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Clearly the solution is for OP to institute an immediate policy against moonlighting.

      /s

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      Why? It seems like everyone is doing it willingly. Hester is, by OP’s account, a good employee. If Hester is selling things, she has apparently been able to manage her time and do it subtly enough that her manager hasn’t noticed.

      You can feel however you want about MLMs, but if someone truly wants to buy from one, what is the issue?

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Because most MLMs rely on people buying things they previously did not know they wanted to buy, and can be exploitative.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          And they’re inappropriate in a workplace, where people have a captive audience and the potential to abuse the workplace dynamics to pressure others into buying.

          1. Sabe*

            There’s quite a difference between a Tupperware catalog tossed unceremoniously on the break room table in case anyone’s interested and actively talking up and selling products.

            1. Clisby*

              Yes. Just like there’s a difference between posting a note saying your kid is selling Girl Scout cookies in case anyone wants some, and going around cubicle to cubicle to try to get sales. (Not that GS is an MLM enterprise. The difference between making something available and actively pushing it applies to other things, too.)

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          Yes, we all know this.

          But smoking causes lung cancer and scratch tickets are a waste of money, but people’s employers don’t prevent them from taking smoke breaks or participating in office lotto pools… AS LONG AS there isn’t a disruption to the work.
          Again, AS LONG AS Hester isn’t being disruptive or distracting, it’s not the OP’s job to manage people’s money, it’s her job to make sure the work is getting done. If people want to waste their money and feel crappy for a week, let them.

          1. Zillah*

            Except that we have no evidence that Hester is selling anything to her coworkers – and given that it’s just a once/year thing, that doesn’t seem like the most likely explanation to me.

          2. Massmatt*

            Many employers DO have policies prohibiting unauthorized breaks, if you want to use your 15 minute break to go outside and smoke, fine, but some employers I’ve worked for clocked everything and would absolutely not tolerate someone taking additional breaks to go smoke. I saw some people get warned and then fired for it, actually.

          3. Devil Fish*

            Except OP wrote to AAM because more people joining in on the juice cleanse is becoming disruptive and distracting, so.

            Full disclosure: I despise MLMs in general because they’re pyramid schemes at worst and exploitative of people who don’t have the money to invest in starting a business at best; I super hate dealing with them in the workplace ever since I had a previous supervisor who turned 1-on-1s into an opportunity to do nail wrap demos and pressure subordinates into buying that stupid garbage—or we could talk about our work performance, if we preferred to get written up about minor mistakes we’d made instead?

        3. Colette*

          Marketing is trying to convince people to buy things they previously didn’t want to buy, though. I don’t see an indication in the letter that anyone is taking advantage of anyone else.

        4. Jill March*

          I could say the same thing about Target. I have been pitched products from many MLMs. Some I’ve bought, some I haven’t. It’s almost like it’s completely up to me to decide for myself.

          Maybe if the pitch is happening during work it’s problematic, but I’ve bought Girl Scout cookies and various other school fundraiser products based on flyers left in the office break room, so I don’t know. I’d err on the side of leaving people and their choices alone as much as possible.

        5. Soon 2be former fed*

          That said, OP should focus on the impact absences have on work. The rest is not relevant.

        6. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Technically, so is all corporate that sells something be it services, household supplies, etc. Let’s let adults be adults and choose.

      2. Imaginary Number*

        Because your side hustle doesn’t belong in the workplace. It’s one thing if a coworker and I get together and decide to do a fitness challenge together. It’s not okay for coworkers to sell products or try to recruit their coworkers to join their downline.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree, but there’s absolutely no evidence based on the letter that that’s what’s going on.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. It’s possible, but there’s no indication from the letter that’s going on — so while it’s fine to flag it and note how it would change your advice, let’s not derail on it.

            1. Imaginary Number*

              OP has confirmed below that it’s probably not an MLM. So, yeah. My original caution is moot at this point.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        What would you tell a letter writer who wrote in and said “My employee wants to buy a puppy from Petco. How do I tell them they shouldn’t?”

        Look, I agree with you on the damage that MLMs do, and if someone I personally know asked me my opinion on buying an MLM juice cleanse, I would tell them to stay away. But it’s not the OP’s job to manage their employee’s finances, or their bodies/diets. Sometimes you just have to let people be dumb in peace (…as long as they get their work done).

        1. Zillah*

          Agreed. If we’re talking about power dynamics, I think it’s important to acknowledge that your boss explicitly telling you what you can/can’t do with your time/money involves a lot more pressure than a peer trying to convince you to participate in a one week thing. I’m not saying it’s never appropriate to speak up anyway, but I think you do have to bite your tongue for a lot of things.

        2. JSPA*

          Unless they’re buying the puppy from a coworker who moonlight at PETCO, this isn’t a well constructed parallel. Workplaces can indeed strictly control what businesses operate / solicit on their property.

        3. Indigo a la mode*

          Off-topic, but I’d also like to step in and say that Petco and Petsmart do not sell puppy mill dogs. They have agreements with animal shelters to host adoption events for existing shelter animals that need good homes. I’m not trying to step on your point, but neither do I want stores that are contributing to ethical pet adoption maligned for something they’re actually trying to stop.

          1. Kaitlyn*

            OMG WHAT IS THIS COMMENT THREAD. “My employee is doing a juice cleanse” all the way to a discussion of puppy mills.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            Thank you Indigo. PetsMart and Petco help fogs and cats from shelters an rescues. (Although where they get their small animals, I don’t know.)

      4. Leaping buildings in a single bound*

        Yeah, one week you’re on a juice cleanse, the next you’re destroying families and committing suicide.

        Don’t have s3x, boys and girls.

        Sheesh.

        1. remizidae*

          Yeah, I love the assumptions here. We know people are drinking juice. We assume they’re in a cult that is going to destroy their lives.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            They are no more killers than most religions. And there is no evidence of a MLM.

      5. A*

        Putting the MLM part aside, it’s inappropriate to use your workplace to gain clients/sales. No different than if I was to start hawking hand knit items in the break room – not the time or place.

      6. RUKiddingMe*

        But it’s not up to the employer to make that decision. Workplaces tend to be overly paternalistic anyway, but to have them telling you what you can/can’t do with the money you earn (read: they do not ‘give’ it to or ‘provide’ you with it…you earn it) is way beyond being an ok thing to do.

      7. Massmatt*

        We don’t know if there is MLM scheme going on, but the proselytizing is worrisome.

        There is a big difference between a catalog or signup sheet for Girl Scout cookies and a MLM scheme in that so many of the latter are unethical, and once they get some converts a tipping point is reached and eventually you have an office all about juice cleanses (or whatever) and people are under more and more pressure to buy in, literally as well as figuratively, and the actual work goes to hell.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        A lot of these supplement MLMs have routine “cleanse challenges” that they sell. Their main product is usually a supplement, smoothie, or other daily item.

        1. Arctic*

          But she’s not having them do the challenge until next year. So, that potential income is far away.

          It just seems incredibly unlikely. I’ve had friends want to do cleanses with me. (Hard pass.) But they aren’t selling anything.

    5. Purt's Peas*

      The likelihood is there, but I think the OP would have mentioned it–and it would be obvious. I think it’s just the simpler, and sadder, case that it’s easy to make someone feel ashamed about their body & food choices, and that a juice cleanse feels like a moral & good solution to that shame.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      I immediately went to the Master Cleanse – which is basically a 4 ingredient deal you can buy at the supermarket and made famous by Beyonce and The Real Housewives

      1. Kat in VA*

        Somewhat off topic but…

        While the Master Cleanse “lemonade” may be some hoopla, the saltwater flush* thing most definitely is not. TMI, but if you’re, uh, backlogged…well, if you can stomach downing 32 oz of warm water with 2 teaspoons of sea salt in an hour first thing in the morning, it definitely will clear your lower pipes both efficiently and painlessly.

        *People do this saltwater thing because they can’t poop because, duh, they’re basically drinking seasoned lemon water and nothing else. I wouldn’t recommend it maybe more than a few times a year (if that) but it’s quite effective. I never bothered with the Master Cleanse thing because (a) I think cleanses as a whole are BS and (b) I have minimal self control when I’m hungry.

    7. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.*

      It might not be a MLM, it might truly be just a juice cleanse. There’s a documentary I watched a while back called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. He advocates doing just veg and fruit juices for different periods of time. It’s truly just juices, no “products” that you need to buy other then fruits and vegetable. I know the first week of doing this can be pretty uncomfortable, so I’ve heard. I’ve never done it, but I do make fresh juices at home now and again.

    8. Morning Glory*

      If it were a MLM I doubt this would be a ‘one week once a year’ kind of non-issue the past four years and more of a constant thing. I think this is more that having a diet buddy makes it less miserable so she roped in someone else, or else the person knew about her cleanses and actively wanted to participate.

      I did a juice partial fast (replaced two meals with juice) about eight years ago for a couple of weeks and got a lot of questions from one coworker who was interested in juicing but had never done it before. No MLM involved, just a juicer from Target and a lot of miserable hunger. I do not recommend.

    9. NeitherJuicyNorCleansed*

      Hester has been doing this for four years at least and has recruited *one* person to join her — once a year. If she’s working an MLM scheme, she’s certainly going about it in slow motion. I think it’s much more likely that Hester just feels the juice cleanse is helpful to her and would like to share the experience with her work friends. Not everything/everyone is shady, and there’s nothing in the letter to indicate there’s anything off here.

    10. I Dislike MLMs as much as the next guy but*

      Yes, seriously. This comment section has made it clear a number times (over several letters), that they dislike MLMs. Can we move on?

    11. Observer*

      If she’s been doing it for four years, I’d guess there is no MLM involved. More likely a misplaced idea of “team bonding”, misery loves company, they figure it’s easier to do this when everyone (or just more people are on board, and / or a touch of health evangelism.

      But, yes OP. If there is any MLM stuff going on you need to be on that.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      People have been known to be evangelical about their diets with nary a whisper of an MLM in play.

      Including diets that make them feel crappy, because that means they’re being cleansed of toxins.

    13. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

      OP here
      I didn’t see or hear anything that raised my MLM hackles (and I agree with many of you on their perils). What I overheard was along the lines of “I buy from xyz.com because they send a whole week kit and you get to pick your flavors” – nothing like “I’ll give you 15% off if you order through me” etc.
      MLM is definitely not my main concern

    14. Utoh!*

      Yeah, one of the managers in my department is a consultant for one of those cleanse companies. Those who report to her felt like they needed to join in when she insisted they try it. Of course she gets a kick back regardless of how well they do or not (mostly not!). Of course I still hear blenders going off during the day, and the manager still has to announce that she’s “having a shake today!” to the entire department. I’m getting SO good at ignoring her (she knows NOT to approach me about this bogus crap as I’d shut her right down).

