should I tell my boss about a screw-up that turned out okay, drinking at work events, and more

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

1. Should I tell my boss about a big screw-up that turned out okay?

I am not a perfect, rock-star employee, in large part because of ADHD that I didn’t get diagnosed until recently, but I am generally responsible and conscientious and always trying to humbly self-evaluate and improve. If we were assigning grades, I’d probably give myself a solid B-plus. I give this context because I can’t say that I have an immaculate track record, but neither am I a dumpster fire.

That said, this week I made one of the most serious mistakes of my professional life. I was packaging up important submittal materials for delivery to a prospective client. When I asked our administrative assistant to create an overnight shipping label, I checked the deadline, for some reason did not see a particular time specified, and requested delivery by noon.

However, in the morning, I realized that our department calendar said there was an 11 a.m. deadline. How I had missed this, I honestly don’t know. I immediately went into crisis resolution mode and tried to figure out a plan B. I asked the admin for the package tracking number, and it turns out the only before-noon delivery option was 10:30 a.m. anyway, so I got extremely lucky. The package was delivered with plenty of time to spare.

I’m wondering, though, if I should tell my boss about the disaster that almost happened. If the package hadn’t been delivered in time it might have cost us a high-value contract. I believe in transparency and accountability, but because this isn’t my only mistake (even though none of my others have been anywhere near as significant), I’m worried that I could end up on thin ice. Would it be dishonest not to out myself?

I don’t think you’re ethically obligated to say “I almost messed something up but it turned out to be fine.”

There are some situations where you’d have to do that — ones where there still might be consequences that your manager needs to know about. For example, if you upset a client but then were able to smooth it over, in many cases you’d still have a professional obligation to let your boss know what happened, because it could be relevant context for her to have (in case the client seems frustrated later, or is extra upset the next time something goes wrong, or so forth). But the result of your mistake here was … the package still arrived on time.

I do think, though, that you’re obligated to take this as a flag that you almost messed up something huge and need to pay more attention/review materials more closely/double-check for deadlines. If you do that, you’re holding yourself accountable.

2. How do I navigate drinking in work situations?

I am nearly 30 and just barely started drinking alcohol, and I’m a bit out of my depth when it comes to drinking outside of my personal life. I’m on a business trip currently, and I’m just sticking with one drink at dinner. I am most definitely a lightweight, so I don’t want to get out of control or embarrass myself.

How do people navigate drinking in professional settings, e.g., at conferences, on business trips, at after-work team events, at non-work events where colleagues are present? Any other situations I’m missing that take nuance? Any tips?

First, keep in mind that you don’t have to drink at work events at all! Lots of people don’t — for health reasons (including medications that can interact with alcohol), or religion, or because they don’t like the taste or feeling, and all sort of other reasons.

In fact, since you’re new to drinking, I’d err on the side of caution and just not drink at work events until you have a much better command of how alcohol interacts with you in a variety of situations. (For example, you might think you can handle a glass of wine just fine, but haven’t yet had the experience of how that can change if you drink it on an empty stomach.)

But if you do drink at work events, stick to one drink. That’s a good rule of thumb for most people since there’s rarely cause to drink more than that in a work setting anyway. Beyond that, though, the big thing is: Don’t get tipsy. There are some offices where some people get tipsy and it’s fine, but whatever payoff they’re getting from that is rarely worth the risk of saying or doing something you wouldn’t have said or done if your inhibitions were higher. After all, that’s what alcohol does after a certain point — it lowers your inhibitions, and inhibitions around colleagues are generally a good thing.

3. Is it unprofessional to brush my hair in common areas of my workplace?

I am an assistant manager, and today something weird happened. I did not get to finish my normal routine this morning as I had to go to the UPS store (for work) so I showed up to work with my hairbrush. I work at a preschool and typically, by the time I arrive to work, there are no parents here as they have all dropped off their kids and left. I walked around to say good morning to the teachers and collect breakfast dishes as normal, but I brought my hair brush along and brushed my hair as I was walking between the classrooms.

The manager above me made a point to rush up to me and tell me I need to do my beauty stuff in the bathroom. I was confused by this as I thought she meant the makeup in my purse but no, she explained that me brushing my hair was unprofessional. I am young, so maybe this is just a rule on professionalism I have never heard before. I am just confused. This was pretty much a one-time thing, and not a habit I have. Is it really all that unprofessional in this otherwise rather relaxed atmosphere for a work setting?

Yeah, there’s an etiquette rule about not doing personal grooming in public. Some workplaces might not have thought it was a big deal, and it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s also not outlandish for your manager to ask you not to do it. (It’s also the kind of thing that can be frowned upon without anyone telling you, so it’s good that she did. She might have done that because you’re young and she figured that you’re still learning professional norms.)

4. I don’t want to give employees free tickets to a circus

I am an office manager in an office of 70-75 people. We received in the mail unsolicited tickets (buy an adult ticket, get a child ticket free) for a circus show that will be in our area next month. The letter enclosed with the tickets asked that we give them out to employees. Personally, I am extremely opposed to animals being used in shows/circuses and will not attend/support such an event. Should I offer the tickets to our employees? I suppose some may want to take their children and this would help them reduce the cost. I probably shouldn’t make the decision based on my personal convictions, but I am really struggling with this.

Also, I did a quick Google search and this business has many BBB complaints (30+ in the last couple of years). The majority of the complaints are in regards to cancelled shows for various reasons and refunds not given on the cancelled shows. Our employees could potentially pre-purchase discounted tickets online and lose money if the show is cancelled, which seems to happen often based on the BBB complaints. This potential financial loss to our employees along with the use of animals in the show makes me want to simply throw the tickets away and act like we never received them. What say you, my trusted adviser?

Throw out the tickets. This isn’t a perk; it’s a marketing gimmick — a way to generate sales of tickets. You’re not obligated to help them market to your staff. (Also, as awareness of the abuse of animals in circuses grows, you’re likely to have employees who would object to you encouraging circus attendance, and rightly so. You don’t need to stir that up just because a business wants to promote themselves to your employees.)

5. Employer took two and a half months to reject me, but sent three updates meanwhile

In early June, I applied for a remote job at a small nonprofit organization on the day the posting was closing. About two and a half months later, they emailed me to let me know that I was not selected as a successful candidate this time. What threw me off is that they took so long to send me a rejection letter after the window for applications was closed. In the meantime, they sent me three separate update emails asking me for a little more patience. All three emails were very similar, but the last two were exactly copy-pasted. I did not have any type of interview or contact with them besides the update emails.

I don’t want to sound petty, but it did make me feel a bit off since they gave me no information at all on how much time the whole process would take. Also, before I applied I sent an email to ask some questions about the process and they answered it three weeks later, after the application window had already closed.

Is it normal for companies to take this much time to review a job application? I understand that recruiting can be a tough task, especially for smaller organizations, but it came off as a little irresponsible to keep someone hanging for so long without any explanation. Am I being too strict? Is there any way I can give them some constructive advice on this without sounding insensitive?

Nope, this is entirely normal.  In fact, this employer was unusually considerate; most don’t send that sort of update, let alone three times.

Most employers don’t provide candidates with timeline estimates before they’re even been interviewed; at most you’ll generally be informed when you’ve been rejected, and sometimes not even that. And it’s not unusual for a hiring process to take two or three months from start to finish.

Most employers also aren’t set up to answer questions from job candidates who haven’t yet been selected for interviews, and a lot don’t respond to questions at that stage, instead reserving any back and forth for candidates who they’ve already decided they’re interested in talking further with.

I wouldn’t think of this as them keeping you hanging; presumably you didn’t have your entire job search on hold while you waited to hear from them. (At least I hope you didn’t!) Whenever you apply for a job, you should always just move on with your search and not pin any hopes on the position working out, because with any given opening, the odds are against you. (Many positions get hundreds of applicants, so even qualified candidates may not be interviewed, let alone hired.)

{ 484 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 2: I’m 34 and I have been drinking since I was 21 and I am a serious lightweight. One mixed drink and I’m buzzed, two and I’m flat out drunk. And that is when I am eating while drinking. Somehow I just never developed a tolerance and, as a result, I don’t drink very often and I am *VERY* careful when I am drinking in any context where professional contacts will be around.

    Most of the time, I don’t drink. This can be tricky because people can get weird when someone doesn’t drink where others are (I’m sure you’ve seen this before). So I always have something in a glass.

    But sometimes I want to have a drink and when I do, I tend to just have one and I tend to drink it slowly and make sure I eat while drinking.

    You will see others drink much more heavily. Some handle it very well and some….do not. Don’t feel obligated to follow their lead. Stick to what you’re comfortable with. And, remember: if you’re not comfortable drinking it is really not weird to not drink.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      The always have something in a glass thing is very good advice. Even better if it has a twist if something on the rim and a little straw to make it look like a “real” drink.

      My dad wasn’t a drinker. We were at some kind of something once (after I was fully adult) and he’d been drinking beer all might. He was amazingly sober though. I asked him about it later. He poured out the beer and refilled the sane can with water and just carried it around all night. LOL. It must be genetic…

      1. Lionheart*

        It makes me so mad on your dad’s behalf that he felt he had to do that. We all know that alcohol is not very good for us, but people will still put ridiculous pressure on others, presumably to avoid making themselves feel judged. I’m giving side eye to your dad’s friends, even though I’m sure I’ve been those friends before.

        1. JSPA*

          Not a bad way to remember to drink enough water, though. And less splash risk than a cup. I like the solution.

      2. Bonky*

        I don’t pretend I’m drinking alcohol at work events, I just openly order something soft; but I do wonder if being very senior in my organisation means I am in more of a position to cheerfully drink a glass of water!

        1. Can't Sit Still*

          Thank you for doing this! Having someone very senior openly *not* drinking lets everyone know that drinking is not an expectation or a requirement. You are removing most, or maybe all, of any perceived pressure to drink from the rest of your organization. All of your employees who cannot or will not drink alcohol greatly appreciate it.

      3. pleaset*

        Always have something in your glass is good advice if pressure bothers you.

        In the US with colleagues, I DGAF and don’t feel the need to do that. I might if it was a meeting with a big donor or client, but with colleagues? No.

        But if the pressure to drink bothers you, yeah, keep something in a glass you carry around. Great advice.

        1. Sun Tzu*

          People pressuring you to drink alcohol are terrible people. And you shouldn’t take advice from terrible people.

          1. PVR*

            Sometimes the pressure is “softer” though—everyone around you ordering more, someone ordering you a drink and handing it to you, sometimes drunk people think they are being considerate by offering you another or “just one” if they see you empty handed. And when you are caught up in socializing (especially with a work context) you will be distracted and thinking about what you are saying and it’s easy to lose track or to have 2 or 3 when you meant to have 1. If you always have something in your hand, it kind of stops that from happening in the first place. The overly “helpful” tipsy people will notice you all ready have a drink and not even ask.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, this- sometimes even people who aren’t drinking will be this kind of “helpful” person in a misguided attempt to make sure everyone is “comfortable”. Some people have an overdeveloped host instinct, it doesn’t make them terrible people. Trying to make sure everyone has what they need is one way to deal with social anxiety.

            2. Ella*

              I think it can also just be basic politeness to ask if someone who doesn’t have a drink would like one, no thoughts of forcing alcohol on them intended, and I know I’ll sometimes say yes to the offer of a drink out of similar deference to social niceties. If you’re new to drinking and want to make sure you don’t end up a few more drinks in than you’d like, having a seltzer in hand can avoid problem before it starts.

              1. BethDH*

                As the person who sometimes over-hosts myself, I’ve started saying something like “can I get you something? Beer, soda …?” (Or variations suitable to the site). Including both options I hope makes it clear that drink means a liquid refreshment, not necessarily alcohol.

            3. pleaset*

              I’m not sure I could keep track of the difference between 2 ond 3 or 2 and 4. But 1 is of a different character. If you intend to have only 1 drink, I don’t think I could lose track of the fact that I’d already had a drink earlier that night. If I was counting higher numbers, sure, I could lose track of the specific number but 1 is simple – if you’ve drunk anything you’re done.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            You often don’t have a choice about whom you associate with at work. Nor the freedom to refreshingly inform them that they are terrible people. Short-circuiting that by having a virgin mojito at your elbow is an easy way to have more interesting conversations, if you happen to be stuck socializing (for work or other preserve-the-relationship reasons) with people who just don’t feel comfortable drinking until they have assured that everyone around them is drinking.

            1. Dr. Pepper*

              Yup. If it were your friends doing this, it would be one thing, but you don’t choose your coworkers and often have to put up with all kinds of annoying behavior in consequence. I quickly tire of repeated offers of something I don’t want and if a glass something in my hand will stop them, then guess what I’m going to do? Seltzer water with a slice of lime, please, bartender.

            2. pleaset*

              I frankly don’t care to know people who actually are annoyed or distracted if someone isn’t drinking alcohol. Seriously – what kind high % of tools are at your workplace that this is a thing to worry about? What industry is this? If it’s the hospitality or entertainment of some kind, or perhaps in Japan or the UK (I don’t know about those places but am guessing)?

              Where I live – NYC – in the nonprofit sector it’s not a thing worth my worrying about. “OMG pleaset wasn’t drinking and wouldn’t even take a beer when I offered it to him.” Who cares.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I frankly don’t care to know people.

                This just isn’t a realistic standard for most of us re our coworkers, neighbors, and extended family,

              2. Koopa Troopa*

                FWIW Japan can get a little peer-pressurey about drinking especially if you are male, because drinking parties are seen as the standard way to build camaraderie and a socially acceptable time to loosen up from the stricter social rules in the workplace. You can complain about higher-ups with no consequences, get honest feedback, and talk about your personal lives much more freely. So choosing not to drink could be seen as rejecting that–rejecting the social connection, choosing to stay buttoned up, whatever.

                But the pressure varies greatly by company, by gender (men will get it worse than women), by age, by the group of people you go out with, by your individual personality. If OP were in Japan, I would advise to get a beer with everyone else for the toast, don’t drink it, then order a soda and distract any questions by pouring beer for everyone else.

      4. Constance Lloyd*

        My dad’s move (on fishing trips with buddies, alcohol is never present at his work events) is a glass of Sprite with a splash of coke. Apparently it looks very similar to a whiskey Sprite. I’m a huge fan of club soda and lime wedge. I’m a young looking lightweight, I don’t want to risk even one drink making me giggly and impacting how I’m perceived.

        1. J.*

          I’m also a club soda and lime fan for work events. It sucks that people have to pretend and in an ideal world we could just do our own thing and no one would care, but with all the stuff you have to navigate with work politics and culture, it’s just easier to not have to fight every single fight sometimes. A woman much more senior than me gave me the club soda and lime tip early in my career and I bristled at it at the time, but now I just roll with it as having been good advice.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Genuine question. Why bristle at the soda/lime drink. You’re at a social gathering do you not drink beverages (alcohol or non) at social gatherings?

            Would you normally drink something else?

            1. Cat*

              My read is the bristling was at the recommendation to pretend to drink alcohol to fit in, not the composition of the beverage itself.

              Personally, I go with flat water, no twist, and enjoy watching how uncomfortable it makes everyone else. But I’m a rebel like that. :-)

              1. SomebodyElse*

                I guess… maybe I find it weird because I drink soda&lime in my day to day life so for me it’s no different than drinking pop or ice tea or plain water.

                Really weird to me since I’ve never seen anyone get a hard time about not drinking at a work event and my company/industry is very much a drinking culture.

          2. bean*

            Another fan of the club soda + lime wedge here. At events that are work-related or at social events. Not a big drinker, but it’s refreshing, keeps me hydrated, and keeps me from getting tipsy in situations when I don’t want to get tipsy. And it looks enough like drinks that are alcoholic that nobody ever bothers to ask about it (unless they offer to get me another one, in which case they often respond, “oh, that sounds really good right now”).

        2. Artemesia*

          Tonic is also a refreshing drink and with a twist looks no different than my first drink which will be a vodka tonic — after that it is tonic. If you are a ‘lightweight’ (I just consider myself a cheap drunk i.e. doesn’t take much) then it is probably wiser to not drink at all at work events — get a glass of something with a twist and don’t drink at events until you are more comfortable gauging your capacity. There are heavy pours where one drink would make me noticeably (to me) buzzed; this is not good as a newbie in a work setting.

        3. BethDH*

          Also a good point about remembering how alcohol can reinforce other ways you might be (mis)perceived at work. Unfortunately, people can attribute normal personality features to alcohol and then judge you accordingly (giggliness, fidgeting, even just being “too” friendly). I’m careful about drinking with new coworkers in ways I’m not once they know my normal work self.

      5. JxB1000*

        I agree with the others on having something in your hand. At conferences, I order one drink and then usually switch to juice or carbonated water with lime. I don’t pretend to be drinking alcohol. If someone asks what I’m drinking or sees me order, I keep the explanation short. However, the glass in my hand forestalls people asking why or offering to get me a drink. So it just saves time and energy.

      6. Quill*

        My mom prefers a rum and coke that’s 80% coke and gets more full of coke and ice cubes as the night goes on.

    2. Baru Cormorant*

      “Don’t feel obligated to follow their lead.” I’d say this is the biggest advice I would give to someone learning where their limits are. Others may drink more or less than you, they may pressure you to drink more or less, they may not notice or say anything at all. You might be having a good time and decide to order another drink, or someone might buy it for you, or any number of scenarios. The key is to stay true to yourself and your limits!

      I have seen so many people socially and professionally get carried away with alcohol. Often here people talk about pressure to drink but more often I’ve seen well-meaning people having a good time, finally finding a drink they like and not recognizing its effects as they slip from sober to tipsy. Then they stand up to go to the bathroom and realize how drunk they are (and as they throw up on the floor, realize they shouldn’t have drank a decanter of wine by themselves). Nobody was pressuring them, they just weren’t experienced enough to know their own bodies and recognize the signs.

      The best thing you can do is to experiment with your limits OUTSIDE of professional contexts so you’re not learning what buzzed feels like at office happy hour.

      1. Bagpuss*

        This is really good advice. Drink (or not) within your own comfort zone and limits, not any one else’s, and don’t drink just because others are doing so- it’s fine to say ‘no’, including choosing to have a personal ‘no alcohol at work events’ rule if you want – you may decide that if you don’t drink much, you are more comfortable not drinking at professional events, especially if a small amount makes you tipsy .

        1 drink at dinner is fine – and it’s also fine to choose not to drink at dinner, even if others are.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Interesting point about finally finding a drink you really enjoy the taste of, rather than can stand to sip slowly.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        If OP does want to drink a little bit with colleagues (and that would be fine), you’ve touched on a good point here, though maybe by accident. It’s hard to judge how you’re feeling when you’re sitting at a table for a long stretch, especially if you’re not an experienced drinker. That’s magnified by the atmosphere in many bars and restaurants – dim and loud. So get up and use the bathroom occasionally, pretend you need to take a call and duck outside for a minute, etc. I’ve had many a moment of “oh, I guess I am feeling that a little” in restaurant and bar bathrooms over the years. It’s a good way to check in with yourself about whether you should have that second glass of wine.

        1. Jen2*

          Exactly! It’s much easier to drink too much when you’re sitting still for long periods of time.

      4. BethDH*

        It can also help to get familiar with which cocktails and beer types usually run lower in alcohol. I’ve seen inexperienced drinkers not realize that that beer is actually 11% abv or that that fruity cocktail is almost straight liquor. Tasting like alcohol is not a reliable indicator of strength!

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          This is also something that beginner drinkers don’t realize! “Oh it tastes like fruit so it must not be that strong!” and 3 drinks later you’re wobbling to the bathroom. This is why having a solid rule like “I drink 1 beer” or whatever is helpful.

    3. Violet Fox*

      I have a coworker that comes from a family of alcoholics. He doesn’t drink at all because of this, and I’m a very light drinker just by personal preference. I’ve found that if either of us has something liquid with us, people don’t tend to make a big fuss.