    15. New Job So Much Better*

      When one of my employees did a beet juice cleanse the entire office suffered. Then again, it was a small office with only one unisex bathroom and she made it a toxic void.

    16. Yorick*

      This could be true, but we don’t have any evidence of it – certainly not evidence that we should change the advice.

    17. Curious*

      This seems like a leap. This is the sort of thing that can get cultish adherence/proselytizing without a financial motivation. When all my friends suddenly did Whole 30 together, no one was selling anything. They just all wanted solidarity.

  2. slothinaspeedboat*

    I agree with Alison’s advice, but I’m surprised that the fact that an employee is trying to influence others diets wasn’t addressed. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to ask Hester to stop trying to convince other people to join her juice cleanses? If people hear her mention it and want to ask her about it, fine. But, the letter writer says that she is roping people in, which could be making others uncomfortable in a way they don’t feel able to address (especially if Hester is established as a high performing and respected employee)

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Yup! This is what stood out to me, as well. Probably OP should be relatively hands-off, as these are adults, but I think she should be watching carefully for signs that this is happening.

    2. Jennifer*

      If she’s selling the products then that’s a valid point. But if she’s only suggesting it, not being overly aggressive about it to the point where people are uncomfortable, and people are going to the store to buy them and she’s not benefiting financially at all, then I don’t think there’s anything the OP can do.

    3. Sharkie*

      That’s true but I got the vibe they are close outside of work. My friends and I are currently doing a clean eating cleanse right now. I feel like that is a normal thing for friends to do, these friends just happen to work together

    4. IL JimP*

      when people say roping in they don’t usually mean pressured just that other people decided to join them

      if there is pressure then yeah it should be addressed

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, this is a huge red flag for me. I worked somewhere where “all the ladies!!” did a juice cleanse and it was this huge peer bonding/peer pressure thing. “Oh I can’t eat lunch at today’s meeting I’m on a cleanse! Omg ME TOO! I feel so awful from this cleanse OMG ME TOO! Do you feel shaky and dizzy! No but I am pooping constantly! Why didn’t YOU do the cleanse? You should be healthy like us!”

      There was already a problem with food policing in that office (company provided lunch, so critiquing who ate how much, how healthy the food was, how unhealthy the “guys” ate, how the “girls” didn’t like such heavy food, etc., was a Thing that happened a lot.)

      After about two months there, I wanted nothing more than to be able to pick my own lunch and eat it in silence.

      1. Zillah*

        That sounds terrible! I do think, though, that while the dynamic can certainly still be problematic, it’s a little different when it’s literally one week a year.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s kind of a fascinating insight into human behavior, because you would think people would want to emulate the diets of the people around them who are not dizzy and shaky, and instead just competently going about their day.

        1. Birch*

          It’s fascinating how similar these kinds of fad diets and cleanses are to Ye Olde Emetics and Diuretics style thinking, back when people wanted a substance that would make them eject from all orifices because that was the proof it was working. Didn’t really matter if it improved their actual symptoms or not. I think a lot of people just believe it works because it makes them feel terrible, and you’re right, that makes zero sense when you think about it.

          1. Jadelyn*

            There’s a whole sidebar conversation to be had here about puritan influences on US culture (and US influence on the rest of the world) and the philosophical ideals of spiritual purity through suffering, and our collective cultural case of orthorexia, and how those intersect.

            1. Wendie*

              Removed. She’s not armchair diagnosing; she said “cultural case of,” which is a completely different usage. I removed a big derail about this; let’s leave it here. – Alison

              1. pamela voorhees*

                It’s actually not, it’s not recognized in the DSM-5, and in any case Jadelyn is using it as a sociological / anthropological term where it’s not uncommon to explore how different societies conceptualize illnesses.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I think part of it is our idea of dieting and being healthy. In the US we seem to have the idea that healthy eating and/or dieting means eating bland tasteless food (salad of just lettuce leaves, veggie plate etc…) in that regard you are suffering by being healthy or on a diet. So people equate healthy with suffering, similar to the saying “all the most delicious things in life are bad for you.”

            I love burgers, steaks, as much as anyone. But I have been served food by friends who are vegan or vegetarian that is full of wonderful delicious flavors and is also varies widely and is not just salad or veggie plates.

            1. seeveeargh*

              Good point. It’s also possible to eat vegan/vegetarian junk food. Oreos, chips and salsa, copious amounts of guacamole (source: was vegan and ate a lot of junk).

              And now most of the big corporate fast food places have vegan options (A&W, Tim Hortons, Burger King, Subway all have vegan and vegetarian soy monstrosities). It is troubling.

            2. Cherries on top*

              Well, veggies aren’t (necessarily) bland, but the lack of spices and condiments, and the knowledge of what to buy and what to do with them often result in something far from tasty. I imagine an unseasoned, boiled burger wouldn’t taste very good.

          3. Anonny*

            Oh goodness, the everlasting antimony pill from the 19th century. You’d take it, feel awful (antimony poisoning), pass the pill, be convinced it made you healthier (presumably you forgot what not having antimony poisoning felt like), and washed it off so you or a fruend could take it next time they needed a ‘cleanse’.

      3. Sophie Hatter*

        “Thanks, but my version of ‘healthy’ includes not feeling dizzy and shaky or pooping all the time!”

      4. Quill*

        Last job had a Weight Watchers obsession all summer, it was mildly stressful to be around, and this sounds like it’s about on that same level (though if more than two people are doing it then it gets more problematic and pressure-y) than your situation which is a little more ridiculous.

        Of course, I established early on that 1) I went for a walk every day (it kept work from eating my lunch time) and that 2) I would not be participating in WW because I was trying to build muscle. (Technically true, I’ve been pretty focused on stabilizing my arthritic foot for most of a decade.) So I got to quietly and gracefully exclude myself from that situation.

      5. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        Ugh! Just ugh!

        Diet “bonding”, food policing and the concommittant shaming make me see red. I don’t care whether the fad is paleo, veganism, keto, green food, fasting, juices & smoothies, or what – people should not evangelize their diets at work, period. If they do, that can set off people with a history of disordered eating, or be very abusive to people with genetic/illness reasons for their weight (either fat or thin.)

        IMO, evangelizing about diet is worse than evangelizing about religion, with an added load of fat/health shaming with pseudoscience on top of it. I’d rather hear about your relationship with Chthulu than your latest fad diet that you are sure that I need to try.

    6. Dankar*

      I did a one-week diet/cleanse with a friend whose coworker needed to lead a group to get some sort of certification. Come to find out, it was an MLM thing, but my friend and I didn’t know that at the time.

      I was just being supportive of a friend (and her coworker by proxy) and was interested in trying out the diet. It sucked, I felt hungry all the time, and never did it again. This might end up being the exact same situation, so I don’t necessarily think anything inappropriate is happening. This could be a one-off, and Pearl could just be interested in seeing what all the fuss is about.

    7. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I’m awful, because my first thought was that I would bring in stacks every day that week. Monday is Muffins and Tuesday is bagels and Wednesday is Donuts. Maybe they would break down and eat something and feel better, maybe they would just be hangry all day, but it would personally make me feel better to have extra snacks when putting up with this nonsense.

          1. Jadelyn*

            That’s how I read it actually – stacks of bagels! Stacks of donuts! It sounded delicious and now I’m sad that all I have is poptarts for breakfast.

        1. bookartist*

          Around here we have a local chain diner named Stacks; my brain capitalized the S, and now I want their pancakes!

      1. Annette*

        You’re right that is awful. Textbook ‘concern trolling.’ Taunting people for how they eat = not kind. It’s not okay just because they’re thin.

        1. Ethyl*

          This comment section is getting more bizarre by the day. MusicWithRocksIn didn’t once mention anyone being thin or taunting them for how they eat. Good grief.

        2. Jadelyn*

          And I assume you are a saint who’s never once made a joking comment about being passive-aggressive about something you find ridiculous and/or irritating?

          Seriously, sometimes a joke is just a joke.

        3. Yorick*

          I don’t think we actually know they’re thin.

          PS: Weird juice cleanses aren’t actually helpful for one’s health and fitness.

          1. ShitYourselfThin*

            There’s a difference between shaming someone for their weight (fat or thin and anywhere inbetween) and not taking some stupid 1 week fad diet seriously.

            Be the sick police for a week.

      2. Wendie*

        I think this is a little close to jokes I’ve heard about leaving out carrots for larger people at my church groups. Former church groups I should say. I prefer to have no opinion on coworkers choices!

        1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

          Wow. Glad it’s former church groups. Those sound like nasty, judgemental folks.

    8. Observer*

      Well, Alison tries to address the ACTUAL problem OPs write in about unless there is a clear indication that there might be something else / bigger going on. And, really there is not.

      It would be incredibly inappropriate of the OP to forbid her employee from talking about this, unless she has a solid indication that this is veering into inappropriate pressure / bullying / body shaming or the like. There is absolutely no indication of this, so the OP needs to stay out of it.

    9. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

      OP here!
      I hadn’t thought of that angle but will definitely pay attention to see the tone it’s raised. These are people who often swap recipes and diet tips, so my instinct was to put it in that category.

      1. Observer*

        While I agree that you should keep your eyes and ears open, I do think it’s quite possible that you are right to look at it as being similar to the recipe swapping.

    10. Samwise*

      No. Unless Hester is being obnoxiously heavy-handed AND it’s bugging her co-workers, the OP does not need to say word one about this. The part where it’s affecting work quality, yes, and as AAM says, address it with the offender. Otherwise, this is so not a manager’s business.

  3. Justin*

    Funny you mention marathons as examples. I usually take a single day off after running one, don’t allow it (or my training) to mess with my work otherwise and make sure I’m exemplary at reliability.

    Once that changes, I feel it’s fair game, though should be focused on the reliability than what’s causing it.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, but it’s different because you’re scheduling time off in advance and you ensure the training doesn’t conflict. It sounds like they’re leaving early multiple days a week…

      1. Justin*

        Well right, that’s the difference. Being SURPRISED I was sore the day after would be really silly.

      2. Sharrbe*

        Good point about scheduling ahead of time for these things. Perhaps these employees should schedule time off during this cleanse. If they know it is going to affect their health, why should they put the employer through this dance of “maybe I’ll be in/maybe I won’t” every year?

      3. KHB*

        …and if several people on a team all tried to schedule a week’s worth of half-days at the same time, the manager would be well within her rights to deny some of their requests.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think the scheduled time off is really key here. Not because it makes this different from a marathon, but because… that’s what these folks should be doing, really. You want to push your body to the limits for nebulous “because it’s there”/”because Beyonce maybe did it or something” reasons? Cool, this is why people get PTO. Schedule it in advance and spend your cleanse at home where nobody cares if you feel like crap all day.

    3. Emily Spinach*

      I do think many people training for one, especially a first one, could easily feel more work impact. For example if you do your medium/long run Wednesdays before work and misjudge your time so are a bit late, or are just extra tired that day or if many Mondays you’re still sore from Sunday’s long run. For most jobs that won’t matter, but for some it might.

    4. Flash Bristow*

      Well that’s it, isn’t it?

      You know you’ll need recovery time or maybe be below par, so you plan for that possibility.

      I feel Hester and co need to be clued into this too – as in “you’re below par when you do a cleanse, just so you know. It’s a quieter time so you could use some leave for the cleanse if you want. Anyway I’ll leave it with you as to how you tackle this situation…”

      Maybe not those words but I think it needs conveying.

  4. Zip Silver*

    It’s weird that they’re reacting like that. I typically eat once a day (weight control/bodybuilding thing), and have done a few multi-day water fasts and am fine.

    If they’re crummy, they likely cut out all electrolytes from their diet, which will lead to that.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Every person’s body and metabolism is a little different. I have friends who can handle Ramadan like pros, and others who will get incredibly sick from fasting. I have friends who tolerate certain diets well while it makes others sick or lethargic.

      But it may derail us to talk about the proper way to fast, when OP’s really asking about absenteeism and low productivity.

      1. EH*

        This. Bodies are all a little different (sometimes a lot different!). One more reason it’s really important to leave prescriptive body/health/food talk outside the office.

    2. Kat Em*

      Or it’s an experience thing. I fast annually for religious purposes (no food or water), and other than scheduling my thought-intensive processes for the morning so I can do relatively repetitive tasks later in the day when my brain gets a little spacey, I’m totally fine. When I first started as a teenager, though? I was a disaster. Weepy, angry, exhausted, headachey, and nauseated. Every year it gets easier, both physically and psychologically. If you’ve never fasted before, it can be *very* challenging for your body to adjust.

      1. Ella Vader*

        I have a colleague who participates in a similar fast. What my colleague worked out with the bosses was changing his hours for the duration, so that they were more compatible with his best focused time. We also have a “time off for religious observance” section in our employee handbook. I don’t know if my colleague’s hours worked out exactly the same, but I do know that the work was getting done well.

        I wonder how it would work to remind the struggling-cleansers of their options. Would adjusting their arrival and departure time help? Would it be reasonable for them to take an hour or two of vacation time or some other leave bucket time and go home when they aren’t doing well enough not to make mistakes?

        I identify strongly with after work actor, having a v. similar hobby/passion. I haven’t yet gotten pushback on doing too many shows, but the one season when I did do several shows in a row, I let my bosses know I’d regretted it and wouldn’t be doing that again. And I use vacation days and half-days to go home and sleep, when the reason I’m exhausted is a fun one. (I mean, if I was up all night with an itchy rash, I’d take sick time to sleep. But I don’t want anyone saying, it’s your own fault you are exhausted, you were volunteering at a festival until 1 am, you’re abusing the sick time.)

    3. MK*

      I would assume they take some kind of product (many of them are basically laxatives) that is causing the symptoms. I usually go for a couple of days with only a little fruit and vegetables after the yearly 3-week-eating-marathon, a.k.a. Christmas, and I have never felt sick enough to impact my work.

      1. Observer*

        That’s not a really good assumption. A LOT of people simply don’t fast well – headaches, feeling crummy, hangover-like symptoms either during or after the fasting. And for a lot of people being on juice makes it worse not better.

        Juices act as laxatives for many people and a lot of them are also very sugar dense which can make a mess of people’s sugar metabolism. Obviously that’s not universal, but the symptoms the OP is describing are incredibly common reactions to this type of “diet” without the need for additional products.

        1. Zillah*

          That’s my experience, too. I can often go until dinner without having anything more substantial than water/tea/maybe a little juice, and I’m fine – I usually skip breakfast, at least. (Not an intentional diet – just a combination of forgetfulness, random bouts of nausea, and not having time.) My best friend, on the other hand, starts to get pretty cranky if he skips even one meal – I don’t think he’d be good at fasting, without adding anything additional to the mix.

    4. smoke tree*

      I think it can be pretty hard to predict how you’ll react to a major dietary shift like fasting. I’m also wondering if there’s a slightly performative aspect to some of this, considering that Hester always fasts during work but never adjusts her schedule in advance, as well as the fact that she’s bringing others into it. Not that she’s faking her symptoms, but perhaps that she enjoys the attention a bit.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I agree about not bringing it up with Hester. A performance conversation with Pearl seems like the right way to go since the primary problem is performance (it’s just that the cleanse exacerbates those performance short-falls).

    It may also make sense to remind folks about how to use their sick leave/PT policy (if there is one). If folks are feeling this awful while on the cleanse, they may need to think about taking time off during that week. OP shouldn’t mandate that they take time off. But talking about it in terms of leave it may help reframe the cleanse as a workflow problem and make it obvious that the entire team (or even half the team) cannot all go out sick during the same week.

    1. Kiki*

      I agree with this. As tempting as it would be to me to bring up the connection between the cleanse and performance, it’s not really LW’s place to track and comment on employees’ diets. LW knows about it because Hester and Pearl seem to be very vocal about it, but normally this wouldn’t really be something a manager would know or be able to comment on. Since LW does know this though, making sure people are aware in advance of this yearly ritual that they are expected to follow normal sick leave/ PTO protocol seems fine.

      1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

        LW here!
        Thanks, that’s a good framing. They are vocal about it and you’re right I wouldn’t otherwise know.
        These are exempt workers and our department norm is that for just missing an hour or two we don’t usually take leave as long as everything gets done. The problem here was that the hours stacked up over the week and Pearl didn’t communicate with others that there was an impact on deadlines

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you’ve got to have a performance conversation with Pearl more generally! It sounds like there were already problems, and then the way she handled her deadlines that week is an additional problem. Is it possible there’s an overdue performance conversation you need to have with her, totally separate from the issue of the cleanse?

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Agreed! I would definitely leave out any mention of the current cleanse situation from the performance conversation, because I wouldn’t want Pearl to respond that “Hester does it and she’s not in trouble” or something similar. Ultimately it’s about Pearl’s performance – her deadlines are being missed and she’s not compensating for it – and not about the cleanse. She might use the cleanse as an excuse but the solution isn’t wait until she’s off the cleanse, it’s find a way to manage the workload regardless.

          2. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

            Not overdue but certainly due now. Part of the issue is the Hester is a high performer, and Pearl is (on average) right where she should be by experience in the role. So in a normal week, Hester usually finds herself ahead or working on a long term project because immediate deadlines are already done (she is in line for a promotion as a result). In the same normal week, Pearl gets everything done, but likely none/not much extra.
            But when Pearl came late/left early multiple times, she got behind. This is helping me think about it more clearly. Pearl wasn’t treating it like being sick and taking leave/emailing to ask for help on specific assignments. She treated the hour or two like she’d be able to catch up the next day but it kept happening. That is a good performance talking point period.

            1. designbot*

              Is there maybe a conversation to be had with Hester at that promotion, about how now that she’s a leader she is expected to be more conscious of how she’s influencing others in the use of their time? I got here a bit late in the day but that’s a conversation that’s pretty normal in my workplace, that goes like “Hey, as a (level of leadership) in this organization, it is your role to be an example to others in the use of your time. You should be aware that while you’re able to handle an occasional productivity drop because you’re usually so far ahead of the game, not all of the people you socialize with are working with as much cushion as you are and I’d like to see you be more conscious of your influence in that regard.”

              1. Zillah*

                Absent other incidents or a pattern of distracting people with chatting, this feels like overkill to me.

                The issue is that Pearl is a mediocre performer who isn’t proactive about making up time. This doesn’t seem to be about Hester maybe spending a little more time chatting with her coworkers for a week or two out of the year.

                1. designbot*

                  no but it is about someone they’re looking to move into a leadership role actively distracting the people she’s meant to lead.

                2. Observer*

                  Except that this is not what’s happening. Sharing her ideas of how to be healthier is not “actively distracting” people. And the fundamental problem here is not the cleanse but that Pearl, who is a mediocre performer to start with, handled the situation poorly. It would have been the same problem if it had been allergy season and she had a particularly bad week. She wasn’t proactive about making up time, and she failed to communicate with people about changes in the timeline. THAT’S the problem. Not the fact that Hester introduced her to a cleanse.

                3. Zillah*

                  I think that that framing is a little problematic.

                  I had an amazing manager at my last job. She consistently gave me constructive feedback (both positive and negative), guided me in broader career development, emphasized work-life balance, and was encouraging about my working hours that would be best for my productivity (including sometimes working from home). She was also pretty social; she was obviously aware of major deadlines, but when things weren’t super super pressing, I often spent at least an hour across the week chatting with her about non-work stuff – including dietary stuff, because we were both navigating a lot of restrictions. I definitely took her advice on a few things, too.

                  That doesn’t mean that she was pressuring me to do something, and I don’t think that it’d be fair to call it “distracting” me, either – because while that was time I was spending not working, it also made me feel more motivated and that positive rapport extended to our conversations about work. Chatting certainly can get excessive and negatively impact work, and maybe that’s happening here, but it’s a leap to assume that it is and that Hester needs to be told to stop socializing just because they’re doing a cleanse together.

              2. Observer*

                No. Not at all.

                Hester is not setting a bad example by doing a juice cleanse, nor is she “influencing” other people to be inefficient or misuse their time.

    2. AKchic*

      But how will everyone at work know about The Cleanse if they aren’t at work to *brag* about it? Isn’t a good portion of the reward the self-congratulatory pats on the back?
      (Yeah, I don’t do any of that cleansing stuff, I just see a lot of people *TALK* about it, at length, repeatedly, during their cleanse. A lot of it seems very… performative)

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, that’s definitely a factor… *side-eyes my team, who is loudly doing another round of keto, and another pair of coworkers who are doing the juice thing, also loudly*

  6. Future Homesteader*

    As someone who is firmly in the “leave other people’s food choices alone” camp, your previous approach makes a lot of sense, and Alison’s advice given the potential for escalation seems spot-on. But as someone in the “dear god juice cleanses are a racket” camp, part of me wants you to shut. this. down. Especially given how contagious negative behaviors and attitudes around bodies and food choices are and how hard it can be for individuals to push back. So I would proceed as Alison suggested, but maybe pay special attention to the general conversations around health and bodies, and be prepared to step in (work-appropriate) ways, especially if it seems like one or two people are pushing negative crap.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This is fantastic. Speaking as someone who struggled with disordered eating for all my teen years and most of my twenties, and who eats a lot of fast food now because depression/ADHD means I consider it a victory just to have eaten at all, and who is pretty conspicuously a non-participant in the kinds of conversations you mention: having a manager chime in during a Performative Body Hating and Food Moralizing Session, even just to mildly remind them that bodies are different, and the only responsibility anyone has re food is to themselves, to choose a diet that works for them (both physically and mentally), could be really helpful to support any employees who are disinclined to go along with this.