      Not drinking is something that is becoming more and more common and a lot more bars and other places have a lot more non-alchoholic options outside sodas and the like.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      What about something like a club soda with lime? Or ask the bartender for a soda with a twist.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        What works well too, is club soda, splash of cranberry juice with a lime twist.

        Except for the odd pint of Guinness, I don’t drink. I don’t want the liquid calories the extra tastey mix drinks bring, and I don’t like feeling buzzed.

        I have no alchohol related trauma from my childhood. I’m not in recovery. I used to drink a bit more between ages of 21 to early thirties, then the novelty wore off. I’m a weirdo. Don’t like that picky, warm sort of relax feeling booze gives me.

        OP: you can always get a cola with a lime or lemon twist. Rum and Coke look like regular Coke in a glass. Lots of mixed drinks can be made sans alcohol. Club soda plain or with a splash of fruit juice and a garnish.

        A few times, the bartender will have me test drive a non booze version of a new cocktail they are working on free of charge. I always tip them well too.

        After everyone is into round number 3 of the evening, no one remembers what you are drinking.

      2. BethDH*

        If you want to drink something very light but still “alcohol,” vermouth and soda (spritz) follows the pattern of cocktails but should be lighter. I’m also a fan of bitters and soda, which is technically alcoholic but would be almost impossible to get drunk from.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I see people suggest this all the time and it makes no sense to me. If I don’t want a drink, I’m not going to get a pretend drink so people leave me alone. They don’t need to know WHY I don’t want a drink, and if they can’t accept that I’m not drinking that’s on them. Pushy people will be pushy no matter what the situation. And it’s ok to set boundaries with them, even if they’re colleagues.

      1. Gaia*

        Well that’s good for you. I, on the other hand, would rather not deal with every second person asking me why I’m not drinking, do I want a drink, no seriously let’s go order, etc. It is easier for me to have something in my hand than to field all the questions all night when I’d rather talk about anything else.

        1. Antilles*

          Especially since it’s not only “pushy people”, it’s a lot of people who are just trying to be polite. When people see someone with empty hands, the natural instinct is to offer “hey, can I get you anything?” Not out of being pushy or forcing someone to drink or anything, it’s just part of the social conventions that started with being a good host and have somehow spilled over into even situations like meeting at a bar/restaurant.
          Even if the people aren’t pushy at all and immediately accept “no, I’m fine” with no follow-up, you still end up having that exact same repetitive conversation like 15 times an hour as you mingle with various people. So why not just get a glass of water or soda and skip that whole thing?

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          Yup, exactly. I get real tired real quick of such things, and it’s not the hill I want to die on. I’ve been seen as rude in such situations too, and if my stupid colleagues will be appeased by a glass of seltzer, then glass of seltzer it is. It’s not much of a sacrifice to make for peace.

      2. PVR*

        I think if you are say, having dinner with one group of people, it is easy to say “no thanks” to a drink. Everyone sitting with you is aware you aren’t drinking. But if you are at an event that involves mingling, every time you talk to someone new there is a likely chance they will offer to get you something, often out of being polite. That person doesn’t know if you just arrived or just finished a drink and want another, it’s not necessarily anything nefarious but sure can get tiresome if it happens over and over agin. If you are holding a drink in your hand, whether it’s a pop or water or cocktail, that avoids the subject all together and you can just chat without getting into whether or not you are drinking or not etc etc.

      3. Artemesia*

        It is not hostile to ask ‘can I get you a drink’ if I see you without one; it is just hospitable especially if I am going to get one for myself. People usually are drinking and snacking at social events, having your own nonA drink forestalls these offers and makes it not seem like you are grumpily sitting there judging everyone else for drinking. People usually drink at social events — many of them are not drinking alcohol.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          When did I say it was hostile for someone to ask if I want a drink??? If they ask and I say no thank you, they need to accept that and not push as to WHY I don’t want a drink. I’m not carrying around a pretend drink so people will leave me alone.

        2. pleaset*

          “makes it not seem like you are grumpily sitting there judging everyone else for drinking.”

          Is it common for drinkers to really feel this?

          I think what Emily K describes is far more common:
          “I’ve really never encountered anyone in a professional setting who would give a rat’s patoot about whether I’m drinking or not”

          Or if they actually care they’re assholes.

      4. Emily K*

        Yeah, I’ve always seen the fake-drink tactic as being more about the non-drinker having personal reasons for not wanting to advertise their non-drinking to everyone than it is about somehow tricking pushy people out of trying to force drinks on you. I’ve really never encountered anyone in a professional setting who would give a rat’s patoot about whether I’m drinking or not – I’ve never felt the need to hide the fact that I’m ordering seltzer water if that’s what I feel like drinking, or to say, “No thanks,” if I didn’t want to drink anything.

        But if I were a recovering alcoholic, early in a pregnancy, sober for a religious reason, dealing with a medical issue, etc. and didn’t want to invite discussion about whatever the reason for my abstinence was, then I’d probably elect to make sure I always had sparking water in hand just to avoid the, “Oh, you don’t drink? why not?” questioning…not to avoid any particular pressure.

      5. Oxford Comma*

        Sometimes it’s so I have something to hold in my hands when I don’t know people really well. It’s also because I get thirsty.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Some….do not.

      And then they generate epic AAM letters. But that doesn’t need to be anyone’s professional goal.

    7. Shiny Carvanha*

      The more I read about drinking, and the older I get and the less I care about drinking, the more I realise how screwed up boundaries were with all my… I was going to see early jobs, but quite frankly all my jobs. If you are a woman/female presenting person and not drinking, and didn’t clarify that it was because you were either drinking or on antibiotics, “OHMYGOD ARE YOU PREGNANT?!”. It was exhausting. For about five years I really wanted to be trying to get pregnant too but we weren’t trying yet, so it wasn’t a fun thing to be fending off all the time.

      1. Anon4This*

        GOD, THIS. I’ve been sober 10 years but am not out about my sobriety in my professional life. Frankly it’s no one’s business. But as a younger female the inevitable, “you’re not drinking so you MUST be pregnant” is super annoying, so if someone really pushes saying it interferes with medication is my last resort.

      2. Essess*

        How odd…. I’m a woman and luckily I’ve never encountered this in my job when I decide not to drink. I think if someone asked me that, I would look at them funny and loudly state “That was a bizarre thing for you to ask. Do I really need justify when I don’t feel like drinking?”

    8. drink drank drunk*

      So much useful advice here, especially for new drinkers. I’m in an office that runs the gamut from abstaining to “would drink hard liquor if it was socially acceptable here”. The first time we all drank together, my request for “just a little” resulted in an entire glass of red! I drank it. I wouldn’t now. All the advice above totally works. Don’t feel like you have to match what others can hold, especially if you’re not a big drinker.

    9. Lx in Canada*

      Seconding the suggestion to have something in a glass – even if it’s only Coke or whatever. I can’t drink due to insta-migraines (I’m 23 and apparently my body hates me), but even despite that I’m not super interested in drinking either, so that’s what I do and it works very well.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Me too! Instant, vicious migraines that make me feel like I’m going to pass out. Fun!

    10. Sharikacat*

      If you do want to drink and manage to get through your initial alcoholic beverage of choice, make your next drink a glass of water. That will help space out your alcohol intake, especially if the event is still ongoing and you may want another alcoholic drink later (and be cheaper, if you’re paying for your meal). Your height/weight and food eaten can mitigate some alcoholic effects, but don’t rely on those factors. Time is the only thing that can get the alcohol out of your system, so space out the drinking.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is great advice. If you match every drink with a glass of water, it dramatically cuts down on the likelihood of a hangover anyway. Even if you plan to drink like a fish and can hold it, drinking an equal part of water is good judgment.

      2. Librarianne*

        I’ve noticed such a difference since I started doing this. I hate having to run to the bathroom multiple times during social events, so having a glass of water forces me to slow down a little in addition to keeping me hydrated.

    11. BottleBlonde*

      I’m a lightweight too. I can handle one drink fine with food but beyond that things get iffy. I’ve found that, while some people may notice that you’re not drinking at all (although, not drinking at work events has been pretty common everywhere I’ve worked), fewer will notice whether or not you actually finish your drink. You could always get a glass of wine and slowly drink half over the course of the evening.

    12. Quinalla*

      My best tip for telling if I am getting tipsy is to always drink standing up. If it is a dinner setting, then I just only have one drink with dinner and drink it slowly (wine is really good for this). But that is if you want to drink, if you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to.

      The subtle (or not so subtle sometimes) pressure to drink does not bother me anymore, mostly because I’m past the age where people immediately assume as a woman I’m not drinking because I am pregnant (insert 100x eyerolls here). Prior to that, my go to excuse for not drinking was that I was on a diet. That’s one people don’t question and actually believe. Other excuses people just assumed I was pregnant and lying :/

      I have noticed folks being a little more accepting of others not drinking alcohol. Most places, if you have any drink in hand, even if obviously water, I am not seeing folks question it as there are more and more people who don’t drink at all or who drink very occasionally so often skip drinking at a work event.

    13. WKRP*

      I’m in my 40s and while I can handle my liquor ok, I’m also not a huge drinker. It is well known by those I work with that I nurse my drinks and if I’m trying to keep a lid on how much I’m drinking, I nurse the heck out of my drink and let everyone who asks know I’m just a nurser. Most don’t question it or pressure me to drink faster and sometimes just assume I’m on my second drink, when I’m still half way on my first. It’s always worked pretty well for me.

    14. CaVanaMana*

      I don’t drink anymore. In my late teens/early twenties I drank several lifetimes worth of alcohol. I never learnt to drink in moderation and a drink or two simply doesn’t appeal to me. If I’m asked if I want a drink, I simply don’t have a drink. If I’m asked again, I laugh and freely share that I used to be a pirate.

      People who are drinking generally just want others to join in the fun so, have fun and you won’t be pressured to have a drink.

    15. rayray*

      I find it interesting that this drinking question has sparked so much discussion. I don’t drink for religious purposes, also just genuinely don’t have the interest as I fear I could easily get addicted. I’ve always worked for smaller businesses where my colleagues generally don’t drink as well, or it simply just isn’t offered at work functions. I think there could be many reasons why someone wouldn’t want an alcoholic drink – religious, health conscious, former addict, simply just don’t want a drink right then etc. Its’ unfortunate people have to act like children and think less of someone for choosing not to drink. Now that’s unprofessional in my opinion. What does it matter if someone just wants a coke or water instead of wine?

    16. Tom & Johnny*

      “Fancy” water has never done me wrong. Everyone at the table is ordering a mixed drink to celebrate the final closing of the big deal we’ve been working on for 6 months?

      I’ll have Pellegrino please.

      At nicer restaurants, the kind that tend to host business dinners or lunches, they’ll bring you a nice little bottle, or sometimes large bottle, and present it with a chilled glass to pour it in. Just as if it were alcohol.

      So you’ll get the “fancy” presentation everyone else is receiving, and it won’t register with anyone else that you’re not drinking.

      Of course everyone knows that Pellegrino or its’ equivalents are not alcohol. But the staff is not plopping a tumbler of ice water in front of you and then turning to everyone else with their fancy concoctions. Which can prompt boors to comment on your drink preference. This heads off any commentary in my experience.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        At less fancy functions where beer is typical, an Arnie Palmer does the same for me. It’s obviously not alcoholic, but for some reason (maybe the name) it reads more “adult” than lemonade and more “evening” than straight iced tea.
        And yes, plain water just doesn’t read as “something to drink” in some situations. It’s hydration, not drinking. Beverage background noise.

    17. Shabang*

      I’m in the “Just say no thanks” camp – not worth the risk. I like Gaia’s suggestion of “have something in a glass”.

      Which gives me the opportunity to say:

      I witnessed a coworker greeting a representative from another part of the company. He immediately started talking about a party where the rep had had quite a few – I could see on the rep’s face that they were not glad that this was brought up. I know if it was me, I would be mortified. I wish that my coworker didn’t bring it up and let it be in the past. Don’t be that guy…

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, if you feel like your tolerance is low, make sure that you’re always eating food before or during that drink. If you’re a beer drinker, you can also always order a half-pint. In general, don’t feel pressured to drink at all, and remember that it’s ok to nurse a drink for a loooooong time.

    I’m a late-in-life drinker and lightweight, and I frequently skip the alcohol and just ask for club soda or sprite in a mixed drink glass. That way I blend in but don’t have to explain why I’m not drinking, especially when I’m in the company of heavy drinkers.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      Chiming in to reinforce the good advice.

      OP#2, you most definitely don’t have to drink. Especially not with a meal. You’re having dinner. If you would normally not drink alcohol with dinner, there’s no reason to do so just because you’re on a business trip. And for social occasions I’d advise to stay *well* within your comfort zone, and if you aren’t sure where those limits are, having a single drink, of a type you’re familiar with (!), with snacks/nibbles/food, is a good approach. It’s perfectly fine to say “I’m not much in the habit of having alcoholic drinks”, and order something that you actually like. You don’t have anything to prove, and if someone implies the opposite, a mild questioning look with raised eyebrows should be enough to signal that. And then you say “I’m perfectly happy with this excellent Darjeeling / cappuccino / tonic water, thanks!”

      (Many places have alcohol-free options that are still a little fancy/out of the ordinary (including alcohol-free beer and no-alcohol cocktails), and if by any chance you’re in a bro culture where people are unprofessional enough to judge you for it, it’s sometimes advantageous to nurse something that looks as if it could be alcoholic not to attract questions. But that’s extreme.)

      FWIW, the ability to deal with alcohol varies a lot during life. I’ve had alcoholic drinks since it was legal (16 where I grew up), but never to excess (never had a hangover or was more than mildly tipsy – and that would have been at home, with safe friends). I *like* having a glass of wine or Scotch in the evening, but now that I’m in my late 40s I notice that even this low amount of alcohol seems to negatively affect my sleep quality.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I never even worry about it. I say “I don’t drink” fully expecting no arguments and probably 99% of the time no one questions me. I know I’m not very intimidating but there must be something in how I say it…

        Not that I haven’t drank/gotten drunk…hey we were all young once, or never have a drink, but tbh the last time was 2014 and the time before that was like 2004…and just like one drink each time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          In addition to ‘I don’t drink’, there is also ‘I’m not drinking tonight’ and ‘I can’t drink tonight’ (because you’re not letting yourself but you don’t have to share that part). Sometimes these will get less push-back, and can make more sense if the person is aware of you having drunk in the past.

          1. Lionheart*

            Hmmm I think “I don’t drink” doesn’t get push back because it sounds like a long-established fact.
            In my experience, “I’m not drinking tonight” invites just more questions, not to mention the dreaded “I knew it! You’re pregnant!”. That could be because I’m rarely seen without a glass of wine in my hand. I’m trying to cut back, but the interrogations don’t make it easy.

            1. bonkerballs*

              For me, I would say 90 percent of the time “I don’t drink” garners an immediate follow up question as to why.

            1. Delta Delta*

              And sometimes that cheerful explanation to the bartender gets you free soda, since they don’t want people driving drunk. Always be sure to tip if that happens.

            2. Lx in Canada*

              Yep, I can’t drink due to health reasons, but even so I usually have to drive to bars/events/parties because the buses late at night in my town are pathetic, so that generally works for me. Bonus – people love a designated driver, since it means they don’t have to take the bus when they’re drunk!

          2. Quill*

            I’m driving has always been a popular one for me… though it’s usually more an escape hatch from explaining how much I hate beer for me. I prefer my alcohol to either be made from fermented fruit or 90% fruit juice anyway.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yes, thankfully just calmly stating what your preference is will do the trick these days.

          The OP may be in a *slightly* more complicated situation in that they aren’t a complete non-drinker. Sometimes it can be harder to stand up for partaking at a low level rather than not partaking at all. But I’ve never found it hard or particularly punishing to just claim whatever weirdo level is assigned to me — these are, in the greater scheme, small things.

        3. Annette*

          IMO it’s not how you say it. 99% of people simply don’t care if you drink or not. Rude people who get on your case = major outliers.

      2. JSPA*

        I get the sense the OP is actually interested in doing a little social drinking, not finding a way to avoid it–they used not to drink, so presumably they actually do know how to do that, and are now trying to navigate the appropriate levels of voluntary drinking. And maybe get an understanding of drinks, on the corporate dime, even. If a modest waste of money is no objection, you can order / pay for a full flight of wines or beers, but tell the waiter you only want a “bare taste” in each (and then only take a sip from each). You get to find out what you like, and participate in the “talk about the product” aspect, with no risk of getting plastered. If they over-pour, you can say, “I’m not a huge fan of X, does anyone want this / these two more than I do” and pass those along, untasted.

        If you’re the sort of person who can’t stand to see anything left behind (“clean plate club,” spilling or leaving a drink is “alcohol abuse”) then please do NOT take this advice, as a flight can have the equivalent of several drinks-worth of alcohol!

        Also, be aware of the alcohol-by-volume of different beers (dramatic variation!) and beer vs wine, and sake vs beer or wine (!) and the serving sizes. One glass (what you’d naively think is a “serving”) can have multiple “servings” of alcohol.

        If you’re in a culture where drinking to excess is a bonding exercise, remember, you can throw an arm over someone’s shoulder, belt out-of-key karaoke and sway just by getting into the spirit of things, without being that inebriated. Declare yourself a lightweight, and…make it so.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          If you want to enjoy a drink, you certainly can do it. I try to limit myself to one or two drinks at functions. Sometimes at our conferences, it’s not uncommon for us to get together in the bar for social networking. Same rules apply though. There’s nothing stopping you from having a mocktail or a soft drink. If I’m somewhere where there’s wait service, whether that’s a restaurant, bar, or a banquet, I always always ask for water as well. If I’m trying to occupy myself, that ensures I have the means to do so without getting sloshed. Also, in my experience hotel drinks are insanely overpriced and this saves me a lot of money.

          If you’re unsure about whether it’s okay to drink, I tend to look at my more experienced colleagues/supervisors to see what they’re doing. If no one is drinking, I don’t either.

          Over the years I have run into the “why aren’t you drinking?/aw c’mon live a little” attitude. If they won’t shut up, then I usually resort to getting a club soda or a mocktail and passing it off as a “real” drink.

        2. Petty Chief (OP#2)*

          Thanks for this! These tips are very helpful!

          Because I didn’t drink before, I’m pretty comfortable saying no to alcohol, and truly have never felt uncomfortable telling people I don’t drink. And usually it wasn’t a problem.

      3. Sleepytime Tea*

        I have a co-worker who orders grapefruit juice. It looks like a cocktail, and so I doubt anyone would ever look twice at it. I don’t know if that’s why he orders it, I only asked him what he was drinking once because I thought it looked good (and honestly he was just the type I didn’t think would drink at all at a work event so the answer didn’t surprise me).

        For me, “I’m driving, so I’m sticking to one glass tonight!” always works. Or even sometimes “nah, just not feeling like a drink.” Sometimes I do drink, but sometimes I don’t feel like it. Maybe I’m fortunate but no one has ever blinked an eye at that.

        Story time: my partner worked at a video game company that definitely had a drinking culture. There have been some… incidents. One person got so trashed at an event that they took their pants off, and there is now a new form that HR has on hand that they make people sign saying they won’t drink at company events if there is an incident. That that form exists and they didn’t just, I dunno, have a talk with people about being responsible, is still mind boggling to me.

        At the same company, they had a cool day where they had contests and games and activities and people would present projects they had been working on. Lots of fun. And an open BYOB policy. Got a text from my partner saying “it’s not *event name* until the ambulance gets called for someone.” When I asked what was going on, TWO different people had to have emergency services called for potential alcohol poisoning. Passed out, unable to wake them up, the whole deal.

        Now, I have had a few drinks at a work party or after hours event. I’m not a total lightweight but I know my limits. At THAT company… I would probably be a total square. And I would be ok with that because I wouldn’t be the one signing a contract with HR that I have to keep my pants on at all times.

    2. WellRed*

      I’ve never heard of ordering a half pint. Might vary. I’m amazed that pressuring others to drink is still a thing.

      1. Mel*

        Half pints are regularly served in the UK. In the US, whenever I tried to order a half pint I was met with confusion. The closest I ever got was a waitress who offered to fill a pint glass halfway but still charge me for the full pint.

      2. Gaia*

        It is in some cultures. I worked for a company that was UK based and had several US offices. The US offices took the UK office “drinks at the pub after work” culture and took it to “liquor in the office at lunch twice a week” level. Everything else about the culture was great but if you were the one person obviously not drinking at events, you stood out and people would assume you just hadn’t got a drink yet and encourage you to do so. They’d stop when you said no, but then the next person to see you would start up. It was never malicious, just really ignorant.

        I found having something in my hand helped if I didn’t want to drink (or if I’d already had the one drink I was going to have that event, etc)

      3. ThatGirl*

        Depends, I’ve seen tasters and smaller pours offered, but what seems to happen more is you can get 12 oz, 16 oz or some really huge amount.

    3. Paulina*

      My advice is to always drink water first, and drink slowly. Enjoy the taste of whatever-it-is, and have it with meals (rather than one before and one with the meal, which is what restaurants try to get you to do; I either do bare sips slowly before the meal with water on the side, or occasionally order the drink to come with the main course). Lower quantities of good quality can both make the experience more pleasant and stop things from getting messy. If water as an initial drink seems awkward, a soft drink such as ginger ale often works almost as well, and can be easier to sip along with others.

    4. CRM*

      Agreed! At work happy hours (and even certain social events) my go-to is a club soda with a lime. A glass of wine will put me right to sleep after a long day at work, so I’d rather be somewhat awake and able to make conversation. Plus it’s refreshing, tasty, and it looks like I’m drinking a gin and tonic so I can avoid the “why aren’t you drinking?” questions.

    5. MaureenSmith*

      I also don’t drink much. In social situations, if I don’t have a ‘drink’ in hand, there is huge peer pressure to get/buy me something. So to countact that, I’ll often go to the bar and get a gingerale, soda, or something so that I have a glass in hand. You don’t even have to drink much of it, just having it around makes you part of the crowd. By getting it myself, there’s less questions about why I’m getting a soft drink instead of a beer/etc. Also, most bars will mix virgin versions of some cocktails. Not cheap, but again, effective. This doesn’t work in all situations, and does breakdown when there is a pitcher of beer – but then I have a sip or two and no refills.

      1. pleaset*

        You may not have control in work situations, but as much as possible avoid these people. Really, they’re messed up if they’re putting huge peer pressure on you.

        I buy soda water in bars if I’m thirsty and/or because I feel it’s appropriate to spend some money in exchange for being there. I’ve never felt huge peer pressure. Perhaps it’s been directed at me, but I ignore it, or try to. I try not to play peer pressure.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, it’s widely considered unprofessional to brush or style your hair at your workplace or in the public / common areas of your workplace. I’ve found this to be true even at relaxed workplaces.

    I often pull my hair up mid-morning, and I always do it at my desk with my office door closed or in the restroom… and even then, some people still raise their eyebrows at the mystery hairstyle-change.

    1. Drew*

      I think it’s true for most personal grooming activities. I don’t want to see someone flossing or clipping their toenails or adjusting their crotch. On that scale, brushing your hair is minor, but it’s still something that is probably better done in private, IMO.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      One of the grossest things I saw in my office was a long-haired woman brushing her hair while waiting at the photocopier. People found hairs on their copies for days.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          It’s been years and the memory is still clear, maybe because I always have super short hair and never see long hair groomed up close. I was young and she was higher up the food chain, and I didn’t have the confidence to speak up.

      1. DiscoCat*

        I saw that in a café in Barcelona, guest brushing out her long hair with long, flicking strokes…. made me gag involuntarily. None of the staff said anything, eck!

        1. it's me*

          I was in a packed movie theater next to a young woman who decided the middle of one of the Lord of the Rings movies was a great time to brush her long hair and take off her shoes.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      I guess the fact that they work in a pre-school makes it a little more surprising that the boss would be so insistent. Presumably, a lot of hair brushing (of the children) is going on there.

      There’s clearly some cultural thing going on. I’d be taken aback in a formal office, or in the situation cited below where hair may be sprinkled over a common area: that’s not ok. But all my early years when using public transport a lot of people completed their grooming routine while travelling to work, which never occurred to me to find even mildly odd. Certainly a quick brush at my desk, away from other people, sounds normal to me, but apparently that’s something that needs checking.

      1. KinderTeacher*

        Eh, I have experience in preschool settings and there was never really any brushing of hair. Assisting small children with bathroom activities on the other hand happens a lot, but that is done with gloves, etc to ensure that children, adults, and rooms stay hygienic. My guess is this is a cleanliness thing. Some facilities could have children young enough to still be crawling, depending on what type of place LW is working. And even if all kids are 4+, just for the general cleanliness and appearance of cleanliness I can see wanted to limit shedding of hair in common areas.

        1. Amy*

          Both my daycare / preschools have absolutely loved styling hair. Kids come home with braids, cool ponytails. I hear it from friends too. There seems to be a culture of it in many places.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            I hope different combs and brushes were used for each child. Lice can easily be spead this way, or ringworm. I wouldn’t want my child’s hair groomed at preschool.

            1. BottleBlonde*

              When I was a preschool teacher there was definitely a lot of ponytailing and braiding that went on (I had that job during the great Frozen phase…everyone constantly wanted “Elsa hair”). However we never shared brushes or combs because of the lice thing. On days when we ran the sprinkler we asked parents to send a brush or comb in their kids’ dry clothes bag so we could brush their hair after it got wet. Otherwise, finger-combing.

        2. Yorick*

          I used to work in a daycare and we absolutely brushed the kids’ hair and put it up in a ponytail or braid if needed. That was not uncommon. In fact, we sometimes had to wash their hair or bathe them because their parents didn’t.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I would think the children’s hair would be brushed before they arrive s and that the preschool would not engage in the wholly unsanitary practice of communal brushes/combs.

        1. Not Australian*

          I think you’re expecting a lot if you imagine children of that age will stay tidy even for five minutes!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Lice. The odds are infinitesimal that there is a school brush or comb with which to tidy the rumpled, rather than just letting them continue on in a state of enthusiastic dishevelment.

            If kids show up looking like they just rolled out of bed, you assume it’s their fashion choice of the day and roll with it. So long as it’s within dress code guidelines like “wearing underpants, and not on your head.”

            1. A tester, not a developer*

              I just want to thank you for describing my style ‘vision’… enthusiastic dishevelment. :)

            2. Observer*

              No you don’t. You figure something out.

              Also, it’s not just about what the kid looks like when they get to school. Kids get untidy. The idea that you allow a child to get disheveled and haven forbid that you help them tidy up is a total non-starter.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I only combed my own actual children’s hair in the morning. I have worked at a preschool, and no one combed anyone’s hair.

                I can’t say I was a constant observer of what went on within my kids’ preschools, but I think the guideline was to clean off visible surface smears, and teach them to wash their hands after going potty. Combing and brushing doesn’t enter into it, and would need to be in the context of a full decontamination between groomings. I helped out in their early elementary classrooms, and would have been gobsmacked if a teacher had called someone over to do anything whatsoever to their hair–comb it, brush it, style it. Never happened.

                1. Ophelia*

                  I realized belatedly that you meant the full decontamination of the brushes/combs, but frankly, my children could ALSO use a full decontamination between groomings ;-)

                2. Observer*

                  Early elementary is rather different than pre-school in this respect. It’s quite common to do some hair brushing, especially if a child is disheveled.

                3. Baru Cormorant*

                  I agree. In my experience it’s not in most schools’/camps’/daycares’ purviews to ensure the children are polished-looking. Certainly washing hands around mealtimes/bathroom use, and cleaning up goop like body fluids and mudstains, but most caretakers don’t have the time to clean grass stains off knees and ensure hair is brushed and tidied. It’s quite enough work to ensure children have sunscreen on. None of the preschool-age places I’ve worked at have brushed hair as a general rule for concerns of lice.

          1. lulu*

            exactly, kids don’t share brushes, the parents send individual ones that are marked. My kids come back with cool braids every once and a while from daycare.

      3. Baru Cormorant*

        I would not expect many preschool teachers to brush children’s hair especially not frequently, I certainly didn’t see that when I worked in multiple childcare situations. Mostly for hygiene concerns (lice, leaving hair on the floor).

        Fixing your hair quickly is one thing, but grooming with a tool is another. It’s like wandering the halls brushing your teeth.

        1. Cassie*

          I wouldn’t expect preschool teachers to brush kids’ hair either – I’m trying to think of a situation where it would be needed and I’m drawing a blank. I remember that “not sharing hairbrushes” was one of the things we learned about germs in preschool / kindergarten, along with not sharing ice cream.

          If a kid’s hair gets messy during the day, just leave it? (I remember one time in the 1st grade when my mom re-braided a friend’s braids before school started but she just used her fingers and not a brush; I guess my mom thought my friend’s braids were too messy?)

      4. Myrin*

        I can imagine that what made this particular situation stand out – regardless of the cultural environment, which I couldn’t comment on – is that OP did the brushing while walking around. To me at least, there’s a weirdly big difference between brushing your hair (or really doing any kind of beauty stuff, now that I think about it) while stationary vs. while moving around. It honestly seems a bit comical when I picture it in my mind’s eye.

        (And for what it’s worth, the “completing grooming routine on public transport” thing is looked askance at where I am, too, although ironically, a quick brush of your hair would be considered acceptable. I’ve talked before here about Gerlinde or “makeup woman” as we called here before I knew her name, who gets on the train completely bare-faced every morning and then puts on a full face of makeup during the drive. People definitely view it as odd, sometimes even ridiculous, and absolutely as something that stands out negatively.)

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I’ve think you’ve hit on the thing that really did make it stand out here. It’s one thing to run a brush through your hair when you take your coat off and you’re by the door or whatever, it’s another to move around and do it.

          I know the OP probably wasn’t doing this, but I’m imagining Luna Lovegood vibes where she drifts aimlessly about and brushes her hair.

        2. Daisy*

          Yeah the situation she describes sounds so odd to me. I don’t even think this is about being professional or the workplace – if you did this at school, or in the street, people would think you were a bit strange too.

          Also the whole bit about ‘I couldn’t do it at home because I had to go to the store’ is weird as well. So… brush your hair before that? Have you left the house before?

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yeah, you have an extra errand. . .so get up 10 minutes earlier. I don’t know why an extra errand forces you into doing your morning routine at work.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, that’s begging for the solution “Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier if you have to do a 15 minute errand before work.”

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          That’s what stood out for me too. I have hair that gets easily messy, and I am no stranger to quickly running a brush through my hair at my desk, but it would never occur to me to wonder around my work brushing my hair. That just feels so… something that would only happen at home.

        4. Pennalynn Lott*

          Yes, that’s what stood out to me. I wear my hair in a ponytail at the office — which is, regrettably, open space — and will occasionally run a brush through it while sitting at my desk if, for instance, my hair got tangled when I was outside in the wind. But I would never, ever, brush my hair while walking around the office going from area to area saying Hi to everyone. And I would never do it while collecting breakfast dishes!

        5. bonkerballs*

          That’s what I was thinking too. I’ve worked for more than one preschool and if she’d brushed her hair quickly in the break room, that wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows (I once checked one of my coworkers’ hair for lice during a break out in her classroom), but the walking around and doing it in the hallways is what makes it unprofessional.

        6. Cassie*

          The walking around part of it is definitely something that sticks out for me. If she were just in a cubicle or office and just quickly ran a brush through her hair (30 seconds? 1 minute?), it would be no big deal for me unless she did it every day (then it would be kind of weird).

          I’ve seen women put on a full set of makeup on the bus – given how many potholes we have on our streets, I’m amazed they aren’t worried about poking themselves in the eye! I do have to admit, though, that I did on occasion put my hair up in a bun while on the bus on the way to ballet class. If I had a choice, I definitely would have preferred not to do it and tried to do it very quickly. I have seen men / teenage boys who will brush their hair while sitting on the bus. Their hair looks exactly the same afterwards. I don’t get it.

      5. JSPA*

        Quite the opposite, I’d have said.

        In most of society, the real, relevant reasons we don’t brush hair around other people are no longer relevant: lice, fleas, scalp mites, flung out along with wads of dander and shed hair no longer afflict most professional adults, nor are we likely to have powdered dung from the streets in our hair. (Remember how many core rules of etiquette were set to the point of petrification two or three centuries ago, leaving us to chip away at them slowly, long after they’ve become irrelevant.) In schools, however, lice outbreaks still happen, and get passed like wildfire. So I’d expect that particular prohibition to linger or even intensify, as it (somewhat) fades, elsewhere.

        1. Clara*

          I love that the Queen has refreshed her lipstick in public and pushed back on critics. She said, in essence, I’m the Queen, if I don’t set the etiquette rules in British society, who does?

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            “We are the makers of manners. ” — Henry V (per Shakespeare)

      6. Lance*

        ‘While traveling’ is very different than ‘at the workplace’, though. It’s one thing to do whatever on the train or bus or whatever method of transport you use; the general assumption is that, as long as you’re not being disruptive, it’ll just be ignored because people are just waiting to get to their destination. At the workplace, though (schools included), you have workplace etiquette to keep up, which tends to mean no (or minimal) personal grooming outside the restroom.

      7. Not Me*

        I can’t think of a workplace where it would be normal for someone from any culture brushing their hair while walking around the office/workplace. It’s part of your personal hygiene routine that isn’t normally done in public.

      8. Observer*

        A quick brush at your desk is one thing, brushing in common areas is another.

        As for the idea that it’s ok for the adults to brush their hair because they are likely to be brushing the kids’ hair, that makes no sense. Teachers do a LOT of things for young children that no one would normally expect an adult to need help with / do in public. So that is totally not a guide.

      9. Sarah N.*

        The fact that the hair brushing seems to have been happening while some sort of food service was happening (collecting breakfast dishes) makes it more of an issue actually. In a regular office it would just be kind of unprofessional. If there’s any food handling involved, it’s probably breaking some sort of regulation (and it’s unsanitary even if there is not a regulation).

    4. Marmaduke*

      Your last sentence, combined with the fact that OP works at a preschool, is what makes the letter so surprising to me. I worked in a preschool. There was a lot of running, jumping, bouncing, crawling, and general movement. It was much too hot to keep my hair down, and far too active for one hairstyle to last the whole day. The other teachers and aides and I were constantly redoing our ponytails. It was generally accepted as part of the job.

      1. MissGirl*

        For me throwing my hair back in a ponytail is very different from brushing. I can do one in a few seconds at my desk, the other takes longer and can leave errant hair everywhere.

        1. MaxiesMommy*

          Yes. If my barrette or pony tail holder breaks, I have spares in my purse. I can probably put myself together again without brushing my hair. It seems silly to go to a bathroom when I can fix my hair in under 10 seconds. Running on the playground as a volunteer, I’d lose barrettes and clips. I can’t believe they’d want to lose a teacher or try to get coverage for 2 minutes for a repair. Would I brush or comb my hair in public? No.

        2. Marmaduke*

          That’s a good point. It would never occur to me to brush my hair in public—I’m pretty protective of my hairbrush so it stays safe at home.

        3. Kiki*

          I agree. Even in an office environment, I see people putting their hair into ponytails and quick buns at their desk all the time. I guess I would never think to excuse myself to a restroom or private area just to do a 15 second hair fix. Perhaps it’s not the most professional thing in the world, but I don’t think most people think less of people for it.

          1. Sharkie*

            You would be surprised. At an old job a coworker was written up for putting her hair in a ponytail in her cube and quickly looking at one of those desk mirrors, which was very common to have, to make sure her lipstick wasn’t smudged (no adjusting of the makeup- it was more of a confidence thing). Some guys have some weird hangups about hair.

            1. Observer*

              I’m sure this kind of thing happens. But, unlike what the OP describes, the situation you’re describing is ridiculous, and a bit of an outlier. I think that Alison’s response to a letter from your coworker would be a bit different than her response to this letter.

              1. Sharkie*

                100% true. I am just saying that for this topic is hard to find a line of “what is professional and what is not” because everyone has different standards on what is acceptable, especially if the manager is a different gender than the employee.

            2. Whut?*

              Written up for putting you hair in a ponytail? Geeze what happens if you god forbid pass gas or blow your nose? Are you fired?

          2. Betsy Bobbins*

            I’ve had very short hair for the last 15 years so I don’t do any hair brushing ever. That said, I do see a huge difference in someone throwing up their hair in a pony tail and someone brushing their hair in a shared space. The latter sends hair everywhere and the former does the opposite. So carry on with your cubicle pony tails and buns my long haired friends.

        4. Dahlia*

          Personally you’re not going to get my hair into a ponytail without a brush and a lot of work.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes, I was surprised that anyone would raise their eyebrows at a loose bun or some such appearing halfway through a working day. I guess that’s the culture in PCBH’s workplace, but I don’t consider it a universal norm.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      You have to hide in a bathroom to put your hair in a ponytail and people still don’t approve? Where on earth do you work?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was thinking something more elaborate than a ponytail. I’ve never had to worry about pulling my hair into a ponytail in front of others, although of course I wouldn’t do it while in court or a forum like that.

    6. Artemesia*

      Brushing hair as you walk around is MUCH grosser than putting on lipstick in your cube or even in a common area mirror. When you brush your hair you are shedding dandruff and hair all over the place — it is gross — just a step less gross than flossing your teeth in public.

      1. Grand Mouse*

        See it never would gave occured to me to find brushing hair “gross”. I run my fingers through my hair throughout the day and I guess that’s gross?

        1. Safetykats*

          I would say yeah, it could be a little gross, depending. For example, if you were running your hands through your hair and then offering to shake hands with someone, that would be a little off-putting.

          I just think it’s a habit that’s distracting to others, and a little unprofessional. I also hate it when guys stroke their beards all damn day. It’s a habit, like any other – but in the workplace it might be better to avoid habits that involve touching yourself repetitively – including touching your hair.

          1. Grand Mouse*

            Even like a quick sweep to smooth it back? That’s what I mean. I’m not just constantly touching my hair but it is medium length and loose and I move around a lot do sometimes I have to get it out of my face. As a kid I had a compulsion about touching my hair! But that’s not a problem now

            1. Observer*

              Come on, though. There is a difference between a quick “push your hair out of your eyes” stroke and running your hands though your hair, and a MAJOR difference from actually brushing your hair.

        2. Zombie Unicorn*

          I think this partly has to do with the fact that brushing your hair makes it fall out, and it can be greasy or you might have flakes of skin (dandruff) fall out.

          I wouldn’t run my fingers through my hair a lot at work if I’m honest, especially with others eg in a meeting.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Our scalps simply shed. Professional cooks wear hats or hairnets for a reason! And it’s standard hygiene for them to wash their hands after touching their hair.
          This is actually one reason I like long hair…I put it up, it doesn’t drop hair until I take it down and brush it.

          1. Mookie*

            Yep. Our skin is always shedding, of course, and we lose strands of hair throughout the day and without any provocation (pulling, brushing, &c). We’re also always depositing bacteria and particulates that may have attached themselves to our person.

          2. JSPA*

            Our scalps shed hair with or without brushing, though.

            A lot of our reactions are possibly biologically deep-seated (and thus individual) as well as culturally-reinforced.

            Social grooming as a bonding activity among family and close friends predates humanity (look at apes grooming), and is all about parasite control. It became a class thing as well, once richer people could pay poorer people to help them groom. Exposing someone to your grooming, unless it means, “we’re all family,” which isn’t actually appropriate at work, has a lingering air either of entitlement (“grooming at” / “grooming without respect for”) or a lack of class (like nose-picking, which can also need doing, but we don’t greet people while nuckle deep in our noses.)