      1. Anon for this*

        Seconded, and wanted to give you a little fist bump of solidarity. Due to a lot of food issues as a kid, I often eat food considered “unhealthy” because otherwise I do not eat. It’s not something I like to discuss with colleagues, and it’s hard to be in an environment where there’s a lot of body/weight/“health” talk and fad dieting or whatever because I too very conspicuously don’t participate. Support would be nice.

        1. Jadelyn*

          *fistbump* I actually had this conversation with a coworker in the kitchen yesterday. She was making her salad and asked what I was making, and I was heating up one of my staples for work lunches: one of those microwave mac n cheese cups. So I said so, and she did that “…ah” sort of thing where the disapproval is clear but they’re being polite enough not to say it, so I added, “It may not be particularly healthy, but for me, the choice isn’t between unhealthy food and healthy food – it’s eating or not eating. I figure some microwave mac n cheese is better than getting hangry at work.”

          But I can say that kind of thing because A: I’ve been at my employer for 5 years and am secure in my place in the social web so being a little blunt isn’t going to cause real issues for me, and B: I’ve had to have some variant of this conversation enough times that I’ve got a fairly thick skin for it now. There are definitely people who wouldn’t be able to stand up for themselves, and in those cases, it would be amazing for a manager to step in and support the non-dieting folks (regardless of the reason why they’re not dieting).

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      THISSSSSS.

      There is no actual, medical (or even scientifically supported) reason to do a cleanse of any kind. It is, at best, a diet fad, and at worst, a short term eating disorder.

      While, yes, people are free to starve themselves or whatever on their own time, I’d assume we wouldn’t be so gentle about this if the fad people wanted to participate in was to run into traffic during their lunch hour or huff glue in the bathroom. All of which cleanses are akin to.

      1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

        Thank you – I definitely want to keep in mind that these convos can escalate or veer the body and/or food shaming direction.
        I find it challenging, because I’m a thin, picky eater, and so I’m often reluctant to chime in on the diet chat among colleagues who are heavier or are vocal about portion control problems.

        1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

          Yes, I’d like to clarify that I want to keep in mind that those conversations can escalate in a way that may require intervention from me as a manager if they seem damaging to work ethic/productivity.
          Run of the mill mentions of fad behavior when chatting are not my business.

          1. Future Homesteader*

            Yes! This is exactly what I meant. It sounds like you have a good handle on this – I would love it if more people at my job had this attitude. Kudos to you for looking out for your team (in an appropriate and non-infantilizing way).

        2. Annette*

          Thank you Alison. I’m sick of all the moralizing. Who cares if this is unhealthy. It’s Hester’s body. Reminds me of the ‘I resent my coworkers sick days’ LW.

        3. Mia*

          I don’t think keeping an eye on excessive food/diet talk is at all telling people they can’t participate in whatever fad diets they like. It’s totally possible to try and minimize those kinds of conversations in general without telling Hester and Pearl to actually stop doing the cleanse themselves.

          1. Observer*

            Working Mom went quite a bit further than that, though. Basically they made the claim that this is a terrible practice akin to running into traffic or huffing glue and so the OP should actually shut it down aka tell people that they can’t do it.

        1. mm*

          Ugh no way! Tons of things are medically and scientifically supported but make people feel better. I love a juice cleanse! It’s not a fad, people have been fasting and cleansing in various forms for millennia, and it certainly isn’t always related to eating disorders. One of my managers tried one with me and now does several a year (for the record no one has ever noticed either one of us on a cleanse). My other manager thinks it’s a little crazy but still asks me to make him juices and tinctures when he’s not feeling great. Easy rule of life- everyone can eat or not eat what they want.

    3. JSPA*

      So many people are not aware of health conditions that can make a generally – harmless fad diet actively dangerous for them (whether it be one of the common ones — diabetes, kidney disease, gall stones, a predilection for or past history of disordered eating — or something rarer). It’s not the manager’s job to tell people what to eat. Fair enough.
      In this case it’s not some sort of official work initiative to all do Fad X together. Good. But it’s still reasonable to make sure there’s no understanding that “this is the unit where the healthy popular in people do X together,” when “X” is something that not everyone can do. If this were a week of surfing, rather than a week of cr@pping and cramping, and you had people who could not participate (even if they wished to) you might very well suggest that too much focus on the shared/exclusionary bonding exercise was exclusionary. The fact that someone could realistically injure themselves without anyone being aware of the risks makes this even more reasonable, IMHO. It’s hard to argue that it’s interfering with their personal life when their personal life is a larger – than – life presence at the office. Ideally, people should not need to know about each others ‘ digestive processes at work, unless it’s about needing an accommodation, no?

  7. after work actor*

    It’s not juice cleanse related, but it’s outside activities that might impact work related.

    I do some acting in my off hours. Nothing big, and nothing I’ve ever earned any money for, but it’s a fun hobby. One of the plays I was in had some pretty intense rehearsal hours every evening after work, and at the end of the show’s run I was beyond exhausted and my work had taken a bit of a dip. When the show closed and I had finally had a chance to sleep, my boss did mention the ways my work had slipped. The jist of it was “I don’t want to tell you not to do plays anymore, because I know how much you enjoy it and I see how happy it makes you. But during the last couple of weeks, you came in late and you weren’t getting work done at the level we need. So in the future, when you’re deciding what shows to participate in, I need you to make sure you’ll still be able to manage your workload when you’re here.”

    And it was totally fair of her to say that. It was information I needed to make better choices moving forward. If the OP sticks with the impact on the office and workflows here, it’s definitely a conversation that can be had, and that can help the employee remember what’s expected of them.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      OP, this is a really helpful framing you should consider. After Work Actor, I kinda wanna work with both you and your manager.

    2. MistOrMister*

      This is perfect, in my opinion. The balance between acknowledging that what a person does in their own time is their business and that a certain level of work is expected from one at all times is spot on. It’s nice that your boss was able to wait until the show closed to bring it up, too!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. I think this is the perfect approach. It acknowledges that there’s other stuff going on in life that might be distracting, but it puts the onus on the employee not to let it get in the way of work performance.

      2. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

        OP here
        Thanks, I find that really helpful to see an example from outside the food realm, but that definitely applies.

    3. Lana Kane*

      This is pretty much how I have chosen to handle these issues as a newish manager – always approach it from the context of the work. If I suspect that flagging performance is due to something outside of work, I say nothing except to point out the ways performance is suffering. Sometimes I might need to mention that I know X and Y are going on, but I always make sure it comes down to, “whatever choices you make, just make sure when you’re here, you’re on.” It has served me well so far.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      *first bump* Actor with a day job here, too.
      Thankfully, our rehearsal schedules are laid back enough that it’s really only Tech Week that kills me. But yes, I’ve had similar discussions with my boss and have (when I have the time off to allow it) taken time to reduce its impact.

  8. NothingIsLittle*

    I would worry about not letting Hester know you’re talking to other employees about the juice cleanse if they can’t keep up with their work, because she might say something like “Oh, OP doesn’t mind, they’ve never talked to me about it.” If Hester is actively convincing people to join her cleanse, I think it makes sense to say something to her so that she isn’t blindsided when her colleagues won’t join her next year.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      Or, more accurately, so half the office doesn’t think she lied to them about being allowed to do the cleanse.

      1. AKchic*

        Well, the employer can’t stop them from doing the “cleanse”. They just have to keep up with their productivity.

    2. Observer*

      It’s not the OP’s place to “mind” or “not mind” the cleanse. It IS the OP’s place to monitor workplace effectiveness. Which is why the advice is NOT to tell employees “don’t do the cleanse” but to tell the UNDER-PERFORMING employee that they are not performing up to par, and that they need to be careful about planning outside activities that have a negative effect on their work.

      Any conversation about the boss “minding” is not relevant.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        I’m more concerned about the office politics than OP actually minding or not. I worry about it breeding resentment when a coworker says that the boss okayed something that goes on to get you in trouble. Maybe I’m just projecting the mindset from the toxic workplaces that are usually written about here, but I’d be worried about Pearl or others joining the cleanse then blaming Hester for being told off for underperforming, which would impact workplace effectiveness. Hester knowing that when she tried to convince people to join her would give them a better chance to manage their expectations. Again, though, perhaps I’m unfairly assuming OP’s reports would be unreasonable about it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I kind of agree here. I think a softer approach should be enough. “I am glad you guys all get along with each other and do stuff together. That doesn’t bother me and I am happy that our crew here gets along well. However, we have a small glitch developing here where a number of people are all taking sick time in the same week and it’s impacting productivity. When work gets impacted then I have to say something, that’s my job to say something. I would like for you guys to figure out a way to manage this so we do not have so many people out so many times in the course of one week. I dunno, maybe you can take turns or something, that’s up to you all to figure out. What we need to do is to be very aware of staffing levels.” [Here your focus on the outcome that you want and you avoid micromanaging how to get to this outcome.]

      My crew was all friends with each other and they all knew each other personal schedules, such as doctors’ appointments. For us being down 3 people really hurt. I asked them to try to avoid appointment times where they knew someone else would be out. And I very carefully restated, “I cannot ‘make’ you do this, I am asking you to please help us here. Everyone knows how hard it is to work short several people. Everyone has had a turn doing this, working on short-handed days. And each one of us is aware how miserable this is. All I am asking for is TRY not to be out when you know other people are going to be out on the same day.”

      This worked. The problem dropped right off to a non-issue. Notice how you mention that you like how everyone gets along so well and you are happy about that. Then you focus on the end result that you need and why you need it. You also use the inclusive ‘we” because their cohorts need them to figure this out also. And then you let them figure out how to get there from here.

  9. IT Kat*

    I agree with Alison’s advice… all except the part about mentioning where she’s come in late/left early.

    In my personal experience, that can lead to resentment (“Hester gets to do it! Why am I singled out?”) when really it’s not the issue. The issue is the backlog.

    Addressing just the backlog, with the mention about staying on top of her work while doing a cleanse, would be more the way to go, IMHO.

    (All this is assuming that Pearl doesn’t have a job that requires a strict time adherence, like front desk, customer service via phone, etc.)