            I remember a painting–must have been Degas, maybe not his most famous “hair combing” one, but another?–where the text info card at the museum explained that fine toothed combs were for removal of parasites, and that most people (certainly the “working women” and dancers Degas favored) would fairly frequently, if not constantly, have fleas or lice, removed only by painstaking fine combing. Brushes were, if not “full removal” tools, also a way of reducing pests.

            This may be a significant part of what led to the still-existing bias against “natural” hairstyles as dirty or unkempt. Hair policing is now just a random, odious cultural artifact. At one point, it was explicitly part-and-parcel of a broad attempt to slow (e.g.) the spread of epidemic, lice-borne typhus (along with slum clearance and the forcible stripping and spray washing of migrants at the border and minority children at public pools, if they were allowed to use those pools at all).

            Typhus did indeed spread like wildfire in the days before insecticidal delousing treatments (which…no longer work well). It also had mortality rates above 10% in adults, in the days before antibiotics (some of which also, no longer work well.) But there was a lot of mistaken, “correlation = causality” thinking, as far as exclusion and grooming presumption. In that we’re having some new outbreaks, and it’s again being used as a political wedge issue (and also being strategically ignored by some, as a pushback against the wedge effect)…this is not something that’s just going to disappear as we get used to having become cleaner, less pest-ridden and more civilized.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              Wow, all of a sudden, it dawned on me where the expression about going through something with a fine toothed comb must have originated, lol! That was fascinating, thanks.

          3. CMart*

            Yep – and thinking of cooks, at every restaurant I ever worked at (as a server/bartender) if we so much as touched our hair, even as benign as brushing bangs out of our face, we had to go wash our hands immediately before continuing to serve people. We would get dinged HARD on a sanitation audit if they saw a bartender touch their hair and then continue to make a drink. That was a “critical” violation, not just a minor one.

            It’s considered unsanitary, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel like one.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          Tangentially, this came up re “What is professional hair?” You can have long loose hair if it stays out of your face, but not if you always need to push it back out of your eyes, off your cheeks, and so on.

          Like many things, this has a lot to do with frequency–there’s a level where smoothing your hair back or running your fingers through it is unremarkable, and a level where it brings to mind a seven year old fiddling with their hair when bored or middle schoolers engaging in a mass braiding session.

        5. Meh*

          Not too long ago I went to hear a speaker in an auditorium and the young woman seated directly in front of me was running her fingers through her hair non-stop, twirling, braiding, unbraiding, finger-combing, flipping…and it was hitting my knees every time she did this. She had her hands in her hair one way or another for about 30 min before I couldn’t take it anymore and leaned forward to tell her it was extremely distracting and could she please stop. Instead of being able to watch & listen to the speaker, all I could see were her weird hair antics. Well she did not like what I said at all, she got all huffy & gave me dirty looks, cursed about me to her friend, but I didn’t care. I paid too much money for our tickets to have some girl’s hair antics ruin it for me. Point: leave the weird constant hair touching at home.

    7. Airy*

      I’m just remembering the letter about a woman who, among other things, would comb her hair at her desk using a fork.

      1. MaxiesMommy*

        And she didn’t even use the proper size fork. Everyone knows you use a salad fork for hair.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Take heart, OP! At least you’re not brushing your hair with a fork (and who would have thought that’d be thing!).

      3. JSPA*

        If it’s that person’s personal fork, and it’s clean, it’s hardly so different than a metal hair pick. As stitch points out, it’s context that tells us (and didn’t tell the Disney version of the little mermaid) the difference between fork and comb.

        (The sort of hair that needs picking is actually unlikely to spread / fling any hair or dander, actually. Picking is for hair that tends to contract in on itself, and is done to keep the internal structure looser, and realistically can need a touch-up if something has pressed down on or ruffled the hair in question.)

        1. CMart*

          I have, after some furtive looking around, done some combing with my own clean, personal fork at my desk when I was desperate. Sometimes a quickly thrown up ponytail leaves scalp gaps that finger-combing just won’t solve.

          But the key there was the furtive glancing and making sure no one saw me. I’m well aware that would be an odd-to-gross thing for someone to bear witness to.

      4. Sarah N.*

        Which is worse, combing your hair with a fork or eating your salad with a comb? :) (Search Amy Klobuchar if you don’t get this reference)

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, that’s my experience, too. The last leg of my commute is a 15-minute walk along the ocean so my hair is a little unkempt by the time I arrive (if I don’t want to put my hair up and have a hair-tie bump all day). It actually makes more sense to quickly brush it at my cube than to walk to the bathroom with a hairbrush, where I will almost certainly run into multiple people.

        In the OP’s case, I think it was the fact of doing it while in the hall. It was a little odd, but since it was a one-off, I wouldn’t think to scold her for being unprofessional.

    8. Pamplemeow*

      It’s hard for me to believe running a brush through your hair or fixing your updo at your desk is unprofessional. I work at a cubicle with high walls and I often run a brush (one of those mini kind) through it. It doesn’t take more than 5 seconds. And if my updo starts to fall out I’ll sometimes take 30 seconds or so to fix it.

      I do try to do these things when no one is around so I get it – you probably shouldn’t break out a hairbrush in the middle of a conversation with your boss. But when you’re at your desk alone I see no problem with it.

      1. Sharkie*

        I think it depends on the industry you are in. Both my sister and I are in male-dominated fields (although hers is becoming a lot more split) and we have both have had managers that are just weird about some female grooming/stereotypes.

      2. old foof*

        I’m with you. I keep a small brush in my desk and quickly brush my hair a few times a day. I do agree that walking around while brushing it is a little different. And I also only do it when I’m “alone” – or as alone as one can be in an open office environment.

      3. Arjay*

        This is where I fall too. My cubicle is the only space I have, so I consider it at least semi-private when I’m alone. I don’t do some crazy 100 strokes or elaborate style, but a quick brush to refresh things occasionally isn’t unusual.

    9. jDC*

      I would quickly put my hair in a clip mid day as after a while it would bug me and get in my face and people acted like I was that woman who changed her hairstyle drastically mid day. It’s a clip, people do it all the time. I wasn’t doing it in front of anyone’s or brushing it. I never could comprehend this. Have they never known anyone with longer hair in their life? So confusing to me.

    10. Gaia*

      As someone with very fine but very thick hair, I often wish I could carry a brush and use it every 15 minutes to keep my hair looking tidy. But, alas, I cannot and so I end up looking like I have “beachy waves” that desperately need a brush.

    11. Quill*

      I’ll put mine up in the afternoons if I get hot after a walk, but it’s honestly just fishing a tie out of my purse and cramming the hair in. I wouldn’t even think of needing to go elsewhere to do it when there’s no brushing or actual styling involved, much like I wouldn’t bother leaving my desk to fish a saggy sock back out of my shoe.

    12. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw*

      This is really interesting to me! I come from a culture where extremely long hair is the norm, and I’ve noticed we tend to not be as grossed out by hair as other cultures. I tend to brush/braid my hair wherever, this gives me something to think about!

    13. ceiswyn*

      Wait, what?

      I brush my hair at work all the time; I have fine, curly hair, so a few quick strokes at my open-plan desk every couple of hours is all that prevents me looking like I was dragged through a hedge backwards. I also brush my hair in social gatherings, and have watched many times as friends absently brushed and styled their hair at such gatherings similarly.

      Have I missed a social rule and been being rude all these years? Or is this one of those ‘rules’ that differs on different sides of the Atlantic or across different industries/social groups?

  4. Seal*

    #5. Totally normal. I once received a rejection letter a full 9 months after applying for a job. Even better – the position had been filled 5 months prior and announcements sent out on industry listservs welcoming the new person, so I had long given up on hearing from that particular institution. I have to admit I laughed when I got the rejection letter!

    1. Another Manic Monday*

      I got a rejection 15 months after submitting my application. It even contained factually incorrect information about my application. Why did they even bother sending it out?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Had you plunged down that rabbit hole, you would eventually have uncovered a complicated pyramid scheme involving replacing certain hiring managers with brooms.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I always assume the person who is assigned to send the letters is overloaded and 15 months on is when she reached your letter. I saw such things in my temping days.

    2. T3k*

      Yep, I had applied for a job with a government dept., had an in person interview and then nothing. I ended up taking a much better job 2 months later and then, nearly 5 months after that job interview, I got an actual letter in the mail saying the position was filled (I still have no idead why they felt the need to mail a letter as they had my email).

      1. LunaLena*

        I’ve gotten rejection letters by snail mail too. I wonder if it’s to discourage people from hitting “reply” and disputing the rejection.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I had the opposite experience.

      I applied for a job and then eighteen months passed when they contacted me and invited me in for an interview. By that point I was living in Spain and doing a completely different job, but it did make me laugh a little.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      It is a sorry state of hiring that people think two and a half months with no meaningful updates “unusually considerate.” I know it’s normal that things can take that long. But normal does not equal good. The whole process is so negative towards the applicants.

    5. izumixumi*

      OP 5 here :) Thanks Alison and everyone for the feedback (and the funny anecdotes too)! I think I was too focused on my side of the process and couldn’t see the full picture here.
      I didn’t know it was not that common to receive a rejection letter at all. Where I’m from (Argentina), it’s unusual to receive these but I didn’t take that into account since the recruiting processes here are ridiculously outdated.
      As Alison said in the linked article, I guess moving on right after applying is the best option. In this case, I did move on after two or three weeks of radio silence, but then when I received the updates, my hopes went up again. It happens, right?

  5. Flash Bristow*

    OP1: my instinct on reading the title was “yes, tell your boss because it might be something you all need to learn to watch for in future”. But then I read the actual incident and to be honest I don’t think you need to share it – as Alison said – only you know that it could have gone wrong, and I bet you’ll never make that mistake again.

    Don’t beat yourself up for it (I know how easily that can be done with anxiety, and I imagine ADHD might cause similar concerns?) but do learn from it.

    In fact, *praise yourself* for spotting the error, rather than being oblivious, and just focus on how you can make sure this kind of thing doesn’t repeat.

    If you notice a pattern in your behaviour (for example, if hyperness is causing you to skip over details) that might be the time to flag it, as a way to seek help.

    1. Drew*

      I would tell the boss if I thought there was a way to make the information clearer – for instance, if the “must deliver by” time was buried in text, perhaps there could be a standard form with a line for “required delivery time” that would make it more obvious.

      Otherwise, I think it’s up to you whether you disclose. If you aren’t confident in your ability to present this as “let me tell you about the near-miss I had and how I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” I would let it lie.

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly, I’d only speak up if there was a way to make the procedure better, especially if it’s set up in a way that others might make the same error.

        I’d be more likely to speak up if it’s something that could trip people up though, because so far it’s a one off, and the OP is now aware of checking. I don’t think they need to alarm the boss unless it serves a real across the board fixing something issue.

        1. valentine*

          let me tell you about the near-miss I had and how I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again
          While at least one of my parents would say not doing this is a lie of omission, I’ve learned it’s excessively confessional, a waste of time for the TPTB, and would make me seem insecure. I only confess when they need to get involved.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes, and also maybe alarms the boss about your capabilities, and maybe make them micromanage you for awhile.

          2. boo bot*

            Yes. My motivation for confessing this kind of thing, once upon a time, would have been fear that someone would find out, and I would look as if I had tried to cover up my mistake. Which, if something actually goes wrong, isn’t a bad instinct, but if nothing goes wrong, you look like you’re overreacting.

            This might be weird, but the way I’ve learned to calibrate is to imagine what I’d say if I got “caught” and see if it’s something I could say confidently and without guilt (or, if it’s something I’d think was reasonable coming from someone else):

            “I caught the mistake and fixed it, and the package went out on time, so it didn’t seem worth mentioning,” sounds pretty reasonable, so I’d go with it.

            1. OP1*

              “…fear that someone would find out, and I would look as if I had tried to cover up my mistake” is exactly where I was struggling. I’ve made that error earlier in my career and am extremely wary of making it again.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Good point. If you missed the detail because it was hidden in text, I’d approach boss and say something like:

        “I just wanted to ask and see if we could make the delivery time clearer in the text. Recently I nearly missed seeing it because I was buried and I’d like to avoid the situation in the future. Is there something we can do to change it?”

    2. Daisy*

      It doesn’t even seem clear that it was a mistake to me. If she read one thing that had no time deadline and only the calendar said 11, it seems perfectly possible that was just a time chosen at random for the calendar. And if this relied on a delivery service, there’s no way that 11 would be the *client’s* deadline (or it shouldn’t be). It needed to be delivered in the morning, it was, zero problem.

      1. Antilles*

        And if this relied on a delivery service, there’s no way that 11 would be the *client’s* deadline (or it shouldn’t be)
        No, it really could be the client’s deadline.
        The key here is that OP said it was a submittal to a *prospective* client. I’ve bid on many contracts before and I can assure you that when the bid requirements state that all bids must be submitted by 11:00 am (or whatever), they often mean precisely that. In fact, the submittal requirements usually include a sentence explicitly saying something like “If your package does not arrive on or before the submittal deadline, you will be considered non-responsive and your application will not be considered”. This is most common if you’re submitting to a government agency due to “Fairness In Contracting” laws, but some big corporations make their requirements this strict as well.
        It’s such a firm requirement that if you’re working on the bid the day before, it’s not unheard of to skip FedEx/UPS/etc and have a junior employee hand-deliver the package personally just to make sure that the “guaranteed by 10:30 am” doesn’t slip to 11:05 am.

      2. Indigo a la mode*

        Government and utility Requests for Proposal (RFPs) have an absolutely mandatory deadline, and if your proposal arrives late, you’ll be considered non-responsive. I used to work for a government consulting team and we did a lot of “Next Day Before 10:30” FedEx shipping to make sure they were in before 11, or 2, or 1:30, or whatever deadline the RFP said. We also did our fair share of personally ferrying proposals down to the city if we needed a few extra hours to get it done.

    3. Parker*

      For Op #1, I have to ask – what kind of packaged materials could possibly constitute such a serious error in being only 1 hour late? For this very simple, minor-seeming issue to be “one of the most serious mistakes of my professional life”, then the package must have been REALLY REALLY important. But if it was that important, no reputable company would set a mailing deadline with exactly zero wiggle room. (“Here’s the stuff you need 1 second before you need it!”) So the 11am deadline might have been an arbitrary, early deadline before the materials would actually be needed.

      1. valentine*

        Meeting materials.

        one of the most serious mistakes of my professional life
        I’m thinking OP1 possibly is a rock star who makes few serious mistakes.

        1. OP1*

          Ha, trust me, I WISH I were being falsely humble here. It’s true I make few *serious* mistakes, but this would have been a very, very bad one.

      2. Joielle*

        She said “submittal materials for delivery to a prospective client.” So, sounds like a bid for a contract (which do often have VERY specific and strict deadlines).

        1. Door Guy*

          We have a lot of open market bids that have hard deadlines (luckily for us we can email instead of ship). They all have a “must be submitted before X” and are usually very firm on this. (We did have 1 that kept sending out addendums after the bid closed, and that required us to re-bid as it altered what we had sent in prior. We got that job and have learned that they are just as disorganized as that made them seem)

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Some sort of contract bid, for which no one wants to hear “Oopsies, ours is late, please take it anyhow.” They may be enjoined, perhaps legally, from taking anything submitted after the deadline.

        1. Antilles*

          Correct. In fact, for major government contracts, they’re often legally barred from even opening your late-delivered bid document. If your bid isn’t there by the exact time specified, they are required to return the entire sealed package unopened.

      4. Construction Safety*

        Bid Deadline.
        I would question the process that requires overnight, delivery-by-10:30 for the simple reason that all the delivery company is going to do is give you your fees back if they don’t make it and you miss out on the big contract.

        1. LJay*

          This. I definitely would not go with UPS or FedEx on this. I spend a lot of time every week chasing down items that were supposed to be next day delivery that get lost in their systems somewhere.

          And all you get back is the amount you paid for shipping once you do track the item down, if you remember to put the claim in.

          For something as urgent as this sounds I would be doing a courier company like Sterling or Lasership and with specific instructions on permitted routing, etc.

      5. Quinalla*

        With bids & RFP/RFQ this is very common. It is good practice to try and deliver it the day before it is due to not worry about this, but often deadlines are so tight, you barely have time to finish by the actual due date. If I am delivering day of, someone is dropping it off in person to make sure it gets there on time. They will even stamp the envelope with a date & time stamp.

      6. OP1*

        Hi, I’m OP! Other commenters in this thread correctly guess that this was a response to a bid, and these agencies are absolutely unforgiving about missing the deadlines even by one minute. On top of that, this is one of our highest-priority contracts to win this year, so it would have been very very very bad to get disqualified by something as avoidable as a late delivery.

      7. Blue Horizon*

        Maybe it’s because I am in IT, but my view is that if it was really THAT important and it’s possible to miss a deadline just from one person making a mistake, then you have a process problem.

        You could try to fix this by resolving never, ever to make another mistake in your life again. OR, you could take a look at how the process could be improved so that a single mistake won’t have such serious consequences. Designate someone in your bid process (other than the ones doing the work) to track deadlines and ensure they are being met. Have another person check the packaging, service deadline etc. on critical mailings before they go out. People make mistakes. Robust systems and processes allow for that, and build in checks and reviews as needed so that no single mistake can ever be fatal.

        As others have pointed out, it would be worth taking a look at other possible failure conditions, like the service guarantee level on the mailing service, reliability expectations, and recourse if they are not met. Have a look at government standards for handling printed material at different levels of classification for an example.

    4. Lynca*

      I have ADHD and I completely agree. It took me a long time to understand that just because I felt like the world was crashing down around me because I messed something up; it didn’t mean that anything was actually wrong or that it was a serious issue. Just the way they describe what happened reminds me of myself. Small mistakes become DEF CON 1. And this sounds like a small mistake since it didn’t actually end up impacting anything.

      One of the things I learn about having ADHD is that having outsized emotional responses is very common and that those responses really don’t accurately reflect reality.

      1. OP1*

        Thank you for this. Prior to my diagnosis and the godsend of medication, I did make some legitimately serious mistakes (at other jobs) that I almost certainly wouldn’t have made if my brain had been in proper working order, so because of that I’m probably a little oversensitive now. But it’s also reassuring to know someone else relates, and I appreciate the reminder that outsized emotional responses are often part of this issue.

    5. Squab*

      I’m not sure if this applies here, but I tend to use things like this as opportunities to praise other people. Imagine: “I wanted to tell you how awesome [administrative assistant] was yesterday. I sent out the bid materials via overnight delivery; but after it went out I noticed that the deadline was 11, not noon. [Administrative assistant] moved heaven and earth to make sure we knew the materials would get there on time! It worked out, and I’m making a note to double-check important deadlines like this, but it was really great having their help on this and I wanted you to know.”

      For one thing, it’s an “I’m super diligent” humble-brag, but I feel really strongly about calling out other people’s good work (if it was accurate in this case). I think it’s important to show up in a vulnerable way, although I take Alison’s point that there’s not much good in highlighting a mistake that *almost* happened. YMMV.

      1. Former Mailroom Clerk*

        But, in this case, the Admin didn’t move heaven and earth. The admin sent the package using the only available service which would meet the noon deadline, which also happens to meet the 11am deadline.

        I’m not saying don’t thank the Admin, but I’m saying that effusive praise to their boss isn’t warranted in this case.

    6. NotSureWhatNametoUseHere*

      First, allow me to say that if the OP says it was crucial that the materials be there before 11 a.m., I think we ought to assume that it was indeed crucial that the materials be there before 11 a.m. There are circumstances that have hard deadlines, so let’s take the OP at her word and assume this is one of those circumstances.

      But what I also want to do is join my voice with that of those who say you don’t have to tell your boss “I almost messed up.” I just don’t see any value in doing so. What you need to do is take steps to ensure that you don’t make that mistake again, but unless your boss needs to help you with that, I see no need to tell her.

      A couple of years back, my boss (a.k.a. Ms. Moody), and I were just getting out of a rough patch in our relationship with each other, and as I looked over an invoice before passing it along to her, I noticed that something that I had been told would cost, say, $200 was invoiced for $250. This was in a bill for several thousand dollars, and you might say that $50 one way or another was no big deal, and you would be right, but that doesn’t mean that Ms. Moody wouldn’t decide to make it A Big Deal, if she were in the right mood (or wrong mood, depending on how you look at it). You never knew, with Ms. Moody.

      My heart sunk. My stomach churned. My mind flailed around. I thought about saving the invoice until I had a couple of others so I could turn them in all at once in the hopes that maybe she wouldn’t notice. I thought about appending a note to it explaining that the company really had told me $200, not $250 (which was the truth), and that I would investigate it. I thought about many things. I an normally pretty unflappable, but I was nonetheless filled with dread.

      What I eventually did was call the company, talk to our representative, tell him that I truly had heard $200, not $250, and that I was…uncertain how Ms. Moody (who he’d had some experience with) would react to the higher figure. So I threw myself on his mercy, and he – bless him – said that $250 was the correct figure, but that because it was possible there was some error on his part, his company would eat the extra $50. So I was able to tell Ms. Moody we didn’t have to pay that extra $50, and everything was peachy.

      And here’s the reason I’ve related that story: I was relating this anecdote to a coworker who also reports to Ms. Moody and has also at times been filled with dread at the thought of telling her something she did not want to hear, and my coworker said, “I swear to God, if that had been me, I would have called the company and offered to send them a personal check for that $50.” Which was a radical (but pretty darn clever) idea, I must say, though possibly a bit suspect, ethics-wise. It’s hard to say. But I’m glad I didn’t have to consider it, because had it occurred to me, I would have been tempted. Ms. Moody is sometimes (though not always) deeply into blame-the-messenger mode.

    7. Alanna of Trebond*

      No need to tell your boss. Your job was to get it there on time. You got it there on time. The fact that there were bumps along the way is immaterial.

      And give yourself credit for catching the mistake and switching into crisis resolution mode to do whatever you needed to do to fix it — I also have ADHD and I joke that I’m extremely good at solving problems I initially created, but at the end of the day, it’s still problem-solving! My ability to come up with a creative solution on the fly to fix a crisis is something I like about myself. Many of my flaws stem from my ADHD, but so do many of my strengths (Dani Donovan has a great series of comics about this).

      1. OP1*

        “I’m extremely good at solving problems I initially created” — oh man, that made me laugh out loud because it’s SO true of me as well! It’s definitely both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, two and a half months actually sounds fast/reasonable to me. It doesn’t sound like a long wait, from a hiring perspective, at all. Don’t take it personally, and don’t try to send them constructive advice—it’s going to come off as naive/inexperienced.

    It sounds like they followed up with you to let you know you weren’t out of contention and that the process was still going forward. It’s also uncommon to hear concrete details about the hiring process/timeline at the paper-cut or paper-application stage. There are so many unpredictable things that can happen during hiring that I’ve never followed up with candidates on the details of the hiring schedule unless they’ve made it past the phone screen. But I don’t reject folks during the paper cut because there are often great candidates at the margin, and I can’t always predict when we’ll need to return to the original applicant pool. They emailed you three times—they didn’t leave you hanging. Hiring always feels more urgent (and the process feels slower) for the applicant. But the employer sounds like they were communicative, courteous, and within the normal hiring timeframe, so I would reframe the interaction so you can let it go.

  7. namelesscommentator*

    #4, what do you typically do with coupons?

    You’re right that you don’t get to make this decision based on your own personal convictions. Doing so would be a massive overstep. So follow whatever you typically do with these kinds of marketing gimmicks. Our office has a cork board with everyone’s unused BBB coupons, and sometimes free vouchers to a new coffee shop, sometimes a scammy thing (like this sounds like) shows up for 2 seconds before a second set of eyes tosses it. I believe everything gets posted, unless our office manager uses a bit of discretion with it that we don’t know about.

    Obviously, it’s worth an ethics conversation about what you should pass on, but you shouldn’t be the moral decider for the whole office.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I don’t think she’s under any obligation to post them even if she has with other stuff. This is marketing info, and for something that’s increasingly recognized as cruel. She deals with the mail and she can toss them — just like she wouldn’t be obligated to post, say, discounts for a club with racist marketing just because she had previously posted grocery store coupons.

      1. Drew*

        Entirely apart from circuses in general, the OP has done some research and this one in particular has a dodgy reputation. You don’t pass out restaurant coupons to the place that’s been shut down three times by the health department; this is the same sort of thing.

          1. valentine*

            circus issue aside the company is shady
            Yes. It matters that these are discount offers, the actual tickets aren’t free, and the employees could end up both without free tickets for children and without refunds for adult tickets.

        1. EPLawyer*

          This is the reason not to post it. Or don’t post it because it’s a marketing gimmick. However, do not decide not to post it because of your own moral beliefs. As a manager, you don’t get to make decisions for how the staff spends their money or their personal time based on your morals. That’s the power dynamic thing that Alison is always talking about.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Eh, it’s a marketing promotion that sent materials off to someone uninterested in their service. This happens constantly. The recipients aren’t required to pass the materials on just in case other people would like them.

          2. NerdyKris*

            That’s silly. As a manager you absolutely do get to make decisions about what gets posted in the office. By that reasoning, if an employee wanted to post about a Klan meeting, you’d have to allow it because you as a manager can’t make that decision.

            1. EPLawyer*

              that is so far different than a moral objection to circuses. Of course, anything discriminatory cannot be posted. Just because manages CAN make decisions, doesn’t mean they SHOULD use their own moral code when making them.

              1. TechWorker*

                This would be such a weird hill to die on though – I get sent unsolicited email all the time for events that look scammy & I definitely don’t want to go to, what’s the line between this and that? Why should sending something to a business mean that you *have* to share it with everyone…?

                1. Quill*

                  Honestly people feeling weird guilt about not forwarding other people’s scams, spam, and marketing is how chain emails exist in the first place.

                  “I don’t need to be spending work time dealing with these,” is sufficient reason to throw unsolicited coupons out.

          3. Observer*

            I think that the fact that the company is shady is such a compelling argument against posting that the rest doesn’t really matter.

            But, I really want to push back on the idea that not helping the company market their goods is somehow making decisions for people. She’s not stopping anyone from going to the circus, or even from going to THIS circus.

          4. Spek*

            Spot on. Our office is next door to a shopping center, and a manager of the sub shop there – a national chain (Lets’ call them New York Matt’s). will stop by a couple times a year and drop off vouchers for free samiches. Some times any type you want or other times, free small turkey, or whatever. If we found out the receptionist was tossing them because she was vegan, there would be a riot. He doesn’t get to choose what we eat (or buy, or watch) based on his moral compass.

          5. Triumphant Fox*

            But they don’t have a right to those coupons. You’re not making decisions about their time, you’re foreclosing an opportunity that you as a manager don’t want to promote (which is a discount on tickets – not an ability to see the show). As the gatekeeper to those coupons, it’s fine to make a judgment call on what promotions you pass along. If Amazon sends you discount coupons and you’re not a fan of their treatment of workers, I don’t think you’re obligated to pass those along, even if a lot of people would like them.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Good point about the office manager as gatekeeper. One could say it’s the office manager’s job to keep scams away from their co-workers to the best of her ability. This is the equivalent of screening a call about toner cartridges.

      2. namelesscommentator*

        But where does it stop? Is chick-fil-a okay? An adoption day a a kill-shelter? Company that donates to whatever political party you don’t agree with? There’s a lot of space between active hate speech and grocery coupons (and the grocery store may very well be as cruel as a circus).

        I wouldn’t want our office manager making those moral (and often political) distinctions on behalf of the whole office.

        1. namelesscommentator*

          And to be clear, My first comment was taking it as a given that you don’t post hate speech, like racist marketing, in an office. That’s different from not wanting to pass on a flyer because you don’t like the business.

          1. CJ*

            OP here. At the end of the day, I would feel worse if any of my co-workers lost money (which is a real possibility based on the many recent BBB reviews/comments) than if they attended the show. Neither of which would be my doing/fault, but I would feel bad if I helped to unknowingly facilitate a financial loss by passing along the BOGO tickets. I may very well have co-workers that might want to take their families and the savings would be appreciated. I would not think disparagingly if them did attend. But, those are the same co-workers that would probably more affected by a financial loss.

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, the fact that this company is shady is compelling all on it’s own. Anything like that gets trashed forthwith.

        2. Marmaduke*

          I’m not sure people have a right to coupons to the point where not offering them is a morally egregious act by an employer. So sure, if your objection to those things runs deep enough that you feel the risk of supporting the organization is greater than the benefit of generating a little goodwill with some employees, toss those flyers too.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This. These are cold-mailed promotional materials completely unrelated to the business. You can throw them out along with the carpet cleaning offers.

        3. Mike C.*

          The office isn’t the place to promote random businesses in the first place. This is really weird that you feel like there’s an obligation to pass on what are literally weekly coupons for every business that shows up to every employee at work.

          I get enough bullish!t junk mail at home, why would you make me deal with it at work?

          1. namelesscommentator*

            I said do whatever you typically do with marketing gimmicks. If that’s throw them out, throw them out. If it’s throw them in a box that employees can go through at their leisure do that.

            If it’s “make all employees deal with it and decide if they want it” the office as a whole needs to rethink their junk mail practices. But it’s not uncommon to have a coupon board/box open for employees. And I wouldn’t want the office manager’s personal beliefs impacting that without some input on guidelines.

            1. Anononon*

              I find it really odd that you’re insisting companies have some bright line rule about passing along coupons to employees. You said you don’t want it at the whim of one person, but why not??? Would you seriously be pissed off if, say, you found out your office manager trashed a 10% off chick fil a coupon instead of putting it in the break room?

              1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                That’s not the point. I agree with namelesscommentor. If OP was trashing them based on the BBB stuff she read about or because it is a marketing gimmick that she doesn’t want to promote that’s fine. But if the ONLY reason she wasn’t passing out the coupons was because of her personal moral beliefs about circuses in general, that’s NOT ok. It’s not up to ONE person to make decisions based on their own personal beliefs for an entire office.

                1. Works in IT*

                  This is true, especially since there are some small circuses that take animal cruelty seriously, and don’t have elephant or big cat acts. If nothing else, the OP would look incredibly foolish if it were to later come to light that they didn’t give their team tickets to, say, the Big Apple Circus, which has none of the controversial animal acts and is extremely well known for this fact, because of animal cruelty concerns. That’s obviously not the case here, but it could have been.

                2. Joielle*

                  Why not, though? Nobody has a right to coupons at work. OP could post coupons to a business one day and throw out coupons from the same business the next day if they wanted to, who cares? Maybe OP gets busy and throws out all the junk mail for a few days rather than deciding whether someone might want it. That’s fine!

                3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                  @Joielle you’re missing the point as well. This isn’t about coupons at work.

                4. Observer*

                  What decision is she making for them, though? She’s not keeping them from actually going to the circus (or chik-fil-a or the shelter that does animal euthanasia, etc). Let’s be real – if any company is cold mailing stuff like this, you can get the same “discounts” elsewhere. (assuming that these are genuine discounts, which they often aren’t.)

                5. Observer*

                  @ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss Actually, you have it backwards. @Joielle is 100% correct – this IS about coupons at work. This is NOT about what people get to do on their free time.

              2. Works in IT*

                Depending on the industry, there can be rigid rules about what to do with gifts like this, which is why it keeps coming up. The OP may very well not be working in an industry where it matters, but if they do, they will need to report that they received the gift. Otherwise, whether they take advantage of it or not, it looks like they were being bribed.

                1. surprisedcanuk*

                  It’s not really a gift. It’s a coupon like a subway buy one sandwich get one free. Would that not be okay at certain companies?

                2. Mr. Tyzik*

                  It’s *literally* the job of the office manager to handle mail. She can decide what to keep and what to toss. Presumably, the office manager knows what is acceptable. As for junk mail, since when is junk mail a gift?

              3. Joielle*

                Agreed. Why doesn’t the office manager (or whoever deals with mail) get to make that decision? Who cares if it’s arbitrary? It’s like people think they’re being deprived of something they’re owed, but that’s obviously not the case. I say, office manager gets to decide what gets posted, and everyone else gets to decide whether or not they want what’s on offer.

                1. Mr. Tyzik*

                  I agree with you. Like I said above, this is the office manager’s job. Sure, she looked into the circus because her spidey sense was tingling. She is making her decision based on the circus reviews, not her beliefs, She’s totally in the right here.

                  Should she be posting offers for cable service, Valpak coupons, and other fliers? Depends on the office and her understanding of office norms. I can tell you that I’ve never worked some place where this was a problem, even when we got cruise scams over the fax machine.

            2. surprisedcanuk*

              I think the office manager can just use their best judgment. This isn’t some free speech thing.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            This. Everyone can decide their own “moral.” OP can still say “not gonna let you sell your stuff in our office.”

          3. Stitch*

            If someone decided they wanted to go to the circus or whatever it would generally be easy to find similar coupons in a newspaper or similar. Those kinds of things aren’t exactly hard to come by, if they’re sending out mass unsolicited mail.

          1. PB*

            I agree. Based on the headline, I’d thought that these were tickets being offered by LW’s office’s administration, in which case they shouldn’t unilaterally decide to toss them. When I read that they were unsolicited mail, my opinion changed completely.

            1. Sarah N.*

              Yes! And they are not even free tickets. My husband’s office sometimes gets tickets to, for example, our local NFL team from clients/vendors, and they get handed out to employees in various ways. It would be pretty shitty for an office manager to decide they oppose the NFL because of the concussion controversy, so no one gets to use the tickets (and it could even cause a potential issue with clients if the senior partners don’t know that expensive gifts are getting tossed). This is SO DIFFERENT — the tickets are not free, they’re basically junk mail with little value. I wouldn’t be shocked if employees could find similar free kids tickets if they look online. This is not some sort of high-value, expensive gift.

          2. Joielle*

            This! Throw it out, post it, whatever. People complaining about coupons will just cause the OP to start throwing out all coupons. They’re why we can’t have nice things.

        4. Observer*

          Unless there is a specific public policy aspect at play, I can’t see why an office manager, or whoever handles the mail / bulletin board can’t be allowed to make that call. This is not about keeping people from doing something. If someone doesn’t post Chick-Fil-A coupons, people can still go there. If no one posts about the adoption day, people can still get involved, even though not through the company.

        5. Slartibartfast*

          Morality aside,the company has a sketchy rating. That’s an objective bench mark that can be applied across the board regardless of what the business is.

      3. JessaB*

        Especially since there’s a problem with the company above and beyond the circus thing, I’d not pass these on even if it was Cirque du Soleil or something else non animal. This company has a habit of keeping money if they cancel a performance and someone who would maybe want the free ticket for a child because they’re not that flush with money, cannot afford to lose the money if the company flakes. The OP has valuable information that if not actually scammy, this company is not honest in it’s dealings.

    2. Mike C.*

      Why in the heck would anyone be ethically obligated to act as an unpaid marketing agent for anyone who shows up at the door or in the mailbox?

      Screw that.

      1. Artemesia*

        Well yeah. But I will be a little ticked if I find out I could have saved money or gone free to an event I paid for but that the AA decided to deep six the material provided by organizations she personally didn’t care for. If this material is normally made available then her political or personal biases should not decide what the rest of the office can make use of. There ought to be a policy besides the whim of the AA.

        1. Sam*

          This is junk mail! This is at worst a scam and at best something that’s hard to differentiate from a scam. Evaluating it on “Is this junk” seems reasonable – and, given the prevalence of coupon clipping, say, I think flyers at least are somewhere in the middle there. This is not.

          (Posted somewhere down below as well, accidentally.)

        2. Stitch*

          The vast majority of junk mail is ostensibly a “deal”. It’s a common marketing tactic.

          Unsolicited? It goes in the trash.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’m sincerely astonished that a right to promotional coupons is the small-issue-on-which-people-feel-passionately from this batch of letters.

            1. Moray*

              I’m baffled as well. Outside of true gifts (the muffin basket from the vendor trying to court your business, the thank-you chocolates from a client) I can’t imagine thinking an office manager is obligated to share anything that isn’t work related. I certainly can’t imagine thinking it to the point of mild outrage!

              1. Sarah N.*

                Now, if the office manager tosses the giant muffin basket because she’s morally opposed to gluten…then we’ll have an issue. :-D

            2. goducks*

              I know, right? Anybody who has been the mail sorter in a company or worked the front desk knows that there’s a constant stream of companies wanting access to your employees, via fliers and coupons and promos they’ll mail or drop off in person, hoping you’ll leave for your staff.
              As an employee, I don’t come to work to have every bank, deli, gem show and shady day spa leave materials in my face.

        3. Baru Cormorant*

          FWIW I don’t like when that line is drawn by whoever happens to receive the notices. If there was a new deli opening and OP threw out the flyer because they’re vegan it would feel like an overstep. But I guess I’m OK with this case because (1) animal cruelty at circuses is usually a little more universally objectionable than eating meat or something that varies more person-to-person, and (2) this business seems pretty shady so even someone who loves the circus and doesn’t care for animal welfare would be ripped off. So really OP is protecting both circus lovers and haters here.

          1. Joielle*

            But it wouldn’t be an overstep because nobody’s entitled to access to a junk mail flyer mailed to work in the first place. If I were OP, I’d honestly just throw all of this stuff out. Not worth spending any thought on it.

            1. Baru Cormorant*

              I think you’re missing the point, which is that if the general policy when receiving advertising flyers is to throw them all out, then fine, throw this one out too. But if normally you put them on a bulletin board in the break room, then you need a reason beyond “the admin objects to this kind of entertainment” to break that rule. “This business is shady” is a good one. I think “this entertainment is cruel to animals” is good too. I don’t think “meat is murder” is one, I’m sure there are other good examples of controversial topics where it would come across as one person deciding their morals matter more than the office rules.

        4. Mookie*

          Nobody’s entitled to any of that. If you want other people’s unwanted discounts and coupons, join a group outside of work that trades and barters with them. If anything, I’d argue against your policy: toss ‘em all and don’t offer up a distracting controversy for people to aggrieve themselves over.

        5. Aquawoman*

          I think “the office manager can pass these on at her discretion” is a perfectly acceptable policy.

        6. Observer*

          If stuff shows up in the mail unsolicited, then either it’s a scam or you can find the same tickets elsewhere. These folks are NOT doing narrowly targeted marketing.

        7. Mr. Tyzik*

          But it’s the job of the AA or OM to go through the mail and decide what to keep and what to toss. Literally their job. You don’t get to be ticked over missing out on coupons at the office. I’m sure you get coupons at home in personal mail.

        8. smoke tree*

          For the circus coupons, I suspect they’ve probably thoroughly blanketed the region anyway. I remember those from when I was a kid–it was the same tactic, they would send promotional tickets in the mail.

          1. DFW*

            This is correct! I work in a place that has a circus or two per year rent our facilities and blanket everywhere with these offers. Most often these “coupons” have fine print that say they can only be used with the purchase of an adult ticket at the door. They do this because circuses usually significantly raise their prices at the door, so now the 1 adult with a free child is more expensive than if they had just bought the 2 tickets in advance without the “coupon”.

    3. Xavier89*

      “Sometimes a scammy thing (like this sounds like) shows up for 2 seconds before a second set of eyes tosses it.”

      This is a bizarre take

      What I’m getting from your comment is the first set of eyes can’t toss it but the second set can and then it’s fine?