    1. MuseumChick*

      I agree with this. Pearl could easily feel resentful that she is being admonished for coming in late and leaving early when Hester is not. Keep this focused on the backlog of work.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I actually think this is fairly easy to deal with. Hester is a long time high performer so OP could easily say that Hester has earned the flex scheduling as she always completes her work very well and on time. Pearl has not and the cleanse has caused her to fall even more behind.

      2. Gymmie*

        But some employees should be allowed to come in late and leave early based on if they get their work done and what the quality of their work is. I don’t believe in treating everyone the same when it comes to things like this, because you need to let your high achievers have more flexibility and you can’t allow the non achievers to have that flexibility because it makes it worse.

        This isn’t really about this particular situation, but in all situations, you give more leeway to good employees, or it is incredibly demoralizing to your good people, who you want to keep.

        1. IT Kat*

          True, but the productivity is the core issue, and OP is thinking that stopping the leaving early/come in late will fix it. But that’s not the problem, the problem is the backlog. Pearl could easily come in at the right time and just not work efficiently, which still causes the backlog.

          Address the core problem, let the employee manage how to fix it.

      3. JSPA*

        Or they may think, work is so supportive of the cleanse, they let us leave early. That would be bad news for the employer, if someone gets seriously ill on the cleanse. Which is rare, but it can happen.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP mentioned above that Pearl did not get some one to cover her work that was not done. And Pearl is not as fast a worker as Hester, she needs her whole work day to complete her work.

  10. JJJJShabado*

    The answer is to have Hester wear a J on her chest when she’s doing the juice cleanse.

    (I don’t have anything to add on top of Alison’s great advice. I don’t recognize references very often, so I wanted to comment)

    1. ELWM73*

      Thank you for clearing that thought blockage. Could not for the life of me recall where those names were from!

  11. Amber Rose*

    Ugggggghhh. Way to destroy your bodies and reputation at work for something that, at best, is not helping you at all, and at worst may actually be harming your health. Why are people so, so… UGH.

    As a manager, you only have standing to say “you need to get your shit together and make sure you’re able to get your work done properly and on time.” Only, you know, more professionally.

    But as a human being, I’d be tempted to start leaving articles absolutely everywhere about what garbage science and waste of time “cleanses” are.

    1. Zillah*

      Is one week a year of this really destroying their bodies/reputations, though?

      I’m not trying to nitpick, and I’d definitely raise my eyebrows at people I know doing cleanses like that. But most people do something we personally consider problematic/silly at some point, and I think that judging someone based on their doing a silly diet for a week once a year would actually be pretty petty.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        Cleanses are literally starving yourself. That’s all that they are.

        And, sure, you won’t starve to death after one week. It probably won’t even send your body into serious malnutrition, because we live in the developed world and you will get plenty of calories next week.

        But they don’t do anything good for you, and at best they are “not that dangerous really”. And there are whole lists of things that some people like to do that are “not that dangerous really” which we not only discourage people from doing but demonize and certainly don’t actively promote at work. (For example snorting a couple of lines of coke at a party “isn’t that dangerous really” and yet you could go to actual jail for doing that.)

        Also, to be honest, considering the reputation that juice cleanses have, depending on who you are and what your status in the workplace is, it might be worth considering what effect going around talking about your cleanse all day will have on your reputation. It can come off as a flighty, faddish, looks-oriented, and honestly kind of a woo-woo thing to do. If you’re a woman, especially a younger woman or a woman who wants to move up, too much of this stuff can make you seem unintelligent or focused on the wrong things.

        1. Zillah*

          I get that, and I’m not advocating that people do cleanses.

          At the same time, comparing a cleanse to illegal activities is unnecessarily hyperbolic. Of course people shouldn’t talk about doing illegal things at work – they’re illegal! That’s really not the same thing at all as talking about an ill-advised diet, especially not an ill-advised diet someone does for one week a year – which does not strike me as being “too much of this stuff.”

          For the record, I also think that while it’s worth acknowledging sexism in our society – because the fact that women are often subjected to far more judgment and criticism over their hobbies/interests than men are for theirs regardless of the objective impact is absolutely sexist – that doesn’t mean we need to endorse it, which is what you’re coming across as doing to me.

        2. JO*

          A cleanse can mean a lot of different things. I spent 3-5 days doing a cleanse annually for maybe 7 years. It was basically a variety of simple brown rice, bean and vegetable bowls, and vegetable soups. It was all low sodium, no added sugars and no caffeine. It helped me restart healthier eating, and was a positive thing for me. Obviously, something like that isn’t for everyone, and lots of cleanses (like a juice cleanse) are more like fasting… but a cleanse means different things to different people and a once a year thing is hardly extreme.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Depends what’s in the cleanse. Some of them are just meaningless and probably not all that harmful aside from the suffering inherent in starving yourself for a week. I can’t help judging people for doing this. And if someone’s the type who regularly allows some silly fad to actually impact their work, I’m gonna judge more.

        Some cleanses contain ingredients which are actually dangerous and may actually make you very sick.

        It varies.

        1. Zillah*

          But how is one week a year “regularly allow[ing] some silly fad to actually impact their work”??

          I get that you don’t like cleanses. Neither do I, and most of us judge people for doing silly things. That is what it is, and I’m not suggesting that doing so is wrong. However, I also think it’s unfair and unhelpful to extreme statements about them “destroying” their bodies/reputations without anything to back up that level of long term disruption.

      3. Mia*

        For some people and some situations, it definitely is. Some bodies can tolerate short term fasting/cleanses, but others can’t. And really extreme versions of restrictive diets can indeed screw with someone’s metabolism in the long run. That said, I don’t really think that’s a manager’s job to comment on beyond being like, “hey I need you to focus more on getting your work done or use the appropriate amount of sick time if you can’t do that during this time.”

        1. Zillah*

          Sure – but IME, most people can go a week of keeping a bad diet without “destroying” their bodies, and there’s no evidence that this is a really extreme version of a restrictive diet.

          Regardless, though, I agree that it’s not really appropriate for a manager to comment on.

          1. Mia*

            I mean, there are a lot of situations where that’s just not true. Like, I have a pretty common metabolic condition that would make living off juice for a week absolutely catastrophic for my health. I doubt that’s the case for LW’s employees since they’re doing this of their own volition, but it’s kind of silly to act like restricting your food for an extended period of time isn’t at least a little risky.

            1. Zillah*

              I think we’re talking past each other here.

              I’m not arguing that it’s healthy to live off juice for a week or that it wouldn’t cause intense harm for some people. Someone recovering from or battling a serious illness, for example, would also probably suffer pretty significant consequences.

              But Amber Rose said that doing a juice cleanse for a week would destroy Hester and Pearl’s bodies. Of course cleanses carry some risk, but a voluntary single one week cleanse a year “destroying” someone’s body is far from a universal truth, and I don’t see anyone being helped by hyperbole.

    2. Aquawoman*

      They’d have to work with some truly judgmental people for it to “destroy their reputations.”

      1. Close Bracket*

        Like the kind of people who assume you have therapy-worthy levels of low self esteem if you put affirmations up in your cube? There’s lots of truly judgmental people in this world.

    3. RandomU...*

      ” As a manager, you only have standing to say “you need to get your shit together and make sure you’re able to get your work done properly and on time.” Only, you know, more professionally. ”

      Agree with this 100%

      “But as a human being, I’d be tempted to start leaving articles absolutely everywhere about what garbage science and waste of time “cleanses” are.”

      Nope… this is not something that should be done in the workplace. Ever. Honestly, it’s not something that should really be done in a social setting either. These are all adults who get to choose what they eat and when they eat it. If it’s not right to say “Hey..,. you know that donut has a lot of calories and fat you shouldn’t eat it” you don’t get to say “Hey… you know that juice cleanses are garbage science and a waste of time”

      This is one of those times where you can’t have it both ways.

      I think the OP does need to discuss the performance with the second one… and I’d probably not mention the cleanse (especially if I couldn’t mention it without derision) and treat it as any other performance issue. This is especially true when Hester (I got lost in the names) isn’t having a performance problem from the sounds of it.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I wasn’t recommending anyone do the second thing. I should have been clear about that. Just because I’d be tempted doesn’t mean it’s the right course of action.

        But man. I’d be very, very tempted.

      2. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        If it’s not right to say “Hey..,. you know that donut has a lot of calories and fat you shouldn’t eat it” you don’t get to say “Hey… you know that juice cleanses are garbage science and a waste of time”

        This.

        I call it the MYOB rule. If it isn’t my body, it isn’t my business, and I can keep my opinions to myself. If it affects my/our work, then I can talk about the work problem.

    4. NeonFireworks*

      This was my first thought too. I have a very science-y line of work, though, where everyone boggles at non-evidence-based stuff. One of our employees is said to be interested in horoscopes, but fortunately if so he doesn’t bring that stuff to the office. It would be awesome if every workplace were a place where pseudoscience is calmly rejected (I LOVE not having to talk about nonsense or see people caught up in non-evidence-based health fads, particularly the ones a lot scarier than this) but it’s a real gamble in a lot of offices. I’d say the blame lies not with people who fall for nonsense, but in badly funded science education and opportunistic unregulated pseudomedical products of all sorts. You can definitely gently encourage people to start reading blogs like Science Based Medicine if they seem reluctant or confused, but that’s probably where it ends. I completely understand the urge to cringe/sneer, but I don’t think it’s likely to help.

    5. MuseumChick*

      Amber Rose, you are speaking to my soul, I to would be tempted to leave articles, make comments etc. Very, very, very tempted. But I probably wouldn’t unless directly asked.

      1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

        OP here
        I don’t see a reason to address the science or health of cleanses with them. I think cleanses are BS, but that doesn’t matter for this, unless they actively start MLMing in my workplace or to clients, I don’t care.
        I wanted guidance on whether my approach so far made sense and how to deal with the new situations that were occurring (Pearl joining, encouraging another to do so), since this appears to be an annual affair.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t actually do it. I know how to behave. Unfortunately. =P

        Nevertheless, the temptation exists.

    6. Blunt Bunny*

      I’m a scientist and while I don’t recommend juice cleanses I think they are BS, it is only Ops assumptions that the juice cleanse is causing her symptoms that is not a fact. Those symptoms can be caused by lots of things they could be due to her period. I’m not saying they are but if Op didn’t know she was going on a juice cleanse then started speaking to her about her absences in a patronising way then it wouldn’t be appropriate then and I don’t think it would go down well. She should treat like any other illness

      1. Kate2*

        But if she were on her period the work problems would probably be happening once a month, not once a year. At the exact same time Hester does her juice cleanse. Hester who also only gets sick and weak once a year. When she is doing *her* juice cleanse.