      1. namelesscommentator*

        We’re a small office, so if someone *knows* that nobody is into XYZ or everyone already has HelloFresh codes that person will through it in the trash. But we sit in an open floor plan and the OM is the only one who doesn’t have to listen to our conversations on HelloFresh’s quality. It’s not really something scammy but something known to be useless, which was poor phrasing on my part. But we also don’t get large amounts of junk mail, so it’s not like we’re fielding circus offers weekly. The point is our office manager doesn’t make those distinctions or let his personal causes impact how he does his job duties.

        And given that OP is even asking, I presume the norm in their office is to pass on these kinds of coupons, The implication is clear that she would pass them on if it where anything else, and that they went looking for reasons not to share it with the staff. My issue is not with the staff not getting the coupons, but the gatekeeping based on personal politics – especially something that not everyone has such strong opinions on. I don’t want chick fil a coupons in my office, but I don’t get to decide that for everyone else.

        1. Snarflepants*

          The coupons are for a business that has very poor customer service ratings. Customers using the coupons may not even get the event product they’ve purchased. So, the OP could just recycle the junk mail based on that. The questionable moral side of things is a different topic.

        2. PVR*

          But I would argue that while it is nice to get coupons to Hello Fresh or Blue Apron or a new deli once in awhile from the workplace, your workplace is under zero obligations to pass them on at all. So if the admin threw them away even if it’s something I would have used, my reaction would be a giant shrug. If they do get passed on, then sure that’s nice, but this shouldn’t be an expectation.

          1. TechWorker*

            +1 – you are not somehow entitled to the marketing or junk mail that gets posted to a work address because you work there.

        3. CJ*

          OP here. The only reason I didn’t just throw them away is because I thought that some people may want to use them if they wanted to take their family and would like to save a little money. Being that they were unsolicited and obviously a marketing ploy to make them more money, I decided to investigate the business a little. Had they only had a few minor negative BBB complaints, I probably would have put them out in the breakrooms. But, they had many recent complaints of cancelled shows and no refunds. Ultimately, I would feel worse if they lost money than if they attended the event.

      2. zyx*

        I read that differently than you did—sometimes something scammy is mistakenly posted by person who doesn’t recognize it as a scam, but someone else recognizes it and throws it out. That doesn’t sound bizarre to me at all!

    4. Zombie Unicorn*

      What a strange perspective.

      I’m 100% happy not to be exposed to scams in the workplace (because let’s face it, this sounds like a scam and not just a marketing ploy).

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. These aren’t even tickets. They are coupons that you have to pay a full adult ticket price to redeem. It’s junk mail. Should she have to post those timeshare vacation sweepstakes things that still get faxed to everybody too?

        1. DJ*

          This is where I fall too. If these were actual free tickets, no strings attached, then I would say they should be offered to the employees. However, these are just buy-one-get-one (kid’s) ticket. Odds are you could walk up to the ticket counter and say you had this coupon but lost it and they’d just give you the discount because the whole point is that they’re making money off the adult tickets anyway. When I was a kid I remember we used to get the same coupons all the time in school when the circus came to town (and we never went to the circus because adult tickets were too expensive for us).

          IMO it’s not really any different than tossing out those coupon mailers that get delivered to every address in a given area.

      2. smoke tree*

        I think it’s essentially a coupon masquerading as a free ticket. I wouldn’t call it a scam exactly, but I think the LW is justified in quietly recycling the coupons.

    5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I agree that the subject matter/event is clouding the issue. Oh! It’s for families. Think of the children! These are not issues that OP needs to deal with with. If Chuck’s Chowder House sends a flyer with BOGO coupons and OP normally tacks it on the wall, then tack this one. If OP normally trashes these things, out it goes.

  8. Drew*

    Echoing Alison and previous commenters, OP2: You don’t have to drink at all if you don’t want to or are uncomfortable doing so. That said, peer pressure (or even boss pressure) is real and you may get some “Oh, come on, live a little” sort of comments. I think in those cases, a white lie is appropriate: “I’d love to, but it reacts badly with some medication I’m on.” Or use PCBH’s suggestion of club soda in a glass with a twist of lemon or lime: bartenders are usually happy to make that if you ask. Just don’t let anyone else order a drink for you.

    If you WANT to drink, however, I’d suggest a beer or a wine that you’re already familiar with (because unfamiliar drinks can have unexpected effects – and beer, in particular, varies widely in alcohol content), and ONLY one glass. It’s easier to nurse beer or wine because there’s more in the drink to start with. Also, there’s nothing wrong at all with ordering water in addition to your drink. Even experienced drinkers do that to forestall hangovers, and then you can get the water refilled while you’re nursing your booze.

    1. Jackalope*

      Wanted to add to this that if you do get a mixed drink then be super careful with what you order. If you’ve never had it before then you probably don’t want the first time to be at a work function. There are some mixed drinks you can just gulp down bcs they taste so good, and are mixed with stuff that makes them not taste like alcohol, and then they hit you like a brick wall. If you are experimenting with that then don’t go for cocktails, go for something in the beer/cider/wine category if you aren’t familiar with the drink. (And mocktails are great too and often look like an alcoholic drink but without the kick. Any decent bartender is going to know how to make some good drinks that have no alcohol.)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You shouldn’t have to lie if you don’t want a drink, and it’s nobody’s business about the WHY. Why are people so afraid to stand up for themselves and create boundaries with work colleagues? You’re not being rude, they are. “I don’t want anything.” Rinse and repeat. If they get pushy, change the subject or walk away.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I agree it’s nobody’s business, but I can’t fault anybody for choosing to have a glass of pop in a lowball to avoid questions in the first place. Even with respectful coworkers it can be tiresome to repeatedly tell different people you don’t want anything. (I use the same trick with food pushing. People always want to feed you at parties, and a small plate of snacks tends to keep them at bay).

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        While I agree with you in theory, in practice not so much. You very well might be seen as the rude one in this situation, especially if it’s higher ups pushing you to have a drink. I’ve been there. It’s not fun. Refusing, even cheerfully and with a smile, doesn’t always go over well. This is sometimes because drinking is seen as a social activity, and refusing to take part in a social activity (no matter how many good reasons you might have not to) is automatically a discordant note. Then there’s the people who are pushing things on you because they need you to validate their own choices, like insisting you eat a donut or have a drink along with them so they feel better about doing it themselves. In a purely social setting, yeah, I’d say “no thanks” and not worry about it, but work politics often require some maneuvering, especially if you’re newer and/or pretty junior.

        TL/DR: Just have a glass of sparkling water or some other soft drink because people can be weird and work politics often creates a situation where a normal response actually makes your life harder in the long run.

      3. smoke tree*

        You might want to focus on socializing with your coworkers during a work event rather than attending a referendum on why you’re not drinking. Answering the same question several times in a row becomes exhausting regardless of whether anyone is being rude. If you really want to stand your ground on this issue, that’s fine, but I don’t know that it’s worth having a lot of boring and repetitive conversations out of principle when you could just get a glass of club soda and avoid the whole thing.

    3. BottleBlonde*

      I definitely second picking a beer or wine you are familiar with! One time I ordered a local craft beer at a brewery and didn’t think about the alcohol content at all (it’s beer! I was new to drinking). Started to feel a little funny, read the label, and realized it had more alcohol by volume than some wines I’d had. Some menus publish ABV, but even still, I usually feel most comfortable ordering something I’ve had before at professional events.

  9. Flash Bristow*

    OP4 definitely bin those tickets! On the parade of shops by my house, circuses come through and give away tickets to the staff if they can put up a poster in the window (and do it right there and then). While animals are generally no longer featured here in the UK, it’s still a blatant marketing act which you have absolutely no obligation to support or encourage. Rip ’em up and think no more about it!

    1. Jasmine*

      We used to get them coming into my shop ALL THE TIME. They’d always get super offended when I politely declined.

    2. nonegiven*

      They used to come here and they’d find a naive business man and give him a bunch of tickets. The deal was, he’d get a percentage of concessions so he’d hand out the tickets to school kids.

  10. RUKiddingMe*

    OP3: You can brush your hair in the common areas if you work jn a salon…even then be judicious, otherwise, no.

    1. anon*

      Can the Askamanager jury decide for me if occasionally filing a nail that has snagged is ok in the office, at your desk?

      I don’t regularly file my nails, but if one catches I’ll quickly neaten it up. Is that super-gross and should be taken to the bathroom or is it ok as a quick fix?

      1. Lance*

        I think as long as you’re quiet about it, and not doing it completely out in the open (nor taking a while at it), it should be fine. Everyone knows that nails chip or get a loose part at the edges; I personally wouldn’t begrudge someone for quickly dealing with that, on their own at their desk.

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          Nail filing is not quiet. The sounds make my teeth hurt, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I mean, it’s sandpaper on keratin. That shit is gonna make noise.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I do it all the time. And I also play with my hair and put it up if I need to at times. But I’m in my own cube or office. I wouldn’t go full on grooming, but I’m not running to the bathroom for something that can be done in 10 seconds. And if people think that’s gross, oh well. I have bigger things to worry about.

      3. sunshyne84*

        Fine by me, but to my surprise I’ve learned through AAM nail clipping and such is disgusting.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Mostly just clipping, not “and such.” The main issue with clipping is the noise! Which then makes people think about shards of nail flying around the office.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I would not brush my hair in the workplace. My hair is waist-length and thick. I don’t think anyone needs to see my shed hairs all over the place. Yuck.

  11. staceyizme*

    Disclosure of errors- it’s a good practice. It demonstrates integrity and prevents you from having to explain something that an unforeseen circumstance caused to be exposed. You can acknowledge the error in the context of “this could have been a problem and I now have these steps in place to prevent a recurrence.” Self-correcting employees who are also transparent are likely to be trusted more and given more leeway in healthy organizations. If you’re hiding mistakes, it isn’t a good sign.

    1. Mike C.*

      I don’t think my manager wants a full report of every time I correct a typo or mathematical calculation before I release an analysis.

      I don’t think this makes me dishonest, either.

    2. hbc*

      I only want mistakes reported to me if there’s something that’s actionable. “I sent something out without checking the due date but it got there in time and I’ll pay more attention” at best wastes my time, and at worst has me worrying that it’ll happen again. (Haven’t we all been on the receiving end of promises that someone will try extra super hard next time and had proven that good intentions aren’t enough?)

      It’s a completely different story if you bring me “I almost caused a problem, and I realized that critical information about our proposals is kind of buried throughout the documents. What do you think about putting together a standard summary sheet with the critical information for proposals?” Now I’ve got something to do, even if I end up deciding that the extra work isn’t worth it.

      1. Beatrice*

        This. The mistake described in the letter is exactly one that my employees can make, and I don’t want to hear about it unless actual harm was done or there’s something I can do to prevent the error next time. (Also, I am aware that I manage fallible human beings, so one of them almost messing up isn’t especially noteworthy.)

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I agree. There really wasn’t a problem to be fixed since the item wasn’t delivered late. “I followed up to make sure it got there on time and discovered it would,” is a nonstarter for a boss conversation.

    3. Tableau Wizard*

      I tend to agree IF there’s something that can be done to prevent the mistake in the future.

      i.e. – I realized that we document the deadline for this deliverable here and here and here, but only list the TIME in the first of those three places. I’ve changed our documentation so that the time is included in each place we list the deadline so that this doesn’t get overlooked in the past.

      ^^ this would be a great solution to the “near-miss” problem that OP 1 experienced. If there’s nothing more to be done systematically to prevent the error, then it may not make sense to report it.

    4. PVR*

      I think it really depends on the nature of the error, and in this case, there is nothing to be gained by disclosing the error UNLESS there is a way to make the deadline more obvious to limit the chances of others making a mistake.

    5. scooby snack*

      I’d say it really depends on the OP’s relationship with the boss, too; ADHD calls for systems solutions over “I’ll try harder” (in my adult-diagnosed experience), and support from colleagues/supervisors can be a useful part of that if the OP trusts them with that info. (It’s also possible they won’t need outside support in this particular case– but I’d really urge the OP to think about a system or procedure they can rely on next time over just stressing that they should look more closely. ADHD makes that kind of thing very hard!)

      1. OP1*

        Aside from medication, the best thing about getting diagnosed is that it drove home the need for systems solutions rather than vaguely “trying harder,” which I now know had been my downfall for SO many years. I’m deep into trying to build those for myself, and definitely will do so for this sort of thing as well.

        1. StaceyIzMe*

          I wish you the best of success! Change can be challenging, but consciously chosen personal work is the greatest driver of both professional and personal satisfaction, in my view. It also obviates the tendency to submit to vague, generalized anxiety. When you’ve got your ducks in a row, you feel competent, confident, connected to the self and others and ready for anything!

  12. Maria Lopez*

    I must say that I have never had anyone insist that I have an alcoholic drink. They may ask why I don’t, which is different. If someone asks why you aren’t drinking you can always tell them you never developed a taste for it.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      You have good luck in friends & family & co-workers. May their behavior spread!

    2. Kimmybear*

      I’ve found it varies by group and I’m happy you’ve never had this problem. Some places I’ve worked non-drinkers are challenged strongly. Whatever your reason for not drinking, someone will often have a counter argument. I think a willingness for “no thank you” to be a complete sentence is necessary sometimes.

      1. The Original K.*

        I’ve mentioned this before: I worked at a place where everything was celebrated with alcohol, and not just alcohol – drunkenness. Before I started working there, the holiday party was cancelled because in years past people had gotten too drunk and acted a fool. A VP got so drunk at a team dinner that a few colleagues took her keys and checked her into a nearby hotel. I was constantly battling “Why aren’t you drinking? Are you pregnant? Sure you don’t want another?” etc. comments when I worked there. I’m not a teetotaler but I’m not a binge drinker, ESPECIALLY at work functions (two drinks max, if the event is long and has food; shorter events = one drink) and one of the things I disliked most about working there was the expectation that you’d get drunk at work things. I don’t get drunk at all and I really don’t get drunk at work. It was a bad cultural fit.

      2. PVR*

        It really depends on the group of people. I’ve had that experience with some groups but one of my current social group leans very heavily on drinking. Because I do drink, this has caught me off guard on several occasions where I found myself having way more than I meant to. I have found I really need to expend a fair amount of attention to how much and how fast I am drinking instead of just going with the flow. It isn’t a case of heavy pressure where everyone is giving me a hard time to drink more like kids are often warned about, it’s just we are all hanging out and chatting and glasses are getting refilled and maybe someone grabs another round and next thing you know you’ve had quite a bit in a short amount of time.

      3. Bostonian*

        Yeah, the “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t [insert vice here]!” crowd is alarmingly large.

    3. Anononon*

      Yes, same. My work has a pretty strong drinking culture, but I’ve never felt or been made to feel uncomfortable about not drinking.

    4. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Back when I was much younger some people tried to be a bit pushy about alcohol. But it was always people who didn’t know me who tried to get me to drink more. I just ignored them. Why would I care what some random person thinks?
      Luckily my friends were cool. Most of them drank a lot, but they never tried to force me to do anything. Peer pressure is a weird concept.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But that’s the thing. The WHY is none of their business. At my last company, we were always going to happy hour and everyone drank a lot. I would keep it to a minimum because I had a long drive home. Nobody ever pressured me to drink more, and it would never occur to me to ask WHY someone didn’t want a drink. Boundary pushers need to be put in their place.

    6. Goose Lavel*

      Say you cannot drink due to a new medication or medical condition.

      I cannot drink due to a medication reaction that almost killed my kidneys. I took Celebrex for arthritis for about 2 months and experienced excruciating kidney pain when I drank a beer. I put 2 and 2 together and stopped the Celebrex and stopped drinking for 4 months.

      Unfortunately, each time a had a beer I would experience the same excruciating kidney pain and can no longer drink alcohol.

      Everyone at work was very understanding when I explained why I wasn’t drinking socially after work. I found that by ordering iced tea without ice in the glass that most coworkers stopped asking about not drinking; the tea was stand in for the beer everyone else was drinking.

    7. Goldfinch*

      After several “No thank yous” had escalated, a friend’s wife tried to argue with me when I told her I was on medication that did not allow me to drink. “Ah, one won’t hurt.” Sure, Jan, you know better than a medical specialist with a ten-month waiting list.

    8. smoke tree*

      It probably varies by group, but apart from people who feel awkward drinking around non-drinkers, there is also the issue that whenever you’re in a social situation with people you don’t know very well, there is always the chance that several of them will land on your drinklessness while they try to keep the conversation going. If you’re carrying around a glass of sparkling water or whatnot, it saves you from having to talk about why you don’t have a drink, which is pretty boring.

  13. Don't Get Salty*

    Lw#1, I wholeheartedly agree with Allison’s advice to just allow this one near-miss mistake to fade. As long as you haven’t interacted with the client and haven’t caused an incident with anyone at the office, bringing this to the boss might worry or alarm her rather than soothe her.

    I’ve been in a job where I’ve made a mountain of mistakes (due to no training, no guidance, and an abusive, sabotaging boss) and I kinda get the sense that maybe you think people identify you by your mistakes. But if you consider yourself a B+ performer, and you’re conscientious of all your mistakes and are working to get better, I’m pretty sure you’re doing darn well. I think you’re doing a lot better than you think.

  14. not sober just a lightweight*

    #2: You’re also not obligated to finish a drink. I will not infrequently order something to sip on a bit, sometimes in the spirit of going along with a group or because I want to try something new, but leave it half full. Occasionally I’ll have to clarify that I’m not planning to finish my drink so that no one is sitting politely waiting for me to be done, but overall there’s no problems with this approach.

  15. Acornia*

    #3 you mention breakfast dishes, which tells me there is food serving and prep happening at the preschool, which doubly means don’t walk around brushing your hair. If you have to go into work early, or stop on the way, get up early enough to finish getting ready before you go.

    1. Tragic The Gathering*

      Yeah I think this is the biggest issue here. The professionalism lesson is twofold.

      1 – don’t brush your hair out in the open in public, confine it to the bathroom/office/car/out of the way of everyone.

      2 – if you’re not getting up early enough to complete your personal grooming before you get to work, you’re not getting up early enough. It’s one thing to duck into the bathroom to touch up your makeup and it’s another to show up with bedhead (which is what I assume OP did if she still had to brush her hair).

  16. WS*

    I’m a non-drinker (which seems to be becoming more common, even here in heavy drinking Australia!) and a small number of people do get quite aggressive about wanting me to drink at work events, presumably because they’re uncomfortable with their own drinking. Right now I know who those people are so I can easily avoid them, but the best way to not have them address you in the first place is just have a non-alcoholic drink in a glass with you. I also don’t like anything carbonated, so it’s often just water for me, but I have it in a wine glass!

      1. WS*

        Oh, I don’t mind other people drinking, just the ones who are insistent that *everybody* must drink.

    1. Ariaflame*

      I find the good old LLB to be a great way of dealing with it. But if you don’t like carbonated then it wouldn’t be for you.

  17. Sam*

    This is junk mail! This is at worst a scam and at best something that’s hard to differentiate from a scam. Evaluating it on “Is this junk” seems reasonable – and, given the prevalence of coupon clipping, say, I think flyers at least are somewhere in the middle there. This is not.

  18. Krickets*

    OP #2: I have this thing where I don’t drink at all in any professional settings, even at after-work things. It’s just a personal choice and it’s ok if you don’t as well. You can get a juice, Perrier, or maybe even cider. I found that in the US in the places where I’ve worked, especially in advertising circles, that a lot of people drink, and a lot of them drink a lot. They seem to be flabbergasted at people who don’t drink. I would say just be casual but slightly prepared with being firm when people are asking multiple times in a pressuring way. There are those who are nice and ask because they just want to include you and it’s a courtesy. Only you can experience that in the moment and discern which one is which. Either way, all the best to you! :)

  19. MommyMD*

    Yeah it’s gross to brush your hair anywhere but your private office or the bathroom. Especially not where the kids eat. Hair sheds. Yuck.