    1. Zillah*

      I’d personally be really offended if my boss asked me to stagger a one week thing I did with a coworker once a year. I get that it’s disruptive and the OP wants to address the disruption, but that feels like the wrong way to do it.

      1. hbc*

        I think it doesn’t work as the only suggestion, but there’s a difference between happening to do the same thing as a colleague and actively recruiting them to do a work-affecting activity at the same time as you. I’d be fine if you want to donate platelets before work every other Wednesday and come in a bit late, woozy, and needing help with some tasks, but if you get a bunch of other people to join you and I can’t get anything done every other Wednesday? The recruiting and timeline *is* a problem.

        It’s not out of bounds for the OP to say, “I can deal with this if it’s only one of you at a time, but I can’t have multiple employees voluntarily making themselves less effective at the same time. So either make it so it doesn’t impact work, or stagger your cleanses, or come up with some other option that I’m not seeing that keeps the work on schedule.”

        1. Close Bracket*

          “I can’t have multiple employees voluntarily making themselves less effective at the same time. ”

          It is out of bounds to say that. People voluntarily follow the Olympics or run the same marathon or do other things that have many people voluntarily making themselves less effective at the same time.

        2. Zillah*

          I’d be fine if you want to donate platelets before work every other Wednesday and come in a bit late, woozy, and needing help with some tasks, but if you get a bunch of other people to join you and I can’t get anything done every other Wednesday?
          But we’re not talking about every other Wednesday! That’s 26 days that would be impacted – even if we want to cut out 6 for holidays and vacations, that’s still quadruple the time period the OP is talking about.

          It’s not out of bounds for the OP to say, “I can deal with this if it’s only one of you at a time, but I can’t have multiple employees voluntarily making themselves less effective at the same time. So either make it so it doesn’t impact work, or stagger your cleanses, or come up with some other option that I’m not seeing that keeps the work on schedule.”

          I think it’s incredibly out of bounds, and I feel like the specific activity is kind of obscuring that.

          For example: if two people were really into running marathons, and in the week leading up to a major annual marathon, they both came in late or left early multiple times, I feel like fewer people would think it would be reasonable for the OP to say, “stagger your marathons, you can’t run the same one unless you’re working at 100% because our work can’t absorb one week of lower productivity while you do this thing that matters to you that you want to do together.”

          I get that cleanses are not a marathon, but absent hateful or abusive behavior, it’s incredibly inappropriate for an employer to pick and choose what counts as a good reason for lower productivity.

          1. Zillah*

            Ughhhh.

            It’s not out of bounds for the OP to say, “I can deal with this if it’s only one of you at a time, but I can’t have multiple employees voluntarily making themselves less effective at the same time. So either make it so it doesn’t impact work, or stagger your cleanses, or come up with some other option that I’m not seeing that keeps the work on schedule.”

            is actually a quote, the rest is my post.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I agree. I feel like people are taking a bit more liberty with this one because cleanses are generally woo, but like if they both signed up for a walk-a-thon or book club, would someone feel like they could say “you can’t be in book club together because your work is slipping”?? Its probably a friendship/bonding thing for them and its not cool to say ‘you may not bond in this way.’

    2. Another HR manager*

      This is what I starting thinking about. I think approaching Hester with “I have not commented on your annual cleanses since you keep up with your work – but your productivity for that week is affected. That’s okay – you do stellar work and it more than balances out. But when multiple people do a cleanse at the same time, there could be an issue. ” And to Pearl “As you know from our prior discussions (hopefully this has happened!), you can get behind with your work at times and it is an issue. Well, this week is an example. I am aware that you are doing a cleanse this week. Just like for a vacation, if your work will be impacted by an outside activity, you need to plan in advance and make sure your work does not suffer.”

      might not be exactly the right wording – but something like this.

    3. Heidi*

      I was going to mention this. They don’t all have to do the cleanse at the same time, do they? Perhaps it’s supposed to be some kind of bonding experience for them. OP could say something like, “I’m worried about coverage if multiple people are out sick at the same time. Since this is a scheduled event, could we make sure that the work of the office is adequately covered during these times?”

      I also think this problem might be self-limiting, in which case the OP just needs to wait it out. While people might try something like this once, most will not stick with it as Hester has. Heck, Pearl may not even continue if she feels so bad she has to miss work.

    4. nnn*

      Yeah, I was thinking this. I’m not entirely sure how to bring it up – maybe if it comes up socially?

      Maybe it could be framed in terms of supporting each other? For example, Hester could better support the newbies through the unpredictability of their first cleanse if she’s not in the midst of a cleansing crisis herself.

      1. hbc*

        There’s definitely a benefit to them of doing it together, but it’s bad for the company, and possibly bad for Pearl’s job security. I’m sure she would rather choose whether she wants to risk her continued employment for a synchronized cleanse.

        1. Zillah*

          But then the answer is to tell Pearl that she needs to finish her work, not suggest that they stagger the cleanses.

    5. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

      OP here
      No, I won’t do that. There are excellent points made in other responses about why not. If this were work related travel that could be moved, or vacation requests with too much overlap during a busy time of year, then maybe.
      Besides not finding that appropriate, I’d add that I generally don’t know this is happening until the week of, and they do seem to be doing it “together” as a solidarity thing

  12. MsMaryMary*

    I also think it would be fair to be a little stricter with Hester and Pearl about taking sick time or PTO instead of allowing them to continue to come in late, leave early, and generally be less productive. Assuming, of course, that OP’s company has decent sick leave/PTO benefits. Someone up thread mentioned that they usually take a day off after running a marathon. A lot of people plan an extra day off or half day after going to a concert or getting in late from a weekend trip. If Hester and Pearl aren’t going to be functional at work, then they shouldn’t come in. If they object to having to to use their time off, then maybe they’ll rethink how much they want to pursue this fast.

    1. AnonymEsq.*

      Agree. I was a little surprised that the answer wasn’t more of the “Focus on the performance” variety.

  13. CupcakeCounter*

    I think I would say something to Hester – not about doing the cleanse but about encouraging others to participate with her. Just a heads up that while she is an excellent employee, her work does slip during the cleanse which up until now hasn’t been an issue because of her exemplary track record and ability to still perform well and get her work completed on time so the impact is minimal (if at all). Follow that with a “I’ve noticed that you have encouraged several other employees to participate this year and have heard others talking about participating in the future and the reality is that I cannot have half the department working at sub-par productivity levels for that long. When it was just you, it was fine mostly due to your high quality output the rest of the year as well as still being able to meet deadlines while on the cleanse. Not all employees work at your level so any unplanned decrease in their productivity and quality of work causes a significant hardship on the rest of the team. Should we have any unplanned illnesses or time off on the team at the same time it could be a disaster. I’m not asking you to stop doing your yearly cleanse but I would appreciate it if you would stop encouraging other employees to do it with you.”

    Still need to speak with Pearl about her performance issues and now is a good time since her productivity has dropped even lower with the cleanse.

    1. Washi*

      I don’t think I would say anything to Hester at all, let alone bring other employees’ productivity into the conversations – that’s not really Hester’s business to think about or manage. The only way I would say something is if her encouragement to join the cleanse were regular/aggressive/distracting. (And honestly, my bar for that would be pretty low. Maybe it’s all super body-positive, but this could very easily be triggering for someone with disordered eating. I wouldn’t reprimand Hester or anything, but more remind her that this could land pretty differently than she might be imagining.)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      +1 – missed this when I made my own comment. I would avoid direct comparison her coworker’s of work quality to Hester, just ‘work quality goes down, and we can’t afford that for two people at the same time.’

    3. Observer*

      No, stay out of it. It’s not on Hester to manage anyone else’s performance, and no one knows how others will react to this cleanse, if they even decide to do this.

      It’s a really, really bad idea to police people’s interactions and decisions this way. If someone is putting pressure on others to join this (or any other non-work related) activity, that’s one thing, and a manager SHOULD step in. And if someone has a performance issue like Pearl, the the OP has standing to step in as well. But she does NOT have standing to tell someone “you can’t talk to people about the benefits of your regimen because they might react like Pearl.” It doesn’t matter how you dress it up.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I disagree with this. There’s no indication that Hester is being overly pushy. The OP used the word “wrangled”, but if Pearl and Hester are friends, I can totally see a situation where Pearl is interested and Hester says, “Wanna do it together next time?” and Pearl agrees. That’s a normal human interaction.

      I also don’t think it’s fair to make Hester responsible for the actions of others. Unless she’s really going hard with the pressure– and right now we have no evidence of that– then Pearl deserves some credit for her own choices and her own body.

  14. Pinkie Pie Works Hard*

    Honestly, my reaction is that this happens *ONCE* a year for now two employees. So, for a week things aren’t great and you’re seeing less productivity in an otherwise competent team. Are you sure it’s the work impact for one out of 52 weeks that they work for you, or your discomfort and judgement about the reason?

    1. ACDC*

      This is my reaction to it as well. I actually double checked a couple times to make sure the letter really did say a week, because I thought the reaction was so far out for something that happens so infrequently.

    2. Name*

      I had the same reaction, it seems like the manager is being a bit over reactive. Maybe it’s a competitive field?

    3. SpaceySteph*

      And is the rest of the team such well oiled robots that human factors don’t ever cause issues? Does it never happen that 2 people get pregnant at the same time or have a relative pass away or the flu goes around?

      Why is this ONE week getting so much scrutiny? Its likely that when managing a team of humans there’s some person on the team “not at their best” pretty much constantly.

      1. RandomU...*

        Probably because at the time of the letter the OP was knee deep in cleansers.

        I could see being in that situation where you have 2 grumpy, late, dizzy employees could bring this to a head. I’d imagine they are vocal enough about it that the OP knows what the cause is and is tired of it.

      2. Colette*

        This is truly a choice, though, and it’s causing a backlog (which may require overtime or more work for people who are not doing a cleanse. And the fact that two employees are doing a cleanse doesn’t mean that no one else will be out of the office for illness, family issues, or vacation – those regular life things can still happen.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yes, that’s my reaction too. The only difference between this and a week of a bad cold or migraines is that it’s “self-inflicted.” So I get why it’s annoying because it’s basically planned. But I would focus on the performance, not the cleanse, if it has to be addressed.

    5. Working Mom Having It All*

      I mean, reread the letter but replace “cleanse” with “huffing glue in the bathroom” or “coming in hung over every morning” or “playing video games at their desks instead of working”. Tell me that your reaction is still “oh whatever, it’s one week out of the year, let them have their fun.”

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Those things aren’t even remotely analogous to a one-week diet change. I get that people have feelings about diet fads, but it’s not a boss’s place to make those decisions for or about their employees. If, for one week out of the year, one of my typically stellar employees or coworkers is out of sorts or is slightly less overachieving than usual, meh. It’s one week and everybody’s entitled to an off week every now and again.