    1. nanushka*

      I’ve also been told by the person who cuts my hair that it carries a lot of germs, etc. (He says he has to be very careful not to catch illnesses from clients.) Not sure if that’s true, but one major pet peeve of mine is being near a person with long hair who keeps sweeping it back in my direction — especially if it keeps touching me. *shiver*

  20. Zombie Unicorn*

    #5 Hey, you applied on the day so that was never realistically going to be enough time for them to get back to you about your questions before the window shut.

    I wonder if you realise that they evidently didn’t know they were going to reject you until they told you? I don’t think they stuck you on the no pile straight away and just didn’t tell you, which might be what you’re envisaging. They kept you updated, which lots of people would appreciate!

  21. Mop*

    I love drinking. Never met a wine, scotch, beer, questionable backyard brew that I didn’t like.

    But I can’t understand why drinkers are apparently so bent on getting others to imbibe. If I’m with a group of coworkers and several don’t drink, I truly don’t care. Have 10 Diet Cokes, it’s all good.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Right? I don’t understand people who get uncomfortable when others aren’t drinking around them. I don’t want someone judging me for enjoying my wine, so I’m not about to give someone a hard time for choosing water. Shoot, I’ve been known to suggest interesting mocktails; my partner loves to experiment with those.

      And although I certainly enjoy my booze, I am a lightweight– work events are two-drink max for me!

    2. Drax*

      I too love drinking and I like to relax and drink, not have to be sharp and worry about professionalism (likely because I am a ‘got it together’ professional at work but an absolute trainwreck in my personal life). When I’m out with work I will have a drink or two, then switch to pop with a fruit slice slice. 7-Up / Sprite + Lemon is delicious, and secondly looks enough like a cocktail that I never ever get asked about not drinking. Which is great as I tend to circle in the ‘cowboy professional’ where it is common to see your bosses get so drunk they can’t stand, so if they do it they kind of expect you to as well.

    3. PVR*

      This is how I always felt but I think sometimes people who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol prefer everyone to be drinking too so 1) no one will really remember if they do something stupid and 2) if everyone else is doing it then obviously they don’t have a problem because they aren’t that different from anyone else.

    4. Ella*

      I’ve run into people who cannot bear it if they’re drinking and the people around them aren’t, and people who are convinced everyone who has ever imbibed is an alcoholic and in denial about it, and both sides of the equation are so frustrating! (Though I think the “you have to drink” people are probably worse.) If only we could all just mind our own business and beverages.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      I too couldn’t care less if others aren’t drinking and I am. I’m drinking what I like and so should everyone else. Even though I do drink and generally will have a drink if it’s offered, I have encountered several people who want me to drink MORE than I want to and it can get ridiculous. But I’ve also had numerous coworkers who just couldn’t handle someone not having a donut from the box in the break room and would badger me about it. “Just a little bit! Here, I’ll cut one in half and we can share!!” Um, just eat the damn donut if you want it, I’m not interested. People are weird, especially about food and drink.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I too enjoy occasional and social drinking. The only reason I would ask someone twice is if, say, they turn down a beer – and I say “oh we also have cider and hard seltzer, or would you like some lemonade?” — just in case it’s the specific drink they don’t want. But otherwise, I don’t question it. Maybe you’re in recovery, maybe you’re pregnant, maybe you just don’t feel like it – whatever the reason, no problem.

    7. smoke tree*

      I think it’s similar to the people who try to press donuts on everyone around them so they don’t feel guilty eating one. Some people find it’s easier to justify behaviour that they don’t feel great about if everyone around them is doing it. When I was vegetarian, I noticed that a lot of meat eaters got really defensive, although I did not care at all whether other people ate meat or not.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I don’t exactly feel guilty about drinking when other people aren’t (I don’t drink much at all), but being the only person drinking alcohol is awkward for me. So is being the only person having dessert, for instance. It’s like I’ve missed a social cue: I thought this was a beer occasion (or dessert occasion; or even an it’s-ok-to-have-dinner occasion rather than just snacks at bar trivia), and it’s not. It’s like being underdressed: it’s defined by what the group as a whole actually does, not by an objective standard, but when you miss the mark, you miss the mark.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          What I forgot to mention: that said, I wouldn’t dream of giving someone else a hard time for not drinking.

    8. Autumnheart*

      Same. Shouldn’t the “More for me!” principle apply? If there’s a plate of chocolate laying around and I’m the only one who wants any, there’s no way I’m going up to everyone else and insisting they eat chocolate with me.

  22. MommyMD*

    What you received OP 4, was junk mail. Who cares what unsolicited junk mailers tell you to do.

  23. Zombie Unicorn*

    #1 If this is your most significant mistake then it sounds like you’re actually doing pretty well but not feeling like it (because you’re anxious about what else might go wrong).

    I don’t think it will help to know that people without ADHD miss this stuff too, although they do, because it’s not the same experience of missing something. I wondered if you could have a look back at the info and consider why you missed it – could it have been clearer? Is there something you or someone else could do with information like this that would help you? For example in this situation, could you share the original info with the admin, not just parse it into instructions, so it goes past a second pair of eyes?

    1. Naomi*

      OP #1: whether or not you tell your boss about this, don’t be so hard on yourself! In particular, I noted where you said “Because this isn’t my only mistake (even though none of my others have been anywhere near as significant), I’m worried that I could end up on thin ice.” It sounds like you’re measuring yourself against the standard of a “perfect, rock-star employee” and feel that you fall short because you’ve made mistakes–except that people who never make mistakes do not exist. You even acknowledge that your other mistakes have been much less severe. As some other commenters have said: you’re probably doing better than you think you are. Mistakes happen, we learn from them, life goes on.

    2. Door Guy*

      I, too, got diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. They said I likely had it most of my life but was able to plow through high school OK until I hit college, then I ended up crashing into the wall and never fully righted myself.

      I got put on meds and they have made such a huge difference that I’m practically a different person, in a good way. I couldn’t focus on anything for longer than a few seconds, and I’d grab hold of bits and pieces of info and have to try and make sense of it. Imagine looking at the alphabet and instead of reading it in order, my eyes would go “A,B,X,Z,T,R,M,J” and that would be all I got. Then, because I was missing so much of the “in between” info, I’d end up missing things (like a deadline) or I’d try and figure it out and get frustrated and then quit because it just wasn’t making sense, made worse when I could see classmates/coworkers getting through it with little issue.

      Now, while I’m not perfect by any means, I can actually follow things through and retain/comprehend most of what I’m looking at, as well as being more engaged with my work, my coworkers, and my family as well. I’m not spaced out looking at the pattern on the wall when someone is talking, but actually listening and processing what I’m hearing.

      1. OP1*

        Oh my goodness, that alphabet analogy is PERFECT. So much of your experience sounds eerily familiar to me. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone!

  24. Anónima*

    One of the guys I work with (who is otherwise lovely) sprays deodorant under his arms under his t-shirt in the office :(

    1. Anónima*

      Oh this was meant to be in reply to @PrincessConsuela.

      Having said that (about the deodorant) I didn’t know it was also unprofessional you brush hair in the office so I shan’t be doing that again.

      1. Ella*

        I do think the hair brushing depends on the office. Probably better to default to not doing it if you’re unsure, and either way it’s important to remember it can lead to hair getting over stuff so you’d want to do it away from people or common spaces, but there are some offices where a quick brush at your desk wouldn’t be ridiculous. (Key word quick, though… Sitting there carefully doing a ye olde 100 brush strokes routine at your desk in the middle of the day is going to be weird no matter where you are.)

    2. Heidi*

      Obviously not ideal. However, if he needs multiple applications of deodorant to keep odors under control, I’d rather he do it in the office than have a lot of body odor in the office, I guess.

  25. Blelele*

    There were a couple of women who would brush their hair in my previous office and I always found it to be incredibly offputting. The sound of the brush ripping through snarls is really unpleasant, and it leaves hair all over a shared space. Ugh.

    1. Dahlia*

      NGL it kinda astounds me that grown adults don’t know how to brush their hair without ripping at it.

        1. Dahlia*

          And probably making it worse by causing breakage galore. Start at the bottom, work your way out, and use a detangler if you have a lot of knots.

  26. Stitch*

    Yeah, LW5, you have got to develop a thicker skin. 10 weeks is a comparatively short turn around. It is very common policy not to send out rejections until hiring is finished (in case you need to search further after failed interviews). There is nothing strange about this at all, they even offered updates, which given the timeline, is unusual.

    The question thing really depends on content and when you sent it. Sometimes questions are a backdoor way for an applicant to try to get noticed and that’s generally a bad idea.

    1. boo bot*

      I don’t know if stuff like this is a question of developing a thicker skin, so much as learning what the norms are so you know what to expect (and what not to expect).

  27. ZucchiniBikini*

    I don’t drink anymore, and very rarely is it an issue. At work (or indeed social) functions now I usually get either tonic with a twist of lemon, which I suppose probably looks like a g&t, or a mocktail that we LOVE here in Australia called Lemon, Lime and Bitters (LLB). It is our most ordered non-alcoholic beverage by far. It is lemonade (what USians call sprite or soda, not actual squeezed lemons), plus lime cordial and a spray of angostura bitters. It is delicious and it feels fancy!

    1. 867-5309*

      I’m in recovery and just had my first lemon, lime and bitters! I loved the first few sips but then the bitters were too much. :)

    2. ThatGirl*

      Random note: some bitters have alcohol in them, while a dash or two isn’t much, it’s important to note if you’re in recovery or have a specific health or religious reason for avoiding alcohol.

  28. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    re 4, we sometimes get flyers home in the children’s school bags. Generally they’re harmless and relevant (e.g. advertising the local arts fair or the library’s summer reading challenge). But occasionally they’re like this: BOGO coupons for the circus or fun fair or aquarium or wherever. And my youngest is young enough that he thinks anything in his bag is homework, ie compulsory.

    One of the only perks of having to open the post is that you get to be the one who decides what’s useful and what’s spam. Shady animal circus? Circular file.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’m the teacher who is supposed to send those home and I routinely don’t – not usually because of ethics (although I don’t like marketing in schools) but because there’s so much going on at the end of the day and I just forget. I usually hold on to them in case someone comes back and says “Ms B’s class got 2 for 1 bowling coupons. Why didn’t we?” but in ten years, I don’t think that’s ever actually happened.

  29. cncx*

    OP 2 i had this thing where i didn’t drink for religious reasons, and the pressure to drink was unbelievable. Then i had a medical issue where i couldn’t drink with my medication, and people were a LOT less stressy and pressuring and invasive. So now i just say alcohol interferes with my medication…forever…

    1. Sarah N.*

      I once had coworkers AND THE SERVER pressure me to order wine when I was VISIBLY PREGNANT. And yes, my coworkers knew for sure I was pregnant, aside from it being clearly obvious to the server. (I realize that it’s fine to have a little alcohol while pregnant, especially late in pregnancy, but certainly someone being obviously pregnant would be a reason not to try and CONVINCE them to drink???)

  30. Four lights*

    #4 Nobody will be missing anything if you throw them out. If the circus is in town, these coupons are going to be everywhere because they send them all over. If anyone wants them they will find one.

  31. Oilpress*

    LW1 – Keep that information to yourself. Since I doubt there are process improvements to come out of this, announcing your mistake will only serve to punish you rather than improve the business. Don’t martyr yourself.

    1. scooby snack*

      But make sure you do give some thought to process improvements, maybe just for yourself. ADHD often means externalizing the things your brain doesn’t easily hold on to — to a post it, person, calendar, etc — and it sounds like there’s probably a step you could add here to make it easier for yourself next time. It really doesn’t feel good to feel so much on tenterhooks waiting for your next mistake, so consider if there are other solutions (whether they rely on telling your boss or not).

  32. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


    We had a good HR director for several years that didn’t allow this crap but now we are back to where we were before. It makes me crazy when HR positions a pack of “coupons” (you can get anywhere!) as an Employee Benefit. (The worst was Pearle Vision coupons before we had an eye care plan, omg. The lamo HR clerk we had a decade ago announced we now had a vision plan and it was just coupons the same as you could get in the local paper. Talk about negative goodwill when people looked at what was actually going on. )

    Passing any junk mail coupons along is doing the sales and marketing for that company! ZERO obligation, ever, to pass along. Ever.

  33. Liz*

    #1 really resonates with me. I have various mental health issues manifesting in cognitive processing difficulties and anxiety over same. I tend to oscillate between 2 settings – obsessively overchecking certain details and getting anxious over getting things right (but potentially missing things anyway) or trying to break my cycle by “pushing through” the anxiety in order to force myself to get things done (but, again, risking missing certain details). This is absolutely the kind of thing I would do very easily and beat myself up over.

    I think it’s very easy to notice our mistakes, but it’s good that you also note that your performance is good overall. I was stunned when I got a solid performance review at my 6 month appraisal but there ya go. I’m also very open with my managers about my mental health and cognitive difficulties, which helps a great deal as they are able to support me, but this is very workplace dependent and I work for a mental health charity and this is reflected in the workplace. You may benefit more from external sources of support, such as ADHD support groups, if this isn’t the sort of thing your workplace would do.

  34. Celeste*

    I NEVER drink at work functions. To avoid any issues (i.e. nosy people asking me why I’m not drinking) I order a soda water with lime, in a cocktail glass. Everyone just assumes it’s a cocktail, I stay sober and don’t have to answer any awkward questions.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      And it’s sad that it has to be that way. I so wish you could make the askers feel awkward…..

  35. Milton’s Red Swingline*

    #1 I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, deadlines sometimes are crucial esp. on government tender proposals, but you would be a total eejit sending it Monday morning as a time-specific delivery for 12 noon deadline, I’d have it overnighted on the previous Thursday already just to be able to sleep on the weekend. In your case, it was ”within tolerances” and no harm done. You will probably triple-check everything even without deadlines, so no use telling you to relax. However, your boss probably won’t appreciate the ”too much information”… keep this between you and yourself . You have acknowleged it and that is good, it’s not like you sent it the wrong day or the wrong month or to the wrong address… Imagine switching labels and sending it to your competitor! I mean stuff like that has happened and you need to make a scale of perspective of the ”level of catastrophe”. For you all mistakes are critical… you need to scale the criticality.

  36. CookieWookiee*

    Op #2, I can’t drink because it interacts with one of my medications. The trick I use is to order something with color in it, usually cranberry and seltzer with a twist of lime. It looks fancy and is easily mistaken for a cocktail.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Ha! Mine is to order tonic water with lime. Maybe it has gin in it, but maybe it doesn’t, and nobody knows but me and the bartender.

  37. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m absolutely gobsmacked at the advice to make it *seem* like you’re drinking alcohol when you’re not. If I were a manager, pressing anyone to drink alcohol at a work event when they didn’t want to would be a firing offense, and I’m a drinker.

    1. JediSquirrel*


      What someone decides to put in their body is their business, and no one else’s.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, but what can look like “pressuring someone to drink” to one person can also look like “being friendly and offering to get them a drink” to another. If I see someone without a drink in their hand, I might ask if I can get them something when I go to the bar, and I definitely wouldn’t push back if they said no. If I’m the 10th person to offer that, though, it might feel like pressure to the non-drinking person. For the non-drinking person, if they don’t want it to be mentioned at all, it’s probably easiest to just keep a glass of non-alcoholic liquid in their hand.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Exactly this.

        I’m a non-drinker who usually blames the car – in fairness a large part of the reason I don’t drink is because I prefer to drive and have got out of the habit.

        I think it’s not so much “pretend you’re drinking alcohol” as “don’t advertise that you aren’t drinking alcohol” because whatever the rights and wrongs, people will comment on non-drinkers at a drinking event. That some people’s small talk sucks will come as no surprise to regular AAM readers.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          And the problem, General, is with those who are commenting on non-drinkers at a drinking event….not with the non-drinkers.

          1. Joielle*

            Right, and this can be your hill to die on if you want. But for a lot of people, the path of least resistance is to just have a glass of sparkling water or tonic in their hand, so they don’t have to field even well-meaning questions.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, sometimes people are just trying to be hospitable – and I’d gladly grab you a coke or something! – but I can understand how the 7th person asking might get annoying.

    3. Reba*

      This attitude is correct! May it spread!

      But many many people have experienced pressure from light to horrible over drinking… There have been conversations about it on this very website.

      And regardless of whether the other person would question the non-drinker or not, the “fake drink” is a good way to just avoid the conversation altogether.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        I’m a drinker, and I pity the person who tries to pressure me into drinking when I don’t feel like drinking….

    4. Rugby*

      I don’t think anyone is saying that the letter writer has to pretend to drink. People are just suggesting it as another option. It’s actually pretty common advice for people who don’t want to drink at a drinking event, so I don’t see any reason to be gobsmacked about it.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        The fact that it’s even considered ‘an option’ is reason enough to be gobsmacked. Pressure to drink alcohol at a work event is unprofessional in the extreme. It should not be necessary to distract someone into thinking you are drinking when you’re not. It’s none of anyone’s business.

        1. Antilles*

          Except it’s usually not even intentional “pressuring”. It’s usually this:
          I’m chatting with someone and Andy walks up. Andy sees I’m not holding a drink and figures I either just finished one or maybe that I just arrived. “Hey man, you want a drink? I’m going to go grab one”. I decline. Andy politely nods, then we chat.
          A few minutes later, Bobby walks up. “Hey man, you need something? The bar’s over here.” I decline, no issues.
          A few minutes later, I’m chatting with Cathy. She finishes off her drink and goes “oh hey, I need a refill. Ant, you look like you’re out too, let’s go grab another.” I decline, she walks off, no issues.
          If you look at the situation as a whole? Three different people asked me to grab a drink within 10 minutes! That seems pushy right? …But really, it’s not. Each person on their own was just being polite, trying to be a good ‘host’, and had no issues whatsoever with my non-drinking. It’s only ‘pressure’ in the sense that it adds up over the course of the night.
          Holding a glass in your hand, any glass usually short-circuits this whole issue because people won’t offer. Spending 45 seconds getting a glass of water seems like a small price to pay to avoid having the same conversation every 5 minutes over and over as I mingle with new people.

          1. Joielle*

            This! And if you actually had just finished your drink or whatever, it would be kind of rude for the other people to NOT ask if you wanted something.

            If I know someone’s not drinking, then I wouldn’t ask, but otherwise I’ll err on the side of being hospitable and offering a drink. It just seems easier to get a non-alcoholic drink if you don’t want to be constantly asked.

          2. Baru Cormorant*

            Good example!
            Also things like, “Hey, what are you drinking?” in an effort to get to know someone, or “Sure you don’t want a beer?” to signal that it’s OK to relax a little even though we’re around higher-ups, or it’s OK because the company’s paying, or because the beer is really good here.

        2. CheeryO*

          Sometimes it’s just easier to have something in your hand that looks like a drink, if only because no one will offer to get you something from the bar.

        3. CMart*

          This is one of those situations where “in an ideal world” and speculating from our keyboards does no good when it comes to reality.

          Is it absurd and wrong that people pressure others to drink? Of course. It is even more wrong in a work context? Definitely. Should the OP or anyone have to pretend they’re having an alcoholic beverage? Of course not! And should our society and culture be doing better when it comes to all of this? You bet.

          But we don’t live in the ideal world where “no is a complete sentence” and “why you drink is no one’s business.” All of that is true, but there are real-world consequences that many people are not comfortable shouldering. I personally would not be willing to coolly rebuke a key prospective client at a business dinner if they kept pressuring me to drink and possibly lose my company a contract because they were offended by how weird and stuck up I was (for example).

          And so, due to personal experience with people being weird or pushy to non-drinkers, folk have suggestions to avoid that weirdness. It’s reality.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            This is what I was thinking. Yes, in a perfect world we would all drink or not drink as we saw fit and nobody would have an issue or say anything about it. However, the actual world is far from perfect there’s just stuff we have to deal with that shouldn’t be but is. Drinking is seen as social, and offering drinks is seen as making sure everyone is included. Declining repeatedly can be seen as refusing to be included (i.e. antisocial), or it simply gets tiresome for the person declining. Simple solution, have a glass of something and boom problem solved. Maybe you shouldn’t “have to”, but I do a lot of things I shouldn’t “have to” and having a glass of seltzer instead of alcohol to ward off repeated offers and annoying people is pretty low down on my list of grievances.

    5. Observer*

      You are right in principle. But Alison’s advice tends to lean on pragmatism. The OP will not be violating any principles by following this advice, and will probably have much better outcomes.

      Now, if the OP were a high status employee with lots of political capital, they would not need to worry about this. But as a relatively new employee, I totally understand why they would want to fly under the radar.

  38. JediSquirrel*

    #1 – Is it possible for you to make a project checklist to be sure you don’t miss anything? I do that with a lot of projects and it really helps me avoid missing anything. You could even run it by your boss for their approval.

  39. PretzelGirl*

    #1- I wouldn’t beat yourself up over this. Stuff happens. Also is there any other method of getting things to your clients? Even if you would have had the delivery time earlier, stuff can happen. The courier could be late, there could be other delays in shipping. A person working the front desk (or wherever mail and packages are received) could set it aside and forget to deliver it. Is there a digital method for delivery?

  40. Bear*

    For post 1, things worked out – you did it! Take a breath since the outcome was positive.

    In general, it is better to find things to celebrate about your work and only call attention to things that you need a helping hand on for the best business outcome. In this case, your manager has nothing to help you with and their mind is no doubt occupied with other business priorities. Anxiety and self-critical narratives can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do take a moment to laugh over this and then move on to the next big thing. Try not to over-communicate – but do communicate when there is an action or outcome attached.

  41. Dust Bunny*

    OP2: My rule is 0-1 drinks per event, unless maybe the event is especially long or the drinks are especially small (small servings of wine with a meal, for instance). And you don’t have to drink at all; I very often don’t if the selection isn’t something I especially like or, well, I just don’t feel like it.

  42. Dust Bunny*

    OP1: Let yourself off the hook here. You made a mistake but you caught and corrected it yourself with time to spare. people do this all the time and the outcome is that a mistake was not made, and the fact that the procedure didn’t go right initially is completely irrelevant.

    There are times when you’ll need to ‘fess up but this isn’t one of them.

  43. Leela*

    OP 5 –

    There’s a really good chance they had no idea how long this would take, and thus could never have given you a timeline! The decision maker could have been out on medical leave or an extended vacation, they might have just been terrible about responding to multiple e-mails asking for a call even if they were there (this has happened to me as a recruiter, for over a month, trying to just get a yes or no out of one guy who was in and never responded but I couldn’t get to physically), the funding for the role might have been hanging in the balance and no one knew for two months whether they’d even be able to hire (or hire at your salary level), something new might have come up meaning the needs for this role may or may not have been changing, someone with a really important role in the business might have put in their notice meaning any available funds/recruiting efforts needed to go to getting that role filled ASAP, or all sorts of other reasons.

    I would really hold back on giving constructive advice; the fact that they gave you updates means they know this was a pain and would rather not have done it, and it will potentially torch your bridges with them down the line. Even if you feel now like you wouldn’t work for them because of how long this took, I’d always advise someone to imagine that they just got laid off in two years and the place they showed displeasure with is the holder of the only job they could fill at the moment – not worth it!

    1. De Minimis*

      I know too with smaller nonprofits generally recruiting/HR is often fit in with other duties, it’s pretty rare for a smaller organization to have someone doing it full time. My guess is the acceptance process dragged out longer than they thought, and they notify the other applicants as the final step in the process [which is common to do because you usually want to wait until the successful candidate has a signed offer letter and a start date in case something goes wrong.]

  44. Meg*

    For OP2 – In addition to sticking to 1 drink at work events, I would also recommend making that one drink either beer or wine, but not liquor. How much alcohol is in a mixed drink can vary a fair amount depending on the bar tender, and you can’t always taste when it’s strong. I have a decent tolerance and I have a no liquor at work events rule (or on weeknights). It’s a lot easier for me to keep on top of how much I’ve had to drink if it’s beer or wine.

  45. Allison*

    #3 AAM is right, brushing your hair out in the open is not the absolute worst thing you could do, but it’s not great either, and should be avoided when possible. I used to brush my hair in my cubicle that was tucked away, but in an open office, I grab my brush and hit the ladies room if I need to fix my hair, same goes for makeup.

  46. YarnOwl*

    OP 1: Packaging up and sending RFP responses is one of my responsibilities, and I’ve created a template that I use (in Outlook tasks, but you could do it in Word or something like that) that has a table with all the most important information in it at the very top, and I always check it before the next step in the process. Might help you keep track of that kind of thing!
    I’m glad it worked out for you! I made the same mistake once and ended up having to drive 4 hours to deliver the proposal. Definitely learned my lesson that time!

  47. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    We recently recieved the shady circus BOGO coupons as well. I googled it too and it’s all a bunch of awful reviews everywhere along with being the kind of place that abuses animals. I shredded them.

    I passed along comedy club tickets prior but I made sure that there wasn’t any issues about the act just for good measure.

    The responsible thing to do is quickly research like that before giving people an option to take them or not. I don’t want to be assisting in promoting anything that may be a scam or unethical. But if it’s a harmless fun coupon or flyer to a local street parade, I’ll pass it on in case it interests others.

  48. Safely Retired*

    OP #1 – The question I have is whether the boss will ever find out about the mistake in some other way. If the OP is confronted about it, will “it was fixed, so no matter” carry the day? Or will it be “I don’t like it when people hide their mistakes instead of owning up to them.”

  49. CRM*

    OP3 – If your workplace has a private bathroom, I would discreetly bring the brush in there and quickly brush before you start your day. Otherwise, a messy bun or quick pony tail is a lifesaver in this situation!

    Also, don’t feel bad, I did the exact same thing at my first job. I didn’t realize it was unprofessional until I told my professionally savvy sister about it and she freaked out! I was mortified, but lesson learned.

  50. Mediamaven*

    Our industry is one that has always embraced drinking as part of the parties and events. When I started my own business, it was important to me that while we enjoy some wine on occasion, we aren’t making a drinking a central focus. My staff has always been great about drinking responsibly but for the first time I’ve noticed that I have a young employee who appears to have an actual problem with alcohol. So, I’m navigating that right now. She expects every event to have drinks, she’ll down two stiff drinks at team happy hours, her social media is all photos of her boozing heavily and she even ordered a drink at a team lunch where not one other person even considered it! You are making the right decision by sticking to one drink and you should not ever feel pressured by your boss or peers to drink more than that.

  51. Really need to settle on a screen name*

    OP#1 – I just need to echo AAM’s advice. You almost screwed up, but you didn’t. It’s a reminder to make sure you have strategies in place to accommodate for your ADHD, but at the end of the day, it was okay. I also have ADHD. I have made mistakes like this where they weren’t caught. Like you, I am not perfect but neither am I a dumpster fire (I used to be an A+ employee but with kids and more responsibilities to juggle I’m probably a solid B+ these days, too). You will eventually make a mistake like this that doesn’t get caught, but as long as you own up/take responsibility, learn from it and make efforts to prevent it from re-occurring (and preventatively take action as much as possible), and generally have a solid performance, it will be fine. Play to your strengths. Practice your coping strategies. Build in time for delays. Make sure your processes for completing work assume there will occasionally be an error you need to catch, so less errors actually get through. And forgive yourself when they do happen.

  52. Rainy days*

    Kudos to you, OP2, for being self-reflective and careful about your drinking.

    I once was in a work retreat when a staff member, who was 24, announced that he had decided to use the retreat as his first time consuming alcohol. He didn’t drink much but it was weird and uncomfortable; I wasn’t sure if he would go over his limits since he didn’t know them (and we are not a hard partying office).

    At least in my city, more bars are serving La Croix or Kombucha and it’s becoming common and acceptable for people to drink those instead of alcohol for health reasons. I think ordering some drink, even if you don’t order alcohol, cuts most of the awkwardness.

  53. Meh*

    #3: Brushing hair at work, esp where food is served, is gross and unacceptable. For all of you saying go to the restroom to do that: better, but I hate with a passion finding long brushed out hairs in the bathroom sinks at work. Sometimes it’s in every sink. It’s disgusting. For those of you doing that, why do you leave the hair everywhere without cleaning up after yourself? Stop treating public restrooms at work like a sty.

  54. Lyys*

    I’m a person with very curly hair that only sees a brush immediately before and after a shower so I’m very confused by something. It seems very odd to me that a person could get dressed, presumably brush their teeth (please!) and make it into work and not find time to run a brush through their hair before arrival. And apparently also still be acceptably groomed enough to be walking around outside before the brushing? I’m sorry if this is a dumb question but it’s very strange to me. If you have straight hair is the morning brushing just for invisible snarls?

    1. Alienor*

      It sort of depends on the type of straight hair you have. My daughter has very thick hair that’s straight to slightly wavy, and she only brushes it because big tangles will eventually form in the underneath layers if she doesn’t. She could go out of the house without brushing it, and often does, and no one would notice. In contrast, I have much thinner/finer straight-to-slightly-wavy hair, and if I don’t brush it a couple of times a day, I look like I’ve been drug through a bush backwards, in the immortal words of my grandma. :)

    2. RS*

      It’s a hair-type thing. I have fine, stick-straight, medium-length hair. If I shower at night and part/brush my hair before bed (and let it dry) then I typically wake up without tangles. It will look nicer if I brush it, but I could just run my fingers through it and it looks basically acceptable.

  55. LawBee*

    Rolling in late for #2 but if you feel like you “have” to have a drink at work events for the optics or whatever, a coke with a lemon slice is a beautiful way to fake something stronger. People will generally assume anything in a highball glass with a citrus slice is boozy.

    Also good: Sprite, seltzer if you like the taste (I do), anything fizzy. The key is putting something else in it – a lime, cherry, whatever.

    1. Not Me*

      I had a colleague who would do this and people were pretty angry when they found out she was “faking” drinking with them. On the other hand, they had zero issues with me when I stopped drinking altogether (I stopped drinking alcohol for about 5 years in my late 20’s), no one questioned it or pushed me to have a drink.

      I think the lie was much worse than a simple “Nope, none for me tonight. Thanks though!”

      1. Alienor*

        Anger seems like such a weird reaction. I believe it, because people are weird, but I also wonder if there was more going on than just having a Diet Coke with a twist–like was she actively pretending to be tipsy/drunk along with them? It seems like if she just didn’t say what was in her glass, and they assumed it was alcoholic, that’s on them, not on her.

      2. Observer*

        Anger? At a “lie”?! What were these people on, anyway? Having a drink that looks like a million other drinks is NOT a lie! Calling it that is so over the top that I totally understand why someone would totally want to avoid any sort of discussion about the matter.

  56. Professional Pup*

    On a related note to OP #3: what’s the etiquette when you shed….a LOT? I don’t brush my hair at work, but I do end up with strands of hair on my clothing (especially when I’m wearing something like a soft cardigan, which I do often because #officeAC) just from average daily moving around (sometimes I’ll tuck my hair behind my ears, gather it up and sweep it to one side, etc). If I’m in the bathroom or a private area (like my cubicle), I’ll pull it off my clothing and throw it away, but I always feel so uncomfortable when I notice hair on my clothes when I’m in a colleague’s office or in a meeting. Any advice?

    1. we're basically gods*

      I just make a little bit of a face– not like “EWWW THIS IS THE WORST” but the sort of face I’d make if I found anything else stuck to my clothes I didn’t want on them, like a bit of lint or rice. And then I pull the piece of hair off and either put it in the trash or let it fall to the carpet, same as I would do with the aforementioned lint or rice.

    2. Meh*

      You don’t throw it away in the sink, I hope? I find long nasty women’s hairs in the sinks in our bathrooms every day and it really grosses me out. I know they can see them, the women the hairs used to belong to aren’t blind, why are they leaving them there?

  57. I suck*

    Whelp, I suck.
    I started drinking at 3 , at work. My work culture was/is that people drink, heavily.
    BUT I’ve gotten promoted and now I’m at a higher level and i kno it’s not a good idea.
    I used to get crazy in the past, but now I know what my limits are. Except this time, I had significantly less drinks and even that got me crazy. I didnt’ do anything bad, I’m a happy/funny drunk and most of it was just “omg you did that haha.” I don’t really have any regrets, but if I were to start all over again, I wouldn’t go so hard in the beginning.

    and I also brush my hair in my open office all the time. :(

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As long as you know your industry and culture, I don’t think you suck or anything of that sort. You are just a product of your environment at times.

      I’ve drank more heavily in some situations that most would do but it was due to the company and we all did it. Even being “high” up the chain, nobody flinched or really questioned it.

      Now if you’re the only one drinking or it’s getting out of hand, that’s another issue but you still don’t suck =)

  58. Alienor*

    OP1: Sometimes the universe throws you a freebie. This was one of those times. Take it as a gift in the form of a warning to be more careful next time, and don’t say anything–volunteering information about your near-miss is just borrowing trouble.

  59. LeisureSuitLarry*

    OP2: I once had a friendly bartender hand me a wine glass with Dr. Pepper in it. It would have fooled everyone if I hadn’t opened my mouth and told someone about it. It’s a pretty decent strategy for if you want to look like you’re enjoying a glass of wine with your peers without actually doing it, and it can be adapted for a lot of different drinks. Just ask them to put it in the right kind of glass and you’ve got camouflage for any number of drinks. You can be the life of the party without worrying about the possibility that you’ll end the night half-naked dancing on the table. Or you can do that completely sober. Your choice.

  60. Tisiphone*

    For #2: I have a huge tolerance for various alcoholic drinks and enjoy my wine. Under no circumstances should you be forced into consuming something that you’re not interested in. A simple “No thank you” should do it. Should. People can be too overinvested in what goes into a person’s mouth. I don’t like pizza, which is the Number One work party food of choice. I just don’t go near the food. Most of the time people won’t notice or care. Nobody has given me guff about pizza for a good many years. There have been those times, however.

    Alcohol is just another beverage. You shouldn’t be pressured to consume more than you want – or any at all. People aren’t so in your face about particular types of soft drinks. Anything with carbonation makes me [TMI] so I don’t drink those. Water for me, thanks.

    Having a cup in your hand, whether it contains a soft drink, a cocktail, beer, water, or air, is sound advice as defense against the busybodies. I wholeheartedly support that.

  61. JoJo*

    I’m confused as to why OP 5 kept mentioning that every update the company sent was after the closing date, as though that’s disqualifying or reflects poorly on the company — when OP didn’t even contact the company until the closing date!

  62. theletter*

    I am also a lightweight! My tricks are:

    1. If it’s going to be a long evening event, like a holiday party after work, I’ll get a big sugary mocha extra-caffeinated milkshake thing in the afternoon.

    2. For afternoon events, showing up a little late helps considerably. You’ll see how far along everyone else is and won’t be too tempted to ‘catch up’.

    3. Start with a glass of sparkling water or two, give everyone else a headstart. Then alternate drink-water-drink-water-drink-water-water-water.

    4. if it’s a beer bar with a draft list, look for something with a low ABV. Lots of beers, especially summer beers, are brewed to be drunk over several hours. Some of them are even named “Day drinker” or “day time”, meaning the alcohol content is about 4% instead of 5 or 6%. Half pints are also good.

    5. At the cocktail bar, remember that a lot of those drinks are priced to sell only about one or two per visit. I’ve noticed with my sweet tooth that they often go down as fast as a juice box. Look for stuff that is more complex in flavor, and maybe only features one liquor. Mixologists usually don’t mind making ‘virgin’ drinks, and some are experimenting with non-alcoholic spirits.

    6. Mixing alcohols never goes as expected.

    7. I’ve had good luck with using hangover cues that force me count how much I drink.

    8. It’s ok to leave on time.

    9. I used to try to use work events as an opportunity to get to know my bosses better because I would be less inhibited. Then the day came that I realized what nonsense that was, and I felt liberated.

  63. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP3: Longhaired lady here. It’s also unhygenic to brush your hair outside the bathroom. I shed when I brush my hair because it’s thick and waist-length. I don’t think anyone would appreciate seeing shed hair all over the place. Hence your manager telling you to keep the brushing in the bathroom.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You only shed when you brush your hair, I wish I had this magic…

      I shed no matter what but it’s true, brushing it or “messing” with said hair leads to more shedding of course. This is why people in the food service industry wear hair nets, even if they’re not touching it, it gets places.

      It’s a little over the top to say it’s unhygienic, as if hair is knowing to carry diseases. It’s unappetizing and naturally nobody is a fan of eating it [unless you’re on my-strange-addiction] but it’s not unsanitary to brush your hair outside of the bathroom.

      What’s unhygienic is keeping your brush out in the bathroom, where it can pick up the toilet sprinkles that go through the air and then running it through your hair.

      We brush our hair in our bedrooms in our family, it’s a personal thing more than a “sanitary” thing. So doing it in a private office would also be completely fine.

  64. uh*

    Yes, brushing your hair in public is considered bad manners so I was taught as a child anyway. If you shed at the alarming rate I do, it could be considered “gross” to deposit any stray hairs around the room too. (Most people don’t shed THAT much I assume, but I am on a med that accelerates it so I am hyper aware to keep my hair contained).

    1. uh*

      As I see I was way late to the party with my comment above, I will add one.

      If you have small kids esp babies around you want to be quite careful to keep hair out of the range of small fingers and toes, as they can get wrapped around a digit and cut off circulation.

  65. chickaletta*

    #2 – I’ve seen lots of good advice on this thread so far. The only thing I would add is that if you do drink at work events, follow the lead of those who are senior to you/whoever is running the event, assuming that they’re reasonable and not binge drinking themselves. What I mean by that is that you don’t want to out drink the boss. If they order just one drink, you don’t want to order three. If they order the happy hour beer special, don’t get the $75 bottle of pinot noir.

  66. Shoes On My Cat*

    Op#2: I have found for myself that having a beverage *resembling* an alcoholic beverage can keep things smooth when I’m with a group of heavy drinking co-workers. Tonic with lime for example! Then if anyone asks, and I re-order the same, I claim its my ‘in between’ drink so things don’t get awkward if the group is the pushy type (should NOT have to, but sometimes the appearance keeps the peace with some work groups). Since they tend to be drinking, no one ever catches on ;-). And the bartenders are cool with it, especially if you tip what you would if there was top shelf gin in it-they’ll look out for you if some bozo jerk tries to order an actual drink to push on you. For other groups, who aren’t focusing on the bottoms up!/heavy drinking, I will have one trendy bottled beer, which I don’t like as much as wine, which is the point! I take ages to sip it, then it gets warm and I get full (yeast & bubbles), so it’s easy to stretch through an evening. With co-workers who have earned my trust -over YEARS- I will share a bottle of wine. Good Luck!

  67. Meghan*

    OP 1: As someone who’s had an ADHD dx for most of my life I really felt this situation in my soul, and I’m so glad it worked out for you. That said, this working out as well as it did is an absolute gift and when I have situations like this happen I do my best to use them to improve my personal accountability. I know it can be helpful and meaningful to have someone else checking in with you with ADHD but I think it’s more important to develop habits where you can check in with yourself. I also think sometimes with ADHD there’s a little bit of a compulsion to be harder on yourself than necessary, but you don’t have to be. Sometimes things are harder for us than neurotypical people, sometimes things are easier, and you’re allowed to appreciate when things are easy. :)

    OP 2: You definitely don’t need to drink but I agree with the one drink rule for sure. I would also recommend being mindful of timing and trying to plan to have food and water first just to be on the safe side.

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