        Now, with the other employee who’s not so stellar and overachieving, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to pull her in and talk about the fact that she’s getting behind in her work and she needs to get things done. But her diet doesn’t need to be brought into it. And if she brings it up herself in the course of the conversation, OP is well within their rights to say “What and how and when you choose to eat is entirely your decision. But we need the X reports to be completed and handed in on time and I need you to find a way to make that work.”

      2. RandomU...*

        Or “cleanse” could be replaced with “volunteering with orphans at night”, “participating in a sport in the evenings”, or “staying up with a sick family member all night”

        I get the point you are trying to make, but even if you stick to your replacements, yes, as a manager you look for patterns and trends so I can see how 1 week out of a year for any reason is blip or an anomaly… Only the coming in hungover one is a direct comparison, as it’s self-inflicted and is a result of off hours activity.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oh come on. “Huffing glue in the bathroom” is not remotely the same as a juice cleanse. And yes, if there’s one week where a couple of employees are coming in hungover, I’m honestly not going to sweat it too much because it’s happened to the best of us. I am no fan of juice cleanses, but when other people do them, I roll my eyes and go about my business.

        The point is to focus on the performance, not the presumed reasons behind them.

        1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

          OP here.
          It came to a head because it was a change in pattern and behavior, and I’d thought I was fine when it was Hester, but Pearl made me wonder how to best address it since they are in the same role but having different impacts on the team during the cleanse week. The extra part of them talking to other people about it was another worry.
          There are absolutely coincidences of A having a cold and B having a sick kid while C is on vacation. But that’s normal part of office life to me.

          1. Zillah*

            It might be helpful to look at this as a normal part of office life too, though – multiple employees share an interest in something and are both less productive for a short period of time as a result. If you can absorb the stress of your example, is there a reason you can’t absorb the stress of this one week?

            1. Marni*

              This just reminded me of the fact that in San Diego and LA, there’s a huge dip in productivity across many businesses the week of Comic con. TV offices, agencies, comic book stores, but also retail and food service all have to deal with an uptick in employees wanting time off to go to “nerd prom.“ A boss might not think very highly of fandom in general, but forgive the lower productivity of a high performer but wanted to be out of the office for their yearly hobby event. And then the same boss might be a lot less forgiving if the next year two employees wanted to go, and were talking about convincing others to join in. You could look at it as “just a week,“ and accept the lower productivity, or you could say that you’re not giving extra time off that week, period. And imho you’d be forgiven for yearning wistfully for a time when it was just Hester

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                At one job I had, there were three of us in the group. All three of us were fans, but there was one convention that the other two prioritized higher than I did. They went all four days, I worked the weekdays, because the con was in their primary fandom, not mine. When a con in my primary area came up, they worked the weekdays, and I took time off. As long as we had coverage, we worked it out who could take off when between us. Everyone knew when these events were, and we planned our projects around when people would be there, just like everyone else does around holidays.

              2. Zillah*

                A boss might not think very highly of fandom in general, but forgive the lower productivity of a high performer but wanted to be out of the office for their yearly hobby event.

                I don’t think we should be encouraging a mindset where managers make decisions on whether they want to give time off based on their own personal opinions.

    6. smoke tree*

      I can see how it could become more of an issue if more and more of the team start doing it, though. Probably the best thing the LW can do is to make sure expectations are held to the same standard for that week, and it doesn’t become a department-wide juice holiday. Personally, if I were on that team, I would already be annoyed by the constant juice discussion, and wouldn’t be thrilled to see half of the team getting to leave early every day on top of it, particularly if I have to pick up the slack.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      I can see it both ways. It’s just how you frame the emphasis. Either “this happens ONCE a year; so for a week things aren’t great. meh so what?” vs “This happens EVERY YEAR for a whole week productivity drops!”
      The question is whether the week is significant or not, and we can’t really know that.

  15. Washi*

    This is a pre-planned yearly cleanse right? So if the OP knows that the week after next is Cleanse Week and it’s fairly clear who will be participating, she can also make sure to check in with the employee(s) with a track record of letting work slip and remind them that their work needs to get done, last time they did this X and Y problems arose, and what is their plan for ensuring that doesn’t happen again? I think you could do this even with someone with whom you would have serious concerns, even if they haven’t done the cleanse before. That might mitigate the effects of having multiple people do the cleanse at once.

  16. Jules the 3rd*

    I disagree with not discussing it with Hester. I think OP needs both Hester and Pearl to understand that there is an impact on their work while they are cleansing. You can then say different things about how to deal with that impact, such as:
    ‘Pearl, the impact to you is taking your work below acceptable levels. You will need to manage that better if you choose to do this again’ and
    ‘Hester, the office can not afford to have two people working significantly below their best / coming in late / etc at the same time. Please be thoughtful about that when discussing or scheduling this’

    bias check: I think cleanses are awful and foolish (I have a liver, thanks!) so factor that into this opinion.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      The reason I think you need to discuss this with Heather – the ‘low energy / mildly sick’ reaction is extremely common with cleanses, so it’s a problem you can expect to happen, and therefor one it’s legit to address.

      1. smoke tree*

        I’m not a cleanse fan either, although I think this is quite similar to other work-influencing extracurriculars–if you were running a marathon or performing in a play for a week each year, for example. In all of these cases, I think a conscientious employee would proactively adjust their schedule, particularly once they notice that they’re always drained that week. From a manager’s perspective, I think the main thing is to communicate that the employee is still responsible for keeping on top of their responsibilities.

  17. Oxford Comma*

    Is it maybe better just to not mention the cleanse at all? The problem seems to be the decline in job performance. In this case, the OP knows it’s related to the juice cleanse, but that’s not always going to be the case. Would it be more effective to just make it clear that they need to fix the issues and how they do that is up to them?

    1. banzo_bean*

      I agree, I would be annoyed with my boss if they discussed my diet with me, whether they perceive it effecting my work or not. I feel like it’s my boss’s job to say “your work suffered, and you need to fix it” and I can decide on my own if it’s the juice cleanse.

      1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

        OP here
        I agree, in reading feedback I’d much rather focus on the productivity and communication issues.
        It just seemed so odd that two thoughtful, analytical people would have this reaction and not tie it to the cleanse. Unlike when people have allergies and they joke “ugh I’m running a little slow this morning due to my allergy meds”
        But ultimately, not my business why they are out and feeling crummy unless they share that with me.

        1. banzo_bean*

          Yeah, it’s hard when smart people keep doing dumb things. My boss did whole30 once during a VERY busy season, and her hangry moods drove me to tears multiple times. In the end, I tried to just focus on her attitude rather than her hunger related mood swings since I didn’t truly know what was making her so angry.
          Also I kept the office stocked with lots of snacks just in case she needed it! Although I guess it’s much harder/impossible to find approved snacks on a juice cleanse.

  18. bunniferous*

    I do not see any good way to bring this up but I am thinking….if someone in that office has an undisclosed eating disorder this is very problematic.

    But I think Alison is right. I think focusing on what is not getting done is the way to approach this. As someone who has done fasting in the past, I understand you sometimes do not feel great BUT it is also possible to push through that to a certain extent. And if these folks are not able to, well, that is what sick time is for.

    1. banzo_bean*

      Yes, I agree on the eating disorder front, but this is why I think bosses should avoid discussing diet with employees, whether they think it’s effecting employee performance or not. I assume the boss is not a dietician, so they really should not be telling employees about the effects of their diets.

  19. Delta Delta*

    This might be a self-correcting problem; Pearl might not do this again, or may share some variation of, “that sucked, I don’t recommend.”

    It seems perfectly fair to talk to both people and let them know that you don’t care what they do outside work, but if their activities start to have a negative impact on their work, they’ve got to get that fixed.

    Also? People are pushy. Whether it’s juice cleanses or NCAA brackets or Fitbit steps or whatever, there will always be peer pressure. Maybe a kind word to Hester to reel it in on the juice cleanse advocacy might help, too.

  20. Burts Knees*

    So I had a different but similar ish problem when I was working in an office that had five women and two men (and both of the men were married to women on the team). One of the women was a fad dieter and was very intent on both her and her husband losing weight, and decided to get everyone in the office to do a no sugar diet. I politely declined several times, and it was the most miserable 40 days as the whole office turned into a bunch of angry, sugarless monsters. Everyone was so cranky, and then constantly talking about their diet, which for me a person who worked pretty hard to be in a healthy mental place about what I looked like and what I eat, was awful! Which leads to my point which is that even when it’s totally by choice and no one is forced into it, Diets as Friendship Bonding in the workplace can really suck for everyone else around them.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Oh, back at ToxicJob, my manager was ALWAYS on some sort of diet. I even heard her say once, “I’m on the BlahBlah diet, next I’m going to do the ThisandThat diet.” Once she went on a no-sugar diet, and she was even more unpleasant to be around than usual. The whole constant dieting thing baffled me; she was never happy and was always in pursuit of some goal only she could see (she looked fine to me).

    2. Observer*

      It sounds like an awful situation. Of course the OP should keep an eye on this, but it doesn’t really sound like she’s describing a situation like yours. The OP has indicated that they will keep an eye on the situation to make sure it doesn’t veer into problematic territory, though, so that’s good.

      1. Burts Knees*

        Definitely different! But I think if Hester is a star performer and she has one person in a relatively small office start to juice cleanse with her, and they having a nice friendship bonding thing over juice cleansing it’s pretty easy for it spread because people are social, and dieting as a bonding tool is actually pretty powerful. I don’t want to slippery slope this just because of my own bad experience, but I think it’ something to keep an eye that it can have larger effects on office morale and social dynamics than just one week.

    3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      I once told a hangry, juice-cleansing colleague to please step out of my office and that I would forget everything they just said as a courtesy, and then they would be welcome to return for whatever they wanted from me once they had gone off the cleanse, and could be a nice, professional person again. This was at the height of the lemon juice cayenne maple syrup whatever madness. I stand by my decision, 10 yeas later. I don’t need to be on the brunt end of self-imposed crankiness. And yes, once several people pick it up you cannot just do work around it, because they’re all just cleanse-obsessed and freaking out that you deign to eat food that hasn’t been put in a $500 blender.

      40 days is a very biblical timeline.

      1. Burts Knees*

        I actually wondered about the 40 days at the time because it was a fairly catholic office, and it had a very lent like feel, but in October. So maybe just an amount of time that most people felt very comfortable with giving something up for.

    4. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      Agreed.

      It actually can get to the level of harassment and get really ugly for people with eating disorders or other health conditions that don’t have anything to do with work.

  21. TechWorker*

    Whilst I think juice cleanses are pretty ridiculous, I’m with Alison that it shouldn’t be brought up with Hester unless performance is suffering.

    A semi-interesting parallel might be employees who occasionally go out drinking during the week and have, er, a less productive day afterwards. If a top performer does this occasionally and it doesn’t affect getting their work done… but then one time invited a poor performer whose work it did affect along.. I can’t see any world where you’d go to the top performer and ask them to stop socialising during the week. Again it would be a specific conversation about performance with the person whose work is affected.

    1. TechWorker*

      In other words, Pearl is an adult. If juice cleanse makes her sick, that’s on her, not anyone else.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think it’s pretty universally not OK to come into work noticeably hung over. Ever. Period. It even looks pretty shady to do that the morning after the office holiday party.

      1. Zillah*

        But TechWorker didn’t say “noticeably hungover” – they said “had a less productive day afterward.” The idea that it’s not okay to go to work if you’re not literally feeling 100% is actually really disturbing to me.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Yeah, you don’t need to be noticeably hung over to have a less productive day after a night out. I don’t even need to drink to have a less productive day after a night out.

  22. Zillah*

    I don’t like juice cleanses.

    That said… I mean, there are a lot of things that might make multiple people on a team less effective for a week – the Olympics or the World Cup come to my mind immediately, but there are plenty of other things, too. At a certain point, I think it’s just the cost of doing business – especially since the impression your employees are left with if you say something involving the cleanses specifically could easily be “I can’t have an off-week”/”I can’t have an off-week unless OP approves of my reason.”

    And that’s just not a great dynamic to get into – there are plenty of reasons why someone might have an off-week, and for me personally, I’ve always appreciated my bosses who’ve understood when I’m having an off-week and who’ve given me the space to not always be at maximum productivity. For example, I’m often less productive:
    • During major heat waves, because they trigger migraines and mood swings;
    • Around significant dates since losing my mom a year ago (the one month/one year anniversary, her birthday, holidays); and
    • During the World Cup/late stages of the Champions/Europa League

    Some of those are avoidable, and some aren’t, and they affect my work in different ways to varying degrees. The specific reason is a misnomer in a lot of ways, though – I think the core is really just that people aren’t always at 100% productivity, and occasionally, they’ll only be at 50-60%. As long as it’s a short, isolated period of time, IMO there’s a lot to be said for the goodwill you get with flexibility.

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting you not talk to people with performance problems in general – you absolutely should. But I think the pattern is what’s relevant there, not a few days of a cleanse making them less productive.

    1. Zillah*

      That said, I do think that it would be totally fine for you to ask people to cut back on excessive food talk in general, because it could definitely be triggering for people with eating disorders or other dietary issues.

    2. banzo_bean*

      I don’t like juice cleanses either, but at the same time, I hate people talking about what I’m eating and implying it’s not sufficient in some way (not healthy enough, too little food, not whole30 enough, too much food, etc). So I’d just focus on performance and probably nip juice cleanse talk in the bud while I could.

    3. Aurion*

      Yeah, this is where I land too. The juice cleanse week is when Hester’s performance noticeably dips, but she’s a great employee and everyone’s allowed off weeks, be it due to juice cleanses or insomnia or a broken bone.

      But Pearl is a mediocre employee just barely over acceptable, and if she feels like crap during her cleanse week and her performance drops further, that is worth speaking to, and I think it’s best to frame it in that manner. “Hey Pearl, your performance isn’t where I want it to be, and during this particular week it drops even further” is how I’d frame it, and I wouldn’t even bring up the legitimacy of cleanses. If Pearl was a good a employee as Hester I don’t think the OP would care all that much about a synchronized off week.

    4. IAlreadyHaveALiver*

      – major heat waves are not a phenomenon you can control
      – your mother dying is not a phenomenon you can control
      – the social media/mainstream media blitz around sporting tournaments is not a phenomenon you can reasonably avoid or control

      I’m really confused why you compared any of these things to someone choosing to starve themselves for 7 days in a row (unless I’m completely misreading your comment, in which case I apologize!).

      Being less productive because of an external phenomena you can’t avoid/control is totally different from being less productive because of a voluntary choice you’ve made.

  23. TootsNYC*

    I still remember the time I got blasted by a boss in a way that felt unfair and out of proportion, and when I shared my frustration with a colleague, she said, “Oh, boss is doing a cleanse, and she’s been really cranky with everyone.”

      1. StaceyIzMe*

        Wow! That would be irritating! But- bringing up the juice cleanse is likely to raise the other person’s defenses. Calling out the objectionable behavior, however, gets the same basic point across without muddying the waters. It’s good to put someone on notice that their bad behavior has been seen, noted and may cost them some goodwill. A good boss understands that a single episode of assholery can cause significant negative repercussions and will work to make amends as needed and avoid them where feasible.

  24. Mazarin*

    I mean, she’s leaving early, using her own sick leave, 3 or 4 days of one week. She’s not taking a weeks unplanned vacation to do this. I’d let it go, and only discuss it as a work performance issue if things get behind.

  25. Blarg*

    It’s “only” two people, but that’s 40% of OP’s team. How do the other 3 feel about this?

    The combination of “I feel like garbage this week” with moral superiority and self-righteousness that comes with these performative episodes has got to be a real morale boost for the people who came to work ready to work.

    The constant talk before and after means this isn’t just a week long thing; there’s the peer pressure for weeks before hand and the comparisons and self-adulation after.

    I’d suggest a firmer line on taking time off – as soon as people start griping or underperforming, kindly encourage them to take advantage of the leave policy immediately. Then, just like hangovers or marathons, if the outside of work activities impact work, you address it. And really, that should always be the policy: if you aren’t feeling well enough to be at par, rest and recover and return when you’re better.

    Get it out of the office, which should help decrease the toxicity and the ‘support system that’s really a competition’ dynamic.

    1. Zillah*

      The OP said that two of her employees are doing a cleanse this week and have been using sick time, and that one of them hasn’t completed all her work. That’s it. There’s no suggestion that it takes over the office for weeks, creates broader toxicity/resentment in people not participating, or it being a “support system that’s really a competition.”

      I get that a lot of us have had bad experiences with these sorts of things, but that’s far from universal, and presenting a lot of supposition based on our own personal experiences rather than anything the OP said as fact isn’t necessarily going to lead to relevant advice.

      Also… like, if my boss told me to leave sick any time I complained that I had a headache or wasn’t performing at 100%, I’d probably start looking for a new job. That’s really not a great way to manage.

      1. Blarg*

        Note I didn’t say “at 100%.” I said “at par.” At what is average. And as a person who gets frequent migraines, I know when I’m just not doing great, even if I can technically function in that I’m present, but I’ve always appreciated a boss who encouraged me and anyone else to practice good self care, which includes not being at work when unwell.

        I made the assumption about topic of conversation because Hester has already recruited one more and they are “wrangling” for more. That doesn’t happen in silence. Heck, OP shouldn’t even know about her employees’ diets! The fact that she does means this is an event. I’d never want a boss to know the intricacies of what I eat, when, and how it makes me feel.

        1. Zillah*

          Okay, but if you’re saying that anything less than average is unacceptable, “average” doesn’t really mean anything.

          As a broader thing, though – it seems like you’re looking at everything through a really extreme and negative lens. The idea that someone isn’t practicing self-care if they go to work when they’re not doing great is a huge leap, and it’s not really a fair standard to hold human beings to. Most of us have gone to work with allergies or a small headache or distracted by life stuff, for example – there’s a huge difference between “unable to work” and “less productive than usual.”

          I’m not trying to take us off on a major detour; my point is that for the purposes of the OP, I’m not sure that this should be treated any differently than being less productive for a week for a different reason.

  26. Yikes*

    I agree with Alison. Also, I am all in on this Scarlet Letter naming convention. Only disappointed that Dimmesdale didn’t make an appearance; maybe next time.

  27. Close Bracket*

    You don’t have a juice cleanse problem, you have a Pearl problem. Hester is getting all her work done, and you have no idea whether the third employee will be impacted by cleansing, and you don’t even know whether Pearl or the third employee with for sure join the cleanse. Leave Hester alone, unless her work slips. Concentrate on addressing Pearl’s slippage—maybe do so by trying to improve her work in general. Address the third employee’s work if it becomes necessary.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    An employee leaves early or arrives late a few days out of the entire year? Causing a “slight backlog”?

    The only thing I would do is encourage them to go home and take a sick day if they’re not feeling well. Otherwise I would let it be..

    1. JuiceCleasne_Mgr*

      OP here
      Yes, when they tell me they don’t feel well it’s a “I’m going home” not even asking. I’m not stopping anyone from leaving or giving trouble for coming in late as long as they email a heads up, I tell them t take care of themselves. Our exempt workers usually don’t use sick leave if it’s just an hour or two in a week, as long as your deadlines are on track. The difference here was Pearl was never catching up that week because it happened multiple times within a week.
      From a performance angle, now I plan to address it that way. If you’re not feeling well and need to work reduced hours several days in a week, please be sure to check in with me on deadlines and using the appropriate sick leave total for the week.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Yeah, that was a Pearl problem, not a cleanse problem. Plus, for all you know, she had something additional going on that week.

  29. Weimer*

    Oh this letter is so timely! We have two competing diets that just started up in the office.

    One is an MLM type, prepackaged blender meals thing.
    The other is intermittent fasting. (complete fast, every other day).

    So far the fasting folks are looking pretty sluggish on the “on” days. No calling in sick or leaving early problems yet.
    Glad to have Alison’s response to reference if there is a problem!

  30. staceyizme*

    I don’t know- is it really an employer’s business that one or more staff are doing a “juice cleanse”? Either there’s an issue with performance that rises to the level of “you need to fox this” or there’s not. If it’s one week and they have sick time/ otherwise perform well, this falls into the “no action required” category. Because there is no workplace where the effects of a week of juicing should cause commentary. It’s akin to a hangover, a bad day for one’s period or a mild case of stomach distress. Take no notice and move on. If the effects cause someone to miss an important meeting or deadline, or cause them to leave important tasks unfinished, THEN you address it. (The impact, not the cause, which isn’t really anyone’s concern except for the person engaged in the cleanse.)

  31. Pickaduck*

    Maybe make them bring in a doctor’s note if they miss work unexpectedly and frequently during this week (or any other…)

  32. Fashionable Pumpkin*

    I really, really hope they aren’t doing “jilly juice.” The lighthead and sickness is what has me concerned.

    (Jilly juice is a juice cleanse with dangerously high levels of sodium. There have been deaths and it’s highly criticized, but the leader is apparently very convincing and the followers are devout.)

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